Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8105 [post_author] => 87 [post_date] => 2019-10-06 06:35:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-05 22:35:15 [post_content] => ¿Alguna vez has creído que tú o quienes te rodean de manera más cercana hablan “sin acento”, o con un “acento estándar” y que el resto de las personas sí tienen “acento”? Pues bien, cuando nos vamos del lugar en el que nacimos o crecimos, cuando ingresamos a una universidad a estudiar una carrera académica por ejemplo, o cuando empezamos a tener procesos de migración internos o externos -con la llegada de otros migrantes a nuestro país y de nosotros hacia otros lugares-, comenzamos a escuchar con mayor agudeza diferentes acentos, diferentes formas de expresar una idea, diferentes patrones gramaticales, diferentes palabras para nombrar una acción o un objeto… En ese momento sentimos que estamos en un espacio en el que convergen muchas maneras de hablar y notamos esas marcas en el habla, que son diferentes a la propia, a la nuestra. Este contacto cultural nos permite darnos cuenta que a la fruta que en Colombia, Cuba y México le llamamos “fresa”, en Chile y en Argentina la llaman “frutilla”; que en Colombia a la persona que llamamos “gomelo [1]”, “play”, “puppy”, “fifí”, “dediparado”, “farto” –dependiendo de la región en Colombia de la que estemos hablando-, en México le dicen “fresa” o “milloneta”, en Costa Rica “pipis”, en Panamá “ye-yé”, en Venezuela “sifrino”, en Ecuador “pelucón”, en Perú “pituco”, en ”Chile “cuico”,  en Argentina y Uruguay “cheto”, y en España “pijo”[2]. ¡Son muchas palabras las que hacen referencia a una misma cosa! ¿De dónde salen tantas variedades en una misma lengua? ¿No existe entonces un “solo español”? ¿Cuál es la variedad “mejor” y “peor” hablada? [caption id="attachment_8275" align="aligncenter" width="557"] Figura 1. Ejemplo de Atlas Latinoamericano de Palabras: cómo se dicen entre amigos en América Latina. Pictoline (septiembre 7 de 2018)[/caption]   Todos estos patrones lexicales (variación de las palabras), gramaticales (ordenación de las palabras), segmentales (diferentes formas de pronunciar los fonemas) y prosódicos (diferentes “acentos”) son fruto de nuestras interacciones culturales, de nuestras relaciones familiares, con amigos, vecinos y medios de comunicación, como la radio, la televisión o la internet. Los dialectos son precisamente esas variedades que ocurren dentro de una misma lengua, asociadas a una determinada zona geográfica, es decir, dependiendo del lugar geográfico en el que nacimos o hemos vivido más tiempo, adoptaremos las variedades lingüísticas que allí se utilizan. Sin embargo, debemos tener en cuenta que no siempre las fronteras o zonas dialectales tienen correspondencia con las divisiones político-administrativas de los países, departamentos, regiones o municipios. Los dialectos han sido un tema de gran interés para los lingüistas, por lo que desde principios del siglo XX diferentes teóricos han hecho diversas propuestas de zonas dialectales del español en América, es decir, han intentado establecer cuáles son los rasgos lingüísticos compartidos con los que se podrían formar unidades mayores de las variaciones del español. En el momento, ya está superada la discusión sobre la inexistencia de una homogeneidad en el español de América, es decir, ya está claro que no existe un “único español” en América, y a partir de esta premisa se han hecho las propuestas de zonificación dialectal que, por cierto, ninguna de ellas ha sido concluyente, pues a todas se les han hecho diferentes críticas razonables.

¿Cómo se ha dividido dialectalmente a América?: hagamos un recorrido

 Como afirma Alba (1992:66) “la lengua hablada en América constituye un complejo dialectal, un macrosistema lingüístico que aunque tiene unidad interna, es decir, posee una estructura profunda única, exhibe múltiples diferencias externas, posee estructuras superficiales diferentes”. Como nos introduce Alba, Hispanoamérica es un mosaico dialectal, bastante complejo, que debe ser analizado con cautela para comprender las variaciones lingüísticas que ocurren y a qué variables sociales podrían estar asociadas. Algunos ejemplos de delimitaciones dialectales que se han hecho de Hispanoamérica son:
  1. Max Leopold Wagner (1920) es pionero en la división dialectal, proponiendo una división entre las tierras altas o interiores, y las tierras bajas o costeras.
  2. El dominicano Pedro Henríquez Ureña propone, a principios del siglo XX, cinco zonas dialectales basadas en lengua de sustrato, es decir, en la influencia de las lenguas originarias de América en el español. Sin embargo, esta propuesta tiene sus críticas por considerar una sola variedad del español peninsular y solo algunas lenguas indígenas, cuando realmente hubo muchas variedades del español peninsular que se encontraron antes de llegar a América y una cifra escurridiza de lenguas prehispánicas.
  3. El mexicano José Pedro Rona (1964) propuso una división dialectal del español en América agrupando los dialectos según dos características. La primera de ellas era según la manera de pronunciar el sonido o fonema /ʝ/, que se corresponde con los grafemas “y” y “ll”. La segunda característica era según las zonas en las que se utiliza o no el voseo, ya sea el voseo pronominal, como por ejemplo en “vos sabés” “¿vos te comiste el pan?”, o el voseo verbal, como en “vení a la casa”, “llamá a tu abuelo” o “¿qué querés?”. Propone así 16 zonas para el español en América, a las que luego le suma otras 7 zonas, que pueden trastocarse con las ya establecidas.
  4. Melvyn Resnick (1975) con base en 16 rasgos lingüísticos, propone una división del español americano que puede llegar al establecimiento de 272 unidades dialectales, lo que es una cantidad bastante numerosa que dificulta la identificación de un dialecto específico.
  5. Philippe Cahuzac (1980) utiliza un nuevo método para proponer la distinción de áreas territoriales en el Español de América, al cual denomina semántica dialectal. Se basa en el reparto geográfico de 600 unidades léxicas, que plantea la división del español de América en 4 zonas, sin embargo es una propuesta poco abarcadora con los niveles lingüísticos, en el sentido en que se pretende hacer una división dialectal únicamente a partir de rasgos léxicos, de palabras.
  6. Zamora y Guitart (1988) proponen una división dialectal de nueve zonas basada en tres rasgos fonéticos. El primero de ellos se refiere a las diferentes formas de pronunciar la letra o grafema “j” en, por ejemplo, la palabra “naranja”, o el grafema “g” en la palabra “gente” (es decir, el fonema /x/). El segundo rasgo fonético considerado basa en las diferentes formas de pronunciar el grafema “s”, ya que como te habrás dado cuenta, depende de la zona geográfica a la que pertenezca el hablante, podrás escuchar eses (“s”, fonema /s/) más intensas, más silbadas, o pueden ser aspiradas, o elidirse por completo y ni pronunciarse. Finalmente, en tercer lugar, los autores retoman el voseo, es decir, estudian en qué zonas se utiliza con más frecuencia o se prefiere una frase del tipo “¿vos querés venir a la fiesta?”, en contraposición con una frase en la que se utilice el tuteo como en: “¿ quieres venir a la fiesta?”, o una en la que se utilice el ustedeo: “¿usted quiere venir a la fiesta?”. Los autores también proponen una caracterización dialectal de dos grupos: dialectos radicales (Antillas, Panamá, costas de Venezuela y Colombia) y dialectos conservadores (sierras del Ecuador, Perú y Bolivia, entre otras) (Quesada-Pachecho, 2000: 176), haciendo referencia a que los primeros son más innovadores y los segundos tienen procesos de cambio más lentos.
  7. José Joaquín Montes (1995) propone dos superdialectos basados en rasgos fonéticos. El Superdialecto A o continental interior comprende las tierras altas de América y se caracteriza por la conservación de /s/ prenuclear como sibilante y el mantenimiento de /r/ y /l/ prenucleares. El Superdialecto B o costero-insular, que incluye las islas del Caribe, las costas y las riberas de ciertos ríos americanos, se caracteriza por la aspiración de /s/ prenuclear, como en necesario [nehesario], y la neutralización de /r/ y /l/ prenucleares (Quesada-Pachecho, 2000: 177).
  8. Francisco Moreno Fernández (2014) propone cinco áreas para dividir el español en América: 1) el español caribeño, 2) el español mexicano y centroamericano, 3) el español andino, 4) el español austral y 5) el español chileno. La división de estas zonas la hace a partir de las coincidencias lingüísticas que describe entre ellas, en los planos fónico, gramatical y lexical.

¿Te atreves a descifrar de donde son estos dialectos latinoamericanos?

Audio 1 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/M--xico.wav"][/audio] Audio 2 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Cuba.wav"][/audio] Audio 3 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Colombia.wav"][/audio] Audio 4 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Venezuela.wav"][/audio] Audio 5 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Chile_.wav"][/audio] Audio 6 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Uruguay-S.wav"][/audio] Audio 7 [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Argentina.wav"][/audio]   Con este panorama de las propuestas de división dialectal para Hispanoamérica queda claro que hay unas variantes dentro de la lengua, que se pueden percibir en diferentes niveles del habla. A continuación te invito a que escuches algunas variedades del español. Todas las colaboradoras son mujeres, nacieron en el país que están representando en este ejemplo, tienen una edad promedio entre 25 y 35 años, tienen estudios universitarios, son de clase media y no han vivido por más de un año en un país diferente al suyo. Además, fueron grabadas por la autora y a todas se les propuso la misma tarea de completamiento discursivo (DCT), es decir, debían imaginar que estaban en la siguiente situación y responder espontáneamente, como lo harían en su vida cotidiana: “Se encuentra en una ciudad que no conoce y necesita saber dónde queda el hospital. Pasa un señor por la calle, ¿cómo se lo preguntaría?”. ¿Por qué crees que te doy tantos datos de las colaboradoras? ¿Influirá en la manera en que cada una habla? ¡Efectivamente, así es! La pertenencia o no, a cada una de estas variables o categorías, pueden influir en la manera en que hablamos. A esto es a lo que llamamos variación diatópica –o variedades geográficas-, variación diastrática –o variedades socioculturales o de carácter social-, y variación diafásica –o variedades en el registro, como por ejemplo un registro o forma de hablar más familiar o más formal-. Si tenemos “congeladas” o inmovilizadas la mayoría de estas variables, y cambiamos solo la variación diatópica, tenemos los siguientes resultados: México [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/M--xico.wav"][/audio] Cuba [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Cuba.wav"][/audio] Colombia [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Colombia.wav"][/audio] Venezuela [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Venezuela.wav"][/audio] Chile [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Chile_.wav"][/audio] Uruguay [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Uruguay-S.wav"][/audio] Argentina [audio wav="https://unravellingmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Argentina.wav"][/audio]   Ahora bien, dependiendo de tu lengua y/o dialecto podrás percibir con más o menos detalle las diferencias entre dialectos. Por ejemplo, una persona del sur de Chile, generalmente logra identificar y diferenciar, por la forma de hablar, quién es de Chile y quién es de Argentina. De la misma manera, un argentino, generalmente, puede reconocer en la forma de hablar quién es de su mismo país y quién es uruguayo, y viceversa, tarea bastante compleja para el resto de los hispanohablantes. Sin embargo, para algunos mexicanos o españoles, que no tienen tanta cercanía con esta zona de Suramérica, se les hace difícil reconocer entre un chileno y un argentino, por ejemplo, y agrupan todas estas maneras de hablar en un “dialecto” más amplio o abarcador. Esta situación nos lleva a pensar que la percepción dialectal es variable, es relativa de acuerdo al lugar en el que nos ubiquemos y, por tanto, la construcción de un concepto de “dialecto” debe aún tomarse con mucha cautela.

¿Cómo percibimos los dialectos? ¿Dónde se habla “mejor”?

Si te preguntara cuántas zonas dialectales logras identificar en México, ¿qué me responderías? ¿1, 2, quizás 3? En este punto es importante hacer alusión a uno de los trabajos que se han realizado sobre dialectología perceptual (Preston 1999), específicamente en México (Serrano, 2002). El autor traza un mapa de los dialectos mexicanos, basado únicamente en las impresiones subjetivas de los informantes, es decir, hace una delimitación de las zonas dialectales de México con los datos de percepción proporcionados por los mismos hablantes del centro del país. Esta propuesta es novedosa porque no hace la clasificación a partir de los resultados de producción del habla, como se ha hecho tradicionalmente, sino que se centra en la percepción de los hablantes, lo que abre una línea de investigación interesante al combinar ambas metodologías. Los resultados de esta investigación muestran que hubo cuatro variedades más etiquetadas, o bien, más reconocidas por los informantes: la norteña, la costeña, la central y la peninsular, como se observa en la figura 2. ¿Le atinaste al número de zonas dialectales identificadas por los mexicanos? Y si hacemos este ejercicio con otros hablantes de otras lenguas, ¿qué crees qué responderían? ¿Lograrían reconocer diferencias entre un mismo país? Como ves, la percepción de los dialectos depende mucho de nuestra relación, vivencia y conocimiento de los mismos. [caption id="attachment_8264" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Principales zonas dialectales percibidas por los informantes mexicanos (Serrano, 2002)[/caption]   Retomando una de las preguntas iniciales, entonces, ¿cuál es el español “mejor hablado”? ¿Qué es hablar bien? ¿Quién dicta las normas para hablar bien? Al buscar las respuestas a esta serie de interrogantes en las opiniones de las personas, hablantes de la lengua, encontramos opiniones como “hablar bien es hablar de acuerdo a las normas que dicta la Academia”, “con una adecuada pronunciación y entonación”, “con un vocabulario adecuado”, “hacerse entender”, “hablar educadamente”, “hablar sin decir mentiras, o groserías o, incluso con una adecuada gesticulación” (Domínguez y Vento, 2012). Sin embargo, podemos resaltar en las anteriores opiniones que parten a priori de la idea de un habla “bien” y “mal” hablada, lo que estaría inscrito dentro de la ideología del normativismo, o prescriptivismo, que tienen como objetivo decirle a las personas de nuestra misma lengua cómo deben hablar, cómo deben utilizar el idioma. Esta actitud es, en todo sentido, un despropósito y un esfuerzo de aficionados, que pocas veces se dedican al estudio riguroso del lenguaje, y no dimensionan ni son conscientes de la importante y evidente variedad “natural” de la lengua. Por tanto, no hay ningún español “mejor” o “peor” hablado, ni uno mejor que otro, todas las variedades son igual de importantes y es inútil que se quiera estandarizar, más allá de la adecuación que guarda estrecha relación con la variedad diafásica, o de registro lingüístico. Así pues, lo que ahora hace la lingüística, más que imponer reglas “del buen hablar” y perpetuar una discriminación lingüística entre los hablantes, es recoger todas las variedades posibles de habla y analizarlas de una manera descriptiva, sin juicios de valor.

Atlas lingüísticos en América

En este sentido, respecto al interés de algunos lingüistas por dejar registro de la variedad del español en América, se han llevado a cabo varios proyectos que han dado como resultado una serie de atlas: En 1948, Tomás Navarro Tomás publica el primer atlas lingüístico del español de América, titulado El español en Puerto Rico. Contribución a la geografía lingüística hispanoamericana. En 1973 aparece el Atlas lingüístico-etnográfico del sur de Chile (ALESuCh; Araya, Contreras, Wagner y Bernales) y entre 1981 y 1983 el Atlas Lingüístico Etnográfico de Colombia (ALEC; Flórez). En México se ha construido, entre otros, el Atlas lingüístico de México (Lope Blanch 1990-2000) y el Corpus sociolingüístico de la Ciudad de México (CSCM= Martín Butragueño y Lastra 2011, 2012, 2015). En Uruguay se encuentra el Atlas Diatópico y Diastrático del Uruguay (Elizaincín y Thun 2000); en Paraguay el Atlas Lingüístico Guaraní-Románico (Dietrich, Aquino y Thun) y para Centroamérica el Atlas Lingüístico de América Central (Pacheco Quesada), entre otros más (García Mouton, 2006). Finalmente, en el marco de las investigaciones sobre variedad geoprosódica del español, es decir, sobre las diferentes maneras en las que hablamos según nuestro dialecto, nuestro “acento”, hay diversos mapas elaborados con el objetivo de evidenciar la diversidad de esta lengua, la manera en la que “entonamos”. Así, encontramos dos proyectos internacionales que son el Atlas de la entonación del español (ATLES; Prieto y Roseano 2009-2013) y el Atlas Multimèdia de la Prosòdia de l’Espai Romànic (AMPER; véase Martínez Celdrán y Fernández Planas 2003-2018). Los resultados de ambos pueden consultarse por internet (http://prosodia.upf.edu/atlasentonacion/ y http://stel.ub.edu/labfon/amper/cast/, respectivamente). Además, hay otros proyectos nacionales que tienen el mismo propósito: establecer las características generales del español hablado en cada uno de los países o regiones. Por ejemplo, el Corpus oral del español de México (COEM= Martín Butragueño, Mendoza y Orozco en preparación), el Mapa prosódico de Chile (Román y Ortiz Lira 2013-2016), el Mapa prosódico de Antioquia-Colombia (Muñoz-Builes, en preparación), entre otros. A continuación podrás acceder a uno de estos mapas prosódicos, el de Chile, para que a modo de ilustración puedas escuchar las diferencias entre la entonación de los entrevistados que pueden ser hombres o mujeres y pertenecientes a la zona rural o urbana. Podrás seleccionar entre dos tareas lingüísticas: una frase leída o un fragmento de conversación espontánea. [caption id="attachment_8269" align="aligncenter" width="689"] Mapa prosódico de Chile[/caption]

Recapitulando

Los dialectos son variaciones del habla que se asocian, generalmente, a diferencias diatópicas, es decir, geográficas. Estos dialectos se han agrupado según diferentes propuestas de zonificación dialectal para el español de América; se debe considerar que dichas zonas dialectales no coinciden totalmente con las divisiones administrativo-políticas de los países y sus subdivisiones. Por otra parte, podría decirse que la percepción que tenemos de los dialectos es relativa, ya que está determinada por nuestro propio dialecto y por nuestro conocimiento e interacciones con los demás dialectos. Sin embargo, a pesar de la percepción y creencias que tengamos de nuestro dialecto y de los demás, es importante considerar que todos tienen la misma importancia y construyen la significativa variedad lingüística de una lengua. Finalmente, debemos recordar que ha habido diversos Atlas del español de América, realizados con el objetivo de registrar las variedades de estas hablas. En los últimos años ha incrementado el interés por complementar estos estudios, incluyendo la variación geoprosódica, es decir, la entonación. Sin embargo, el estudio de la entonación aún es materia de investigación y de trabajo conjunto, al que todas y todos estamos invitados a hacer parte.

Bibliografía

Academia Colombiana de la Lengua. (2012). Breve Diccionario de Colombianismos (4a ed. Revisada). Bogotá, Colombia: Academia Colombiana de la Lengua. Alba, O. (1992). Zonificación dialectal del español en América. All Faculty Publications. htt://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/facpub/1181 Domínguez, C., Vento, R. (2012) ¿Qué es hablar bien? Análisis de los resultados de una encuesta. Lengua y Habla, 7, pp. 81-92. Disponible en: <http://erevistas.saber.ula.ve/index.php/lenguayhabla/article/view/3601>. García Mouton, P. (2006). Los Atlas lingüísticos y las variedades del español de América. Boletín Hispánico Helvético, 8(otoño), 111–122. Serrano, J. C. (2002). ¿Cuántos dialectos del español existen en México? Un ensayo de dialectología perceptual. La Lingüística Contemporánea En México, (55), 1–22. Martín Butragueño, P., Mendoza, É. y Orozco, L. (en preparación). Corpus oral del español de México COEM. Martínez Celdrán, E. y Fernández Planas, A.M. (coords). 2003-2018. Atlas Multimèdia de la Prosòdia de l’Espai Romànic. http://stel.ub.edu/labfon/amper/cast/index_ampercat.html Moreno-Fernández, F. (2014). La lengua española en su geografía: manual de dialectología hispánica. Arcos: Madrid. Muñoz-Builes, D. (en preparación). Mapa prosódico de Antioquia-Colombia. Pictoline (septiembre 7 de 2018). Atlas Latinoamericano de Palabras: cómo se dicen entre amigos en América Latina. https://scontent.fscl8-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/41223423_2239021273023672_2046203547451654144_n.png?_nc_cat=103&oh=0ceaec661a918f55c1c267caa9543d49&oe=5C14CF30 Prieto, P. y Roseano, P.(coords). 2009-2013. Atlas interactivo de la entonación del español. http://prosodia.upf.edu/atlasentonacion/. Quesada Pacheco, M. Á. (2000). El Español de América. Cartago, Costa Rica: Editorial Tecnológica de Costa Rica. Román, D. (2013-2016). Mapa prosódico de Chile. Serrano, J. C. (2002). ¿Cuántos dialectos del español existen en México? Un ensayo de dialectología perceptual. La Lingüística Contemporánea En México, (55), 1–22.
[1] En el Breve Diccionario de Colombianismos (2012) es definido como: “Bog. coloq. Joven de clase media o alta que se viste en forma llamativa y usa un lenguaje peculiar”. [2] Si quieres conocer más ejemplos para el español, puedes ver este video que es divertido e ilustrativo:  https://youtu.be/eyGFz-zIjHE [post_title] => Hispanoamérica [post_excerpt] => ¿Alguna vez has creído que tú o quienes te rodean de manera más cercana hablan “sin acento”, o con un “acento estándar” y que el resto de las personas sí tienen “acento”? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hispanoamerica-un-complejo-mosaico-dialectal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-09 22:17:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-09 14:17:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8105 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8178 [post_author] => 82 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:09:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:09:44 [post_content] =>

“Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.”

  You might be wondering where this paragraph came from. A theatre play? A novel? A manual for English learners? Not quite. While the paragraph may not be famous, it has actually been read and recorded more than 3,000 times. All you have to do is visit the Speech Accent Archive to listen to each and every single one of those clips recorded by individuals of 175 different countries and 381 languages. The purpose? To compare accents.
Maria Inês Teixeira speaks with the creator and administrator of the Speech Accent Archive, Professor Steven H. Weinberger from the George Mason University in Virginia. The Archive has been around for 20 years now and attracts linguists, actors, researchers, language enthusiasts and phonology students who cannot wait to learn more about how different accents compare.

We were wondering if you could start by introducing yourself, telling us about what you do and a little bit about your work.

Sure! My name is Steven Weinberger and I’m a linguist. Mostly I do phonology: I study sound systems of the world’s languages. I have been a professor at George Mason University in Virginia for 30 years now. I teach graduate school. I was the director of the program for the last 15 years. I’m now no longer director, but I’m still teaching, and I teach classes to our students who are very interested in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). We have a very theoretical linguistics program, so we developed the phonetics class about 24 years ago, to teach teachers how to instruct non-native speakers about the sounds of English. I do work in foreign accents—I think that foreign accents are amazingly interesting! I tell my students that, to me, and linguists like me, a good accent is really a bad accent. It tells you a lot about the speakers’ native language. So… it’s interesting that people have accents. And there’s probably a reason for why everyone has an accent. It’s about identity, it’s probably about something called the critical period, about how people can’t possibly become a native speaker after a certain age, but they get very good and they can communicate. But there’s this flavor about someone’s speech that’s remarkable and linguistically interesting.

You believe accents can tell us a lot about someone. 

Yes, yes. Particularly linguistically. Particularly about what language they speak natively. Anyway, everyone has an accent, so… there’s no perfect accent, even if we’re native speakers. I do work on that, and I also do work on weird kinds of languages. I like to work on alien languages from science fiction. I look at sound systems, how people develop alien languages by looking at films, and reading books. It turns out that there’s no perfect alien sound system either. (laughs) So that’s all about the work I do. That’s about me…

About the Speech Accent Archive, how would you describe it to those who don’t know it? 

This year it’s the 20th anniversary of the Speech Accent Archive. It’s a place you can go to online. It’s been up and running on the internet for 20 consecutive years—which is sort of an amazing thing in itself–and it’s a place for people to listen to speech accents in English. Everyone is reading the same exact paragraph. The paragraph is short, it’s only 69-words long, but it has virtually all the sounds of standard American English. Not all of them, but virtually all of them. So if you want to hear what a Kiswahili speaker sounds like speaking English, you can do that. Or what a Romanian speaker sounds like. You can listen to what a Portuguese speaker from Portugal sounds like, what a Portuguese speaker from Brazil sounds like… you know, almost 3,000 samples from more than… currently, we have more than 381 languages represented by 175 different countries. So, almost all around the world people are speaking English and they all sound different. We ask them a set of nine questions about their background: where they were born, what their native language is, how old they are, what their gender is… and so we have a list of attributes that each speaker possesses, you can listen to them, and for most of them you can see a phonetic transcription of their speech. It is very useful if you can understand that kind of system. You can search for things, it has a search facility, and anyone can send a sample to us. There’s a place to send a sample. We only accept really good quality samples, so people should know that—there’s instructions. And we’ve been doing that for 20 years now. And it’s slowly growing. Our own graduate students and undergraduate students at George Mason contribute to the archive. The transcriptions are done carefully, very narrow transcription. So it’s a great resource for anyone doing research, it’s been used for more than 150 research projects, honest research projects, over the last 10 years. People write their dissertations with the data, people work on speech recognition… because you know, everyone talks differently and machine understanding needs to understand our native and non-native speaker sounds. But most of the people are ESL teachers, and people who just want to play and listen to accents!

How did you first get the idea for this platform?

It started out as an assignment in 1999 for my phonetics class. I had students record a non-native speaker and bring in the tape. We had tapes back then. (laughs) They brought in all different kinds of tapes, little tapes, big tapes, CDs… but then they were difficult to manage and the quality was variable. So we systematized it, we made it a uniform system and we put it on the internet when it was brand new! This paragraph is so small because the bandwidth in 1999 was difficult, everyone used dial-up modems… and we’ve kept the sample paragraph since then! And students just love it, they find a speaker, they solicit his or her participation, they record them adequately reading the paragraph, they analyze speech, they compare speech to a presumably native speaker of English, and they find the issues they wanted to attend to. So it’s usually a semester-long project for each student or groups of students.

People use the platform for research and sometimes for fun. Are there other specific goals for the Archive?

We want to keep it running, gather languages we don’t have. We only have about 400 languages or so, but there are 6,000 languages in the world. There are a lot more to do.

Who runs the Archive?

(Smiles and raises hand) My students and I run it. We run it on a shoestring. It’s about due for a remake. A facelift. So we want to make it a little more computational, we want to make an app for the smartphone so people can just use their smartphone and send us their samples immediately. But this takes a large bit of funding, so we are searching for funding to remake the archive. We’ve already developed some very good tools that are now available. We’ve developed a computational tool that will compare two transcriptions. So you can take a Romanian sample and, let’s say, an English sample from London, and this computational machine will essentially overlay one transcription on top of the other, and you can find the differences automatically. So you can make some predictions, it’s good for ESL or language assessment, and even forensic linguistics… perhaps. But we’re not quite on that level yet.

It sounds like hard work!

Yes! And the hardest work is transcribing. You know, getting it right. You need three people, three different individuals to transcribe. So we’ve had to develop a second tool to crowd source the transcriptions. We send them out to transcribers all over the world.  It’s very collaborative! That’s one of the biggest things about it. Very collaborative.

Already in 2011 the Speech Accent Archive got over 1 million hits in a month...

Yes! In a month! Yeah, it was doing very well back then. I think the number of visits is somewhat lower now, but people are still checking in a lot. We get thousands of hits a month still. And when we’re doing maintenance and it goes offline for a few minutes, we get a slew of emails asking “Why isn’t it on? Why isn’t it online? When is it going back online?”— so people are paying attention.

What do you think attracts people to accents and this type of project? 

Well, you know, one of the basic human abilities is to listen to people. Listen to our colleagues, listen to our friends, listen to people we meet. If we're hearing and speaking species, for the most part, that’s the first thing we pay attention to—how someone says something. We always have an idea, we have a bias, we make a judgement about something as soon as you open your mouth. As soon as you open your mouth I know you’re not from my hometown, right? So I ask you, “Where are you from?” It’s an interest that’s built into us. So we want to make it less mystical. Accents have a reason. You can look at them scientifically. The judgements that people make, the biases that people have about someone’s speech, should melt away.

Can you give us specific examples of unusual ways in which people have used the Archive?

A few years ago we had a fellow from Ireland who got an Irish government grant to write some music to go along with the Speech Accent Archive. He wrote an entire saxophone suit— saxophone!—going along with people speaking their scripts on the archive. It’s quite beautiful! People have done art shows in Washington state, at a university inside Washington state… I think they called Please call Stella, an art exhibition. They had speakers in the area and some video, and they had people listening to archive data as they walked through the art exhibit. We can’t control what people do with the archive! (laughs) It’s open to anybody!

How can people contribute to the Archive?

You visit the Speech Accent Archive website, go to the “How to” page, click on “Submit a sample”, read the instructions, then use your smartphone [to record your speech]… we only accept CD-quality recordings, and we answer all questions if people have questions about if they are doing it right. Eventually, they have to confirm that they sent it and we send them a “thank you” note. The speaker is anonymous—nobody knows who’s doing the speaking. It’s a university… human subjects sanction, so it’s a real research project. You have to be 18 years old or older to participate.

Are there entries from native speakers of endangered languages, for example? 

Yes, we’ve recently gotten some from Alaskan Yupik, which has a small population. People have said we could use many more Native American languages and contributions from places in Brazil, we don’t have very much. We also have American Sign Language, so you can hear the accent of a deaf individual.

What do you think your accent says about you?

(laughs) Well, I was born in Pittsburg, and I don’t think I sound like a Pittsburger anymore, but if I go and stay in Pittsburgh for a few months I suppose my accent would come back. Yeah I definitely have an accent, but we’ve transcribed my accent as well. It’s somewhere around the Archive. Just like anybody else!

Anything else you'd like to add?

The work is never done. It grows slowly. Every week we get more submissions… we’re gonna be putting out another call to phonetics instructors and ESL (English as a Second Language) instructors to help us with the crowdsourcing part of this. We sent out little small pieces of the paragraph for students to transcribe, and it’s a fun little project. They learn how to transcribe. By learning to listen to people’s speech, I think we can become more understanding of different kinds of variety of language.

Any aspects of research regarding accents that you think can still be developed and that you are interested in?

We’re trying to figure out what makes German speakers sound German. Or what makes French speakers sound French. What listeners listen out for. What makes a listener of a speech variety feel that one accent is different from another accent? What are the characteristics? How is someone making their vowels? How is someone making their consonants? And we’re measuring those things. We’re figuring out: what makes a Mexican Spanish accent sound the way it is? [post_title] => What’s in an accent? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => whats-in-an-accent [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-21 22:13:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-21 14:13:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8178 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 4 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8080 [post_author] => 85 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:09:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:09:00 [post_content] => Most linguistics students trained in Hong Kong have attended courses which focus on the comparison of Mandarin and Cantonese. While courses of this kind can help us appreciate the fascinating diversity of the Chinese language(s), they may also create or reinforce the common impression that Mandarin, despite its size, is an astoundingly uniform language which barely leaves any room for internal variation. Pretty soon I realized that there must be something wrong with this notion—when discussing syntax questions, “native speakers” of Mandarin often had considerable disagreements over the acceptability (or grammaticality) of certain Mandarin sentences, a phenomenon rarely observed in other languages (including Cantonese). Later on, I was blessed with the opportunity to get exposed to Jianghuai Mandarin and Southwest Mandarin, which gave me a new, broader perspective on Mandarin, as well as the Chinese language(s) as a whole.
(1)
ŋə˦ tʰa˦ mɔ˥˧ ʂuo˩˧ kuɔ
I he not say experiential
‘I didn’t tell him.’ (adapted from {Dwyer 1995}[ref[Dwyer, Arienne M. 1995. From the Northwest China Sprachbund: Xúnhuà Chinese dialect data. Yuen Ren Society Treasury of Chinese Dialect Data 1. 143–182.]])
 
(2)
kɯ˥˧ ʐɯ˨˩˧ xa tʂʰʅ˦ liɔ˥˧
dog meat [xa] eat perfective
‘The dog ate the meat.’ (adapted from {Dede 2007a}[ref[Dede, Keith. 2007a. The origin of the anti-ergative [xa] in Huangshui Chinese. Language and Linguistics 8(4). 863–881.]])
  Do you speak Mandarin? If your answer is yes, you may find the above sentences pretty weird. While you are likely to recognize each and every word, they appear to be in a chaotic order; you may even find it difficult to understand the meaning of the sentences without looking at the translations. What’s more, if you came across these sentences in real-life scenarios (with no Chinese characters or glosses provided), you’d probably struggle to make any sense of them since the words would be pronounced rather differently from the Mandarin language you’re familiar with. What about the following sentence?
(3) 晓得 好久 不?
ȵi˥˧ ɕiau˥˧te˨˩ tʰa˥ xau˥˧tɕiəu˥˧ nai˨˩ pu˨˩
you know he when come question
‘Do you know when he’ll come back?’ (adapted from {Li 2002}[ref[Li, Rong (ed.). 2002. 現代漢語方言大詞典 Xiàndài Hànyǔ fāngyán dàcídiǎn [The great dictionary of Modern Chinese dialects]. Nanjing: Jiangsu Education Publishing House.]])
  In this case, while there may be nothing unusual about its sentence structure, you may still have difficulty understanding the sentence because the actual meaning of some seemingly familiar words is probably quite different from what you expected. You may well be surprised to learn that all the examples illustrated above are in fact grammatical sentences of some varieties of Mandarin. Yes, Mandarin can be quite different from what we learn and know from Mandarin Chinese textbooks and dictionaries.

Mandarin?! Seriously?

Spoken by over 900 million people as their mother tongue, Mandarin is not only the largest language in the world by number of native speakers ({Simons & Fennig 2018}[ref[Simons, Gary F. & Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2018. Ethnologue: Languages of the world, 21st edn. Dallas, Texas: SIL International.]]), but also an increasingly popular choice among foreign language learners. When we talk about Mandarin, what comes to mind is typically a major lingua franca rising to global prominence, or a monolithic linguistic superpower displacing Chinese “dialects” like Cantonese, Hokkien, and Hakka in various domains, driving some less well-established ones like Minjiang, Weitou, and Shehua to the verge of endangerment or even extinction. Naturally, few would expect to see such a dominant, well-known, and well-studied language in the Language Profiles section. A lesser-known fact about Mandarin is that it is a polysemous term. In common usage, Mandarin typically refers to a standardized form of the Chinese language spoken as a national and/or intra-ethnic lingua franca in Mainland China (as Putonghua 普通话), Taiwan (as Guoyu 國語), Singapore and Malaysia (as Huayu 华语). Although the various national standards differ from each other in a number of ways ({Bradley 1992}[ref[Bradley, David. 1992. Chinese as a pluricentric language. In Michael Clyne (ed.), Pluricentric languages: Differing norms in different nations, 305–324. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.]]), they still maintain a very high degree of mutual intelligibility and do not constitute the focus of this article. Adopting {Sanders’ (1987)}[ref[Sanders, Robert M. 1987. The Four Languages of “Mandarin”. Sino-Platonic Papers 4. 1–14.]] terminology, the Standard Mandarin varieties belong to “Idealized Mandarin”, which was (artificially) constructed based on the Beijing dialect in the early 20th century to facilitate nationwide communication ({Moser 2016}[ref[Moser, David. 2016. A billion voices: China’s search for a common language. Melbourne: Penguin Random House Australia.]]; {Weng 2018}[ref[Weng, Jeffrey. 2018. What is Mandarin? The social project of language standardization in early Republican China. The Journal of Asian Studies 77(3). 611–633.]]). Meanwhile, in this article, my main focus is on the (naturalistic) regional vernaculars of Chinese which, in a linguistic sense, belong to a Chinese dialect group known as Mandarin, i.e. “Geographical Mandarin” according to {Sanders’ (1987)}[ref[Sanders, Robert M. 1987. The Four Languages of “Mandarin”. Sino-Platonic Papers 4. 1–14.]] terminology.

Mandarin as a Chinese dialect group

Although often considered a single language, Chinese dialects (aka Sinitic languages) carry a degree of internal diversity on a par with that of the Romance (e.g. Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, French, Romansh, Italian, Romanian) or Germanic (e.g. English, German, Dutch, Frisian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic) languages within the Indo-European family ({Norman 1988}[ref[Norman, Jerry. 1988. Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pulleyblank, Edwin G. 1991. Lexicon of reconstructed pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese and Early Mandarin. Vancouver: UBC Press.]] {Chappell 2001}[ref[Chappell, Hilary. 2001. Synchrony and diachrony of Sinitic languages: A brief history of Chinese dialects. In Hilary Chappell (ed.), Sinitic grammar: Synchronic and diachronic perspectives, 3–28. Oxford: Oxford University Press.]]). In modern Chinese dialectology, Chinese is classified into 10 major dialect groups, namely Mandarin 官话, Jin 晋语, Wu 吴语, Hui 徽语, Gan 赣语, Xiang 湘语, Min 闽语, Hakka 客家话, Yue 粤语, Pinghua 平话 and Tuhua 土话 ({Zhang 2012}[ref[Zhang, Zhenxing (ed.). 2012. 中国语言地图集Zhōngguó yǔyán dìtújí [Language atlas of China], 2nd edn. Beijing: The Commercial Press.]]).

Source: {Zhang 2012: Map A2}[ref[Zhang, Zhenxing (ed.). 2012. 中国语言地图集Zhōngguó yǔyán dìtújí [Language atlas of China], 2nd edn. Beijing: The Commercial Press.]]

Native speakers of Mandarin account for around 70% of the Chinese-speaking population in China ({Zhang 2012}[ref[Zhang, Zhenxing (ed.). 2012. 中国语言地图集Zhōngguó yǔyán dìtújí [Language atlas of China], 2nd edn. Beijing: The Commercial Press.]]). Geographically, Mandarin dialects are spoken over a huge area in China, stretching from the Manchurian region in the northeast all the way to the border region in Yunnan in the southwest (the yellow region on the map above), occupying the vast majority of the Han Chinese region north of the Yangtze River. Classification of Chinese dialect groups is based primarily on phonological criteria, especially the diachronic development of various Middle Chinese sound categories. For example, Mandarin has lost the Middle Chinese [m], [p], [t], [k] codas (which means that these sound units—or phonemes—do not occur in the syllable-end position in Mandarin words), which are preserved to different degrees in most non-Mandarin Southern Sinitic varieties (see the table below). Interested readers may refer to {Norman (1988)}[ref[Norman, Jerry. 1988. Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pulleyblank, Edwin G. 1991. Lexicon of reconstructed pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese and Early Mandarin. Vancouver: UBC Press.]] and {Kurpaska (2010)}[ref[Kurpaska, Maria. 2010. Chinese language(s): A look through the prism of The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.]] for further phonological features which define the Mandarin dialect group.
‘one’ 一 ‘three’ 三 ‘six’ 六 ‘ten’ 十
Middle Chinese *ʔit *sam *luwk *dʑip
Beijing Mandarin san˥ lioʊ˥˩ ʂi˧˥
Xi’an Mandarin i˨˩ sæ̃˨˩ liou˨˩ ʂʅ˨˦
Yinchuan Mandarin i˩˧ san˦ lu˩˧ ʂʅ˩˧
Chengdu Mandarin i˨˩ san˥ nu˨˩ sɿ˨˩
Nanjing Mandarin iʔ˥ sɑŋ˧˩ luʔ˥ ʂʅʔ˥
Suzhou Wu ʔiəʔ˥ sE˥ loʔ˧ zəʔ˧
Nanchang Gan it˥ san˦˨ liuʔ˥ sɨt˨
Xiamen Min it˩ sam˥ liɔk˥ sip˥
Meixian Hakka it˩ sam˦ liuk˩ səp˥
Guangzhou Yue t˥ sam˥ lok˨ sɐp˨
Source: Pulleyblank (1991) and The Great Dictionary of Modern Chinese Dialects by {Li (2002)}[ref[Li, Rong (ed.). 2002. 現代漢語方言大詞典 Xiàndài Hànyǔ fāngyán dàcídiǎn [The great dictionary of Modern Chinese dialects]. Nanjing: Jiangsu Education Publishing House.]] Mandarin dialects also share a range of basic vocabulary items. As {Norman (1988)}[ref[Norman, Jerry. 1988. Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pulleyblank, Edwin G. 1991. Lexicon of reconstructed pronunciation in Early Middle Chinese, Late Middle Chinese and Early Mandarin. Vancouver: UBC Press.]] observes, the following seven lexical items are uniform across Mandarin dialects:

(i) The third-person pronoun is tā 他or cognate to it

(ii) The subordinative particle is de(di) 的or cognate to it

(iii) The ordinary negative is bù 不or cognate to it

(iv) zhàn 站 or words cognate to it are used for ‘to stand’

(v) zǒu 走 or words cognate to it are used for ‘to walk’

(vi) érzi 儿子or words cognate to it are used for ‘son’

(vii) fángzi 房子 or words cognate to it are used for ‘house’

Are Mandarin dialects mutually intelligible?

Chinese dialectologists usually classify Mandarin into eight subgroups, namely Northeast 东北, Beijing 北京, Jilu 冀鲁, Jiaoliao 胶辽, Central Plains 中原, Lanyin 兰银, Jianghuai 江淮, and Southwest 西南 ({Zhang 2012}[ref[Zhang, Zhenxing (ed.). 2012. 中国语言地图集Zhōngguó yǔyán dìtújí [Language atlas of China], 2nd edn. Beijing: The Commercial Press.]]). Although it is agreed that the subgroups differ from each other phonologically, Chinese dialectologists generally regard Mandarin as a homogeneous group with a very high level of mutual intelligibility: A person from Harbin in Northern Manchuria has little difficulty understanding a native of Kunming some 3,200 kilometers away ({Yuan 1960}[ref[Yuan, Jiahua. 1960. 汉语方言概要Hànyǔ fāngyán gàiyào [An outline of Chinese dialects]. Beijing: Wenzi Gaige Chubanshe.]]). Mandarin dialects have a high degree of uniformity—speakers of different Mandarin dialects, like a Harbin speaker from Heilongjiang, an Urumqi speaker from Xinjiang, a Kunming speaker from Yunnan, and a Nanjing speaker from Jiangsu, can readily communicate with each other using their native dialect ({Li & Xiang 2009}[ref[Li, Xiaofan & Mengbing Xiang. 2009. 汉语方言学基础教程Hànyǔ fāngyánxué jīchǔ jiāochéng [An introductory course on Chinese dialectology]. Beijing: Peking University Press.]]). Despite their prevalence in the field, claims of this kind should be taken with a pinch of salt. Yes, speakers of different Mandarin dialects can readily communicate with each other as long as they are reasonably proficient in Standard Mandarin. When discussing the mutual intelligibility between different Mandarin dialects, we must always draw a clear distinction between Mandarin dialects (i.e. local vernaculars which belong to the Mandarin dialect group) and the regional varieties of Standard Mandarin (i.e. Standard Mandarin spoken with different regional accents, aka “Local Mandarin” according to {Sanders (1987)}[ref[Sanders, Robert M. 1987. The Four Languages of “Mandarin”. Sino-Platonic Papers 4. 1–14.]]). If Mandarin dialects were indeed that homogeneous, we would expect any proficient speaker of Standard Mandarin (which is based largely on Beijing Mandarin), regardless of their linguistic and/or geographical background, to be able to understand any Mandarin dialect with ease. Anyone with some basic knowledge of Standard Mandarin and a handful of Mandarin dialects can tell that this is an unrealistic expectation. You don’t have to plan a three-month field trip to some remote villages to appreciate the incredible diversity among the Mandarin subgroups. Just go to major cities like Xi’an (Central Plains), Dalian (Jiaoliao), Chengdu (Southwest), or Nanjing (Jianghuai), and pay attention to the vernaculars spoken among the locals, especially the middle-aged and elderly. Alternatively, you may simply do a YouTube (or Baidu) search on any well-known Mandarin dialect (not limited to the aforementioned ones); in a matter of minutes, you can gain exposure to myriads of exotic-sounding dialects. The following two videos involve conversations between a speaker of Standard Mandarin and that of a local Mandarin dialect, where the latter can understand Standard Mandarin but cannot really speak it. Communication is therefore still marginally possible in these cases. Imagine what will happen if the two speakers of Mandarin dialects have to communicate with each other! Sichuanese, a representative variety of Southwest Mandarin: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVGQANncDTg[/embed] Dalian Mandarin, a representative variety of Jiaoliao Mandarin: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syotwBJwVQU[/embed] For a more colloquial impression of these Mandarin dialects, listen to these candid—and slightly rude—examples of Sichuanese and Dalian Mandarin. Sichuanese: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnoGjPGtxcw[/embed] Dalian Mandarin: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O49iqsN6TWA[/embed] Put simply, the “intelligibility claim” is divorced from reality. More specifically, according to the personal experience of friends and colleagues from various Mandarin-speaking regions, without prior exposure, speakers of different Mandarin dialects often have difficulty understanding each other’s local vernacular even if they come from one and the same province, provided that two or more distinct subgroups of Mandarin are spoken therein. Typical examples include Shandong (Jiaoliao, Jilu, Central Plains), Jiangsu (Central Plains and Jianghuai), and Hubei (Jianghuai and Southwest). In some cases, mutual intelligibility is not guaranteed even if the Mandarin dialects concerned belong to the same subgroup and are spoken within the same province. A native speaker of the Zhenjiang dialect (a Jianghuai Mandarin dialect spoken in the Jiangsu province) reported that it is impossible for her to understand the Nantong dialect (another Jianghuai Mandarin dialect spoken around 140 kilometers away from her neighbourhood in the same province).

Variation between Northern Sinitic and Southern Sinitic

Of course, as linguists, we cannot make any strong claim based on gut feeling and anecdotal evidence. Intrigued by the remarkable diversity within the Mandarin dialect group, I decided to conduct a typological survey of 26 Mandarin dialects, plus 16 dialects which belong to other Chinese dialect groups. The resultant research article, co-authored with my supervisors Umberto Ansaldo and Stephen Matthews, was recently published in Linguistic Typology ({Szeto et al. 2018}[ref[Szeto, Pui Yiu, Umberto Ansaldo & Stephen Matthews. 2018. Typological variation across Mandarin dialects: An areal perspective with a quantitative approach. Linguistic Typology 22(2). 233–275.]]). The results are in stark contrast to the common belief in a homogeneous Mandarin dialect group, but highly consistent with our preliminary observations—Mandarin dialects demonstrate internal variation in all major domains of grammar (phonology, morphosyntax, semantics, and grammaticalization patterns). Adopting a quantitative approach, we find that the degree of typological diversity within the Mandarin dialect group is comparable to that of the Sinitic branch as a whole. This implies that, if the various Chinese dialect groups are indeed as internally diverse as the Romance or Germanic languages, the Mandarin dialect group alone may carry such a degree of internal diversity from a typological (or structural) perspective! The extensive geographical range of Mandarin can help explain its typological diversity. Sandwiched between Altaic languages (e.g. Manchu, Mongolian, Uyghur) to the north and Tai languages (e.g. Zhuang, Lao, Thai) to the south, Sinitic as a whole can be considered typologically intermediate between these two groups of languages. A north-south divide, whose boundary is conventionally drawn along the Qinling Mountain-Huaihe River Line, is evident in the Sinitic branch.

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Northern Sinitic shows signs of typological convergence towards Altaic languages ({Hashimoto 1976}[ref[Hashimoto, Mantaro. 1976. Language diffusion on the Asian continent: Problems of typological diversity in Sino-Tibetan. Computational Analysis of Asian and African Languages 3. 49–63.]]) and Southern Sinitic towards Tai languages ({Bennett 1979}[ref[Bennett, Paul. 1979. A critique of the Altaicization hypothesis. Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale 6. 91–104.]]). For instance, the northern varieties tend to have a smaller number of numeral classifiers, monosyllabic words, tones and codas, as well as a stronger tendency to head-final structures, to be exemplified below. Transcending the Qinling Mountain-Huaihe River Line, the Mandarin dialect group also displays a north-south divide in typological features. The adjective-final comparative constructions (e.g. Standard Mandarin ) represent a typical example of head-final structures, where the “head” of the phrase in question (e.g. the adjective in an adjective phrase, or the noun in a noun phrase) is at the end of the phrase.
(4) [Standard Mandarin]
gāo
I compare he tall
‘I’m taller than him.’
  While this sentence may look perfectly natural to Mandarin speakers, cross-linguistically speaking, the head-final adjective phrase actually correlates with SOV languages ({Dryer 1992}[ref[Dede, Keith. 2007a. The origin of the anti-ergative [xa] in Huangshui Chinese. Language and Linguistics 8(4). 863–881.]]), which typically have the parts of the sentence structured in the order of subject-object-verb. It is in fact unusual for an SVO language like Mandarin to possess such a word order. Unsurprisingly, the adjective-final comparative constructions are more common in Northern China, where influence from the SOV Altaic languages is relatively profound. Meanwhile, the surpass comparatives (where a verb meaning ‘to cross/surpass’ has developed into a comparative marker) predominate in Southern China, as well as Mainland Southeast Asia ({Ansaldo 2010}[ref[Ansaldo, Umberto. 2010. Surpass comparatives in Sinitic and beyond. Linguistics 48. 919–950.]]).
(5) 佢/他
ngo5 gou1 gwo2 keoi5 [Cantonese]
ŋo˥˧ kɑ˦ ko˨˦ tʰɑ˦ [Liuzhou Mandarin]
ŋo˥˧ kɑu˥ ko˨˦ lɑ˥ [Guiyang Mandarin]
I tall surpass he
‘I’m taller than him.’
  Another example of head-final structures common in Chinese is the Adjective-Noun order (e.g. 小狗 xiǎo-gǒu “small-dog”, 高山 gāo-shān “high-mountain”, 白衣 bái-yī “white-clothes”). Although Adjective-Noun is the dominant order in all known Chinese dialects, the Noun-Adjective order (which is prevalent in Mainland Southeast Asia), is found in a small subset of nominal constructions in Southern Chinese dialects, as in the animal gender constructions. For example, in Northern Chinese dialects, the word for ‘rooster’ is the cognate form of the Standard Mandarin 公鸡 gōng-jī “male-chicken”; in many Southern Chinese dialects, however, 鸡公 “chicken-male” is the more common word order, as in the Cantonese gai5-gung1, Hokkien kue˩-kak˩, Wuhan Mandarin tɕi˥-koŋ˥, Chengdu Mandarin tɕi˥-koŋ˥, and Liuzhou Mandarin ki˦-koŋ˦.

The Amdo Sprachbund

The above examples may not look particularly remarkable to speakers of Southern Sinitic varieties like Cantonese and Hokkien—after all, as those word order features are typical of Southern Sinitic, their presence in Southern Mandarin dialects may not come as a surprise. The truth is that the most interesting Mandarin dialects are not found in Southern China. In Northwestern China, there is a linguistic area in the Southeastern Qinghai-Gansu border region known as the Amdo Sprachbund ({Janhunen 2012}[ref[Janhunen, Juha. 2012. On the hierarchy of structural convergence in the Amdo Sprachbund. In Pirkko Suihkonen, Bernard Comrie & P. Solovyev (eds.), Argument structure and grammatical relations: A cross-linguistic typology, 177–189. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.]]; {Sandman & Simon 2016}[ref[Sandman, Erika & Camille Simon. 2016. Tibetan as a “model language” in Amdo Sprachbund: Evidence from Salar and Wutun. Journal of South Asian Languages and Linguistics 3(1). 85–122.]]). Comprising around 15 language varieties, the Amdo Sprachbund is a region of great ethnic and linguistic diversity, where Amdo Tibetan has served as the lingua franca for centuries. Remember the first two examples in the beginning of the article?
(1’) [Xunhua Mandarin]
ŋə˦ tʰa˦ mɔ˥˧ ʂuo˩˧ kuɔ
I he not say experiential
‘I didn’t tell him.’ (adapted from {Dwyer 1995}[ref[Dwyer, Arienne M. 1995. From the Northwest China Sprachbund: Xúnhuà Chinese dialect data. Yuen Ren Society Treasury of Chinese Dialect Data 1. 143–182.]])
 
(2’) [Huangshui Mandarin]
kɯ˥˧ ʐɯ˨˩˧ xa tʂʰʅ˦ liɔ˥˧
dog meat [xa] eat perfective
‘The dog ate the meat.’ (adapted from {Dede 2007a}[ref[Dede, Keith. 2007a. The origin of the anti-ergative [xa] in Huangshui Chinese. Language and Linguistics 8(4). 863–881.]])
  These “exotic” sentences (from a Chinese point of view) are examples of Mandarin dialects within the Amdo Sprachbund. Under intense influence of SOV languages in the region like Amdo Tibetan and Monguor, the basic word order of these Mandarin dialects has shifted to SOV. In addition, like most other SOV languages, they have developed a range of case suffixes. For instance, the [xa] in (2) functions to mark grammatical relationships like patients, recipients, goals, and sources. Likewise, the [lia] in (6) marks the instrument involved in the action, while the [sa] in (7) expresses a motion away from something (what is otherwise known to linguists as the ablative case).
(6) 毛笔 [Xining Mandarin]
nɔ˥˧ mɔ˨˦pi˦ lia ɕie˥˧ tʂɛ
I ink.brush instrumental write progressive
‘I am writing with an ink brush.’ ({Li 2002: 86}[ref[Li, Rong (ed.). 2002. 現代漢語方言大詞典 Xiàndài Hànyǔ fāngyán dàcídiǎn [The great dictionary of Modern Chinese dialects]. Nanjing: Jiangsu Education Publishing House.]]) (our glosses and translation)
 
(7) 夜来 北京 sa 回来 [Xining Mandarin]
tʰa˦ i˨˩˧lɛ˥˧ pi˦tɕiə̃˥˧ sa tɕiɔ̃˨˦ xui˨˦lɛ
he yesterday Beijing ablative just return
‘He just came back from Beijing yesterday.’ (adapted from {Dede 2007b}[ref[Dede, Keith. 2007a. The origin of the anti-ergative [xa] in Huangshui Chinese. Language and Linguistics 8(4). 863–881.]])
  Such features are clearly atypical of Chinese, but are indicative of the significant degree of restructuring, which Mandarin dialects have undergone in contact scenarios. There are numerous other examples not discussed here but interested readers are welcome to refer to our paper on this topic ({Szeto et al. 2018}[ref[Szeto, Pui Yiu, Umberto Ansaldo & Stephen Matthews. 2018. Typological variation across Mandarin dialects: An areal perspective with a quantitative approach. Linguistic Typology 22(2). 233–275.]]).

Concluding remarks

A quick recap of what we’ve gone through so far. What we usually learn about Mandarin is mostly about its standardized form (“Idealized Mandarin”). Meanwhile, there are a vast array of local vernaculars in Mainland China which belong to the Mandarin dialect group (“Geographical Mandarin”). Like all other natural languages in the world, Mandarin is susceptible to influence from its neighboring languages. Given their extensive geographical coverage, Mandarin in different regions of China are in contact with languages of different typological profiles. Unsurprisingly, Mandarin dialects display a considerable level of typological variation under such a setting. The variation within the Mandarin dialect group, however, is severely downplayed or underestimated by most Chinese dialectologists. As language enthusiasts with good knowledge about the language in question, we were not satisfied with the received wisdom. As mentioned above, we conducted a study which arrived at a completely different conclusion. The large discrepancy between the received wisdom and our conclusion is particularly astonishing if we take into account the fact that our study is primarily based on the analysis of linguistic data published in some major works in Chinese dialectology. Apparently, we may reach radically different conclusions depending on how we analyze and interpret the data in hand. We hope our study can shed new light on the nature of Mandarin, paving the way for further studies on this fascinating and important language. [post_title] => Mandarin dialects: Unity in diversity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => mandarin-dialects-unity-in-diversity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-06 19:13:07 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 11:13:07 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8080 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8028 [post_author] => 82 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:08:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:08:36 [post_content] => Language enthusiasts may notice one thing almost all language education platforms and applications have in common: if they offer a Portuguese language learning option, the icon representing that language is often the flag of Brazil. One might assume that learning Portuguese is equivalent to learning Brazilian Portuguese. Is this really a surprise? By learning Brazilian Portuguese, anyone will be able to communicate with over 200 million native Portuguese-language speakers living in and outside of Brazil, in countries as different as the United States, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and France. The massive influence of Brazilian music, entertainment, literature, and politics all around the globe cannot be denied. A lot has been written about the differences between Brazilian and European or Continental Portuguese, whether it is worth learning one over the other, which sounds more pleasant to the ear, and the history they share. Most curious learners looking to explore the Portuguese language will choose between one or the other. But what do we truly know about Angolan Portuguese? What are we missing out on here?

Onwards, Angola

Angola is the country with the second largest number of Portuguese speakers, only after Brazil. Located on the west coast of South Central Africa, the young country declared independence from Portugal only in 1975, after centuries of colonization (from the end of the 15th century until the second half of the 20th century) and more than a decade of war under the control of the Portuguese dictatorship that lasted 41 years without interruption. Colonialism has had a deep impact on the languages spoken in Angola, and on the perception of these languages. Today, Angola recognizes more than 10 national languages, including Umbundu, Kikongo, Kimbundo, Nganguela, and Chokwe. More than 7 million Angolans speak one of these 10 national languages at home. However, ask anybody what language the urban, highly-qualified, well-educated, well-traveled Angolan speaks—the answer is Portuguese, which continues to be the only official language in Angola. Spoken by 85% of the urban crowd in comparison to only 49% of speakers in rural areas, Portuguese has been perceived as the language of education, prestige and opportunity, even by local communities and often to the detriment of regional languages. It is used by the government, in media, in schools and in most forms of entertainment. The Portuguese language has played a double role in Angola. On one hand, it is often seen as a unifying force in a country characterized by at least eight different peoples and a total of 45 languages, not including Portuguese. Even historically, the Portuguese language was a crucial tool of Angolan emancipation in the 20th century, again because it allowed the message of a national identity to spread more quickly and more thoroughly throughout a linguistically diverse country. It is also seen as a language of culture, opportunity and connection, opening doors to several other geographical and professional destinations. On the other side of the coin, the Portuguese language has had a very dark past in the country, having been imposed by force in schools during the Portuguese dictatorship and humiliating children who spoke any other language. It is also often criticized for creating a divide between the rich and the poor, as the Portuguese spoken by the elites and the government is not the same version of Portuguese spoken on the streets. All things considered, Angolan Portuguese is a dialect in its own right, but its existence cannot be mentioned without also including other national languages that have impacted its vocabulary, accent and ways of expression. So, what makes Angolan Portuguese unique?

Characteristics of Angolan Portuguese

To the casual foreign ear, Angolan Portuguese will sound like European Portuguese in staccato—short, perky sounds and clear diction, sometimes clearly influenced by Brazilian Portuguese as well. However, Angolan language identity goes much deeper than this first impression that it could be just a dialect that stands between two other dialects. Its very distinct musicality, playfulness and elegance are contagious. It borrows several words from regional Angolan languages, a breath of fresh air for any Portuguese learner. For instance:

kota = old person; coming from “di-kota” in Kimbundu bazar = to go away, to leave; coming from “kubaza” in Kimbundu camba = friend, partner; coming from “di-kamba” in Kimbundu bué = a lot, many; possibly coming from “mbewe” in Kimbundu

Spoken Angolan Portuguese is also characterized by stronger consonants. The letters “s”, “t” or “r” for instance will sound slightly more vigorous compared to Standard Portuguese. Secondly, Angolan Portuguese will often simplify combinations of two vowels. The word sexta-feira (Friday), pronounced in Portugal as “say-shta fay-ra”, would be heard in Angolan Portuguese as “say-shta feh-ra”. Another common feature of the Angolan variant of Portuguese is that it will often replace à/ao, which in Standard Portuguese means “to”, with na/no, which means “in the”. This is mostly common when speaking. Here is an example: “Vou à escola” (I am going to school) would become “Vou na escola” (I am going in the school). Another major difference that has much in common with Brazilian Portuguese is the regular placement of pronouns before the verb rather than afterwards, as happens in Portugal and in the English language. For example, a European Portuguese speaker would say “Dá-me um beijo” (Give me a kiss). When speaking, Angolans would probably say “Me dá um beijo” (“Me give a kiss”). Angolan Portuguese is so catchy and practical that the Portuguese themselves have adopted words brought in by Angolan immigrants. Millennials all over Portugal use the world (yah) for “yes”, rather than the original sim. Often, Portuguese youth prefer the previously mentioned bué (boo-eh) instead of the typical muito(a)(s) when they mean “a lot” or “many”—although this term has been adapted in Portugal to also mean “very”. Any young Portuguese who wants to compliment a fantastic dish at a restaurant can call it a pitéu—slang originally used in Luanda, the Angolan capital, for “food”, and later used in Portugal to mean “tasty food”. Finally, the word bazar is used very frequently by youngsters in Portugal to refer to the verb “to leave”, although the traditional expression would be ir embora—and that is because it is originally an Angolan expression, and it too was borrowed. My grandparents would not be able to recognize these words or what they mean. Nor would Brazilians, as these particular words are not used at all on the other side of the Atlantic. Brazil itself was not immune to the influence of Angolan Portuguese. Words like moleque (“little boy/kid”, originally Kimbundu), nenê (“newborn”, origin in Umbundu) and yes, even the globally famous samba (originally from semba, a traditional genre of music and dance in Angola) are still used today in full force, and it is evident that Angolan culture has been crucial in defining some of Brazil’s strongest cultural features, for example capoeira and candomblé. This truly says something about the growing influence of Angolan Portuguese, and that it is not contained within strict borders. It has colored two variants of the language standing on opposite sides of the ocean, and continues to grow as Angola now undertakes one of its most controversial reforms to date.

The future of Angolan Portuguese

Angola is back on the news for the political reform it has been promised. It seems to be happening as we speak, with an understandable blend of optimism and skepticism as Angolans hope for a brighter future against corruption and poverty. Having said that, there are several good reasons to look to Angola for Portuguese language goals. In July of this year, the Observatory of the Portuguese Language predicted that by the year 2100, the number of Portuguese speakers will be much larger in Africa than in Latin America. The case of the Portuguese language in Angola and its interaction with other variants is a great example of how language flows and spreads back and forth uncontrollably, unforgiving of oceans, wars, borders or laws. It flows with the people who carry it along, because and despite of political oppression and conflict. Angolan culture has in many ways been scared by an imposed language, but it is also deserving of more attention nowadays for its valuable linguistic diversity and potential. At least since 2014, the Angolan Ministry of Education has expressed its will to have local languages taught in schools nationwide, side by side with the Portuguese language. While that has been happening in some regions of Angola since 1990, the Ministry has admitted to not having enough resources or teachers to be able to accomplish that goal yet. Bonifácio Tchimboto, an Angolan linguistics scholar who has written about regional languages and works for their preservation, worries that Portuguese is still seen as the only valid option in a country colored with a variety of languages. According to Tchimboto, children who express themselves in Umbundu on the streets are still sometimes advised not to speak that language by Angolans themselves. Additionally, bilingualism is still frequently seen as unnecessary or even as an obstacle, as parents fear their children will get confused and not learn Portuguese: the proper way to succeed in life and in their careers. Earlier, oral African traditions had been ridiculed and excluded by the Portuguese. After the 1960s, they continued to be, this time by Angolan independence advocates and leaders, and even by other African countries. Hopefully, Angolan Portuguese will get the visibility it deserves. From its inception, it has been a language of struggle, revolution, unity, ambition and controversy. And Angola is not alone on its relative lack of representation as a Portuguese-speaking country. Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe use Portuguese as their official language. Equatorial Guinea adopted Portuguese as one of its official languages in 2010. Could the fascinating Angolan dialect become an open door for African cultures to finally claim their spot as giants of the Portuguese language? [post_title] => Discovering Angolan Portuguese [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => discovering-angolan-portuguese [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-09 22:22:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-09 14:22:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8028 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 5 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8085 [post_author] => 86 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:06:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:06:38 [post_content] =>

I. Translate to validate

It is 1741 in New Spain, in the pueblo of Santo Domingo del Valle, to be exact, in what will eventually become the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Don Pedro de Zarate finishes translating a bill of sale, an official record of individuals exchanging land and money. In doing so, he legitimizes a legal act and galvanizes it for the future. In effect: “Yes, this property was and is owned by Zapotec people.” Signed, sealed, and put away for the potential resolution of future disputes. There’s a discomfort in the need for translation. Zapotec speakers wrote the bill of sale, and it pertains to their Zapotec-speaking community. The written variety of Zapotec, now called Colonial Valley Zapotec, may have functioned as a lingua franca, or a standardized language used in communication between linguistically diverse communities ({Smith Stark 2003}[ref[Smith Stark, Thomas. 2003. La ortografía del zapoteco en el Vocabulario de fray Juan de Córdova. In Escritura zapoteca: 2,500 años de historia, editado por María de los Angeles Romero Frizzi, 173-239. Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social and Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia.]]). But Zarate knows that not all of the town’s land disputes will be resolved in Zapotec. Translating a Colonial Valley Zapotec document into Spanish is a necessity if that document is to be used as evidence in a court case ({Farriss 2018}[ref[Farriss, Nancy. 2018. Tongues of Fire: Language and Evangelization in Colonial Mexico. Oxford University Press.]]). Oaxaca’s current linguistic landscape would look strikingly different to Zarate, but it probably would not shock him. Spanish has, of course, become ubiquitous in Mexico. Zapotec languages are spoken throughout Oaxaca by 441,183 speakers, but they are classified as endangered ({Simons and Fennig 2018}[ref[Simons, Gary F. and Charles D Fennig (eds.). 2018. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International.]]). Translating Colonial Valley Zapotec documents into Spanish falls within the scope of Zarate’s oversight as cacique, or regional indigenous leader, and in that job a transfer of power and autonomy is implicit. While Spanish elites were in charge of large territories, they were also vastly outnumbered, so the strategy of granting colonial towns a local leader became a common one for furthering colonial expansion ({Deagan 2003}[ref[Deagan, Kathleen. 2003. Colonial Origins and Colonial Transformations in Spanish America. Historical Archaeology 37, no. 4: 3-13.]]). New Spain (the Spanish empire extending from modern day North America to Central America) was almost two centuries old in 1741. Zarate had already translated several legal manuscripts in his lifetime. Today, we’re lucky to still have access to many of these texts—some of which can be viewed online at the Ticha Project). A linguistic analysis of Zarate’s Spanish translations confirms the historically sound hypothesis that as a cacique, he was also a fluent speaker of both Zapotec and Spanish. Zapotec-Spanish bilingualism, as it came about in towns like Santo Domingo del Valle, is first visible among the religious and political elites who had reason to use Spanish professionally. In this piece, we will first review the linguistic evidence in Zarate’s work that identifies him as bilingual. This evidence includes variation, that is, alternation between multiple grammatical forms in a text. The linguistic innovation evident in Zarate’s work fits with certain features of the modern Oaxacan Spanish dialect, and I hypothesize that these features exist due to Zapotec language influence on the development of this dialect.

II. Second language acquisition

There are several markers of Zapotec influence in Zarate’s works that we can analyze as linguistic variation. Let’s break down the following examples to identify Zarate’s use of Spanish as Zapotec-influenced.

1) Agreement

In Spanish, nouns are marked for number and gender. Determiners and adjectives used with nouns must agree with or match the number and gender of the noun. In Zarate’s Spanish texts, though, we often find a surprising lack of agreement (marked with a #): Gender                

a) Attested:  #Un pedaso de tierra comprada suyo            SDE746 Expected Spanish:  Un pedazo de tierra comprada suya     English translation:  ‘one piece of land bought (which is) theirs’

Number

b) Attested:  *Assi son los lindero         SDE736 Grammatical Spanish:  Así  son los linderos     English translation:    ‘this is the way the boundaries are’                            

Why would Zarate, a professional Spanish translator, not always follow the expected patterns of number and gender agreement in noun phrases? Consider this: in Zapotec, number agreement is not required. A number preceding a noun is one way to pluralize something, but in the form of the noun itself does not change ({Munro and Sonnenschein 2007}[ref[Munro, Pamela and Aaron Huey Sonnenschein. 2007. Four Zapotec Number Systems. ms: UCLA.]], Cordova 1578). As for gender agreement, there are no pronouns in Zapotec that distinguish between masculine and feminine classes as Spanish does ({Operstein 2003}[ref[Operstein, Natalie. 2003. Personal Pronouns in Zapotec and Zapotecan. International Journal of American Linguistics 69, no. 2: 154-185.]]), and, more importantly, nouns are not marked for gender as they are in Spanish or German. English does not have gender-marked nouns, either. So, similarly to Zarate, English speakers learning Spanish or German often find gender agreement tricky to remember! It isn’t the case that Zarate never uses the expected Spanish forms that show number and gender agreement in his translations: sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t. The influence of Zapotec as his first language explains why. His Spanish grammar shows interference from Zapotec grammar—a language that does not utilize number and gender agreement in noun phrases. This variation in how number and gender agreement is realized in his Spanish is a window into his linguistic identity as a bilingual speaker. Next, we will look at more variation… this time, variation that constitutes an innovation and has repercussions for the future development of Spanish spoken in Oaxaca.

III. Variation as innovation

An innovation is a “novel linguistic creation,” purposefully or inadvertently generated in speech or writing (Paradowski & Jonak 2012). The following variation constitutes innovation because while its structure has no previous model in Spanish, it occurs as a useful turn of phrase in several Zapotec translators’ manuscripts, including but not limited to Zarate’s. Thus it was something that was used in Zapotec, and made its way into Spanish through Zapotec-Spanish bilinguals.

2) Quantifier for dual

Take a look at this Spanish sentence from the 1741 bill of sale (its English translation is provided below).

c) Don Sebastian de Gusman  los dos con su hijo lixitimo.     SDE741dT[1] 1 Line 10 Don Sebastian de Gusman  the two with his son legitimate. ‘Don Sebastian de Gusman the two with his legitimate son [appeared in court]’

How many people appeared in court? “The two with” suggests a calculation of 2 + 1. In English and Spanish syntactic rules, with/con can introduce a prepositional phrase to modify the entities participating in verb phrases or belonging to nominal phrases. Therefore, the word with/con leads me to believe that something is being added. However, only two parties are indicated: Don Sebastian de Gusman and his legitimate son. Looking at the original Zapotec text can provide a better idea of what this means.

d) Don Sebastian de Gusman quiropa      xinijgananij      SDE741d[2] 1 Line 11 Don Sebastian de Gusman qui-ropa    xinij-gana=nij Don Sebastian de Gusman irr-two      child-male=3rd person

Now, translating the above into English will just get us into the same trouble as before, but we can see more clearly that the key is quiropa. In Colonial Valley Zapotec qui- is a prefix that usually attaches to verbs. It marks the “irrealis”—something that is not (yet) realized. However, if you attach qui- to a number, you can get a definite quantifier, or a word that signals a specific quantity. (Cite Sonnenschein and Munro). Many and two are both quantifiers in English, and the two is a definite quantifier. Adding qui- to the word that means ‘four’ gets you the definite quantifier ‘the four’, etc. Because it indicates a group of two, we can call quiropa a dual. Zarate’s translations include several examples of los dos con in the Spanish that were translations of quiropa constructions in Zapotec. In fact, the con in the Spanish translation appears optional, as you can see in example e.

e) Xuana de la Cruz quiropaa xyninij Pedro de Silva       SDE736[3]; P. 1 Line 15 Juana de la Cruz los dos su hijo Pedro de Silva                  SDE736T4; P. 1 Line 23     ‘Juana de la Cruz, the two [with] her son Pedro de Silva’ =2 people: Juana de la Cruz and her son Pedro de Silva

f) rotao quia atini quile Don Antonio de Zelis quiropa lachelani Christina    SDE7265; P. 1 Line 11 venden realmente la compra, Don Ant.o e Zelis, los dos con su muger           SDE726T6; P. 2 Line 11    ‘(they) really sell the purchase, Don Antonio Zelis, the two with his woman’    = 2 people: Don Antonio de Zelis and his wife Christina.              

Variation can lead to language change

In Oaxacan Spanish, the los dos con construction can still be used today to express a dual:

g) Fuimos al cine con Juan. We went to the movies with Juan.

This sentence can have two potential interpretations:

i) We went to the movies with Juan. (3+ people) ii) We went to the movies, Juan and I. (2 people)

The interpretation that you access when reading the sentence is determined by your lexicon, or mental word inventory, and how it connects to the syntactic rules of your native language. I have informally posed this interpretative question to some native speakers of Spanish while sharing this research in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Oaxaca; their intuitions are not the same. Some people can access both meanings, and some people can access only the first. Without having conducted a formal study, I can’t be certain yet, but it seems that those who can access both interpretations are actually speakers of a Zapotec influenced Spanish variety. As this los dos con phrase became common in the local dialect, more speakers would have grown accustomed to its role as a dual and incorporated it into their structural understanding of the language. A long term impact may be that, today, adding con to a sentence modifies the subject by specifying or naming one of the parties included, not necessarily by adding anything. Bilingual Zapotec-Spanish speakers like Don Pedro de Zarate mapped quiropa onto Spanish and developed something novel, an innovation, that really took hold in the Spanish of the region. The manuscripts of Colonial Zapotec that I studied are available online at the Ticha Project. To hear the Zapotec languages spoken, check out the Online Talking Dictionary. To see Zapotec language in use, watch the documentary web series Dizhsa Nabani.

Further reading on Zapotec influencing Spanish

Beam de Azcona, Rosemary G. In preparation. "El sustrato zapoteco en el español de la Sierra Sur"

Footnotes

[1] This document can be consulted on Ticha at: https://ticha.haverford.edu/en/texts/SDE741dT/ [2] This document can be consulted on Ticha at: https://ticha.haverford.edu/en/texts/SDE741dT/ [3] This document can be consulted on Ticha at: https://ticha.haverford.edu/en/texts/SDE736/ [4] This document can be consulted on Ticha at: https://ticha.haverford.edu/en/texts/SDE736T/ [5] This document can be consulted on Ticha at: https://ticha.haverford.edu/en/texts/SDE726/ [6] This document can be consulted on Ticha at: https://ticha.haverford.edu/en/texts/SDE726/ [post_title] => Zapotec mapped onto Spanish [post_excerpt] => Zapotec-Spanish bilingualism, as it came about in towns like Santo Domingo del Valle, is first visible among the religious and political elites who had reason to use Spanish professionally. In this piece, we will first review the linguistic evidence in Zarate’s work that identifies him as bilingual. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => zapotec-mapped-onto-spanish [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-06 19:05:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 11:05:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8085 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8033 [post_author] => 83 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:05:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:05:35 [post_content] => When you hear the word ‘mutation’, your mind may jump to the dramatic result of a scientific experiment gone wrong, or maybe to the occasional blip in the amazing unravelling and duplication of our genetic code. But it’s not surprising that this term has a well-known meaning in linguistics too: after all, languages are themselves products of nature which can unravel, evolve and transform in an incredible number of ways. If you’ve ever started learning a Celtic language, you may have come across a particularly interesting grammatical phenomenon in which the beginning of words can change or ‘mutate’ in certain contexts. For example, let’s take the Welsh word Cymru, which means ‘Wales’. Normally this word starts with a c, but if you have ever visited Wales, you most likely would have passed a sign with the words Croeso i Gymru, or ‘Welcome to Wales’, and you can truly say that you are now yng Nghymru, that is, ‘in Wales’. As we can see, the same Welsh word appears in three different linguistic contexts in three different forms, all differing in their first letters. While many language learners may be familiar with grammars that require the ends of words to change, grammatical rules requiring the modification of the beginning of a word are much less common. Mutations are a type of grammatical function that linguists call phonological marking, a way of conveying grammatical information about a word and its role in the sentence by changing the way it sounds. As we shall see below, even though mutation is a clearly phonological variation, the exact environments in which this process occurs suggest that there are various different underlying causes. Amazingly, these mutations are some of the last remaining fossilised remnants of extremely old sound rules dating back to the early stages of the Celtic language family, and still remain a topic of great interest for linguists of all academic fields. Living transformations Once spoken across Western Europe and the British Isles, the Celtic languages are now hard to find in spoken form, and are limited mostly to small communities in coastal areas. The two surviving branches of this language family are Goidelic, comprising Irish Gaelic and its two descendants Scottish Gaelic and Manx, and Brythonic, which contains Welsh, Breton (spoken in Brittany, France) and the recently revived Cornish language. Understanding how these languages are related is important for making sense of the striking similarities between some of the mutation patterns we see in all six of these languages, as well as the clear differences in how they are structured. For example, Manx and Irish have only two main mutation patterns for initial consonants, whereas a Brythonic language like Breton can have up to four. Mutations even vary according to dialect, region and speaker, and show interesting variation between communities, though for the sake of simplicity here we will use the standard mutation forms usually given in Celtic grammars. So how exactly do mutations work? Simply put, the initial sound of a word undergoes a transformation of some sort, which is represented both in a change in pronunciation and in a change in spelling. Let’s take a common example of mutation in which the beginning of a noun changes after a possessive adjective, namely a word such as ‘my’, ‘your’ or ‘her’. Comparing the unmutated or ‘radical’ form of the word for ‘house’ in Irish, Welsh and Breton we can see that the following changes are possible: [table id=63 /] As can be seen from the table, the word for ‘house’ begins with the same sound [t] in each language. What happens to this sound depends on the rules of each language and on the word that precedes it, processes that are (rather confusingly) given different names depending on which language we’re talking about. Starting with Irish, we see that there are two possibilities: [t] in the word teach may undergo what is called lenition to become [θ] in theach (a sound like English ‘th’ in ‘thing’) or it may be eclipsed to become the sound [d] in dteach. Clearly, this depends on what precedes the word: mo ‘my’ causes the mutation called lenition in the following word, whereas a ‘their’ causes eclipsis. Comparing this to Welsh and Breton, we see that Irish lenition has the same effect as the Welsh aspirate mutation and that eclipsis has the same effect as Welsh and Breton soft mutations, namely that the consonant [t] is voiced to [d]. However, there are also some clear differences. The word va, ‘my’ in Breton, triggers the so-called spirant mutation, transforming [t] to [z], whereas the corresponding word fy in Welsh triggers a nasal mutation, changing [t] to a voiceless nasal sound [ṇ] (pronounced like ‘n’ but with an accompanying puff of air through the nose). At first glance it seems that mutations are already extremely complicated, even after fairly common words! However, despite the technical terminology, it has been observed that these changes are actually quite intuitive to native speakers, and once it is learnt exactly how letters transform, it’s simply a matter of applying the phonological rules correctly. Another observation worth noting is that these sound changes are often quite predictable with a bit of knowledge about phonetics (the study of sound production). To illustrate, let’s take the complete table of possible Welsh mutations: [table id=62 /] For each letter there are some interesting phonetic patterns. For soft mutation, voiceless consonants are voiced, whereas voiced consonants are made fricatives (hissing sounds). For the nasal mutation, sounds simply keep all their phonetic features (voiced or voiceless, pronounced with the teeth or the lips) but are pronounced through the nose, that is, made nasal! The aspirate mutation simply involves making the original letters more like fricatives and pronounced with slightly more aspiration, and so for native speakers there is a clearly learnable link between the original consonants and their mutated forms. While the exact nature of these links differ from language to language, a fascinating feature of Celtic mutation systems is that the same phonetic patterns occur more or less consistently. Another question that arises when faced with understanding mutations is when they actually occur. When talking about sound changes, linguists try to isolate the environments or triggers associated with the change in order to determine the conditions for its occurrence. In Celtic languages, the environment of a mutation categorises it into one of two broad groups: contact mutations and grammatical mutations. Contact mutations are so-called since they occur directly after or in ‘contact’ with common mutating words such as ‘my’, ‘your’, and ‘their’, question words, verbal particles and adverbs, the exact members of which vary from language to language. Less common (and more elusive) are grammatical mutations, in which words are affected if they come before or after a word or phrase with a particular grammatical feature. An illustrative example of this is the common mutation of an adjective that follows any feminine singular noun: [table id=64 /] Here the word for ‘door’, which is masculine in all of these languages, induces no change in the following adjective, whereas for ‘river’, which is feminine, the following adjective mustbe mutated. Intriguingly, when several different mutation-triggering environments occur in a sentence, these may lead to a whole chain of mutations as in this Irish sentence. Shown below is a sentence as it would appear grammatically, with mutations, and then ungrammatically, without mutations (here an asterisk before a phrase means ‘ungrammatical’ or ‘not attested’):

Chaill mé mo fháinne i lár na habhann i ngar don fheirm bheag.

I lost my ring in the middle of the river by the small farm.

*Caill mé mo fáinne i lár na abhann i gar don feirm beag.

Here there are a total of six mutations, with four contact mutations after the words mo, na, i and don, and two grammatical mutations triggered by the past tense (chaill mé) and a preceding feminine singular noun (fheirm bheag). As we can see, features such as tense, gender and definiteness (whether or not we are talking about the thing or a thing) are often marked by mutations in Irish and its sister languages, alongside the expected inflectional endings we see in many other languages. While it would be possible to write this sentence without mutations, as above, this would be highly ungrammatical, and in some cases ambiguous or even incomprehensible. Indeed, as much as mutations have been studied by linguists, it is still incredibly difficult to ascertain why certain grammatical features require sounds to be changed at the beginnings of words, and even native speakers have to learn individual cases off by heart or simply do not use them at all. In order to understand why these linguistic patterns occur, it is necessary to dig deeper into the history of the Celtic language family.

Making sense of mutations: the historical picture

Mutations are not a recent phenomenon: they are recorded in the earliest Celtic texts written in the Roman alphabet, and so studying these can give one a clue about their origins. More information is available in the observable nature of mutations in the living languages themselves. Firstly, in certain cases, mutations are surprisingly similar between languages, even between the Goidelic and Brythonic branches. Usually, this suggests that some common factor is at work. Secondly, many of the phonological processes involved in mutations are very similar, such as the transformation of the stop [m] to the fricative [v] in the words for ‘big’ after a feminine singular adjective. Thirdly, as we have seen, mutations are usually triggered by similar grammatical environments or by the proximity of a small word like a preposition or possessive adjective, even though the exact words involved differ from language to language. Since this evidence applies to all remaining Celtic languages and has even been recorded in the extinct Continental Celtic branch {(Eska 2008)}[ref[Eska, Joseph F. (2008).Continental Celtic in ed. Roger D. Woodward, Ancient Languages of Europe. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.]], historical linguists argue that mutations must have a common historical origin, which would most likely have originated in their mother language, Proto-Celtic. By recognising that mutations are processes with solely phonological effects, historical linguists argue that mutations originated as a regular phonological process, triggered by the presence of certain sounds in the surrounding environment which are no longer present in the modern language. It is a well-observed linguistic phenomenon that when adjacent in speech, sounds which are articulated differently will change their features in some way so as to become more like one another—a process called assimilation. For example, in English the plural of cat is pronounced as [kats], with a voiceless fricative [s] since it is preceded by another voiceless sound [t]. But when a word ends with a voiced consonant as in log, the plural ending assimilates to this consonant by also becoming voiced, so we actually pronounce the plural as [logz] and not as [logs].Coupled with historical information about previous stages of the Celtic languages, this well-observed tendency of sounds to become similar to each other gives us a clue as to why many of the observable mutations are so similar between different Celtic groups, even in the case of seemingly strange mutations such as [b] to [m] (e.g. Welsh brawd ‘brother’ vs. fy mrawd ‘my brother’). As an example, let’s take the word for ‘two’ which causes mutation of the following word in all of the Celtic languages: [table id=65 /] Despite the differences in spelling, there is a remarkable consistency here in the nature of the resulting contact mutation after ‘two’. In each case the word for ‘cow’ begins with the sound [b], but after ‘two’ this mutates to the sound [v] (note that in Welsh this sound is written as ‘f’). To figure out why this is so, we need to be able to take a look at what Proto-Celtic words may have looked like so as to suggest some motivation for mutations at work. Since there are no actual records of Proto-Celtic, linguists compare evidence from all the Celtic languages and from other Indo-European language families to come up with an approximate reconstruction of individual words. Using these methods, and noting that the Celtic languages all have quite similar words for ‘two’ and ‘cow’, the Proto-Celtic forms are reconstructed as *dwi and *bows respectively (Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru). As in the example above, here an asterisk preceding a word means it has never actually been attested in real language, but in this context it is nevertheless a good working reconstruction of an older form. Putting this together, we can see that in the expression *dwi bows ‘two cows’ the initial [b] of *bows is surrounded by a vowel on either side, which is the phonological environment for the expected mutation. Appealing to the study of sound production in language, linguists can tell that a vowel sound is simply a continuous vibration of the vocal chords as we breathe out, whereas the stop [b] involves a vibration of the vocal chords with closed lips, before suddenly releasing the tension in a burst of air. Although such a sequence of sounds is fully possible (English speakers do this every day) in fast speech, it is a little tricky to vibrate the vocal chords while exhaling, stop the flow of air, and then release it again in a short space of time. Historically, it seems that Proto-Celtic speakers dealt with this by assimilating the initial stop [b] of *bows into the fricative [v], which is a little easier to say between two vowels since it involves both vibration of the vocal chords and a continuous outgoing stream of air from the mouth. Consequently, after the word *dwi nouns beginning with consonants changed phonetically to accommodate the preceding vowel, i.e. *dwi [b]ows became *dwi [v]ows. Over time, as Proto-Celtic changed and became the Celtic languages we know today, such mutating environments either disappeared or were no longer understood as phonological, allowing the effects on following words to be fossilised as a seemingly arbitrary mutation. The evidence for these mutations is widespread, and doesn’t just explain mutations after words that are quite similar to their suggested historical forms. In Irish Gaelic, consonants always undergo eclipsis after the preposition i ‘in’, though this seems to include a set of unrelated sound changes: i mbaile ‘in town’, i gcarraig ‘in rock’, i nÉirinn ‘in Ireland’. Historically, this can be explained by noting that i is originally descended from the Proto-Celtic word *in, which ends in a voiced nasal consonant [n]. Consequently, the following sound assimilated to this final [n] by becoming voiced if it was voiceless (as in gcarraig) or becoming nasal if it was already voiced (as in mbaile) or transferring the [n] to the affected word (as in nÉirinn). When *in lost its final [n] the rule was preserved, thus destroying any phonological motivation for the change but retaining the mutation. This methodology has turned out to be relatively successful in explaining why certain mutations appear where they do, and in charting the development of the notoriously tricky spelling system in Irish as a way of representing these sound changes with ingenuity. However, the fully successful way of modelling all mutations is still being debated in linguistic scholarship, and there are still unanswered questions about certain types of grammatical mutation and how they operate in the mind of a speaker. Despite these difficulties, a historical approach to Celtic mutations provides linguists with useful knowledge of change and transformations from two different perspectives. Firstly, what appear at first to be arbitrary and confusing alternations in the beginnings of words are shown to have underlying patterns that can be uncovered by concentrating on exactly how mutation changes the sounds of a word. On the other hand, the historical approach enables linguists to look back into the past and learn how the previous forms of a language can structure and explain its present.
Language change is an inherent part of human communication, and it is the task of linguists to look between the lines and find the hidden regularities underneath seemingly irregular effects in the hope of understanding phenomena as unique and fascinating as mutations.
[post_title] => Mutations in Celtic languages [post_excerpt] => If you’ve ever started learning a Celtic language, you may have come across a particularly interesting grammatical phenomenon in which the beginning of words can change or ‘mutate’ in certain contexts. For example, let’s take the Welsh word Cymru, which means ‘Wales’. Normally this word starts with a c, but if you have ever visited Wales, you most likely would have passed a sign with the words Croeso i Gymru, or ‘Welcome to Wales’, and you can truly say that you are now yng Nghymru, that is, ‘in Wales’. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => mutations-in-celtic-languages [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-06 20:07:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 12:07:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8033 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 69 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8188 [post_author] => 90 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:03:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:03:49 [post_content] =>

Language of the Fenua across the seas

Reo Tahiti (The Language of Tahiti), or Tahitian,is part of the Reo Mā’ohi, a term for the ensemble of indigenous languages spoken in French Polynesia. There are five main indigenous languages: Tahitian (Reo Tahiti), Tuamotuan (Pa’umotu), Marquesan (Reo Nu’uhiva), Rurutu-Tupuai (Reo Tuha’a pae), Mangarevan (Reo Mareva). Composed of 118 islands and atolls scattered throughout a territory that is roughly the size of Metropolitan France itself, French Polynesia has both French and Tahitian as official languages. While French is the institutional and educational language, the Reo Tahiti is a vernacular that is most commonly used at home. More than half of the French Polynesian population is bilingual, speaking French and at least one other Reo Mā’ohi, and with about 125,000 speakers concentrated in the Society Islands, the Reo Tahiti is the most spoken indigenous language of the region ({Peltzer & Tuheiava-Richaud, 2011}[ref[Peltzer, L, Tuheiava-Richaud, V. S (2011). Tahitien de poche. Assimil France. ]]). However, it is, to some extent, spoken across all of French Polynesia and by diasporic groups in Vanuatu, New Caledonia, France, and other territories. This typically refers to Tahitian peoples having left Tahiti and French Polynesia for various reasons (to work abroad, to study, etc.), who maintain strong cultural links with the culture of their homeland. Originally the language of the Mā’ohi peoples before the successive waves of evangelization and of colonization (in that order) that started in the 19th century and continued through the 20th century, the Tahitian language travelled across the various archipelagos of French Polynesia (Tuamotus, Austral islands, Gambier islands, Marquesas, Bass islands) and branched out into other dialects. If their common origin links the indigenous languages of French Polynesia to the Reo Tahiti, they are all invariably distinct. Note: “Fenua” means land in Tahitian. It generally bears affective connotations to the Mā’ohi peoples who use it to refer to their homeland in French Polynesia.

In thirteen letters

As is often the case with languages, theReo Tahitiis very sensitive to pronunciation. Good grammar skills won’t take you very far if your pronunciation is lacking. As a matter of fact, the Tahitian alphabet only contains thirteen letters: eight consonants (f, h, m, n, p, r, t, v) and five vowels (a, e, i, o, u). Not surprising then that so much comprehensibility lies on Phonology’s thin shoulders. Be careful about the “u” which sounds like the “oo” in “foot”. The “h” is heard, just like in English. The pronunciation of the vowels can vary. They can either be short (a, e, i, o, u) and unstressed, or long (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū) and stressed upon. For example, [i] would be pronounced as in “city”, while [ī] would be closer to “teem”. One important sound, eta, is symbolized by a reversed comma ʻ and corresponds to a glottal pause; the airflow is blocked in the vocal tract. It is so important, in fact, that it is considered a separate consonant. Let’s see with a few examples of why pronunciation is key. Oftentimes, the vowels (long or short) or the etaare the only distinctions between two or three words with spellings that look traitorously similar but with different meanings.
ʻaʻo (animal fat) ao (day, world) aʻo (advice, teaching)
iʻa (fish) ʻīʻā (to overflow) ʻiʻa (to coat)
ʻāvaʻe (moon, month) ʻāvae (leg) ʻavae (sugar cane)
 

The incongruity of written orality

Languages are in constant process of evolution; they’re changing, adapting, getting influenced and being remodeled. Before the first contact with European missionaries and navigators, theReo Tahiti, like most languages, was submitted to its own internal variations ({Vernier, 1948: 59}[ref[Vernier, C (1948). “Les variations du vocabulaire Tahitien avant et après les contacts européens.” Journal de la Société des Océanistes, Paris: 57-85. ]]). Then the Europeans accosted. The Protestant missionaries of the London Missionary Society came to Tahiti in the early nineteenth century, converted the main ariki (chiefs), and initiated a dramatic change in the practice of the Reo Tahiti, notably by translating the Bible into Tahitian (undefined). The language officially went from purely spoken to scribbled and penned. A way to save the language, to immortalize the words? Possibly. But some Mā’ohi scholars and writers argue that this spoken-to-written transition instead contributed to the weakening of the Tahitian tradition of orality. Tahitian poet and educator Flora Devatine blames colonialism and the transition to writing for muting Polynesian orality ({2009: 13}[ref[Devatine, F (2009). “Written Tradition, Oral Tradition, Oral Literature, Fiuriture.” Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 3(2), 10-14.]]). By defining it as “the foundation, the support, the construction and the boat that guides the navigation of one’s thoughts” ({2009: 10}[ref[Devatine, F (2009). “Written Tradition, Oral Tradition, Oral Literature, Fiuriture.” Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 3(2), 10-14.]]), she underscores its significance for the speakers and for the cultural traditions of the region. In the same vein, Polynesian author Chantal Spitz, whose famous novel L’île des Rêves Écrasés was first published in 1991, deplores the “hegemony of writing over orality” (my translation, {Sultan, 2011: 65}[ref[Sultan, P. (2011). La scène littéraire post-coloniale. Paris: Editions Le Manuscript. ]]). Chantal Spitz’s controversial masterpiece was translated by Anderson Jean under the English title “Island of Shattered Dreams” and published by Huia in 2007. But both these authors’ literary pieces, infused with Tahitian orality and Reo Tahiti words, show how French Polynesian writers manage to turn this aspect of the language into a cultural, literary strength.

Relations of power

Reo Tahiti is not spared the indigenous linguicide imposed by the rise of super-global languages. In spite of its institutionalization and of its inclusion in the French Polynesian school curriculum in 1981, the Tahitian language sees its number of speakers decline. Worse yet, a recent sociolinguistic study suggests that the Tahitian language has been reduced to basic and extremely simple communication phrases and expressions in the mouths of the youngest generations of speakers ({Salaün et al., 2016}[ref[Salaün, M, Vernaudon, J, Paia, M (2016). “’Le Tahitien c’est pour dire bonjour et au revoir’: paroles d’enfants sur une langue autochtone en sursis.” Enfances, Familles, Générations: Revue Interdisciplinaire sur la Famille Contemporaine, n.25, 1-64. ]]). Several factors can explain this intergenerational decline in linguistic practices. One of them is the general ban of the Reo Tahitiby French schools and administrations that lasted over a century, roughly until the 1980s. Speaking Tahitian was not just frowned upon, it was forbidden. In an interview, author Chantal Spitz shares her anecdote of the Tahitian language interdiction at school when she was young. Whenever a child was heard speaking the Reo Tahiti, he was given a seashell. If he were lucky, another child would be caught speaking the forbidden language and would become the stigmatized offender in his place. Otherwise, as bearer of the seashell, he would be pulling weeds after school as punishment. Later, as the interdiction was progressively lifted, parents were still strongly advised not to speak Tahitian to their children. The general idea was that speaking the indigenous language at home would hinder their children’s learning of French at school. Studies in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics have since refuted this claim, and they even advertise the benefits of exposure to multiple languages ({Fan et al., 2015}[ref[Fan, SP, Liberman, Z, Keysar, B, & Kinzler, KD. (2015). “The Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication.” Psycho Sci 26(7), 1090-7. ]]). But undoing a century of linguistic censorship and uprooting an erroneous belief that has embedded itself deeply into the collective consciousness is harder said than done.
Add globalization into the mix, and the Reo Tahiti appears more and more like a street vendor about to be swallowed by a multinational fast-food chain.

A cultural wake-up call  

Facing risks of extinction in the long run, the Reo Tahiti has no choice but to voice its own warning. Tahitian linguists and artists call for a re-appropriation of the language by the younger generations, for a cultural and linguistic awakening, as letting theReo Tahiti turn into an unspoken dialect would mean losing a part of the Mā'ohi culture. Steve Chailloux, Tahitian instructor at the University of Manoā in Hawaii, encourages people to try out the language, no matter their levels of proficiency ({Chameau, 2016}[ref[Chameau, Christine (2016, December 17). “Reo Tahiti, enquête sur une langue qui se meurt.” Telerama. https://www.telerama.fr/television/reo-tahiti-enquete-sur-une-langue-qui-se-meurt,151553.php]]). With 2019 being credited the “Year of Indigenous Languages” by UNESCO, an acknowledgement of the increasing threat of extinction hanging over the indigenous languages, but also of the cultural resonance that such languages sustain, what better time to start learning (or re-learning) the Reo Tahiti?

The best time is now...

Say hello to your friends... ʻIa ora na! Ask them how they are... ʻE aha te huru? Impress them by toasting in Tahitian... Manuia! Tell your beloved “I love you”... Ua here vau ia oe Or that he/she is beautiful... Mea purotu roa oe Say that you’re fed up... Fiu pei! Or that you don’t mind...ʻAita e’pe’a pe’a. Say thank you... Māuruuru. And goodbye... Nana! Want more? Check out the Tahihi Tourism website for common expressions in Tahiti and Steve Chailloux’s Youtube channel E Reo Tō ‘Oeto hear Tahitian: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpqXABBXZes[/embed] [post_title] => Te Reo Tahiti [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => te-reo-tahiti [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-04-21 22:48:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-04-21 14:48:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8188 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8200 [post_author] => 91 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:03:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:03:23 [post_content] => A young couple about to marry listen to their wizened grandparents’ words of guidance and warning. They stand in the front room of a white house in a small Mexican village surrounded by lush farmlands and misty mountains. Only the parents, and two stealthy observers Brenda Barrera Lino and Mariana Figueroa Martínez eavesdropping from just outside, witness the solemn moment. The tradition is an intimate one. As the community bustles outside preparing for a wedding, Barrera Lino hears only the murmur of the Mazahua words. The novios, passive speakers of the indigenous language, can respond only in Spanish, although they understand the words their grandparents speak. Language loss is a nearly imperceptible process that severs enduring lines of cultural continuity. The moment a passive speaker realizes she’s lost a link to her identity can be as isolating as watching family members carouse on the beach unaware as a riptide sweeps her away. About 111,840 people in communities throughout central Mexico speak Mazahua, down from over 133,000 speakers in 2000. That’s a 10% drop in 15 years. In just two generations, for many, a connection that supports their sense of Mazahua self and community is lost.

The workshop for speakers of Otomanguean languages

On the historic Oaxaca streets, en route to the Biblioteca de Investigación Juan de Córdova, the Juan Córdova Research Library, the morning bustle is set against the sweet, citrus smell from a nearby orange juice vendor. The corn scent of tamales wafts through the iron gates and out onto the courtyard of the Centro Cultural San Pablo (San Pablo Cultural Center). Creeping cactus with bursting white blossoms cling to walls as a gardener clips the grasses growing between the patio bricks. It’s day three in a seven-day workshop. Librarians, teachers, writers, and musicians, all speakers of indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca, mill around eager to enter the library nestled within the renovated walls of the one-time convent. One year after their surreptitious participation in the pre-marriage ritual, Barrera Lino and Figueroa Martínez wait with fellow workshop attendees. Mexico’s linguistic landscape is vast. The country has seven language families and four isolates. Three families and two isolates, languages that are not related to any other language, are spoken in Oaxaca, a state roughly the size of the US state of Georgia. By comparison, the entire continent of Europe has five language families. Every year, the Workshop for Speakers of Otomanguean Languages draws native and heritage indigenous language speakers. The workshop provides linguistic tools for people seeking to fit their languages into daily life. This is the first of a three-year series focused on creating texts. They’ve come to write songs, create calendars, pen folk tales, draw comic books, and text their friends. Barrera Lino wants to do it all. She was a passive speaker. She grew up hearing the language and understood it but didn’t speak it. As a young adult, she learned to actively speak Mazahua and is now a fluent speaker. Speakers of ten languages congregate at the library, and organizers have sorted the workshop attendees into groups by language. Barrera Lino and Figueroa Martínez are in a small group with six workmates who speak Mazahua, Otomí, Amuzgo and Me’phaa. They gather with three mentors in a remodeled cloister with crisp white walls and concrete windows overlooking a small courtyard below. The hum of traffic and chirping of birds set the backdrop for the classroom chatter. Participants share freshly penned prose and present questions. Barrera Lino and Figueroa Martínez are up. They project lines of Mazahua text on the white screen. Behind them, a chalkboard marked with vowels accented with upticks, downticks and squiggles stands by as reference. Justin MacIntosh, lecturer in the linguistics department at the University of California San Diego and a co-organizer of the workshop, is one of three mentors working with the group. He asks the Mazahua pair what they would like to present. Barrera Lino exclaims, “Un montón de dudas!” (‘a mountain of questions’). The class laughs, but they are sympathetic. They are all trying to work out how to represent the tones in their languages. But first they have to identify them. At this early stage in the workshop, all five groups are laying down the groundwork for the next three years. For some, this means working out tones.

The challenges of tone

The Otomanguean languages are tone languages, or languages that use pitch to differentiate words and parts of speech. All the tick and squiggle marks written in these languages mark rising pitch, falling pitch, tones that rise and fall, and vice versa. Or even pitch that rises and falls and rises again. The classic example of a tone language comes from Mandarin Chinese. The most widely referenced set of words, ‘mother’, ‘hemp’, ‘horse’, mà ‘scold’, and ma (question particle), are each distinguishable by tone, or lack thereof. Barrera Lino reads a line from the passage that Figueroa Martínez wrote for homework. First she reads it slowly. They test to see if the words are readable. Barrera Lino stumbles over a word. The term “dialect” is politically loaded since historically it demoted the status of an indigenous language to something less. “Variety” is both politically neutral and descriptively useful. The tone here in Martinez’ text is different from her own variety of Mazahua. Barrera Lino is from San Felipe del Progreso. Figueroa Martínez is from La Concepción Segunda, the town where the two witnessed the pre-wedding exchange between grandparents and novios. Both women study language and culture at the Universidad Intercultural del Estado de México (Mexico State Intercultural University), where they became fast friends. They spend a lot of time talking about Mazahua. In class, the duo’s challenge is to compare words in their varieties to identify what the tones are, how many there are, how they might be similar or different, and how they’ll represent them (with ticks, á, and squiggles, â, or with numbers, a5, where 5 indicates a high tone). They note the differences as they play with different words. Identifying tones and deciding how to represent them is no small feat. The Eastern Chatino group has cloistered itself away behind a maze of exhibit spaces displaying colorful masks, a six foot steel mosquito sculpture, and an ensconced courtyard featuring water and stone. This animated group is led by Emiliana Cruz, researcher at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social in Mexico City (Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology), a main co-organizer and founder of the workshop, and a native speaker of Chatino. They project Chatino verses and word lists on the crisp, white walls as they brainstorm jokes and insults and methodically compare tones word-by-word across the three varieties spoken in the room. In Chatino, tones vary wildly across the varieties. Zacatepec Eastern Chatino has five tones, San Juan Quiahije Chatino has twelve tones, and Zenzontepec Chatino has only two tones. Compare that with Mandarin, which has five. Tones are tough. Researchers have been known to overlook tone. The Zapotec group, easily the largest at the workshop with 27 speakers, occupies the auditorium above the water and stone courtyard. Speakers of six Zapotecan varieties form this group, led by Francisco Arellanes Arellanes, professor at the Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Institute of Philological Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico), and Rosa Maria Rojas Torres, researcher from the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History). Attendees take turns listening to recordings of poetry they each wrote the night before and together work out the best ways to represent the sounds and tones. Roughly 410,900 people speak Zapotec languages, and compared to other languages in Mexico, Zapotec enjoys substantially more research attention. Yet a number of academic papers overlook tone in their descriptions of the language. Anthony Woodbury, professor of linguistics at The University of Texas at Austin, co-organizer of the workshop, and a mentor to Barrera Lino’s group, says this is problematic since some Zapotec languages use tone in subordinate clauses the way English uses “that” or “which” to form clauses. The oversight is as significant as omitting the word “which” when writing a grammar book of English. In Mazahua, words for “my stick” and “your stick” are almost the same, in mbala. It is the tone that distinguishes the meaning. The term ín mbala with a high tone means ‘my stick’, which might be written with an uptick. In contrast, in mbala meaning ‘your stick’ has no tone, neutral tone. Barrera Lino and Figueroa Martinez stumble upon differences in their varieties. Figueroa Martínez explains, “It’s complicated because there are differences in speech between different communities, but there are also differences within single communities, between generations.”

Expenses measured in time and sweat

Each Saturday morning, Barrera Lino sets out from her home in San Felipe, 90 miles from Mexico City, and takes a 45-minute bus ride to the desviación de Tapaxco, a bus stop at a fork in the road. From there, she catches a taxi for 10 pesos to the center of Yomeje. She then walks 30 minutes uphill through farmland to the Iglesia La Magdalena. Once she arrives, she teaches Mazahua to 15 kids aged six to 17 for two hours in an unfurnished room of an abandoned two-room adobe school. When she’s not attending university classes or doing homework, she spends her time creating games and activities to teach children. All the materials she uses are recycled or repurposed. Several mothers have expressed interest in learning how to read and write in Mazahua. Soon she’ll teach them too. In Oaxaca, the women have joined 42 attendees and ten organizers from the U.S. and Mexico. Until this year, the Harp Helu Foundation and the National Institute of Indigenous Languages funded the Otomanguean workshops. When the Mexican government changed, priorities shifted and funds were redirected. This year, with no external funding sources, workshop organizers launched a GoFundMe drive that raised USD 3,400 (about 64,700 Mexican pesos)—enough to provide meals and lodging for twenty Otomanguean speakers to attend the workshop. Michael Swanton, academic director at the Biblioteca de Investigación Juan de Córdova, professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, and a workshop co-organizer, believes that a strength of the workshop is that it draws “highly specialized academics who are willing to come to Oaxaca every year at their own expense to provide this mentorship.” They work on topics important to the attendees, often setting aside their own envisioned goals to accommodate the group. “Originally, the plan was to work with texts and record them and analyze them,” MacIntosh recalls. For linguists, texts are samples of recorded stories, conversations, recipes, and explanations. “But people started pulling texts out of their own head,” he adds. They started creating texts in the form of poems, announcements, and jokes on the spot.

What’s in a text?

It’s easy for language lovers to immerse themselves in the minutiae of language and words and tones, but here mentors and attendees think about language in terms of the communities that speak them. The central idea of the workshop is to approach language as verbal art. To look beyond specialized speech that comes with ceremonial speech or storytelling. To look at everyday speech, like jokes and insults. The Center makes its library space and resources available for the workshop, one of many cultural projects it offers scholars and countryfolk alike. Library employees who speak native languages, each with stories that reflect the light and shadow of their relationships with identity and language and connection, also attend. They help shape the myriad of ways that the workshop approaches language use. Team Mazatec, led by Mario Chávez Peón, professor of linguistics at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social in Mexico City, is taking text in a different direction. Under the leadership of resident librarian and Mazatec speaker Gabriela García García, who has printed paper calendars for the Library since 2013, the group is creating an interactive, web-based, 18-month and 5-day calendar that represents the Mazatec year. Each month has a theme, such as tecolote (owl), najme (maize), and huipil (embroidered blouse). The theme highlights recipes, poems, riddles, activities, cultural subjects, and games. Each section and activity is a brief, researched text. MacIntosh stresses “[these] languages are deeply in danger of falling out of use…so it's this idea of how can we document the languages in a way or promote types of texts, or reading, or literacy. A lot of people don’t even read their own languages. So it's a really different focus in that sense.” Beyond the complexities of what it takes to work with texts, what emerges from the workshop are the stories that illustrate the lengths individuals go to preserve and rebuild connections with the people in their cultures.

Rebuilding the lines of continuity

Barrera Lino recalls winding her way through the market of San Felipe among stalls displaying colorful vegetables and leafy green herbs. The sweet, earthy scents of ripening fruit and roasting nuts mingle under the clear blue sky as vendors call out their products or chat with one other. She approaches an abuelita (grandmother, affectionately) with her herbs and remedies carefully arranged on a blanket on the ground. She remembers what it was like before she knew how to speak Mazahua.
“If you ask in Spanish, they’re going to tell you it’ll cure your stomach pain, but nothing else.”
Since learning to speak Mazahua, “When you talk to them in their language, there’s a feeling, a connection. When you ask them in their language, they tell you what it’s used for, how it’s prepared, how you take it, and what else it’s good for.” For Barrera Lino, it’s about more than formally transcribing a recipe to analyze sounds and sentence structure. She wants to reconnect intergenerational lines with the doñita (elderly woman, affectionately) selling her remedies in the market. She wants to sing original Mazahua songs with her young students. She wants to text her friends in Mazahua. [post_title] => Mazahua: Text, tone & tradition [post_excerpt] => About 111,840 people in communities throughout central Mexico speak Mazahua, down from over 133,000 speakers in 2000. That’s a 10% drop in 15 years. In just two generations, for many, a connection that supports their sense of Mazahua self and community is lost. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => mazahua-text-tone-tradition [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-07 01:03:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 17:03:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8200 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8115 [post_author] => 88 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:02:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:02:26 [post_content] => Few languages have contributed as much to English as Greek has, and few works of poetry have influenced English literature as profoundly as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but the influence of Homer’s language on English has been surprisingly limited. Thousands of English words derive from Greek, and while many of these derivatives are first recorded in the Homeric epics—think ‘music’ (moûsa, Od. 1.1), ‘pathetic’ (páthen, Od. 1.4), and ‘psychic’ (psukhén, Od. 1.5)—only a handful of English words actually derive from Homer. This article is about the journeys those words took on their paths from Homer, at the end of the eighth century BCE, into English today.

‘Mentor’

Given that ‘mentor’ ultimately derives from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- ‘think’ (whence English ‘mind’), the semantic evolution of ‘mentor’ seems clear enough. But its etymological journey into English is more circuitous than you might think. Mentor first appears as a character in the Odyssey, where he is described as Odysseus’ trusted companion in Ithaca. He is chosen as one of the guides for Telemachus’ journey to Pylos and Sparta, and from that point forward Mentor is the preferred disguise which Athena takes on whenever she wants to communicate with Telemachus, as she guides him on his way. ‘Mentor’ has appeared as a proper noun in English translations of the Odyssey since the early seventeenth century, but it wasn’t until the eighteenth century that ‘mentor’ entered English as a common noun, thanks to the widespread success of François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon’s Les aventures de Télémaque (1699). Fénelon expanded on the Odyssey’s account of Telemachus’ travels, taking Mentor as the hero and mouthpiece for his critique of Louis XIV. The novel was a best-seller in France and appeared in English within a year of its publication. Owing to the popularity of Fénelon’s novel (and Mentor’s prominence within it), Mentor’s name came to be used as a byword for ‘guide.’ Homer made Mentor who he is, but Fénelon made ‘mentor’ mean what it does.

‘Siren’

The origin of ‘siren,’ like the creatures it names, is somewhat mysterious. It derives from ancient Greek Seirēn, referring to Homer’s mellifluous enchantress of the sea. Seirēn may in turn derive from another ancient Greek word, seirá ‘rope,’ perhaps in reference to the spellbinding nature of the Sirens’ song. The motif of binding is central to Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens in the Odyssey, when, acting on Circe’s advice, he instructs his crew to tie him to the mast so that he can safely hear the Sirens sing. Ancient authors reached no consensus on the parentage, number, or location of the Sirens, but agreed on three key strands which have been formative for the word’s meaning in contemporary English. First, the Sirens were always depicted as part-woman; the word was used metaphorically to refer to a monstrous or deceitful woman as early as the fifth century BCE. Second, the Sirens were consistently represented as producers of alluring song; the first attested use of ‘siren’ in English as a producer of seductive song is in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Finally, the Sirens have always had a connection with the sea. Over time, Homer’s seaside singers came to be understood as marine creatures. As Chaucer wrote in The Romaunt of the Rose:

Though we mermaydens clepe hem here, In English, as in our usaunce, Men clepen hem sereyns in Fraunce.

Though we call them ‘mermaids’ here, In English, as in our usage, Men call them ‘sirens’ in France.

Even today, the French word for ‘mermaid’ is ‘sirène.’ The more common meaning of ‘siren’ today, i.e., ‘alarm,’ originates with a musical instrument invented by the Scottish physicist and conspiracy theorist, John Robison, in the late eighteenth century. Shortly thereafter, Baron Charles Cagniard de la Tour improved the device, giving his tone-producing instrument the peculiar capacity to function underwater. Inspired by this property, de la Tour named his invention after those sonorous sea-creatures of antiquity, and ‘siren’ acquired a new meaning. The machine kept its name as it evolved from an obscure musical instrument to an all-purpose sound-producer.

‘Odyssey’

The title of the Odyssey and the common noun that derives from it ultimately come from the poem’s central character, Odysseus. The actual etymology of Odysseus’ name is disputed, but folk etymologies have been proposed as early as the Odyssey itself; when Odysseus’ grandfather Autolycus visited his infant grandchild, he named him ‘hateful one,’ from the Greek verb form odúsasthai ‘to hate’ (Od. 19.406-9):

My son-in-law and daughter, give him what name I say. Since I come as one who has angered (odussámenos) many, men and women alike, throughout the fertile land, let his name be Odysseus.

The title of Homer’s epic—Odússeia in ancient Greek—was variable in English until the eighteenth century. George Chapman and Thomas Hobbes, for example, both referred to their translations of the Homeric epics as the “Iliads and Odysses” of Homer. While figurative uses of ‘odyssey’ appear in French from the end of the eighteenth century, it wasn’t until the end of the next century that ‘odyssey’ entered figurative usage in English, giving rise to its current meaning: an eventful journey. In Homer’s day, only Odysseus could have had an odyssey; now anyone can.

‘Python’

Though the etymological journey of ‘python’ begins with neither the Iliad nor the Odyssey, the word is nevertheless ‘Homeric’ in the sense that it originates with the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, a poem written in the meter and style of the great Homeric epics, once believed to have been composed by the legendary bard himself. Among other things, the hymn explains how Apollo established his sanctuary on the slopes of Mount Parnassus by slaying Python, the monstrous serpent who lived there. While the actual etymology of the monster’s name is uncertain, the poem provides an explanation. According to the hymn, Apollo leaves the serpent to rot (púthein) where he died. From this putrefaction came the names both of the monster, Púthōn, and the place, Púthōn or Puthó, commemorated in one of Apollo’s cult titles and in the ‘Pythian’ games, held in his honor. It might seem strange that a large snake native to the tropical parts of Africa and Asia takes its name with a Greek mythological monster. This was a singular contribution of eighteenth century French zoologist François Marie Daudin. Daudin had wide-ranging interests, publishing books on and naming several species of worms and mollusks, but it was in herpetology—the study of reptiles—that Daudin had his most lasting etymological impact. He named nine genera of snakes, and he drew several names from Greek roots or stories. For instance, he named a genus of vipers Lachesis after one of the Three Fates. As for a new scientific name for a genus of gigantic constricting snakes, ‘python’ must have seemed a logical choice.

‘Pander’

The minor Trojan warrior Pandarus has his big moment in book 4 of the Iliad. Having been duped by Athena in disguise, he hits Menelaus with an arrow and sabotages a potentially war-ending truce. It may have been for this act of treachery that Pandarus’ name fell into etymological disrepute, bequeathing to us the English verb ‘pander.’ As the Troy legend continued to be told and retold, new stories developed and new characters rose to prominence. One particularly popular offshoot of the Troy legend was the romance of Troilus and Cressida. In Boccaccio’s Il Filostrato, the lovers are brought together through the help of Pandarus, a friend of Troilus and a relation of Cressida. Homer’s oath-breaker received new life in English with Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, which kept Boccaccio’s Pandarus, but imbued him with sophistic eloquence. Pandarus’ character underwent another decisive transformation in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, which portrayed him as a lewd and syphilitic pimp. By the mid-fifteenth century, ‘Pandarus’ could be used to refer to a pimp or an intermediary in secret love-affairs, and by 1603, a ‘pander’ could be used to refer more generally to someone who “assists the immoral urges of others.” Though the noun has since become obsolete, the verb retains traces of its disreputable descent.

‘Kudos’

In Homer’s Greek, kûdos meant ‘glory’ or ‘renown,’ particularly that which was won in war. In the Iliad, Diomedes remarks that kûdos will attend Agamemnon if the Achaeans capture Ilios, and Ares sits in kûdos beside Zeus. ‘Kudos’ first appeared in English in 1793, in Robert Southey’s poetic ‘study’ of a cat, in which the narrator recalls having heard a fur coat “Kudos’d egregiously in heathen Greek.” By the mid-nineteenth century, Benjamin Disraeli could tell his sister that he had been “spoken of with great kudos.”

‘Hector’

If you’ve ever read the Iliad, it might come as a surprise that Hector, the great Trojan prince, has been memorialized in English as a braggadocious bully. True, he berates Paris for embroiling the Trojans in an unnecessary war and disparages Polydamas’ sound advice, but surely we should all be ‘Agamemnon-ing’ each other instead? The verb ‘hector’ derives from ancient Greek Héktōr, an agent noun formed from the verb ékhō ‘hold.’ Hector is the ‘holder’ of Ilios, an etymological connection that Homer and Plato both appear to have recognized. Hector’s name is attested in English from the fourteenth century, but his name wasn’t associated with bullying until the mid-seventeenth century, when a notorious gang of London-based con-artists named themselves ‘the Hectors’ in homage to Homer’s hero. The Hectors made their first recorded appearance in English in 1652, in a pamphlet entitled, A notable and pleasant history of the Famous renowned Knights of the Blade, commonly called Hectors or, St. Nicholas Clerkes, which complains of the gang’s “flim-flams” and describes their manner of life as one that “consists much in cheat and cousenage, gaming, decoying, pimping, whoring, swearing, and drinking, and with the nobler sort, in robbing.” In the following year, John Cleveland wrote “To the Hectors,” a poem that describes them as “tame Professors of the Sword.” By the latter half of the seventeenth century, the word was extended from the gang and applied to their nefarious activities more generally, giving rise to the use of hector as a verb. Thus, Charles II of England could say, as Samuel Pepys recorded, “that he would not be hector’d out of his right and preeminency’s by the King of France.” The Hectors weren’t the only classically-educated gang terrorizing the streets of London in the seventeenth-century, however. In fact, they seem to have modeled themselves on the Tityretus, who took their name from the first words of the Roman Homer’s first Eclogue, Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi (“you, Tityrus, relaxing under the shield of a spreading beech tree”).

‘Stentorian’

Like ‘kudos,’ ‘stentorian’ is borrowed from ancient Greek with little semantic change. The adjective derives from Homeric Greek Sténtōr, the name of one of the Greeks who fought at Troy, formed from the verb sténō ‘moan.’ Stentor was first mentioned in the Iliad, where he appears only once, as a vessel for Hera’s exhortation to the Greek troops (Il. 5.784-6):

Then the goddess, white-armed Hera, stood and shouted in the guise of brave, bronze-voiced Stentor, whose voice has the strength of fifty men.

After his brief appearance in the Iliad, Stentor’s powerful voice became proverbial, and the adjective Stentóreios ‘Stentorian’ came into use from the fourth century BCE. The first recorded use of the adjective is in Aristotle’s Politics, where he says that cities cannot function if they’re too large, since no herald could be effective in such a city unless he were truly Stentorian. ‘Stentorian’ is first attested in English in 1605, when Joshua Sylvester translated Guillaume de Saluste Du Bartas’ Semaines as Divine Weeks and Works, wherein he promises that his “Stentorian song, | With warbled echoes of a silver tongue, | Shall brim be heard from India even to Spain, | And then from thence to the Arctic wain.” [post_title] => Homeric word journeys [post_excerpt] => Few languages have contributed as much to English as Greek has, and few works of poetry have influenced English literature as profoundly as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but the influence of Homer’s language on English is underrated. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => homeric-word-journeys [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-06 19:07:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 11:07:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8115 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8207 [post_author] => 92 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:02:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:02:24 [post_content] => What do flies, foxes, thumbs, and mustard have in common? Besides the fact that you likely wouldn’t want any of the first three in your mustard, the answer is simpler than you might think: all of the above words are parts of popular German idioms. Learning idioms is one of the best parts about studying languages. Besides sounding rather amusing in their directly-translated forms, such phrases are sure to impress any local you may happen to meet. Below, find ten of the most popular German idioms that are sure to help you knock a native speaker’s socks off (see, English has good idioms too! But I digress…). Let’s find out what those flies, foxes, thumbs, and mustard are all about!

Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen To kill two flies with one fly-swatter 

While we “kill two birds with one stone” in English, German speakers choose to eliminate pesky flies instead. As this is slightly more socially acceptable than going around throwing stones at cute little birds, I think the Germans have won this particular idiom battle.

Einen Vogel haben To have a bird

However, just because they kill flies does not mean that the Germans have no idioms about birds. If someone “has a bird” in the German language, it means that they are acting insane, and therefore must have a bird flying around in their head. I guess that’s why German speakers don’t try to kill two birds with one stone – if the birds in question are in a person’s head, things might get a little tricky. I get it, Germans, I get it.

Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen To act like an insulted liverwurst

The German language is full of sausage idioms, and this is one of the best. To act like an insulted liverwurst (sausage made from liver) means “to sulk or to pout”. So if someone tells you that “you have a bird”, do your best not to sulk, because you may face accusations of acting like a disgruntled sausage before you can even begin to defend yourself.

Schwein haben To have a pig

If you’re going to have an animal in German culture, I would definitely advise having a pig. To have a pig means that you’ve experienced good luck, which is why people will sometimes gift each other items with pigs on them to express good wishes for the New Year. I have to admit, the first time I received a pig keychain as a present from my Austrian mother-in-law, I was a bit confused, but I now know the meaning behind it. And I am very grateful she didn’t gift me a bird instead.

Jemandem die Daumen drücken To press your thumbs for someone

No, this is not a torture method. If you press your thumbs for someone, it means you are crossing your fingers for them, or wishing them good luck. So if you really want your friend to have a pig this coming year, you better press those thumbs and cross those fingers — a little extra luck never hurt anyone!

Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen Where the fox and hare say goodnight to one another

You wouldn’t normally think of the fox as a polite animal who bids a lovely evening to his prey, would you? I didn’t think so. And that’s where this idiom comes from. As the chance of a fox saying goodnight to a hare is very small (assuming he could talk, of course), the Germans say that such a greeting would only happen in the middle of nowhere — which is precisely what this idiom means. So next time you have to drive way out into the country, see if you can find a polite fox wishing his neighbor rabbit a pleasant evening. Perhaps he’ll invite you in for tea.

Den Löffel abgeben To give up your spoon 

If the fox does invite you in for tea, I sincerely hope you don’t have to give up your spoon. Why? This phrase means “to die” in English. In the Middle Ages, there wasn’t a lot of silverware to go around, so when a member of the family died, his spoon was apparently passed down to the next generation — and giving up the spoon became a euphemism for dying.

Auf Wolke 7 sein To be on cloud seven

Let’s return to slightly happier topics, shall we? While we English-speakers hang out on cloud nine, the German-speakers like to congregate down on cloud seven. To each their own, right? But no two clouds are created equal — while being on cloud nine means that you’re extremely happy, being on cloud seven means that you’re in love. Makes me wonder what’s on cloud eight…

Seinen Senf dazugeben To contribute one’s mustard

In English, we put in our two cents to a conversation, but in German, if someone wants to offer their opinion, they are contributing their mustard. I suppose that with all those sausage idioms in the German language, they needed a little mustard idiom as a topping.

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof I only understand train station

If you don’t understand an idiom a German speaker tells you, just say “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof!” This means “I don’t understand a thing” or “It’s all Greek to me.” This phrase is thought to have come from World War I, when soldiers would get permission to go to the train station to make their way home. The soldiers would be so excited to hear the word “station” that they didn’t listen to or understand anything else that came after the word — hence the “I only understand train station.” With these 10 German idioms, I hope you’ll now be able to understand more than just train station and contribute your own mustard to any German conversation you may have. Good luck or Viel Glück — I hope you have a pig with all of your German learning! [post_title] => German idioms [post_excerpt] => Learning idioms is one of the best parts about studying languages. Besides sounding rather amusing in their directly-translated forms, such phrases are sure to impress any local you may happen to meet. Here, find ten of the most popular German idioms that are sure to help you knock a native speaker’s socks off [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => german-idioms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-06 19:08:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 11:08:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8207 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8055 [post_author] => 84 [post_date] => 2019-10-05 00:01:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-04 16:01:36 [post_content] =>

From: LIKE [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Tuesday, October 9, 2018 10:08 AM To: Mercury [mailto:[email protected]] Subject: Job transfer

Hello Mercury, I’m writing to request a job transfer. But let me preface that request by saying that I am grateful to have a job here. I realize that a lot of words are out of work these days. I know that it has been hard for you to watch the average English vocabulary shrink, and I know that you’ve had to make some tough calls about which words you could keep on staff. So I’m thankful to still be here. But the reduction in personnel is what’s making my job so much more difficult than it used to be. I was already overworked when I was involved with four different departments at the same time. Then my job description expanded to include the Conjunction Department. And now the guys from Interjection are unofficially dumping work on me too. Frankly, this is getting ridiculous. I can appreciate that we are radically under-staffed right now. I understand that with such a limited budget, we couldn’t afford to keep contractors like PERISTERONIC and UMBRAGEOUS on the payroll. And I know that there is no room for redundancy: we couldn’t pay ROBORATIVE to do the same job that RESTORATIVE was already doing. But if the total workload is going to increase indefinitely while the personnel decreases, I think that eventually my job is going to be too stressful for me to sustain. Respectfully, LIKE

From: Mercury [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Friday, October 12, 2018 3:16 PM To: LIKE [mailto:[email protected]] Subject: RE: Job transfer

Hi LIKE, Sorry that it’s taken me a while to get back to you. They’re renovating the third floor right now and contractors have been ripping out the old stone fireplace in my office and replacing it with a space heater. So my work schedule has been kind of topsy-turvy. I hear what you are saying about the stress of your job. But you need to understand that the economy is beyond my control. I don’t get to decide what the market for working words will be; I just respond to the demand. And right now the semantic job market is very weak. I wish we could pretend that it was the heyday of wordsmithing around here, but it’s not. I wish people were still willing to pay top dollar for the perfectly apt verb, or spend an entire minute searching for the best possible noun. But that’s not the name of the game these days. Precision, lucid expression, and brilliant flights of semantic imagination are not in high demand right now, and I’ve had to lay off a lot of good folks because of it. People don’t want a variety of options from us anymore. They aren’t interested in freshly coined material. They want familiar words, stock phrases, pre-fabricated sentence structure, well-worn semantic ruts. They want quick, "close enough" solutions. Meanwhile, the demand for raw output is higher than ever, and our company has to churn out even more verbiage than before to keep up. But no one knows that better than you, right? You’re one of our most in-demand contractors right now. Didn’t I hear that a thirteen-year-old child deployed you seventeen times in a single minute yesterday? He used you five times before he even got to the verb, right? So I’m sure that you of all words can appreciate the sheer quantity that we are expected to provide. And because of that, I have to ask: if I give you a transfer, who’s going to pick up the slack? Best, Mercury

From: LIKE [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Saturday, October 13, 2018 8:23 AM To: Mercury [mailto:[email protected]] Subject: RE:RE: Job transfer

Hello Mercury, Thanks for your reply. I guess my central concern is not really the workload, though that’s certainly one of my frustrations. My biggest worry is that we, as a company, ought to be assessing the value of our end product and not just racing thoughtlessly to keep up with demand. You’ve seen how much overtime I will gladly put into a worthwhile contract. I happily work time-and-a-half for a truly sweeping Homeric simile. That’s the kind of project that I joined the company to do so many years ago. When I interviewed, you told me that yes, I would have to do my fair share of hack work, but that I would also have lots of opportunities to collaborate on real rhetorical masterpieces. But when was the last time I built a truly profound comparison? At the moment, I feel as though all of my projects are just semantic padding. I’m working twelve-hour days, and for what? For people who are too timid to wield a metaphor. I wouldn’t even mind so much if the projects were insipid similes. But now I spend all my time slaving for people who are just shying away from direct communication entirely. I’m coming in to the office on weekends, I’ve got no social life, and it’s all so that I can be verbal styrofoam peanuts between human beings and reality. Let me give you an example that’s sitting on the top of my inbox. It was a sentence from the mouth of a fifth-grader who was answering a question in class: "Irate…that’s like when you get really mad at someone, right?" I’m just insulation foam in that sentence, padding the kid from definitive meaning. She used me to water down a declarative statement into a squishy pseudo-analogy…in the form of a question! It gets worse. Here’s one from last week. "So, like, are you going to see Stephanie today?" What kind of contribution am I making there, exactly? Why did I even have to show up to that project? Apparently I’m just a cheap substitute for "um". I didn’t get into this business to be a meaningless vocable. If I’m going to stoop that low, I might as well join COME and DO and get a second job in the red light district. In frustration, LIKE

From: Mercury [mailto:[email protected]] Sent: Wednesday, October 17, 2018 10:02 AM To: LIKE [mailto:[email protected]] Subject: RE:RE:RE: Job transfer

Hi LIKE, Again, sorry for the delay. I think you heard about the identity-theft lawsuit that NAUSEATED is threatening against one of our current employees, NAUSEOUS. We were in legal mediation all day yesterday and I didn’t have time to deal with my e-mails. Let’s not bring references to the red light district into company e-mails, okay? It’s bad enough that half the English language seems to be working there these days; I don’t need to be reminded about it at work. With regard to your point: it’s easy to be zealous about quality control, but what kind of end value is our product going to have if the company goes under completely? I wish we could swim harder against the tide of consumer demand, but if we obsess so much about quality that we bankrupt ourselves, then our competitors are going to be the sole visionaries shaping the next generation of rhetoric. So we’re adapting as best we can. And I don’t mean to downplay the strain that this is putting on you, but frankly, some of our other words have had to make even bigger sacrifices. Take AWESOME, for instance. You think his work environment hasn’t changed? I have to talk him down from the ledge once a week. He’s so fed up with it. It used to be nothing but seraphs and glaciers and tsunami for him, and now he has to go to work every time someone finds an extra peanut M&M in their bag. And did you know that LITERALLY is actually in therapy these days? All those years he spent honing one meaning, and now the poor guy has to go and completely reverse all the work himself. It’s really done a number on him. He’s taking medication for schizophrenic episodes. If you want some advice on how to get through a tough transition period like this, try talking to HOPEFULLY. When his job description expanded, he could have played the wounded prima donna and tried to correct everyone’s usage. He could have screeched, "what does this idiot mean, 'Hopefully, I will get the septic tank drained today'? How does an afternoon spent knee deep in sewage fill him with hope?" But he didn’t. He just quietly adapted to the new situation, and now he’s completely at home with it. Best, Mercury [post_title] => If English words had jobs [post_excerpt] => If words could speak on their own behalf, some of them might wish to protest the abuses committed against them daily. And no doubt some of them would dispute the notion that all trends in word usage are for the better. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => if-english-words-had-jobs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-10-06 19:06:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-10-06 11:06:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=8055 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5752 [post_author] => 15 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:59:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:59:39 [post_content] => Consider the following couple of English sentences:

A hush fell over the crowd.

You do understand that this matter is hush hush, right?

We may say that the two sentences differ in the number of times the word hush occurs, twice in sequence in (b) and once in (a). We may also say that while in (a), ‘hush’ functions as a noun (as would ‘shadow’ and ‘silence’ in the same sentence), in (b), ‘hush hush’ is an adjective (replaceable with other adjectives like ‘confidential’ and ‘true’). In seeing the difference between ‘hush’ and ‘hush hush’ as described, one has made headway into a linguistic concept called reduplication. By no means restricted to English, reduplication is common in Austronesian languages. In this article, we will explore how some Austronesian language speakers use reduplication. Reduplication happens when a word or a part of is repeated for a grammatical function {(Kołłątaj 2016, p. 238)}[ref[Kołłątaj, A. (2016). Reduplication in English — typology, correlation with slang and metaphorisation. Polilog. Studia Neofilologiczne, 6, pp. 237–248.]]. This function could be to signal a change in word class, like in the case of ‘hush hush’ (adjective) from ‘hush’ (noun). It could also be to signal the plural or the collective, the continuity and futurity of actions/states, their intensity or their reciprocity. If the word is not repeated in whole, the bits repeated are often the word’s sounds, either a single sound or a series. This makes it necessary to talk on occasion about ‘consonants’ (C) and ‘vowels’ (V) when we talk about reduplication. Aside from this teeny weeny bit of technical jargon, the rest of this article should be a rather easy ride into the world of linguistic repetition, so enjoy!

Repeating where there are many

For Austronesian languages within Southeast Asia, perhaps the type of reduplication easiest to recognise and apply is that of signalling ‘many’ of something. This ‘many’ may refer to the simple plural (or plurality). It may also refer to a collection of something (or collectivity). Reduplication to indicate the simple plural is found in Bahasa Melayu (commonly known as ‘Malay’), spoken in, amongst other places, Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Labuan. Malay is reported to be used by over 16 million people as a first language (L1) and 3 million as a second language (L2) {(Simons & Fennig 2018b)}[ref[Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (eds). (2018b). Malay. In Ethnologue: Languages of the world, twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Available at: https://www.ethnologue.com/language/zlm (accessed 5 April 2018). ]]. In Malay, where a user knows there is more than one of an object, but does not know or does not wish to specify exactly how many, the whole form of the noun may simply be repeated twice to signal the plural. Where there is more than one ‘cat’, called kuching in Malay, you would not be wrong to say kuching kuching, even if you do not know the Malay word for ‘two’ (dua), ‘ten’ (sepuluh), or any other number. Other examples in Malay of full reduplication, where a whole word gets repeated, may be found in {Yuko (2017, p. 68)}[ref[Yuko, F. (2017). Reduplication in Standard Malay and Japanese. Journal of Modern Languages, 13(1), pp. 65–92.]], who lists such plural forms as orang-orang (‘persons’), rumah-rumah (‘houses’), and fikiran-fikiran (‘thoughts’). Reduplication to indicate ‘many’ occurs also in Amis, an Austronesian language found in Taiwan. Noted to be one of few surviving languages in the Formosan branch of the Austronesian family, Amis is reported to have 138,000 speakers {(Simons & Fennig, 2018a)}[ref[Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (eds). (2018a). Amis. In Ethnologue: Languages of the world, twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Available at: https://www.ethnologue.com/language/ami (accessed 5 April 2018).]]. As in Malay, examples of reduplication in Amis to indicate ‘many’ may involve repetition of the whole word. The ‘many’ indicated in full reduplications in Amis indicates a collection of something. For example, the word posi (for singular ‘cat’) in Amis, when it undergoes full reduplication, leads to posi-posi, which translates as ‘those cats’ {(Zeitoun & Wu 2006, p. 103)}[ref[Zeitoun, E., & Wu, C.-H. (2006). Reduplication in Formosan languages. In Chang, Yung-li, Huang, Lillian M., & Ho, Dah-an (eds), Streams converging into an Ocean: Festschrift in honor of Prof. Paul Jen-kuei Li on his 70th birthday, pp. 97–142. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series W-5. Taipei: Academia Sinica. ]]. The notion of ‘those’ is notable. Since posi-posi means not only many cats, but a particular grouping of many cats—‘those cats’ as opposed to ‘these cats’—, we may observe here the collective function of full reduplication in Amis.

Repeating where there is continuity

Reduplication is not restricted to the expression of ‘many’. It may also be used to express continuity. Returning to Amis, full reduplication expresses an event’s continuity. An example is temok-temok {(Zeitoun & Wu 2006, p. 103)}[ref[Zeitoun, E., & Wu, C.-H. (2006). Reduplication in Formosan languages. In Chang, Yung-li, Huang, Lillian M., & Ho, Dah-an (eds), Streams converging into an Ocean: Festschrift in honor of Prof. Paul Jen-kuei Li on his 70th birthday, pp. 97–142. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series W-5. Taipei: Academia Sinica. ]], which means a continuous state of having a palpitation, where a single occurrence of temok means simply to ‘have a palpitation’. In Amis, we find continuity signaled as well by a type of partial reduplication that involves the repetition of a consonant paired with an additional vowel /a/. {Zeitoun and Wu (2006, p. 103)}[ref[Zeitoun, E., & Wu, C.-H. (2006). Reduplication in Formosan languages. In Chang, Yung-li, Huang, Lillian M., & Ho, Dah-an (eds), Streams converging into an Ocean: Festschrift in honor of Prof. Paul Jen-kuei Li on his 70th birthday, pp. 97–142. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series W-5. Taipei: Academia Sinica. ]] give the example of mi-ra-rosaros, a reduplication of mi-rosaros, where mi-ra-rosaros means ‘keep sawing’, and the base form mi-rosaros means ‘saw’.[1] Here, the first consonant /r/ from rosaros is repeated with an additional vowel /a/ and added as /ra/ to the base form to produce mi-ra-rosaros. While repetitions of whole words and individual consonants express continuity in some languages, continuity may be expressed with yet a third type of reduplication—a partial reduplication that involves the repetition of a word’s consonant-vowel (CV) sequence. This is found in Sasiyat, which like Amis, is classified under the Formosan branch of the Austronesian family of languages. Spoken in various locations in Taiwan, Saisiyat is classified as a threatened language with a reported number of 4,750 speakers {(Simons & Fennig 2018c)}[ref[Simons, G. F., & Fennig, C. D. (eds). (2018c). Saisiyat. In Ethnologue: Languages of the world, twenty-first edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Available at: https://www.ethnologue.com/language/XSY (accessed 5 April 2018). ]]. Repetition of the first CV sequence of a verb in Saisiyat shows that the action expressed in the verb is not one-off, but continuous. {Zeitoun and Wu (2006, p. 117)}[ref[Zeitoun, E., & Wu, C.-H. (2006). Reduplication in Formosan languages. In Chang, Yung-li, Huang, Lillian M., & Ho, Dah-an (eds), Streams converging into an Ocean: Festschrift in honor of Prof. Paul Jen-kuei Li on his 70th birthday, pp. 97–142. Language and Linguistics Monograph Series W-5. Taipei: Academia Sinica. ]] documents, for example, a verb hiyop, which means ‘to blow’ in Saisiyat, having its first CV sequence /hi/ repeated to produce the form, hi-hiyop, which means ‘keep on blowing’.

Repeating for futurity, reciprocity, and intensity

Repetition of the first CV sequence also occurs in Tagalog—a language of the Philippines reported in the Philippine Statistics Authority’s 2000 Census of Population and Housing to be generally spoken by 5,368,187 households {(Albert 2013, Table 1)}[ref[Albert, J. R. G. (2013). Many Voices, One Nation: The Philippine Languages and Dialects in Figures. Available at: http://nap.psa.gov.ph/sexystats/2013/SS20130830_dialects.asp (accessed 5 April 2018).]]. {Bauer (2003, p. 339)}[ref[Bauer, L. (2003). Introducing linguistic morphology (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. ]] gives examples from Tagalog of susulat (‘will write’), babasa (‘will read’) and ɁiɁibig[2] (‘will love’). In these examples, the first CV pairs of each of the verbs sulat, basa and Ɂibig are repeated to say that the actions expressed by these verbs will occur in the future. In Maori, a language native to the first settlers of New Zealand and spoken in contemporary times by possibly “as many as 160,000 people” {(Harlow 2012, p. 2)}[ref[Harlow, R. (2012). Māori: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.]], we find initial CV repetition in reduplications as well. Applied to verbs, these repetition patterns may express reciprocity or, in brief, the mutual performance of an action expressed by a verb.[3] Examples documented in {Harlow (2012, p. 128)}[ref[Harlow, R. (2012). Māori: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.]] include the repetition of CV sequence /pi/ from piri (‘to cling’) to produce pipiri (‘cling together’), and the repetition of CV sequence /pa/ from patu (‘to strike’) to produce papatu [‘to strike (weapons) together’]. When applied to adjectives, initial CV reduplications in Maori may express both increased and reduced intensity. In increased intensity, the repetition of CV sequence /pa/ from pai (‘good’) to produce papai (‘very good’) is documented in {Harlow (2012, p. 128)}[ref[Harlow, R. (2012). Māori: A linguistic introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.]], and for reduced intensity, an example noted in the same work is the repetition of CV sequence /pa/ from pango (‘black’) to produce papango (‘blackish’). Reduplication is a rather common word formation tool in several languages, and as mentioned above, there are several ways of reduplicating. The focus here is on examples from Austronesian languages at large because this language family happens to be a special feature of the issue. Even then, given the huge size of the Austronesian language family, there are necessarily constraints as to how much may be said about reduplication within the span of a short article. Nonetheless, it is hoped that the examples highlighted are sufficient in showing first, that reduplication may be full (involving the whole word) or partial (involving bits of a word such as its initial sounds), and second, that reduplication is used for a wide range of grammatical functions. In an even larger sample of languages perhaps, where we have the opportunity to observe yet more grammatical functions of reduplication, we might even begin to turn our attention from asking what reduplication does in languages to what it does not do!

Footnotes

[1] It remains unclear from the source of this example whether the base form ‘mi-rosaros’ (‘saw’) is a verb (as in ‘to saw’) or a noun (as in ‘a saw’). [2] In standard orthography, the word ɁiɁibig is written or spelt out as iibig. [3] Reciprocity in linguistics refers to a mutual process that occurs between two (in)animate entities, so that it is hard to say which of the two entities is the agent (or do-er) of the process, and which, the patient (the one being done to). Reciprocity is often expressed with the term ‘each other’ in English, so that when we say ‘John and Mary hugged each other’, we cannot say definitively that John is doing the hugging and Mary is being hugged or that Mary is doing the hugging and John is being hugged.

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[post_title] => Reduplication in Austronesian languages [post_excerpt] => Reduplication happens when a word or a part of is repeated for a grammatical function. This function could be to signal a change in word class, like in the case of ‘hush hush’ (adjective) from ‘hush’ (noun). It could also be to signal the plural or the collective, the continuity and futurity of actions/states, their intensity or their reciprocity. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => reduplication-in-austronesian-languages [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-30 13:08:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-30 05:08:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5752 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5744 [post_author] => 81 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:58:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:58:52 [post_content] => My mother is from the Philippines where the national language is Filipino, which is a standardized form of the Philippine language Tagalog. She grew up in the province of Negros Occidental in the West Visayas region where they speak Hiligaynon (known colloquially as Ilonggo), so Filipino is not my mother’s first language. Growing up in Germany, I was raised speaking German. Until I was eleven, I had never even set foot in the Philippines, therefore the country’s image in my mind, was solely shaped by either romantic documentaries or catastrophic news on TV, nightly calls by family members, and the food my mom and her Filipina friends made—as well as occasional remarks by German friends telling me that I smelled like rice. In my heart I always wanted to belong. I think it’s very human. The German side of my family was never really close to each other so my longing for a close family was present throughout my life. I created this romanticized picture of the Philippines as the place where I could find this close family. As a teenager, I imagined that the only thing preventing me from realizing that picture was the distance keeping us apart. My mother didn’t teach me her mother tongue so that I could assimilate better in a country with a German-speaking majority. My parents wanted me to speak “proper” German and didn’t want me to speak with a foreign accent. As a kindergarten kid, my mom used to read to me in English from books sent from my aunt in Canada. I used to speak English in kindergarten sometimes, but when nobody there understood what I was talking about, I complained to my mom and eventually the two of us stopped talking in English as well. Later, in elementary school when I started learning English institutionally, other kids told me that my English was wrong in spite of the fact that I had some knowledge of English before formal English lessons in school. Of course, I spoke English with a Filipino accent and the German kids were unable to tell the difference between wrong and accented English. To give you an idea, numbers would be pronounced like this in Philippine-accented English:

tree to mean three fibe instead of five seben instead of seven

In the end, I learned English just like any other German kid and now have a German accent in my English that I’ll probably never completely get rid of. My parents were not aware, that even though I learned German as a first language, I would still often be seen as a person from a foreign land simply because of my outer appearance and the stereotypes that go with it, even though I was born in Germany, speak German fluently, and am well assimilated in German culture with friends and habits. Of course many years after my childhood, I became interested with this “otherness” that the Germans repeatedly confronted me with. I imagined that once I found the “other” part of myself that made me foreign, I could fully live up to my identity. Maybe, if I were raised bilingual and had been taught German as well as Filipino (or my mother tongue Hiligaynon) growing up, it would have helped me to deal with my otherness differently. Kids who grew up learning both of their parents’ languages seemed to have less identity issues. In Germany I didn’t like being asked: “Where are you from?” and being told “I think you look more [insert nationality here]”. I recall just having started elementary school and being asked over and over again where I was from. The answer “Germany” would usually not be accepted as an appropriate answer. The assumed nationality I belonged to often depended on where in Germany I happened to be. In the more conservative northwestern region of Germany, I have experienced people saying “Nihao” (你好; Mandarin Chinese for ‘hello’) in my face as a joke or calling “Shing Shang Shong” after me on the streets. In Berlin, Turkish migrants would ask me about my nonexistent Turkish roots and other Germans would be confused by my racial ambiguity. An exception is the racially-diverse city of Berlin in Germany, where I feel safe being who I am, especially, because I have the chance of being accepted as a German since I speak the language fluently, which is—no doubt—a privilege. A lot of people there don’t look stereotypically German but are in fact local Germans. After I completed high school, I went to the capital of the Philippines, Metro Manila, to further deepen my connection with the culture and ways of living. As a foreigner it is easy enough to get around in the Philippines speaking English, but I realized that I still did not feel quite as connected as I wished to be. My experiences were also manifested through confusion over my looks and language ability, but they differed from those in Germany. Due to the Philippines’ colonial history, white appearance is often associated with an upper class status. The Spanish colonial period in the Philippines lasted for nearly 400 years! It brought Catholicism, replaced the pre-colonial script Baybayin with the Latin alphabet, and established the elite colonial social structure. Spanish—as well as Chinese—families built the upper class, and up until now are among the most influential and rich in the country. Colonial Spanish rule in the Philippines was followed by the USA, up until 1946 when the Philippines was granted full independence. The Spanish established formal education following religious orders and as part of spreading the faith of the Catholic church as their highest interest, but the Americans had different priorities. Every seven year old child was required to register in their nearest school and free materials were given in a newly established school system just like the American system: elementary school, high school and college. English was the language of instruction in schools and so the colonial government of the US was hence able to teach Filipinos not just the English language but also about western values and beliefs which lead to the formation of a national identity. As of now, English and Filipino are considered national languages, while a proficiency in English is associated with the educated and upper class. Wherever I go, people are slightly more polite to me or become shy if I happen to speak English to them—a situation I witness even among my extended family there. The inability to speak English and thus causing a language barrier is called “Nosebleed” in the Philippines. Once, practicing my Tagalog while shopping in an Ukay-Ukay (local second hand market) I was embarrassed for stuttering and explained to the saleslady that I was practicing, and she simply told me in Tagalog: “It’s good that you’re the one having the nosebleed, instead of me”, and burst out in laughter. It was so refreshing to have a genuine conversation with someone who could empathize with me, and I enjoyed being the one who was embarrassed for being the cause of the language barrier. I felt like I owed this feeling to all the Filipinos who were embarrassed for their bad English. These kinds of language experiences keep me going in my quest to learn Tagalog even better. I have not yet practiced Tagalog with my Philippine family. The thought is still intimidating for me, especially since I am not able to communicate and connect properly with them in their language. I learned Tagalog instead of my mother’s tongue, Ilonggo, because it is nearly impossible for me to learn it with so little exposure. Almost all the TV programs are in Tagalog, and so are the official papers, and bilingual-English dictionaries. It would not be easier to speak with my family in Tagalog instead of English, but to be able to better connect with people in general makes me happy. In a Philippine language, I can talk to more people, instead of being limited to speaking only with those with a higher education in English. Also, people would often become interested in why a foreigner decided to learn Tagalog, and I could tell them about myself and express my feelings. Learning Ilonggo with Tagalog as a base is not as big a step as from English. But who knows, one day I might end up surprising my mom by speaking to her in her mother’s tongue. [post_title] => Orphaned by my mother's tongue [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => orphaned-by-my-mothers-tongue [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-27 22:33:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 14:33:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5744 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5739 [post_author] => 78 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:57:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:57:53 [post_content] => I arrived in Papua New Guinea in September 1980, a young geologist on the adventure of his young lifetime. Esso Eastern, a subsidiary of Exxon Minerals, had hired me to open their copper and gold exploration office there and I was living my dream, setting off on a major career step toward the life of physical and intellectual adventure I wanted. I was just turning 24 years old when I arrived in Papua New Guinea and I was inordinately proud of myself for having been given this responsibility at such a young age. It was only later that I found out my pride may have been a little unfounded. They had been trying to get someone to go there for months and had nearly had a dozen resignations in the process. When they met me, the head of HR said something like, “This young fool actually wants to go to Papua New Guinea. Somebody hire him and put him on a plane before he changes his mind.” I love languages. All of my life, I have enjoyed studying and learning new languages. Everywhere I worked, I managed to learn at least some of the local language. I knew from my reading that Papua New Guinea had two official languages, English and Pidgin (officially Neo-Melanesian Pidgin). In fact, as I learned, Pidgin (which is called “Tok Pisin” in Pidgin) is the lingua franca of Papua New Guinea and without a working knowledge of Pidgin, one will not get very far.

Tok Pisin structure and compound words

“Proper”, formal pidgin is a highly structured language. It evolved and was eventually formalized and codified in order to solve the problem arising from there being so many distinct languages in Papua New Guinea as a result of the isolation in which most tribes had spent their histories. At one time, it was estimated that over 40% of the world’s languages occurred on the island of New Guinea. Mutually intelligible conversation between tribes was impossible. As in any country or region that has seen an influx of foreign arrivals, various forms of patois naturally evolved in the trading regions around the islands of Melanesia, but the Pidgin of Papua New Guinea has gone one step further and been formalized into a codified language, a creole. At first, I thought, this is easy. It is a form of baby talk and there is nothing to it. I could not have been more mistaken. Tok Pisin has a precise, albeit occasionally cumbersome, vocabulary and, to my surprise, a precise grammar and syntax. If one does not use the correct vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, one is simply not understood. Most of the words are based on English words, but there is a good sprinkling of German, Portuguese, and local “place talk” (Plestok) words as well. For example, the verb ‘to get rid of’ is rausim, derived, of course, from the German word raus (out). To get rid of something is to rausim em. Tok Pisin is spelled phonetically, exactly as it is pronounced, but this can be a little confusing for Americans because, given Papua New Guinea’s colonial heritage, words are pronounced as they would be pronounced by an Australian. So, for example, the word ‘here’ is hia, ‘master’ is masta, ‘morning’ is moning, and ‘beer’ is bia. In addition, the consonant “f” usually becomes realised as a “p” sound: ‘Afternoon’ is apinun, and ‘finish’ is pinis. Tok Pisin has a limited vocabulary so, as in German, complex words are typically formed by compounding simpler words. Usually, these are quite logical. For example, a bank is a haus mani (‘house money’); an office is a haus papia (‘house paper’); a geologist is a man bilong lukim ston (‘man belong look at stones’); and so on. “I am hungry” becomes belly bilong me cry out. Regrettably, by the time I left Papua New Guinea, a helicopter had become a helicopta, but when I first arrived it was still a Mixmasta bilong Jesus (‘Mixmaster belonging to Jesus’). There is poetry in these constructions! Another wonderful and expressive phrase in Tok Pisin is mous warra, literally ‘mouth water’. Because the word warra (‘water’) in a different context is used to mean diarrhea, mous warra really means verbal diarrhoea or meaningless talk. This can be expanded into the phrase mous warra man to mean someone who is all talk. A frequently used insult in Tok Pisin is the phrase Yu mous warra man tasol. “You are all talk, that’s all.” Another very logical word in Pidgin is the word for friend, wantok. The origin is ‘one talk’ or one who speaks the same language, therefore a friend or fellow kin. My favorite word, and to my knowledge the longest single word in Tok Pisin, is the word for ‘piano’. My word processor’s spell check comes close to exploding when I try to write this as a single word in Tok Pisin: ‘bigpelabokishegotwhitepelateethhegotblackpelateethsapposyouhittimhimhecryout.’ The literal breakdown into English is: a piano is a ‘big fellow box, he has white teeth, he has black teeth, suppose you hit him, he cries out’. I don’t think anyone could dispute that this is an accurate description of a piano! I have read recently that there is some controversy now over whether this word was really used to describe a piano or was it just a joke. I can attest that I heard it used with my own ears more than once. Pronouns are very simple: mi, yu, and em are respectively I, you, and he/she/it/them. Yupela (‘you fellow’) is the plural form of ‘you’ (or, ‘you all’). There are two words for ‘we’ and this removes an ambiguity that can occur in English. The word yumi (‘you me’) means we, including the person being addressed. The word mipela means we, excluding the person who is being addressed. So, for example, if I were to say to you, Yumi drinkem bia, that means, ‘We, including you, are drinking beer.’ However, the phrase Mipela drinkem bia means, ‘We are drinking beer but we don’t have any for you.’ The past and future are indicated simply using the words pinis (‘finish’) for past and bai for future. Mi wokim pinis means ‘I have worked’ or ‘I worked’. Bai mi wokim means ‘I will work’. To go pinis is ‘to leave’. There is an interesting construction that combines the past and perfect constructions to convey a certain meaning. The phrase Bai mi go pinis literally means ‘I will have gone’, but is used to mean ‘I will leave’ with an implication of permanency. When expats would leave Papua New Guinea for the last time, they were said to have gon pinis or ‘gone finish’. Despite the somewhat cumbersome vocabulary, it is possible to convey subtleties of meaning in Tok Pisin. The word for ‘break’ or ‘broken’ is bagarrap, derived from the common Australian expression “bugger up”. My favorite example of this was the safety information card aboard a Talair flight. The Tok Pisin word for ‘airplane’ is balus. Balus can also mean bird, specifically a pigeon. The origin of this word is unclear, but I remember being told that it was derived from one of the tribal languages of southern New Ireland. Anyway, a propeller plane is a balus, while a jet is a “smoke balus”. The first time I boarded a Talair flight from Lae to Rabaul, I was handed a card captioned Sapos balus i bagarrap: ‘Suppose the airplane buggers up (crashes)’. The word masta, obviously a relic of colonial days, referred to a ‘white man’. It was not necessarily a token of respect or indication of subservience, and in fact could be delivered in a sneering tone indicating disparagement. I never became comfortable being addressed as masta. It just felt wrong. The word missus meant ‘white woman’. The word man refers to an indigenous Melanesian man and the word meri refers to an indigenous Melanesian woman. These words can also be applied to indicate the gender of other creatures as well. For example, a bull is a bullmakau man and a cow is a bullmakau meri. I was back in Papua New Guinea for the first time in 35 years last September and the words masta and missus seemed to have finally fallen out of favor, but I wasn’t there very long and I may be mistaken The word pikaninny does not evoke a connotation of slavery, as it does in the United States, but simply refers to ‘a child’, of any race. This led to the truly wonderful reference to Prince Charles in the Port Moresby press as Numbawan pikaninny bilong Missus Queen: ‘Number one child of the Queen’ There is a wonderful and versatile phrase in Tok Pisin: em nau. The closest literal translation would be ‘well now’, but em nau packs considerably more meaning and occasionally, a fatalistic philosophy of life. If a man complains that his head hurts because he drank too much beer last night, his friend may say in sympathy, “em nau”. Another man’s wife left him for a rich trader. “Em nau”, that sort of behavior is regrettable, but to be expected. The Chinese trade store raised its prices for tinned mackerel and kerosene just when there was a food and fuel shortage developing. “Em nau”. The helicopter was supposed to come pick us up yesterday, but the weather closed in, and we may be waiting on this hillside for several days. “Em nau”. Those two short words can convey a great deal of meaning in a wide variety of situations: empathy, compassion, or a fatalistic acceptance of circumstances which we may not like but cannot control.

Confusion with negatives

There is an aspect of Tok Pisin that can cause a great deal of confusion for beginners to the language or newcomers to Papua New Guinea. That has to do with how questions phrased in the negative are answered. Let us say that you are a native speaker of English and you are standing in front of me and you are not wearing a hat. If I were to ask you, “Aren’t you wearing a hat?”, you would likely reply to me, “No”. By replying this way, your meaning would be, “No, I am not wearing a hat.” In Tok Pisin, however, in the same situation, you would reply, “Yes”, to mean, “Yes, you are correct, I am not wearing a hat.” Arguably, the Tok Pisin reply is more logical, as it avoids the implied double negative of the English response. However, linguistic constructions are not always driven by logic, they become driven by custom and usage and this is simply the way it is. With practice and fluency in a language, correct usage becomes habitual. This quirk of Tok Pisin, however, can be quite confusing to newcomers to Papua New Guinea and can, and often does, lead to absurd conversations. My first evening in Papua New Guinea, after a somewhat nerve-wracking arrival involving snakes in my hotel room, crocodiles on the beach where I wanted to go for a swim, a power outage all day due to an ongoing inter-tribal war that prevented delivery of fuel oil to the power plant, and other reminders that I had in fact arrived in Papua New Guinea, I went downstairs to my hotel’s bar for what I felt would be a well-deserved drink. Due to this quirk of Tok Pisin, I had a conversation with the bartender that could have come straight out of an old Abbott and Costello movie. Not thinking that of course, without electrical power all day, it was unlikely that there was any ice, I asked for a Scotch with ice. The barman smiled, nodded his head, and came back a minute later with a glass of warm Scotch. I said, “Don’t you have any ice?” He smiled and said, “Yes.” “Okay, then, please may I have some ice for my whisky?” He smiled broadly, said “No got ice” and walked away. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I drank my warm Scotch, and asked for another one. With ice. The conversation was repeated, more or less verbatim. “Don’t you have any ice?” “Yes.” “Then please bring me some ice.” “No got ice.” This verbal exchange was repeated several more times, to my increasing befuddlement, until an Australian gentleman, who had been sitting at the bar listening to the conversation with a bemused smile on his face, explained to me what my confusion was.

Classic stories in Tok Pisin

Once I realized that mastering Tok Pisin would require study, I hired a tutor and spent several hours each day studying. My favorite lessons were reading children’s fairy tales translated into Tok Pisin. The best of these was the story of Tripela Liklik Pik: The Three Little Pigs. I can still recite most of this story in Tok Pisin. Of course, there are no wolves in Papua New Guinea, so for purposes of the story a wolf becomes a “big fellow, bad fellow, wild fellow dog”. There are wonderful recordings of an Australian “Kiap” (Bush Patrol Officer) named Superintendent “Mike” Thomas reciting Tripela Liklik Pik in Tok Pisin. He also recorded the story of Liklik Redpela Hat (Little Red Riding Hood). These were a fun way to study Tok Pisin grammar and vocabulary. Although I have never been a particularly religious person, nor spent very much time reading the Bible, I found that reading Tok Pisin translations of the Oldpela Testamen and Niupela Testamen were also good ways to practise my Tok Pisin. One version I read contained a verse that still sticks in my mind, though I never found that particular translation again and other versions I saw were somewhat more prosaic. This was the rendering of “Oh Father, why have you forsaken me?” into Tok Pisin as O, Bigpela Papa bilong mi. Bilong wannem yu bagarrapim life bilong mi? To me, that always sounded like, “Hey Big Daddy, why did you mess up my life?” My Tok Pisin lessons went well and in a short time I was relatively fluent and ready to go into the bush and practice my new linguistic skills. [post_title] => Learning Tok Pisin [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => learning-tok-pisin [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-27 22:33:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 14:33:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5739 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5790 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:56:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:56:05 [post_content] => It’s not hard to spot Hafiz in a crowd. On any given day, the 25-year-old can be seen sporting a blangkon, a sarong, leather sandals, and sometimes, a keris at the waist — the usual attire. I’d like to think that the cohesiveness of the medley of Hafiz’s cultural motifs, garments, and accessories mirrors that of his linguistic background and interests. There is a Javanese saying that Hafiz personifies: Bhinneka tunggal ika (unity in diversity). His passion for all things Austronesian has earned him some choice appellations from friends: “Austronesian Otaku”, “Abdi dallem Singapura” (royal servant of Singapore), and “Austronesian Cosplayer”. It’s not hard to see why. Immersed in a linguistic landscape in a country with four official tongues and dozens of unofficial ones, situated in the ASEAN region that is home to about 1,000 languages and dialects {(Lim, 2017)}[ref[Lim, L. 2017. Speaking in tongues: why Asean members stick to English. South China Morning Post Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/2105289/speaking-tongues-why-asean-members-stick-english]], Hafiz has grown to be confident enough to hold a conversation in six languages and manifests his pride in those respective cultures through his dress. His linguistic repertoire includes English and Malay, which are taught in school and used in the home domain; and foreign or heritage languages of interest such as Javanese, Tagalog, Kristang, and Baweanese (also known as Boyanese).

The Austronesian Otaku

How did Hafiz pick up four languages that aren’t offered in mainstream schools in Singapore? He recalls one of the first precious moments when he identified a sister language of his first language: “In Primary 1, when I first listened to the song ‘Anak’ by Freddie Aguilar playing on an English-language channel, I thought it was Malay because it sounded like Malay.” [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n-2lPzH7Do[/embed] Turns out, the language was Tagalog. Wanting to learn this curious language, Hafiz read books and dictionaries, listened to songs, interacted with Filipinos, and watched Filipino dramas subtitled in Malay (on Malaysian television channels) with his mother. But why did spoken Malay and Tagalog sound so similar? Could they have been the same language dozens of generations ago? Perhaps! These two languages stem from the Western Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family tree. Such historical links captured in the language history of modern-day languages fascinate Hafiz. He gives the example of one of his favourite cognate (or word with similar meaning and sound that indicates shared linguistic ancestry) roots: taŋis. This concept is common throughout Formosan and Malayo-Polynesian branches of the Austronesian world, to indicate the verb ‘to cry’. Why is this so? He hypothesises that with the early days of world trade, opportunities for a better life were abundant and so “separation was a constant, even reflected in some of the melancholic songs of the homeland heard during Hari Raya.” According to the Otaku, the meaning had also expanded to take on specific connotations, such as the Malay tangis ‘weeping’, to Tagalog tangis ‘lamenting’ or ‘mourning’, and Malagasy faratani ‘the close of funeral ceremonies’.
“The underlying link between culture and languages in the region, the stories behind certain words and cultural motifs, and the relationships between these languages make them worth keeping alive… Our lives would be much duller without this mosaic of cultures and languages.”
Rightly so, for the Austronesian language family is one of world’s largest (including languages like Hawaiian in the US, Maori in New Zealand, Bugis in Indonesia and Singapore, and Rarotongan in the Cook Islands), covering the largest geographical area with 1,268 languages {(Thompson, 2016)}[ref[Thompson, I. 2016. Austronesian Language Family. About World Languages. Retrieved from: http://aboutworldlanguages.com/austronesian-language-family]] and counting! Though languages from the same branch of the language family are more similar and intelligible than others, there are fun exceptions. Hafiz points out Cham as an example. Spoken in parts of Vietnam and Cambodia, “the Cham language, over time has developed tones, unlike other Austronesian languages that are typically non-tonal”. But with influence from other Austroasiatic languages in close proximity, like Khmer and Vietnamese, Cham developed a tonal and monosyllabic word system over time. Even then, there is variation within the language: “Eastern Cham is more tonal than Western Cham, which is more Khmer,” explains the Otaku. But its Proto-Malayo-Polynesian roots are still traceable in some cognates it shares with sister languages like Malay. For example, empat (‘four’) in Malay is pa in Cham and sepuluh (‘ten’) in Malay is simply pluh in Cham. Closer to home, one wonders, as Hafiz does: “Would the Malay spoken in Singapore have been different if it were still the lingua franca today [instead of English]? Perhaps it might have developed tones as well”, due to prolonged interaction with the Sinitic languages like Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, and Hakka spoken here.

Abdi dallem Singapura

An avid bookworm and history buff, Hafiz spent much of his time at the public libraries, determinedly treading through pages of times past, and uncovering nuggets of trivia related to culture or etymology. On reading about Malacca’s history, another linguistic gem surfaced: Kristang. “I wanted to hear what this exotic language sounded like — was it like Malay?” The critically endangered status of this fairly-unheard-of Portuguese-Malay creole spoken in Malacca in Malaysia and in Singapore piqued Hafiz’s interest, leading him to discover—and later devour—the single reference text published in 2004 on the Kristang language as spoken in Singapore: ‘The most comprehensive Eurasian heritage dictionary: Kristang-English, English-Kristang’, by Valerie Scully and Catherine Zuzarte. In 2017, Hafiz signed up for beginner’s Kristang classes with the non-profit initiative to revitalise Kristang in Singapore, Kodrah Kristang, in an email written in fluent Kristang. Since then, he has developed friendly relationships with the local Kristang community and, as a museum docent, has even led guided them on tours of special exhibitions on communities of the Archipelago, such as a Malay Heritage Centre exhibition on the Bugis community in Singapore. A half-Baweanese, Hafiz has also taken time to learn languages and scripts with very little materials for new learners, such as Baweanese and the Bugis script: Lontara. Earlier this year, he even led a public workshop on Baweanese to share his knowledge of the linguistic system and snippets on the history of the diaspora community in Singapore. A notable part of diasporic history was the role of pondoks, which were the communal spaces where Baweanese (from the island of Bawean in Indonesia) could connect, congregate, and live with their fellow immigrant communities in the foreign land of Singapore. These communal houses formed a village that used to line the Rochor River between Syed Alwi Road and Jalan Besar in Singapore {(Jalan Besar Heritage Trail, 2012)}[ref[ Jalan Besar Heritage Trail. 2012. National Heritage Board.]]. Today, the Singapore Baweanese Association welcomes Hafiz as a member. “But I feel like an outsider because I didn’t grow up with the experience of living in a pondok,” unlike many of the older members who did. “And my accent isn’t Baweanese,” he laments. Though that didn’t stop the linguaphile from sharing his passion for lesser known cultures and languages such as Baweanese and Javanese at the Languages of Singapore Trail as part of the Kristang Language Festival, with more than 1,000 members of the public at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Fifteen heritage languages of Singapore, including Banjarese, Bengali, Bugis, Cantonese, Gujarati, Hakka, Hainanese, Javanese, Kristang, Malayalam, Minangkabau, Peranakan, Punjabi, and Singapore Sign Language, were put under the spotlight at the Trail, to showcase Singapore’s underrated and largely unappreciated linguistic diversity. [caption id="attachment_5870" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Photo by Marvin Tang[/caption] “Due to intermarriage and pro-Malay state policies that were propagated by the British (such as free education and benefits only accessible to those who were classified as Malays), many people from a range of ethnic groups [such as Banjarese, Bugis, Javanese, and Minangkabau] now considered ‘Malay’ would try to assimilate.” In the past, Malay also had a much larger role to play as a national lingua franca, thus assuming Malay identity and learning the Malay language—often in place of Banjarese, Bugis, Javanese, Minangkabau, etc—did bring about benefits. At the same time, it dissolved much of the drive for parents and grandparents to pass on their traditional heritage language of the home domain, in favour of Malay. A common problem faced by the volunteer-run Associations and interest groups representing these Austronesian minority groups in Singapore is “the lack of young blood,” Hafiz points out. But “tak kenal maka tak cinta”. You can’t love something you don’t know. The majority of youths today simply do not invest as much time and effort in their heritage tongues when a more common one understood by more people would suffice. The quantity and quality of interaction between grandchildren and their grandparents are thus also affected. Were there interested Trail visitors who did not belong to these ethnic communities? “Yes! There were many who were interested to understand how other minority groups interacted, such as how the Peranakans used to engage the Baweanese (called Pak Boyan in these contexts) in wedding processions to ward off evil spirits”, Hafiz explained. They also bore “the lanterns adorned with surnames of the two families enjoined in the marriage, and [carried] sedan chairs of the bride and bridegroom” {(Roots Singapore, 2011)}[ref[[4] Headcloth. 2011. Roots SG. Retrieved from: https://roots.sg/learn/collections/listing/1259897]]. Many from within these ethnic communities also attended the Trail to learn about themselves and their family histories. “Most people have not heard of the Baweanese, not even within the Malay community, especially those who are middle-aged and younger. And some Indonesian visitors were surprised that there were diaspora Indonesian communities in Singapore.”

The Austronesian Cosplayer

A keen interest in language and culture has also developed in Hafiz a passion for textiles. The portable, wearable, ornamental nature of clothing and accessories allows the Cosplayer to carry with him a piece of heritage with him wherever he goes, allowing him to weave some history, glamour, and anachronism into his guided museum tours and even Kristang classes! In a test-play session of the bilingual Kristang-English board game “Ila-Ila di Sul” (The Southern Islands) pictured below, Hafiz personified the Temenggong character in the game story, adding to the allure of the treasure-seeking game and the history of Singapore’s dozens of southern islands. [caption id="attachment_5875" align="aligncenter" width="547"] Photo by Frances Loke Wei[/caption] Sourcing textiles and pieces from the region and in local ethnic enclaves, Hafiz treasures the story behind each piece of clothing, be it batik or a warp ekat sarong. The latter originated in Vietnam, where the Cham people tie off portions of thread to resist dyes in order to create patterns. “Ekat means ‘to tie’, explains Hafiz, “and a lot of preparation goes into designing such work. Dyeing itself takes 2.5 months!” For the Cosplayer, it’s all about bringing history to the present moment and making culture relevant to everyday life. “Culture is reworked, just like how Kodrah Kristang suggests new words for the Kristang language”, to fill gaps and to increase the domains in which the language can be used to talk about everyday life.

Penglipur lara

“One last thing, Hafiz. How young are you?” “Selawé. In Javanese, it literally means ‘one string’, but indicates a value of 25 — in reference to the value of one string of Chinese coins used during the early days of trading in the region. It shows how connected these cultures were and how connected we all are,” if only we cared to ponder the things we so often take for granted. One might add another choice appellation to Hafiz’s list of monikers: Penglipur lara — a poetic Malay term, which in English, inadequately translates to one who soothes and enchants through the art of storytelling. [post_title] => Finding unity in diversity [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => an-interview-with-hafiz-rashid [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-30 18:13:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-30 10:13:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5790 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [15] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5787 [post_author] => 74 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:51:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:51:24 [post_content] => I set foot in Buenos Aires for my semester abroad at the beginning of February this year with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. Not only was it my first time in South America, I had also been constantly preempted by friends that Rioplatense Spanish, the variety spoken in areas around the Río de la Plata Basin of Argentina and Uruguay, would be difficult. And struggle, I sure did. The first couple of weeks in Buenos Aires, I was thrown off by the locals’ (or porteños’) sheísmo —(the pronunciation of the written <y> and <ll> as [ʃ] (the ‘sh’ sound) instead of [ʝ]­ (in English, the ‘y’ sound in ‘your’) typical of Castilian Spanish—, the Italian-sounding rhythm of their speech, and the aspiration of the syllable-final ‘s’. Most significantly, I faced difficulties keeping up with conversations that were laced with words so foreign to my ears—lunfardo, the lexicon. Perhaps my anxiety was a little obvious when I was waiting for my student visa at the Migrations department and expressing my concerns about getting accustomed to the Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires. “Si podés decir ‘boludo’, no tendrás ningún problema acá”, the man behind the counter said. If you can say ‘boludo’, you won’t have any problem here. “Cómo…?” I was confused. What…? “Decí ‘boludo’!” he insisted. Say ‘boludo’! “… Boludo.” “Perfecto.” He laughed. It was a steep learning curve during the subsequent months. When someone calls you boludo, it could be an insult meaning ‘stupid’. Between friends, it is an endearing way of calling you ‘dude’. To feel lazy is tener fiaca, a previa refers to pre-drinks before a night out, and a boliche, despite its original Spanish meaning as a bowling alley, bowling pin, or a small general store in rural Argentina, refers to a club. I have been referred to as a pibe (man, dude or kid), and when someone says they don’t have mango or plata, they mean that they don’t have money. Where did all these words and expressions come from?

Origins: the language of thieves?

Lunfardo is commonly said to originate from the Buenos Aires underworld and is related to delinquent activities. According to {Donald Castro (1988: 17)}[ref[Castro, Donald S. “The Lunfardo Poets: Yacaré and De La Púa.” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, vol. 42, no. 1/2, 1988, pp. 29–44. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1347434.]], the first written descriptions of Lunfardo surfaced around 1879 and described porteño criminal life. The very first Lunfardo dictionary of 414 entries by Antonio Dellepiane dates back to 1894, and includes the subtitle “the language of crime”. The word lunfardo itself is thought to be derived from lombardo or lumbardo, in reference to the Lombards who commonly worked as bankers or moneylenders. Frowned upon and distrusted by the rest of society because they held big-money-making positions, lumbardo was synonymous with ‘thieves’ amongst the working class locals. Other academics, however, believe that that is not an adequate explanation of Lunfardo’s origins. José Gobello, a 20th-century Argentinean writer, was the first to study Lunfardo seriously in his publication of Lunfardía in 1953. He also founded the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo, a non-profit institution dedicated to the study of colloquial speech in Argentina. According to Gobello, Lunfardo is a lexical repertoire that surfaced with the foreign languages accompanying waves of immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries. Argentinean professor Oscar Conde adds that these words and expressions of different origins were used in alternation with those of standard Spanish. In its first decades of existence, Lunfardo was basically a system of linguistic loans which came from a single country: Italy. The lexicon of Lunfardo in the 19th century comprised mostly words and oexpressions taken from the Tuscan, Genoese, Napolitan and Sicilian varieties of Italian. During the 20th century, more words were borrowed from popular Spanish speech and also incorporated productive wordplay, such as vesre (the practice of switching the positions of a word’s syllables, similar to verlan in colloquial French). Take the Lunfardo word telo, for example, which is the word ‘hotel’ in vesre. More specifically, however, it refers to hotels that are available by the hour throughout the day for couples’ rendezvous – secret or not. Even the word vesre, is reverse for revés! Al revés in Spanish means ‘inside out’ or ‘the other way around’. Successive waves of internal migration within Argentina during the first half of the 20th century brought in other languages into the city of Buenos Aires and its surroundings. In his study{ “Estilistíca del Lunfardo” (1968: 62)}[ref[Clemente, José E. “Estilística del lunfardo.” El lenguaje de Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1968.]], José E. Clemente observes that many terms of the Lunfardo vocabulary were derived from other European languages like French and English, and indigenous languages like Quechua. For example, from English, a sandwich became sanguche and from Quechua, a pucho refers to a cigarette. When someone describes a situation with quilombo, they mean it is a mess or is chaotic. Quilombo has Brazilian roots, originally referring to places that slaves from plantations would escape to. Yet its meaning changed in Argentina and Uruguay, where quilombo first meant ‘brothel’. Nowadays, it refers to a messy or chaotic situation.

Defining the Porteño identity

The explanation of Lunfardo’s origins above does not deny that its speech developed in the underworld sectors of Buenos Aires, where immigrants were often poor. In {Thon (2010)}[ref[Thon, Sonia. “La identidad lingüística argentina a través de Borges y Puig” ARBOR Ciencia, Pensamiento y Cultura, pp. 119-127, 2010. ]], Argentine literary and cultural critic Beatriz Sarlo defines Lunfardo as “an artificial jargon of the marginalized”.  Lunfardo was originally perceived as a symbol of the lower class, but later “became the “linguistic banner waved by the disenfranchised but defiant dwellers of Buenos Aires” {(Washbaugh in Andre, 2017)}[ref[André, María Claudia. “Tango y Lunfardo: Un Estudio Transatlántico Sobre La Identidad Argentina / Tango and Lunfardo: a Transtlantic Study about Argentinian Identity.” Kamchatka. Revista De Análisis Cultural., no. 9, 2017, p. 297., doi:10.7203/kam.9.9547.]]. Mariá Andre (2017) also writes about using language as a tool to “reconstruct memory and culture as a factor that shape people’s identities”. As Conde puts it, the linguistic synthesis that Lunfardo involves also serves as “a living memory of the history of Argentina”, reminding people of the social groups that shaped the country and where they came from. By the beginning of the 20th century, not only had Lunfardo begun to lace everyday conversations, the slang was then incorporated into works of literature, journalism, and theatre as a sort of poetic or literary language. The most common literary vehicles for the use of Lunfardo were the popular theatre (sainete criollo), the naturalist novel (naturalismo), and both tango and non-tango related poetry {(Andre, 2017)}[ref[André, María Claudia. “Tango y Lunfardo: Un Estudio Transatlántico Sobre La Identidad Argentina / Tango and Lunfardo: a Transtlantic Study about Argentinian Identity.” Kamchatka. Revista De Análisis Cultural., no. 9, 2017, p. 297., doi:10.7203/kam.9.9547.]]. The incorporation of Lunfardo in works of literature was an attempt to transform and elevate its status as a slang to into an expression of lo argentino (“Argentineness”). {Castro (1988)}[ref[Castro, Donald S. “The Lunfardo Poets: Yacaré and De La Púa.” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature, vol. 42, no. 1/2, 1988, pp. 29–44. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1347434.]] explains that “even the most erudite poet, if he was Porteño, had to demonstrate his association with the city of Buenos Aires through the use of Lunfardo”. Argentine authors like Jorge Luis Borges and Roberto Arlt, who wrote fervently of the modernisation and drastic changes that occurred around them in Buenos Aires, both incorporated Lunfardo into their literary works. It was the incorporation of Lunfardo into tango, however, that further propelled its diffusion throughout Buenos Aires.

Lunfardo and Tango

As products of immigration, Lunfardo and tango are intrinsically connected. Born approximately during the same period in the 1870s, both dance and jargon present a portrait of Buenos Aires and the Argentine social angst, and reflect the transformation of a national culture. Slang typically includes forms of expression that rebel against the laws of the language. On the other hand, tango as a dance form challenged conservative societal norms with its explicit sensuality and physicality. Both tango and Lunfardo trace their roots in a marginalised part of society, but have come to be normalised, shaping and defining the Argentine identity. Tango helped with the diffusion of Lunfardo throughout society. Written by Pascual Contursi and popularised by Carlos Gardel, Mi noche triste” (1917) was the first tango song which incorporated Lunfardo in its lyrics, bolded in the following verse: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv3NFsOmDJ8[/embed] Percanta que me amuraste en lo mejor de mi vida, Dejándome el alma herida y espina en el corazón, Sabiendo que te quería, que vos eras mi alegría Y mi sueño abrasador, Para mí ya no hay consuelo y por eso me encurdelo, Pa olvidarme de tu amor. The Lunfardo words in this are percanta (lover), amurar (abandon), and encurdelar (intoxicated). Over time, tango went from being frowned upon as a delinquent activity, and became incorporated into popular culture that transcended social classes. With the incorporation of Lunfardo into this phenomenon, the vocabulary spread amongst the people even more quickly over time, and lost its negative associations.

Lunfardo: today and beyond

Since 2000, the city of Buenos Aires has celebrated the 5th of September as ‘el día del lunfardo’, thanks to the initiative of journalist Marcelo Héctor Oliveri, who is also a member of the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo. This date commemorates the date of publication of "Lunfardía", the book by José Gobello, whose first edition in 1953 promoted the appreciation of and linguistic interest in this popular jargon. According to Oscar Conde in {a recent interview}[ref[Schijman, Bárbara. “‘El Lunfardo Es Un Fenómeno Lingüístico Único’ | Oscar Conde, Poeta, Ensayista y Estudioso Del Habla Popular Argentina.” Página/12 Web, 2 Apr. 2018, www.pagina12.com.ar/105340-el-lunfardo-es-un-fenomeno-linguistico-unico.]] with Argentine newspaper Pagina12, for words to be considered Lunfardo, they must have emerged in Argentina, have been in use for at least five years, or have had appearances in literature, theatre, or on television. Conde explains that there are between 6,000–7,000 words at the moment, excluding 3,000 other phrases or expressions. Over the years, words have fallen into disuse, others have resurfaced with the same or changed meanings, while new words continue to appear in colloquial speech. For example, bondi was a popular word in the 1920s and ‘30s, and used to allude to a tram. The word itself has Anglo-Brazilian roots, as bondi was used to refer to the vehicles of English origin used in Brazil. Migration of people brought this term into Buenos Aires, but gradually fell into disuse through the ‘60s and ‘70s. The word, however, made a comeback in the 1980s, but then referred to a colectivo, or a bus. Nowadays, bondi and colectivo can be used interchangeably. Some words that arose as Lunfardo have also been incorporated into the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, such as banquina, of Genoese origin, that refers to road shoulders. Conde credits these changes to youth under 25, saying that 99% of the world’s neologisms are invented by them, and that “it is they who renew the language from a need to give names to unknown realities for previous generations”. Of these words, some last a month or two, a year, or they might disappear. The remaining 1% of neologisms arise out of necessity due to scientific advances. And although Lunfardo is a port and River Plate phenomenon that defines the identity of Buenos Aires, the truth is that it has spread across vast regions of Argentina and has even transcended borders. Till this date, it continues to grow and evolve. For this reason, the Academia Porteña del Lunfardo has the motto: “El pueblo agranda el idioma” The people expand the language. [post_title] => El lunfardo [post_excerpt] => I set foot in Buenos Aires for my semester abroad at the beginning of February this year with an overwhelming sense of trepidation. Not only was it my first time in South America, I had also been constantly preempted by friends that Rioplatense Spanish, the variety spoken in areas around the Río de la Plata Basin of Argentina and Uruguay, would be difficult. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => el-lunfardo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-28 00:17:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 16:17:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5787 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [16] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5795 [post_author] => 79 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:49:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:49:52 [post_content] => Learning a new language can really be a revelation to a new way of thinking. Many people struggle with language learning, but if there were a Western language that most people would agree on being impossible to truly master, it would probably be German. I have faced this opinion many times during my 20 years of teaching German as a foreign language, and I must admit that I initially also believed that learning German was truly one of the most difficult educational challenges one could take on.

The learner is not the problem; it’s the system.

This is based on what I experienced during the first 13 years of my career, when I witnessed many German learners fail and saw only a handful of them leave with a smile and the ability to express themselves fluently in my native language. However, those who failed and those who succeeded often shared similar levels of intelligence and a comparable willingness to learn. This caused me to ask myself, why were some successful and others not? To answer this question, I intensified my research on how to learn a language efficiently and effectively, and it slowly dawned on me that it was not the language that was the problem; it was how it was—and still is—being taught.

What does it mean to learn a language?

Learning a language is far more than the simple acquisition of words or phrases combined with a few grammar rules, and the mastery of pronunciation and sentence structure. One of the biggest challenges when learning a new language is to deal with the emotions that come up when trying to express yourself and realizing that it is impossible to do so the way you are used to in your first language. Add a bit of  - that easily occurs when you are afraid of not understanding the other and of not being understood - and you’ll get an idea of the scope of the problem. Of course, this language-learning anxiety is not limited to the German language. However, German can basically be the easiest language on earth if, and that’s a big “if”, it is taught well - which is of course also true for any other language out there. If a language is taught well, the learner will experience much less stress and will even be able to enjoy the process of learning. Unfortunately, I find that this is rarely the case. I will now describe what I consider the three major crimes against German learners. If you want to skip the sad news, scroll down to “The good news” in the last paragraph. There, I’ll suggest a way out of inefficient and ineffective German learning.

They are throwing the baby out with the bath water

The worst of all teaching crimes is that many language schools and apps still teach German exclusively in German (as part of what is often termed “immersive language learning”). If you put language teachers in favour of such an approach, in an immersive class themselves, they admit to secretly using a dictionary to be able to follow what’s going on. This and many other practical examples of the inefficiency of this approach are detailed on Professor W. Butzkamm’s Homepage (in German). Checking your dictionary and trying to translate what you have just heard, is the most natural reaction to being exposed to foreign words that you don’t understand. We are adults—we question things, and sometimes also want to understand a grammar rule clearly, not just somehow vaguely, and there is no better way to make sure students fully understand what’s going on than to explain things to them in their native language or a language that they already understand very well. If you are a beginner German learner, an immersive approach will take you an awful lot of time and make you feel inadequate as you remain unable to express yourself before you get a grasp of even the simplest of rules and principles which could have been easily explained to you within minutes if your tutor had only used English at the start.

Why group lessons are more expensive than private lessons

The second biggest crime is group classes. The majority of language teaching is still taking place this way. In my opinion, group lessons are more expensive than one-on-one classes because they are highly inefficient. Did you know that less than 55% of German learners in so-called integration courses reach a basic level of understanding after seven months in an intensive course undefined Learning a language as an adult is a very intimate experience that requires an immense amount of courage, as one risks losing one’s face over and over again in the process of redefining one’s identity from scratch. One is, in essence, linguistically reborn. While working in a small group can be more motivating than working on your own, you still need a solid stroke of luck to be mixed together with people who encourage and challenge you to improve your German and give you the momentum you need to succeed. Taking into consideration that we all have our own knowledge and learning background, as well as different language-learning skill levels, and that a class size is generally 10-20, it will always be difficult trying to balance the different learning styles present in the classroom in order to please all course participants. At best, it will satisfy a certain number of learners, whose learning capabilities are suited to the classroom’s speed and style. Those who need more time and support will fall behind and blame themselves for being too untalented or for not putting enough work into their German learning. Those who are faster than the rest might seek extra attention from the tutor in order to not get bored, or simply improve their doodling skills. While there are counter measures such as building working groups with similar learning capabilities, I can say from my own experience in the past 20 years on both sides of the classroom, that they will almost always be imprecise, time consuming, and still far less efficient than proper individual tuition. If you consider the often-average quality of the lessons and the possibility that you will lose all faith in your own language learning skills and efforts,   Of course, there are also bad private tutors out there, but the probability of succeeding in your German learning with a good private tutor is in my experience much higher than when working with a good group tutor due to the reasons mentioned above. At a cheap language school, you may pay up to 1,200 EUR for six months of group tuition. However, you will only have a less than 50% chance of reaching your goal. Investing this amount in a good private tutor in combination with learning aids—such as the online German course I designed—would significantly increase your chances of succeeding in learning German. It is not the quantity of lessons that makes a difference, but their quality. In a one-on-one setting you won’t need as many lessons as in a group course where the tutor’s attention is be shared by all students. Private lessons can also be easily conducted via Skype, saving you travel time to and from physical classes. You can also take breaks without losing touch with the curriculum and you will always get answers to your questions instead of having to listen to other people’s problems (and bad German).

Why people really learn German – The benefit of learner independence

The third crime is a crime against the learner’s independence. Ideally, students are taught learning techniques that help them to become independent of their teacher and course materials. Unfortunately, I have not yet come across any useful examples in classrooms or textbooks, which is why I have decided to build my own course to fill this gap. My course consists of a number of learning techniques such as ‘preaching', 'the secretary technique' and others, which make learning more natural, repeatable and fun. It is obvious why students often don’t learn learning techniques: If you try to teach learners these in a language they don’t yet fully understand, they come across as incredibly complex. The irony is that the most efficient learning techniques are not complex at all, as long as they are explained in a language the learner fully understands. In short: German learners are exposed to material in a language they yet have to learn. This material is created to please hundreds of thousands of people, and therefore must ignore any individual’s needs. On top of this, no tools are offered to learn the language independently; instead, the information is spoon-fed to them, making them dependent on material and teacher, which is in contrast to their core motivation of becoming a more independent individual.

The good news

While the preceding paragraphs have drawn not too optimistic a picture of the traditional choices German language learners have today, there is hope in the form of already-existing digital tools. Just to make it very clear: I am not criticizing any of the existing language-learning apps such as Duolingo, Babbel, Rosetta Stone, and Busuu; however, these only fix a few of the issues mentioned above. Also, my own online course has yet to reach its full potential, but we are getting closer and closer with each day. Below you find solutions which will help fix the current issues in German language learning, these can be applied to classrooms, private teaching and language learning apps.

Solution 1 - Treat individuals as individuals and speak to them in a language they understand.  

The first thing that has to change is that German should be taught in a language the student understands. Simply translating materials into all possible languages does not solve this, and so, to create an efficient and effective German online course, one must consider the relation between the student’s native language and the beautiful German language. I envision a highly individualized and bespoke German learning platform with the aim of making itself dispensable as soon as possible so that learners can go out there and use their German in the real world.

Solution 2 - Apply science for real.

The current variety of apps miss a sensible didactical design. Even though many apps or new textbooks state that they use an up-to-date scientific approach, this is only a very thin veneer. They simply add pictures to their textbooks, have random and isolated interactive exercises or a simple spaced repetition system—basically an automatically timed review pattern—which as well as it is intended, doesn’t mean at all that they are applying those same scientific insights in a way that would make a difference to the way German has been taught in the past 50 years. While there is evidence that these measures increase the efficiency and affectivity of language learning as compared to traditional measures such as rote repetition, which is the official term for memorizing things by mere repetition, or tedious translation exercises, they must be embedded in an overall context and in a specific way to actually unlock their full potential. Images are wonderful tools to engage learners in a discussion, but simply using them to illustrate a word in the title of a text doesn’t do their learning potential any justice. Repetition certainly still has an immense value in the language learning process, and if done right can lead to the desired result of speaking without much thinking. I’ve taken this technique to the next level by letting learners practice bite-sized mini dialogues on their own while recording themselves so that they get instant feedback on their current speaking skill. A dedicated student of smarterGerman even created an  (that’s Amazon’s term for an app on their Echo device) for this technique, which I have named “Preaching” as one repeats a certain structure over and over again until one doesn’t have to think about it anymore. A more detailed explanation and example of this technique can be previewed in my online course here. What’s more, an automated review sounds like a good idea and certainly is as it takes a lot of organizational stress off a learner’s shoulder. But if the wrong material is reviewed automatically, nothing is won. Many spaced-repetition vocabulary courses on popular platforms such as Memrise offer isolated vocabulary. A more scientific approach would be the use of chunks, short groups of words that build a logical unit.  latter looks very different from the former which is the source of a lot of confusion when trying to understand and to speak. In addition, the former is pedantic and formal, while the latter is “German in action” – a more colloquial form. Our short-term memory has a limited capacity for new information. By using chunks, more information can be taken in and recalled later on in the  automatically instead of having to be constructed from scratch or out of context. In language learning it is also crucial to tap into the student’s intrinsic motivation. On most apps, extrinsic motivation is used (e.g. competitive rankings). Extrinsic motivational measures can even be undefined if they are e.g. aiming at the learner’s participation rather than achieving a specific goal or if the reward seems too good to be true or too small to be bothered with. The best thing to do is to enable learners to follow their motivation and to support them on their way. A good course offers learners achievable milestones, quick and consistent success experiences, e.g. by allowing the learners to test themselves and to provide guidance in case of failure or by helping them to find their own mistakes instead of taking such an opportunity from them by simply providing them with a correct answer.  An example would be a little task that the learner has to accomplish in real life (where possible) like e.g. sending a postcard to someone. This task can be easily prepared and put to the test. If the learner fails maybe because the conversation partner in the post office used unexpected phrases or questions, that experience can be analyzed and repeated after the initial dialogue had been updated with the new input.

Solution 3 - Create a safe virtual space to meet others.

Finally, while I have mainly pointed out the downsides of group lessons, there are still a few reasons why learners chose to learn a language in a classroom setting. Those should be considered when one tries to transfer the learning situation into the digital world. For example, the main idea of a group classroom is to offer the learner a creative and safe space in which learners can support and interact with each other. This aim can be achieved much more easily with the help of an online  . At smarterGerman, we have set one up and are experimenting with different ways of interaction; check out my smarterGerman learners forum. When these three solutions are embodied in a user-friendly, clear, and pleasing design, German-learning and language-learning in general will rise to their potential of becoming the wonderful experience currently only few among us can experience consistently. Despite my clear and critical words regarding the current teaching situation in the language-learning world, my appreciation goes to all language teachers, schools and app development teams, and above all to all language learners out there who are trying to achieve the seemingly difficult task of learning a new language. You show courage and compassion for others and yourself by doing so. These are the traits that I love to see more present in today’s world.   [post_title] => Learning German [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => learning-german [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-27 22:31:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 14:31:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5795 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [17] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5762 [post_author] => 80 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:47:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:47:21 [post_content] => You might be familiar with the concept that language and thought are intertwined. The idea goes back to the time of Ancient Greece. The Greek philosopher Plato believed that we cannot experience the world but through language, and Prussian philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt thought it to be the fabric of thought, an idea that was popularised by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The hypothesis states that the structure of a language determines the way its speakers think. For instance, the number of basic colour words of a language influences the way the speaker of that particular language perceives colours. Today, linguists are more inclined to accept the weaker version of the hypothesis—the idea of linguistic relativity, which states that language influences our thoughts but doesn't determine them. Language certainly plays an important role in human cognition. Let's find out how exactly. You must have heard of George Orwell's famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a dystopian novel set in a fictional world called Oceania in which language (in this case 'Newspeak') plays a crucial role in establishing the new system of life in the novel. Through the example of Nineteen Eighty-Four to describe how language manipulates thought, I will show what contemporary evidence exists of the autocracy of government language. It's not just fiction; it's reality. The creators of the new governmental system in Nineteen Eighty-Four, called Ingsoc, devise this language to control thoughts. They influence people by making them perceive only certain matters and by deliberately making people forget everything deemed inappropriate. If something cannot be named, it does not exist—that is the principle that functions in the society of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Newspeak words are divided into three distinct classes, namely the A, B, and C vocabularies.

A vocabulary: Language and thought

The A vocabulary is used to describe daily activities, mainly with a limited set of words already used in ‘Oldspeak’ (the normative language the people spoke before the government invented Newspeak). A limited pool of words points out the fact that life is a simple routine. With the vocabulary so tightly policed, people cannot develop their own idiolect (an individual’s unique way of using a language) and, as language and identity are closely connected, the expression of one’s individuality becomes more challenging. When languages such as Basic English (devised by Charles Kay Ogden not for the purpose of control but to aid second language learners in grasping the English language), with some 850 words, are created, it deliberately limits the range of words that people can use to express themselves, thus limiting linguistic creativity. Imagine someone placing limits on what you can put into words. Any new, original thought or plan you had in mind would be lost, or more accurately, would not even have existed in the first place. Consequently, your individuality, would disappear. Words in Newspeak have no possible second meanings, so whatever one says is literally what one means, and word range is limited by introducing interchangeability between word classes, e.g. the same word is used for a noun and a verb. That way, thoughts are simplified without much work. In an organic language environment, the extents of one’s vocabulary expand with age, as people grasp more and newer concepts and seek ways to express them through language. A child utters approximately 3,881 distinct words a day at the age of 1 year and 5 months, as opposed to 28,142 at the age of 9 years and 7 months, according to British linguist David Crystal. So, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, instead of expanding over time to account for new concepts, developments, or inventions, vocabulary is constrained by design: the Party limits it, and adults cannot reach a satisfactory level of cognition, as they have no words with which to utter their thoughts and reach conclusions on different topics. Also, words are very simply formed by adding certain affixes and language exhibits complete regularity, which makes the production of language almost automatic. That is exactly what the leaders of the regime want: everything is to be simple and straightforward, so that people talk about a controlled set of topics and don’t dwell too much on them. For example, in Newspeak, adjectives are formed by adding the suffix -ful to a noun-verb, and adverbs by adding -wise. So, speedful means ‘rapid’, and speedwise means ‘quickly’. There are no irregular verb conjugations, plural forms, or comparative or superlative forms of adjectives. The preterite of think is thinked, the plural of man is mans, and the comparative form of good is gooder. There is also no need for words such as bad, as the antonym of good is simply ungood. But now, don’t think English would be one such simplified language compared to, for instance, my mother tongue, Croatian, which is highly morphological, or Mandarin Chinese with its complex script. Do complex morphology or script imply that Croatian or Mandarin Chinese speakers are more intelligent? Of course not. Every language is a highly complex system, and that complexity manifests itself in different forms. If you’re not convinced, think of all the English language spelling bee contests around the world that simply wouldn’t make sense in languages like Spanish that have few to no irregular spellings.

B vocabulary: Language and ideology

The B vocabulary consists of words devised for the ideology of the Party. Umbrella terms are coined through compounds, such as the word sexcrime, which narrows all possible meanings in just one word and marks out the action of ‘sex’ as a crime. What is especially interesting in B vocabulary are the euphemisms and metaphors used. Orwell wrote, in a separate essay:

“Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.”

That is exactly what is used in Nineteen Eighty-Four…and today. When you come to think of it, we often hear about the pacification scheme for Syria, whereas it’s really a war scheme. In corporate lingo, downsizing, really means firing people. The Australian government uses the term illegal maritime arrivals to describe asylum seekers. In this way, framing can change people’s perception of something. Generally speaking, framing is a powerful tool, especially in marketing, such as when you see “95% fat-free” labels on food products, instead of “only 5% fat”, because then you subconsciously focus on the positive part. By using particular words, you evoke a specific mental picture in the reader or listener’s mind. For instance, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, forced-labour camps are called joycamps, which completely obscures the torture taking place in the camps. That is used as a powerful tool of control. When you hear the word joy, you would immediately think of something pleasant and positive, and not of the upsetting and agonizing reality of the joycamps. The Party members devise these metaphors because they are powerful enough to manipulate the masses. Figures of speech can shape people’s inferences on something. The names of the ministries clearly demonstrate this, with names that indicate something different from what they are really in charge of. The Ministry of Love deals with law, order, and punishment; the Ministry of Peace with war; the Ministry of Plenty oversees curtailing supplies; and the Ministry of Truth is in charge of the alternative truth, rewriting the facts to suit the needs of the Party (does that ring a bell?). However, when people hear the names of those ministries, they have the surface-level interpretation in mind and believe the ministries to be in charge of what their names suggest. As a result, nobody questions what these ministries are really doing. The same applies to Big Brother, a name for the ultimate leader in the fictional world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which implies a nurturant leader, not an authoritarian one, so people in the novel accept his supervision and autocracy willingly. Interestingly, this term is now a snide remark against any authoritarian entities like governments or even closed-circuit security cameras. The word “victory” is used constantly, such as in the names of products like Victory Gin, which makes people believe that they in the victorious nation they belong to, otherwise why would they have so many Victory products? As a result, they do not have a reason to question the Party. Slogans of the Party, such as“War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”, and “Ignorance is Strength”, are ways of establishing the so-called doublethink, harboring concepts which are self-contradictory. The slogans appear all the time on screens and can be heard through loudspeakers by all and sundry. As linguist George Lakoff explains in his blog,

“Words are neurally linked to the circuits that determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more a circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again.”

By repeating those slogans constantly, people start believing them and become desensitised to it. People see them as intuitive, and not in the way they are supposed to be—the exact opposite, i.e. counter-intuitive. Hence, the concept of doublethink is very easily accepted by everyone. That is the key of the system: people accepting new values and systems of control without feeling like they were imposed. (If you want to learn more about this, I suggest you read Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant!) “[U]ltimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the high brain centers at all”, Orwell writes in the appendix. People merely generate words as a sort of formal symbols that they have been introduced to by the Regime without really understanding them. That is what the so-called duckspeak, encouraged by the Party, is all about. People just utter random phonemes without considering their meanings, doing it automatically without involving their brains in the process. It reminds me of John Searle’s thought experiment, the Chinese room, in which the computer in it doesn’t really understand the words it generates; it is not conscious. (Now that’s a matter that deserves an article of its own considering the complexity of automatic speech production.) The usage of abbreviations is also curious in Nineteen Eighty-Four. When abbreviations are used, people do not give it much, if any, thought. As a result, they do not associate those words with their intended meanings. In his paper “Politics and the English Language”, Orwell explains that that is the practice that was widely used by totalitarian systems:
Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily.
The same goes for many large organizations of today, from Oxfam to FAO and the like. People have general ideas about those, not really knowing what their names stand for. Very few people consider the meaning of the abbreviations that are presented to them. So, the citizens of Oceania would have a picture in their head of what Minitrue, as the Ministry of Truth is often called, represents, but it would not occur to them to analyze what it really means. They see everything only superficially. The same applies to Ingsoc. It is a rather vague word when you come to think of it. It may imply socialism, but English socialism, which makes it different from the idea of socialism tied to the Soviet Union that people usually have. It may be a political system, but it may also be an economic one or an ideological one. The result is pure vagueness. This is the case with the names of many political parties today. What does Germany’s SPD imply, or France’s LREM, or Britain’s Labour Party, which, though not an abbreviation, exhibits the same kind of vagueness? We have a general idea, but more often than not they turn out to be very different from what their names suggest. The Labour Party is supposed to take the side of the working class, as its name implies, but throughout the history of their governance in Britain, they have taken some measures going against workers, such as that of introducing high university fees. No wonder people are confused, and that there are many swing voters and those who don’t take any interest in politics and decide not to vote.

C vocabulary: Control

The C vocabulary consists of technical and scientific terms. As there is no word for science in Newspeak, what it means cannot be grasped by the citizens of Oceania, so the Party’s goal of perpetuating its citizens’ ignorance of science and higher-learning is accomplished. Just think of the Trump administration’s recent attempt at censorship of scientific vocabulary at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The directive allegedly stated that terms like ‘science-based’ and ‘fetus’ are supposed to be avoided, which gives ideology a chance to creep into science. The meaning of words is narrowed down by the Party, who only want very specific meanings of potentially abstract words. As an example, in Newspeak, the word equal can only mean that people are “equal in their appearance”, and never that they have equal rights. The Party erases meanings of entire words, so that new generations, when learning the language, grasp only the meanings that the Party wants them to grasp. In organic languages, the context in which a word is found contributes to its meaning. So, one word can have multiple meanings, as we are able to understand the intended meaning thanks to the surrounding words. When the Party enforces the use of a word in a single context in Newspeak, it is eventually associated with only the particular context that is aligned with the restrictive goals of the Party. That is why in real life, translation is a difficult business, as translation is not just about changing a word in a source language to another word in a target language but rather transferring the sense which is established in context from one language to another. As a result, in Oceania, people have nothing to compare themselves to and thus can live only in the present moment, without much room for nostalgia and retroflection. They cannot know that anything different existed before or that there is an alternative to their world, and they can hardly imagine their future. When books, of which the medium is language, disappear, people are deprived of many different ideas and concepts they wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. Linguistic creativity is all around us, present in our everyday lives and it lets our minds conceive anything and as a result can enable us to achieve anything. When that access is removed from us, so too are many of our mental capacities and freedoms. Such is the way the Party achieves its goal of absolute control—by controlling language. With such limited vocabulary, with a language devised for the sole purpose of exerting control over citizens, people become obedient citizens who never question their government. Those who don’t obey, disappear: taken away and punished by the Party. Such a repressive government cannot let anyone understand what they are doing and how it is that they do it. The way people communicate with each other, elaborate on different topics and express their thoughts and feelings freely is through language. Depriving people of that means establishing a significant amount control over them. Orwell’s creation of a language devised specifically for controlling people perfectly demonstrates the way that language influences the human mind, thus enabling manipulation, be it benign or sinister. That way people become simple cogs of a system, which is exactly what a repressive government, as is the one in Nineteen Eighty-Four, wants. Now you know what to watch for, don’t say you haven’t been warned! [post_title] => Language, thought, and manipulation [post_excerpt] => You must have heard of George Orwell's famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, a dystopian novel set in a fictional world called Oceania in which language (in this case 'Newspeak') plays a crucial role in establishing the new system of life in the novel. Through the example of Nineteen Eighty-Four to describe how language manipulates thought, I will show what contemporary evidence exists of the autocracy of government language. It's not just fiction; it's reality. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => language-thought-and-manipulation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-27 22:31:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 14:31:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5762 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [18] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5777 [post_author] => 22 [post_date] => 2018-07-27 19:46:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-27 11:46:09 [post_content] => They may not be as well-known or widely-spoken as in neighboring Spain, but France’s regional languages have historically been just as important. They include Breton (a Celtic language) in Brittany, Alsacian (a Germanic language) near the German border, Franco-Provençal (a Romance language) in eastern France, Basque in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, and Catalan in Roussillon. Additionally, the Occitan language was historically spoken in the southern half of France and continues to exist there today, albeit to a much lesser extent. For the past year, I’ve been living and teaching English in Tulle, a town of around 17,000 in the Corrèze department of southwest-central France. I have also devoted much of my time here to the study and appreciation of Occitan, a beautiful and historic language that once thrived in this area.

A bit of historical and linguistic context

Occitan is a Romance Language, having diverged from Vulgar Latin in the seventh or eighth century CE along with French, Spanish, Italian, etc. It is typically included alongside Catalan in a subfamily called Occitano-Romance: the two languages are quite similar linguistically although their current socio-political standings differ notably. In addition to southern France, Occitan is also spoken in Monaco, in the Val d’Aran in Spanish Catalonia, and in the Alpine valleys of Piedmont in Italy. It is important to note that there are generally considered to be six dialects of Occitan: Auvergnat, Gascon, Languedocien, Limousin (the one I learned), Provençal, and Vivaro-Alpine. There is, however, debate among both linguists and Occitan-speakers as to whether these varieties are actually separate languages, and the lack of a standard written form does not help matters. In any case, for the purposes of this article, “Occitan” refers either to all six dialects or to the Limousin variety specifically, depending on context. Once Europe’s greatest literary vernacular, Occitan is best known as the language of the troubadours, lyric poets who composed and performed during the High Middle Ages. It was the native tongue of King Richard I of England and of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. It also served as a lingua franca of international commercial exchange. The French government, however, has historically treated Occitan (and other regional languages) with disdain, beginning in 1539 with the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts. This edict made only the French language legal in France. In addition, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw Occitan (and again, other regional languages) banned in schools; children caught speaking anything other than French could be severely punished. As a result, despite its illustrious past, the number of Occitan speakers began to decline. It became increasingly associated with the poor and uneducated, and parents stopped passing it on to their children, choosing instead to speak only French. Today, the Occitan language persists in southern France, mainly in rural areas and among the older generations. Per the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages, however, four of its six dialects (Auvergnat, Languedocien, Limousin, and Provençal) are considered severely endangered, meaning that they are generally only spoken by the oldest generations. The remaining two (Gascon and Vivaro-Alpine) are considered definitely endangered, meaning that while they may have some younger speakers, children born today are not generally learning them. While efforts to revitalize a language must come largely from within, I have done my best this year to be a part of the Occitan-speaking community. What follows is just some of what I observed and learned in doing so.

What should we call this language?

Earlier, I mentioned the question of dialect versus language as it relates to the Occitan-speaking world. Some speakers of the Provençal “dialect,” for example, would say that they speak a language called Provençal without knowing or believing that both it and the other five “dialects” constitute what academics refer to as Occitan. Within France, it is also called lenga d’òc (in Occitan), langue d’oc (in French), or simply the langue régionale (local language) of the area in question. Matters are further complicated by the use of the term patois, a French word often used for regional languages or for nonstandard dialects of French. In Tulle, for instance, patois is far more common than “Occitan” when referring to the local language. In fact, “Occitan” is seen by many as an inauthentic term, imposed by the academic world on what is largely the domain of the rural and less-educated. Patois, on the other hand, has traditionally had derogatory connotations but is nonetheless used unashamedly—even proudly—by many Occitan speakers. I arrived in Tulle determined never to call Occitan a patois, but by the end of my stay I better understood the term’s complexity. In any case, the question of what to call the language persists and sadly, may act as a barrier to its preservation.

An American learning Occitan?!

 Locals’ reactions to my trying to learn their language were typically a mix of enthusiasm and mild amusement. Some wondered why I would “waste my time” doing so, while a few others questioned my loyalty to France and the French language. Still others asked why I had chosen Occitan rather than an endangered Native American language, something I had never actually given much thought to but may consider in the future. Generally, though, I was met with happiness and appreciation for my efforts; I even ended up on local news for participating in an Occitan dictation, and I was interviewed by the Institute for Occitan Studies in Limousin. I also attended Occitan classes at a middle school where I worked (one of only three schools in the region to offer them) and participated in a biweekly conversation group/workshop. As a result, I met wonderful people who were very supportive of my desire to learn their language.

Hope for Occitan

Occitan may never be the flourishing language that it once was, but my experiences this year have given me hope for its survival. At the dictation that I mentioned above, I saw community members of all ages—including children as young as twelve—come together to honor their shared linguistic heritage. Similarly, in Occitan class at the middle school, I met many hardworking and motivated students. They and others like them are the future of this language. From May 30th through June 2nd of this year, the Balad’òc festival took place in Tulle, celebrating Occitan music, dance, cuisine, history, and traditions. And if nothing else, the language will live on in songs, sayings, proverbs, and place names across the southern half of France. Language revitalization is a community affair, and I am glad to have belonged to a community that included Occitan speakers and enthusiasts. Likewise, I am happy to have learned some Occitan myself, and to be able to share with others the culture that I have come to love. Regional languages such as Occitan add to the diversity and rich fabric of French society, and should be acknowledged and respected rather than mocked or feared. In my short time in Tulle, I hope to have inspired others to learn Occitan, or at least to consider its importance. It would be the least I could do to give back to a community that has so inspired me. [post_title] => Learning Occitan [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => learning-occitan [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-27 22:31:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-27 14:31:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5777 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [19] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5418 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2017-12-22 23:10:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-22 15:10:06 [post_content] => Natalie Chang and Natalie Tong speak to Professor Umberto Ansaldo about pidgins, creoles, and approaches towards categorising languages. He is the Head of the School of Humanities at Hong Kong University and a Krav Maga practitioner. His research interests lie in language contact, linguistic typology, and Creole Studies, among many other topics.

For readers who might be unfamiliar with the terms pidgin and creole, could you give a short description, in your opinion?

When you use the word pidgin, normally you're talking about a code of communication that is usually restricted and used for one specific function. It could, for example, have developed out of a need to talk about sailing out at sea, or bargaining and counting and buying things in the market. Creoles are just names for types of languages that evolved in a specific time, usually during a period of Western colonisation in many parts of the world. They developed out of the mixing of different grammatical elements from different languages.

There’s a hypothesis, however, that pidgins become creoles when a second generation of speakers uses the pidgin as their first language. What’s your view on this?

That's the usual story that you often find in some textbooks and Creole Studies 101 classes. Actually, there are cases of pidgins that never turn into creoles, and cases of creoles which have absolutely no pidgin ancestors. What's more likely is that both types of communication belong to a very multilingual type of environment with people of different linguistic backgrounds trying to communicate. It's possible that there was once a pidgin that contributed to a developing creole, but also that many other languages contributed to that creole as well. So that story from pidgin to creole is a very simplistic story that oftentimes is not correct.

Could you give us an example of a pidgin that never made it into a creole? 

In our part of the world, you have one of the most famous examples of pidgins, China Pidgin English or China Coast Pidgin, that’s never gone anywhere. It remained a pidgin and there's no creole that's based on it at all. There may be other cases, however, where pidgins become creoles, but not without the influence of other languages. There is one well-documented example of this, and it's the example that's led to this generalised story [of how pidgins become creoles] in the first place. And that’s the transition from the pidgin that was spoken in Hawaiʻi to Hawaiʻi Creole. But even in this case, the picture is more complicated than that. It was later proven that many other languages and many other grammatical features beyond those that were found in Hawaiian Pidgin actually contributed to the development of Hawaiian Creole.

How did you get interested in researching on pidgins and creoles in the first place? 

When I was doing my PhD, I found myself in the city of Melaka where there was a very nice Peranakan museum. Back then, I had never heard of the Peranakans before, and the museum was very much about the mixed-culture aspects, the garments, and the jewels, but there wasn't much about their language. So I started looking out for the little things that were available about it, and I realised that like the other aspects of the culture, the language [called Peranakan or Baba Malay] was a mixture as well. That got me really curious because I had not encountered something like it before. So I started studying that and then I got interested in more of such situations, and that's how my interest developed.

Share a memorable experience conducting fieldwork on pidgins and creoles.

Well, I had a very particular experience—many years ago, when I was working in the National University of Singapore, I spent a couple of months doing research on a small Malay community that is referred to as the Cocos Malays, because they live on the Cocos Keeling Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, pretty much removed from everywhere. This was an extremely beautiful place, it was also an extremely boring place—there was absolutely nothing going on. And what was striking was that the majority of the inhabitants had absolutely no interest in spending time with me to talk about their language! [caption id="attachment_5425" align="aligncenter" width="628"] Source: Google Maps; The Cocos Islands are a remote territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean consisting of 27 islands.[/caption]

[Laughs] How did you come across that group or why did you decide to do research on that particular speech community?

Because this is one of a few Malay varieties that a scholar of the region, Sander Adelaar, first described. He was one of the scholars whom I really liked to read and who influenced me quite a bit; and he did a brief survey of this group which I found very intriguing and I wanted to find out more. He also did a brief survey of the Malay of Sri Lanka, which I later studied and documented for several years. And I also wanted to spend 2 months on a tropical island!

On the topic of the challenges of conducting fieldwork, does a lack of openness or being strongly perceived as a foreigner by the community you’re studying often pose difficulty in your research? 

I know there are some colleagues who have had great difficulty in this respect. For me, the Cocos experience was such that people were not closed up but just disinterested. But other than that, most of my experiences have been positive, and there have been many times when people have been very willing, generous, and interested in sitting down to talk about themselves, their language and their culture, and being listened to. So fortunately, I have never encountered it, but indeed, it is true that other fieldworkers in other cultural or geographical contexts have had great difficulty in the course of their research. And in a sense, this is something in the field of language documentation that has been discussed quite a bit—to what extent does a linguist have the right to wander around poking his or her nose into people's lives and to describe them, when the person has no interest or quite often does not want the researcher around? For example, there are strong ethical requirements in a number of academic cultures on what researchers can do. If a community invites you to work with them then that's fine, but if they don't, then perhaps you should do something else.

How about situations in which people think that the creole languages they speak are somehow lacking or broken, and are embarrassed to speak about it or even to speak it? Have you met people like that and how would you handle such situations?

Yes, it happens very often. That's exactly what they feel. And it's not unlike what people who speak dialects often feel—that there's something wrong, or there's something non-standard, crude, or gross about it. So yes, it happens a lot in creole settings as well. In terms of how you tackle it, well, first of all you have to ask yourself whether you want to tackle it or not! In the sense, do you want to start telling people what they should think or what they should feel? I guess, as a linguist, you can try to discuss to what extent different varieties—whether they are considered languages, dialects, or creoles—fulfil the communicative needs of a person. You might try to reflect whether there are also positive aspects that they associate with the creoles or dialects that they speak, for example, emotional aspects that they actually like, or memories of childhood. And perhaps, invite them to reflect more positively about their language.

There’s a portion of your article Contact in the Asian Arena (co-authored with Lisa Lim) where you talk about how a very normative, Anglo-centric view towards Asian-English grammars exists in this field of research. You've learned Chinese and have a working knowledge of quite a few of the languages used in Asia, so we’d like to ask if learning these languages has influenced your view of the traditional approaches to pidgins and creoles?

Well, I think definitely, because your knowledge base will affect how you do things. So I would argue the point that certain things are rather Anglo-centric or Eurocentric. Just take the general classification that you find in textbooks on pidgins and creoles: You’ll find that they are divided in French-based, English-based, Portuguese-based etc. Where does the direction come from? The direction comes obviously from the Western scholars who first approached these languages. Of course, now you have a very different situation and I think that a lot of scholars have acknowledged and accepted that the so-called "substrates" in these languages have as much a role or perhaps even a more important role in the grammatical evolution that we're looking at. So we have moved away from that view, but certainly there are still strong effects of this Eurocentric view that can sometimes stream into ways people analyse languages. For example, why is the variety spoken in Singapore called “Singapore English”? Why wouldn't you call it “Singapore Chinese”? It could just as well work, and I think again you've found a certain approach to naming varieties that focuses more on one aspect than the other. But this is quite natural, and it happens in a lot of different domains.

We did notice that Singapore Colloquial English appears quite prominently in your research. How would you classify it, and are there any controversies in such a categorisation?  

I actually prefer to call it Singlish rather than Singapore Colloquial English, simply because it becomes more of its own “thing” rather than belonging to some other group. But as far as categorisation goes, of course there are controversies, because categories are controversial by nature. Having a category means deciding what goes in and what stays out, and usually at some point this becomes arbitrary. So if there is arbitrariness, then categorisation is controversial. As you may have read in some of my work, I prefer not to stick to categories, but I work on categories and argue against them. Because to me, each and every category has its own limitations. So, how can we categorise Singlish? Singlish is a language spoken in Singapore which has grammatical and lexical elements from at least 3 language groups—from English, Malay, and different Chinese varieties. You can call it a creole if you think it should reflect a strong colonial origin through the colonial period of Singapore under Britain—you could call it an English creole. If you want to call it a mixed language, you can, because that is what it is; it's mixed. But some people have a very strict definition of what a mixed language is, and often the definitions are so strict that within that class, they can only put their own language and not others, which means that these definitions are futile. So I wouldn't categorise it. The thing with labels is that people attach certain scientific explanations to a label, and that is more often than not incorrect. Just think of the two labels language and dialect. These are societal terms, they are not linguistic terms. They are not terms that have concrete and always appropriate linguistic definitions. The same applies to creoles. Some refer to them as mixed languages, it's exactly the same thing.
These are socio-historical terms, which we can use as references but they should be used with care.

How has the rise of the Internet and other technological developments influenced the growth of more recent pidgins and creoles?

That is a good question, and I must say that I am really not an expert in that respect but there are colleagues working on this. From the point of view of what happens linguistically, you get new ways in which different languages can be mixed. For example, when you write on mobile devices, you bring in new factors into the game. But what is more interesting is in terms of what has happened out there on the Web, and that is not just for pidgins and creoles. For small linguistic minorities, it's an added way to build communities, to stay in touch. When you look at these languages you often look at diasporas; you look at groups that may not have a concrete home, or a concrete country, but may be dispersed around the globe. And the Internet provides an excellent opportunity to collect information about the group and the language, to stay in touch, to share. So beyond pidgins and creoles, what has happened to a lot minority and endangered languages is that there is now a place out there where the knowledge of these languages can be shared and preserved. For example, the Sri Lankan Malay communities where I used to work now have different types of presences, some are physical presences in terms of [the physical buildings of] cultural associations and the like, but others are also web-based. And so for lots and lots of endangered languages, there are archives out there on the Internet on them.

You do seem to have a large repertoire of languages, such as Cantonese, Dutch, English, and Malay. Are there any tips you could share with language learners?

Well, thank you. I may speak a lot of languages but I speak most of them quite badly. [Laughter] So that may explain why I'm not sure if I have many suggestions to give, other than that if you really want to learn a language properly, there isn't another way to do it but to go and live in a place where people speak it. I find it very frustrating to learn languages from far away—even in a classroom it's very difficult. But when you go and live in a place where people speak the target language, you can actually learn quite a lot yourself even without much instruction. So unfortunately, that is quite a difficult suggestion, but it would be good to just leave and go somewhere else!

Do you have a language learning routine, or do you just immerse yourself in a place where the target language is spoken?

When I was studying languages more assiduously in the past, I used to listen and read books, and carry cards and sounds of the languages with me, and generally tried to have as much immersion as possible. But that is quite a common practice.

By the way, we also read that you practise Krav Maga. How did you get into it?

That is a sort of martial art. I was interested in martial arts many, many years ago, even before I had heard of linguistics. I was more interested in this than anything, and over the years I eventually came across this one, which I decided to learn as well as I could. And also because I want to be able to teach it to my students—one of my courses at the university is actually a course in self-defence.

That's interesting! If you had not pursued linguistics, would you have gone into martial arts or another field of interest, then?

Yeah, there are other academic areas that have interested me, so those would've been my other options. And yes, it'll probably be interesting being full-time involved in physical rather than intellectual things. So not just martial arts, but sports and yoga and other forms of training—that is certainly a passion. [post_title] => Controversial categories [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => controversial-categories-an-interview-with-umberto-ansaldo [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-01-18 15:59:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-01-18 07:59:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://unravellingmag.com/?post_type=articles&p=5418/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => articles [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )

Issue 0

Dialogue: The Unravel Blog