Saturday, November 29, 2014

You know what I love more than grammars? Speakers/signers and field workers!!

More than grammars and other descriptive material I love speakers, signers and field workers. Experts of the languages that devote their valuable time to talking to me. They area amazing, brilliant, awesome and wonderful people. I cannot express enough what I feel. I think this sloth is the best I can do:

Every work in linguistics typology, or almost every, is based on the hard work of field workers and the knowledge of speakers/signers. 

Why don't you, for example, read the sections with contributors of the typological surveys WALSAPiCS and SSLW, and just say/sign "thanks" out loud. 

Next time you read a good descriptive work, be sure to let the creator know. A friendly little email with a personal touch is easy to send and amazing to receive. And be properly grateful to any speaker or signer who chooses to spend their time explaining their language to you.

Thank you all speakers, signers and experts who have devoted your time to enriching all ours understanding of human diversity. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ling Space - educational videos on linguistics

There's a website with educational videos about linguistics called  the Ling Space. There's also twitter, tumblr, discussion boards, google+ and of course also a page in the book of faces.

I really like the one on allophones.

Id you're a person interested in linguistics and curious about it all, you should really go watch this. There's lots of similar initiatives like this, but this one is really good in that it's good bite sized bits of information and clearly presented. I've often thought of doing something very, very similar in future, but just not had the time, resources, energy etc. I'm very glad this exists.

This is a great thing, go go.

Seeking truth in myth, looking for the polynesian homeland

In this paper I shall attempt something so outdated as to be novel: to attribute historical truth to a myth.
Geraghty, Paul (1993) 

I just find that sentence very beautiful and satisfying. This is from a paper on the polynesian homeland, sometimes we don't just read grammars, but articles in historical linguistics too. You can find that paper here.

Here's a picture of polynesia and settlement patterns proposed by Emory (1963), article here.

Wanna read more recent stuff on settlement in the pacific? Here you are (free PDF online of Dunn et al 2008).

Full reference
Dunn, M., Levinson, S. C., Lindström, E., Reesink, G., & Terrill, A. (2008). Structural phylogeny in historical linguistics: Methodological explorations applied in Island Melanesia. Language, 84(4), 710-759. doi:10.1353/lan.0.0069.

Emory, Kenneth P. (1963) East Polynesian relationships. Settlement Pattern and Time Involved as Indicated by Vocabulary Agreements. Journal of the Polynesian Society, volume 72, No. 2. p 78 - 100

Geraghty, Paul (1993) Pulotu, Polynesian Homeland. Journal of the Polynesian Society, volume 104, no. 4. p 343-384

Friday, November 21, 2014

Word classes, Oceanic and "I'm afraid of the language"

I'm was recently at a workshop on Lexical Flexability in Oceanic languages at Univeristy of Amsterdam (programme and abstracts here). Got some thoughts and and interesting glossed example for ya.

The workshop was about word classes/parts-of-speech and their nature in Oceanic languages, turns out it's very complex. For most comparativists and field workers these are very familiar problems, but it might surprise the others to learn that concepts such as "noun" and "verb" can be extremely complicated and often very hard to compare across different languages. For more on these kinds of discussions I recommend this blog post exchange: 1 and 2 (do read the comments and original paper).

Oceanic languages is a language grouping within the family of austronesian. It contains over 500 languages. The urheimat of the Austronesian language family is Taiwan, if you're interested in how it spread there's tons of reading (wiki intro, antrophological and genetic literature)  The geographical distribution of Malayo-Polynesian (subgroup of Austronesian) is displayed in the image below, the yellow area is Oceanic. The image is from Encyclopaedia Britannica. The Austronesian languages that are not Malayo-Polynesian are all found in Taiwan.

There's an example sentence from a presentation here at the workshop that I wanted to share with you. It's from the language of Caac, an oceanic language of New Caledonia, presented by Cauchard from Manchester University.

no âza-ni le pela
 original  no âza-ni le pela
 gloss 1SG.S   be.afraid-TR   def   speech 
translation: 'I'm afraid of the language'

Now, there are many interesting things in the data at this workshop concerning the morphology of all these languages and I cannot go through it all. The abbreviations in the above examples can be found at the end of this post.

What I'm interested in is this: this is a speaker of Caac talking about Caac, their own language. The utterance informs us that the speaker is scared or at least cautious, perhaps because the language is perceived as difficult by speakers and /or outsiders, perhaps of other reasons. Either way, I thought it was interesting and I wanted to share it with you.

Glossing abbreviations
1 -  first person
SG -  singular
S - subject
TR - transitivizing

Full reference: Chauchard, Aurélie (2014) Describing lexical flexibility Caac. Paper presented at the workshop on Lexical Flexibility in Oceanic languages at University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. (abstract here)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Grammar Rules - David Crystal

The Linguistics and English Language Society (LAEL) of Lancaster University are today visited by the renowned linguist David Crystal. He is to give a talk with the title "Grammar Rules". I learned about this on the book of faces through my friend Daniel Ezra Johnson. I said I assumed that the second word in the title was a verb and not a noun, and then he made this image here below. I thought it was very sweet and that I should share it with all of you. Nota bene, we do now yet know if it is a noun or a verb, as it stands now it's rather ambiguous. I'm rooting for verb though.

David Crystal has written a lot, a lot of great books, both for linguists and for the public. If you're interested in linguistics but maybe don't always want to read heavy academic prose, he's books are a good place to start. Learn more here on his website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Can language be effected by non-linguistic factors such as economics and gender equality?

More interesting new things a-coming! Ladd, Roberts and Dediu have just published a review article on potential spurious correlations between features of language and non-linguistic features of where and by whom the language is spoken. These are, among others: climate, gender equality, economics and sexuality. It's a review article so they summarize a lot of previous research which gives you a good overview. They also point out some very important issues when controlling for language relatedness and contact. I really recommend it.
There's been to say the least a lot of studies like this recently, and a lot of debate too. I can really recommend reading the posts on spurious correlations on the blog Replicated Typo . It's a great blog that deals cultural evolution and related topics. One of the authors of the article, Seán Roberts, is also an author there.

Full reference
Ladd, D. R., Roberts, S. G., & Dediu, D. (2014). Correlational studies in typological and historical linguistics. Annual Review of Linguistics, 1. doi:10.1146/annurev-linguist-030514-124819. 

We review a number of recent studies that have identified either correlations between different linguistic features (e.g., implicational universals) or correlations between linguistic features and nonlinguistic properties of speakers or their environment (e.g., effects of geography on vocabulary). We compare large-scale quantitative studies with more traditional theoretical and historical linguistic research and identify divergent assumptions and methods that have led linguists to be skeptical of correlational work. We also attempt to demystify statistical techniques and point out the importance of informed critiques of the validity of statistical approaches. Finally, we describe various methods used in recent correlational studies to deal with the fact that, because of contact and historical relatedness, individual languages in a sample rarely represent independent data points, and we show how these methods may allow us to explore linguistic prehistory to a greater time depth than is possible with orthodox comparative reconstruction.

Let's get weird!

Let's get weird!! (Not Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic, we need to get less WEIRD remember?) "Normal weird" if you get what I mean, i.e. if we take a sample of something, find a normal distribution and then outliers that differ a lot from that said distribution.
Ivan Derzhanski has recently revisited Tyler Schnoebelen's experiment on finding the most typologically unusual language, but with some different conditions. You can read more about the experiment and the results here. (Thanks Natasja for the tip!!) Using WALS-data he's calculated that from that data, that sample of languages (WALS 200 set) and from those conditions: the weirdest language is Iraqw and the blandest Koyraboro Senni and Yaqui.

Always, always keep in mind that:
  • when linguists talk about weirdness and complexity we're not passing value judgements ("good", "bad")
  • linguistics is often euro-centric, if not in sampling then in the kinds of topics we describe. WALS tries not to be, but it's always good to keep that in the back of your head when reading comparative work
Ivan Derzhanski is besides a theoretical and computational linguist also one of the founders of the modern International Olympiad of Linguistics. Among other things is manages the multilingual editing of the problem set, it's a very complicated business and you can read more about it here

If you know/are a student of secondary school (high school) interested in linguistics, do advise them/yourself to come and check the olympiad out!!

If you like to get weird and/or complicated, you might wanna follow this link and read more about the exhibition of rare things in languages and some other tips.

(P.S. I have 20 Swedish kronor that says that Jan Wohlgemuth, blogger on linguisten and editor of Rara & Rarissima: documenting the fringes of linguistic diversity and Rethinking Universals How Rarities Affect Linguistic Theory is gonna be the first one to reblog this on the tumblrs.. ^^!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Phonology Eyes Problems

 I've made up something new, it's "Phonology Eyes" and "Phonology Eyes Problems". It's when you have problems with spelling due to being to focused on the sound of the word. It's a problem mainly for linguists, small children and others who are just learning how to write. The reason I bring it up is because I just spontaneously spelled "appreciate" correctly and was a bit happy about that. It's by far not the hardest word in terms of Phonology Eyes Problems, but I'm still quite pleased. (On Monday mornings, you gotta grab all chances to be satisfied, eigh?)

It causes more problems in languages that have a writing system convention that is more opaque, such as English, Chinese or French, and less problems with languages with more transparent writing systems, such as Turkish or Finnish. A transparent system means that spelling is more predictable and there is often a one grapheme = phoneme relationship.

There's a great deal of conservatism in spelling, and perhaps that's good because it means that it's easier to understand old texts and you don't have to update everyone on new conventions every year. It makes national standardization easier too, which can be an important factor in equals rights of all citizens. But sometimes, you know.. it just gets to me on a personal level. Especially <i> and <e> in English, mein Gott.

I guess we can also imagine such a thing as "Phonetic Eyes", that would mean trying to depict sound as it was just in that instant by that speaker etc and not just the most common way of pronouncing that word.

Any one out there with "Phonetic Eyes Problems"? I'd love to hear 'em :)!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pāṇini Award 2015 - Best Grammar of 2014!

Hello all grammar lovers out there!

(Yes, this is a serious blog about linguistic research where we also use animated gifs to illustrate points/emotions and imagine that the Beatles are grammar lovers. It is possible to combine the two.)

Next year there will be a big conference for researchers who work on comparing languages, i.e. linguistic typologists. It's the Biennial Conference of the Association for Linguistic Typology (ALT). In connection with that there will be a prize awarded for the best dissertation grammar of 2014. Isn't that exciting :)?! Yes, yes it is exciting! I'm excited.

Why then is it called the "Pāṇini Award"? Well, Pāṇini was a linguist from Gandhāra who live a very long time ago, probably 4th century before Christ. He wrote a grammar of Sanskrit that was very good and is often regarded as the first whole grammar ever written. There existed a Sanskrit grammar tradition around before Pāṇini, see Yāska's work on Sanskrit probably at least 100 years before. You should read up on him and the other Sanskrit grammarians if you haven't already. "India" or "Pakistan" didn't really exist at that time, he lived in the kingdom of Gandhāra which is located in modern day Pakistan. Sanskrit is an ancient, sacred and probably dead Indo-European language. It's still spoken, written and read, but it probably has no native speakers (facts are a bit unclear and sensitive on this point).

Glottolog has an RSS feed for recent grammars, you can get the URL here and paste it into you blog reader.

Here's the official statement from the mailinglist for ALT.

The Panini Award 2015 At the 11th Biennial Conference in Albuquerque (August 1-3 2015), the Association for Linguistic Typology will award its third Panini prize, for a grammar passed as a dissertation between January 1st 2011 and December 31st 2014. The Panini award was established to encourage and honour achievements in the field of documenting the world’s linguistic diversity through the writing of reference grammars. 

To be eligible, a grammar must provide a systematic, accessible, comprehensive, original, insightful and typologically well-informed account of the workings of the language being described, generously exemplified with natural data. Though the normal expectation is that it would deal with a hitherto little-described language, outstanding grammars of better-known languages or dialects thereof may also be considered if they achieve major breakthroughs in a comprehensive understanding of the language. 

Grammars may be written in any major language, subject to the availability of a sufficient and geographically balanced set of jury members able to read the language. In order to be eligible for the prize, the author must be (or become) a member of ALT. Entries will be judged by a committee of distinguished linguists, including judges who have themselves written major reference grammars as well as typologists and other grammar-consumers. 

p.s. this is good because I've been meaning to do a post about noun compounds in Sanskrit and Swedish and this reminded me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


In relation to the recent post on "a language is a dialect with an navy and an army/missionary and a dictionary", I thought this meme needed to come into existence. Now, here it is! Hurray!

A dialect is a sub-variety of a language, often defined by geographical borders, but not necessarily. We all speak dialects, most often more than two. No-one speaks "just a language", or at least I have a very hard time understanding what that would even mean. Perhaps if one was the only ever known speaker of one language..

Feel free to talk to us about that down in the comments or here ^^!

We mainly talk about dialects when referring to less standard varieties, most often rural areas or informal language. But, they're all dialects. The language of the capital, of the television and of the written press are also dialect(s). We all speak dialects. 

Just as with other kinds of norms it's hard to realise that they exist at all if one is part of the most accepted, frequent, privileged, "unmarked" or mainstream one. It's just like with ideologies and theories, it's hard to even realise you have one if it's only ever been presented as the "truth". It's like telling someone in medieval times that feudalism isn't the only way to organise society, or someone today that capitalism isn't the only economic system. (No, we're not having that discussion here and now, this was an example - nothing more.)

Sometimes one can also find people using the term dialect for language they considered less important, such as "in Africa they just speak lots of different dialects"... one cannot help but wonder "dialects of what?".

Anyway, that's it. Have fun with this meme :)!

*mutter mutter* calling the most diverse continent on earth, genetically and linguistically, a collection of dialects of nothing in particular *mutter*... if anything Europe is just a collection of dialects of Standard Average European *mutter mutter* morr grr morr... zzz.. zzz... z...

Sometimes I can't help thinking that grammar is just another feeling

It is 00.46 AM here in the Netherlands. Perhaps I should get some sleep.
But.. sometimes I can't help thinking that grammar is just another feeling, you know?

That is, a conscious subjective experience of emotion. Granted, a learned feeling in a sense but hey - still.. sort of comparable to the experience of the emotion disgust. Sorting "bad" from "good" on partially learned basis from cultural norms (some are more disgusted by feet than others for example).

This become particularly evident when considering the Swedish expression "det skär i öronen" ("it's like knife cuts in the ears"), an expression often used for unpleasant music or noise but also sometimes in context of grammaticality judgements, that is when one asks a speaker if something is grammatical. The reaction to the ungrammatical expression is not only rational ("this is wrong, I understand you less good now"), but a similarity is drawn to the experience of actual physical pain.

I know that grammar isn't a feeling, but sometimes, especially late at night, it's just fun to space out a little.

Good night everyone.

From older post:

The rules that govern whether or not a statement is a viable member of a language is called grammar, it can vary with each group you are a part of and even over time and specific context within that group. 

Sometimes the term "grammar" is used more broadly also outside of the study of language and is also applied to any set of rules that govern whether something is a member of a system or not, such as the grammar of Chinese ice-ray latices.

When I'm trying to find out what different authors in the typological literature mean by "dominant order", "pragmatically unmarked order", "frequent order" and just plain "order" with no specifications, and also how these relate to each other.

 When I'm trying to find out what different authors in the typological literature mean by
  • "dominant order" 
  • "pragmatically unmarked order" 
  • "most frequent order" 
  • plain "order" with no specifications
 and also how these relate to each other.

Yes, I understand the value of each of these different phrasings and I do believe I understand what the authors meant.. but it wouldn't hurt to be a little more explicit at times.. if for no-one else, then for us poor humans reading grammars.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Food for thought: "a language is a dialect with a missionary and a dictionary"

We were at a workshop again (forth one in four weeks). This time it was at the Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the workshop is a part of the Language In Interaction Consortium and it's on language evolution and diversity (from their "work package 5").

One of the presentation was on multilingualism in Southern Senegal, along the Casamance river. It was Friederike Lüpke of SOAS who talked, the title was "The necessity of small differences. Multilingualism as a social strategy in a shared cultural space". She presented their project (that we've mentioned here before): Crossroads - Investigating the unexplored side of multilingualism.

In her talk she rephrased a famous quote that is often attributed to Max Weinreich':

a language is a dialect with a navy and and army

a language is a dialect with a missionary and a dictionary
(see also Lüpke and Storch 2013, page 143 and Blommaert 2008, page 291)

This rephrasing made me think of language classification, "good" and "bad" language, dialects etc. I made this rather long post for you but there was just so much important to say, I hope you enjoy it. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions of comments.

The original quote is most often used in linguistics and related fields to illustrate the point that the distinction between different dialects and between different languages is often not as crystal clear. Very often the classification and division is not motivated by things linguists care about, such as mutual understanding or similarities in grammar and lexicon, but rather based on the division of communities into political bodies such as tribes, clans, states, nations etc. From a western perspective our notion of the "nation state" is particularly important (you can read more about this here).

What the rephrasing of the quote highlights is the fact that in more modern times the division of varieties into languages and dialects is often dependent on the work of missionaries and others who make the first descriptions of a language. This is especially true in areas that have had very active Christian missions, such as Africa (see the Joshua project here for an overview). In the volume that Lüpke and Storch wrote on African languages, fieldwork and linguistic description in 2013 they also quote Blommaert (2008) who speak of dictionaries and grammars as "birth certificates" of languages.

Standards of languages
The Summer Institutes of Linguistics (SIL) is a faith-based, non-missionary organisation that is committed to serving language communities worldwide as they build capacity for sustainable language development. They collaborate with Bible translation organisations, in particular their sister organisation Wycliffe. You can read more about their history here.

Their catalog of the world's languages, Ethnologue, is the most widely used standard for languages, their division and also their family relations. Also,  is not only used by linguists. It is based on the work of  descriptive linguists, many of them missionaries wanting to translate bibles and spread the word of God.

SIL is also the registration authority for the ISO-standard 639-3 the most widely used standard for language codes.  ISO 639-6 is a code that aims to define three-letter identifiers for all known human languages. It is a set of codes for languages found in the ISO 639-2 standard for names (administrated by the US Library of Congress) and also additional languages from Ethnologue and other sources such as Linguist list. Together with the other code sets of the 639-family (1, 2, 4, 5 and 6, NB not all under SIL) it divides language varieties into languages and dialects and makes statements about their genealogical relations. The picture these standards creates is almost identical to the Ethnolgoue's classifications and family trees, most linguists don't actually use the other standards but just the Ethnologue.

It's great to have a standard to refer to, it facilitates linguistic research and commercial enterprises dealing with language (mainly translation services and multinational companies). However, we always need to have a critical stance and not just use any standard within reflecting on how it was created, by whom, for what and what consequences that information has for our current work. Is it necessary to use their standards for all kinds of linguistic research? Perhaps it very often is, but we should assume without first evaluating.

Science is hard, this is truth. You know, it's like Coldplay say in that song, funnily enough called "The Scientist":

I'm not saying that Ethnologue and the ISO standards are bad work and shouldn't be used, I'm just saying it's worth recognising the religious past and present of linguistics,  the importance of early non-religiuos descriptivists and the quite poor state of description of all the worlds languages, and the consequences this has for classification and division of language varieties. Blommaert (2008), Lüpke and Storch (2013) elaborate on these issues in much greater detail than I have the space or competence to do here, please read their work if these matters interest you.

Mutual intelligibility
I think Ethnologue does great work, and has good aims, as is evident from this comment from one of its editors:

The definition of language we use in the Ethnologue places a strong emphasis on the ability to intercommunicate as the test for splitting or joining (Lewis, editor of Ethnologue, in this article in the New York Times)

One can always ask here, what is really mutual intelligibility, can one human really ever understand another? I speak the same language as other Swedes, but I don't always feel.. fully understood if you know what I mean ^^. This is an existential question and linguists are rarely clear on what they exactly mean here, but for the sake of concreteness let's assume here we want to at least be able to communicate a classical story such as "world creation" or other culturally important events or objects between two healthy adults, such as the release of Beyonce's new album or the making of kumis. (We could also use collaborative tasks such as picking out objects etc.)

It is important to remember that Ethnologue cannot do mutual intelligibility experiments for all language varieties of the world, at best they can rely on reports on mutual intelligibility from field workers or speakers.  See this post here for more discussion on mutual intelligibility. 

In the case of SIL and Bible translations and the consequences that has for the division of language varieties into languages and dialects once can make the argument that if two communities cannot read the same Bible text and require two different ones they might be speaking two different languages. However, it is not clear how this decision process of Bible translations works and if the kind of language used in Bible translations and the quality of translations actually makes them a good comparative measure.

How many words are the same in two languages?
Another, and perhaps more practical, method is to measure the amount of shared words, i.e. overlapping lexicon. Ethnologue often seem to do this, you can find statements about the percentages of shared lexicon in language profiles, but it is unclear how often they use this measure and what material is actually being compared.

There is a database for this, the Automated Similarity Judgment Program, go check that out here. However, they use classifications from mainly Ethnologue, but also WALS and Glottolog and some additional ones of their making, to investigate the relationship between languages. You can see some stats of this here. They do not, as far as I know, make any claims to lump or join language varieties into different groups that they call languages based on shared lexicon. However,  you can do that with the database and the first levels back of historical comparison so to speak kinda does this in a sense.

It should also be said that overlapping lexicon is not a perfect measurement either, but at least it might be consistent and more objective than many other methods.

Languages being overlapping dialects, sociolects, group language, slang, registers etc.
A "dialect" in English is a word used for sub-varieties of a "language", in particular those that have a certain geographic distribution (everyone from Omaha or Calcutta for exampel). There's also terms like "sociolect", sub-varieties of language based on socioeconomic status, i.e. class, and ethnolect, a variety of a language associated with a certain ethnic or cultural subgroup. The term idiolect is also used, an individuals language. There's tons of other relevant groups that use language differently from other groups: your family, academia, everyone that graduated from your high school that year, people who like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure etc. We speak differently in different contexts and also differently over time. Sometimes we want to form a group or facilitate more efficient communication (professional jargon for example), other times we want to distance ourselves or mage even intentionally be ambiguous. All of this creates a very complex world where practically everything is variable to some degree, and yet there are rules for what to say when to achieve a certain function and not everything varies to the same degree everywhere and everywhen.

"Good" and "bad" language
Languages are often thought of as having one "true" and "correct" version - a central, "prototypical" version. This is most often the variety spoken at the power center, and most often a conservative version of that variety. We find this type arguing when people speak of "good" and "bad" language etc. Truth is, all sub-varieties of a language are equally members of that language. That being said, some varieties are more widely understood or will be more often used in formal contexts, higher education etc. It is the ministries of education in all countries duty to try and give all children an equal chance in life, this also includes giving them access to a language that will mean less discrimination, access to more context etc.

Such an education does not have to to involve shaming of other varieties though, pointing out that there are different varieties and teach when to use which is not the same as talking of "bad" and "good" language. There is a point to arguing that there is no such thing as "one correct language variety", but it is also true that children come to school with different backgrounds and to ignore that there is a variety that will make them more probable succeed in their future life is to give those that do not have access to that version and those circles of society a disadvantage.

Btw, using the standard in certain settings might often be highly inappropriate, such as when visiting relatives in areas with a radically different dialect from the capital. That might result in creating an unnecessary distance that might be taken as rude. Similarly, speaking certain dialects in formal contexts might make people more trusting and positive. Honestly, why do you think George Bush junior spoke the way he did.. ?

Illustrating messiness
I made this picture for a presentation, its messiness is intentional. It's showing several different layers at once, "languages", dialects, sociolects, other groups and the individual (the image makes it seem as as if they are being consistent across the categories, this is a lie). In the left corner we have a the British empire as the  representative of the empires and nations and other large political bodies, in the right corner we have a linguist (actually me, because I didn't want to embarrass/shame anyone else).

In this messy world of ours we all make assumptions about what to lump and join, which features to use and which to discard. A linguists division might not always be ideal either, hopefully at least it's good enough for the needs of that linguists right then and there. In order to talk to each other linguists, and all other researchers for that matter, use standards such as the Ethnologue. Do not let this fool you into thinking the world is that simple though. (And we haven't even started talking about contact languages and sign languages  yet ^^.)

There is also the relevant notions of doculect (a language variety as described in a specific source), languoid (supersets of dodulects) and glossonym (name of languoids). I would talk more about this here, but there's an already great post here and I have little more to add. The term endonym or autoym is also used to refer to the terms and groups that the speakers themselves make for their language and community.

Okay, that's all for now. Thanks for reading, be sure to talk to us if there's something you want to ask, would like us to elaborate on or just tell us. All comments, friendly hellos and fiery criticism is appreciated.

Blommaert, J. (2008) Artefactual ideologies and the textual production of African languages. Language and Communication, 28 (4), pp. 291–307

Lüpke, F. & Storch, A. (2013). Repertoires and Choices in African Languages. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. Retrieved 31 Oct. 2014, from

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Gender only in 2nd person

My current favorite data-point in the database South American Indigenous Language Structures is the one where Cholón has gender distinctions in pronouns, but only for 2nd person. It's by Olga Krasnoukhova (2014), citing Alexander-Bakkerus (2005).

Feature:  NP8 Is there a gender distinction in independent personal pronouns?
Language: Cholón (ethnologue, glottolog)

It just makes me happy.

Have a nice Halloween everyone!

Alexander-Bakkerus, Astrid. 2005. Eighteenth-Century Cholón. Universiteit Leiden. 120. (Also partly published in Inca I:690-750, Lima, 1923.)

Krasnoukhova, Olga. 2014. Noun Phrase (NP). In Muysken, Pieter et al. (eds.) South American Indian Language Structures (SAILS) Online. Leipzig: Online Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology. (Available at