Smelling underarms in Apali

We've had a new submission for Goodies from Grammar Reading - a series of blog posts with interesting, fun or in other ways noteworthy utterances found while reading linguistic description (blogger posts here, old posts on tumblr here).

This one was noted by Siva Kalyan during Don Daniels' talk at the annual meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society (ALS 2015 in Western Sydney University). The example is taken from a collection of texts in Apalɨ by Martha Wade (Wade n.d.) and serves to illustrate the way this language encodes imperatives. The codes for this language are: ena and apal1256.

Original text: Vac-ɨna huji hisi sɨmɨl-ɨlɨŋ u-avɨ-la-lɨ.
Glossing: move.aside-2sg.ds underarm rotten smell-1sg.imp say-pl-hab-3
Translation: ‘“Move aside and let me smell your underarm,” they say.’                 

As utterances out of context goes, this is a most humour one. I was not present at the talk, nor at the occasion when this was said but I'd like to imagine it's a parent trying to check if their child has washed ^^. And as always, remember that the more spontaneous data in your grammar the more realistic your analysis will be, utterances like these are a sign of naturalistic data gathering!

In his talk Daniels discussed the notion of parallel drift (also known as parallel innovation) whereby related languages undergo similar/the same changes independently of each other. This is also related to correlated evolution, which can be used as a cover term for related or unrelated languages going through similar changes independently of each other. Daniels illustrated this with data from languages of the Sogeram language family in Papua New Guinea.

The Sogeram language group is classified under the (Nuclear-) Trans New Guinea language family and are spoken in the Madang province of Papua New Guinea. Here is a map from Ethnologue, the languages are found in the square marked "6",

And here's a blowup of area 6, Apali is language number 287.

Daniels, Don (2015) Explaining drift by reconstructing pragmatic variation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Australian Linguistic Society. Western Sydney Univeristy, Sydney (abstract here)

Wade, Martha. (n.d.) Apalɨ texts. Electronic files, Pioneer Bible Translators 


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