My latest article is up over at the Mises Institute: “Language as Action“. I argue that language is a type of action like any other, and therefore subject to the laws of praxeology. Check it out here!
Today’s fun phrase in Chitimacha:
- kax xaq- ‘to hail’
kax = ‘clam’
xaq- = ‘to rain’
So when it’s hailing, it’s raining clams! (This is probably figurative, like ‘to be raining cats and dogs’. I hope nobody interprets that literally.)
One of the most fun things about Chitimacha is the multitude of words you can derive from a single root. Take the word ke- ‘to be close, beside’. From this root alone, you can form all of the following words:
- kecwa- ‘to walk up close to something’ (-cwa ’to move upright)
- kedi- ‘to crawl close’ (-di ‘to move horizontally’)
- keduwa- ‘to wash ashore’ (-duwa ‘to move suddenly’)
- kepi- ‘to bring something up close’ (-pi ‘to make, cause’)
- ketgext- ‘to plaster or paint a wall’ (-tgext ‘dump or dish out a soft mass’)
- keti- ‘to mash something’ (-ti ‘to handle multiple things’; literally, ‘to bring multiple things closer together’)
- ketixt- ‘to go away, take oneself off’ (tixt- ‘to fall’; literally, ‘to fall off being close’)
- Used in the imperative, this is the same as saying ‘leave off!’ or ‘buzz off!’ in English
- kewi- ‘to bring one’s ship, vessel up close’ (-wi ‘to handle, pull’)
- kext- ‘to bring something close’ (-xt ‘to carry’)
- key- ‘to go up close’ (-y ‘to move’)
- kecun ’between’ (cun ‘for’)
- keta ‘side, a person’s side’ (-ta a suffix that makes body part words out of nouns)
It’s also possible that the word keeta ‘eight’ comes from ke-. How does this make sense? Well, many counting systems are based on parts of the body, because that’s what you count with. Many are based on counting fingers, but some get really elaborate, and count joints, limbs, or other parts of the body. I suspect this happened in Chitimacha as well, because a handful of numbers end in the suffix -ta, which makes words for body parts from nouns. So keeta might be ‘the side’, perhaps the side of the hand (if you run out of fingers on one hand you can start counting other parts).
My favorite derivative of ke-, however, is the word keta ‘friend’. What better way to talk about a friend than ‘(person at) your side’?
Laura Robinson, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Linguistics department at the University of California Santa Barbara, has been conducting some insightful research into how exactly documentary linguists collaborate with the communities they work with, and factors that contribute to collaboration. The preliminary results of this research already look to be helpful to linguists and understanding our subfield as a whole. Below is her request for participation, and the link for the survey.
I am conducting a survey on research methods among documentary linguists. This study focuses in particular on factors that hinder or facilitate collaboration between linguists and community members. This is a revamped version of a previously distributed survey, and previous respondents are highly encouraged to take the survey again, as a number of questions have been added, changed, or clarified in response to suggestions from survey-takers and attendees of the International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation.
If you have conducted linguistic fieldwork on a less-commonly studied language (including your own native language or a dormant language), I would be very grateful if you could complete this survey. It should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete, and the data will not be linked to your identity in any way:
I would also be very grateful if you could forward this invitation to any other individuals or groups.
Laura C. Robinson
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Santa Barbara
The Navajo Nation Museum is undertaking the production of the original Star Wars movie dubbed into Navajo. This bodes tremendously well for the future of the Navajo language, seeing as its exactly these kinds of social domains – media and movies – that endangered languages have such a hard time breaking into. Yet when they do, it adds a great deal of prestige to the language, and makes kids more likely to learn and think highly of it.
Pamela Munro, a linguist at UC San Diego, sums up a lot of the same issues that we’re dealing with in the Chitimacha dictionary as well. The language hasn’t been spoken for 70 years, so the vocabulary needs some ‘updating’, some fleshing out, for new terms and concepts that weren’t around 70 years ago. But linguists will want to see this dictionary as well, so it’s important that we carefully distinguish the words that came directly from the last speakers from words that we coined, or new senses that we gave already-existing words.
If you’re interested in helping out with some linguistics research, and are a native speaker of English and have 15 minutes to spare, check this out: