Last Friday I gave the first of a three-part lecture series on language typology. The talk is structured so as to be accessible to people with no background in linguistics or language-learning. This first talk covers some basic concepts in morphology, and a brief overview of morphological typology. You can download the pdf version here and the PowerPoint version here, or skim through the slides below.
Stay tuned for this week’s talk on grammatical voice and transitivity!
My latest book review is now available here at Linguist List, on the book Documenting Endangered Languages: Achievements and Perspectives, edited by Nicole Nau, Geoffrey L. J. Haig, Stefan Schnell, and Claudia Wegener. Here’s an excerpt from the evaluation:
This book will be an excellent addition to the library of any documentary linguist. Experienced linguists will find a number of new methodologies to utilize in their work, while younger linguists will find in-depth treatments of a variety of specific topics not covered (or not covered with any depth) in introductory surveys, handbooks, or field guides. The book is perhaps most similar to “Essentials of Language Documentation” (Gippert, Himmelmann, and Mosel 2006), and covers many related and similar topics. But whereas “Essentials” might be seen as the seminal survey of the field and its central topics, the present volume is more of an ‘advanced topics in documentary linguistics’, an excellent sequel to the former. As such, it consists largely of case studies on specific topics, and does not aim for comprehensive scope over the field. So while the book should not be seen as an all-inclusive handbook or survey, it does advance the field significantly in many areas.
On Monday, I made a trip to Williamsburg, VA to give a talk at the College of William & Mary titled Endangered Languages & Nationalism. Many thanks to Dr. George Greenia for arranging the talk and inviting me to come, as well as the co-sponsors of the talk, the Latin American Studies program and the Arts & Sciences Lectures Committee. There was a great turnout for the talk – students from four different classes as well as two professors, and I was thrilled with the caliber of questions and comments I received.
The talk itself is a development of my research on the history of language endangerment, which I previously presented on at JMU (see my post on that talk here). In this more recent talk, I focused on the causes of language endangerment throughout history, with special emphasis on the role played by ideas of nationalism and the growth of the state. In particular, I approach the issue from the perspectives of public choice theory and praxeology, which, to give a pithy summary, state that agents of the state are acting human beings like any other, and as such, they follow the incentives they are presented with. Unfortunately, as I explore in my talk, the incentives in place largely abet language death rather than hinder it.
The full slides from my talk are below. Questions and comments welcome!
Why do languages die? This is a question that troubles many linguists, but one which we still lack really solid theories for answering. My own approach to the matter focuses on the incentives put in place by the nation-state, and how the existence of the nation-state itself is antithetical to language diversity. I take a praxeological approach, following Ludwig von Mises, which aims to understand the actions of individuals and the choices they make in accordance with the incentives presented to them.
This article tackles this very hoary question of how languages die. I argue that, while economic reasons exist for language death, they are largely secondary to the institutionalized way in which the state interrupts the process of intergenerational transmission. The article is published on Mises.org, the online arm of the Mises Institute, an organization dedicated to the advancement of Austrian economics.
Today I gave a guest lecture to a linguistic anthropology class at James Madison University, taught by Amy L. Paugh. The talk was a high-level overview of language death, from prehistory to the present, along with some of the responses throughout history. The lecture was great fun, with some excellent questions from the class. You can download a PDF of the presentation over on my Publications page, or check out the presentation below!