Friday, August 03, 2012

Weird. Just plain weird.

As a linguist who works on Menominee, this stopped me in my tracks:  "It may be semantics, but linguistics can be a team event."  Um, how did the author (Jewel Topsfield!) come up with Menominee as the language she gave an example of right off the bat?  And did she know anything about it, or was it just random?  Oh - there's a clew, Miss Marple, a clew!  The examples she gives would just not be that interesting in an Algonquian language:  "I begin to eat"; "He digs a hole"; "He walks out".  At least not as interesting as "She sees him" and "She sees it" would be...  Well, I guess they'd have to have a preverb for "begin", and they'd have to know that "dig a hole" is a single verb.  And then, they'd have to avoid trying to find a word for "out" that would come after "walk".  So I guess it's an okay test.

But now my question is, where would the students find this information?  Bloomfield's Lexicon would give some help, but it's notoriously user-unfriendly (and the fact that it is only Menominee-English might be a deal-breaker).  His grammar is, well, "user-unfriendly" doesn't begin to describe it.  So...  I am just so totally baffled by this.

Not to mention the headline.  Oh, not to mention the fact that the article is in the "Stock and Land" section of the Australian farmonline website!  Wow.  I am truly confused.

1 comment:

q-pheevr said...

Most of the problems in the Linguistic Olympiad involve some combination of morphological analysis and decipherment—the participants are given a set of data from some language, and asked to use it to figure out enough about how the language works to be able to translate a few additional items. They have no recourse to reference works on the language; that would take all the fun out of it!

The Menominee problem can be found here: http://www.ioling.org/booklets/iol-2011-indiv-prob.en-gb.pdf