Tuesday, April 07, 2015

LINGUIST list fund drive

A message from some of the Wisconsin linguists …

Most of you know that LINGUIST is now doing their annual fund drive. For five years, we had the privilege of editing book reviews for LINGUIST and we know very well how much time and effort goes into producing the posts that we all rely on for job and conference announcements, book announcements and reviews, and news about the profession, along with the rich website, which brings us everything from E-MELD to their directory of linguists. 

What you may not know is how heavily and directly they rely on donations from rank and file folks around the world.It takes a committed staff to run LINGUIST. Your donations help pay for the salary of graduate student editors. We urge you to donate and keep them going. 

Joe, Monica, Anja & Rajiv

And it does look like Wisconsin could use some help in the University challenge.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gothica Bononiensia

One of our contributors noted a while back the discovery of new Gothic manuscript material (here).  The scholars who've done the deciphering and interpretation contacted Team Verb and offered to send us copies of a couple of their articles on the subject, which have arrived:

  • Finazzi, Rosa Bianca & Paola Tornaghi. 2014. Alcune riflessioni sul palinsesto gotico-latino di bologna. Intorno alle saghe norrene, ed. by Carla Falluomini. 229-265. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Osro.
  • Finazzi, Rosa Bianca & Paola Tornaghi. 2014. Gothica Bononiensia: A new document under linguistic and philological analysis. IJGLSA. 19.1-56.

As the length of the articles suggests, these are meaty, detailed analysis of the small amount of material found, including painstaking comparison to previously known Gothic material. The authors make the simple but important point that while one could before doubt how much of the bible had been translated into Gothic, we've now got evidence that at least a lot of the Old Testament was translated.

There's all kinds of stuff in there that specialists can go to town on — like new evidence for productivity of some prefixes (in the Italian article) — but I found it pretty striking that there is material is very relevant to Gothic phonology even, with new evidence on syllabification based on where line breaks are written, and hints on other matters, like a spelling for expected <ϸs>.

But above all, how tantalizing is it to think that the corpus of a language like Gothic is not actually closed …

Very nice!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Who Cares?

My dad has had to listen to me talk about linguistics for over 30 years now, but the other night he asked me what linguists say when people ask why it's important to maintain, revitalize, and reclaim languages.  It was probably on his mind because of McWhorter's recent column on the topic.  I told Mr. Verb about the conversation and he said I should post something about it.  I certainly don't pretend that my answer is anything new - lots of people have said this - but it's worth repeating.

So first, there's the linguistcentric reason: if all these languages die, what the heck are we going to do with ourselves?  But only linguists care about that one.

Second, people often say that languages express unique worldviews ... well, yes and no.  I do agree with McWhorter that this can lead to the "when a language dies, a culture dies with it" mentality - which I've always found quite offensive towards groups whose languages are dormant.  Having met a lot of incredible language activists at the 2013 DC Breath of Life whose languages are no longer spoken (or just beginning to be spoken again), I can tell you that they are totally still culturally connected.  (See here for the 2015 BoL.)

But the third reason is social justice: colonization has caused loss after loss after loss.  If I can put my energy into trying to prevent a further loss, then I should do it.  As Crawford (1995) put it, "After all, language death does not happen in privileged communities.  It happens to the dispossessed and disempowered, peoples who most need their cultural resources to survive."  I've always thought that was such a good quote.

P.S. "Linguistic Justice is Social Justice" - see Colleen Fitzgerald's excellent post on this topic too.

LSA 'Foundation Members' from Wisconsin

Somebody just told me about looking through the lists of original members of the Linguistic Society of America — they'd talked to someone at another university who'd actually investigated this in detail for their institution. The list of original members is published in the first issue of Language, 1925, and includes everyone who had joined before the end of March of that year. I thought, "oh, great, I'll write a little quiz post asking who can guess the Wisconsin foundation members". Well, I checked out the list and the Wisconsin folks are probably not familiar to a lot of people, even those who know the history of linguistics on campus.
  • Prof. A. G. Laird, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. (Greek)
  • Dr. Raphael Levy, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc. (Romance Langs.) 
  • Prof. Antonio G. Solalinde, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc. (Spanish) 
  • Miss Else M. Saleski, Madison, Wis. (German, Univ. of Wisconsin) 
These were important figures on campus. Laird was editor of the Classical Journal 1907-1909, and Solalinde directed the dissertation of Lloyd Kasten, later a key figure in linguistics and philology on campus. Saleski, who went on to teach at Downer College (now UW–Milwaukee) and elsewhere, is mentioned in Julia Falk's Women, Language and Linguistics.

Others with strong Wisconsin connections include Leonard Bloomfield and Eduard Prokosch.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chicago Dialect Project

There's a great new project on the development of English in Chicago. It's the Chicago Dialect Project. Check it out on Facebook here. And here's a link to the blog associated with it, which doesn't have much on it yet but will.

Say what you will about the Bears and the Cubs, they have a pretty interesting dialect down there in that part of Flatlandia.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Sociolinguistic Events Calendar

Ever start something that becomes so successful you can't manage it at some point? Welcome to the lives of the people who started the Sociolinguistic Events Calendar. Dave Sayers just posted this to the Variationist List (go here to subscribe). Help these folks out if you can and become a calendariser (calendarizer?).

Hello one and all, and happy new year!
The Sociolinguistic Events Calendar (http://www.baal.org.uk/slxevents.html) is now bustling with events across the world, and has also been linked to by a number of event organisers, including NWAV: http://linguistics.utoronto.ca/nwav44/. Meanwhile the synopsis on academia.edu is apparently in the top 3% of viewed pages this month (http://academia.edu/9619924). My co-calendariser - Jonathan Kasstan - and I are overwhelmingly honoured by all this success, acclaim and esteem, which has helped us keep plugging away at it, but... we are kinda getting a little overworked with it all. Help us! We're looking to recruit volunteers to help keep this resource going, since it's not altogether clear how long we can keep going just the two of us.
We're hoping to gather a team of about 5-7, thinking that one person could cover the various calls that come up on each day of the week. The commitment per person would be about half an hour a day (plus an hour or so of initial training on how events are formatted in the calendar). The daily workload is manageable, but pretty constant - although I suppose it'll vary depending on the time of year (there probably aren't so many calls in the summer for example).
Please please get in touch if you'd like to step up to this exciting level of responsibility and celebrity :)
--Dr. Dave SayersSenior Lecturer, Dept Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University, UKHonorary Research Fellow, Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK (2009-2015)dave.sayers@cantab.net | http://swansea.academia.edu/DaveSayers 

Saturday, January 03, 2015

LSA special session on the Publishing Process

Pass the word ...

Next Thursday afternoon at the Portland meeting of the LSA, there will be a special session on the Publishing Process, cosponsored by the Committee of Editors of Linguistics Journals and the Committee on Student Issues and Concerns (Troy Messick, Chair). There will be brief remarks by a set of editors, but most of the event will be a chance to ask questions about publishing in linguistics journals. 

Whether you can be there or not, you can participate … via comments on the LSA's facebook page or via twitter with the hashtag #LSApubs.  Materials from the session will be posted online afterwards.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Does language really matter?

People are talking today, rightly, about John McWhorter's piece in the NY Times, "Why save a language?".  But a similar question is treated beautifully in a piece by Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins and colleagues (University of Victoria) in the Times Colonist, "Language a strong symbol of cultural identity". It treats revitalization efforts in British Columbia. Here's the punchline:

Supporting the health of these languages is … one way to support and strengthen the well-being of individuals and communities, and to support education and economies.
Language is, in the relevant sense here, very local, and the focused perspective of this piece makes it particularly valuable. But especially relevant for us here in Wisconsin is the partnerships between linguists and communities in revitalization work.

It's important to have good answers when the why-save-a-language stuff comes up (and it does), but the hard work on the ground here is far more important.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Minnesota English in the news

Nice piece about Minnesota English by Andy Rathbun available here. Looks like he talked to about everybody you could on the subject, including some nice on-the-ground stories from speakers.

People like to compare Minnesota and Wisconsin, it seems like. Minnesota's thriving economically while Wisconsin sinks into oblivion these days and they're vastly better than Wisconsin at college hockey right now, but they don't have much going on this year in the NFL. But they're keep pace dialect-wise.

The Wisconsin Englishes Project folks are said to have something new in the works about vowels in Wisconsin and Minnesota ... stay tuned for that.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Endangered Languages Fund

Happy Giving Tuesday! The Endangered Language
Fund is sending around this:
GivingTuesday is today!!! What is GivingTuesday? We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. The Endangered Language Fund depends on member contributions. You can contribute to ELF and become a member here. Thank you!
ELF supports endangered language preservation and documentation projects around the world, providing small grants to individuals, tribes, and museums.

Help them out!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The apostrophic War on the Holidays

I was fighting the urge to post about this piece on Slate, about how to pluralize your last name, and now officially give up. Anything that has this line is hard to resist reacting to:

It’s Christmas! Celebrate by not doing violence to the laws of pluralization.
Wow, I think, how do you do violence to the laws of pluralization? Wait ARE there laws of pluralization? Turns out there's outrage about 'stray apostrophes'. "Every year they assault me." Oh, about spelling. Got it. I won't review the green grocer's apostrophe here (but knock yourself out: here, for one.)

But plurals do get into the picture. (Say cheese.) Apparently there's deep worry about the Wolf family signing as 'The Wolves'. A card from the wolves? I'm cutting back on the eggnog at that point. They usually barely knock when they come to your house here in Wisconsin. That's what I call 'assault'.

Merry Thanksgiving and wishing you all lots of apostrophes for the holidays,
The Verb's

Found the image at a Walk in the Words. They have a nice little post on the topic.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Stumbling over and through Drink Wisconsinbly

Earlier this year, I started noticing t-shirts and hoodies bearing the phrase 'Drink Wisconsinbly', like in the image here. (And, yeah, it comes in green and gold as well as red and white.) Clever, right? But I don't read t-shirts all that closely and I saw it a few times before I realized that it doesn't work at all for me phonologically ... Wisconsably, yes, and Wisconsinably, I suppose, but not Wisconsinbly. I stumble over it every time, dead cold sober.

I'm seeing more and more of these shirts and hats (including the obligatory camo hat) and it now turn out that there's, of course, a website, http://drinkwisconsinbly.com/. "Proud home of the greatest drinking culture this fine nation has ever known." Cute, but I'm not sure that "We lacked an official call to arms" when it comes to drinking.

Looks like this thing is probably sponsored by the Tavern League of Wisconsin. If so, that may complicate the feel-good thing for some people ... among other things, the TLW is seen as keeping our drinking and driving laws lax, see here.