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Article

Otto Zwartjes

Missionary dictionaries are printed books or manuscripts compiled by missionaries in which words are listed systematically followed by words which have the same meaning in another language. These dictionaries were mainly written as tools for language teaching and learning in a missionary-colonial setting, although quite a few dictionaries have also a more encyclopedic character, containing invaluable information on non-Western cultures from all continents. In this article, several types of dictionaries are analyzed: bilingual-monodirectional, bilingual and bidirectional, and multilingual. Most examples are taken from an illustrative selected corpus of missionary dictionaries describing non-Western and languages during the colonial period, with particular focus on the function of these dictionaries in a missionary context, the users, macrostructure, organizational principles, and the typology of the microstructure and markedness in lemmatization.

Article

Otto Zwartjes

Missionary grammars are printed books or manuscripts compiled by missionaries in which a particular language is described. These grammars were mainly written as pedagogical tools for language teaching and learning in a missionary-colonial setting, although quite a few grammars have also a more normative character. Missionary grammars contain usually an opening section, a prologue, in which the author exhibits the objectives of his work. The first part is usually a short introduction into phonology and orthography, followed by the largest section, which is devoted to morphology, arranged according to the traditional division of the parts of speech. The final section is sometimes devoted to syntax, but the topics included can vary considerably. Sometimes word lists are appended, containing body parts, measures, counting, manners of speaking, or rhetorical figures. The data presented in the grammar are mainly based on an oral corpus, whereas in other cases high registers from prestigious texts are used in which the eloquence or elegance of the language under study is illustrated. These grammars are modeled according to the traditional Greco-Latin framework and often contain invaluable information regarding language typologies, semantics, and pragmatics. In the New World, Asia, and elsewhere, missionaries had to find an adequate methodology in order to describe typological features they had never seen before. They adapted European models to new linguistic realities and created original works which deserve our attention within the discipline of the history of linguistics alongside contemporary pedagogical works written in Europe. This article concentrates on sources written in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin during the colonial period, since these sources outnumber the production of missionary grammars in other languages.

Article

What does it mean to document the morphology of a language, and how does one go about such a task? Most of the world’s languages are arguably underdocumented, yet morphological generalizations often require large amounts of primary data: thousands of word forms could be needed to establish basic patterns of allomorphy, for example, or the structure of an inflection-class system. Because of this, the major debates in the language documentation literature affect the field of morphology by shaping the nature of the data. A starting point is the idea that traditional methods of elicitation, often via translation from a contact language and inevitably requiring a patient speaker, can mask ingrained assumptions about the ontology of data and the wider context of linguistic research. Critical examination of these assumptions yields a wider range of possible approaches that can be drawn on to produce a corpus theorization (i.e., a rationale for the types of communicative events to be recorded) appropriate to each language situation. In particular, it has been argued that it is sometimes not ethical to collect language data in a decontextualized way that prioritizes (or appears to prioritize) the linguist’s goals above speakers’ goals, where those are not the same. Thus, in morphology, where virtually everyone agrees that some type of elicitation is essential, creativity and flexibility are sometimes needed to address or modify research questions. Fortunately, documentary linguistics has seen significant advances in the theory and practice of data management, making it possible to work efficiently with data from a wide variety of recording-session structures. Of equal interest are the reasons why a decontextualized approach may be undesirable, even for the linguist’s analytical purposes. The goal of ‘documenting morphology’ is an abstract one; one can only really document word forms, and morphological structure is a product of analysis. From this fact arise a few problems. First, and even independently of the ethical issues referred to above, it is not always obvious what methods are most reliable for getting speakers to produce word forms or for understanding speakers’ knowledge about them. Different methods have complementary pros and cons, so it is usually necessary to use a mix. When working with existing data, an appreciation of the complexities of the data gathering process is useful for developing a critical approach to the background contexts, strengths, and limitations of primary sources. Second, ‘documentation’ implies a reasonable level of comprehensiveness. For many semantically or functionally defined phenomena, it is possible to make a cross-linguistically robust checklist that ensures that one has more or less covered the relevant territory. It is much less straightforward to compile an inventory of structures in any formal domain, particularly given cross-linguistic variation in morphological vs. syntactic vs. prosodic encoding of similar functional categories. In morphology, the linguist’s inventory of phenomena often keeps expanding until nearly all grammatical constructions and large numbers of lexical items have been encountered. Again, this challenge can be addressed by using a mix of methods and genres to check that one has a correct understanding of at least the most commonly occurring patterns. Spontaneous speech tends to contain constructions that fail to show up in elicitation for reasons like pragmatics or interference from the contact language, while structured elicitation or metalinguistic work is needed to fully investigate the word-formation patterns within each of those constructions, or indeed (if the linguist is nonnative) to get enough of a foothold to work with spontaneous speech at all. Checklists from the viewpoint of morphological typology tend to initially be most useful for monitoring and organizing, and later for filling gaps at a more advanced stage of research.

Article

Margaret Thomas

American structuralism is a label attached to a heterogeneous but distinctive style of language scholarship practiced in the United States, the heyday of which extended from around 1920 until the late 1950s. There is certainly diversity in the interests and intellectual stances of American structuralists. Nevertheless, some minimum common denominators stand out. American structuralists valued synchronic linguistic analysis, independent of—but not to the exclusion of—study of a language’s development over time; they looked for, and tried to articulate, systematic patterns in language data, attending in particular to the sound properties of language and to morphophonology; they identified their work as part of a science of language, rather than as philology or as a facet of literary studies, anthropology, or the study of particular languages. Some American structuralists tried to establish the identity or difference of linguistic units by studying their distribution with respect to other units, rather than by relying on identity or difference of meaning. Some (but not all) American structuralists avoided cross-linguistic generalizations, perceiving them as a threat to the hard-won notion of the integrity of individual languages; some (but not all) avoided attributing patterns they discovered in particular languages to cultural or psychological proclivities of speakers. A considerable amount of American structuralist research focused on indigenous languages of the Americas. One outstanding shared achievement of the group was the institutionalization of linguistics as an autonomous discipline in the United States, materialized by the founding of the Linguistic Society of America in 1924. This composite picture of American structuralists needs to be balanced by recognition of their diversity. One important distinction is between the goals and orientations of foundational figures: Franz Boas (1858–1942), Edward Sapir (1884–1939), and Leonard Bloomfield (1887–1949). The influence of Boas, Sapir, and Bloomfield was strongly felt by the next generation of language scholars, who went on to appropriate, expand, modify, or otherwise retouch their ideas to produce what is called post-Bloomfieldian linguistics. Post-Bloomfieldian linguistics displays its own internal diversity, but still has enough coherence to put into relief the work of other language scholars who were close contemporaries to the post-Bloomfieldians, but who in various ways and for various reasons departed from them. American structuralism has at least this much heterogeneity. This article illustrates the character of American structuralism in the first half of the 20th century. Analysis of a corpus of presidential addresses presented to the Linguistic Society of America by key American structuralists grounds the discussion, and provides a microcosm within which to observe some of its most salient features: both the shared preoccupations of American structuralists and evidence of the contributions of individual scholars to a significant collaborative project in the history of linguistics.