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Showing posts from October, 2014

Looking for a very interesting book...

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Familiar chain of events for many researchers, especially those dealing in fields where one needs to cite a lot of previous literature (like linguistics).
Finds book in the local university library that looks extremely useful and interestingGets very excited! Books! New knowledge!Tries to borrow itCannotSees the return date and notices that it's overdueGets a vague feeling that the date looks familiarTries to track down who has the bookRealises that it's oneselfRemembers that this is not the first time this has happened
There's a last stage too that at least applies to me Realises that while it's necessary and good to read previous literature, there is such a thing as too much and when you just borrow books that looks useful but actually don't read 'em then it's better to spend that time with your own data and ideas..


Why and why not?

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As you probably noticed, several of the research projects I listed yesterday deal with the fundamental question of the driving forces of linguistic diversity and disparity. This all reminded me of one of my favourite Hjelmslev-quotes that we've posted before, but that always can do with some repetition.

[the aim of linguistic typology/theory] must be to show which structures are possible, in general, and why it is just those structures, and not others, that are possible


A famous quote that tells us a lot about the field of linguistics, or at least the aims of certain parts of the field.
Form Hjelmslev, Louis (1970[1963]) Language. An introduction. Madison: The University of wisconsin press [translation by Francis. J Whitfield of Hjelmslev (1963) Sproget. En introduktion. Copenhagen: Berlingske Forlag,(page 96)
Louis Hjelmslev (1899-1965)

Soon-to-come research in linguistics

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It's very hard for an outsider to get a grasp on what's currently going on in linguistics, so I assembled here a few quotes for you from different research proposals and descriptions that have come during this year. This is not by any means a complete overview, just a few personal favorites. This should give you a better view of what research proposals look like, and a few of the current topics in linguistics. Do follow the links to learn more.

The spans of these projects are between 4-7 years and most often have just started or will very soon start. As you can probably tell there is considerable overlap in several cases. This might be a very good glimpse into studies that we should see published in a few years.

If you are considering studying in linguistics or pursuing a career in any other science of the humanities, having a look at calls, proposals and research aims of institutes, departments and centers are a very good idea. You might also want to consider signing up for …

"Fact-finding, not theorising, is what is wanted at this present juncture."

Mark Dingemanse recently brought this quote to our attention at his blog, the Ideophone

 There is an urgent need for the comparative study, over as much of the world as possible, of the full range of paralinguistic phenomena — the kind of thing for which the linguistic field-worker is best fitted. Fact-finding, not theorising, is what is wanted at this present juncture. 

Abercrombie, David. 1968. “Paralanguage.” International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders 3 (1): 55–59. doi:10.3109/13682826809011441 http://ideophone.org/abercrombie-on-paralanguage/

Excellent, couldn't agree more.

tumblr linguistics at the Linguistic Society of America-meeting!

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Hurray! Gretchen McCulloch, of McGill University and All Things Linguistics, is gonna be talking about linguistics on tumblr in a panel at the meeting of the Linguistic Society of America!

Read more about it in her post here and in the official abstracts of the panel!

Workshop on linguistic databases

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This week in Nijmegen there was a workshop on cross-linguistic databases, organized by Harald Hammarström and Guillaume Ségerer.  Here are some random highlights and thoughts.

 One important application is in testing hypotheses about language history.  There were talks on RefLex for reconstructing lexicons of languages in Africa; SAILS for inferring linguistic areas in South America; and the history of Austronesian languages using the World Phonotactics Database.

PHOIBLE, a database of 2160 phonemes/segments and which languages they are found in, has new materials available for download at the PHOIBLE Github such as the decomposition of each phoneme into phonological features.  You can search not just for languages with a certain phoneme, but for languages with phonemes defined by a certain set of features (e.g. all types of 't', or all fricatives).

Some semantic databases were shown, including a beautiful visualization tool for showing common cross-linguistic polysemies at CLiC…

Human beings in our planetary society, our pale blue dot

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I enjoy scientific literature that talks about "humans" and our "planet". Here are some examples of this from linguistics.

Human beings on our planet have, past and present, used a number of languages. 

From the description of the BCP 47 codes.

The Linguasphere Register of the World's Languages and Speech communities is the first classified inventory of the linguasphere, the communicational environment which humankind has progressively extended around the globe since the invention of speech. 
(..)
The intended audience comprises not only specialists in linguistics and specific languages, but above all a general readership concerned with the future of humankind, and with the need to reflect on a collective global environment and a shared cultural heritage.
(..)
Every person is intimately involved with one or more languages as a central factor of their life on this "planet of speech", and everyone is already – or soon will be - directly affected by the greates…

Scandal: linguistics used horribly wrong in evaluation of immigrant/fugitive's stories

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Ethnologue editor Paul Lewis just wrote a very important blog post abut how to not use Ethnologue.
Ethnologue is a catalog of the worlds languages with information on their genealogical relationship, number of speakers and some more demographic information. It's by SIL, the holders of the ISO-codes for language names. Ethnologue is usually the first go-to source for anyone wanting to know number of speakers and family relations and ISO-codes, both linguists and non-linguists use it frequently. (You can also use Glottolog, which often has better genealogical trees, division of languages and A LOT of bibliographical data, but no info on number of speakers or all countries the language is spoken in.)
Basically, governments have been misusing Ethnologue by using it as the ultimate source on who speaks what where. 
In one case, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service used the fact that the Ethnologue had no listing for a language by the name a defendant was using for it, as ev…