LINGUIST List 5.1219

Thu 03 Nov 1994

Qs: "Designing" dialects, Language evolution, "RE HAVE

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  1. Sam Glucksberg, "designing" dialects
  2. Gerard Gautier, Language evolution context
  3. gor05, "RE HAVE

Message 1: "designing" dialects

Date: Tue, 01 Nov 94 15:41:44 ES"designing" dialects
From: Sam Glucksberg <SAMGpucc.PRINCETON.EDU>
Subject: "designing" dialects

The following appeared in a recent theater program: "K. C. Ligon (dialects) de
signed the dialects for McCarter's productions of The Matchmaker, Cat on a Hot
Tin Roof....." I've never encountered the term "designed" as applied to dialec
ts or to dialect coaching in the theater. Is this a common usage among
 linguistis? Sam Glucksberg (
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Message 2: Language evolution context

Date: Wed, 2 Nov 1994 17:59:29 +Language evolution context
From: Gerard Gautier <>
Subject: Language evolution context

 Hello to all LINGUIST-s !

 I am "lurking" to (proper use ?) your conversations since now a good
year, but, not being a linguist myself, I usually do not talk a lot. First,
as a teacher of french language in Taiwan, I must tell how much I feel
listening to this list really brings me a lot. Specially as I hold a
non-prescriptive view of my own language (contrary, I think, to the
majority of teachers (?), and certainly to our embattled french Ministre
de la Culture, Mr Toubon, that a lot of people in France now usually call
Mr. "Allgood" :).

 I was prompted to write by the problem of the evolution of languages...
so it is not so far from my allusion to Mr. Toubon with with I opened my
 It seems to me obvious that, (apart from phonological evolution) a
language may evolve, at the morpho-systactic level, from acculturation,
that is, influence of another, ("dominant" or not) language, in historical
times, close geographically, but also through commercial contacts (the
modern times is another story - what does mean "close" when I can talk
with you from Taiwan ?).
 But I think the matter is quite more complicated that all that has been
mentionned so far...
 First the chinese case seems to me VERY complicated and specific :
 a- there is a chinese "isolat" for about 4000 years (quite no interaction
 with other cultures, except the bouddhist indian one, where it gave
 rise to a quite specific "sub-language", mainly phonetic transcription
 of samskrit words into adapted-on-purpose chinese characters, but
 which has little to do with generic chinese,
 b- there is a feed-back from the ideographs, so that chinese language
 doesn't evolve independantly from its writing since a long time,
 c- because the phonologic evolution of the spoken language is not
 DIRECTLY reflected onto the writing system, which builts upon its
 own logic, it is possible that its laws of evolution could be very
 different from languages using alphabetic or syllabic systems of
 notation (?).

 More : my french is certainly influenced by the english I use
 on Internet, and the chinese I use in day-to-day life (to the point
 that I sometimes realise that, while talking to my sister in France by
 phone, I find myself unthinkingly telling her :

 "J'habite dans une petite hsiang derriere l'ecole."
 (I live in a little hsiang just behind the school --
 "hsiang" being the chinese for a little alley connected to a main street).

 and having to apologize and reexplain...

 But I mainly SWITCH between the languages, and there is little chance
I create my own pidgin or creole... So do many taiwanese (min-nan) speaking
people in the south of the island...
 So does it not mean that the evolution should depend on the education
level of people - so that it would be DIFFERENTIAL inside a society
according to, say, the social class ? There is probably as well a "critical
mass effect" (if France was turned into some chinese-dominant state...). Is
not our idea of "homogeneity" in evolution vitiated by the pretention of
modern nation-states to generate a "super-culture" - through linguistic
homogeneisation ?)

- I am also aware of phenomenons of RESISTANCE to acculturative evolution
 (conscious or not) as for the quebecquois telling, not "un hot-dog" as
 the french do, but "un chien chaud" (Toubon being in my opinion but a
 marginal impedement on the natural evolution, whatever direction it takes)...

- another exemple of the complexity of those issue would be the
 "rigidification" of a language facing a threat. It was given to me as an
 explanation when I was a student of kurdish, when I learnt that this
 language has in common with old persian an "ergative" (?) construction
 for transitive verbs in past tenses, which was presented to me as a
 "quite - passive" construction. To allow for comparisons by more
 knowledgeable people, I will explain a little :

 There, the infix representing the agent is appended at the end of the
verb, while the infix representing the subject is appended after the
object, as :

 mindal-eke sEw-Ek-y xuward-0 (-eke and Ek ([^e]k) being suffixes
 expressing definiteness (eke = the)
 (child-the apple-one-he ate) and indefiniteness respectively (Ek = a))

 Here, -y represents the child, -0 a null infix (there is only ONE apple),
so "The child ate the apples" would be :

 mindal-eke sEw-Ek-y xiward-n <---- "-n" : there are SEVERAL apples

 (child-the apples-the-he ate-them)

 So I was told at this time that this construct, which was used in OLD
persian (and is still used in the variety of persian spoken in
Afghanistan, is an ARCHAIC construction, characteristic of the PERIPHERY
of the indo-iranian domain, that is, in Kurdistan (south-kurmandji, or
sorani-speaking part), and also among the Baluches, and represents a
rigidification of the language due to a threat from other languages, (so
that languages at a domain periphery would sometimes evolve MORE SLOWLY)
and that it has disappeared from standard modern persian...
I would want to know if all that is still considered true, though. What
do you think of it ? I guess there are as well different LEVELS of
evolution taking place simultaneously, that can be contradictory
(phonology, vocabulary, syntax...).

 Anyway, I see several reasons why it should be difficult to infer any
"linear" evolution of languages (whatever fascination I feel when I read
posts speaking of modelisations of 10 or 20 000 years back...) on
anything else that a CASE-BY-CASE basis (or does the fact that
populations densities has obviously undergone a dramatic change since
then, changing the dynamics of contacts... ????).

 To resume my questions : how can we ascertain that THIS language
has had THIS reaction without having to resort to extra-linguistic
implicit hypothesis as : homogeneity through classes, identity of
evolution whatever the number of speakers would be (lng-switching vs
creolisation...), existence (or not), type, and evolution of a scripting
system(**) etc... ?

 As I told, I am no linguist, (neither "linguistician" nor philologist
:), so I hope I did not waste your time, thus getting all your community
angry at me (ACK ! - terrible perspective). But I will be VERY interested
to read more about all this.

 Friendly to all,

 Gerard Gautier

(**) Once more, kurdish would be a good case in point, as it uses up
to THREE different scripting systems according to the place (latin,
arabo-persian, cyrillic for the north-kurmandji, and latin and
arabo-persian for sorani)

WEN-TZAO School | \| // Gerard Gautier
 of Foreign Languages | /\ \| .. \| \
 | | __> | _/\_> o___>
KAOHSIUNG - TAIWAN _/ _/.. _/ (_S .. _/
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Message 3: "RE HAVE

Date: Wed, 2 Nov 1994 15:49:55 +"RE HAVE
From: gor05 <>
Subject: "RE HAVE

This is just a quick note to thank all those who have sent me information
concerning 'have/hold', etc. in non-IE languages. I am also quite happy to
continue receiving information on this subject and will soon be posting a
summary of the information I have received so far. I would also like to ask
if - especially for those who have already sent me information - in these
languages or any others there is a connection between a construction for
'to have/possess' and perfect aspect/past tense, compulsion or existence,
even when the verb 'have' has not come from 'hold'.
So far, I've received information on the following languages:
Austronesian languages and Papuan
Brazilian Portuguese
Indo-European *ghebh 'give' > lat. habeo 'hold'
and references to works on the subject by Bernd Heine, E.C. Traugott, W.
Welmers and Kathleen Carey.
I'll send more exact references later with a final summary of all info
(excepting those who wish to remain anonymous) next week. Thanks
again! John Peterson, Kiel, Germany,
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