LINGUIST List 5.515

Wed 04 May 1994

Misc: Cognitive, Flat earth, Bubba

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Richard Hudson UCL, signs
  2. Jacques Guy, Was "mainstream", now "flat-earth" (New Scientist, 23/4/94)
  3. benji wald, Re: 5.458 Bubba

Message 1: signs

Date: Tue, 26 Apr 94 08:08:11 +0signs
From: Richard Hudson UCL <>
Subject: signs

Both Cognitive Grammar and HPSG claim that the fundamental linguistic
category is the sign, a combination of a phonological and a semantic
structure. I understand this as applied to lexical items, but not when
it's applied to word-classes, which certainly lack any distinctive
phonology, and arguably lack semantics.

Dick Hudson
Dept of Phonetics and Linguistics,
University College London,
Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
(071) 387 7050 ext 3152
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Message 2: Was "mainstream", now "flat-earth" (New Scientist, 23/4/94)

Date: Tue, 3 May 1994 09:34:08 +Was "mainstream", now "flat-earth" (New Scientist, 23/4/94)
From: Jacques Guy <>
Subject: Was "mainstream", now "flat-earth" (New Scientist, 23/4/94)

Not my words, but Johanna Nichols's as reported by Kurt Kleiner ("Echoes
of ancient Africa in our speech?", New Scientist, 23 April 1994, p.10)


 An outspoken minority of linguists have tried to go back even further
 -- to the point of trying to reconstruct a "mother tongue", the
 origin of all languages. Mainstream linguists dismiss their methods
 as unsound, saying the correspondences they claim to find are mere
 statistical noise. Nichols calls it "flat Earth linguistics".

 Who the proponents of flat-earth linguistics are is not entirely
clear from Kleiner's article, only the assertion of their existence.
Strange, even members of SIL I met who believed in the literal truth of
the Bible and that the world was created some 6,000 years ago did not
mention a flat earth.

 I will not summarize the New Scientist article. New Scientist is an
otherwise excellent publication, and cheap. So buy it.

 Will Nichols succeed in snowing the editor of Scientific American?
I think yes, very likely. It's all the current rage: the Great Mother
Tongue out of Africa, as Restituted to 50,000 years BP, Corroborated
and Corroborating Wilson and Cavalli-Sforza's Mitochondrially
Revealed Great Mother Eve. Definitely publishable.
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Message 3: Re: 5.458 Bubba

Date: Mon, 25 Apr 94 17:59 PDT
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.458 Bubba

I just sent a message attached to a later Accents discussion where I noted
 there was a point 3, but I had forgotten what I wanted to say. It's about
 "bubba". Southern "bubba" is pronounced with the stressed vowel of "cub".
 I have always thought that it is an adaptation from a baby-talk word for
 "brother" (also used as such by many Black English speakers), and "bub", as
 in "what's all the hub-bub, BUB?" (I think I'm quoting Bugs Bunny here) is
 the short form. Unlike "bub", "bubba" has become a Southernism for some
 unclear reason, cf. Southern diminutive Junie for Junior, not used in North
 (outside of Black English, cf. "June Bug" as a Black nickname).
In contrast, Jewish "bubba", dim "bubbeleh" etc is
 pronounced with a stressed vowel closest to the vowel of "put", "butch" etc,
 as the spelling suggests (since "wedge" would be identified with the spelling
 "o" or "a" in transliterating Yiddish). "Southern" bubba and Yiddish bubba
 thus constitute a minimal pair in American English, just like "put" and "putt"
 This is nice, because there aren't too many minimal pairs for these two
 vowels (for historical reasons). I would be most interested if anyone out
 there disagrees and thinks Southern "bubba" can have the vowel of "put", or
 Yiddish "bubba" can have the vowel of "putt" (or "putz", to contradict what
 I just wrote about transliterating Yiddish above -- I think it has to do with
 Yiddish dialects and Americanisation of words like that one,"shmuck",cntr.
 the German pronunciation,and maybe a few others, since the historical
 tendency in English is to lower short "u" to "wedge" -- [south or west of the
 merger line in the British Midlands].
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