LINGUIST List 5.981

Wed 14 Sep 1994

Qs: IPA, Reference, Informant, Lang origins

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Q: IPA and Mandarin tones?
  2. , Reference of ambiguous passage
  3. rex a sprouse, Re: Informant
  4. Dan Alford, Stories re: origins of language

Message 1: Q: IPA and Mandarin tones?

Date: Mon, 12 Sep 1994 21:59:55 Q: IPA and Mandarin tones?
Subject: Q: IPA and Mandarin tones?

During a discussion today in philosophy of language, we were talking about
 phonetics, phonology and the IPA.
One of my students asked "Can IPA handle the 4 tones of Mandarin?" and my
first answer was. "Sure, that's the sort of thing it was designed to do." But,
after a couple of milliseconds, I said "Hmmmm, I don't really know." So,
I ask the list: Can IPA do the job? Alone, without extensions? If not, what
can? And, finally, how about something REALLY hard, like Guanzhouhua, with its
many tones?
Thanks! If there's enough interest, I'll summarize for the list.
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Message 2: Reference of ambiguous passage

Date: Tue, 13 Sep 1994 12:20:00 Reference of ambiguous passage
From: <>
Subject: Reference of ambiguous passage

I have a passage with a reference to Anderson, Reynolds, Schallert and
Goetz (1977), but I am unable to find initials, title and publisher for this
volume. Is there anybody who could perhaps kindly supply me with the full
bibliographical details? The passage concerns two (or even more) totally
different possible interpretations -- totally different schemata / frames (or
whatever your framework calls it) direct the interpretation of the passage in
different ways. Here it follows:

"Rocky slowly got up from the mat, planning his escape. He hesitated a
moment and thought. Things were not going well. What bothered him most
was being held, especially since the charge against him had been weak.
He considered his present situation. The lock that held him was strong, but
he thought he could break it. He knew, however, that his timing would
have to be perfect. Rocky was aware that it was because of his early
roughness that he had been penalized so severely -- much too severely
from his point of view. The situation was becoming frustrating; the pressure
had been grinding him for too long. He was being ridden unmercifully.
Rocky was getting very angry now. He felt he was ready to make his
move. He knew that his success or failure would depend on what he did in
the next few seconds."

I've been using this passage in teaching over the past 5 years to illustrate
that meaning is generated by the reader/listener -- not given in advance.
The frame of mind of the interpeter determines how this passage is
interpreted. Some very ingenious answers have been given as to what it
means, but the majority alternate between a reference to the Rocky movies
and a wrestling match with a character whose name happens to be Rocky.
As I would like to give full credit to the authors of this passage, I would
really appreciate some help on the reference.
Thank you
Jacques Steyn
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Message 3: Re: Informant

Date: Tue, 13 Sep 1994 08:24:48 Re: Informant
From: rex a sprouse <>
Subject: Re: Informant

On Mon, 12 Sep 1994, Anthea F Gupta wrote:
> I just learnt that the use of the word "informant" may be considered
> offensive, at least in the US. I've been using it for years, but when
> publishing in Europe have never had it changed. Would be interested to
> hear how much agreement there is that the word "informant" is offensive.

I don't think that the word "informant" is necessarily a STRONGLY
offensive word for most people under most circumstances, but in some
cases it can convey the sense that a member of group A is "squealing" to a
researcher from group B about group A's (linguistic) secrets, perhaps in
exchange for money. Even when that is obviously not the case, I prefer the
term "consultant," as do, I think, a very number of linguists in the
United States and Canada, at least. I would be interested to learn to
what extent the term "consultant" or its translation has caught on in other
parts of the globe.

Rex A. Sprouse
Indiana University
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Message 4: Stories re: origins of language

Date: Mon, 12 Sep 1994 17:54:31 Stories re: origins of language
From: Dan Alford <>
Subject: Stories re: origins of language

I am collecting teachings about the origins of language(s), and am looking
for such stories from ANY language. You may have come across these in
your own research and made a note of it, but never really had anywhere to
put it in your publications. With nearly 5000 linguists on the list, we should
be sitting on a veritable wealth of such stories. I am looking for at least

(a) origin of a specific language, such as Sanskrit (given directly by the

(b) origin of different human languages from one human language (Biblical
Tower of Babel);

(c) origin/differentiation of human language from 'the Old Language' of
Nature (Cheyenne "Tower of Babel" analogue)

I am especially looking for teachings in the last category from indigenous
people. One teaching I received from a Cheyenne holy man says that

"Long ago, men and animals and plants and spirits all communicated in the
same way. Then something happened. After that, humans had to communicate
with human speech. But we retained 'The Old Language' for dreams, and for
communicating with spirits, animals and plants."

There's mine for sharing. Do you have one to share with me, following the
ages-old human custom? I will post a summary with full citations if response
 -- Moonhawk (%->)
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