I finally submitted my PhD thesis last week. It has been a crazy final month. The reason I had that deadline was that here in Singapore (at least at NTU) all PhD students are given 4 years of funding in which to research and write their thesis. If your four years end before your thesis is completed, you are required to pay tuition for the remaining semesters that you continue writing.
Additionally, part of the requirement for the linguistics division (I think also for some of the other divisions in Humanities) is that you have to take 6 courses, which I did in my first year. So I only started doing research on Pnar 3 years ago, which is not much time in which to write a grammatical description of a language. Despite that fact, I managed to write a grammatical description of Pnar that totals about 550 pages of description and 100 pages of texts and appendices. So I'm pretty proud of that - though the description still needs a lot of work to clarify analyses and fix mistakes.
I used LyX/LaTeX to write and format the thesis, and I thought it might be useful to other students at NTU or those who use LyX in general if I included some of the files that I created for formatting purposes.
So here is the LyX file that you could use to write your thesis: NTU_PhD_Thesis_template.lyx
And this is the PDF that it can generate: NTU_PhD_Thesis_template.pdf
Of course this doesn't include my actual PhD, but that's partly because it's under examination. The next step in the process is to wait for comments from the examiners and then work furiously to incorporate them into the document, before I can resubmit and hopefully set a date for defense and confirmation of the actual degree. At least at the moment I'm feeling much more free!
At the Himalayan Languages Symposium last week I gave a talk about deixis. This grammatical feature is essentially 'pointing', and words or morphemes in language can point to various things, so grammarians often talk about person or distance-based deixis, social deixis, and temporal deixis.
Distance-based deixis is often encoded in words called 'demonstratives', social deixis in 'honorifics' like "sir", "ma'am" etc.., and temporal deixis is encoded in tense markers. Deixis is actually more complex, though, as deictic morphemes can really point to any point in the communication space, as illustrated in the diagram on the right from Gerner (2009).
Since deixis is such a large topic, my 20-minute talk focused on the way distance-based deixis is encoded in Pnar and in related languages through demonstratives, specifically words that identify the location of nouns in space, relative to a deictic center. Most languages have at least a 2-way contrast (like English "this" and "that"), and rarely more than three. I began to be interested in this feature since in Pnar there is a 5-way contrast in demonstratives and some of the forms resemble similar words in neighboring Tibeto-Burman languages (a completely different language family). Just to illustrate, below on the left are the spatial deictic morphemes in Pnar (the black circle in the middle represents the 'deictic center', which in this case is the person who is speaking), and on the right are the words in some examples of noun phrases in Pnar. You will notice that demonstratives in Pnar are a combination of deictic markers with gender proclitics that identify the noun that the demonstratives are pointing to.
At this point there are a lot of other things I could discuss, but the post is getting a bit long. So I think I'll pause here and my next post will be about the features of demonstratives in neighboring languages. At least now you have a better idea of what deixis is, and how languages can differ significantly in terms of what they can encode in a spatial deictic system.
Gerner, Matthias. 2009. Deictic features of demonstratives: a typological survey with special reference to the Miao group. The Canadian Journal of Linguistics/La revue canadienne de linguistique 54:43–90.
I realize that some of my posts haven't been as clear as they could be. Specifically, I talked a lot about interlinearized texts, but what does that actually mean? Well, the thing about language is that when you are talking about specific aspects of language, it's helpful if the reader actually knows what you're talking about. Thus, examples are useful. When you're discussing an unwritten language, this has to be taken to a whole new level.
When I'm discussing examples in Pnar, I need four levels of representation, as in the example below. On the left the numbered lines represent the local orthography (line 1), the phonetic/phonemic representation using IPA (2), the word-for-word translation or English gloss (3), and the free translation that actually tells you the English meaning (4).
So on the left we have the four levels of representation, but you notice that the items on each line don't quite match up. This can be confusing, particularly if you're dealing with long examples. Interlinearization allows each element to correspond to one in the following line.
One way linguists do this is by creating tables, which have to be individually edited for each example. This is what you have to do in MSWord, unfortunately. Another way is using a typesetting program called LaTeX - this is how I produced the nicely formatted example on the right. Another convention is to have the local writing system be italicized and non-interlinearized.
Notice that the glosses on the third line are not exactly a translation equivalent, sometimes they are grammatical abbreviations for function words. Here, 'ALL' is an abbreviation for 'allative', which is a traditional term for a marker on nouns that indicates the noun to be a 'goal' or what another noun is moving towards.
Hopefully that clear things up a bit. To read more about interlinearized linguistic examples, this Wikipedia page should help.
I recently had the opportunity to attempt to condense my PhD thesis topic into 3 minutes as part of the 3-minute thesis challenge here at NTU. I made it into the final where I competed with other speakers for top prizes. I didn't win, but I had a lot of fun and enjoyed learning about some of the other great research being done here at NTU. Fortunately they took video of the presentations, so you can watch on YouTube (or below).
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