I promised a few updates of my travels, and I'm off to Indonesia this weekend, so I figured I'd better write a couple blog posts this week. First up: CEBU! This always reminds me of the Veggie Tales short "Song of the Cebu". Now of course cebu in Spanish refers to a kind of cattle. Google defines it in Spanish as "Mamífero rumiante bóvido parecido al buey, con orejas colgantes, papada pronunciada y una o dos gibas sobre los hombros, en las que acumula grasa; vive doméstico en la India y en África, donde se utiliza como bestia de carga y se aprovechan su carne y su leche." So basically a cow.
According to this site, the island in the Philippines is called Cebu from the word SEBU which means 'animal fat'. No idea why though. Anyhow, I had heard that the diving in Cebu is amazing, and since I'd been wanting to learn how to scuba dive (yet another Veggie Tales reference) I joined a random group of folks who quickly became friends. We were greeted at the airport by the usual sign:
And then the adventure began with an uneventful 2-hr drive to the dive site. I'd be learning how to dive with my new Singaporean friend, and our instructor was Anqi, a friend-of-a-friend who had helped arrange the whole thing at The Blue Abyss dive shop in Moalboal. Probably my favorite part of learning to dive there was that the skills were part of the dive - no need to practice in a pool, we simply walked out into the more shallow part of the house reef where there was a sandy bottom. Once I realized I could breathe easily under water, diving was simple.
We had a series of beautiful days, and beautiful dives. I saw so many incredible things: pipefish of all varieties, pygmy seahorses, flame file shell, giant frogfish, scorpion fish, rock fish, lion fish, leaf fish, razor fishes, sardines, needle fish, porcelain crab, and many many more. What struck me was how beautiful the colors were, with great visibility, even at 18 meter depths. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera to take pictures with underwater, but now I know to be prepared next time.
Toward the end of the trip, while the rest of the group went to swim with whale sharks in Oslob, I stayed for a few more dives, and saw some of the most incredible things of the whole trip. On the last day we visited a local waterfall, a perfect end to an amazing trip. I'll definitely be going back, and now as a certified diver, maybe I'll get an advanced certification so I can visit wrecks. I'm actually seriously considering becoming an instructor, I enjoyed diving that much. So we'll see what happens. Until next time, Cebu!
I've been traveling a lot the last few weeks, holidaying in Cebu (where I learned how to scuba dive, which was fabulous) and Hong Kong, and I'm off to Indonesia next week. My church also released a new EP, which I'll blog about shortly. And more blogs to come about my travels. For now, though, I made an instructional video of how to play the song 'Breathe Deep', which is a jazzy tune on my first full length album of the same name. The catalyst for this video was a friend in Norway who wanted to learn it, which made me realize that all I had to show people how to play it was a rough chord chart. I play most things by ear, and I don't always know what the names of the chords are that I come up with for my songs, so for those who are not as ear-oriented I thought this video would be helpful. Check it out below.
A couple weekends ago I went to Phuket, Thailand with some friends. We found a really great deal and just decided to go for it. Initially it was just four, but then two friends wanted to come, and two more, so we ended up being eight. We got there on a Friday night and took a taxi to Kata beach, and the following day wandered around Phuket, checking out the viewpoint, having seafood, swimming in the ocean. The second day we took the ferry to Phi Phi island and did some snorkeling in a couple places. Here's a view from the shore of Maya Bay, which was rather crowded.
Well now that I've submitted my thesis I have been happily doing other things than writing. Among which, moving house (I'm staying with a friend for a couple months), planning adventures, hanging out with friends, and applying for jobs. It's been good to catch up with people and not have something hanging over my head any longer.
Last week I also tidied up my desk and tied up some loose ends, one of which was a Praat script. As I have mentioned before, online communities are a fabulous place to learn about various things, and one that is particularly active in regards to Praat can be found here on Yahoo. Praat is a free program to image and manipulate sound files (particularly for linguistic purposes) and scripts that automate various features can be extremely useful. I tried to write one that would plot a series of vowels with a circle encompassing the vowel spaces and a single character of the vowel in the center of each ellipse, but I was having trouble. José was able to rewrite the script for a cleaner and better result, for which I am extremely grateful.
For other linguists interested in a script that plots a series of vowels (F1, F2) from a CSV file, check out the link above or the file below.
Travel plans are coming together nicely, so I'll be updating a bit more often in the coming weeks, unless I get too busy having fun!
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!
I haven't had much time for blogging recently, since it's crunch time on my thesis. I was working even on the brief holiday (that's 'vacation' for all you Americans) I took to the US for my brother's wedding.
It's always a fabulous trip, visiting Silver Lake in the summer. This year was no exception. Despite a few rainy days, the weather was accommodating enough to allow for some good lake time. With nieces and nephews multiplying it makes for some fun times!
And the wedding was great. We even got to set off Chinese wish lanterns. But my favorite part was being able to spend time with family and friends - what a great trip! Now here's to writing!
In my last post I discussed the concept of deixis and illustrated deictic demonstratives in Pnar. Pnar's deictic demonstrative system combines gender clitics with largely distance-based deictic morphemes, so there are potentially twenty demonstrative forms that identify nominal distance in relation to the deictic center, which can be either Speaker or Addressee, depending on the context. I'm still trying to figure out which for some forms.
The subject of my HLS talk related the Pnar demonstrative system to the demonstrative systems of other neighboring and related languages. Pnar is a bit unusual in that it is a clearly Austroasiatic language (like other Khasian varieties), yet it is geographically separated from most other Austroasiatic languages by Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan speakers. Identifying similar concepts and forms in these neighboring languages could provide evidence for language contact. Here is a map from the Ethnologue (which I made adjustments to) that shows some of the languages I decided to use to compile a table. Unfortunately not all the neighboring languages listed in black have adequate descriptions. For all you budding linguists out there, go describe them!
Because discussion of deixis is not uniform, I decided to limit myself only to forms which served a nominal demonstrative functon: those words which point out the distance of a noun from a deictic center, or exist in a paradigm with words that do. This excludes a lot of Tibeto-Burman verbal affixes which encode direction (uphill, downhill, across, etc..), and was necessary to keep the talk short enough for the conference. I worked from existing descriptions of neighboring and related languages, and unfortunately some of the languages have little to no description, descriptions that made little to no reference to demonstratives, or I couldn't get ahold of the reference in time. So here is a table with some of my findings:
I think a few things are worth noting here. First, all languages in my sample have at least a proximal/distal distinction. Second, Tibeto-Burman languages in my sample vary widely in terms of how many distinctions they encode in demonstratives. Third, Austroasiatic languages have the largest number of distinctions in their demonstratives, having at least four in each language. However, they are not uniform in terms of which distinctions they make - Pnar, while it has five distance-based demonstratives, has no 'up' or 'down' (in some descriptions 'upstream' or 'downstream') that is part of the demonstrative paradigm.
In terms of language contact, it is interesting to consider that Ao, Karbi, and Garo (which only have a dual distinction according to the descriptions I read) have had considerable contact with Indo-Aryan languages which have only a dual distinction. It is worth noting that Ao also has a non-visible/anaphoric marker that was not considered by Coupe (2007) to be a demonstrative, but may well be (personal communication).
There are many more interesting thoughts that could be drawn from this brief look at deictic demonstrative systems, and I hope these posts have helped you think about the system in your own language or languages you work on. Feel free to leave thoughts, suggestions, corrections, and general comments below!
Baclawski Jr., Kenneth. 2013. Deictics and related phenomena in Kuki-Chin. Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH: ICSTLL 46. Benjamin, Geoffrey. 1976. An outline of Temiar grammar. Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications 129–187.
Brown, Nathan. 1848. Grammatical notices of the Asamese language. Sibsagor: American Baptist Mission Press.
Burenhult, Niclas. 2008. Spatial coordinate systems in demonstrative meaning. Linguistic Typology 12:99–142.
Burling, Robbins. 2004. The language of the Modhupur Mandi (Garo), volume 1: Grammar. New Delhi: Bibliophile South Asia, in association with Promilla and Co., Publishers.
Coupe, A. R. 2008. A Grammar of Mongsen Ao. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
Dasgupta, Probal. 2003. Bangla. In The Indo-Aryan langauges, ed. George Cardona and Dhanesh Jain, 351–390. New York: Routledge.
Diffloth, Gérard. 1976. Jah-Hut: An Austroasiatic language of Malaysia. In Southeast Asian linguistic studies 2 , ed. Nguyen Dang Liem, Pacific Linguistics C-42, 73–118. Canberra: Australian National University.
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Imai, Shingo. 2003. Spatial deixis. Doctoral Dissertation, SUNY Buffalo.
Konnerth, Linda Anna. 2014. A grammar of Karbi. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Oregon.
Kruspe, Nicole. 2004. A grammar of Semelai. Cambridge University Press.
Matisoff, James A. 1973. A Grammar of Lahu. University of California Publications in Linguistics, 75. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Nagaraja, K. S. 1985. Khasi, a descriptive analysis. Doctoral Dissertation, Deccan College, Pune.
Osada, Toshiki. 2008. Mundari. In The Munda Languages, ed. Gregory D. S. Anderson, 99–164. New York: Routledge.
Ring, Hiram. Forthcoming. Khasic: Pnar. In Handbook of the Austroasiatic languages, ed. Matthias Jenny and Paul Sidwell, Chapter B: 21, ~30p. Brill.
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 mentioned that Dr. Anvita Abbi gave a great talk at the Himalayan Languages Symposium on her work on Great Andaman in the Indian Ocean. Here's a map just to show you where that is. [Image credit: Barefoot Holidays]
It's a pretty remote area. In fact, the Nicobar Islands to the south are completely closed to outsiders. When you consider that the speakers of Great Anadaman are down to a single location and the community is switching to Hindi and English as a means of communication, the closed nature of the Nicobar Islands seems somewhat justified. Great Andamanese is actually 10 languages, of which 4 were documented by Dr. Abbi and are spoken by only a handful of speakers. I'll let you check out more about that on this site.
One of the reasons it was fascinating to hear about was because of the highly-developed gender system based on a conceptualization of the world in relation to the human body. Generally, the kind of gender in languages that people are familiar with is that found in Romance languages, where nouns are marked as masculine or feminine, and verbs agree with nouns so that you know which noun is 'controlling' the action (it's more complicated than that of course, but this is just to illustrate a point).
However, gender is simply a noun class system, and nouns can have as many classes as a language (or speakers of a language) find(s) useful. So German has three noun classes (masculine, feminine, neuter), and Bantu languages have a ton (help me out Bantu language experts), and other languages have noun classes based on living things, non-living things, plants, humans, tools, certain kinds of animals, etc..
What is interesting about Great Andamanese is that the same class markers are used on both nouns and verbs in a highly productive way (meaning that they seem to apply in all sorts of ways to both verbs and nouns). These noun class markers identify actions (such as going and coming) as related to one of 7 or so body part prefixes (which also classify nouns) depending on whether the action is conceptualized as relating to mouth (being ingested, digested, etc.. i.e. thinking or being beautiful), or moving in a certain manner (feet), and there are conceptualizations related to all sorts of body parts. Unfortunately I don't have all my notes with me, as I just flew to the US for my brother's wedding, but it's really interesting to think of how this language connects (or doesn't connect) to languages in Southeast Asia and Africa. Read up more on this fascinating system here, and check out Dr. Abbi's new grammar of Great Andamanese, recently published by Brill.
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