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November 2005 - Posts

  • Literacy Education in Somalia

    There were two really interesting presentations from my classmates this week in LIC. I'm feeling pretty lucky that I get to see what others are doing before I have to present my mine. It'll be my turn to take center stage next Monday when I talk about my language policy paper on west Africa. Monday's presentation was on native language education policies throughout Mexico. I sometimes feel like I'm at a disadvantage in LIC when we talk about Mexico because it is Dr. J's area and she often cites examples and literature from the area. Four people (out of 7) in the class also study the Mexico/Central America area. I then realize that I'm at a slight advantage compared to the other two that are left because I at least understand Spanish. Either way, Ivy's presentation on Mexico was very interesting but I was really looking forward to hearing Marianne's talk on Somalia today. The presentation was fantastic and a lot more "my style". Marianne spent some time in Somalia working with refugees in her medical anthropology work and has some amazing first-hand experience to share. She approached her presentation much like I'm planning to do mine...by outlining pre-colonial, colonial, and current affairs that have influenced her area. It's interesting about Somalia that although it has one of the most advanced native language programs in Africa, the country still remains greatly divided along cultural lines. She mentioned that Somalis are even considering attempts to separate the country into three independent nations. Elsewhere, countries are more peaceful overall but are having more widespread problems. I guess that goes in support of my paper where I talk about the individual political and attitudinal components of nations that influence the failure or success of their plans at development and policy implementation.
    Posted Nov 30 2005, 09:10 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Tuesday Trivia - Snow

    One of my least favorite things to think about is undoubtedly snow. After growing up in central New York for eighteen years, I have seen more snow than I ever care to see again. I've luckily lived in Florida for the past few years, and although it gets a little chilly, the temperature really never drops below freezing for long. The only possibility of me seeing snow is when I head home for Christmas. I was buying Christmas gifts for my family yesterday online and got to thinking about how much I dislike snow, and I also realized that I had no idea where the word came from. I'm more of a Romance language buff, so I know 'niege' and 'nieve' from French and Spanish respectively, and 'nipha' from ancient Greek, and there isn't a word for snow in Senari that I know. So where did this 'snow' come from?

    First off, I have to introduce some readers to a new concept...proto-languages...it will help to explain 'snow'. There is a branch of linguistics that analyzes historical and genetic comparisons between languages and has attempting to construct proto-languages to explain linguistics ancestry. In lieu of going into too much detail, suffice it to say that when you see a * before a word, it is understood that the word is a proto-word and there is no concrete evidence that is it truly the form in which the word existed in earlier times. With that said....

    Snow...(blech)...our Modern English...well before that was 'snaw' in Old English. Pretty close, right? Before that, the trail toward the origin of snow leads down the Germanic side of English ancestry instead of the "French/Romantic" side. The proto-Germanic for snow is believed to be *snaiwaz as determined from Old High German 'sneo', Dutch 'sneeuw', Modern German 'Schnee', etc. Here's where it gets interesting though. Before proto-Germanic come proto-indo-european...and this word for snow is *sniegwh. It is from this word that the branches separated....can you see how the Greek 'nipha' or Latin 'nivis' could have arisen from *sniegwh? Just get rid of the initial 's' and put a suffix on the end and you've got something close. The word also saw a semantic (meaning) change in different branches of Indo-European, where in sanskrit, and IE language spoken in south Asia, the word 'snihyati' means 'to get wet'.

    Posted Nov 29 2005, 02:19 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Language of the Week - "L"

    The language for this week is one that I had not really thought about until I started looking for an 'L' language for my blog. I knew it had existed (had being the key word), but I never gave it much thought. The language is Lingua Franca...I know, I know...not a lingua franca, but the actual language that this idea stemmed from. Today, when we think of a lingua franca, it is the language of wider communication used by people around a nation or region for the purposes of mutual intelligibility. Scholars consider English to be the most widely spoken lingua franca around the globe. In East Africa, for example, the LF is Kiswahili and in West Africa there are several (Hausa, Wolof, Dyula, Yoruba). I digress....(I love saying that)...

    Lingua Franca was a trade language or pidgin that developed from the lexicon of Italy and Proven�e. It was spoken mainly on the northern coast of Africa and gained vocabulary from Spanish and Portuguese. Other coastal areas around the Mediterranean had their own "dialects" of Lingua France drawing from the lexicon of France. Some scholars believe that all pidgins that have developed around the world stem from the original Lingua Franca...but this has been widely disputed. Although Lingua Franca is thought to be extinct, there have been reports of a similar language spoken in the eastern Mediterranean that uses Arabic syntax and a lexical combination from many other languages.

    Posted Nov 28 2005, 02:11 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Check these guys out!

    It's always so nice to hear back from people who have read my blog. Over this past weekend, I got a few comments from people interested in what I write about, both about Nafara and LIC. I really appreciate you taking your time to write if you have questions or comments. I took a few days off from writing blog posts to relax after finishing my LIC paper, but then I remembered that I still had a paper on psycholinguistics for my psych class and materials for graduate applications to prepare. Either way, I just wanted to send out a thank you to everyone that has been reading! Check out these other great blogs!

    Posted Nov 26 2005, 04:29 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Word of the Week - kakuro

    If it weren't for my buddy Mike C., I would have no idea about today's word of the day. I had been hearing Mike and Jamie talk about doing this puzzle online every morning but had never really paid attention to what they were talking about. I happened to come across kakuro this morning before writing my entry, and it was explained that the game is similar to sudoku....hmmm.....sudoku....ringing a bell. Aha...that's the game that Mike and Jamie play. Luckily, Mike is my co-worker and was able to give me a quick run down of the sudoku concept so that I at least knew what I was writing about. As it turns out, sudoku and kakuro are similar games based off of numerical additive grid. One popular in the US is called Cross Sums. Kakuro was originally called kasan kurosu by its creator McKee Kaji, but was anglicized (sort of) by the British to its present form.
    Posted Nov 25 2005, 03:13 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Be Thankful and Stop Bickering

    First of all....Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope that everyone is doing something fun and exciting for their holiday and resting up on the long weekend. I'm celebrating the holiday by having friends over for dinner and cooking a traditional Indian meal. I've been taking Indian cooking lessons for nearly two years, and I've gotten most of my friends hooked on how delicious Indian cuisine can be.

    Anyways.....back to language in the news...

    I read a disturbing article recently by a writer in the New York Times that outlines the ongoing struggle to attempt to revitalize the Cornish language of the British Isles. At first, the article sounded like it would be great thing, the last remaining speakers of Cornish (only 200 of them) had decided to start a revitalization project to save their language. Their sister language, Irish Gaelic, has had much success in revitalization efforts across the way in Ireland. These languages are part of a dying family of Celtic languages, among them are also Manx, Scots Gaelic, Breton, and Welsh. So what's the disturbing part you ask? These people that are attempting to maintain their language have split themselves into four different factions that refuse to agree on the orthography (writing system) to be used for the language. Local, national, and European sources have already promised to finance the language project once all the appropriate materials are ready for distribution. All in all, these few people do not really have the luxury of heated debate over their dying language. I'm concerned that the effort will be scrapped if decisions aren't made quickly. Funding will go away, speakers will continue to die, and interest will wane.

    Posted Nov 24 2005, 02:55 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • I'm sure jealous....

    I thought the day would never come that we finish that terrible textbook that we've used for LIC. The remainder of the semester will be devoted to individual projects from each person in the class, and to start out (for our one day of class this week) Brooke presented on the language policy and maintenance programs in Guatemala. I couldn't help but be a little jealous of all the great strides that have been made in the country to promote the various native languages, most of which are part of the Mayan language family tree. Brooke spent time in Guatemala (in Santa Cruz del Lago) on two separate occasions and gained a lot of knowledge about the area and the languages. Incidentally, her village is one in the area where all the mudslides occurred this past hurricane season, but luckily her "family" fared well in the disaster. My talk on language policies in Cot� d'Ivoire and Benin isn't until December 5th, so I have lots of time to see what the others are doing (so I can make mine the best!). I'm really going to miss being in class with the older grad students who won't be in the linguistics core class in the spring. It'll just be us youngins.
    Posted Nov 23 2005, 02:46 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Tuesday Trivia or not...

    Today I'm bringing you a break for our regularly scheduled Tuesday Trivia to exclaim that I've finally finished my huge research paper. Way back when, I posted about my assignment for LIC in which I chose to write about language policies in the former French colonies of Africa...and now it's done! 33 pages! It's hefty, but besides being my only grade in LIC, it is also acting as my writing sample for graduate applications. I think that it's pretty well written, but we'll see what Dr. J. has to say about it after she gets back from her holiday trip this weekend. I'm wondering if I should submit all 33 pages of the paper or if I should break it down to five or six pages...because honestly what graduate committee is going to read all 33 pages?! I have to admit that I learned a great deal while writing this paper. I read nearly 70 books and journal articles covering a range of topics from French colonialism, to pre-colonial African history, to education policy, to language planning and sociolinguistics. The research gave me a great idea about what I'd like to do for the rest of my life after learning about the potential successes of using linguistics to develop literacy and education materials in minority languages to help ethnic groups to modernize without relying too heavily on dominant world languages like English and French. As a reward to myself...I'm not doing anything tonight...maybe just falling asleep on the couch while watching Golden Girls reruns...ahh...the life! This weekend, besides cooking for Thanksgiving, will be concentrated on paper #2 for psychology class, so I guess I should settle in on a topic. This paper only needs to be about 7 or 8 pages, so that will be a walk in the park compared to the other one. After that, it's presentation preparation time for LIC on my paper. That should prove to be a fun return to my Powerpoint days of doing lab meeting presentations in my biology labs. Yikes! Scary! Biology!....ahh Nice! Linguistics!
    Posted Nov 22 2005, 03:06 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Language of the Week - "M"

    Trade languages are pretty amazing when you really get to thinking about them. You have two (or maybe more) groups of people who speak totally different languages that come into contact and need to learn to communicate in order to facilitate their common business. What do they do? Well, the main thing that might determine what they will do is based on the social status of each group. If these are two tribal groups who have equal social standing, the trade language that develops might possible contain equal borrowings from the two languages. If the two groups have a dominant/subordinate relationship...for example...explorers visiting a sparsely inhabited island, then the island inhabitants might see the other group as prestigious and the tables would be weighted to having more influence from the explorers' language. An example of a trade language used in an island nation in the south Pacific is Marovo (that's the M). Marovo is an important language in the Solomon Islands that developed for use by traders but has become the first language of children and has therefore grown in importance in the nation. Wow, I could go on for days about this stuff....but I won't....because too much technical information does not a fun linguistics blog make. Wow...holy SOV word order Batman!
    Posted Nov 21 2005, 02:53 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Word of the Week - jactitation

    I've always wondered what to call it when that nerve in my hand freaks out and my thumb goes all crazy...and now I do...it's called jactitation. This word comes from the Latin 'jactare' or the French 'jeter' meaning 'to throw.' Besides being used to explain involuntary muscle spasms, it is also used in the medical world to describe when people toss about from pain. I'll have to ask my mom if there were any people jactitating at the hospital...she's an ER nurse by the way. There never seems to be a shortage of strange words in the English language that we barely hear or get to use. I suppose that it's no sense in using some of them if everyone doesn't understand what they are (and they just look at you as if you're a little nutty). Then again, context does help a lot, and I am never one to advocate getting rid of perfectly functional vocabulary that has a very particular meaning. Take jactitation for example...it's one word, very concise, very precise meaning. What do we say instead? Tossing and turning? Well, that's three words to make up for one, must not be good. Flail?...nope....arms flail....must be that jactitate is the best word.
    Posted Nov 18 2005, 02:31 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Language Immersion Houses

    I found a fantastic headline yesterday in the cnn.com education pages..."In a shrinking world, knowledge of languages key." Way to hit the nail on the head! So, the whole idea of this article was to highlight the emergence of language immersion houses at universities in the United States. Where do I sign up for those?! I don't think that we had them at Florida State, although we did have language groups that met at caf�s and restaurants around town to get together and speak foreign languages. At these universities, students sign up to live in these houses where 100% immersion takes place. Another added bonus is that the houses are often holding groups of people being immersed in 3 or 4 languages. The 1st floor spanish, the 2nd french, etc. They therefore encourage learning multiple languages at the same time. The only strictly enforced rule appears to be that english is only spoken when people who don't understand come to visit. These houses have been developed in response to a 14% increase in students minoring or majoring in foreign languages. Sounds amazing to me!
    Posted Nov 17 2005, 02:32 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Finally!!!

    It took all semester, but it finally happened! This week in LIC, we discussed my area...endangered and dead languages. OK, don't turn your noses up, it's a really cool field. It may sound really sad and depressing, and it is for a while, but the possibilities of language revitalization and the successes that have happened over the years have a very positive outcome. The final chapter of our text was about endangered languages and began with a few examples...one of which sounded really familiar to me. I realized that the woman who was quoted, Marie Smith Jones, had been written about before in something that I read. I thought back and realized that this past summer I had read an article in The New York magazine about a cultural group from Alaska called the Eyak. Marie Smith Jones was the main focus of the article, as she is the last full-blooded and fluent Eyak speaker. I'm very proud (thought I obviously had nothing to do with it) that stories of these dying languages are making into such widely distributed materials like The New Yorker. The story was really interesting and of course pretty sad as well, but I really recommend reading it if you can get your hands on a copy. The fate of Eyak is one of many native languages of the United States and abroad. Language policies set forth by the government in an attempt to unify, instead tear apart cultural groups by forbidding them to use their native languages. Early territorial language policy in Alaska stated "Pupils are required to speak and write English exclusively." And there you have it....if there are no children learning to speak the language of their parents and grandparents, they won't have it to pass on to their children....a language dies. A few anthropologists and linguists made it their life work to preserve what is left of the Eyak language, and now all the materials can fit on 5 DVDs. Can you imagine if all that was left of English could fit on 5 DVDs?! Language death is a serious problem and will only continue to get worse if we don't do something about it.
    Posted Nov 16 2005, 02:37 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Tuesday Trivia - What you should never do to a gift horse

    Michael, Michael, Michael....this post is just for you...

    My roommate Michael is a really smart guy. He's always done really well in school and plays the double bass like nobody's business. However, on occasion, he says things that just stop me in my tracks. A while back, a bunch of us got together and were talking about idioms again. (no, this is not all i do with my friends!) Someone mentioned the timeless classic "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" to which Michael promptly replied..."no, it's don't kick a gift horse in the mouth!" Well, needless to say we all had a good chuckle. Sorry Mr. Man, but I've got to disagree on this one. Although I would never advise kicking a gift horse in the mouth, it's better that we just don't look inside. Why don't we want to look in the horse's mouth though? Well, a little known facts about horses is that their teeth grow with age and must be filed down on occasion. The basic idea of not looking a gift horse in the mouth is that, if you look a something given to you too closely, you might start to find imperfections. Similarly, if you look too closely inside a horse's mouth, you'll see its age and imperfections by the size of its teeth. In the tradition of gift-giving, I would chance to say that this is pretty rude. This phrases was seen in Latin in the 1st century AD, so not looking a gift horse in the mouth is apparently a good idea.....and don't kick one either.

    Posted Nov 15 2005, 02:51 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Language of the Week - "N"

    The featured language for this week is a personal favorite of mine, owing from the fact that I've been studying it for nearly a year. The language is Nafara, a dialect of the Gur-language Senari spoken by a cultural group in the northern part of Cot� d'Ivoire. I've had the privilege of studying Nafara alongside a native speaker of the language...who incidentally also speaks English, Dyula, French, and Yoruba! This may sound like an amazing and unusual talent, but a great deal of people living in multiethnic west Africa often known 4 or more languages fluently. So why do I love Nafara so much? Well, back when I first decided that I wanted to be a linguist, I was introduced to Sidiky Diarrasouba, the native Nafara speaker I mentioned just above. He is an educator turned linguist, who decided to come to the United States to investigate a way to develop the necessary materials to revitalize his native language and to promote literacy within his culture. I have been assisting Sidiky in analyzing the discourse structure of Nafara fables in order to determine a functional grammar and the rules of syntax of his language. We have also attempting to find a practical orthography so that his language can begin to be written. Things are going great so far, although I haven't had much to time work with him lately due to all my grad application work and papers to write. I'm very excited at the prospect of being able to continue my work in language development and revitalization before I even get to formal graduate school!
    Posted Nov 14 2005, 06:33 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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  • Word of the Week - Isabelline

    Crazy English....we've got a word for everything! I'm going to tell you a sad story about Isabella, archduchess of Austria from the very beginning of the seventeenth century. Isabella was a good daughter to her father, king Philip II of Spain and one day decided to do her own small part to help her father's military campaign. One day, when Philip and his army decided upon their next siege, Isabella responded by vowing not to change her undergarments until her father's army gained the city. This took three years! Isabella kept her word, and at the end of three years, her unmentionables had become a grey-yellow color. History has it, that this color became known as isabelline, and has come to be used to describe certain wild plants and the coats of animals. Blech!
    Posted Nov 11 2005, 04:08 PM by christophergreen with no comments
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