Languages of Virginia Simon D. Levy Washington and Lee University The Virginia Forum 26 March 2011
I believe the United States should let all foreigners in this country, provided they can speak our native language:
I believe the United States should let all foreigners in this country, provided they can speak our native language: Apache
Outline 1. Why study language 2. Discovering language families: the historical/comparative method 3. Native American languages (and language families) of Virginia 4. Characterizing the sounds of language: phonetics 5. Phonetics of Rockbridge County dialect
Language Is Not "Logical" The girl Das mädchen [neut.]
Language Is Not "Logical" The girl Das mädchen [neut.] An cailín [masc.!]
Discovering Language Families The Historical / Comparative Method
How Not to Reconstruct Language Look for isolated similarities that support thrilling speculations: Hawaiian kahuna / Hebrew kohen [priest] "Exoticize" other language systems: e.g. Maya script Phoneticists: glyphs represent sounds Rejectionists: glyphs represent "ideas"
Look for isolated similarities that support thrilling speculations: Hawaiian kahuna / Hebrew kohen [priest] "Exoticize" other language systems: e.g. Maya script Phoneticists: glyphs represent sounds Rejectionists: glyphs represent "ideas" How Not to Reconstruct Language
Look at word order Subject-Object-Verb Cherokee Subject-Verb-Object Yuchi English French Tutelo- Saponi How Not to Reconstruct Language
Look at word order Subject-Object-Verb Cherokee Subject-Verb-Object Yuchi English French Japanese German (rel. clause) Chinese Swahili Tutelo- Saponi How Not to Reconstruct Language
How to Reconstruct Language 1. Look for systematic sound correspondences among words with similar meaning: EnglishFrenchSanskrit footpiedpadas fatherpèrepita threetroistri thoutututvam toothdentdanta tendixdasa
How to Reconstruct Language 2. Reconstruct a proto-language genetically based on plausible directions of change: Proto-Indo-EuropeanGermanicOther IE pfp ttht dtd
Siouan-Catawban Languages I. Siouan (a.k.a. Siouan proper, Western Siouan) 1. Mandan A. Missouri River (a.k.a. Crow-Hidatsa) 2. Crow (4,280 speakers) 3. Hidatsa B. Mississippi Valley (a.k.a. Central Siouan) 4. Sioux (Lakota, Dakota: 33,000 speakers) 5. Assiniboine (200 - 250 speakers) 6. Stoney 7. Chiwere (a.k.a. Iowa-Oto-Missouri) 8. Winnebago (230 speakers) 9. Omaha-Ponca (85 speakers) 10. Kansa-Osage 11. Quapa C. Ohio Valley (Extinct) 12. Tutelo 13. Saponi 14. Moniton / Monacan 15. Occaneechi 16. Biloxi 17. Ofo II. Catawban (a.k.a. Eastern Siouan) (Extinct) 18. Woccon 19. Catawba
Tutelo Language Last speaker died in 1871, leaving 100 vocabulary words to ethnologist Horatio Hale Hale, Edward Sapir, and others recorded more vocabulary grammar from speakers living among the Six Nations of the Grand River (Ontario, Canada) May help with reconstructing Monacan Horatio Hale (1817-1896) Edward Sapir (1884-1939)
Tutelo Language Nasal / Non-nasal vowel contrast : lot /lo/ 'prize' cf. French: long /lõ/ 'long' laid /lε/ 'ugly' la /la/ 'there' lent /lã/ 'slow' lin /lε/ 'flax' ~
Yuchi Language An isolate not clearly related to any other language As with Cherokee, speakers forcibly relocate to Oklahoma in 1800's Around five speakers left Large vowel / consonant inventory
Characterizing the Sounds of Language: Phonetics
Consonants are produced by contact / proximity of tongue and lips in various locations (hard palate, soft palate, teeth). Vowels are produced by shaping of tongue and lips. English dialects (accents) are distinguished mainly by vowels, so we will focus on vowels. It's easier (and less expensive) to measure vowel acoustics than to measure shape of tongue and lips.
Vowel Acoustics Different vowels are like different musical instruments playing the same note: same pitch, different overtones In speech science, overtones are called formants. Two formants are generally enough to distinguish among vowels. This method gives us an objective way of distinguishing among dialects. Vowel /o/ (as in "go")
Virginia Dialects, Plan B: Vowels of Rockbridge County Five women ages 52 - 74 Four raised in Rockbridge County One raised New Jersey (comparison) Asked to read aloud a short story (around two minutes) about "Arthur the Rat", designed to have a uniform distribution of English sounds.
Once there was a young rat named Arthur, who could never make up his mind. Whenever his friends asked him if he would like to go out with them, he would only answer, "I don't know." He wouldn't say "yes" or "no" either. He would always shirk making a choice. His aunt Helen said to him, "Now look here. No one is going to care for you if you carry on like this. You have no more mind than a blade of grass." One rainy day, the rats heard a great noise in the loft. The pine rafters were all rotten, so that the barn was rather unsafe. At last the joists gave way and fell to the ground. The walls shook and all the rats' hair stood on end with fear and horror. "This won't do," said the captain. "I'll send out scouts to search for a new home." Within five hours the ten scouts came back and said, "We found a stone house where there is room and board for us all. There is a kindly horse named Nelly, a cow, a calf, and a garden with an elm tree." The rats crawled out of their little houses and stood on the floor in a long line. Just then the old one saw Arthur. "Stop," he ordered coarsely. "You are coming, of course?" "I'm not certain," said Arthur, undaunted. "The roof may not come down yet." "Well," said the angry old rat, "we can't wait for you to join us. Right about face. March!" Arthur stood and watched them hurry away. "I think I'll go tomorrow," he calmly said to himself, but then again "I don't know; it's so nice and snug here." That night there was a big crash. In the morning some men—with some boys and girls— rode up and looked at the barn. One of them moved a board and he saw a young rat, quite dead, half in and half out of his hole. Thus the shirker got his due. Speaker 1 Speaker 2 Speaker 3 Speaker 4
Tidewater Accent "/r/-less" dialect : common elsewhere (New York, Boston, Georgia) Raised (centralized) /au/ : in North America, unique to Canadian English and Tidewater Speaker 5
Summing Up Language is a complex phenomenon that deserves to be studied in its own right. The scientific study of language (i.e. linguistics) reveals what is common across languages, and how each language is unique. Virginia provides an example of the catastrophic loss of linguistic diversity - hence the loss of other unique ways of understanding the world. American English dialect variation is alive and well!
Printed Sources Coe, Michael D. (1992/1999) Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames & Hudson. Hale, H. (1883/2001) The Tutelo Language (American Language Reprints vol. 23). Bristol, PA: Evolution Publishing. Ladefgoed, P. (2005) A Course in Phonetics. Florence, KY: Wadsworth Publishing. Oliverio, G. R. M. (1996) A Grammar and Dictionary of Tutelo. UMI Microform 9811237. Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertation Services. Sapir, E., L. Frachtenberg, et al. (1913/2002) Minor Vocabularies of Tutelo and Saponi (American Language Reprints vol. 26). Bristol, PA: Evolution Publishing. Siebert, F.T. Jr. (1975) Resurrecting Virginia Algonquian from the Dead: The Reconstituted and Historical Phonology of Powhatan. In J.M. Crawford (ed.) Studies in Southeastern Indian Languages. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press Speck, F.G. and G. Herzog (1942/2001) The Tutelo Spirit Adoption Ceremony. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.