Three Academic Linguistics Sessions I Took Part In

Sessions on Linguistics papers that a friend of mine put up. On Academia, a lot of people put their papers up for informal peer review, which ends up being a session. They range from pleasant to heated and often the criticisms are quite barbed. This is the way that social science is supposed to be though – peer review is not supposed to be a walk in the park – if it is, you’re defeating the purpose and you’re not really doing science.
So if you wan to know the stuff I read and comment on for kicks, go ahead and dig in. Don’t expect to understand anything unless you have a background in this stuff though. I have a Masters in this subject and 30 years of independent study under my belt, and still most of the people in these sessions completely kick my ass. Historical Linguistics is one of my specialties. I study in it a lot but I don’t think I could write a paper in it. It’s just so beyond my capabilities. I don’t understand how anyone does this stuff unless they have eidictic memories, which most of them apparently do.
I took part in these discussions, so I get an author credit, which is nice as far as it goes.
But if you have a background in Linguistics like Claudius and James Schipper and a few of the others, you may find these discussions interesting.
A copy of the whole discussion session on the draft paper version of “Some Gününa Yajüch loanword etymologies for Mapudungun,” totaling a full 17 pages (with some tangential discussion) with 20 participants. Special thanks go to those who shared their thoughts on the tangential discussion of the Altaic language hypothesis. As usual, the input will be used to improve the manuscript to hopefully publishable standards.

One thought on “Three Academic Linguistics Sessions I Took Part In”

  1. I never took a linguistics course in my life. Whatever I know about languages, I basically know by looking at them or by reading about them.

    Historical linguistics must be extremely labor-intensive. It is one thing to notice patterns within languages or between languages, but quite another to discover when they arose. For example, the Portuguese lh is often a j in Spanish. Olho = ojo, folha = hoja, palha = paja, coelho = conejo, alheio = ajeno, colher = cojer. A Spanish c is often a ch in French. For instance, cosa = chose, boca = bouche, cazar = chasser, castillo = château, calor = chaleur, cabra = chèvre, caballo = cheval. I notice these things, but I absolutely don’t know when they came about.

    I have come to the conclusion that what distinguishes polyglots is an exceptional memory for words. A language has only so much grammar, but it has thousands upon thousands of words and expressions. To memorize them all in a short time is a great feat of memory.

    In my opinion, what makes a language lexically easy are 4 things:

    1) A limited number of roots. English has an extraordinarily large number of roots because it has Germanic, Latin, and Greek roots. We have island (Germanic), peninsula (Latin) and archipelago (Greek). We have one (Germanic), uni (Latin) and mono (Greek). We have blood, sangu and hema, earth, terr and geo, heat, calor and therm. See, hear, and do are Germanic, but visible, audible, and feasible are Latin.

    With a limited number of roots, compounds are easy to recognize. Compare dentist, pedestrian, dictionary, hospital, pentagon, and equilibrium with the German equivalents of Zahnarzt, Fußgänger, Wörterbuch, Krankenhaus, Fünfeck and Gleichgewicht. The German ones are more or less self-explanatory, but the English ones are not.

    2) Regularity of word formation. In the Germanic part of English, word formation is mainly regular because it essentially consists of juxtaposition. In the Latin part of English, there is a lot of arbitrariness.

    3) Shortness of roots. The shorter the roots are, the easier they are to remember. Man is easier to remember than the Polish mężczyzna. Red is easier to remember than the Portuguese vermelho.

    4) Small number of homophones. Homophones make a language less explicit, and one has to rely more on context, especially when the homophones have a lot of meanings. A playwright has the right to write about the rite of passage in our culture.

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