SHLP4 Call for Papers

Society for the History of Linguistics in the Pacific SHLP4

The fourth biennial conference of the Society for the History of Linguistics in the Pacific will take place in Alice Springs, Australia, 22-23 September 2014.

Papers on any aspect of the history of linguistics are welcome, especially those relating to the history of linguistics in Australia and the Pacific. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to David Moore ( by 31 July.

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Posted in Announcements

La historiografía mexicana en el contexto de los estudios lingüísticos actuales

Ana Balderas García
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

El quehacer lingüístico en México se remonta al encuentro entre culturas que se dio en el siglo XVI. La imperiosa necesidad de convertir a los nativos al cristianismo, llevando el desconocimiento de las lenguas de éstos a cuestas, dio como resultado que los religiosos comenzaran a internarse en el análisis sistemático del náhuatl, tarasco, totonaca, zapoteco, etc. Así, las gramáticas y vocabularios hacen su aparición abriendo paso al conocimiento de nuevos sistemas comunicativos y, por ende, a paradigmas culturales inimaginables.

Arte en lengua zapoteca de fray Juan de Córdova 1578

Arte en lengua zapoteca de fray Juan de Córdova

Andrés de Olmos

Vocabulario de la lengua mexicana y castellana de fray Andrés de Olmos 1547

Arte de la lengua de Michuacán de fray Maturino Gilberti 1558

Arte de la lengua de Michuacán de fray Maturino Gilberti

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Posted in 20th century, Field linguistics, History, Linguistics

Empirical methods in language construction

Başak Aray
Université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, EXeCO (PHICO)

Efforts to establish an international auxiliary language (IAL) have a long history. Projects to overcome ethnic languages flourished in the 17th century Britain. Creators of these “philosophical languages” (Descartes, Dalgarno, Wilkins, Leibniz) stressed the shift between the structure of spoken languages and the structure of nature, and consequently the view that the former leads to a distorted understanding of the latter. To replace imperfect natural languages – they are inefficient, at best, if not obviously misleading, so they claimed – they devoted their efforts to designing a transparent medium to represent the real structure of things adequately.

The history of the universal languages took a new turn towards the end of the 19th century. With Schleyer’s Volapük (1879) emerged a new goal for constructed languages: unlike their Enlightenment-era predecessors, the new constructed languages had a practical focus on international communication. Most of them integrated a posteriori elements in their grammar and vocabulary in order to maintain a continuity with natural languages, which ensured that they were more accessible to learners (Couturat and Léau 1903: 113). This period may be characterized as a pragmatic turn. Epistemic ambitions of reflecting the real structure of things were discredited, and “universal language” was replaced by “international auxiliary language”. On the methodological side, conceptual analysis left its place to empirical observation of existing languages.

The new paradigm bore humanistic and cosmopolitan tendencies combined with a technophilia that inspired the extension of engineering to the linguistic field. Esperanto, the most emblematic – and, so far, most successful – IAL was accompanied by rhetoric from its creator, Zamenhof (1906: 1154), encouraging pacifism and promoting international brotherhood. The Delegation for the Adoption of International Auxiliary Language presented IAL as a historical necessity. In their history of the universal language, the leaders of the Delegation, Couturat and Léau, mention the ongoing rapid globalization of the world as the background to the IAL (Couturat and Léau 1903: VII). They explain this development by the exponential growth of transport and telecommunication technologies. These raised global mobility and revived international commerce, making the need for an IAL to facilitate international communication more important than ever. Read more ›

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Posted in 20th century, Constructed languages, Europe, History, Linguistics

Language and smell: traces of synesthesia in premodern learning

Raf Van Rooy
PhD fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO)
University of Leuven

It is well known that, in present-day English, the verb ‘smell’ can obtain a negative connotation when used intransitively; the adjective derived from it, ‘smelly’, is even lexically restricted to the meaning ‘having a bad smell’. By contrast, speakers of English tend to allot more positive interpretations to the sense adjective ‘tasty’ (cf. Krifka 2010). That is to say: everybody with a healthy appetite would prefer ‘tasty’ to ‘smelly’ food. Another example, from a rather unexpected corner, is the association between stench and syntax errors in computer terminology. It appears that the terms CodeSmell (alternative terms: CodeStench and CodePerfume) and LanguageSmell refer to the use of erroneous codes in computer programming (see ‘If it smells, it’s bad’, appears to be the maxim of olfactory imagery in English. Things seem to have been quite different in some premodern Latin and Italian texts I encountered during my research on the history of the ‘dialect’ concept. In these writings, the image of ‘smell’, always expressed by means of the Proto-Indo-European root *od- (cf. ancient Greek ὀσμή), seems to be usually tied up with more positive features, such as antiquity, purity, and naturalness, especially with reference to linguistic contexts. Since no studies on this topic are known to me, I would like to briefly explore some of these passages in the present contribution, so as to shed a little more light on this peculiar aspect of premodern language attitudes.

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Posted in Europe, History, Linguistics, Semantics

Program March-May 2014

Language and smell: traces of synesthesia in premodern learning
Raf Van Rooy
PhD fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO)
University of Leuven
Empirical methods in language construction
Başak Aray
Université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne, EXeCO (PHICO)
La historiografía mexicana en el contexto de los estudios lingüísticos actuales
Ana Balderas García
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Dr. José Rizal, the Messiah as linguist
Piers Kelly
Australian National University
The Latin-Portuguese grammarian Manuel Álvares (1526-1583)
Rolf Kemmler
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD)
Exclamations: a grammatical category?
Els Elffers
University of Amsterdam
Posted in Programs

New dating of the Iloko manuscript lexicography

Rebeca Fernández Rodríguez
Centro de Estudos em Letras (CEL)
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD)

Missionary lexicography in the Philippines is extensive and exhaustive. Dozens of grammars and vocabularies have been written since the Spanish arrival in the Philippines in 1565. In many cases they have remained in manuscript form. However, in the last decade, some scholars have focused their research on specific languages and documents. Quilis edited Blancas de San José’s Arte y Reglas de la lengua Tagala (1661) in 1991; García-Medall edited Alonso de Méntrida’s Diccionario de la lengua bisaya, hiligueina y haraya de la Isla de Panay in 2004; Zwartjes edited Melchor Oyanguren’s Tagalysmo elucidado (1742) in 2010; and I am working on an edition of manuscript Calepino Ilocano.

Even though there is an increasing number of papers and books on Philippine linguistic documentation, there is no study on how dictionaries were compiled and finally printed. Missionaries worked on previous dictionaries, improving them by making amendments, adding new terms and examples. Authorship was not regarded as it is today. Grammars and dictionaries were kept in libraries or passed from hand to hand and were constantly improved.

So we might ask what work Spanish missionaries in the Philippines did on their field notes to prepare printed dictionaries. We can begin to answer this question by looking at three different Ilocano manuscripts kept in the Library of the Estudio Teológico Agustiniano de Valladolid (Spain) and comparing them to the first printed Ilocano dictionary of 1849. Read more ›

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Posted in 17th century, 18th century, Europe, Field linguistics, Lexicography, Linguistics, Philippines

Bloomfield : Du mentalisme au behaviorisme

Jean-Michel Fortis
Laboratoire d’histoire des théories linguistiques, Université Paris-Diderot

On peut s’interroger sur l’évolution qui voit Bloomfield passer de la psychologie à dominante wundtienne, qui imprègne son Introduction de 1914, au behaviorisme, et d’une linguistique “mentaliste” à une linguistique psycho-abstinente et centrée sur l’analyse des formes. Une version simple de cette évolution est celle que décrit Langendoen (1998): de conceptualiste, Bloomfield devient behavioriste et structuraliste.

Je voudrais donner ici une image plus complexe de cette transition, en insistant sur le découplage entre la conversion au behaviorisme et l’évolution des idées linguistiques de Bloomfield. Cette évolution est à mon avis graduelle, et entretient des rapports complexes avec la psychologie de l’époque (celle de Wundt, essentiellement, mais aussi de Hermann Paul). Trois examples, qui sont autant de rapports à la psychologie, peuvent l’illustrer.

Dans un premier cas, Bloomfield donne un soubassement psychologique à des phénomènes linguistiques, pour n’en garder que ce qui est compatible avec des critères distributionnels d’analyse. Ici, le mentalisme embraye la discussion, donne un fondement psychologique à l’explication, pour se trouver recyclé en approche distributionnelle. La discussion partira de ce que dit Bloomfield à propos de la distinction analytique / synthétique.

Un autre cas concerne la réinterprétation par Bloomfield de l’analyse wundtienne de la proposition. En l’occurrence, dès l’Introduction de 1914, Bloomfield reprend Wundt en l’édulcorant, c’est-à-dire en restant plus près des formes de surface que Wundt. L’origine de l’analyse en constituants peut donc être cherchée chez Wundt, mais chez un Wundt en partie dépsychologisé.

Enfin, dans un troisième type de cas, la psychologie mentaliste ne joue qu’un rôle insignifiant dans la description linguistique, et ce à l’époque même où Bloomfield défend une linguistique psychologique. Ce cas est illustré par les précoces Tagalog Texts (1917).

Bien sûr, il ne s’agit pas ici de présenter Bloomfield et son évolution, mais de donner quelques coups de sonde historiques dans certains domaines. Read more ›

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Posted in 19th century, 20th century, America, History, Linguistics, Structuralism

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