‘You don’t see what you don’t know’: examining material aspects of manuscripts (Part I)

Anna Pytlowany
University of Amsterdam

Part one: Paper, ink, watermarks

My interest in manuscripts as material objects was sparked when I started my PhD research into the history of Dutch descriptive linguistics. Ultimately, I want to create a virtual digital archive of linguistic documents from the Dutch East India Company (VOC) period (1600-1825). There are many vocabularies, wordlists and grammars of the “exotic” languages that the Dutch encountered in the course of their trade expeditions. However, since the Company had no real policy regarding language documentation, most of the manuscripts are scattered around various libraries and archives all over the world – and largely forgotten.

But when, how, and by whom were they created and what were their itineraries? How can we read between the lines of these old texts when the explicit historical information is missing? Can the paper, the ink, or maybe the crease indicating the way the page was folded hold clues to unravelling the story of a particular text-carrying object – the manuscript?

“You don’t see what you don’t know”, the saying goes; you won’t be able to recognise the important hints unless you know what you are looking for.

I would like to give you a glimpse into the science of codicology, which I wish I was offered when I first held a 17th-century manuscript in my hands.[1] Read more ›

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Posted in 17th century, 18th century, 19th century, Europe, History, Netherlands

The lost Tesoro del ydioma ylocano

Rebeca Fernández Rodríguez
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro

At the end of the 18th century, Russian Empress Catherine II wanted to compile an atlas of the world’s languages. She commissioned first the German Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811) and then the Serb Fyodor Jancovich de Mirievo (1741-1814) to publish a book containing the translation of a list of words into as many languages as possible. In 1785 Pedro Normande, Spanish chargé d’affaires at St. Petersburg,  sent a letter to Spanish king Charles III. It was a petition including two lists: the first a list of fourteen grammars and vocabularies from America and the Philippines, including such titles as the Vocabulario de pampango en romance (1732) by Diego de Bergaño (1690-1747), and Arte breve de la lengua aymara para introducir el Arte grande de la misma lengua (1603) by Ludovico Bertonio (1552-1625); and the second a list of 445 words to be translated into the different languages spoken within the territories of the Spanish Crown. Charles III agreed to the petition and directed the viceroys and governors in America and the Philippines to buy or copy the books and translate the words. They did so; and from 1789 to 1791 boxes of books and documents arrived in the Archivo de Indias in Seville and in the Real Biblioteca in Madrid. However, Charles III soon died and his son, Charles IV, inherited the Crown. This fact, among others, contributed to the lists and books never leaving Spain.

Apparently, although it was not in the list of books sent by the embassy in Russia, a bilingual Ilokano dictionary, Tesoro del ydioma yloco, was sent among others from the Philippines. For more than 200 years, scholars thought it lost, but it has in fact been in the library of the Palacio Real in Madrid all along. It is a copy made between 1781 and 1784 in Batac for the personal use of the Augustinian monk Agustín Pedro Blaquier (1749–1803), who loved books and whose library was believed to be one of the richest in the Philippines. It is made up of two volumes, one Spanish-Ilokano (1782–1784) and the other Ilokano-Spanish (1781–1782).  It is, so far, the oldest Ilokano dictionary currently available.
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Posted in 18th century, Lexicography, Philippines

Saussure’s sound symbolism

John Joseph
University of Edinburgh

“The most celebrated opponent of the sound symbolic hypothesis,” writes Magnus (2013: 201), “was, of course, Ferdinand de Saussure”. Of course. One of Saussure’s key contributions to modern linguistics is the principle of the arbitrariness of the link between sound and meaning, or more precisely between signifier and signified within the linguistic sign, his most detailed discussion of which took place in his third course in general linguistics in 1910-11. It was carried over into the posthumous Cours de linguistique générale (1916), where it has long been the target of attacks by linguists convinced of the explanatory power of sound symbolism.

But how is it then that in the last paper he published during his lifetime, Saussure (1912) argued that a group of Latin adjectives had developed in a particular way because the shape of the diphthong in their stressed syllable is mimetic of the shape of the idea common to the words containing the diphthong?

Few investigators of iconicity have read the 1912 paper (one of the rare later studies to discuss it is Gmür 1990: 47-49). Like Magnus, they generally understand sound symbolism to be the direct opposite of the arbitrariness which Saussure professed. Since he wrote this paper just after, or even while, giving the lectures on arbitrariness, it may look like a deathbed conversion. But given that it was for a Festschrift presented to Vilhelm Thomsen on his 70th birthday, 25 January 1912, chances are that Saussure was writing the paper no later than the semester in which the lectures on arbitrariness took place. If we go back 35 years to his second published paper (Saussure 1877), it too proposed a form-meaning link, more conventional but still of the sort that typically gets classified as iconic (see Joseph 2012: 200-202). In between, we have his testimony from 1892 concerning his own synaesthetic associations of vowels with colours, textures and smells (Joseph 2012: 392-397).

This is starting to look like quite a different man from the one of whose limited vision Magnus & Co. despair. In this post I shall explain why I think their despair is misplaced.

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

ConSOLE XXIII Call for Papers

Conference of the Student Organization of Linguistics in Europe XXIII

The University Paris Diderot-Paris 7 will host the 23rd Conference of the Student Organization of Linguistics in Europe (ConSOLE XXIII) from 7 to 9 January 2015 in Paris.

Graduate students and advanced undergraduate students not having defended a Ph.D. by September 5th 2014 are invited to submit abstracts for presentations (30 minutes, plus 10 minutes discussion) or posters. Submissions in all areas of linguistics are welcome, such as syntax, semantics, phonology, morphology, phonetics, language acquisition, psycholinguistics, computational linguistics, history of linguistic theories, diachronic linguistics and syntax in ancient grammatical traditions etc.

Deadline for submissions: September 5th, 2014

See the ConSOLE XXIII website for further details.

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Posted in Announcements, Europe, Linguistics

Program August-December 2014

[Program updated 25 August 2014.]

6
August
Saussure’s sound symbolism
John Joseph
University of Edinburgh
20
August
Break
3
September
The lost Tesoro de ydioma yloco
Rebeca Fernández Rodríguez
Centro de Estudos em Letras (CEL)
Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD)
17
September
‘You don’t see what you don’t know': examining material aspects of manuscripts
Anna Pytlowany
University of Amsterdam
1
October
German Lutheran Missionaries and the Linguistic Landscape of Central Australia 1890-1910
David Moore
University of Western Australia
15
October
Sapir’s form-feeling and its aesthetic background
Jean-Michel Fortis
Laboratoire d’histoire des théories linguistiques, Université Paris-Diderot
29
October
‘Some Americans could not by any means count to 1000′: The cognitive effects of the lack of names for numbers in exotic languages from the perspective of linguistic theorists before Humboldt
Gerda Haßler
Universität Potsdam
12
November
Ergativity in early Australian grammars
Clara Stockigt
University of Adelaide
26
November
In Praise of ‘Exceptionless': Linguistics Among the Human Sciences at Bloomfield and Sapir’s Chicago
Michael Silverstein
University of Chicago
10
December
La aportación de Nicolau Peixoto para el estudio del español en Portugal
Sónia Duarte
Centro de Linguística da Universidade do Porto
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Posted in Programs

The Latin-Portuguese grammarian Manuel Álvares (1526-1583) and his De institvtione grammatica libri tres

Rolf Kemmler
University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro

A little more than 440 years ago, in September 1572, the Portuguese typographer João da Barreira printed the first edition of a quite elaborate grammar of the Latin language. Little did the printer as well as the author, the Madeiran Jesuit Manuel Álvares (1526-1583), know that this first print of Emmanvelis Alvari e Societate Iesv de institvtione grammatica libri tres would constitute a momentous event in modern grammar history world-wide. With hundreds of editions throughout the following centuries, this grammar would become the Latin grammar with the greatest overall editorial and grammaticographical impact of all time.

Following the establishment of the Society of Jesus in September 1540, young Manuel Álvares was one of the first generation Portuguese Jesuits, acquiring his vast knowledge of Humanist studies in the classes of the Jesuit College of Arts (Colégio das Artes) in Coimbra that had been founded in 1548. As soon as 1552, he began teaching Latin grammar in the Portuguese Jesuit Colleges in Coimbra, Lisbon and Évora, occupying several positions of importance during the following decades. As a result of the fame for his mastery of Classical Latin that he achieved during the course of his teaching activities, the Jesuit Superior Generals Diego Laínez (1512-1565) and St. Francis Borgia (1510-1572) commissioned in 1564 the elaboration of a Latin Grammar by Álvares, to be used by the Society of Jesus:
Read more ›

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Posted in 16th century, Europe, Grammars, History, Portugal

Exclamatives: a grammatical category?

Els Elffers
University of Amsterdam

1. Introduction

In most Western European grammars, sentences such as Hurrah!, How very curious!, or Vienna is so dull! are categorized as exclamatory sentences or exclamatives. Next to declaratives, interrogatives and imperatives, exclamatives are usually regarded as a separate sentence type.

However, as a grammatical category, exclamatives are more problematic than other sentence types. More often than other sentence types, exclamatives are omitted from grammars, or they are dealt with very succinctly, and/or in a rather ambiguous way.

During the last decades, there has been a cry for more research into exclamatives. This is mainly due to a growth of interest in themes such as “language and emotion” and “the expressive function of language” (cf. e.g. Foolen 1997). Below, I will briefly discuss the history of thought about exclamatives. Special attention will be paid to some early insights into the problematic character of the category. I will argue that, despite some theoretical improvements, the category has remained problematic up until the present day. Solutions are within reach only if two long-standing ideas are given up: (i) the idea that exclamatives constitute an independent category, (ii) the idea that research of exclamatives exclusively belongs to the “language and emotion” area. Read more ›

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Posted in 19th century, 20th century, History, Linguistics, Syntax, Uncategorized
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