Oxford Kobe workshop

Sorry for the hiatus, I've been enjoying myself too much. I've been (and still am) at the 3rd Oxford Kobe workshop. The theme for this time is "The linguistics of endangered languages" and there were about 10 papers from various parts of the world, including 3 on Australian languages (Peter Austin on some of the cool features of South-Eastern Australia, me on Bardi complex predicates, and Tasaku Tsunoda on Warrongo antipassives).

It was interesting to see the different ways in which the participants interpreted the theme of the conference. For me, for example, the endangerment idea was somewhat incidental to the paper. Bardi's endangered, therefore it counts for the purposes of this conference, but Bardi had these structures before it was endangered, and a language doesn't need to be endangered in order to be worth documenting (indeed, there are lots of aspects of documentation that can only be done when there is an active and healthy community of intergenerational speakers). It's urgent to document languages like Bardi because if we don't do it now, that type of work won't be able to be done in the future, but that doesn't mean, I think, that it's intrinsically "better" in any meaningful way to document threatened languages. That serves to exoticise the communities who speak such languages and may not be a very productive way of proceeding. This complexity came out quite well in the discussion period, I think.

We heard three more A talks (apart from Australia) – America, Africa, and Ainu, too, including Friedericke Luepke's "Beyond clicks and tone", which included a really fascinating study of lip-plate speech (the articulatory compensations needed by women who wear lip plates – there's a picture here, sorry for the bandwidth stealing).

On the touristy side, I went to Nara with some of the other conference participants and got to remember some of my extremely rusty Japanese. The cherry blossom is out and it's stereotypically pretty in the "ah" sort of way. I went running up the hill behind the Oxford Kobe Institute yesterday and the lava outcrops were really interesting (+ path-side shrines, + incomprehensible signs about the wild boar, and so on!) It's been a thoroughly enjoyable week. Now I'm off to Ann Arbor for another workshop, so the hiatus will resume shortly. 


2 responses to “Oxford Kobe workshop

  1. I’m curious to know how others interpreted the theme of the conference. While at first glance my current research into demonstratives in Dalabon seems a purely linguistic topic on an *incidentally* endangered language, it’s actually right at the core of linguistics and/of endangered languages, as it one of the (most obvious) areas of Dalabon grammar that semi-speakers do not use, preferring instead to code-switch to Kriol to make deictic reference. Did others focus on the linguistics of language shift?

  2. There was a little about that, although not really the loss of particular features (except perhaps in Friedericke’s talk on lip plate speech).

    Peter Austin talked about some of the unusual features of South-Eastern Australia (such as affixation for the time of day at which an event occurs) and what we wouldn’t know about if these languages hadn’t been recorded.

    Martin Maiden talked about some aspects of language change and partial shift in Dalmation (and a variety of Romanian) and how intense contact had produced some new and interesting grammatical features that weren’t present in either of the two input langages (e.g. the creation of a separate adverb part of speech through the borrowing of Croatian neuter noun inflection). He also talked briefly about rapid language change in the grammar of the last speaker.

    There were some talks on Ainu and various Formosan languages but they were mostly also in the category of ‘this is an interesting feature of a language that happens to be endangered’.

    Keren Rice talked about the marking of situation aspect in Slave and how it’s a very rare case of this category being instantiated overtly in the morphology of the language, so from the endangered language aspect it was similar to the others that was on an endangered language but not really about endangerment.

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