Language of the Week: Wichita

This article in the Dallas Morning News (via via the Lexicography List) decided me on this week’s language of the week.

Wichita is a Caddoan language, spoken by about 10 people and with a little over 2000 heritage owners. Wichita has my kind of phoneme inventory, with 10 consonants, r and n in complementary distribution, no nasals, but k and kw contrasting, and a three-way height difference in vowels but no front/back distinction.

There’s a documentation project on the web. It’s a great site, and has links to both documentation and Wichita sites.

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8 responses to “Language of the Week: Wichita

  1. Wow, I totally can’t accept “decide” as a transitive verb. I wonder why…

  2. That’s a lovely website. On the subject of North American languages, the death of the last speaker of Eyak is also topical, and something you may like to comment on Claire: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/5477468.html
    There’s an older story here: http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/290767.html

  3. David Marjanović

    Better yet: even though there’s no front-back distinction, all three vowels are front. It’s not like in the West Caucasian languages where the two or three vowel phonemes have allophones all over the place from front to back and from rounded to unrounded.

  4. Thanks Helen – I don’t think I have anything to add to what Tulugaq and her commentators said.

  5. David Marjanović

    Erm… what do you mean by “decided me on”? ~:-|

  6. If it makes you feel less lonely, that use of “decide” is perfectly familiar and fine to me.

    Grim tone to the DMN article. Especially the “the language is too hard” component. We really need to get more professional L2 work involved in this process, with special attention paid to the specific problems of minority-language/heritage-language L2 learning. Rather than just have all of us kind of improvise. It seems like we’re starting to collect up a literature on revitalization issues in general, but a specific handbook on tried and true, deeply effective techniques for this kind of teaching and learning, that’s what we need. The Master-Apprentice guidebook is a great start, but I think we need something that includes that as a chapter among a richer array of options, because even Master-Apprentice doesn’t work for everybody. And in particular, many communities are for oen reason or another beholden to standard school-based setups—so the question becomes, how can you get that space to actually work, too?

    So in short, we need a workshop. Whaddya think, Claire?

  7. Not only is that use of “decided (someone) on” perfectly reasonable in any English dialect I have run across (a relatively wide selection of US Englishes) it’s the third transitive definition in the AHD.

    3. To cause to make or reach a decision.

  8. David Marjanović

    Oh, so it acts as its own causative… viewed from my native German, English is fairly familiar most of the time, but every once in a while it steps way outside of Standard Average European…

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