Language of the Week: DIY

This week’s language of the week is going to be a DIY effort. Add your favourite bit of your favourite language or languages (or you can make something up that you’d like to see in a language) in the comments.

DIY is technically Diuwe, where the sole comment is ‘below 100 meters’. Therefore let me start the ball rolling by claiming that DIY is the only language which supports the hypothesis that altitude affects air stream mechanisms. Its consonant inventory contains 3 stops, four fricatives, 5 laterals, six approximants and seven vowels.

14 responses to “Language of the Week: DIY

  1. Kapu goega. Ngau nel Ben. Ngai ngurpai Kala Lagaw Ya. Kunikan iangu = kunikan mabaigal.

    Eso, la kei ne.

    Translation: “G’day, My name is Ben. I am learning Kala Lagaw Ya (Western Torres Strait Language). Strong language = strong people. Thank you, see you later.”

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  3. “Below 100 meters”? Where do you FIND this stuff??? Now I’m going to have to sift through Ethnologue looking for more of this. I have a queasy suspicion that a grant application to study the correlations among altitude, phonology, and (naturally) mitochondrial DNA would be highly fundable.

    Speaking of queasiness, what I’d like to find is a language where “cuteness” is grammaticalized. Like a noun classifier system or something. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time recently herding teenage Japanese girls, but I imagine it would catch on like… like… well, like something very cute and catchy.

    OK, in the realm of the non-absurd and just a little peculiar, one of the things that originally captured my interest in the Manchu language is that a single suffix serves both to causativize and to passivize verb stems: -bu-. And at least according to dictionaries, it’s even recursive. Though I haven’t seen many of these alleged -bubu-s in actual texts, so I’m a bit, I guess you could say, ambivalent (cough) about the actual coolness of it all.

  4. My blog already auto-pinged this post, but let me just note here that I provide a few more details on Hidbap, a language in the direct neighbourhood of Diuwe (namely the 100-200m range). It has only implosives and egressives.

  5. Welcome to the wonderful world of Diuwe studies!

    Of course one of the charming aspects of Diuwe is the dialectology, with High Diuwe spoken above 30 meters, and Low Diuwe below. All native speakers at least have the ability to imitate the other dialect. One of the high points (so to speak) of any fieldworker’s sojourn in Diuwe country is the first time she hears a highlander mockingly imitate a lowlander’s imitation of High Diuwe.

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  7. David Marjanović

    what I’d like to find is a language where “cuteness” is grammaticalized. Like a noun classifier system or something.

    And diminutives won’t do?

  8. @ David, re: diminutives vs. grammaticalized cuteness: No, no, that would be quite inadequate.

    I’d like to see at least three categories of positive cuteness and ideally some overt marking of negative cuteness (“ickiness”), with loads of cross-referencing in the verb (or the noun/NP, as the case may be). And, with any luck, a complicated pattern of interaction with grammatical number and/or tense. (Can members of cuteness category 2 be the subjects of pluperfect verbs? Etc.)

  9. Conor M. Quinn

    @ Kenji: the same apparent morpheme being used with both causative and “passivizing” (esp. adversative “passive”) functions is actually a feature of the area in general: at least some of the dialects of Mandarin I’ve encountered have a similar use of 讓 rang4. I’m pretty sure there’s a decent body of literature about this, though I haven’t read it myself. Any number of accounts for this pattern come to mind…particularly starting with the idea that these elements typically have a sense of ‘let, allow’—which can easily shift to ‘make…, cause…’ and then, if used as a middle/reflexive ‘let (self)…’, develop a rather passive-like sense.

  10. @ Conor: Yeah, the “rang” parallels are pretty striking… though it’s not too clear to me just how similar/parallel they really are. (It’s also been nearly 10 years since I thought seriously about it all.)

    I never really saw any clear evidence of the Manchu “passive” having an adversative sense; it seemed to me much more a straight valence-decreaser. As far as areality goes, I’m really interested in that but the evidence is pretty blurry. Mongolian languages don’t have homophonous causativizing and passivizing morphemes; other Tungusic languages don’t either. “Passive” in many (most?) other Tungusic languages is of the adversative sort; from what I recall about Mongol (even > 10 years now, so I could be very wrong) it does’t. I have no idea what Korean is like.

    FWIW, the Manchu morpheme in question (-bu-) is often claimed to be derived from the verb stem bu- “to give”, and if so could be a relatively recent development. OTOH, in my amateurish tinkering with corpus-based Manjurology, I started to wonder if the causative/passive suffix in Manchu was really productive in the actual language, or if it was already fossilized by the 18th century.

    Man… I miss this stuff! But I apologize to our host and other readers for not being able to link any of this to *Real Science*; for example, the possible relationship of altitude (or perhaps ginseng intake in the diet?) to the nature of valence-changing operations…

  11. David Marjanović

    Oh. Yeah, that would be… cute. :-}

    I don’t think anything goes beyond the Russian double diminutives of nicknames, though (…and those nicknames always look feminine).

  12. Russian double diminutives are presumably conditioned by the flat, open terrain inhabited by the Proto-Eastern-Slavic speakers; hence, the need to distinguish between multiple degrees of (subjective) smallness as they referred to objects in the distance.

  13. David Marjanović

    Almost makes sense, but the West and South Slavic languages share this feature. Behold the incredible shrinking Polish beer, for example: piwopiwko (with [fk]) — piwaczko.

    And if we found a euphonious way of doubling our southern German diminutives, we’d do it immediately…!

  14. Belatedly, David — I think you leave us with no other choice but to sample your DNA. Clearly this complex situation can only be resolved, objectively and scientifically, on the basis of evolutionary psychology.

    What’s more, “shrinking beer” sounds like a serious threat; something any right-thinking funding agency should leap to address.

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