Category Archives: language of the week

Language of the Month on Crikey

Part of my job on the new Crikey language blog will be a “language of the month” style post (similar to what I did for a while here, but with a
focus on Australia). The aim is to highlight the diversity of languages in Australia and provide a little bit of information about
them. I would like to focus initially on languages with revitalisation projects and with language speakers/owners who would like some publicity. Do let me know if you’d like your language featured (or know of groups who would like to be involved!).


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.

Language of the week: Bardi

This is cheating, of course, but since it’s Bardi appreciation week, in my brain at least, and since we’re up to B this time around in the language of the week…

Bardi’s a Nyulnyulan language, spoken right through by about 25 people at One Arm Point and surrounding areas. There are about 1,000 Bardi people. Bardi traditional country is the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia, and surrounding islands. It’s a Nyulnyulan language. It’s non-Pama-Nyungan, and there are about 7 other languages in the family.

Bardi is so cool in so many ways I don’t know where to start (let’s just say that the draft reference grammar is 500 pages and growing with no end in sight).

Phonologywise: There are 7 vowels (a, aː, i, iː, u, uː and o). Yes, if you haven’t seen an inventory like that before, that’s because you haven’t seen Bardi. The consonants are standard average Australian, though.

Morphologywise: well, it’s both head and dependent marking in most areas, so there’s both case marking and extensive agreement, and possessive pronouns are marked for both the possessor and possessum. There’s not a whole lot of derivational morphology but there are a bunch of isolated forms, which makes me think either that they’re borrowed words or that that morphology used to be much more productive (or both, depending on the form).

Syntactically, Bardi is nonconfigurational. Now, T. Givón (pers comm, March 2008 ) informs me that he decided in 1979 that nonconfigurationality was a fiction, but I beg to differ, although I agree that some languages which has been called nonconfigurational probably don’t deserve that label. I have systematically failed to find any evidence for constituency beyond a few areas: complex predicates, and “second position”. That is, it’s possible to define the left edge of a phrase and a clause, but just about everything else is up for grabs.

Intonation in Bardi is really interesting. Joyce McDonough and I are starting work on a description based on my previous field recordings, so I can’t tell you anything yet, but stay tuned.

There’s not a whole lot available on Bardi apart from Metcalfe’s 1975 dissertation, an article by Edith Nicolas in AJL 2000, and my papers on my web page.

Language of the week: Anindilyakwa

Anindilyakwa is this week’s language of the week, one of my favourite languages and language names. Anindilyakwa is sort of the Pira hã of Australian languages; it’s a bit of an enigma, although it’s sometimes classified as a Gunwinyguan language. There are about 1,200 speakers, most of whom live on Groote Eylandt (aka [gɹɪɯt’]) in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Language of the week: Zyphe

We’re up to z in the language of the week and I chose the last language in ethnologue’s list. However, Zyphe turns out to have been a bad choice for blogging about, since there’s very little information that I can find. A search under the alternate name Zophar on google scholar turns up 9 hits.

In short, it’s an enigmatic Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Burma and India by about 20,000 people. The amount of information available seems to be zippo.

We’ll start round the alphabet again next week. Remember, I take requests for languages of the week and welcome guest columns. If you want to write up your favourite language, be my guest.

Language of the Week: Yaqui

This week’s language is another American language. Yaqui is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken in Sonora (Mexico) and Arizona.

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.