Thursday, March 19, 2009

Beni-Snous: Two unrelated phonetic forms for every noun?

I got flabberghasted recently by a casual statement in Destaing (1907:212)'s grammar of the Berber dialect of Beni Snous in western Algeria (near Tlemcen). I nearly missed it as I skimmed it; see if you can spot it. (The translation is mine, as are the bits in brackets.) All the numerals above 1 are from Arabic here, but that's nothing surprising - the same is true in Tarifit, and few Berber varieties have retained the numbers above 3.
"The numbers from 2 to 9 inclusive are followed by the Berber noun in the plural [eg]:

two men ..... θnāịẹ́n ịírgǟzĕn
six women ... sttá n tsénnạ̄n
[...]

From "10" to "19" inclusive, the number is followed by the Arabic singular substantive:

eleven women ... aḥdăɛâš ĕrmra (Algerian Arabic mṛa "woman" مرة; contrast Beni Snous Berber θä́mĕṭṭūθ "woman")
fifteen cows ... ḫamstaɛâš ĕrbégra (Algerian Arabic bəgṛa "cow" بڨرة)
sixteen mares ... sttɛâš ĕrɛấuda (Algerian Arabic `əwda "mare" عودة; contrast Beni Snous Berber θáimārθ "mare")

After the number nouns "twenty, thirty, forty" etc., one uses the Arabic substantive[...]

twenty women ... ɛašrîn ĕmra
fifty mules ... ḫamsîn beγla (Algerian Arabic bəγla بغلة "mule")

a thousand rams: âlĕf kebš (Algerian Arabic kəbš كبش "ram"; contrast Beni Snous Berber išérri "ram")"

If I thought it were remotely possible for Destaing's claim to be true of counting every noun in the language - rather than, say, just the six nouns he gives appropriate examples for - I would be putting together an application to head out to Tlemcen instead of making this posting. (I might still do that anyway some time, mind you.) But for rather a lot of minority languages, all or nearly all speakers are bilingual. And if all speakers are bilingual, what in principle is there to prevent the grammar from containing a rule like this?

So I ask: have you ever come across anything similar elsewhere?

89 comments:

Glen Gordon said...

Reminds me of Mitchif.

D. Sky Onosson said...

While not entirely similar, you should have a look at Japanese measure/counter words. Wikipedia has a not terrible page on the subject at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_counter_word. Not every noun has a counterpart, there are instead groups or categories. But there are a lot of them, and a noun and its measure will often derive from different sources (native Japanese vs. Chinese-derived) - not in any predictable fashion, either. Also compare the number system(s) in Japanese, or Korean...

Anonymous said...

In Istro-Romanian, numbers above 10are borrowed from Croatian: from 1-10 the native and Croatian numerals coexist, but the latter are only used with Croatian nouns (often units of measure or the like): because it is a dying language we'll never know, but I imagine that continued pressure from Croatian could have ended in a situation where Croatian numerals accompanying Croatian nouns would have entirely replaced native Istro-Romanian numeral + noun combinations.

Lameen Souag said...

Yes, the Japanese counter words are a bit similar (especially when you get pairs like ikkagetsu vs. hitotsuki) - the difference is that they're a more or less closed set, whereas nouns are pretty much unlimited. The Istro-Romanian example sounds interesting - don't suppose you can recommend any sources?

bulbul said...

Re: Istro-Romanian - not much, but at least it's something.

Rhaeticus said...

While may langugaes have a counter word system, I agree that Japanese and Korean might be unique in coupling said system
with two sets of numerals, an indigenous and a foreign-origin one. This is what makes those systems relevant for this post, which really deals with grammaticalization of code-switching. (You certainly already know Peter Auer's 1999 paper "From codeswitching via language mixing to fused lects: Towards a dynamic typology of bilingual speech, International Journal of Bilingualism 3/4: 309–332.)

I'm sorry I cannot point you to similar cases for the moment, but I see no theoretical principle which could prevent them.

I have a newbie question: why do you write the final -r of عشر together with the following word? I know that it is not there any more in many vernaculars, but here it seems to be still very much in place. And another one: do I understand correctly that (apart from that final -r) there is really no difference from 10 onwards and so the Beni Snous numbering system could be simply summarized as "use the Arabic singular wherever Arabic would, and the Berber plural wherever Arabic would use a plural (or dual) form?"

Lameen Souag said...

> why do you write the final -r of عشر together with the following word?

That's just how Destaing chose to write it - I've copied his transcription verbatim, though it's rather eccentric by modern standards.

> the Beni Snous numbering system could be simply summarized as "use the Arabic singular wherever Arabic would, and the Berber plural wherever Arabic would use a plural (or dual) form?"

Precisely, except for "one" which uses the Berber singular.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, AKA "Your friendly neighborhood Romance scholar", who sent the original comment on Istro-Romanian, indeed has a source:

Kovačec, August. 1971“Istroromâna”. In: Rusu, Valeriu (Ed.) Tratat de dialectologie românească. Craiova: Scrisul românesc: 550-591

(In Romanian, of course. Reference to numerals: p.571: as an added twist the Croatian words used with Croatian numerals are typically in the genitive plural, i.e. Croatian grammar applies too)

David Marjanović said...

grammaticalization of code-switching

Of course this reminds me, too, of Michif.

I wonder how many more such bizarro languages there are out there.

bulbul said...

I wonder how many more such bizarro languages there are out there.
At least thirteen. Michif was already mentioned and while Maltese is included in the book, the author of the chapter (I'm too lazy to find the book, sorry) admits that it doesn't exactly fit the bill.

Anonymous said...

"Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar" again, who would like to point out that this Beni-Snous dialect differs from Mitchif in a key way: whereas Beni-Snous Berber speakers are (as rule) bilingual in Arabic (right, Lameen?), Istro-Romanian speakers bilingual in Croatian, Mitchif speakers are as a rule bilingual in English rather than French or Cree. That is to say, Mitchif has a Cree and a French component, *and speakers as a rule do not know either language*. You'd have to imagine Beni-Snous Berber speakers transplanted somewhere outside of North Africa, either monolingual or bilingual in a language other than Arabic or Berber, to truly compare it to Mitchif.

Glen Gordon said...

I immediately thought of Mitchif probably because it's closer to home (ie. I've grown up and still live in central Canada).

Would I be off the mark to think that "code-switching" is just a mistaken concept based on an equally mistaken concept of language as an entity with clear boundaries. It seems to me that language is completely fluid, capable of recombining with other languages in an infinite number of ways.

To me, the intensity of loaning or code-switching is simply related to the amount of cultural contact and bilingualism existent in a community. So Mitchif or this Berber dialect are no more "bizarro" than English, really. It's like saying that ultraviolet is more bizarre than red. Purely a matter of immeasurable opinion.

And when I think of it, I suppose my concept of language as fluidic relates to how I notice my brain processes language. While I speak French fluently and am everlearning Mandarin, I really don't think of these languages as "seperate" in my head since I can so easily combine these words and their meanings together into a multilingual sentence if I so choose, even though it may seem like jibberish to those unfamiliar with the languages I may irreverently hybridize for my personal amusement. However for a community quite familiar with these languages, my jibberish would be understandable to others, yielding the potential for a new language that would be equally classifiable as Indo-European as it would be Sino-Tibetan. Is this really such an unfathomable concept to accept in the end?

Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "That is to say, Mitchif has a Cree and a French component, *and speakers as a rule do not know either language*."

But therein lies a paradox. For such a language as Mitchif to be born in the first place, an original French-Cree bilingualism would have to be a necessary fact, and it most certainly is a fact. (Suggestion: Read more on the birth of the province of Manitoba and its founder, Louis Riel.) The percentage of *modern* Mitchif speakers who know neither French nor Cree is irrelevant to the state of bilingualism during its historic genesis centuries earlier.

Evidently surrounding sociolinguistic factors can change and English is now the dominant language in Manitoba by far. Nonetheless, French still thrives in Winnipeg's historic district of Saint Boniface despite the recent superstrate.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again, who both agrees and disagrees with Glen Gordon's last two comments. On the one hand I entirely agree that Mitchif must originally have been spoken/created by Cree-French bilinguals. But there is no paradox here: once Mitchif had become a stabilized system knowledge of both Cree and French on the part of native Mitchif speakers could atrophy, as indeed it did with the rise of English as the dominant lingua franca among the Metis. But calling Mitchif an extraordinary language is certainly fair: bilingualism is quite common, but for such bilingualism to yield a stable new mixed language like Mitchif is plainly rare. What is (sadly!) common is for such bilingualism to end in language shift, where the original language leaves few traces (toponymy, some terms relating to local fauna and flora) of its former existence.

Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "On the one hand I entirely agree that Mitchif must originally have been spoken/created by Cree-French bilinguals."

It's wonderful that you agree because it's an inescapable fact of Manitoban history! ;-)

"But there is no paradox here: once Mitchif had become a stabilized system knowledge of both Cree and French on the part of native Mitchif speakers could atrophy [...]"

Yet I never once said that there was a paradox and you're merely parroting my previous statement (ie. "Evidently surrounding sociolinguistic factors can change...") as if it were your own idea. Odd but, hey, whatever floats your boat, anonymous person you. Lol.

"But calling Mitchif an extraordinary language is certainly fair:[...]"

It's only "fair" if one prefers opinionative whimsy over stoic self-restraint. The term "bizarre" is plainly a subjective word and it's this subjectivity that I objected to, pardon the pun. Every language can be deemed "bizarre" in one manner or another.

"Rare" is a more objective term and so we can certainly agree in logical terms that Mitchif is a rare outcome indeed. Nonetheless, it does happen and I felt that it related to this Algerian Berber dialect as described. It all seems to relate by way of interlinguistic codeswitching in the end.

I still argue that any given language is never so distinct and bounded from another as to be entirely immune to at least some degree of interlinguistic exchange, as some might have us believe. Just because we have a succinct word like "language" doesn't mean that the concept it refers to is equally succinct. Mitchif's qualities to me merely represent the more extreme result of bilingualism and borrowing. So there can be nothing "bizarro" about Mitchif or any other language with similar qualities since it's only expected that this should arise from time to time given the right conditions. It only seems bizarre to those who've innocently assumed that a language cannot merge with another.

Anonymous said...

Friendly Neighborhood Romance Scholar again. To Glen Gordon: actually, while there is abundant evidence for contact between Cree and French speakers in Manitoba history, there is very little hard evidence for Franco-Cree bilingualism on any significant scale: references to fur traders speaking Cree or to Natives speaking French might well refer to an incompletely acquired, or indeed even pidginized register of either language. Mitchif, indeed, is not just the best but practically the only piece of evidence we have today pointing to large-scale Franco-Cree bilingualism earlier in Manitoba.

"Yet I never once said that there was a paradox": funny, I could have sworn that you wrote "But therein lies a paradox. For such a language as Mitchif to be born in the first place, an original French-Cree bilingualism would have to be a necessary fact".

I also disagree with your claim that "there can be nothing "bizarro" about Mitchif or any other language with similar qualities since it's only expected that this should arise from time to time given the right conditions": I never used the term "bizarro", preferring "extraordinary", and this is certainly true: Mitchif is a possible outcome of language contact, granted, but it most certainly isn't the typical outcome thereof: the fact that, despite centuries of contact between hundreds of native American languages and a few expanding European ones in North America, we only know of two cases (Michif, Copper Island Aleut) of a stable mixed language emerging through such contact, plainly shows that Mitchif is NOT "business as usual" when it comes to the outcome of language contact. Grosse Ile Cree (with its many French loans) or Metis French (with its Cree loanwords and mild Cree influence on syntax and phonology), on the other hand, as end results of language contact, are quite mundane and ordinary.

Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "[...] there is very little hard evidence for Franco-Cree bilingualism on any significant scale"

Sigh. Holm, Pidgins and Creoles: Theory and structure (1988), p.11: "[Mitchif] appears to consist of perfectly formed Cree verb phrases and perfectly formed French noun phrases, eg. Nkiicihtaan dans la ligne," literally 'I-PAST-go to the-FEMININE state-line' (Richard Rhodes p.c.)."

Mitchif is not a creole because it retains complex inflection from both unrelated languages. Ergo it cannot be created without a general high level of competency of Franco-Cree bilingualism within the historical Métis community indeed, regardless of how ignorant you choose to be in both linguistics and history.

You're also mischaracterizing my statements so I'll just assume you're a typical anonymous troll. Yawn. Nice try, buddy. ;-)

Glen Gordon said...

For others more genuinely interested in the true historical facts of Mitchif:

Romaine, Bilingualism (1995), p.69:
"Originally, there must have been full bilingualism among a large sector of the [Métis] community, which according to Thomason, was not functionally compartmentalized."

Bakker, A language of our own (1997), p.169:
"Paul Kane visited the Red River Settlement in June 1846. He mentions general French-Cree bilingualism among the Métis: 'The half-breeds are more numerous than the whites, and now amount to 6,000. . . . They all speak the Cree language and the Lower Canadian patois [French]' (Kane 1859:51)."

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again. To Glen Gordon:

"Mitchif, indeed, is not just the best but practically the only piece of evidence we have today pointing to large-scale Franco-Cree bilingualism earlier in Manitoba".

I had written the above, so that your links are as needless as your patronizing tone. The Paul Kane quote given by Bakker is not conclusive in this light, as there is no way to know whether (as I had pointed out), it refers to a fully acquired or pidginized form of either language.

"You're also mischaracterizing my statements so I'll just assume you're a typical anonymous troll".

Assume whatever you wish about me, if it makes you feel better, but you had denied referring to the genesis of Mitchif as a "paradox", and I called you on it, quoting back your own words ("But therein lies a paradox") at you. I denied calling Mitchif a "bizarro" language, and you didn't call me on this by throwing back my own words at me: unsurprisingly, as I had never used the term.

For readers who have made it this far: for more on Mitchif I stoutly recommend Nicole Rosen's University of Toronto PhD dissertation, which INTER ALIA claims that Mitchif can be analyzed as having a single phonology (rather than having separate phonologies for the French and the Cree components).

Glen Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "The Paul Kane quote given by Bakker is not conclusive in this light, as there is no way to know whether [...] it refers to a fully acquired or pidginized form of either language."

Pidgins are defined as "A simplified form of speech that is usually a mixture of two or more languages, has a rudimentary grammar and vocabulary, is used for communication between groups speaking different languages, and is not spoken as a first or native language.": (Answers.com: pidgin).

Obviously Mitchif was never a pidgin so your question is already put to rest before you asked it. And while Mitchif's existence is clear, there is 0% proof of any pidgins from which Mitchif could have so implausibly formed. You're simply wrong. Give up your idée fixe, typical anonymous troll. ;-)

Lameen Souag said...

A bit late for this comment, but: please keep it civil here. Glen, you're simply misreading Romance Scholar's comments. He did not call Michif a creole nor a pidgin, nor suggest that Michif was formed from a pidgin; what he said was that old references to Cree groups speaking French may have referred to their speaking a pidgin French (just as many Native Americans spoke a pidgin English at one point), and that the only proof that some Cree spoke fluent French rather than pidgin French at the time is precisely the existence of Michif. And even if he were calling Michif a pidgin, that would just make him wrong - not "a troll". As the Wikipedians like to say, assume good faith :)

Romance Scholar: thanks for the Kovacec reference.

Glen Gordon said...

Thanks, Lameen.

Putting aside side issues about social-networking philosophy for the moment, I expect this anonymous person's phrase "pidginized register" to be either defined or abandoned if we are to have any intelligent debate on your blog. As is clear, if Mitchif retains complex inflection from both languages, there's simply nothing in Mitchif to which we can attribute the term "pidginized". In what way do you think these are valid statements about the language? I for one am at a loss as to the sense in this person's self-contradictory claims and when this person continues on in illogical fashion without even the courtesy of clear references to validate his claims, does it really matter whether he is truly a "troll" in the strict sense, or merely a senseless madman? The negative effect is the same and idée fixes stifle any further debate despite all the civility in the world one could possibly muster.

Now on the internet as a whole, the term "good faith" is one of the most unreasonable terms in the English language. It naively demands subjectivity of objective, rational people. For "good faith" to make any practical sense in the real world, we must somehow expect that people when they disassociate themselves from a single, unchangeable identity are still noble enough to hold themselves to the same set of mores as they do in real life. This is idealistic and naive. Here's one article on the inherent problems in this relativist philosophy: The Price of Anonymity (Time, July 2007).

Rather than to lazily expect "faith" from one's readers and commenters, it's better to pick up one's finger and actually address the issue by demanding commenters to set up a clear identity and/or to strictly conform to standard logical reasoning. It's a matter of blogger responsibility, really. This is what I was forced to do on my own blog when trolls thought it amusing to drag my blog down with similar nonsense that wastes my readers' precious time. I may have less visitors now but the quality of my reader has improved drastically. The trade-off was worth it.

Lameen Souag said...

Glen: The key problem is that RS said pretty much the opposite of what you're accusing him of saying at 6:49 (he certainly never suggested that Michif or any element of it is somehow "pidginised" - quite the contrary.) That kind of misunderstanding is harmless enough in itself (we all do it sometimes), but when it leads to repeated insults being hurled at a longstanding commenter who always has interesting things to say, then that has exactly the kind of dampening effect on intelligent debate that you're talking about.

Glen Gordon said...

First, Lameen, let me re-ask the relevant question you so far avoided...

Anonymous distinctly said above that "references to fur traders speaking Cree or to Natives speaking French might well refer to an incompletely acquired, or indeed even **pidginized** register of either language."

So how can one use the term "pidginized" in this context and somehow not imply that Mitchif is a pidgin-derivative? I'm all ears, Lameen.

Second, how I assess others on cyberspace is MY prerogative and prone to change once my conditions are satisfied like answering my valid questions above clearly and logically instead of evading with personal politics and imposing subjective "faith" which I will never have nor should I be expected to have in an academic sphere.

Glen Gordon said...

Perhaps to clarify, lest I be misunderstood again (cross fingers).

Let's say that all accounts of language use in the 19th century were so hopelessly misguided that they just happened to not be able to tell French or Cree from a pidgin. Jolly well, then. Nonetheless, Mitchif being so OBVIOUSLY a non-pidgin by its nature means that Anonymous's argument was simply pointless to begin with. Obviously, there was a significant number that MUST have spoke both French and Cree, the REAL French and the REAL Cree, otherwise the inflection from BOTH languages would not survive.

Now again, point to me where my logic has failed or forfeit.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again. Lameen: thank you for your kind words. Let me summarize what I have tried to express on this thread:

1-Mitchif is a language whose creation must have involved French-Cree bilingualism.

2-It is the only true piece of evidence that such French-Cree bilingualism existed, as earlier references to such bilingualism might well have referred to a reduced/pidginized variety of either language or of both languages.

Glen's question--

"Mitchif being so OBVIOUSLY a non-pidgin by its nature (...) Obviously, there was a significant number that MUST have spoke both French and Cree (...)

Now again, point to me where my logic has failed or forfeit."

--can be answered quite easily: the logical flaw lies in his unspoken belief that those sources which refer to Cree-French bilingualism *can only* refer to the sociolinguistic situation which subsequently ended in the birth of Mitchif. But why should this be assumed? Considering the geographical area and period of time involved (quite extensive, both of them), I see no reason to doubt that contact between French and Cree speakers may in some cases have involved pidginized French and/or Cree and in others genuine bilingualism. The existence of Mitchif plainly indicates that there existed instances of the latter type of contact, but for all we know all contemporary references to Cree-French bilingualism may refer to instances of the former: we simply cannot know. The existence of Mitchif makes it possible that some such references were indeed to genuine French-Cree bilingualism: that is all we can say for certain.

Anonymous said...

Friendly nighborhood Romance scholar again, with an addendum to my last posting.

Three points are worth adding in this context:

1-There is evidence for an Ojibwe-based pidgin having been used in the fur trade (See Bakker, P. "Is John Long's Chippeway (1791) an Ojibwe pidgin?", PAPERS OF THE 25TH ALGONQUIAN CONFERENCE, Carlton, Ottawa, pp. 13-31), so it is by no means unthinkable that a Cree pidgin may also have existed.

2-Considering the typological dissimilarity between French and Cree, and the fact that the first generations of fur traders came into (temporary!) contact with the latter language as adults, it is difficult NOT to believe that some pidginization took place.

3-While Mitchif does indeed preserve French as well as Cree morphology, there is a noticeable trend in both components towards greater analyticity than what is found in the source languages (thus, in the French component of Mitchif the entire system of liaison marking has broken down, and post-nominal adjectives are uninflected), I have found myself wondering whether this analyticity might not be due to contact with pidginized forms/registers of French and Cree.

Glen Gordon said...

In other words, my reasoning is intact and instead it is our unidentified "Anonymous" here who has allegedly "accidentally" distorted my original point (that Mitchif simply bears connection to this topic of the Berber dialect and its Arabic blending) with factoids and petty arguments that have absolutely nothing to do with Lameen's original article that we're supposed to be discussing.

It should naturally seem strange to any rational reader who expects mature discussions to be coherent and on-topic why the following issues were brought up at all:

1. Pidgins in relation to non-pidgin Mitchif.
2. The alleged falsity of historical accounts of French-Cree bilingualism despite it being fact anyway.
3. Other possible Cree or French pidgins, unconnected with Mitchif.
4. All other historical Algonquian pidgins ever known throughout time or imagined. (!!)

What in any of your rant do you see pertinence to Lameen's Berber dialect? Perhaps points 3. and 4. may have some relevance if you're clever enough to connect it to blended languages somehow, but our Berber dialect here is just not a pidgin any more than Mitchif is. So... HUNH?? What's your point?

Couldn't you just write your own blog about this and spare us this autistic safari into minutia hell, lest it appear that you're straining our "good faith" as I had initially suspected by your erratic topical focus?

Glen Gordon said...

Perhaps a minor "happy" point. I must admit that at least Anonymous's last point may at last be relevant, to be fair:

Anonymous: "While Mitchif does indeed preserve French as well as Cree morphology, there is a noticeable trend in both components towards greater analyticity [...] I have found myself wondering whether this analyticity might not be due to contact with pidginized forms/registers of French and Cree."

Now your only onus is to share an example of this alleged "analyticized" behaviour in Mitchif and what, if any, support you can find for the existence of your otherwise hypothetical pidgin.

Panu said...

May I step in here as a mediator? I think our anonymous contributor's idée fixe may have something to do with the persistent misunderstanding that pidgin is somehow the same thing as mixed language. I have encountered this attitude among people with no little linguistic sophistication, but having little idea of recent (or even less recent) research into pidgins and creoles.

It might be worth pointing out here that the idea that the heavily English-laden colloquial varieties of Celtic languages are somehow "pidgins" is extremely common among Celtic revivalists, with whom I have had much contact. The explanation for this common misunderstanding is, that Celtic languages have an intricate system of initial mutations, which is however not consistently applied to raw borrowings from English, and this creates the impression that the presence of English words in the language is somehow subverting ("pidginizing", as people call it) the grammar.

To sum it up. I am not particularly surprised to see that somebody, even a linguistically schooled person, should see Michif as somehow "pidginized", and insist on this in a pig-headed way. The fact is that people don't always know what a pidgin is, or they might have funny ideas about it.

Old Wombat said...

Panu, where do you get the idea that YFNRS has an "idée fixe [which] may have something to do with the persistent misunderstanding that pidgin is somehow the same thing as mixed language."

AFAICS, YFNRS has said:

(1) The first speakers of Michif must have been fluent in both Cree and standard Canadian French.

(2) There is no definite evidence in historical documents for the existence of these bilingual individuals (who, nevertheless, MUST have existed).

(3) In his last post, YFNRS mentions that, in modern Michif, the syntax and phonology of the French borrowings differ in some minor respects from the situation in French. YFNRS does NOT say that this is due to the influence of pidgin French speakers in the language's origin, as opposed, for example, to more recent changes in the language after most speakers ceased to be fluent in either French or Cree.

Where's that idée fixe in all this?

BTW, I'm very impressed with the way YFNRS continues responding politely to GG's persistent and blatant misreadings of his posts, while never descending to GG's level of personal rudeness.

John.

Glen Gordon said...

Old Wombat is yet another blogless, identityless person who sounds just like "Anonymous". Wow, how surprising and patently trollish. Nice try, kids.

Now it's up to Lameen to either mature as a blogger and moderate his commentbox sensibly out of respect towards his more intelligent readers and commenters, or to continue to be a troll-enabler who can't distinguish fact from fiction, relevance from irrelevancy, true "ad hominem" from the proper identification of trolls based on dyslogic, civility from insincerity, rudeness from poignant truth, etc., etc.

Glen Gordon said...

Panu, thanks for your input but as you can see it's probably futile to argue with these self-contradicting clowns.

In my honest opinion, there may be some relevance to the idea that blended languages like Mitchif are not truly blended 100% per se (whatever 100% really means anyway), but rather that the difference between a true pidgin with inflection stripped away and these blended languages may hypothetically be a matter of the level of competency of the community in both contributing languages. In other words, pidgins and blended languages are merely two points placed on a language-contact scale, with blended languages being the most extreme result of language contact.

Thus, for example, a Pidgin Cree language may be created by French people with a relatively poor grasp of Cree (particularly for the purposes trade communication) while a blended language like Mitchif is just the product of those French with a fluency in Cree or of those Cree with fluency in French.

Of course, no matter how you slice it, Mitchif is not according to current linguistic definition a pidgin language, nor can it be possibly built on any combination of them because of its overt preservation of inflection which should have been absent in Anonymous-Old-Wombat's imaginary pre-Mitchif pidgin language.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again. Glen's words--

"Of course, no matter how you slice it, Mitchif is not according to current linguistic definition a pidgin language, nor can it be possibly built on any combination of them because of its overt preservation of inflection"

--are ones I could have written myself: I have never claimed Mitchif is a pidgin. What I did claim was that earlier references to Cree being spoken by fur traders or French by Indians may well refer to a pidginized variety of either or both languages. Such varieties could obviously not be the direct ancestor of Mitchif.

Panu: I am quite aware of what pidgins are and of the fact that, since one of their most typical features is the total or near-total elimination of inflection, Mitchif is most definitely *not* a pidgin. I certainly do *not* regard pidgins as mixed languages, unlike Glen, who quoted the following definition:

"A simplified form of speech that is usually a mixture of two or more languages, has a rudimentary grammar and vocabulary, is used for communication between groups speaking different languages, and is not spoken as a first or native language."

I would deny the second part ("usually a mixture of two or more languages") of this definition: while there do exist lexically mixed pidgins, such as Trio-Ndjuka pidgin or Russenorsk, pidgins typically draw their vocabulary from a single source: Tok Pisin, the English-based pidgin spoken in Papua New Guinea, is a language whose morphemes are predominantly (90%) of English origin.

P.S. If ayone is interested: there actually is some indirect evidence pointing to both a French and a Cree pidgin used in the early Canadian fur trade. But this posting is already quite long enough.

Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "[...] pidgins typically draw their vocabulary from a single source: Tok Pisin, the English-based pidgin spoken in Papua New Guinea, is a language whose morphemes are predominantly (90%) of English origin."

As usual, self-contradictions and lies from Anonymous. Obviously his "10%" can only refer to German, Portuguese, Malay, and native Austronesian contributions in Tok Pisin so the definition I sourced from Answers.com: pidgin, which lists *multiple* sources all saying the same thing, still holds.

Any troll hiding like an immature coward behind anonymity will even deny Logic itself but their insane pasttime in distraction is futilie because life still carries on and they remain anonymous and irrelevant to everyone.

Again, the blogauthor's sloth in matters of moderation will be the undoing of his blog. I had to learn the hard way about the unidealized lesson of stern censorship of unconstructive, dyslogical comments to rise above a tsunami of madness from these disturbed, OCD-stricken nobodies who love to adopt multiple ids at once. Nonetheless, if you have statistics, you can see from whence the IPs emanate to distinguish genuine IDs from clones.

Old Wombat said...

Friendly: If "pidgin" is defined as:

"A simplified form of speech that is usually a mixture of two or more languages, has a rudimentary grammar and vocabulary, is used for communication between groups speaking different languages, and is not spoken as a first or native language";

then (independent of its proportion of non-English words) Tok Pisin (the example you cite later) is not a pidgin, since its grammar and vocabulary are far from "rudimentary", and it's certainly not only "used for communication between groups speaking different languages".

It can't really be defined as a creole either though, since it's not learned as the "first or native language" of most of its speakers.

To get round this problem, the term "extended pidgin" has been devised for languages like this.

Of course, this is not to deny your assertion that true pidgins typically do get the overwhelming majority of their words from a single lexifier -- though they arguably are still "mixtures of two or more languages", since they usually get most of their grammar from a different language.

All of this is completely irrelevant to the case of Michif, of course. Michif is a mixed language; it is definitely not a pidgin, or a creole, or an extended pidgin.

John.

Lameen Souag said...

Pidgins can be mixed languages, but usually are no more mixed than other languages. The Answers.com link is just a bunch of definitions from unrelated online encyclopedias; the most reliable of those sources, the Britannica, correctly says: "Most of the small vocabulary of a pidgin language... is usually drawn from a single language". Note that far less than 90% of English comes from Proto-Germanic; if you make 10% your threshold for mixture, scarcely a language on earth doesn't qualify as mixed.

Glen: I gather you don't like the "good faith" concept. Let me rephrase it. If you see a self-contradiction or a ridiculous mistake in someone else's writing, there are a number of possible explanations, such as:
1) The author's definitions of key terms are different from yours.
2) The author's reasoning follows from a set of premises that you disagree with.
3) The author hasn't really thought this through, and will see his mistake if you point out the contradiction.
4) You have misunderstood the author.
5) The author is a fool who revels in inconsistency and has no interest in truth, and should be crushed like a bug.

Except where there's some political/religious motivation to close one's mind (that's Wikipedia's big problem!), 5) is almost never true. Responding to any other situation as if it were 5) will mean you're missing the point, and will get any but the calmest person riled up. Therefore, to get the most out of a debate, it is necessary to assume that the person you're talking to is sincere and capable of logical thought. And if you do conclude the situation is 5), what's the point in arguing with such a monster anyway? Debates with 5s, and debates conducted as if they were with 5s, are almost equally futile and unconstructive. You repeatedly tell me I should block people responsible for "unconstructive, dyslogical comments". That would be 5s (who, thankfully, haven't shown up here), and that would also be anyone who persistently mistakes other categories for 5s (and, frankly, that line you're close to stepping over.)

Glen Gordon said...

Lameen Souag: "'Most of the small vocabulary of a pidgin language... is usually drawn from a single language'"

Lest I aver the obvious: A language doesn't pidginize itself. Ergo a pidgin so clearly requires at least a 2nd language to be created in the first place, despite your tragic misunderstanding of the basic term "most".

"Except where there's some political/religious motivation to close one's mind (that's Wikipedia's big problem!), 5) is almost never true."

If you read my à-propos blogentry (Paleoglot: Effective moderation, anonymity and the 'good faith' fallacy) you'll understand why only a commenter's consistent abuses of **logical fallacies** truly determine the presence of trolling (regardless of whether said intent is innocent or asinine). "Intent" is a false issue over which you alone choose to obsess.

It's a pity that you refuse to recognize that no sane academic wishes to read the ramblings of a) a genuine troll, b) a clueless child, or c) a maniac. Your loss.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again: Old Wombat's observation/objection--

"Tok Pisin (the example you cite later) is not a pidgin, since its grammar and vocabulary are far from "rudimentary", and it's certainly not only "used for communication between groups speaking different languages"."

--is absolutely correct, and I thank him/her for this: the definition (minus the mixedness aspect, of course) would apply to the immediate pidgin ancestor of Tok Pisin rather than to Tok Pisin itself, which indeed is best described as an extended pidgin (now nativizing and hence turning into a creole).

Glen's remark--

"Lest I aver the obvious: A language doesn't pidginize itself. Ergo a pidgin so clearly requires at least a 2nd language to be created in the first place"

--is to my mind only partly true: a pidgin, to be created, does indeed require SPEAKERS of (at least) one other language: but it does not thereby follow that the pidgin will show significant influence (lexical or structural) from said other language(s). Indeed, what is remarkable about pidgins is how alike they are worldwide, despite the radical typological dissimilarity of the languages spoken by their original creators.

For instance, all pidgins are highly isolating languages, many of which arguably have no bound morphemes whatsoever: this is true even of pidgins created and used by speakers of morphologically elaborate languages.

Lameen's remark--

"Note that far less than 90% of English comes from Proto-Germanic; if you make 10% your threshold for mixture, scarcely a language on earth doesn't qualify as mixed"

--is of course entirely correct: and indeed if we look at the pidgin ancestor of Tok Pisin it is clear that the vocabulary of this ancestral pidgin must have had an even higher percentage of English morphemes, originally: comparison with other descendants of this pidgin (Bislama, Solomons Pijin, Torres straights Creole) clearly shows that many of the non-English lexemes of Tok Pisin (including practically all its German- and Tolai-derived elements) must postdate the creation of its pidgin ancestor. Hence pidgins, if anything, are far LESS mixed than your typical language.

Glen Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "[...] but it does not thereby follow that the pidgin will show significant influence (lexical or structural) from said other language(s)."

It's not at all what I said (the original words being that a pidgin is a "mixture of two or more languages" which remains true despite pedantic b.s. about exact percentages), but what's the use when people can't properly read and are intent on strawman arguments over truth?

Glen Gordon said...

Lameen: " Note that far less than 90% of English comes from Proto-Germanic;"

No, I refuse to note something that can't be verified. The phrase "90% of English" prosposterously implies that the vocabulary of a language can actually be tallied. The statement is entirely invalid. Using percentages in the context of languages is a sure sign that the person in question fundamentally misunderstands the very concept of "language" from the get-go.

Lameen Souag said...

Most academics' full-time job is to explain things to "clueless children"; anyone who thinks they're too cool to explain things politely to clueless people deserves no place in academia, or on this blog. That comment is especially rich coming from a guy who imagines (on the basis of an online dictionary!) that being mixed is some kind of defining property of pidgins, and that it's impossible to count the percentage of words of each origin in a dictionary or a corpus.

"pidgins, if anything, are far LESS mixed than your typical language": that sounds plausible, but I'm not sure it's true. The PNG situation, with a very big power difference between the Europeans and the locals speaking hundreds of different languages, is not universal; Lingua Franca, for example, was in contact with much fewer languages spoken by much more powerful groups, and ended up with a fair number of Arabic and Turkish loans.

Glen Gordon said...

Lameen Souag: "Most academics' full-time job is to explain things to 'clueless children';"

Great Athena, no. That would be the job of parents and kindergarten teachers. You're suffering from a race-to-the-bottom delusion that you can somehow teach the entire world comparative linguistics instead of staying true to your real audience. I'll give you a hint: Clueless children aren't the ones most interested in your blog so why start inviting them now?

Getting back to the topic that everyone now seems to have forgotten, let's assume that my hyperlinks are unforgiveable, nay, demonic and that I should be flogged in a public square. Now what of you and your silly unquantifiable statement a few comments back: "Note that far less than 90% of English comes from Proto-Germanic"? 90% of what? 90% of English vocabulary? And pray tell exactly how many words does English have, my child? For that matter, how many words does Tok Pisin have... or any language on earth both living and dead? Utterly futile to ponder further on that, really.

The point here then evidently is that a pidgin requires the presence of a second language no matter what and is thus influenced by this second language no matter what. All your attempts to "shame" me because of a casual hyperlink to an online dictionary (which doesn't even say anything wildly objectionable!) only masks the reality that you're left with no substantial fact in your favour with which to argue against me. We aren't even on opposite sides of debate, but somehow you seem to think so.

You and your obtuse, identity-less commenters simply want to argue for the sake of it, since despite ANY definition of pidgin I might present, you can't even settle on the "standard definition" of pidgin (whatever you mysteriously believe it to be since you offer no references at all on said definition). To add to the unconstructivity, you even avoid offering a credible and thoughtful definition of your own!

So it's quite a crabby peanut gallery you're cultivating here. ;-(

David Marjanović said...

So there can be nothing "bizarro" about Mitchif or any other language with similar qualities since it's only expected that this should arise from time to time given the right conditions.

Yes -- it's just expected to happen approximately never, which makes each of the "approximately thirteen" cases very, very special.

It all seems to relate by way of interlinguistic codeswitching in the end.

Yes -- except that the vast majority of cases of code-switching never result in an intertwined language.

Stop eating coffee beans as if they were jelly beans. On the one hand, you're participating in an unremarkable and fine discussion with us -- and on the other you're getting bizarrely aggressive about it. That's annoying.

Second, how I assess others on cyberspace is MY prerogative

If you treat everyone else as an asshole, everyone will start assuming you are one. I'm just saying.

Couldn't you just write your own blog about this and spare us this autistic safari into minutia hell, lest it appear that you're straining our "good faith" as I had initially suspected by your erratic topical focus?

"Us"? Who "us"? The only one who matters here is Lameen. It's his blog.

Some bloggers react allergically to topic drift (several at Language Log for example). Others encourage it (Language Hat). Estne de gustibus disputandum?!?

Now your only onus is to share an example of this alleged "analyticized" behaviour in Mitchif

He already did, right in the ellipsis in your quote of him. Brilliant. Your blood pressure has robbed you of the ability to read for comprehension, it seems.

Old Wombat is yet another blogless, identityless person who sounds just like "Anonymous". Wow, how surprising and patently trollish. Nice try, kids.

Hey, look! An argumentum ad hominem!

David Marjanović said...

BTW, I (not YFNRS) am the one who said "bizarro". I happen to like dramatic language, as long as it isn't outright wrong -- and it isn't outright wrong here, what with Mitchif being such a special case.

D. Sky Onosson said...

I've been following this thread without commenting, since I don't really have anything insightful to say about Michif/Mitchif - and, while some of the points raised are interesting (what counts as evidence of the existence of a certain kind of language, the definition of a pidgin, etc.), I find the level of hostility and antagonistic stance that has accompanied the whole thing rather disconcerting for a linguistics-oriented blog. I've had disagreements and even sharp misunderstandings with people in such forums before, without it *ever* coming out like this.

Good faith be damned, let's at least keep it pleasant and civil.

Glen Gordon said...

David Marjanović: "Hey, look! An argumentum ad hominem!"

Lol. For your information, an "argumentum ad hominem" literally means "an argument (directed) to the person". Anyone who is blessed with the attention span to follow the current discussion from beginning to end can see that the intent of Anonymous or Old Wombat's involvement here has absolutely nothing to do with my sourced definitions of the term pidgin or any other views I've shared.

I cannot and refuse to be BULLIED by political correctness because academic truth to me is more important than the attempt of ailing individuals' to attack me in overt irony instead of attacking my rather inarguable statements.

Even if those here still ailing in self-esteem issues can't finally grow up and realize that Glen Gordon is not a demon and that his viewpoints, not his character, need to be addressed, let me reassure you that Glen Gordon and his own blog will most certainly carry on as puerility and vacuousness destroy whatever is left of this otherwise intelligent blog. Sincerely I say: What a pity that would be.

Now far be it from me to stop the roasting of my own identity. Do carry on, people, do carry on. It quite sadly only works to my advantage. ;-)

David Marjanović said...

"Old Wombat is anonymous and must therefore be a troll, and therefore whatever he says is wrong" (paraphrase) is most certainly an ad-hominem argument: instead of talking about Old Wombat's arguments, you talk about him-/her-/it-/squid-self.

I cannot and refuse to be BULLIED by political correctness

Ad-hominem arguments aren't politically incorrect (at least not necessarily so). They are logical fallacies. That's why I point them out.

As you yourself say:

[...]Glen Gordon is not a demon and [...] his viewpoints, not his character, need to be addressed [...]

Glen Gordon said...

David Marjanović: "'Old Wombat is anonymous and must therefore be a troll, and therefore whatever he says is wrong' (paraphrase) is most certainly an ad-hominem argument."

Since my *real* views on trolling are fully accessible online, it's your own sad ad hominem as well as a classic strawman argument to boot.

Maybe you can grow up and get back to topic: What's your definition of "pidgin", what reference do YOU cite, and how is it different from what I said... from what I ACTUALLY said word-for-word minus the random hostility.

If none of you are interested in discussing linguistics (the real kind, the mainstream kind, the kind that doesn't favour PETTY LITTLE OPINIONS over FACTS and CITED REFERENCES), then why do you people bother? Do you all enjoy drama? Not enough cable channels on your TVs? Are the viewer pickings in the insidious Reality TV genre getting scarce? I can't take any of you seriously as long as you focus on nonsense and, despite any crap that you say about me, I will carry on. I've encountered this mob mentality before. It's ad populum all over again. Sigh.

Glen Gordon said...

FYI, if anyone is capable of actually listening, Old Wombat and Anonymous aren't suspect to me because they are primarily anonymous (although that's a warning bell). They are suspect to me because they've successfully run this whole discussion off-topic with opinions and distractive nonsense (eg. Mitchif and whether it's "pidginized" or not... which so clearly has nothing to do with Beni-Snous!). Anyone who doesn't understand me at this point must surely be dense as lead or purposely thickheaded for their own sad entertainment. On my blog, thickheaded people and thickheaded discussions are of no value to any mentally balanced reader.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again.

Lameen-

"Lingua Franca, for example, was in contact with much fewer languages spoken by much more powerful groups"

--This is true, but it is no coincidence, I think, that there is no pidgin or creole language today which derives from Lingua Franca: the groups in contact, because of their relative equality in prestige and power, only resorted to LF in the context of trade, and learned one another's languages as soon as circumstances allowed. Russenorsk, the mixed Norwegian-Russian pidgin used in Northern Russia, disappeared in a similar fashion, when Norwegian merchants and sailors came to have the opportunity to master Russian.
It seems that for a pidgin to prosper over the long run (i.e. stabilize and possibly nativize) there needs to exist a heavy power/prestige differential in the first place. Said power differential may account for your typical stable pidgin's lexical UNmixedness.

"and ended up with a fair number of Arabic and Turkish loans."

--You're quite right, but I think the key words here are "ended up with a fair number" of loans, just in the same fashion that Tok Pisin over time "ended up" with a number of loans from languages spoken in Papua New Guinea. What's interesting is that the pidgin ancestor of Tok pisin was almost certainly born elsewhere, either in Australia or further East in Melanesia: yet of the non-English lexical element of Tok Pisin practically all of it can be traced back to languages of Papua New Guinea itself, so that we must assume that the pidgin transplanted in Papua New Guinea must originally have had a predominantly English vocabulary. Compared to their source languages pidgins undergo radical changes in morphosyntax and phonology, but by and large the lexicon appears to remain that of the source language (English, in the case of Tok Pisin): naturally over time this lexicon may absorb new words, but in this pidgins behave like (and are no more "lexically mixed" than) non-pidgin languages.

Glen Gordon said...

Perhaps if I show people what "on-topic" and "logical relevancy" sounds like, the more simian-minded commenters here will follow by example.

Read Ammon/Ungeheuer/Steger/Wiegand/Burkhardt, Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society 3 (2006), p.1945: "Alternation between Arabic or French and a variety of Berber is common among Berber speakers, and switching between Arabic and French is common in all three countries, especially in urban areas. [...] one creates and demonstrates solidarity by switching, taking into account the interlocutors' linguistic repertoires and context. According to Myers-Scotton, such switching occurs only in speech communities where the rights and obligation sets indexed by the codes involved are positively valued by participants. Thus, switching (or its absence) as well as the degree and kind of switching serves as a ready resource for creating complex identities at the local, national, and pan-national level. Speakers who switch between Arabic and French demonstrate loyalty to the values represented at the local level by each language (a 'both/and' identity) while simultaneously marking themselves off from speakers who can use only one of these languages (a 'neither/nor' identity)."

I've marked important things in bold for poor readers or for those still dwelling on off-topic and hopelessly arbitrary definitions of the word pidgin.

Anyways, this shows that my comparison to Mitchif before it was hijacked here by trolls to push an opinion war on off-topic b.s. is entirely valid since Métis too are an ethnic group inarguably conscious of their distinction from the two ethnic heritages that begat them.

Codeswitching in Beni-Snous then suggests that it's a kind of expression of social identity, entirely possible, not 'bizarre', and understandable once we stop wasting our time trying to precisely compartmentalize inherently arbitrary terms like "language", "dialect", "pidgin", "creole", etc. Language has no clear boundaries and is fluid enough to combine and recombine in a variety of ways given the right conditions. Get over it.

not that other "Anonymous" said...

Aaaah.... this has happened before.

David Marjanović said...

Maybe you can grow up and get back to topic: What's your definition of "pidgin", what reference do YOU cite, and how is it different from what I said...

What, I? I don't have a definition of pidgin, and therefore I simply didn't participate in that discussion. You must be confusing me with someone else... Oh, and, by "bizarro" I mean "especially fascinating", not "disturbing" or something.

from what I ACTUALLY said word-for-word minus the random hostility.

"Random"? You are the one who throws around hostilities randomly. Mine are carefully targeted. :-) OK, I'll stop here, because I haven't read your blog post yet. See you tomorrow or something.

Perhaps if I show people what "on-topic" and "logical relevancy" sounds like, the more simian-minded commenters here will follow by example.

Why do you care if people on someone else's blog stay on topic? That comes across as telling the blogger what to do.

I'd also recommend to be careful with the term "troll". The way I understand it, it means someone who deliberately says infuriating things in order to get angry reactions and then laugh at them; it is not required that the troll believes what they say. So, unless I've missed something big, calling someone a troll is a very, very grave accusation that shouldn't be tossed around anywhere near as casually as you do it.

Glen Gordon said...

David Marjanović: "What, I? I don't have a definition of pidgin, and therefore I simply didn't participate in that discussion. You must be confusing me with someone else..."

Indeed, I assumed you were sensible. So you have nothing to offer concerning the topic at hand (Berber codeswitching) and want to dwell on my irrelevant character? Case in point. You enjoy wasting your time with petty drama.

I've already cited a quote from Ammon/Ungeheuer/Steger/Wiegand/Burkhardt, Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society 3 (2006), p.1945 which you could read and then, if you're capable and mature enough, speak on it.

D. Sky Onosson said...

The point regarding codeswitching and expression of identity is an interesting one. As a Winnipegger, I have witnessed such phenomena a number of times.

As an example, I once witnessed a couple of friends of mine, who are Franco-Manitobains and native French speakers, engaged in a conversation in French (they, like most other French speakers in the city, are also fluently bilingual). I observed them switch mid-conversation into English, prodded only by the approach of a non-French speaker, who himself was not and did not become involved in the conversation. My hypothesis would be that they did this (unconsciously, perhaps) in order to express an inclusive identity with the 3rd party.

On the other hand, I have never witnessed the reverse, with native English speakers also fluent in French switching to French in order to express identity with a native French speaker. It should be noted, for those unfamiliar with our city or province, that while there is a sizable French-speaking population, English is overwhelmingly the dominant language, apart from certain rural areas.

The interaction of social identity and linguistic fluency and output is certainly a complex issue, and might easily be overlooked by those focused entirely on grammar.

Glen Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous (#2?): "Aaaah.... this has happened before.

Again, case in point:
A) Irrelevant to the topic
B) Typical fingerpointing of a troll
C) Allowed by Lameen for no constructive reason
D) Proof only of Carlos Quiles's mental instability considering that he and his cult followers simply can't let go of my blogentry in 2007 entitled Paleoglot: dnghu and dogmatic relativism

I urge sensible scholars to stick to the topic of linguistics, not reality TV drama from insecure individuals with no knowledge to offer the world.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again.

The claim that Mitchif is a creation serving to mark a distinct identity strikes me as dubious. First of all, a mixed identity could readily be expressed by means of Cree-influenced French or French-influenced Cree (such varieties do exist, as I have indicated in an earlier comment): indeed some Metis speak a variety of Ojibwe which is distinctively "Metis" to the ears of non-Metis Ojibwe speakers, yet which differs little from non-Metis Ojibwe.

Second of all, it is remarkable that a very Mitchif-like language (which Bakker mentions in his book) has been created recently: this is the Montagnais dialect of Betsiamites, in Quebec, whose younger speakers mix Montagnais verbs (fully inflected!) and French noun phrases, to such an extent that a majority of young Betsiamites Montagnais speakers are not even passively familiar with many basic Montagnais nouns. Crucially, not only is this language very Mitchif-like (Montagnais is so closely related to Cree that it is often considered a dialect thereof), but its speakers are neither ethnically distinct from older speakers of non-gallicized montagnais, nor deliberately creating a separate register/code. Considering the linguistic similarities between young speakers' Betsiamites Montagnais and Mitchif it is by no means impossible that similar social processes were at work in the genesis of both varieties.

Indeed, it is interesting that older Montagnais speakers' L2 French displays remarkable similarities to Metis French: Montagnais-French contact in Quebec in the twentieth century gives the impression of a "repeat performance" of Cree-French contact in the prairies a couple of centuries ago.

(I'll gladly supply references on this should anyone on this thread request them).

D. Sky Onosson said...

FYRS: I don't think anyone was suggesting that Michif is a "creation serving to mark a distinct identity", or at least I wasn't. I don't believe languages, at least natural ones, are created with any purpose to serve; that doesn't mean that they can't end up serving some purpose after all, though. People tend to use what tools are available to them for the task at hand, languages included.

I'd be interested in seeing some of your references - sounds fascinating!

Glen Gordon said...

One's feelings aren't relevant; only valid references, logical deduction and facts are.

Anonymous: "[Betsiamites Montagnais] speakers are neither ethnically distinct from older speakers of non-gallicized montagnais, nor deliberately creating a separate register/code"

Any sociopolitical grouping (eg. ethnicity, generation, race, gender, orientation, religion, political views, etc.) can serve as a source of identity. Unique identity is sufficient motive for new codes and registers, including generational differences recognized within the society, as implied by my prior reference.

Thus, your opinions are indefensible and empty; a silly "apples & oranges" argument between the more-than-obvious historical, social and cultural differences of Mitchif and Montagnais speakers; a means to provoke another trollish opinion war; and an empty generalization of codeswitching.

Try again.

Glen Gordon said...

D. Sky Onnoson: "I don't think anyone was suggesting that Michif is a 'creation serving to mark a distinct identity', or at least I wasn't."

Haspelmath, Language typology and language universals: An international handbook (2001), p.1675: "Peter Bakker (1994: 28) explains the creation of MITCHIF as an attempt by people of mixed blood to form 'a new group with a new identity'."

David Marjanović said...

So you have nothing to offer concerning the topic at hand (Berber codeswitching) and want to dwell on my irrelevant character? Case in point. You enjoy wasting your time with petty drama.

The reason I talk about your character at all is that it makes reading this thread more difficult. Once you have established that an opinion is wrong, you waste lots of space (...and time...) with grumbling over how the proponent of that opinion is stupid and evil. That's annoying, it contributes nothing, it's highly unparsimonious = unscientific = indefensible in all of the few cases I've seen, and it wastes not just your time but also that of your readers. This annoyance of mine is what I tried to explain to you.

I've already cited a quote from Ammon/Ungeheuer/Steger/Wiegand/Burkhardt, Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society 3 (2006), p.1945 which you could read and then, if you're capable and mature enough, speak on it.

I find nothing to disagree in there. I found the same opinion long ago in the Amazon snippet view of "A Language of Our Own", a book on Mitchif that proposes the hypothesis that Mitchif was consciously created by fully fluent French/Cree bilinguals who were rejected by both cultures and decided to make themselves an identity of their own. I have no problem imagining such a scenario (and am not aware of evidence that contradicts it, whatever that's worth, given that my speciality is very different...); and the most basic premise, that ingroup solidarity and separation from the outgroup is an important reason for why languages change at all, is not in dispute. It is, after all, the reason for most features of every teen speak and the reason for most features of all class differences in language. Like you, I'm surprised that D. Sky Onosson appears to have overlooked that.

------------------------

To really get off-topic: In this post, the second comment says "Just realise sterven in dutch could go back to both *sterban and *sterfan, so in fact there could be Verner at work." I'm not going to get a Google/Blogger account just to make this one comment, so I'll do it here: Does it help that it's sterben in German? And doesn't the AFAIK cognate English starve hint at *b rather than *f as well?

D. Sky Onosson said...

I overlooked what, now? :)

Perhaps I wasn't entirely clear, but the point I should have made is that natural languages, and natural language change, are not the result of deliberate intentional conscious attempts. The word "creation" somewhat implies that, and that's all I was reacting to. Of course, Michif is used by speakers to mark identity - as is every language in the world! But it has no "purpose" and, unlike Esperanto, was not "created".

Lameen Souag said...

I remember Bakker commenting briefly on Betsiamites Montaignais, but there wasn't enough detail to tell whether it was more like Michif or more a case of intensive borrowing like Ile-de-la-Croix Cree. I too would be interested to see those references you mention.

Anonymous said...

Friendly Neighborhood Romance scholar here. In answer to D. Sky Onosson: on the L2 French spoken by older Montagnais speakers and on Metis French, see the chapter (and references therein) by Robert Papen ("Le contact des langues au Canada: le cas du francais et des langues autochtones", pp.111-128) in this book:

www.amazon.fr/Canada-bilinguisme-Marta-Dvorak/dp/2868472729

As for young speakers' Betsiamites Montagnais --you know, the variety Glen claims is utterly unlike Mitchif and entirely irrelevant to understanding its genesis ("a silly "apples & oranges" argument between the more-than-obvious historical, social and cultural differences of Mitchif and Montagnais speakers", to quote his own words)-- some data, references and similarities to Mitchif are found in Bakker's book on pages 184-185...yes, the Bakker book, "A language of our own", which Glen gave us a link to. Apparently steering us towards a book on a topic doesn't imply that Glen actually read it. In fairness, considering his repeated inability to understand various postings (not just mine) on this thread, perhaps expecting him to understand a whole book is too much to ask.

Indeed, considering his many difficulties with understanding written English I should perhaps end this posting on a positive note and wish him the best of luck in understanding Etruscan (as he reports on his blog): he'll need quite a lot of it.

Lameen Souag said...

"natural languages, and natural language change, are not the result of deliberate intentional conscious attempts": that is a good first approximation, but by no means entirely true. In recent times, language planning bodies have frequently succeeded in introducing new deliberately coined words into languages (a fair number of Arabs call the telephone hātif, for example), and there is some evidence that similar phenomena can happen at a village level. Thomason has a paper on this: http://cgi.server.uni-frankfurt.de/fb09/ifas/JLCCMS/issues/THEMA_1/JLC_THEMA_1_2007_02Thomason.pdf

D. Sky Onosson said...

Lameen, you're right; I overgeneralized. Thanks for the link!

Glen Gordon said...

David, when characters like yourself cannot accept the falsehoods of their statements and instead use strawman arguments, dismiss all references cited from qualified academics without cause, personally attack me both here and through Carlos Quiles's ailing conlang site then, by most definitions of the term "stupid", this entire blogmob and the blog-author who enables the blog attacks by posting them rather than deleting them is qualifiably "stupid". Absolutely, yes.

None of these attacks actually affect me in the end. They only hurt the attackers themselves, including Lameen Souag who boasts being the author of this now-wrecked blog.

FYI, for the very last time, it's unquestionable that Montagnais and Mitchif have two different histories and two different cultures (thus two different circumstances leading to their similar codeswitching), so I can't be bothered being baited once again into repeating myself for a third time and watching the debate stray further and further off track.

Life is short and you people are certainly making it so much shorter for readers here. Bye bye now, kids. Sleep tight.

Lameen Souag said...

FNRS: Your patience with the vociferous misunderstandings and unprovoked personal attacks in this thread was remarkable. I hope you won't let this episode put you off commenting in future. I have so far not seen a compelling need to start deleting tantrum comments - at least one turned out to be unintentionally thought-provoking once I got past the playground insults - but I will change that policy if I see it driving better-informed and calmer commenters away.

David Marjanović said...

David, when characters like yourself cannot accept the falsehoods of their statements and instead use strawman arguments, dismiss all references cited from qualified academics without cause, personally attack me both here and through Carlos Quiles's ailing conlang site then, by most definitions of the term "stupid", this entire blogmob and the blog-author who enables the blog attacks by posting them rather than deleting them is qualifiably "stupid". Absolutely, yes.Who is this addressed to?

I am most certainly called "David", and you've accused me of making a strawman argument (I'm still not sure it actually is one; why did you harp on and on about the anonymity of YFNRS and Old Wombat if you didn't believe it was relevant to the argument?); but I don't see what false statement I made (oh, perhaps you mean the concept that the size of vocabulary can be estimated to some degree, while you maintain that this degree is exactly 0?), and I haven't rejected any citations. Perhaps most importantly, I had never heard of Carlos Quiles, had only visited dnghu.org once before (many months ago; just for the record, I think the idea of using some semblance of reconstructed PIE is interesting, but silly), and I am not "not that other 'Anonymous'".

D. Sky Onosson starts with D, too. I don't keep track what you've accused him of, though.

Oh, now I understand: "characters like yourself" doesn't mean you're actually talking about any particular person and then generalizing, you're tallying all sins committed against you on this blog, then lumping everyone who has commented on this blog, and then equating these two sets, as if everyone were responsible for everything. Right?

If so, you're committing the fallacy of believing that people who comment here have got anything in common beyond that...

None of these attacks actually affect me in the end. They only hurt the attackers themselves, including Lameen Souag who boasts being the author of this now-wrecked blog.Your blood pressure.

I think you should read Lameen's comment with the 5 options again. Calmly this time.

Anonymous said...

FNRS here: Lameen, rest assured that the attacks have not and will not deter me from leaving comments here: your postings are quite stimulating, rest assured. Moreover, the other commentators are of a high caliber as well: so much so that I would like to re-package two questions I have only managed to touch lightly over the course of the discussion:

1-Is it usual in mixed languages (including Beni-Snous Berber) for the components to be simplified somewhat, as is the case of the French as well as the Cree components of Mitchif? If it isn't, than my hunch (that pidginized varieties of Cree and French played a role in the genesis of Mitchif) does seem likelier.

2-Young speakers' Montagnais in Betsiamites is very Mitchif-like, as Bakker had already pointed out: what I would like someone to explain is why contact between French and an Algonquian language has -TWICE!- produced such a unique outcome. There does not exist any mixed language with English NP's and fully-inflected Algonquian verbs, for instance, nor any non-Algonquian language which has incorporated French NP's and kept its inherited VP. What is there about French and Algonquian (languages? speakers?) that yields this extraordinary outcome?

A final observation: I wonder whether, in the context of Mitchif language preservation/revival, young speakers of Betsiamites Montagnais might not be able to play a major role: I suspect they could become fluent in Mitchif very quickly, and I could easily see young Mitchif learners from the prairies (with English as their L1) being sent to Betsiamites over several summers, where they and their locally-born peers would use Mitchif as their common language.

Lameen Souag said...

1. The closest Berber comes to exemplifying a mixed-grammar language is Ghomara, where negation is Arabic and borrowed verbs and adjectives as well as nouns often retain their full Arabic conjugation. There the negative and the adjective do seem to be slightly simplified - but not the verb conjugation, as far as I could see from the very limited data at the Leiden presentation. The difficulty is being sure that the simplification took place in Ghomara, rather than in Arabic dialects of the region; the Arabic of that part of Morocco is heavily influenced by Berber anyway. Apart from the bizarre rule described above, Beni-Snous actually doesn't look any more mixed than the Northern Berber average.

2. Given how comparatively recently Michif and BM have come to light, and how many languages are in fairly intense contact with French, how sure can we really be about that?

Glen Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glen Gordon said...

Anonymous: "There does not exist any mixed language with English NP's and fully-inflected Algonquian verbs, for instance, nor any non-Algonquian language which has incorporated French NP's and kept its inherited VP. What is there about French and Algonquian (languages? speakers?) that yields this extraordinary outcome?"(Rolls eyes.) Try carefully reading and rereading Bakker's section on Micmac/Maliseet-English Code Mixing first before theorizing nonsense. These outcomes are only "extraordinary" to you because you're seriously lacking information.

And it's too bad that Lameen can't look this up too. Tsk tsk.

David Marjanović said...

What is there about French and Algonquian (languages? speakers?) that yields this extraordinary outcome?I can of course speculate: the verbs of modern colloquial French are mildly polysynthetic, so you can replace them by Cree ones without having to rearrange the entire sentence.

That said, intertwined languages like these are known from elsewhere: Light Warlpiri appears to be an example, and Copper Island Aleut is implied to be another by Wikipedia at least.

(Rolls eyes.) Try carefully reading and rereading Bakker's section on Micmac/Maliseet-English Code Mixing first before theorizing nonsense. These outcomes are only "extraordinary" to you because you're seriously lacking information.That's pretty much the exact opposite sort of mixed language: lexemes from one language and morphology from another. Erromintxela is another example: most word stems (nouns, verbs, adjectives, numerals, everything) are Kalderash Romani, but the grammar is Basque. In Mitchif, the verb phrases are entirely Cree (or Ojibwe...) and the noun phrases are entirely French (except the couple exceptions); couldn't be more different.

David Marjanović said...

Aha, Google ate two empty lines. Strange. Anyway, the quotes are still in italics as intended.

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar again.

Lameen: in North America at any rate, native languages have been sufficiently studied for it to be fairly certain that no other Mitchif-like language has appeared: considering that most are experiencing language death even as I type this, it is clear that most cannot yield a Mitchif-like outcome through contact with English. Hence Mitchif is indeed quite a special language, making its similarity to young speakers' Montagnais in Betsiamites all the more noteworthy.

(By the way, code-mixing and code-switching are different matters entirely: what makes young Betsmiamites Montagnais speakers' variety so Mitchif-like, and so unlike code-switching and code-mixing, is the fact that, as Lynn Drapeau has shown, a majority of speakers no longer know even basic Montagnais nouns, using French ones, and yet fully inflect their [Montagnais] verbs, making this situation QUITE unlike your typical instance of language death.)

David: Light Warlpiri is definitely interesting (Copper Island Aleut, whose [Aleut] verbs bear Russian inflections but whose nouns are fully Aleut, is quite SUI GENERIS): it does beg the question, though, as to why no such mixed language involving English and a Native language ever emerged in North America. Light Warlpiri having an English Creole rather than English proper component as its non-Warlpiri "half", one could remove "in North America" from the above question.

I once toyed with the idea that Catholicism might be the factor which caused French to form an intertwiner with a native language in North America, unlike English (Catholic societies in general are far more open to racial mixing than Protestant ones), but quickly realized that this explanation doesn't explain why only one intertwined language (Media Lengua) has been reported in all of Latin America, versus two (Petjo and Javindo) involving Dutch in Indonesia. Ideas?

David Marjanović said...

Copper Island Aleut, whose (Aleut) verbs bear Russian inflections but whose nouns are fully Aleut

The mind boggles!

Ideas?

Well, in the place where Mitchif was born, French never had the overriding influence English has (and very quickly gained as soon as it appeared) all over the USA -- though of course Betsiamites Montagnais could disprove that idea.

I suppose it's most likely that intertwined languages are extremely rare in the first place; there may not be enough of them for any statistically meaningful claim.

Petjo and Javindo

What do those look like?

linguist.in.hiding said...

This thread is spot on the issue I have thought about lately. Elsewhere I posted the following comment:

============

> Perhaps it's best not to use either word, but to talk about Tok Pisin as a Melanesian mixed language based on mostly English vocabulary from the colonial period.

I really really really really really don't believe you are a linguist. First of all calling a creole a mixed language is just replacing one usage (technically correct, even if it has negative connotations) with a fraudulent one. And that fraudulent usage strengthens a really really really really really really really really really really stupid layman fantasy of "mixed languages". There are maybe 13 mixed languages out of maybe 8000. Do you really want to make the relative amount of loan words the criteria of calling a language a mixed language? If yes, further discussion is pointless (and, "as a linguist" you should know why).

===========

I might have mentioned "extended pidgin" but... ...and called loan words something different as they in these cases are, that was a blunder.

Then I came across Erromintxela. This language differs from other mixed languages since it is essentially Basque with a Romani lexicon. Yes, there must have had been a thorough bilingualism (although... what is that actually, every single "bilingual" person, and they have been good candidates and quite many, I have ever met has clearly had one native tongue, even though they know some other language excellently) which is one point in favor of being a mixed language. But is that enough?

Why is it any different from Media Lengua? The Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_languages) on Mixed languages says:

"Media Lengua, an inherited Quechua grammar and phonology with a borrowed Spanish lexicon. However, there are arguments that this was simply Quechua with large numbers of Spanish loanwords. It is no longer spoken."

Erromintxela should not be counted as a mixed language.

Furthermore on the Wikipedia page on Erromintxela (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erromintxela) you have:

"The most detailed research to date was carried out by the Basque philologist Josune Muñoz and the historian Elias Lopez de Mungia"

The description of the language is ok but as far as I can see there were no linguists involved. It seems that people just had this pet project and wanted to make it special.

Our host has written: "If you regard the lexicon as the least interesting part of a language, and cultural differences as a distraction from linguistics". The lexicon and cultural differences might be interesting in themselves but do we really need to take them into that much consideration in the case of mixed languages and Erromintxela? I see this as opening Pandora's box.

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Friendly neighborhood Romance scholar here. David: Petjo and Javindo are basically mixed languages created by children born to Indonesian mothers and Dutch fathers ("Indo-Euros") in Indonesia in colonial days: they basically have Dutch vocabulary and Malay and Javanese grammar, respectively: neither language may be said to be well-documented.

Linguist.in.hiding: Erromintxela is unfortunately not a good example of a mixed language whose creation involved "thorough bilingualism": all that was needed to create it was a knowledge of Romani vocabulary, as the grammar is entirely Basque. What makes Mitchif doubly remarkable as a mixed language is the fact that 1-Many speakers know neither Cree nor French, and 2-Only Cree-French bilinguals --individuals familiar with the lexicon *and grammar* of both languages-- could have created it.

David Marjanović said...

although... what is that actually, every single "bilingual" person, and they have been good candidates and quite many, I have ever met has clearly had one native tongue, even though they know some other language excellentlyYou don't know any people who grew up with two native languages?

linguist.in.hiding said...

>> although... what is that actually, every single "bilingual" person, and they have been good candidates and quite many, I have ever met has clearly had one native tongue, even though they know some other language excellently

> You don't know any people who grew up with two native languages?

That is just it: "they have been good candidates and quite many". So, these persons have had parents with different native languages or the surrounding society with a different native language, or some variation of the theme. Bona fide examples of bilingualism, the literature uses people precisely like them as examples of bilingualism. Many have evidently switched their native language. Nevertheless, one language always dominates. So, that language is identifiable as the native language. Therefore, I have become quite skeptical about bilingualism as defined in the literature.

pomarien said...

Hi,

I'm from KEF.
I think this is not the entire Berber that you are talk about. It's the new one merged by Arabic.

This is what happen with Kabyle Berber now. They don't talk the origine Berber.

Regards.

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I'm from Khémis at the Beni Snous country. I remember there was a game back 40 years ago, where we used to count : HAMOU [ONE] TANOU [TWO]TALTOU [THREE] RABU [FOUR] KHAMOU [FIVE] CHELTA [SIX] CHAABA [SEVEN]QAJAT [EIGHT]MAJAT [NINE]MIW [TEN]

Lameen Souag said...

Anonymous: Thank you very much! Almost the same counting rhyme is found in Boussemghoun, in Chaouia, and in Tabelbala.