Sunday, June 21, 2015

Comparative Siouan Dictionary

A key document in Native American philology which has been circulating in samizdat form for decades is finally online and searchable: the multi-authored Comparative Siouan Dictionary (as noted by Guillaume Jacques). Named for the last of its speakers to resist colonization, the Sioux or Lakota, the Siouan family was spread over a vast section of North America, covering much of the Missouri and Mississippi valleys but with old outliers as far east as Tutelo in Virginia. The names of several Midwesternstates derive from Siouan languages, so they make a convenient starting point for exploring the database. Minnesota is from Dakota mni sota "cloudy water",both elements of whose history you can trace back here to proto-Siouan: *waRé• "lake, water" and *(a)só•tE "hazy, bluish, cloudy". *waRé• also yields Chiwere ñį, which in combination with the Chiwere reflex of *parás-ka "spread > flat (1)" yields the name of Nebraska. Dakota, from a name of the Sioux, has a less venerable history, being traceable only back to proto-Mississippi Valley Siouan *hkota/*hkoRa/*hkora "friend", with unexplained internal variation and similar forms in other families suggesting the possibility of a loan. (The la- element might have something to do with fire; see John Koontz's discussion.) Kansas, Arkansas, and Iowa also have names of Siouan origin, but I can't find them in here; much work remains to be done, after all... For the relevant correspondences, a good starting point is Rankin et al. 1997, available from the same site.

The more adventurous may note that there are good prospects for going beyond proto-Siouan. It is generally accepted that Catawban is Siouan's nearest relative, and the database sometimes includes Catawba cognates (as under "lake, water" above), but makes no attempt at Proto-Siouan-Catawban reconstructions. (Work on Catawba continues, but some older materials are available online, eg Lieber 1858, Gatschet 1900). Beyond that, some work suggests that Siouan-Catawban is in turn related to what would otherwise be an isolate language - Yuchi, originally spoken in Tennessee and later forcibly relocated to Oklahoma. Efforts to find etymologies at that level have barely gotten off the ground (cf. eg Rudes 1974), but there are some promising ones, notably proto-Siouan *isá•pE "black" vs. Yuchi ispí (Elmendorf 1964). Even more implausible proposals, like the idea of a special relationship with the small Yukian family of California (Elmendorf 1963), could at any rate be reexamined in the light of this work.

10 comments:

Y said...

This paper, by Rankin, shows some of the difficulties in relating Proto-Siouan and Catawba. Would you say the two are relatable about as much as any two branches of Afro-Asiatic?

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Much closer than any two branches of Afroasiatic, I would say. I mean, Grimm 1987 gives something like 15% plausible cognates on the Swadesh 200 word list, pairwise between Catawba and individual Siouan languages. I wouldn't expect that high that between any two branches of Afroasiatic. Of course, for Afroasiatic we also have the advantage of some millennia-old attest actions, which shortens the path a bit.

Y said...

I can't tell if Grimm is relying on known sound-laws to judge relatedness. His use of historically attested languages rather than reconstructions is not ideal, especially in a language family with so much phonological restructuring.

What I meant was, based on Rankin's paper alone, what's your impression of the grammatical closeness between Catawba and Siouan, as compared to that of e.g. Semitic and Berber?

Y said...

I looked at the 56 Proto-Siouan-Catawba entries in the dictionaries. The overlap with Grimm's list only covers 8 items (blood, cut, give, liver, that, thou, three, two). Other Swadesh 200 list items reconstructed for PSC are father ('vocative' /tá:ti/, ignored), flesh/meat, foot (instrumental, ignored), good, hand (instrumental, ignored), long, one, swim, road, rock/stone, sit, sleep, tree, walk, water, yellow. The total is 21, or 10.5% of the Swadesh 200.

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

I thought Rankin's paper was a very good explanation of why typological differences would make it unfair to compare grammatical closeness across such typologically different cases. For Semitic and Berber, we can immediately see a lot of bound cognates: feminine singular marker for nominals, and aspect marking and most of the subject agreement paradigm for verbs. If Rankin is right about Catawba and Siouan, we wouldn't expect to find many such bound cognates just because proto-Siouan-Catawban was relatively isolating, and this typological fact should not affect our judgement of relatedness. (And yet despite this, apparently by parallel grammaticalisation, we do seem to have the noun prefix he alludes to and the instrumental prefixes on the verbs...)

Even 10% is on the high end for Afroasiatic, though that does bring it a bit closer.

Guillaume Jacques said...

Yuchi-Siouan comparison is a topic of great interest to me; unfortunately, the limited documentation of Yuchi makes it difficult to do much research, we would need to have someone prepare a glossary from Wagner's texts, at least to go any further. In an unpublished paper:
https://www.academia.edu/3758247/Siouan_irregular_inflections
on ft 8, page 17, I discuss some Yuchi-Siouan comparisons. It is especially interesting to notice that Yuchi and Siouan share at least one irregular verb with a common irregularity. For me, even if cognates are a bit hard to find (I collected about 30 of them, maybe I will post later about that on Panchronica), this is sufficient evidence for postulating a genetic relationship between the two.

Guillaume Jacques said...

Concerning historical Siouan linguistics, I take the opportunity to mention this paper of mine, to appear in IJAL:
https://www.academia.edu/12796953/On_the_directionality_of_analogy_in_a_Dhegiha_paradigm

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Interesting observation Guillaume, and thanks for the links! I hope you do end up posting some more about this...

Jim said...

Guillaume,
"For me, even if cognates are a bit hard to find (I collected about 30 of them, maybe I will post later about that on Panchronica), this is sufficient evidence for postulating a genetic relationship between the two."

Particularly if those cognates are between Yuchi and the proto-language rather than just with Catawba or Tutelo and Saponi. If those areal contacts don't explain those cognates, then there has to be a historical explanation.

And if you can show these to be real cognates at the proto level, the time will finally be ripe for a real comparison with proto-Iroquoian and proto-Caddoan, for a determination one way or the other on that old proposal.

"If Rankin is right about Catawba and Siouan, we wouldn't expect to find many such bound cognates just because proto-Siouan-Catawban was relatively isolating, and this typological fact should not affect our judgement of relatedness."

The same problem has plagued Sino-Tibetan studies, along with some really extensive sound changes across the entire family.

Etienne said...

Guillaume-

I will second Lameen here: By all means DO present us with those 30 Yuchi-Siouan cognates!