A new Yaghnobi blog

Since I started posting about the Yahgnobi language three months ago, I have been delighted to discover others who are also interested in the Yahgnobi people and their language. Today, I decided it was time to create a new blog dedicated just to Yaghnobi and invite everyone who is interested in the Yaghnobi people, their language, history, and culture to contribute as authors. You will find this blog at: http://yaghnobi.wordpress.com

Language Documentation Courses in Oregon

The University of Oregon Department of Linguistics and the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) announce the 2007 session in Language Documentation June 25 – July 20 2007, Eugene, Oregon

As documenting languages takes on greater importance, there is a growing need for well-trained fieldworkers who are prepared to collaborate with community members. There are few places where students can gain practical, hands-on experience. The UO Linguistics Department focuses on lesser-known languages and empirical work. NILI has a ten-year history of working with tribes, communities and endangered languages. We look forward to having you join us! Continue reading

UNESCO World Language Documentation Centre Opens

On May 9th, UNESCO officially launched the World Language Documentation Centre.  While the WLDC has a mission broadly defined as “championing linguistic research and facilitating the needs of linguistic communities”, they initially seem to be focused primarily on promoting multilingualism in cyberspace. The OmegaWiki  is an example of the type of initiative in which they are currently involved. The prime sponsor of the WLDC is GeoLang (the successor to Linguishphere) who is the registration authority for the ISO 639-6 database. (The ISO 639-6 standard is a system for identifying not only languages, but also variants within each language.) Continue reading

Online Tajik and Pashto lessons!

The Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region at Indiana University has just made on-line reading and listening lessons in Tajiki, Pashto, Mongolian, and Uyghur freely available via their Intermediate Level Reading and Listening Project.
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Everyday Islam–Soviet Anthropologist on Central Asia « Birds’ Books

 Jamela just posted a review of Everyday Islam, a book by a soviet anthropoligist about the tenacity of tradition and failure of sovietization in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. You can read it here:

Everyday Islam–Soviet Anthropologist on Central Asia « Birds’ Books

Iranians and Americans pursue friendship in spite of politics

The headline of this news article, “Unlikely Ties Connect Iran and Portland, Oregon” , instantly caught my attention since so much of my life was shaped by my encounters with Iranians and the Persian language when I lived in Portland. Many of the Iranian-American ties described by Steve Holgate in this article were familiar to me, and some were new. Here are some of the new developments he describes: Continue reading

Notes on Functional Linguistics

I mentioned in a previous post that the department of linguistics at the University of Oregon, where I study, is a “bastion of functional linguistics”. So, what is functional linguistics?

Those who call themselves “Functional Linguists” differ on many aspects of linguistic theory, but the one central principle they all share is the answer to the question “What constitutes a satisfactory explanation for the observable facts about language?”Functional explanations are based on communicative function. Languages around the world are in some ways very similar and in other ways radically different because they have been shaped by differing social, and historical processes, but for the one universal purpose of communication based on human cognition. This is in contrast to a formalist explanation that seeks to explain observable (surface) facts about language in terms of a deeper (underlying) level of language. Continue reading

Tajik Folklorist’s Memoirs–Translation in Progress

Stories from the Land of Springs (Dushanbe, 1996) is the memoir of one of Tajikistan’s most prominent 20th-century folklorists. Rajab Amonov (1923-2002) describes his boyhood in the northern Tajikistan city of Uro Teppa. The book’s attraction lies in its both cultural and historic value. As a folklorist, Amonov details cultural practices still observable in many parts of Tajikistan. Written in the late 20th century, the account also discloses Amonov’s perspective on the changes that took place during the early years of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Amonov knew the value of story, so his descriptions are couched in engaging narratives. Continue reading

Universal Grammar Ghosts « The Language Realm

The Language Realm blog reports:

A new chapter in the debate about Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar has opened up with real excitement. So even if you’re not into hard-core linguistics and have only heard of UG, read on. It’s worth it.

The story starts with field research nicely summarized on Physorg. The key point is that Daniel L. Everett, a linguist at Illinois State University, claims that the language Pirahã lacks certain fundamental features that UG predicts and requires.

Read it here:  The Language Realm Blog Universal Grammar Ghosts «
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Notes on Language Endangerment

An endangered language is one that is likely to entirely cease being spoken within a few generations. This kind of language death is not the same as the gradual change undergone by “dead” ancient languages like Latin which did not suddenly cease to be spoken, but that slowly evolved into something new. In the case of Latin, it evolved into the modern romance languages like French and Italian.

Language extinction occurs as speakers of minority languages come under economic, social, and/or political pressure to adopt the majority language being spoken around them (Woodbury 2000). The pressure exerted by major world languages is evidenced by the fact that 50% of the world’s population speak one of the top 12 world languages (Ostler 2005:526). A language becomes extinct when all the members of the new generation have adopted the language of the outside majority and the last older generation speaker of the minority language has died.

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