A COUPLE OF BLOGS.

I’ve recently become aware of these language-oriented blogs:
Cognition and Language Lab focuses on “experiments through the Web testing human reasoning, particularly in the domain of language”: “Long-time readers know that the major focus of my research is on how people resolve ambiguity in language.” This post has a nice quote from Van Berkum, Koornneef, Otten, Nieuwland (2007):

However, the flexibility of language allows us to go far beyond this. For example, as revealed by a brief Internet search, speakers can use “girl” for their dog (“This is my little girl Cassie…she’s much bigger and has those cute protruding bulldog teeth”), their favorite boat (“This girl can do 24 mph if she has to”), or a recently restored World War II Sherman tank (“The museum felt that the old girl was historically unique”). Such examples reveal that for nouns, it is often not enough to just retrieve their sense, i.e., some definitional meaning, from our mental dictionaries.

The Ideophone, by Mark Dingemanse, PhD student in the Language and Cognition group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, bills itself as “Notes on expressivity, African languages, and more”; there are all sorts of interesting posts on things like Expressivity in Berber and Mawu folk etymologies, but what I want to highlight here is the latest post, On the history of the term ‘ideophone’, which LH readers may be able to help with. Mark writes:

A common term for expressive vocabulary in African linguistics is ‘ideophone’… According to the OED, the term ideophone can be traced back to an 1881 work by philologist/ethnomusicologist Alexander J. Ellis. … Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down the citation provided by the OED, which runs thus: ’1881 A. J. ELLIS Synops. Lect. Lond. Dialectical Soc. 2 Nov., Mimetics, ideographics, and ideophonetics. Fixed ideograph, variable ideophone, and their connection.’ (Suggestions welcome.)

As I wrote him, “I thought I was good at digging up the OED’s sources, but this one defeats me; I’ve googled everything that seemed relevant and come up empty. The London Dialectical Society (as you’ve doubtless discovered) did a lot of paranormal investigations (Logie Barrow calls it ‘the semi-respectable London Dialectical Society’), and Ellis gave a talk ‘On Discussion as a Means of Eliciting Truth’ that was published in 1879, but I can’t find anything combining him, the Society, and the year 1881.” So can any of you clever folk do better?
Update. Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower provides the answer in the comments:
“The OED is citing a printed card announcing two of the London Dialectical Society’s November meetings, mailed by Ellis to James Murray (they were friends), and subsequently deposited by Murray in the OED archives.”
Thanks, Jesse!

Comments

  1. Mark is a real hero on Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User%3AMarkDingemanse
    He’s done fantastic work on linguistic topics, particularly with respect to African languages.

  2. The OED is citing a printed card announcing two of the London Dialectical Society’s November meetings, mailed by Ellis to James Murray (they were friends), and subsequently deposited by Murray in the OED archives.

  3. Thanks very much!

  4. Thanks indeed, Jesse! And thanks also to LH for harnessing the power of the LH Truth Squad — this is wonderful, and so fast!

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