RECORDING INDIAN LANGUAGES.

I love bilingual texts that have both morpheme-by-morpheme interlinears and prose translations, and there are several of them at this Project Gutenberg reproduction of the Smithsonian Institution’s Illustration Of the Method of Recording Indian Languages by J.O. Dorsey, A.S. Gatschet, and S.R. Riggs (from the First annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1879-80, published 1881): “How the Rabbit Caught the Sun in a Trap” in Omaha, “Details of a Conjuror’s Practice,” “The Relapse,” and “Sweat-Lodges” in the “Klamath Lake dialect” (not sure what language that is—Klamath-Modoc?), and “A Dog’s Revenge” in Dakota. (Via wood s lot.)

Comments

  1. “Sweat-Lodges” in the “Klamath Lake dialect” (not sure what language that is—Klamath-Modoc?)

    Given that the notes to that piece begin “No Klamath or Modoc sweat-lodge can be properly called a sweat-house” I think that’s a pretty safe bet. (Mithun confirms that Klamath and Modoc are, as one might expect, the principle dialects of Klamath-Modoc.)
    This is really nice… I think it’s the first time I’ve seen texts of this kind in Gutenberg with the Americanist letters in proper Unicode.

  2. David Costa says:

    Tim is correct, Klamath and Modoc are two very similar dialects of one language, which Gatschet did extensive work on.
    Dorsey apparently had a fairly good ear for the time, in terms of recording the complex consonantal systems of Siouan, but Gatschet had quite a tin ear. And as someone who’s worked with many Gatschet texts in Algonquian languages, he had a tendency to write every language he recorded in extremely similar ways, regardless of what family it was in. In other words, all of Gatschet’s notes look alike.

  3. Sir!
    This is extremely weird. Only yesterday I was “surfing” and said to mine own self “How long has it been since I surfed about Project Guttenberg?” So, proceeding to search for elder native linguistics researchers of the early twentieth and late nineteenth centuries I searched unsuccesfully for Frank G. Speck (personal favorite) Truman Michelson, Swanton, and others. Finally, I chanced upon exactly the article you link to.
    As soon as my regular computer is de-bugged, I’ll send you some really attractive multi-media site for Native American linguistics.
    Truly an astounding coincidence which I must bring up at my next meeting with Hutsul drunks!

  4. Keira Ballantyne says:

    Those are really lovely.
    At the risk of shameless self-promotion, you might be interested in similar stuff I’ve done with Yapese data:
    http://www2.hawaii.edu/~ballanty/corpusintro.html

  5. Ooh, very nice! Self-promotion is welcome as long as it’s language-related; it’s the people peddling sex aids and real estate I object to.

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