1) Joel of Far Outliers usually posts extended excerpts from his reading (usually historical/cultural, and always interesting), but occasionally he favors us with glimpses into the Austronesian languages of his academic studies, and he’s now doing a three-part series
(the first two are up already) [3/20/09: Part 3 is up] about “Causative Makeovers in New Guinea Oceanic Languages”:
In contrast to Austronesian languages almost everywhere else, the Oceanic languages on the north coast of the Papua New Guinea mainland show an unusual disinclination to make use of the morphological causative inherited from Proto-Oceanic and Proto-Austronesian. Innovative causatives derived from causative serial constructions appear to have supplanted to varying degrees the inherited prefix *pa(ka)-. Part 1 summarizes the dethroning of the inherited prefix. Part 2 outlines the replacement pattern of serial causatives. Part 3 suggests reasons for preferring the serial causatives.
If this is the sort of thing you like, you will like it!
2) Eric Jager has a nice piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “Lost in the Archives,” a response to those who ask “why anyone needs to go to the archives at all, since everything is now on the Internet”:
Actually there’s a lot that isn’t on the Internet. …
As you wait for your documents to arrive at the desk, or to be delivered to your table from a metal cart rolled noisily through the room, you hope and pray that the precious records are available and that the curatorial staff can find them. If so, you have been liberated — or doomed — to spend days or even weeks copying faded, nearly illegible texts and deciphering them from medieval Latin, French, or the like. Many archives forbid photography, and you often have only ambient light, so a magnifying glass comes in handy. It’s time-consuming, eye-straining detective work, punctuated by the occasional thrill of an unanticipated revelation.
3) If you’ve run across the Russian term картавить, defined in the Oxford dictionary as “to burr,” and you’re curious to hear what it sounds like, Anatoly Vorobey has put up a podcast in which you can hear him doing it. In a followup thread he asks readers to report on any accent they might hear, and one said that he pronounced his r’s in a French way (I myself had thought it was the effect of living in Israel for many years, since many Israelis have a French-style “r grasseyé”), but he responded “Просто картавлю с детства.”
4) And for heaven’s sake, don’t miss Teju Cole (see here and here) over at Beth’s Cassandra Pages; his Angels in Winter (with his own photos) inspires a desire to visit Rome, a city I’ve never had much interest in, and makes me glad the internet affords me the ability to experience what I called in my comment there “the sensibility of one who sees, thinks, and feels so well.”