Tracey Teo writes for BBC Travel about a little-known language:

[Cedric] Watson is part of a grass roots resurgence to revive Kouri-Vini, a historical name for the Louisiana Creole language that has been reclaimed to prevent confusion with other things “Creole”, such as ethnicity, musical styles and culinary traditions.

Watson’s next album, slated for release this summer, will be sung mostly in Kouri-Vini. Today, the language has fewer than 6,000 speakers, but at the beginning of the 20th Century, it was spoken by much of the Creole population in the 22-parish region of south-west Louisiana known as Acadiana.

This unique cultural pocket of the US is sometimes called Cajun Country, but long before the arrival of the Francophone Acadians, or Cajuns, from Nova Scotia in 1755, there was a much larger population of French-speaking Creoles – people with roots in Europe and Africa born in Louisiana.

Thanks in large part to a generation of musicians devoted to preserving it, a Kouri-Vini renaissance is underway. Watson, who performs all over the world, considers himself an ambassador of Creole culture and language. […]

Kouri-Vini originated in Louisiana, but in the early 1900s, it spilled over the border to eastern Texas, Watson’s native state, and he grew up hearing elderly relatives exchange neighbourhood news in the language. As they died, Watson, who is African American, realised that his ancestral language was dying with them. He began using his stage as a platform to revitalise this language that is deeply rooted in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

In the early 18th Century, newly enslaved people created an amalgam of their native West African languages and the French that colonists used to communicate on the Louisiana sugar and indigo plantations where they toiled. “It’s the first language all these Africans coming from different tribes and caste systems would speak when they were enslaved,” Watson said. “They had these pidgin languages they would speak for a couple of generations, but it eventually became an organised language, which is Creole (Kouri-Vini)” – whose name comes from the Creole pronunciation of the French verbs “courir” (to run) and “venir” (to come).

Watson not only keeps the language extant through his live performances, but on La Nation Créole, the radio show he hosts on Lafayette’s KRVS-88.7. He spins Creole grooves from Louisiana as well as from across the French Creole-speaking world, such as Haiti and Guadeloupe.

Until recently, Kouri-Vini was disparaged as an inferior language spoken by the uneducated. “Most of society’s opinions about languages and language varieties are actually opinions about the people who speak them,” said Marguerite Justus, a linguist and Community Development Specialist at CODOFIL (Council for the Development of French in Louisiana). “If the people who speak a certain language or dialect are perceived as low status, then we are inclined to perceive their way of speaking as low status.”

Interestingly, not all Kouri-Vini speakers were people of colour. During the 19th and 20th Centuries, whites – especially white children – picked up the language from servants in their household. In Alfred Mercier’s 1880 “Study on the Creole Language in Louisiana”, the Louisianan poet and playwright explained that he spoke Kouri-Vini exclusively for much of his childhood because it was the language of his caregiver. His parents, however, disapproved of him speaking it.

The decline of Kouri-Vini started with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. When the Louisiana territory was acquired by the nascent United States, non-English speakers felt pressure to learn the language and culture of the new government, and it only increased with statehood in 1812. Kouri-Vini took another blow during World War One when speaking any language other than English was considered unpatriotic. […]

Since Kouri-Vini was traditionally passed down orally, there are challenges to writing the language. There wasn’t a comprehensive approach until the Guide to Louisiana Creole Orthography was published online in 2016.

Oliver Mayeux, a linguist and research fellow at the University of Cambridge, contributed to the guide and has been a key player in the resurgence of Kouri-Vini. His father’s background was Louisiana Creole, so he’s passionate about preserving the language that is so closely tied to Creole identity.

“The genesis of a new language on the plantations of colonial Louisiana is testament to the fact that those enslaved people were just that, people. People with their own culture and traditions, hopes and dreams,” Mayeux said. “The language is a living link to that point in time. The stories of its speakers must be kept alive. Their words must be remembered.”

Mayeux and a group of colleagues collaborated on Ti Liv Kréyòl (‘Little Book of Creole’), the first book for Kouri-Vini learners published in 2020. It was illustrated by Jonathan Mayers, a Kouri-Vini speaker, artist and poet who works to elevate Creole culture and language.

Lots more, including images, at the link; once again I am impressed with how well BBC Travel handles language stories. Thanks, Trevor!


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    There’s a 1996-published academic book called “Creoles of Color of the Gulf South” with an interesting looking chapter by Albert Valdman titled “The place of Louisiana Creole among New World French Creoles.” Valdman has also separately edited a volume titled “French and Creole in Louisiana,” which I have not looked at. In the first-mentioned chapter, he indicates that there is a certain continuum and overlap between “LC” and “CF” (= Cajun French), with some speakers’ idiolects having elements of both (including the idiolects of some white speakers, although they may be embarrassed to fess up to it), and with the situation further complicated by the fact that pro-Francophone forces in Louisiana first tried to get kids of Francophone descent to learn schoolbook Standard French before focusing on the revitalization of either CF or LC as distinct varieties. Because non-standard varieties often lack standard orthography, both “couri vini” and “kouri vini” are given in Waldman’s chapter as labels for the creole, along with a bunch of other unrelated labels like “neg” and “francais neg,” with “neg” presumably being a clipping of “negre.”

    Finally, Valdman indicates that [k/c]ouri vini as a label is an example of the use of “serial verbs,” which are hypothesized to be a construction rooted in (unspecified!) African languages but which are notably less common in LC than “HC” (which I take it means “Haitian Creole.”). In general he says LC is less distant from varieties of French predominantly spoken by white folks than HC is, presumably because the racial ratio in colonial Louisiana was more balanced than in Haiti, meaning black creole speakers had a higher rate of interaction with white Francophones when the variety was evolving.

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    (unspecified!) African languages

    Creolists working on Atlantic creoles seem to have a bad habit of overestimating the similarity of West African languages; I’ve noticed this quite often (among other annoying things of a similar kind) in the work of Claire Lefebvre, for example.

    Still, the various Gbe languages and Akan all do have serial verbs, and they seem to be the major sources of distinctively African features in most of these creoles. (Though it seems to me that there is no compelling reason why a creole might not develop serial verbs quite on its own initiative.)

    (Kusaal has been described as having serial verb constructions, but, like its Oti-Volta relatives, it really doesn’t, at least not in the strict Aikhenvald sense of the term. Nor, of course, do most African languages in general.)

  3. Guarani has what seem to me fully Aikhenvaldt-compliant serial verb constructions.

    Estigarribia’s Grammar of Paraguayan Guarani includes the example sentence panambi oñeha’ã oñemomombyry ‘the butterfly tried to move away’, where both oñeha’ã and oñemomombyry are plain third-person verb forms without any dependency marking.

  4. Thanks, I’ve added the Guaraní word to the butterfly thread.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Yeah, you find languages with echt serial-verb constructions all over the world (there really is nothing particularly African about them at all.)

    Languages without a lot of segmental morphology (like Goemai, among Chadic languages) seem particularly likely to use them – not that Guarani would be a good illustration of that.

    Given that creoles generally don’t have a lot of morphology …

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    It must be a bit difficult with a language like Guarani, with multiple agreement on verbs and many clauses consisting just of a verb by itself, to distinguish between a serial verb construction and simple juxtapostion of clauses with no linking conjunction or distinctive verb flexion.

    In fact, I see that clause juxtaposition with no explicit subordinator is exactly how Estigarribia anaylses that very sentence: he says it’s the normal construction with control verbs like that (although he does say something about serial-verb-like cases when the main-clause verb is a verb of motion.)

    That’s a very nice grammar, BTW.

  7. Guarani or Guaraní?

  8. Just don’t tell me that they mean something by using í here and i there:

    The Guarani languages are:

    Guarani dialect chain: Western Bolivian Guarani (Simba), Eastern Bolivian Guarani (Chawuncu; Ava, Tapieté dialects), Paraguayan Guaraní (Guarani), Chiripá Guaraní (Nhandéva, Avá), Mbyá Guaraní (Mbya)

  9. am i misremembering, or was (is?) there a notion that serial verbs are typical of creoles in general, beyond the west african atlantic ones?

    and is the bahamian (and elsewhere in the anglo-creole zone, i think) “run come” (as in the ballad on the wreck of the Pretoria* (a cleaner version with different harmonizing) a precise parallel to “kouri vini”?

    go know! (as we say in eastern european germanic creole)

    * from what i can tell, john roberts, who sings this version, is the maker of the song (and may have been crew on the Pretoria before the storm)

  10. Isn’t “venite adoremus” a serial construction?

  11. Kouri-vini is not an example of a serial construction. It is a shortening of the juxtaposition Mo kouri. To vini ‘I went. You came’, which alludes to the contrast described here:

    “To mark the difference between French and Creole languages, at an unknown point in time, but certainly by the mid 20th century, Louisiana Francophones along Bayou Teche came to refer to Louisiana Creole as “Kouri-Vini.” The term comes from the way in which Louisiana Creolophones (Creole-speakers) say “I went, you came” (Mo kourí, to viní), which in Louisiana French are J’ai été and J’ai venu. The term stuck and is widely used in southwest Louisiana, but virtually unheard of in the rest of the state” (https://www.mylhcv.com/kouri-vini-whats-name/).

  12. David Eddyshaw says

    serial verbs are typical of creoles in general

    Terry Crowley’s grammar of Bislama describes them at length.
    The non-initial verbs retain what he calls their “predicate markers”:

    Hem i karem buk i kam.
    “She brought the book.”

    but these precede the initial verbs in main clauses too:

    Hem i singsing.
    “She is singing.”

    Roro i save lukluk.
    “Roro can see.”

    so they are not linking particles and do not infringe the Aikhenvald/Dixon ban on such things in proper serial-verb constructions.

    Doubtless Valdman would attribute this to this influence of the African languages of the South Pacific.

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    I must say that I’m not altogether persuaded that this presence or absence of a linking particle really captures anything very fundamental about the structures in question.

    There are other good reasons for denying that Kusaal has serial verb constructions, but you can readily see why people have thought that it did; for example, the Agolle Kusaal version of the “She brought the book” sentence above goes pretty much exactly like the Bislama:

    O daa zaŋ gbauŋʋ kena.
    she TENSE pick.up book [LINKER] come.hither

    The actual “linker” has, like several other Kusaal words, been so devastated by the Kusaal deletion of final vowels that it now has no actual segmental form at all; however, you can nevertheless still detect its presence by the fact that the preceding word, gbauŋ “book”, has acquired a mysterious final vowel: this is actually a sandhi phenomenon arising from the partial suppression of its own final vowel loss before the clitic particle. So, not Aikhenvald/Dixon compliant.

    However, in the Toende dialect, the particle is simply zero and does not induce any changes in the preceding word. Similarly, although in most Western Oti-Volta languages, this particle surfaces as n (as it was in old Agolle Kusaal texts), in Dagaare it is again plain empty space (which led Adams Bodomo to write his PhD thesis on serial verbs in Dagaare, his mother tongue.)

    But it seems a stretch to say that whether or not a language has serial verb constructions depends on a mere phonological accident like the surface form taken by the linker particle, or indeed on the reconstructed history of the form. Surely Toende and Agolle Kusaal have identical constructions here?

    (As I say, there are other reasons for denying that these are serial verb constructions in WOV, not least the fact that these supposed serial verbs can follow non-verbal clauses. But this illustrates the difficulty, even so.)

  14. serial verbs are typical of creoles in general

    wp cites a few serial verbs in English “surviving from Early Modern English”. ‘Let’s go eat’; ‘Come live with me’. Do progressives with ‘get’ also count there? ‘Let’s get solving this puzzle.’

    Does English then count as a (West African) creole? — as Eddyshaw has claimed all along.

    wp also says Chinese (and “as in Southeast Asian languages”) exhibits prolific serial verbs. Another creole?

    And then in the References …

    This link via wikipedia. How many ‘Mark Sebba’s would there be in linguistics, publishing in 1987? His home page is light on detail. Would he be the same Mark Sebba studying Linguistics post-grad at York University ~1980? [One of those people who could pick up a language just by seemingly standing nonchalantly in the corner of the room, breathing it in.]

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    I think the WP article is pretty confused (but then it’s a confusing subject, not helped by further terminological confusions.)

    English (as described by the infallible CGEL) does in fact have a ubiquitous construction which has, at least, a lot in common with serial verb constructions: what CGEL calls “clause catenation” (pp1176ff.) This is CGEL-ese (as usual, carried through with great consistency and plausibility) for what’s going on in e.g.

    “I wanted to arrange for Kim to do it.”

    (“Catenative”, because, as here, you can keep on adding clauses …)
    In particular, they analyse auxiliary verbs as taking catenative constructions (as in “She may like it.”)
    In my own view, Kusaal/WOV “serial verb” constructions are actually much better thought of as clause catenation of this very sort (and that’s how I approach it in my Kusaal grammar.)

    However, I think that there is ultimately no real sharp dividing line: these are all kindred constructions, and you can easily exhibit examples which are more or less serial-verb-like or clause-catenation-like not only across different languages but within one and the same language: for example Kusaal

    M kuos lɔri tis du’ata.
    I sell car [LINKER] give doctor
    “I’ve sold a car to the doctor.”

    would be a classic serial verb construction if it didn’t have the (virtual) linking particle in.

  16. @M: ah! so not a naming through a typical phrase, but a naming with sounds that contrast with a ‘standard’ (like sabesdiker losn or thetheo). there’s a typology of vernacular lect naming (by phonology, by lexicon, by syntax, &c) to be done!

  17. Finally, Valdman indicates that [k/c]ouri vini as a label is an example of the use of “serial verbs,”


  18. David Marjanović says

    If something “is simply zero” – no sandhi effects, no floating tone, nothing –, my first impulse is to say it isn’t there and the native speakers have reanalyzed the grammar.

    There are exceptions when templates are involved. For example, simple declarative sentences in German are expected to be V2. They can be V1 on the surface – if specifically a demonstrative pronoun has been omitted from the first position. 3sg pronouns, for example, cannot be omitted like this, so V1 has itself assumed deictic power, and that’s easiest to make sense of if the omitted demonstrative pronouns are still there as ghosts. Another is that in den is indistinguishable from in in my dialect; but it’s specifically the masculine accusative article that is omitted like this, so if in isn’t followed by an article, there’s no ambiguity as to which one is missing.

  19. Is dative “give” an African thing or something common?

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    my first impulse is to say it isn’t there and the native speakers have reanalyzed the grammar

    Very reasonable. But the two Kusaal dialects have essentially identical syntax: are we really going to maintain that the Toende Kusaasi have reanalysed their grammar just because they don’t stick the mysterious vowels on at the end of words which precede “serial” verbs any more? This already happens in Agolle Kusaal when the preceding word ends in a nasal consonant: does Agolle Kusaal have two different syntactic constructions, which just happen to be distributed according to whether the word before the “serial” verb end in a nasal consonant or not?

    I think a more reasonable approach in this instance is to regard this as a simple counterexample to the Aikhenvald Doctrine that whether something is a serial verb construction or not is crucially dependent on whether or not there is some form of explicit linker or special verb morphology. (Or at least, it would be a counterexample were it not for other awkward facts undermining the analysis as a serial verb construction anyway. How can you have a “serial” verb construction with only one verb?)

    Unfortunately this clause linker particle is tonally null, so you can’t prove its presence by tone sandhi (as you can with the equally-disappeared particle that precedes VPs in nominalised clauses, which is probably related to it historically.)

    Is dative “give” an African thing or something common?

    Pretty common, I think. “Give” verbs often get used in serial constructions/catenation/whatever to express a vague dative sense with no actual “giving” involved (as in my example: there’s no implication that I sold the vehicle to the doctor for nothing: no “giving” was involved …)

    Incidentally, you don’t have to express “I’ve sold a car to the doctor” like that: it’s perfectly cromulent to say

    M kuos du’ata lɔr.
    I sell doctor car

    You’d be more likely to do that if the recipient was expressed just by a pronoun:

    M kuosif lɔr.
    “I’ve sold you a car.”

    But the only time you positively have to do it is if both indirect and direct objects are expressed by non-contrastive pronouns, as you can’t have two enclitic pronouns on one verb. In practice that hradly ever happens: with most verbs you can omit any explicit direct object, and it implies anaphora:

    M kuosif
    “I’ve sold it to you.”
    (theoretically ambiguous with “I’ve sold you.”)

  21. @DE, all examples I know are West African.

    The question here is whether Valdman is correct in seeing African influence in the Haitian example (in the link above).

  22. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, as the most relevant African languages actually do have canonical serial verb constructions, it’s perfectly possible. On the other hand, it doesn’t actually seem necessary to assume that the feature is borrowed at all. The assumption that it is necessary might have something to do with Valdman’s view that Haitian creole never was a pidgin.

  23. David Eddyshaw says

    all examples I know are West African

    I’m not well up on serial verbs in non-African languages, but Barclay’s grammar of Western Dani (p258) mentions a serial verb construction with this dative sense which he analyses as a serialised form of the verb “give” in which “the stem has been elided.” Hmmm…

    The Aikhenvald/Dixon book mentions a similar case from Toqabaqita, in that the serialised “give” verb has become a mere preposition*, and a new “give” verb has taken its place as a real verb.

    A and D mention that “give” verbs are prone to do this at several points, but don’t get round to giving much in the way of actual examples.

    I notice that Tariana (talking of Aikhenvald) instead uses “do” and “seek” as the first element of serial-verb constructions to express benefit, e.g. “do eat” = “feed someone”, “seek eat” = “get food for someone.”

    * This is happening in Kusaal with the verb wɛn “resemble”, which usually follows a verb phrase with the linker particle between them completely elided:

    O zɔt wɛnnɛ bʋŋ nɛ.
    he run.IPF [] resemble.FOCUS donkey FOCUS
    “He runs like a donkey.”

    The whole VP with wɛn has got so prepositional-phrase-like that you can even dislocate it to the beginning:

    Wɛnnɛ bʋŋ nɛ ka o zɔt.
    “It’s like a donkey that he runs.”

  24. The Aikhenvald/Dixon book mentions a similar case from Toqabaqita

    If anyone is (like me) curious:

    Toʼabaita, also known as Toqabaqita, Toʼambaita, Malu and Maluʼu, is a language spoken by the people living at the north-western tip of Malaita Island, of South Eastern Solomon Islands. Toʼabaita is an Austronesian language. […] Based on Lichtenberk’s grammar, the name Toqabaqita literally means “many people” (toqa “person” + baqita “big, many”).

    This is quite annoying:

    Stress is not indicated by the phonemes,[clarification needed] but by the symbols (?)[clarification needed] for primary stress and (?)[clarification needed] for secondary stress[12] (presumably by Lichtenberk, and presumably when glottal stop is written ⟨q⟩).[citation needed]

    How do I even pronounce the damn name?

  25. When I first encountered Oceanic serial verbs in Papua New Guinea in 1976, no one was using that term and I looked at African languages for guidance, even taking an intro to African linguistics at an LSA Summer Institute in 1978 taught by Gilbert Ansre (Ghana) and Ayo Bamgbose (Nigeria). I didn’t have a framework for describing the ones in PNG, where you get switch-subject (they-killed pig it-died) as well as same subject serial causatives (they-hit pig they-killed it), so I ended up writing a historical-comparative dissertation on word order change in PNG Oceanic languages, arguing in one chapter for manner-result serialization (SVOV) as a pathway from SVO to SOV. Many SVOV constructions have cognate manner+result verbs in SOVV languages, ‘hit’ and ‘die’ being among the most frequent. Most PNG Oceanic languages make little use of their inherited causative prefix–far, far less than the Polynesian languages do: Hawaiian ho’o-, Samoan faka-, Maori whaka-, etc.

    In the 1970s, very few Papuan languages were well-described, but two neighboring languages (in my neck of the coastline) were well-described in German: Pilhofer’s 1933 grammar of Kâte (Trans-New Guinea) and Dempwolff’s 1939 grammar of Jabêm (Oceanic). Dempwolff recognized serial constructions (Reihensatz) and also recognized Subjekts-Gleichheit (‘they-hunt birds they-stay sea’) and Subjekts-Verschiedenheit (‘we-drag canoe it-ascend shore’) relationships between successive verbs. (I eventually translated and published Dempwolff’s grammar with the considerable help of a Hungarian-Romanian microbiologist whose German was far better than mine.)

    Jabêm also allows “weather” subjects within SVCs: ‘it-dawned we-arose we-went’ (‘we left at dawn’); and also adverbial serialization: ‘we-saw each-other it-anew not’ (‘we didn’t see each other again’). All verbs within the SVC have to have the same tense/mood inflection (realis/irrealis, actual/potential, etc.). Jabêm is the most extreme case of serialization that I’ve encountered in PNG, and it is well-cited in Aikhenvald’s (Oxford, 2018) volume on Serial Verbs, as is Numbami, the language I did fieldwork on.

    Now that many more Papuan languages have been described, it appears to me that Oceanic serialization and its reflexes in SOVV languages (‘hit-die’, ‘chop-sever’) comes from translationese of Papuan patterns. Papuan (TNG) languages generally rely on a small number of highly polysemous light verbs that take a wide variety of complements, and they generally have very low semantic conflation, especially in motion events, e.g. ‘I go get come’ rather than ‘I fetch’. And PNG Oceanic languages generally follow that style. Even the widely recognized ‘tail-head linkage’ (‘then we boil the water. We boil the water finish/While we boil the water, okay, we set the table …’) replicates the way Papuan medial-verb constructions regularly mark whether the next action is sequential or simultaneous.

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    Thanks, Joel!

    Very interesting!

    Interesting particularly about the same/different subject types … Kusaal too has same-subject and different-subject serial/catenative constructions: the latter replace the disappearing-n-particle with ka, which can mean “and”, but generally doesn’t, and in this context is demonstrably subordinating, not coordinating.

    You actually get instances of the same-subject construction when the non-initial clause begins with ba “they” used (as in English) as a nonspecific subject for turning active clauses passive:

    Diib wʋsa nari ba di.
    food all be.appropriate [LINKER] they eat
    “All foods may be eaten.” (translation of Romans 14:20)

    Have you come across “give” blanched to a mere benefactive in Oceanic serial verb constructions, BTW?

  27. LH: In Toqabaqita, the symbols q and ‘ are alternative ways to write the glottal stop, and b and mb are alternative ways to write the voiced stop /b/, which is predictably prenasalized (at least intervocalically).

    Aikhenvald (2018) also leaves out stress marking in Lichtenberk’s Toqabaqita examples, but I suspect the “clarification needed” para in WP meant to say that primary stress is indicated by an acute accent over the vowel, and secondary stress by a grave accent over the vowel.

  28. Do you know where the stress falls on Toqabaqita?

  29. In Toqabaqita, every part of a compound word gets initial stress (unless it would cause three or more unstressed syllables in the overall word), and the last stress is a little stronger; so /ˌtoʔaˈbaʔita/.

  30. DE: Yes, Proto-Oceanic *pani ‘give’ often yields benefactives in Oceanic languages, among them Manam (Lichtenberk’s 1983 dissertation):
    i-aŋ-qita (3S.RL-give-1INC) ‘he gave it to us’
    nátu u-nanári-n-i (‘child 1S.RL-narrate-BEN-3S’) ‘I narrated for the child’
    nátu údi g-ián-a-n-a (‘child banana 2S.IR-give-3S-BEN-1S’) ‘give the child a banana for me’

    In Numbami, the Dative preposition (denga) derives from a verb meaning ‘reach’:
    nu-ki buwa ni-denga woya (2S.IR-put betelnut IR.3s-reach 1S)
    nu-ki buwa de(nga) woya (2S.IR-put betelnut to 1S)
    The verb -ki can mean ‘appoint’, ‘put’, ‘give’, ‘send’, ’emit’, etc. (“displace X”)

    Jabêm -dêng ‘give, reach, at, to’ always retains its verbal inflection: gê-dêng ‘RL.3S-reach’, ê-ndêng ‘3S-IR.reach’.

  31. Lichtenberk, Toqabaqita, stress, Brazil…link.

  32. In Toqabaqita, every part of a compound word gets initial stress (unless it would cause three or more unstressed syllables in the overall word), and the last stress is a little stronger; so /ˌtoʔaˈbaʔita/.

    Thanks very much!

  33. John Cowan says
  34. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Guarani/Guaraní — default stress is on the final syllable, so these represent the same pronunciation. (But WP.en waffles on where the stress actually is).

    There is now a Paraguayan Academy of the Guarani Language, and their rules would indicate Guarani:

    Para el uso de la tilde o acento gráfico el idioma guaraní considera la vocal tónica o la de mayor intensidad.

    No se debe usar, en ningún caso la tilde acentual cuando la vocal tónica se halla ubicada al final de la palabra. Ejemplos: Guata, ñani, ao. Sin embargo, cuando se halla ubicada antes del final se debe usar indefectiblemente.

    Of course hey write guaraní in this text, by Spanish orthographical rules.

    And other communities may prefer to mark final stress, so maybe the list drasvi quoted did reflect a real difference.

    (Also I don’t understand why the final syllable is given as oral. ni should be nasal:

    Cuando la vocal oral (a, e, i, o, u, y) forma sílaba con las consonantes nasales (g̃, m, n, ñ) o naso-orales (mb, nd, ng, nt) queda nasalizada por dichas consonantes. Ejemplo: Ma, nda.

    And by nasal harmony, the whole word should be nasal: /w̃ãɾã’nĩ/ [and the proper accented form would be Guaranĩ]. There must be some subtlety I’m missing, or maybe the spelling [and pronunciation] is grandfathered in from Spanish or something. AFAICT, /waɾa’ni/ should not be a possible Guarani word).

  35. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm 14/03:13.44
    ~0.45 “in [den] Holzpyjama springen”
    He certainly does not say in’n (he says auf’n in another recording), but there might be some effect (vowel shortening or consonant lengthening), I suppose one would have to ask him (and receive a serious answer–he does do Leserbriefe and take calls from his mother, wife, neighbour, etc…).

  36. Guarani/Guaraní — default stress is on the final syllable, so these represent the same pronunciation

    I think it’s just a matter of different spelling rules for different languages.

    In Spanish, the acute accent in guaraní is required to mark that the word has final stress, since the default pattern for words ending in -(n|s|V) is paroxytone.

    In Guarani itself the default stress pattern is oxytone, so no mark is required, and so the correct form is guarani.

    (Neither language uses initial capitals for languages or demonyms.)

    I can see how a text including both Guarani and Spanish text could be a nightmare to proofread for details like this.

    And by nasal harmony, the whole word should be nasal: /w̃ãɾã’nĩ/ [and the proper accented form would be Guaranĩ].

    Redundant marking of nasality in the same syllable is against ALG/GÑR rules, so the nasal tilde is only used in syllables with oral (or no) consonants.

  37. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Redundant marking — thanks, I hadn’t really thought through the question of when to mark the nasality on the vowel. So in the case of non-final stress on a nasal syllable with a nasal consonant, the acute accent (English meaning) is used? (Looks like it: amógui).

    (As a system it’s very logical, but takes some thinking to apply. I assume it’s easier if you use it all the time. From an example like cheakãhatã I assume that you can have several vowels with ~ in a word, but an acute or the default final stress still applies. But what happens if you need to indicate non-final stress on a nasal syllable with an oral consonant, but there’s an unstressed syllable of that nature in the word as well? WP.en has the following: “stress falls on the vowel marked as nasalized, if any, else on the accent-marked syllable, and if neither appears, then on the final syllable” which is also a workable system given nasal harmony, but clearly not the one used by the ALG/GÑR).

  38. “Guarani/Guaraní ”

    Reminded: El guaraní-guaraní no sirve. Si te vas al almacén, por ejemplo, no te van a entender con el guaraní-guaraní

  39. My main source of information about Guarani is an arcticle The Demographics of Colonization in Paraguay and the Emergence of Paraguayan Guarani that I read years ago (only available in the volume Guarani Linguistics in the 21st Century (sci-hub and libgen)) and found fascinating.

    As I have a habit of following links, so I also followed “6 A detailed discussion of terminology referring to the mixture of Guarani and Spanish may be found in Mortimer (2006). This author lists as many as twenty-six different terms for Guaraniete and twenty-three for Jopara. An in-depth study about the glottonyms ‘Guarani’ and ‘Jopara’ as used in Paraguayan sociolinguistics is Penner (2014).

    So it was Mortimer who quoted some speaker about Guarani Guarani.

  40. David Marjanović says

    He certainly does not say in’n (he says auf’n in another recording), but there might be some effect (vowel shortening or consonant lengthening)

    There isn’t – though admittedly in this example it’s so unstressed any vowel shortening would be hard to notice.

    You’d expect consonant lengthening, what with consonant length being phonemic (including in word-final position) and happening routinely when clitics consisting of single consonants attach to the same consonant (dass: /das/, dass es/dass sie/dass das*: /dasː/). But no, it’s not there.

    BTW, place assimilation of syllabic nasals: auf den and auf dem both have [m̩].

    * provided that das is the article and not the demonstrative pronoun

  41. Speculative Grammarian FB post:

    I am not making this up: In Kalam “massage” is “pk wyk d ap tan d ap yap g-”—that’s nine verbs—literally “strike rub hold come ascend hold come descend do”.

    WP: “Kalam is a Kalam language of Papua New Guinea. […] Transitivity is derived using resultative or cause-effect serial verb constructions.”

  42. David Marjanović says

    I am not making this up:

    Credo quia absurdum.

    Of course he isn’t making it up. You can’t make that up!

  43. Kalam was featured in a generative semantics seminar I took in grad school in the late 1970s. Andy Pawley had recently been the linguist among a team of anthropologists and knowledgeable local hunters and gatherers who eventually produced lots of documentation. Ralph Bulmer, the large team leader, was described by the much shorter Kalam men as a ‘man and a half’ and that became the title of his Festschrift.

    The Kalam language (in Madang Province, PNG) is a fascinating study in compositional semantics. It was my first introduction to a Papuan language. The basic verbs for the senses were rendered in compounds like ‘eye-perceive’, ‘nose-perceive’, ‘ear-perceive’, etc. It relies very heavily on a small number of highly combinable light verbs. Ninety per cent of the instances of verbs in Kalam text consist of just fifteen of the most generic roots combined in a wide variety of verb adjunct or serial verb constructions (p. 38). These roots include ag- ‘make a sound, emit, utter, say’, d- ‘hold, touch, have, get, control, stop, finish’, and nŋ- ‘be conscious, perceive, know, see, hear, smell, feel’.

    Common activities in traditional Kalam culture are often described in constructions consisting of several bare verb roots in a row, with only the last one inflected, as in Am kmn pk d ap ad ñb-ig-pay (‘go game.mammal kill get come cook eat-PAST.HAB-3PL’) ‘They used to go and kill game mammals and bring them back and cook and eat them’ (Kalam dictionary, p. 51).

    The dictionary employs a spare phonemic orthography, which avoids writing the many predictable vowels that are automatically inserted to keep consonants apart, and also writes each consonant phoneme with the same symbol even when it sounds different in initial, medial, or final position within words. Many words have no phonemic vowels at all, as in the sentence, Ctk bsg nŋnknŋ, nbk ñbspm ‘While we are sitting watching, you (plural) are eating’ (p. 28).

    The prenasalised obstruents, written b, d, j, g, are devoiced in final position (sounding more like English mp, nt, nch, nk, respectively) and often lose their initial nasalisation if they follow a word ending in an oral (i.e., nonnasal) consonant. The oral obstruents (those without nasal onsets) vary even more. Bilabial p is a stop only in final position (where it resembles English p), but is a voiced fricative [β] (like English v, but without teeth touching the lips) in initial position, and a voiceless [ɸ] (like English f, but without teeth touching the lips) in medial position. Alveolar t is a tap (like the t in later or butter in many dialects of English) not just medially but also at the ends of words. Velar k is a voiceless stop (like English k) in initial or final position, but voiced fricative [ɣ] in medial position. Positional variants of the other phonemes are not as significant: the palatal affricate c (like English ch), the sibilant s, the resonants m, n, ñ, ŋ, l, w, y, and the vowels a, e, i, o, u.

  44. I first read about Kalam in Pawley’s A language which defies description by ordinary means (here). It’s a platypus, all right. It reminds me of a very different language, Atsugewi (of California), which also relies on verbs composed as needed from a small set of components, to an extreme degree, even for western North America in general.

  45. “local hunters and gatherers who eventually produced lots of documentation”

    (though perhaps “who” refers to the whole team here) WP mentions one of them, Ian Saem Majnep.

    @Y, aha, and on the second page it contains the strike-rub-hold… sequence.

  46. A sample phonetic transcript of Kalam here. Pawley’s dissertation here.

  47. the sentence, Ctk bsg nŋnknŋ, nbk ñbspm

    Nah! You’re making it up. Or more likely the Generative Semanticists were. They’re the lot dreaming of falling in love with their toothbrushes, weren’t they? Too much happy juice.

  48. J.W. Brewer says

    It reminds one of that famous news story from the former Yugoslavia in the war-torn Nineties:

    Before an emergency joint session of Congress yesterday, President Clinton announced US plans to deploy over 75,000 vowels to the war-torn region of Bosnia. The deployment, the largest of its kind in American history, will provide the region with the critically needed letters A,E,I,O and U, and is hoped to render countless Bosnian names more pronounceable.

    “For six years, we have stood by while names like Ygrjvslhv and Tzlynhr and Glrm have been horribly butchered by millions around the world,” Clinton said. “Today, the United States must finally stand up and say ‘Enough.’ It is time the people of Bosnia finally had some vowels in their incomprehensible words. The US is proud to lead the crusade in this noble endeavour.”

    The deployment, dubbed Operation Vowel Storm by the State Department, is set for early next week, with the Adriatic port cities of Sjlbvdnzv and Grzny slated to be the first recipients. Two C-130 transport planes, each carrying over 500 24-count boxes of “E’s,” will fly from Andrews Air Force Base across the Atlantic and airdrop the letters over the cities.

    Citizens of Grzny and Sjlbvdnzv eagerly await the arrival of the vowels. “My God, I do not think we can last another day,” Trszg Grzdnjkln, 44, said. “I have six children and none of them has a name that is understandable to me or to anyone else. Mr. Clinton, please send my poor, wretched family just one ‘E.’ Please.”

    Said Sjlbvdnzv resident Grg Hmphrs, 67: “With just a few key letters, I could be George Humphries. This is my dream.”

  49. Trond Engen says

    strike rub hold come ascend hold come descend do

    I was going to say that surely this is a language that uses bleached verb roots for conjugation and for linking, and also have verbs for position (and I guess colours and other properties). If “hold come” is a sequencing particle, and “strike” is used adverbially, then it’s parseable as something like “rub hard, up, down”.

    But if every word is a verb, is any word really a verb, or is it a minimal semantic or grammatical unit that make verbs by being strung together into “action groups”?

  50. When I saw the translation, I thought that it’s a pretty riddle.

  51. I first read about Kalam in Pawley’s

    He mentions a thesis Kalam serial verb construcitons. . I was curious and it seems it has been published since then. And there I see:

    The scope of operators such as tense, mood and aspect, negation, and various adverbs, is also important to the Role and Reference Grammar conception of the clause. SVCs cannot contrast in inflections for tense and mood, since these types of inflection have scope over the entire clause, including peripheral arguments (Foley and Van Valin 1984:208ff.). Aspect and directional affixes, in contrast, have scope over the verb alone
    (Foley and Van Valin 1984:209; Bybee 1985).

    So I thought about Russian constructions similar to English “run go get”…
    They definitely feel weird both when I use different aspects and different tenses.

    я сходил покупал мороженое
    I went was-buyng ice-cream
    я пошел ищу возьму
    I went am-searching will-take

    Went is to there and back in the former case and “initiated movement” in the latter.

    In the former case I have an unpleasant sensation of conflict in my language-processing machinery and in the latter case it is feels .. Just some creative way to use language. Not ‘unpleasant’.

  52. But if every word is a verb, is any word really a verb,

    “We’re going to go fishing tomorrow.” I see your point.

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