Another great link from the Merm: “Wisconsin tribal languages in danger of dying out” (from the University of Wisconsin’s student newspaper — how does she find this stuff?). The focus of the article is on Menominee, which apparently “has only 10 to 20 fluent speakers left, all of whom are elderly”; a group of linguists is helping the tribe with a language preservation project. What saddened me (besides the imminent extinction of the language, that is) was that the article didn’t mention the linguist whose name used to be indissolubly linked with Menominee, the great Leonard Bloomfield, whose book The Menomini Language is a valued denizen of my linguistics shelf. (I see from that it’s going for $125 and up! Hmm… but no, that would be wrong. Unless I really need the money.) A natural place to include him would have been their statement, “Currently, there is a Lexicon, but it’s extremely hard to use and only goes from Menominee to English.” That lexicon is Bloomfield’s (edited by Charles F. Hockett, another great). I guess this is one of the consequences of the Chomskyan takeover of the field: everyone before Chomsky is forgotten.


  1. Judging by your informed comments on Aramaic and Taiwanese, that’s a pretty formidable bookshelf you’ve got there!

  2. That’s bookshelves, in the pluralis ad absurdum. And they’re all double-shelved, so that I have to pull out handfuls of visible books trying to find the one I see so clearly in my mind (though I may not have seen it physically in years). And I keep buying them…

  3. I’m particularly fond of your indictment of Chomsky as an Imperialist colonizer of the comparative linguistics field. Well, maybe not Chomsky precisely, but his running-dog lackeys.

  4. Yes, I did imagine a rich plurality of book-containers, bursting with tomes. “Bookshelf” was more of a figure of speech.

    I’m with you on Chomsky too. I still maintain he has an ideal name for citation proliferation. Short enough to be memorable, foreign and Slavic enough to sound clever and intimidating. Like Mick Jagger, Frank Zappa, Ludwig Wittgenstein, some people are just born into the perfect name for their vocation. A brandname-designing agency could hardly have come up with better than “Noam Chomsky” – it suggests pedantry, dryness, chunkiness [real content!], a kind of clinical difficulty….

  5. It’s my guess (or is it hope?) that Chomsky’s whole minimalist enterprise, and generative linguistics in general, will gradually be supplanted by the success of statistical models.

    Now there’s a revolution in linguistics, for ya, heh.

    I’m writing this from London, by the way, clear evidence that I’m addicted to the internet.

  6. In the 70s as part of the Wisconsin Native American Languages Project I created an English key to Bloomfield’s Menominee Lexicon. The tribe should have copies lying about somewhere.

  7. Ken Miner’s English key, as well as Bloomfield’s lexicon and some texts and grammars, are posted at the Center for Menominee Language, Culture, and Art. There are also links to video language lessons.

  8. Excellent — thanks for finding and sharing that!

  9. Lars Mathiesen says

    And the Enigmatic Mermaid’s blog is still at its address from 20 years ago! (Though the last update was 15 years ago, if still active it would have beat this place by 6 months). It’s a small miracle that has not vanished like other platforms of that era.

  10. David Marjanović says

    It’s a small miracle that has not vanished like other platforms of that era.

    Google bought it, and Google still exists. What’s interesting, though, is that Google hasn’t turned it off anyway, like it did with Google+ and a long list of other things it started.

  11. Yes, your first sentence is a non sequitur.

  12. John Cowan says

    Blogger/Blogspot is still a target for Google advertising, so evidently it pays for itself. I ran ads on my Blogger blog for six months and still hadn’t made enough for Google to send me a check, so I removed them.

  13. Lars Mathiesen says

    Google has had lots of other targets for advertising, and except for the search engine itself that hasn’t kept them from closing down or reorganizing a lot of them (as DM says). But a Blogspot post from 2002 can still be found on the same URL, that is kind of unexpected. (Language Log has the same sort of persistence, and I think the various migrations of the Hattery has kept old URLs alive too, but probably with some fancy footwork by Songdog).

  14. Bloomfield’s lexicon uses the symbols ε and · , but the English-Menominee key uses the digraph ae (representing a vowel in the area of /ε/ to /æ/) and the colon (vowel length marker) instead, to make it more accessible to people with ordinary typewriters and without familiarity with linguistics notation, since the purpose of the 1970s project was to write a textbook to help native speakers teach their own language without too much technical overhead. By the time they completed it, they’d replaced the colon with a macron on long vowels; presumably that was to make it look even less alien to English speakers, more like “real words”. That’s the spelling system that’s still in use in the online materials. Menominee at least seems to have avoided getting bogged down with multiple competing spelling systems.

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