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.

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