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.”


  1. marie-lucie says

    1) Yes, professionally that is the sort of thing I like!
    4) A wonderful article, beautifully thought and written, with strikingly original photographs.
    I occasionally read the two blogs in question but not that often, so I would probably have missed those two features. Thank you again, LH.

  2. A.J.P. Crown says

    4) Teju Cole is a great writer and that is a great article about Rome. For me, it is the contrast between the baroque (Bernini, Borromini, Caravaggio) and mannerist (Michelangelo) city and the ruins of the Roman Forum that make Rome (maybe) the greatest city in the world. Thank god for the Counter.Reformation, thank god for the Jesuits! Language, I’m impressed that you can spell San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane even though you’ve never been there. I agree that Italy has a third-world appearance, at times.

  3. marie-lucie says

    you can spell San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane even though you’ve never been there
    That’s what happens when you are a polyglot. It must mean “Saint Charles at (?) the four fountains”.

  4. Never had much interest in Rome? Really? Is that a Greek vs. Latin thing? I take it you’re not a big fan of Italian cinema?

  5. 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.””

    This reminds me of an old joke, which I found on Mendele (the Yiddish mailing list), and refers, I think, to the same phenomenon, and its old association with Jews:
    (First applicant) Computer: Zdravstvuite (hello). Applicant:
    Zdravstvuite. C: Have you any relatives abroad? A: Yes. C: Goodbye.
    (Second applicant) C: Zdravstvuite. A: Zdravstvuite. C: Have you any
    relatives abroad? A: No. C: Were you ever convicted of a crime? A: Yes.
    C: Goodbye.
    (Third applicant) C: Zdravstvuite. A: Zdravstvuite. C: Have you any
    relatives abroad? A: No. C: Were you ever convicted of a crime? A: No.
    C: Were you ever expelled from the Party? A: Yes. C: Goodbye.
    (Fourth applicant) C: Zdravstvuite. A: Zdgavstvuite. C: Goodbye.

  6. marie-lucie says

    The “French r” is practically the same as the Yiddish “r”, hence the Israeli connection. The “g’ instead of “r” in the fourth dialogue is how the sound is interpreted by Russians, who “roll” their r’s, like Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, and many others.

  7. dameragnel says

    I grew up in a Russian speaking family and remember being teased as a child because I “картавила,” (burred?) Like Vorobey, I simply found it easier and more natural to pronounce an “r” that way. Ended up spending hours blowing breath over the tip of my tongue as I held it lightly to the back of my front teeth. It tickled. But I finally mastered the prroud, aggrressive Rrrussian “r.”

  8. Some Arabs roll their r’s when they speak
    English (but not Arabic). It’s rather odd to hear an Arab speaking English as if it were Russian.

  9. A.J.P. Crown says

    It must mean “Saint Charles at (?) the four fountains”.
    It’s at a crossroads with a fountain on each corner, including the church’s corner.
    San Carlo is the greatest geometric manipulation of space known to man. Well, known to me, anyway. You can take a look around the inside here.
    The best-known book on Borromini is by Russian spy Anthony Blunt (formerly ‘Sir’ Anthony Blunt), a man so supercilious and generally nasty that even the dreaded Hugh Trevor-Roper was intimidated by him.

  10. Off-topic: does anyone know of a good, inexpensive bilingual edition of Rennaissance neo-Latin poetry?

  11. French-Latin, Spanish-Latin, English-Latin, Italian Latin.

  12. Hat, you may be interested in this if you haven’t heard it already–and m-l too–about spelling in Canadian English. There is a book.

  13. Anent archives:
    “The squirrel theory of history is the theory which holds that it is the duty of the historian to gather up facts from county record libraries and then bury them again in university libraries.” (J R Lucas)

  14. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary mentioned in that post is not doing well.

  15. Emerson — how about the I Tatti edition of Poliziano? There is also an old Janus Secundus, which I’m sure you will find on abebooks. Or did you need an anthology?

  16. Preferably an anthology. This is a very recent interest of mine, and I don’t read Latin at all though I might sometime patch together a crude competency.
    I’ll start with Janus (of whom I already had a Dutch-Latin bilingual edition). But an anthology would be nice.

  17. But I finally mastered the prroud, aggrressive Rrrussian “r.”
    What a great story!
    The Oxford University Press has laid off all employees at its Canadian dictionary division in Toronto, shutting down the department due to “changing market conditions,” according to a statement released Wednesday.
    Yikes, that’s awful. What rotten times we live in.

  18. A.J.P. Crown says

    I don’t read Latin at all
    Aren’t there any detective stories in Latin, John?

  19. marie-lucie says

    In desperation, you could always start with Winnie ille Pu.

  20. Aren’t there any detective stories in Latin?

    There are some with a fair amount of Latin in them:

    Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)
    Don’t Point That Thing at Me (Kyril Bonfiglioli)
    Meditationes de prima philosophia (Rene Descartes)

  21. There’s far too much porn in Latin, for example in Von Gulick’s Chinese sex book or in Bar Hebraeus*’s “Laughable Stories”.
    *Properly Mar Gregory Abu Faraj Bar Hebraeus the Maphrian. The guy liked to cover all bases just in case.

  22. @Grumbly Stu: I’ve always wondered whether my favorite Latin pun in Gaudy Night was invented by DS or whether it was common Oxford usage.
    The one I mean is when Whimsey kneels down before the dean and exclaims “Vera incessu patuit dean”. Without the final N it’s a direct quote fron Virgil meaning “she revealed herself a true goddess by her stride” and describes the apparition of Juno to Aeneas.

  23. @Gary: Good Lord, how would I know? I went to UT Austin. I thought it was some Lesbian technique – Vera keeps patting the dean. Wimsey was alluding to what Harriet would have to put up with if she didn’t accept him.

  24. marie-lucie says

    That’s too bad about the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Around the time it started I heard a talk by Katherine Barber, the only person to have been the editor. She seemed to be having a lot of fun in her job. But in addition to the growing on-line competition there is also that of American dictionaries.
    One dictionary which is unmistakably Canadian (though not meant for general use) is the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a fair-sized dictionary but with words which are either only used in Newfoundland, or used with a special meaning there. This dictionary was put together at Memorial University of Newfoundland by the linguists there, some of whom were natives of the place. It’s a great book for those who like to collect dictionaries or are interested in dialectal English.

  25. A.J.P. Crown says

    Crumbly Stew, I’m not going to rise schriftlich to the bait of why or whether Descartes wrote a detective story, because we discussed him only a month or so ago, but I don’t want you to get the impression that nobody is thinking about it.

  26. JJ, as a trout you would have reached a fine old age. Indeed, all I wanted was a slight pull on the line – as you say, a sense that somebody might be thinking about it. Anyway, it’s fairly obvious what I meant, so I won’t go hungry. Too many fish in the sea-ee!

  27. A.J.P. Crown says

    No, no. Please elaborate. I’m not at all sure what you meant.

  28. Maxim Comfort says

    Gary, the quote from “Gaudy Night” must have been invented by Sayers, as it was intended to be an example of Wimsey’s outrageous wit; if it had been a commonplace Oxonian pun it would have just been stupid.

  29. @Maxim Comfort: good point.

  30. It makes me happy when people can respond to a comment after almost a decade.

  31. Languagehat: the land that time forgot.

  32. David Marjanović says

    “The thing about time travel is that it doesn’t matter when it’s invented.”

  33. Which, indeed, is good evidence that it never will be invented, unless it is of the many-worlds variety where every act of time travel creates a new world.

  34. David Marjanović says

    OK, but that theory would leave a third possibility wide open, Star Trek’s Temporal Cold War.

  35. I hit this post again from the new “Random Link,” but the title alone struck me. This week is Summer Games Done Quick, a video game speed run marathon, where people watch the live stream of gamers blazing through games and donate money to support Doctors Without Borders. There are always plenty of games from Nintendo’s Metroid series, in which the heroine Samus Aran has to fight and defeat evil alien jellyfish and space pirates, collecting equipment upgrades along the way (missiles, bombs, ice beam, etc.).

    The first defensive upgrade that she collects is, in pretty much every game, known as the “Varia.” That name originally comes from the manual for the American release of the first game, Metroid from 1986. (There was no name given in the actual game about what the upgrades were called.) For a long time, I had known that “Varia” was really supposed to be “Barrier,” so it seems very strange to see “Varia suit” used as the official name in all the later games, especially when the other defensive enhancements have reasonable-sounding names like “gravity suit”

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