Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More on Rumsen

Okay, now back to some serious linguistic stuff. I think this post will be mostly my thinking out loud to try and get a better handle on Rumsen Ohlone and Utian in general.

Utian languages seem to operate on the basis of root, stem, and theme. At least in Ohlone, the root usually, although perhaps not always, corresponds to the noun form. The stem often changes from the root form by various means, usually either through metathesis, ablaut, or vowel length alternation. (This more or less corresponds to Marc Okrand's [1974] assessment of Mutsun, a close cousin of Rumsen.) For example:

comb - n. xaxxews, v. xaxwen (past tense, to comb) - stem = xaxw (?)
wolf - n. *'um(u)x, v. 'umxun (to hunt wolves) - stem = 'umux (?)
mtn. lion - n. *xeek(e)s, v. xeksen (to hunt lions) - stem = xeks (?)

* Note that, unlike in Mutsun, the final vowel (of nouns, at least) is either whispered or completely dropped in Rumsen.

It seems that, in preparing a dictionary, the various forms of the stem must be shown or at least cross-referenced in order to help the learner in assembling the various verb forms, giving examples as appropriate. Perhaps something like:

wolf, n. 'umx (v. 'umxun).
wolves, to hunt, v. 'umxun (n. 'umx).

Ex. 'Iče mak'umxun. Let’s hunt wolves. 'Uyk wa’umxunin. Yesterday he went wolf-hunting.

Is this making some sort of sense?

Another interesting thing about Rumsien is its lack of an actual genitive form, with possessor and possessed simply placed in juxtaposition with each other:

Ka ‘ukx tip.
my friend knife
My friend’s knife.

Apparently, if one wanted to say "my friend the knife" (as sadistic as that sounds!), one would say:

Ka ‘ukx sa tip.
my friend DEF knife
My friend the knife.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Castration Frustration

OK, so I guess this is what happens when one really doesn't have anything specific in mind for a post but one wants to keep up the blog. Well, this is related to anthropology, after all, which in turn is related to linguistics. So....

I was reading a post on Archaeologica (see link at right) about the Italian exhumation of a popular opera castrato. Of course curiosity got the best of me and I had to read up more on castrati and castratism. I had no idea there was such a market for this back into the 1500s, and the practice continued in Italy until the 1800s.

Here is a Wikipedia article:

I was particularly amused, and also saddened somehow, both at the same time, when I read this line from the Wikipedia article:

Castration was by no means a guarantee of a promising career. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, only approximately 1% of fully or partially castrated boys developed into successful singers.

That must have really sucked! I mean to be neutered for what turned out to be no good reason...that must have been frustrating!

All in the name of entertainment.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Ancient Hawaiian Chant

I came across this oli ho'ohanohano ali'i or chant for revering the chief. It is not for dancing. The chanters were probably accompanied only by the sound of a single drum. It gives a sense of the reverence paid to the ancient (god-like) chiefs:

Nō ka lani ka moku, ka honua,
Ka uka, ka moana, nō ka lani,
Nona ka pō, nona ke ao,
A nona ke kau, ka ho’oilo, ka makali’i,
Ka malama, ka huihui hōkū lani e kau nei.

Here is my attempt at a translation:

For the Chief the island, the earth,
The mountains, the sea, for the Chief,
For him the darkness, for him the light,
And for him the seasons, the winter, the summer,
The moon, the clustered stars placed in the heavens.

Chant from Spoken Hawaiian by Samuel Elbert, 1970. The translation is mine.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A mixed bag

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what to write here, but none of them have really congealed into anything that I felt like expanding into a whole post. So, I decided to just put down a few things that may or may not be of interest to the outside world. (Judging by the number of comments to this blog so far, I suspect there are only a select few of us who find this blog even remotely interesting!)

Anyway, here’s the mixed bag du jour:

Malformed Spanish place names:

I always find it interesting that many Spanish place names around the Bay Area and California in general are ill-formed, often ungrammatical, indicating perhaps that there was no consultation with a native Spanish speaker before they were named. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is the restaurant/fruit stand called Casa de Fruta near Hollister. Now, in Spanish, a definite article (in this case la) is required after the preposition de, of, in order to indicate that “fruit” can be bought here. As named, the real translation is “house built of fruit,” which probably isn’t what they had in mind and doesn’t make much sense. I always enjoyed another sign I often passed in Monterey over the door of a veterinary hospital: Casa de Amigos. Now, I’m sure they had no ill intent in naming this veterinary clinic, but, again, this should be Casa de Los Amigos indicating that it’s a house where friends congregate. As named, it really means “house made out of friends (body parts?),” not quite the impression they wanted to convey, I’m sure!

Ohlone Abalone

According to Merriam Webster, the word “abalone” originally comes into English from Spanish abulón, which was originally borrowed from the Rumsen Ohlone awlon. So, here’s a Rumsen sentence using the word:

Ačista exxe root awlonakay.
Monterey-LOC much be abalone-PL
There is much abalone in Monterey.

I’m not sure what the actual Rumsen name for Monterey, Ačis, means. (I wish I did!)

If you’re unsure what abalone is, here’s the Merriam Webster Online definition:

any of a genus (Haliotis) of edible rock-clinging gastropod mollusks that have a flattened shell slightly spiral in form, lined with mother-of-pearl, and with a row of apertures along its outer edge

A hui hou!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Rumsen Metathesis

Recently, on Jabal Al-Lughat, Lameen posted an example of metathesis from Sierra Miwok, a language rather closely related to the Ohlone languages. I thought it would be nice to show some Rumsen Ohlone examples of metathesis:

'itčen tar 'itčnen become stuck in tar
čumay aspen čumyan look for aspens (?)
meekel salamander meeklen hunt salamanders
'umux wolf 'umxun hunt wolves

These examples reflect second syllable metathesis (as in Sierra Miwok) between verbal forms and noun forms.