LINGUIST List 15.1937

Mon Jun 28 2004

Review: Lang Description: Holisky & Tuite (2003)

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  1. Elena Bashir, Current Trends in Caucasian, East European and Inner Asian Linguistics

Message 1: Current Trends in Caucasian, East European and Inner Asian Linguistics

Date: Sun, 27 Jun 2004 06:02:11 -0500
From: Elena Bashir <>
Subject: Current Trends in Caucasian, East European and Inner Asian Linguistics

EDITORS: Holisky, Dee Ann; Tuite, Kevin 
TITLE: Current Trends in Caucasian, East European and Inner Asian Linguistics
SUBTITLE: Papers in Honor of Howard I. Aronson
SERIES: Current Trends in Linguistic Theory 246
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2003
Announced at

Elena Bashir, Dept. of South Asian Languages and Civilizations,
The University of Chicago.


This volume consists of seventeen specialized papers presented at the
tenth (and last) conference on Non-Slavic languages of the
Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Republics, held at
the University of Chicago in May, 1997. The valuable introduction by
Kevin Tuite groups the papers by language group. Brief notes on the
papers follow, following Tuite's grouping.

1. Languages of the Caucasus
1.1 Nakh-Daghestanian (Northeast Caucasian)
1.1.1 Johanna Nichols, ''The Nakh-Daghestanian consonant
correspondences'' (58 pp.) This paper is part of the project of
reconstructing Proto-Nakh Daghestanian (PND); its immediate purpose is
to clarify the relation between Nakh and Daghestanian using accepted
N-D cognate sets and without attempting to maximize resemblances to NW
Caucasian. Appendix 1 includes eight tables of N and D consonant
correspondences classified by articulation type. Appendix 2 includes
50 firm N-D cognate sets. The paper concludes that Proto Daghestanian
split from PND not long after the split of Nakh, and that PND quickly
split into five major branches. For Nichols, the spread pattern
points to possible significant cultural innovations enabling the rapid
spread of the language through the southeast Caucasus.

1.1.2 Wolfgang Schulze, ''The diachrony of demonstrative pronouns in
East Caucasian'' (58 pp.) This paper is a detailed survey of the
history of the pronominal systems with regard to the extent to which
reconstruction of the demonstrative pronominal system of Proto-East
Caucasian (PEC) is possible. The paper concludes that the systems in
individual languages represent the systems of their individual
proto-languages fairly closely, but that the paradigm of PEC is much
more distant, indicating that divergence from PEC itself gave rise to
more changes than arose from later divergence from intermediate
stages. Several factors complicating the analysis of demonstrative
pronominal systems are discussed: (i) Grammaticization paths of
demonstrative pronouns are not fully understood. (ii) Sometimes
phonaesthetic relationships obtain between form and meaning; thus
sometimes the phonetic makeup of the demonstrative pronouns differs
from the canonical phonotactics of the lexicon. (iii) There is high
synchronic and diachronic variability, with short-lived paradigms,
such that only the central paradigmatic parts have a stable history.
(iv) Phonemes for demonstrative pronouns do not seem to conform to the
general sound laws for a given language. (v) Demonstrative pronouns
are subject to semantic or functional change. (vi) Single paradigms of
demonstrative pronouns can become mixed in later stages. Another
generalization that emerges is that the now Northern languages have
undergone less structural change than the now Southern languages,
possibly because of differing degrees of substratum influence.

1.1.3 Victor Friedman, ''Lak folktales: materials for a bilingual
reader, Part II'' (10 pp.) This article consists of a brief
introduction to Lak, a Daghestanian language, followed by a short
folktale in Cyrillic script with morphemic transliteration, morph by
morph gloss with grammatical markers, free English translation, and
vocabulary. The article is the second part of Friedman's ongoing work
on making Lak texts accessible for study.

1.1.4 Zev Handel, ''Ingush inflectional verb morphology: a synchronic
classification and historical analysis with comparison to Chechen''
(54 pp.) After an analytical overview of Ingush verb inflections, the
paper discusses the historical evolution of the Ingush verbal system,
then presents a comparative study of Ingush and Chechen verb
paradigms. The Ingush verb system is based on three stems:
infinitive, present (imperfective), and past (perfective). All Ingush
verbs fall into one of eleven classes, of which Class 1 comprises 25%
of the total of 272 simple verbs in the Ingush database. There is
also a (marked) iterative-(unmarked) simulfactive aspectual
opposition, which may be either morphological or lexical. Three of
the Ingush verb tenses are formed historically from a combination of
converbs and the verb 'be', with differing degrees of fusion. A
change from a process of umlaut to one of ablaut is postulated and
compared with Chechen, in which umlaut is still relatively
transparent. Based on entries in the Ingush lexical database, the
author has identified 261 cognate sets and grouped them, facilitating
setting up of correspondence sets between Chechen and Ingush verb
types, which display considerable regularity. Phonemic
correspondences are less transparent, largely due to developments in
Ingush. The final part of the chapter details these changes.

1.1.5 Alice Harris, ''The prehistory of Udi locative cases and
locative preverbs'' (24 pp.) Using Georgian sources on Udi (Lezgian
subgroup of NEC), Harris re-analyzes the Udi data and proposes some
Udi reflexes of Proto-Lezgian consonants which in some cases differ
from those of earlier scholars, notably Alekseev. Data from Tabarasan
are used to illustrate the system of locative cases in the Lezgian
subgroup in general. The paper is presented as an effort toward
achieving a firmer reconstruction of Proto-Lezgian locative cases and

1.1.6 Maria Polinsky and Bernard Comrie, ''Constraints on
reflexivization in Tsez'' (26 pp.) This paper describes two types of
compound reflexives, both of which consist of two pronominal forms.
In type 1 the first word is invariably in its ergative form, while the
case of the second varies. In type 2 the first word shows case
variation, while the second is invariably absolutive. These two types
are discussed with reference to reflexive status, antecedent status,
and locality conditions. Forms with the enclitic -tow, sometimes
analyzed as a reflexive, are here argued to have a general function of
marking an unexpected association between the referent and the

1.2 Kartvelian
1.2.1 Shukia Apridonidze, ''On the syntax of possessive reflexive
pronouns in modern Georgian and certain Indo-European languages'' (6
pp.) Georgian has both personal (pronominal) and possessive
(adjectival) reflexives, both based on the root tav- 'head'. However
the tav- forms are used consistently as reflexive adjectives for all
three persons (only?) in the northeastern Georgian dialects (p. 26).
The paper compares the Georgian system of possessive reflexives with
those of German, Russian, and English.

1.2.2 Marcello Cherchi, ''How many verb classes are there in
Mingrelian?'' (11 pp.) This paper argues that in Mingrelian, a sister
of Georgian, establishing a fourfold verb class system such as that of
Georgian presented by Aronson, Harris, Tuite, and Holisky, does not
seem valid. Cherchi suggests that Class 4 verbs are not formally
distinguishable from Class 2 verbs in Mingrelian, and that Mingrelian
is better considered as having three classes.

1.2.3 Thomas Gamkrelidze, ''Typology of writing, Greek alphabet and
the origins of alphabetic scripts of the Christian orient'' (12 pp.)
This paper discusses the writing systems of Classical Greek, Coptic,
Gothic, Classical Armenian, Old Georgian, and Old Slavonic within the
framework of the general theory of sign systems (semiotics). Taking
the Greek writing system as the base for these systems, Gamkrelidze
discusses, among other things, the degree to which the descendent
systems have distanced themselves from the original
system. Gamkrelidze notes that the Georgian system has remained closer
to a consistently alphabetic system because of its phonetic

1.2.4 Kora Singer, ''On double dative constructions in Georgian'' (14
pp.) In this paper, Singer discusses (a rare type of) sentence in
which two datives appear, both of which can be considered to be
indirect objects. There are two types of dative markers, u-series and
h-series, which can normally co-occur only with each other, not with
themselves; i.e. a u-series marker can co-occur with an h-series
marker, but not with another u-series marker. With verbs that can
take either an alienably or inalienably possessed direct object, the
h-dative tends to mark the inalienable possessor, and the u-dative the
alienable possessor. Also, the dative argument that is indexed on the
verb is higher on the person/animacy hierarchy than the second dative.
1.2.5 Kevin Tuite, ''Kartvelian series markers'' (30 pp.) Tuite's
closely argued article discusses the (numerous) suffixal markers of
the three series (Series I, linear/durative; Series II, punctiliar;
and Series III, resultative) which are found in all Kartvelian
languages. The discussion treats the divergence and restructuring of
the Aktionsart class and semantics associations of series marking
suffixes deriving ultimately from two sets of Proto-Kartvelian
morphemes--those marking stative/resultative aspect and those with an
antipassivizing function. The problem of explaining the ramifications
of antipassivization remains an important puzzle.

1.3 Abkhaz-Adyghean (Northwest Caucasian) and Indo-European. John
Colarusso, ''More Pontic: Further etymologies between Indo-European
and Northwest Caucasian (20 pp.) Beginning by citing work by Eric
Hamp analyzing the word for 'horse' as the e-grade of the stem for
'swift', Colarusso furthers his previously proposed Pontic hypothesis,
i.e. the idea that Indo-European and Northwest Caucasian are related
at the phylum level. He offers arguments based on developments from
(reconstructed) Pontic roots for 'bend', yielding words for 'fish'
('the undulating one'), 'kite' ('the gyrating one'), and 'snake' ('the
coiling one'). The root for 'bend' also yields the IE forms for
'elbow' and 'forearm'. Several other etyma, including those for 'to
drive', yielding words for 'goat', 'to pasture' yielding words for
'sheep', and 'to breed', yielding words for 'swine', are offered as
further support for the Pontic hypothesis.

2. Siberian indigenous languages
2.1 Gregory Anderson, ''Towards a phonological typology of native
Siberia'' (22 pp.) Anderson's paper examines nasal consonants in the
approximately three dozen languages of the native Siberian macro-area.
The phenomena focussed on are a four-way place contrast of
nasals--labial, dental/alveolar, palatal, and velar--and the
appearance of the velar nasal in word-initial position. The four-way
contrast is found to be stable (and original) in some groups of the
Siberian languages, while in others it is more marginal and judged to
be a secondary (contact-influenced) development. The article
discusses individually those languages in which: the four-way contrast
is stable; the contrast may not be original; and those in which the
contrast was old but has been lost or restructured. A similar
analysis is done for the initial velar nasal, discussing languages in
which the contrast is original, those in which it is secondary, and
those in which the velar nasal is restricted in word-initial position.
The distributional patterns of these groups of features are presented
and possible areal influences suggested.

2.2 Lenore Grenoble and Lindsay Whaley, ''The case for dialect
continua in Tungusic: Plural morphology'' (26 pp.) This paper argues
for a ''bottom-up'' approach to classifying language varieties which
have inherently fuzzy boundaries, rather than a cladistic approach.
In this approach, variation is best represented as sets of interacting
continua rather than as sharply defined isoglosses. Plural morphology
in Tungusic is treated as a case study in the value of this approach.
Importantly, in the Tungusic case (possibly as a result of nomadic
life styles) there is no isomorphic relation between dialect continua
and geographic distribution. Distribution of the plural markers -l
(original Proto-Tungusic plural marker) and its allomorph -r, -sal
(originally a collective marker thought to originate from a
compounding of the plural marker -l with a collectivizing suffix -sa),
and zero is examined. In some languages one marker dominates, while
others are transitional. The authors conclude that plural markers
provide evidence that language-dialect divisions in Tungusic will
depend on which features are selected as key for classification.

2.3 K. David Harrison and Abigail R. Kaun, ''Vowels and vowel harmony
in Namangan Tatar'' (14 pp.) Data on the vowels of a previously
undocumented variety of Tatar spoken in Namangan (Uzbekistan), and
considered to be a variety of Standard Literary Tatar, are presented.
The authors find nine distinct vowel qualities: front -round (high,
mid, low); front +round (high, mid); back -round (mid, low); back
+round (high, mid). Tatar in general has backness and roundness
harmony. In Namangan Tatar the authors find that backness harmony is
''abstract'' in the sense that phonetically central vowels participate
in front-back phonological alternations that are apparently not
phonetically motivated. Rounding harmony in Namangan Tatar is
restricted to a small set of allomorphs, i.e. the vowel of the
causative affix, -Dor-, which is underlyingly mid, front, unrounded.
This rounding is conditioned by a same-height sensitivity. Namangan
Tatar's rounding harmony is unusual in that it is both morphologically
and phonologically determined.

2.4 Edward Vajda, ''Tone and phoneme in Ket'' (25 pp.) Vajda's
article discusses the phonemic tone system of Southern Imbat Ket, the
Ket dialect with the largest number of remaining native speakers and
the one now being used for teaching materials in Ket schools. The
language has four monosyllabic and two disyllabic pitch patterns.
Monosyllabic: (1) high, d(2) glottalized, (3) monosyllabic
rising/falling, (4) falling. Disyllabic: (5) disyllabic
rising/falling, (6) rising/high-falling.

Each of these is discussed and illustrated separately. Vajda
considers that there are seven basic vowel phonemes, in contrast to
earlier analyses which postulate numerous vowel phonemes. The
interactions of tone patterns and exact phonetic realizations of the
seven basic vowels are discussed in section 2. In polysyllable words
section 3) (differences between the four monosyllabic tones generally
disappear, and the disyllabic pitch contours appear. Section 4
discusses phonological phrases including compounds and finite verb
forms. Vajda concludes by suggesting that the two disyllabic tones
function as positional variants of the four monosyllabic tones,
yielding a single system of four tonemes applicable to all
phonological words. He further stresses the importance of prosodic
phonological evidence for the diachronic study of the Yeneseic

3. Slavic
Donald Dyer, ''The Bulgarians of Moldova and their language'' (14 pp.)
Southeastern Bulgarian dialects are spoken in the Moldovan cities of
Taraclia, Ciadir-Lunga, and Valea Perjei. Dyer's paper discusses the
phonology and morphology of these dialects, especially in comparison
to Standard Bulgarian. Six processes involving the vocalic system are
identified and illustrated: 1) fronting of unstressed [ju]
(delabialization), 2) backing of unstressed [i] (labialization), 3)
fronting of u], 4) depalatalization of front vowels, 5) unstressed
vowel elision, 6) vowel epenthesis. Morphological divergences from
Standard Bulgarian include gender class confusion resulting from vowel
elision and/or lengthening, the development of a masculine definite
article form <-oh>, and a fourth verbal conjugation.

This collection of data-rich and in some cases highly analytical and
closely argued papers will be an essential volume in the libraries of
Caucasian specialists, since twelve of the seventeen papers are by
foremost scholars in the field of Caucasian linguistics. The articles
on languages of Native Siberia, both in their relatively small number
and in the picture they present of (imminent) language loss in
Siberia, underscore the urgent need for more field research on these

Elena Bashir currently teaches Urdu, Panjabi, and regional languages
and literatures of Pakistan at the University of Chicago. Her
research is on the languges of Pakistan, mainly those of the
north(western) part of the country. Her dissertation (1988, Michigan)
is on the Kalasha language and current work continues on a reference
grammar of Khowar. She has also worked on Wakhi, Brahui, Balochi,
Burushaski, and Pashto.
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