LINGUIST List 2.132

Friday, 12 Apr 1991

Disc: Munda, Banned Lgs, Fonts, Mother

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Munda languages
  2. Scott Delancey, Munda
  3. Michael Covington, Phonetic fonts
  4. Kjetil R} Hauge, banned languages
  5. Daniel Radzinski, Banned languages
  6. Dragon Systems, More on Mother

Message 1: Munda languages

Date: Thu, 11 Apr 91 08:27:07 CST
Subject: Munda languages
David Stampe (stampeuhccux) knows about as much about Munda
languages as anyone I know.
 Geoff Nathan <>
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Message 2: Munda

Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1991 09:01 PDT
From: Scott Delancey <>
Subject: Munda
The "homeland" of Munda per se isn't much of a problem; presumably the
center of dispersal for that branch is the area of eastern India where
most Munda languages are spoken. The problematic issue is the center
of dispersal for Austroasiatic, including Mon-Khmer and Nicobarese as
well as Munda, and thus distributed over all of mainland Southeast
Asia and well into India. There are historical reasons to suppose
that there may originally (say, two or three millenia ago) have been
a continuous Austroasiatic speaking area extending from at least
Cambodia west into India, but I doubt that anyone could give more
than a very speculative answer to questions about an original
homeland for PA.

Scott DeLancey
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Message 3: Phonetic fonts

Date: Thu, 11 Apr 91 10:25:01 EDT
From: Michael Covington <>
Subject: Phonetic fonts
We decided not to develop our own phonetic fonts after discovering that
an excellent set is available free from Tim Montler,

These include all the characters for English (with lots of diacritics),
IPA, Greek, and Cyrillic, in several sizes, both Courier and Times Roman,
upright and italics.

Printer drivers for Word Perfect 5.1 and even a Hercules display driver
are included.

I forgot to mention that Tim Montler's fonts are for the
HP Laserjet II (including IIP, IID, etc.) and III only.
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Message 4: banned languages

Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1991 12:21:13 +0200
From: Kjetil R} Hauge <>
Subject: banned languages
Murvet Enc wrote:
>This is in response to the request for information on banned languages. The
>Turkish government had banned Kurdish until very recently. [...] What is interesting is that the Turkish
>government, as far as I know, outlawed Kurdish while at the same time claiming
>that there were no Kurds in Turkey, only 'Mountain Turks'. Not bothered by
>trivial contradictions.

The ban did not mention Kurdish. It was worded as a ban on any language
that was not the primary official language of some country, thus outlawing
Basque and Welsh along with Kurdish.
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Message 5: Banned languages

Date: Thu, 11 Apr 91 15:56:13 -0400
From: Daniel Radzinski <>
Subject: Banned languages
As far as I can recall, Hebrew was studied clandestinely in pre-glasnost
USSR (or at least in some of its republics). This suggests the existense
of a ban; most likely an official one. I don't remember though, if
Goldsmith, whom I think asked the question, was interested specifically
in native languages. If so, this case would not apply, as the use of
this language in the USSR is, generally, not by native speakers.

Daniel Radzinski
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Message 6: More on Mother

Date: Thu 11 Apr 91 10:28:47-EDT
From: Dragon Systems <DRAGONA.ISI.EDU>
Subject: More on Mother
Ellen Spolsky's contribution on "mother [of all battles]" touches some 
important points, but I think we've all (myself included) been missing the 
 Q: What is THE main use of "mother" in contemporary American slang? 
 A: "Motherfucker" [hereinafter "mf"]. 

Mf may be the single most obscene expression in the American vocabulary. By 
itself, either in the second person or the third, it is a gross insult, but in 
combination, especially in the form "a mf of an X", it generally means "big, 
powerful, impressive, dangerous": a close match to much of the semantic field 
covered by the Arabic "mother of X" (according to previous postings on the 
subject), but usually with a connotation of danger or at least difficulty. It 
is often shortened, either for brevity or for euphemism, to "mother". 

When Baghdad Radio promised "the mother of all battles", can any American, 
especially in the armed forces, have heard that expression without at least an 
unconscious resonance of "a mf of a battle"? Even before the broadcast, any 
GI, pilot, sailor, or Marine could easily have said to his (or her) buddies, 
"Anyone who messes with us is in for one mf of a battle", but you never would 
have heard it at an official briefing, much less in a statement from the White 
House. Saddam Hussein gave us a way to allude to the menace in this idiom, 
and the satisfaction that comes of using it, without violating the taboos that 
restrict its use. 

I think that a lot of the explosive popularity of "the mother of all Xes" 
comes from the doubled pleasure of (1) swearing in public and getting away 
with it and (2) turning the enemy's own (verbal) weapon against him IN A WAY 
HE DIDN'T FORESEE. While of course I can't prove it, I feel that the power of 
the translated Arabic idiom to suggest a richly emotive native one makes it 
especially pleasureable to use IN RESPONSE. This interpretation leads to the 
prediction that American use of "mother of all Xes" will be concentrated in 
contexts of retaliation against Iraq, rather than spreading to general use. 

[End Linguist List, Vol. 2, No. 132]
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