LINGUIST List 6.589

Fri 21 Apr 1995

Qs: Zoroastrianism, Relevance theory, Algonquian

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  1. Jack Martin, Q: Zoroastrianism
  2. , Relevance theory and discourse analysis
  3. Malcolm Ross, Algonquian

Message 1: Q: Zoroastrianism

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 11:48:37 Q: Zoroastrianism
From: Jack Martin <>
Subject: Q: Zoroastrianism

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A student of ours in anthropology and linguistics will be in Madras this
summer researching some topic related to language and the religious
practices of his Zoroastrian relatives. I would be most grateful for any
leads on research in this area or any specific suggestions. -Jack Martin,
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Message 2: Relevance theory and discourse analysis

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 16:03:38 Relevance theory and discourse analysis
From: <>
Subject: Relevance theory and discourse analysis

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 What's the state of the art of research into "Relevance" in discourse
analysis? I'd like to deepen my knowledge of this subject. Any
suggestion about Sperber&Wilson "Relevance Theory"? Particularly:
bibliographic references about applied research on conversational
analysis or narrative with Sperber&Wilson model.
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Message 3: Algonquian

Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 15:23:05 Algonquian
From: Malcolm Ross <>
Subject: Algonquian

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Before I even mention the topic of my enquiry, I should say that this is a
request for information, not a covert attempt to stir up controversy.

I have just been reading Merritt Ruhlen's _The Origin of Language_. I don't
want to make any comment about the book in general, but to ask a question
or two about the content of the section 'Locating the Algonquian homeland'.

First, Ruhlen says that 'Frank Siebert has proposed the area of the eastern
upper Great Lakes as the origin of the Algonquian dispersal'. Ruhlen does
not source his reference. Can anyone give me the source?

Secondly, and more importantly, Ruhlen appeals to Sapir's Age-Area
hypothesis to the effect that the area of greatest diversity in a family is
likely to point to the original homeland of the family. Since the greatest
divergence is evidently between Blackfoot and the rest of the family, in
the southwest of the family's extent, Ruhlen suggests, _contra_ Siebert,
that the homeland is there, and that the family's closest external
relatives are also in that direction.

As an initial attempt to locate a homeland, Ruhlen's arguments seem sound
enough to an outsider. However, the kind of support for them that I would
want to look for would be an argument that the first branching in the
genealogical tree divides Blackfoot from the rest of the family. This would
be based on a claim that the rest of the family shares a set of innovations
relative to Proto Algonquian (a Proto Algonquian whose reconstruction also
takes full account of Blackfoot data). (Yes, I know that this places me
among the practitioners of the 'standard comparative method' to whom Ruhlen
refers quite frequently.) I went to the library here to see what I could
find, and came up with Ives Goddard's account of 'Comparative Algonquian'
in Campbell & Mithun's _The languages of native America_ (1979). Goddard
says, if I read him correctly, (i) that the only obvious subgroup within
Algonquian is Eastern Algonquian (and he gives innovations defining this),
(ii) that Blackfoot is highly divergent and that its history is not yet
understood. Goddard's account understandably does not contain the kind of
data that would allow a non-Algonquianist to assess Ruhlen's hypothesis.

I would be grateful to anyone who could point me towards any work (since
Goddard's account?) that would cast light on the question of Algonquian
subgrouping and the homeland or who could comment knowledgably on Ruhlen's
homeland hypothesis.

I will summarise for the list whatever I receive.

Malcolm Ross
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