LINGUIST List 7.1138

Tue Aug 13 1996

Disc: Multilinguality

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. AP GRANT, Re: Multilinguality: a note
  2. Karl Teeter, Re: 7.1129, Disc: Multilinguality

Message 1: Re: Multilinguality: a note

Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1996 11:00:20 BST
From: AP GRANT <>
Subject: Re: Multilinguality: a note
To the multiple recipients of the list:

Antonio Ruiz Mariscal's recent posting about Mezzofanti mentioned
"Californian". Since languages belonging to 20 different groups were
spoken in California at that time, some clarification may be welcome.
I suspect that the language referred to is Luisen~o, a Takic (and
therefore Uto-Aztecan) language of San Luis Rey, which still has a
handful of speakers. That there were people who spoke that language
in Rome is known for a fact, since at least two students who were
Luisen~o-speakers were sent to Rome to study for the priesthood. (I
know of two, and there may have been more.) The most famous was Pablo
Tac, who died aged nineteen, and who compiled a grammatical
description and part of a dictionary of Luisen~o. The dictionary
fragment was published by Carlo Tagliavini in the 1930s, and his
grammar was extensively discussed in an article in the International
Journal of American Linguistics by Sandra Chung in 1974. Tac knew
Latin, Spanish and Italian in addition to his native language.

As for modern polyglots, I'd say that Eric Hamp, of the University of
Chicago, should figure in any listing. I met him in Amsterdam in December
1994 and heard him use at least six languages in one day. To my certain
knowledge, the languages which he's comfortable in speaking include
Serbo-Croat, Scots Gaelic and Albanian.

Dr Anthony P. Grant
University of Bradford
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Message 2: Re: 7.1129, Disc: Multilinguality

Date: Mon, 12 Aug 1996 09:23:00 EDT
From: Karl Teeter <>
Subject: Re: 7.1129, Disc: Multilinguality

Thanks to Dick and Juergen for excellent messages on this perennially
fascinating subject. Dick is so right to point out the lack of
research data -- get to work, colleagues! Non-language learners such
as myself (an inability I share with Dick) can only marvel and share
anecdotes. So when Juergen points out that it is a matter of
"communicative competence", whatever that is, I can only applaud. And
if Dick can tolerate one more anecdote, it seems to me that neither
behavioral inventories of data one needs to master to "know" a
language nor simple tallies will suffice. There is an ability, I have
always felt iot to be related to that of mimicry or the"double-talk"
mastered by some comic performers (e.g. Americans Danny Kaye, Sid
Caesar, Robin Williams) which is preeminent in communicative

	The idea is not necessarily have real fluency in the language,
but the ability, if this does not sound too mystical, to convey the
impression that you do have it. My wife and I spent long enough
abroad with our four daughters in two countries that all of us got to
get along fairly well in the languages involved: Japanese and
Italian. We all progressed apace during these experiences, although
the adults were predicatably slower and generally less competent. But
one of our four daughters involved was taken by natives to be a fluent
speaker from a very early stage, though I believe she was no more
fluent than the others. Foreign friends would say, "Oh, J... really
know hows to speak Japanese [Italian]." Said daughter later became,
and is, a lawyer, a profession where "communciative competence" may
not be irrelevant. Excuse me, Dick and friends, no researchdata here,
but still perhaps an insight into the nature of "multilinguality".
Yours, kvt
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