LINGUIST List 8.721

Wed May 14 1997

Qs: Ruhlen book, Computer terms, ASL errors

Editor for this issue: Susan Robinson <>

We'd like to remind readers that the responses to queries are usually best posted to the individual asking the question. That individual is then strongly encouraged to post a summary to the list. This policy was instituted to help control the huge volume of mail on LINGUIST; so we would appreciate your cooperating with it whenever it seems appropriate.


  1. Jacques Guy, Ruhlen's "On the Origin of Languages" and, accessorily, Easter Island
  2. Ralf-Stefan Georg, Q: Computer terminology world-wide
  3. Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy, Query: English errors by native sign-language users

Message 1: Ruhlen's "On the Origin of Languages" and, accessorily, Easter Island

Date: Thu, 08 May 1997 09:45:41 -0700
From: Jacques Guy <>
Subject: Ruhlen's "On the Origin of Languages" and, accessorily, Easter Island

I discovered the other day, a bookshop with,
they say, a million books listed. It looks like it too.
Unfortunately, they couldn't get me Sebastian Englert's
Rapanui-Spanish dictionary, but have they been successful
with a couple more obscure books about Easter Island
(BTW, go and have a look at
and see what yours faithfully has been up to. The site has been
put together by David Brookman, and he welcomes stuff about
Easter Island, especially photos of petroglyphs). Now, as I was
browsing the electronic shelves at, I came across
Merritt Ruhlen's "On the Origin of Languages", complete with
card catalog description and table of contents. I read the 
description, which is rather misleading (I am being charitable), 
but when it came to the table of contents... my jaw dropped. 
Was that the same book I had? I checked the publication date, 
I checked the ISBN number, and it was. Here is that table of 

Prologue: What Do We Mean by The Origin of Language? 
1. Language and History: Voices from the Past 
2. Language Families: What Is Known 
3. Controversy: What Is Debated 
4. Native Americans: Language in the New World 
5. The Origin of Language: Are There Global Cognates? 
6. A Window on the World: What Has Been Resolved 
7. Genes: Biology and Language 
8. The Emerging Synthesis: On the Origin of Modern Humans 
Epilogue: Reconstruction, Sound Correspondences, and Homelands 
 An Annotated Bibliography 

Now, for those of you who do not have a copy of "On the
Origin of Languages" on their desk, here is its true
table of contents:

1. An Overview of Genetic Classification. 
2. The Basis of Linguistic Classification. 
3. Khoisan Etymologies. 
4. Proto-Yeniseian Reconstructions. 
5. Na-Dene Etymologies. 
6. Is Algonquian Amerind? 
7. A Semantic Index to Greenberg's Amerind Etymologies. 
8. Additional Amerind Etymologies. 
9. Amerind T'A?NA 'child, sibling'. 
10. The Linguistic Origins of Native Americans. 
11. Amerind MALIQ'A 'Swallow, Throat' and Its Origins in the Old World.
12. First- and Second-Person Pronouns in the World's Languages. 
13. The Origin of Language: Retrospective and Prospective. 
14. Global Etymologies.

What is going on there?
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Message 2: Q: Computer terminology world-wide

Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 17:52:15 +0200
From: Ralf-Stefan Georg <>
Subject: Q: Computer terminology world-wide

I wonder whether someone could help me with the following (rather
general, I'm afraid) question. Working on Computer terminology in
German, a friend of mine who is not subscribed to the list, is after
information on how terminological problems are solved in the major
non-European linguistic areas, esp. in China, Japan, Korea, the Arabic
speaking world, the Indian Subcontinent and South-East Asia,
Russia/CIS (in fact, all national languages other than English, German
and French, where we have sufficient data, are of interest).
While it would certainly be tempting to collect extensive lists of
termini technici from all over the world, we would be grateful this
time for rather general statements on the major trends going on in
those countries, much along the line of the following questions:

 - are direct loans from English most common for computer terminology in
the language under consideration, or

- are there (maybe more then only) marginal trends to coin terms using
elements from that language only, and if so, are there differences of
domains where more English-based and more target-lg.-based terms may be
found (e.g. terminology mainly used by professional computer people vs.
terminology used in commercial ads for the consumer market) ?

- do we find a completely (or almost so) non-English nomenclature
somewhere (or has some such thing been proposed by linguistic purists
somewhere) ?

Of course, we'd also be especially grateful for any specific
literature on the subject pointed out to us.

Please, answer me directly, I'll summarize.

Stefan Georg
Heerstrasse 7
D-53111 Bonn
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Message 3: Query: English errors by native sign-language users

Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 11:49:51 +1300
From: Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy <>
Subject: Query: English errors by native sign-language users

Has anything been published on errors in the use of English (or other
spoken languages) as a second language by native users of ASL (or other
sign languages)? I am particularly interested in any evidence for
inappropriate use of nominal constructions instead of clausal, or vice

If ASL is a language like other, then ASL users' mistakes in English should
be of no more theoretical interest than the mistakes made by native
speakers of French or Swahili, one may think. But it is still possible
that the use of the gestural channel rather than the vocal channel for
first language acquisition may affect the maturation of the linguistically
relevant brain areas (Broca's, etc.) in subtle ways. I am interested in
any evidence which may bear on this, no matter how indirectly.

Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy
Department of Linguistics, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800,
Christchurch, New Zealand
phone (work) +64-3-364 2211; (home) +64-3-355 5108
fax +64-3-364 2065
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