Three deaths and one marriage…

…made for a challenging field trip to Ambrym this year. Still, I was lucky enough to get enough speakers both of Daakaka and Dalkalaen to collect the data we need for MelaTAMP – thanks to the people of Emyotungan and Tio Bang in Port Vila. Now I’m excited to start with the analysis. Stay tuned.

MelaTAMP Workshop in Port Vila

We held a small workshop at the University of the South Pacific yesterday, on Emalus Campus in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The purpose was to introduce and discuss the storyboards we have developed as part of the MelaTAMP project.

We thank Robert Early and Meriani Situ for their organisation and local support, and we’re happy that our audience extended far beyond our few project members and collaborators.

Storyboards for TAM expressions

Scene from a storyboardFor our project, we primarily work with corpus data, but we also have funding to do further field work and elicit contexts that are rare or unattested in the corpora. As our primary method of elicitation, we have decided to use storyboards, which are short scripts accompanied by pictures.

I have created the pictures for our stories in Inkscape. The stories and SVG source files are being made available on our project wiki. The SVG files can simply be customised, just credit the project and me with the original creation.


Pretty WALS maps

A pretty map with WALS data, generated by GMT
A pretty map with WALS data, generated by GMT

The World Atlas of Language Structures maps data from typological studies to a world map. In addition to the online version, there is also a program for the local production of maps.

An even prettier map, in SVG format, with the background customised in Inkscape
An even prettier map, in SVG format, with the background customised in Inkscape

However, the options for customisation are limited. I use the free and open command-line tool GMT for the production of linguistic maps. It has awesome tools for all kinds of tasks, including the mapping of symbols from a file of coordinates. Here is a quick guide on how to produce your own pretty WALS map.

  1. Download your data set from WALS in tab-separated values (there is a button just underneath the header). Save it as walsXY.xy, where XY is the WALS feature you want to map.
  2. Remove the metadata lines at the top of the file and the header of the table.
  3. GMT does not distinguish between tabs and other simple blanks. Replace all simple space characters by nothing or a character of your choice.
  4. Start GMT and move to the directory to which you have downloaded your data set and where you want to produce your map.
  5. In the same folder, create a cpt file containing the colors that you want to assign to different values. My wals.cpt file has the following content: (number of WALS value, RGB values).
    1 240/11/0 
    2 0/210/240
    3 240/180/0
    4 28/142/59
    5 28/54/142
    6 90/28/142
    7 211/211/170
    8 0/0/0
  6. Run the following commands in GMT:
    pscoast -R-180/180/-70/80 -JQ7i -K -Ssteelblue >
    psxy walsXY.xy -R -i5,4,2 -J -O -Sc0.15c -Cwals.cpt >>
  7. For more options, see the documentation of GMT.

The future is what the universe wants

There was a remarkable small workshop on imperatives at ZAS last week that I was happy to be part of. It was a welcome opportunity to take up my work on potential mood directives in Daakaka and their relations to future assertions and embedded clauses. You can see my slides here.

Towards an ontology of modal flavours

modal flavours wordleI’m still feeling warm and fuzzy from the wonderful workshop we had last week at the DGfS conference about modal flavours. The idea for this workshop had formed last year during the SIAS summer institute on the investigation of linguistic meaning, together with Ryan Bochnak and Anne Mucha. We were very happy to win Aynat Rubinstein as our invited speaker and get some excellent submissions from various subfields of linguistics. We gave an overview of background motivations and common themes of the talks in our introduction.


Out now: Indefinites in Daakaka (Vanuatu)

There are two indefinite articles in the Oceanic language Daakaka, TUSWA and SWA. Like weak NPIs or unspecific indefinites in many other languages, TUSWA is excluded from positive assertions about the episodic past or present. In this paper, I try to locate them within the cross-linguistic space of indefinites and NPIs and sketch out an approach to account for their differences.

Read the full paper here.