Starting in Saarbrücken: Information density, complexity and cross-linguistic variation

It’s October already and I have just received my appointment as a guest professor in the SFB (special research unit) on Information density in Saarbrücken. I will teach a class on “Cross-linguistic variation in structural complexity” and I’m excited to learn more about information density and possible applications of existing hypotheses and tools to typological comparison.

Now out: Dozing eyes and drunken faces

 In many languages of the world, emotions and medical conditions are not attributed to an individual, but to a certain body part. For example, instead of saying “I am sad”, you may have to say something along the lines of “my heart is heavy” in many languages. In these cases, the meaning of “being sad” does not reside in a single word. “Heart” alone does not express sadness, and neither does “heavy”. Only the combination of the two can express this concept. The question is then how such languages form expressions that refer to an abstract emotion such as “sadness” . And the answer is that there are different strategies. One strategy is to say something like “the heaviness of the heart”. The Oceanic language Daakaka, however, uses a different strategy. Here, an emotion concept is expressed by a structure such as “the heavy heart”. This paper investigates these differences and their implications. Get it here or ask me for the preprint.

Compiling a list of glosses from your glossed examples in a LaTeX document (under UNIX)

If you have many interlinearized examples in your LaTeX documents, you have probably wondered about the best way to handle them. Here are some ideas. There are two potential problems with the glosses: 1) different publishers may have different requirements for how to print them, so transferring glossed examples from one manuscript to another may be difficult. 2) You’ll want to have a list of all the glosses in your document, and it should be complete and consistent. To solve all that, the main strategy is to label all your glosses explicitly as such by using a new command we may call “Gloss”:

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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.