May 26, 2011

Niuean syntax and coconuts

On May 26, Professor Diane Massam gave an entertaining and informative lecture, 'Small Island, Big Language: The Story of Niue,' as part of the Flaut lecture series. She described some of her research on Niuean, an Oceanic language spoken in Niue, an isolated rocky island in the South Pacific. Niue Island is both the world's smallest independent self-governed nation and the world¹s largest upraised coral atoll. She also told us about its geography, history, and culture. Niuean challenges universal claims such as All languages have nouns and verbs and All sentences have a subject and a predicate. She also showed us some beautiful photos, which I hope she'll post a sampling of here.

Alana also promises a video of an anonymous linguist illustrating proper cocounut-opening technique. As a bystander quipped, "Linguists don't just crack the code of languages. They know how to crack coconuts, too." All part of linguistic fieldwork!

Linguists in Japan and BC

Naomi recently returned from an excellent 2 week linguistic adventure, making her first trips to Japan, Victoria, and Vancouver. All wonderful places. In Japan, she participated in the First International Symposium of Tokyo Academic Forum on Immigrant Languages, along with James Walker from York U, and practiced her best Japanese sentence: "Sumi-masen, watasi-wa sakana-o sifood-o tabe-masen." She really liked the "spirit" pun in this signpost on the way to the Meiji shrine: ""The Meiji period was an enlightened period during which a policy of 'Japanese spirit and Western Knowledge' was adopted..."

On her way home, she stopped off in Victoria for a week, where, conveniently enough, the 5th Change and Variation in Canada (CVC V) linguistics conference was going on. Marisa Brook (MA) gave an excellent talk: " Looks like there’s something interesting going on here."