Towards a refined wordlist of German in the Intercontinental Dictionary Series

For a long time, I have been wondering about the origin of the German wordlist in the Intercontinental Dictionary Series (Key and Comrie 2016. Not only are many of the words given as translations for the large concept list of 1310 items very archaic variants, which are no longer in use, we also find many annoying problems, such as unusual spellings (consequently avoiding the letter “ß”, which is still in use, even if some people think differently), wrong translations, and, of course, no phonetic transcriptions. Already during my doctoral studies, I therefore started to work on a refined list, but I soon had so many other things on my plate, that I never really managed to finish this work. Recently, however, I realized that my previous work which I had done years ago was far more complete than I had thought, and I had even added information on potential borrowings, extracted from Kluge’s (2002) etymological dictionary. Given that this list can come in handy in various ways, I decided to finish the work and publish the list officially in a very first version.

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Annotating Rhyme Judgments for a Complex Corpus of Manuscript Sources: Making Sense of the «Cang Jie pian 蒼頡篇»

Establishing a standardized annotation framework for communicating rhyme judgments identified in historical texts will both ease the use of computational tools for rhyme analysis, and hopefully inspire greater collaboration amongst scholars interested in historical linguistics. The framework we have proposed (List, Hill & Foster 2019), was designed with simplicity, exhaustiveness, and flexibility in mind (p. 30), with the intension of eventual inclusion in the Cross-Linguistic Data Formats initiative (https://cldf.clld.org). Further testing of the framework is desired to demonstrate its utility and identify areas requiring refinement. This study presents such a test on rhyming in the Cang Jie pian 蒼頡篇, an ancient Chinese scribal treatise only recently reconstructed from a complex corpus of surviving manuscript fragments. In a follow-up study, the proposal will be formally evaluated by providing code to test the annotations.

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A list of 171 body part concepts

The body of most human beings consist of similar parts such as a head, arms, legs, and so on. Many body parts also occur in animals. The shapes and functions of body parts are universal across cultures, but speakers of various languages choose to categorize the body differently. For example, Vietnamese has a single word (tay) for the concepts HAND and ARM. The universality of the human body and its categorization into different parts have attracted attention across research areas such as lexical typology and cognitive science. Therefore, I present a comprehensive list of human and animal body part terms based on German which were mapped to the concepts in the Concepticon (List et al. 2020). The list is intended for investigations on cross-linugistic naming patterns of body parts.

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How to write an initial review for a journal in linguistics? (How to do X in linguistics 1)

Writing reviews for a journal is one of those things which most scientists never actively learn. For laypeople, this may be surprising, given how often the scientific method with its rigorous peer review procedure is being mentioned in the news nowadays. How can it be, one may ask oneself, that this procedure that is usually presented as the core principle of scientific reasoning, is never really actively taught? If the review by experts is the core of the scientific method and what decides about the acceptance of an article, how can it be that scientists do never take a course on article reviewing, and how can it be that reviewers are (as I have previously discussed in a German blogpost) themselves never reviewed or graded?

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How to do X in linguistics? A new series of blog posts

I cannot remember when I decided to become a linguist. I cannot even remember when I first called myself a linguist (as opposed to a student, a Sinologist, or a scientist). But I can remember when I wrote my first review for a linguistics journal, and I also remember that it came close to a catastrophe, since I maintained a very hostile tone, I didn’t like the paper, thought the authors were badly informed, and didn’t want to allow the paper to be published.

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A model of distinctive features for computer-assisted language comparison

This post introduces a model of segmental/distinctive features for the symbolic representation of sounds, covering almost 600 segments from CLTS (List et al., 2019) mapped to unique sets of bivalent features. It is being designed as an alternative input to vectors of presence/absence built from BIPA descriptors, analogous to other feature matrices like the one by Phoible (Moran & McCloy, 2019). While still under development, it can already be used both for training models of machine learning and statistics, notably decision trees, and for bootstrapping language- and process-specific models, aided by an “universal” and concise reference. The complete matrix is available on Zenodo. Asupporting Python library, distfeat, is available on PyPI.

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Concept Similarity in STARLING

STARLING is a software package, originally created by Sergej A. Starostin, which is designed for historical linguists who want to build their own etymological dictionaries. It is not only a database system that allows its users to set up a very straightforward relational database structure, but also a package full of surprises, since it contains many methods that are supposed to automate specific tasks in historical linguistics. These range from phylogenetic tree reconstruction via the preliminary identification of sound correspondences up to the comparison of elicitation glosses for their semantic similarity. While phylogenetic reconstruction and sound correspondences are now quite successfully handled in alternative software packages, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the routine for assessing concept similarity in more detail, since it offers interesting possibilities for those who practice historical language comparison.

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New Lexical Data for the Kusunda Language

Endangered language documentation and endangered language revitalisation have been two hot topics in recent years. For instance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the year 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. However, although the UNESCO and many other organizations (e.g. The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme or SIL International) urge the public to be aware of the rapidly decreasing number of languages in the world, it does not slow down the annual rate of language loss. For example, the total number of speakers of the Kusunda language, a moribund language spoken in Nepal, decreased to only one person in 2020.

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New Kusunda data: A list of 250 concepts

This is a joint post by Uday Raj Aaley (independent researcher, Dang, Nepal) and Timotheus A. Bodt.

Between 29th July 2019 and 12th August 2019, we invited the then remaining two speakers of the Kusunda language to Kathmandu, where we interviewed them. One of these speakers, Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda, unfortunately passed away early 2020. At the moment of writing this, there is only one Kusunda speaker left, Kamala Sen Kusunda.

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RhyAnT: A web-based tool for interactive rhyme annotation

In times where home office is an obligation rather than an option, I have finally found time to create a first draft version of a web-based tool for interactive rhyme annotation. The tool is written in plain JavaScript, without any additional libraries, and supports the inline rhyme annotation format which we proposed in an earlier study. It allows for an efficient and save annotation of poems for their rhyme structure and will hopefully help us to assemble larger samples of rhyme patterns across genres, languages, times, and cultures.

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Adding concept lists to Concepticon: A guide for beginners

Scientific data should be openly accessible. This includes databases which are designed for collaborative work. However, in most cases, these databases are only extended by a team of experts. If a database is truly collaborative, the workflows need to be accessible for everybody. The Concepticon database  (List et al., 2019) invites contributors to include their own data sets. This requires a transparent description of the contributing process.

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Linguists love plants, too!

Linguists can never solely concentrate on language. This is especially true for field linguists who document a previously unknown language. Unveiling the charm of an undocumented language requires the researcher to explore as much as possible about the people, the society, and of course, the nature around them.

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