[NDNAIM] Activists . . . Endangered Languages

rwd0002 at unt.edu rwd0002 at unt.edu
Sun Jul 6 19:43:58 UTC 2008

> --- On Sun, 7/6/08, Rankin, Robert L <rankin at ku.edu> wrote:
> From: Rankin, Robert L <rankin at ku.edu>
> Subject: RE: [NDNAIM] Activists . . . Endangered Languages
> To: siouan at lists.Colorado.EDU
> Date: Sunday, July 6, 2008, 8:21 AM
> I'd add a third way.  Modern Hebrew has been seriously reconfigured, some
> would say creolized.  Paul Wexler at Tel Aviv Univ. goes so far as to 
> call it a
> "Slavic language in search of a Semitic past."  His contention is that
> it is relexified E. Slavic (he simply called it "Ukrainian" in a
> lecture he gave at KU).  It was relexified with German vocabulary to form
> Yiddish and with Hebrew vocabulary to form modern "Hebrew".  So
> eastern European immigrants don't actually learn a Semitic language in
> Israel -- just vocabulary.  To the extent that this may be true, it 
> pretty much
> erases the only really convincing case of revival.  Wexler's website has the
> details if you're interested.
> Bob

The Hebrew revival is indeed very different, we all agree on that. 
Hebrew never died out as a religious language nor as a written 
language.  However, I think it is a bit of an exaggeration to say that 
Modern Hebrew is a relexified Slavic language.  At least one 
morphological feature of Modern Hebrew, its typically Semitic 
nonconcatenative morphology, is not Slavic and is still productive.  
That cannot be explained through relexification of a Slavic language.

The Jewish activists who revived Hebrew were extremely conscious of the 
Semitic morphological features of Hebrew, (and heard Arabic, a related 
Semitic language, spoken around them), so they did all they could to 
make sure Hebrew retained, maybe not a fundamental, but at least an 
strong indexical, Semitic character.  Even Yiddish, certainly more 
clearly a Slavic language relexified with Germanic than Modern Hebrew 
is, retains some uncannily Semitic morphological features.

To reconnect to Siouan, it is an interesting ideological issue, 
relevant to all people interested in reviving an extinct language.  
Suppose we wanted to revive an extinct Siouan language, in addition to 
Siouan lexicon, what sorts of morphological features would we wanna 
insist on to convince ourselves this is a genuine Siouan language?  
Split intransivity? instrumental prefixes?, locative prefixes?


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