"Our language"

Daniel Everett dan.everett at MAN.AC.UK
Mon Dec 16 10:16:36 UTC 2002

What are the literal meanings for the words translated 'language' in 
the Guarani and Siriono cases?

Interestingly, the Piraha are more mentalist in their conception of 
their language. The people are 'the straight ones' and the language is 
'the straight head' (not, the straight, tongue, for example). To learn 
another language is to 'acquire another head' or 'to want another 
head'. NonPiraha languages are 'crooked heads'.  To have trouble 
learning Piraha is to 'lose a straight head' or to 'look intensely for 
a straight head'.


On Monday, December 16, 2002, at 10:19  am, Östen Dahl wrote:

> One of the minority languages that were recently officially recognized 
> inSwedenis ”meänkieli”. This was previously regarded as a variety of 
> Finnish and referred to in Swedish as “tornedalsfinska”.  “Meänkieli” 
> is transparently ‘our language’ in meänkieli. Apparently, this is a 
> relatively new coinage. There may of course be problems if more Finnic 
> varieties choose the same option!
> ClaudeHagègementioned Guaraní as a case of a language referred to as 
> ‘our language’ by its own speakers. Another language in the same 
> family that I have some first-hand knowledge of is Sirionó. Although 
> it has been labelled “mbia chëë” ‘the people’s language’ in some 
> published texts, my feeling is that the most common way of referring 
> to it in speech is “nande chëë” ‘our language (our speech)’.
> There is of course a descriptive problem here: to what extent are such 
> expressions conventionalized? Obviously, anyone could call their 
> mother tongue “our language”, and it is quite natural to do so, in the 
> same way as you would probably refer to your family as “our family”, 
> in particular when speaking to its members, rather than using a last 
> name or anything similar.
> - Östen Dahl
Dan Everett
Professor of Phonetics and Phonology
Department of Linguistics
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
Manchester, UK
M13 9PL
Phone: 44-161-275-3158
Department Fax: 44-161-275-3187

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