Fwd: Re: Chicago's Field Museum

Michael McCafferty mmccaffe at indiana.edu
Thu Jan 1 16:06:19 UTC 2009

In this day and age it is inexcusable for a museum of such renown as 
the Field Museum to have crappy linguistics. It's just beyond the pale. 
Were this the turn of the 20th century, it would be understandable, but 
this sort of thing happens quite often today, especially in books, 
history books. A recently published and quite popular--and otherwise 
well written--book on an American Indian tribe comes to mind. The 
author, a historian, did not once consult a linguist about the native 
language forms used in the book--and so that aspect of the work is just 
sloppy and substandard. There's no excuse. It's not that hard to find a 
linguistic authority. Museum exhibitors need to wake up. That's all. 
Other than that, the exhibit does indeed look wonderful.

Ok. Back to dancing on the head of a pin.


Quoting Jerry Offner <ixtlil at earthlink.net>:

> If we brush aside, for the moment, the legions of linguistic angels by now
> arrayed and thoroughly crowded on the head of a pin, and the more
> interesting lingustic questions of museology and making non-Western
> languages somewhat accessible and hopefully even interesting and engaging
> to museum visitors, what is the substance of the exhibit like?
> Some images can be seen at:
> http://www.fieldmuseum.org/aztecs/
> but are there new or very rarely seen objects?  Is any of the commentary
> the least bit inaccurate or otherwise controversial?  How is it on the
> Apocalypto scale--responsible and broad spectrum or sensationalist and
> leering?  Certainly, the website's tone is promising.  Have they eschewed
> the seemingly inevitable atmospheric flute music in favor of another theme
> or approach?
> Having mounted a few exhibits myself, they are a very difficult balancing
> act between sponsors, museums, museum directors, trustees and curators,
> availability of material, outside marketing consultants, outside academic
> consultants, exhibition preparation and design staff (often the most
> inspiring, creative and unsung group), etc. etc. (It sounds difficult, but
> it is great if exhausting and humbling fun). It would be a shame if all
> this (admittedly lingustically-oriented) list has to offer about this
> exhibit are some obscure, conflicting and ranking comments on pronunciation
> guides for the English/Spanish (and other language) non-academic visitors
> to the exhibit.  I don't recall seeing anything on the aztlan list about
> the exhibit other than the announcement of its existence.
> And backed to those crowded angels--how exactly would one have written a
> pronunciation guide that would engage the public? Are there prior examples
> of excellence?  What about next time?  And what about this time?  Do the
> comments offered so far encourage non-specialists to use specialists next
> time or do they just further isolate all parties?
> Show us.
> Jerry Offner
>> [Original Message]
>> From: Michael McCafferty <mmccaffe at indiana.edu>
>> To: <nahuatl at lists.famsi.org>
>> Date: 12/31/2008 09:49:57 AM
>> Subject: Re: [Nahuat-l] Fwd: Re:  Chicago's Field Museum
>> Quoting "Robert A. Neinast" <neinast at att.net>:
>> > Michael McCafferty wrote:
>> >>>> Oh, and for a final
>> >>>> "tl" they had it pronounced simply as "t".
>> >>
>> >> It's like that in some dialects, so it's not a great offense.
>> >
>> > Don't forget, this exhibit was "The Aztec World," not
>> > "The Modern Nahuatl Dialects World."
>> Naturally, an exhibit of this caliber should have -tl instead of -t.
>> That's agreed.
>> >
>> > Or were there dialects 500 years ago that did this?
>> Yes. In fact, the sound written -tl derives from a proto-Uto-Aztecan
>> /*t/ following /a/. It's not unreasonable to assume that some ancient
>> dialects did not take that /*t/ to the sound written -tl. I don't
>> believe the necessary evidence exists to corroborate that notion,
>> however.
>> Michael
>> >
>> > Bob
>> > --
>> > " . . . and shun the Frumious Bandersnatch."
>> > Robert A. Neinast
>> > Pickerington, OH
>> > _______________________________________________
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>> >
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