Monday, 12 October 2009
If anyone happened to look at my twitter babblings on Friday night, you'd have noticed a slightly strange emphasis.
And more specifically, a developing obsession with Kalaallisut, the Greenlandic language.
I fell in love with Greenland when I flew over it, and now we're actively making plans for a trip there next June.
I've been assured that most of the younger Greenlanders speak English, and that we'd get along fine without learning the language... but I'm a linguist at heart. I can't help myself. And when I found out that it's an ergative-absolutive language*, that was it; I've wanted to learn an ergative language ever since I first heard of them back in my earliest morpho-syntactic studies.
A couple of the most interesting things I found as I descended deeper and deeper into language-geekery on Friday: you can tell surprisingly much about what's in the news even without speaking the language, and the website of the Greenlandic language bureau has some really neat morphology tools and a free download of their work-in-progress Greenlandic-English dictionary.
There don't seem to be many helpful resources out there (though I have borrowed an introductory textbook, helpfully written in Danish...), and I have 1001 other things to be getting on with... but I seem to have committed myself regardless.
Over the next 9 months, I'm learning Greenlandic.
Wish me luck, folks - I think I'm going to need it!
* If you're wondering, but don't want to wade through a whole article to learn more, the simple(ish) definition is this: In a nominative-accusative language (the normal kind) the subject of an intransitive verb and the subject of a transitive verb are treated the same (e.g. 'he ran', 'he chased her'). In an ergative-absolutive language, the subject of an intransitive verb is treated the same as the object of a transitive verb, but the subject of a transitive verb is different (imagine if you still had 'he ran', but you had to write the second sentence as 'him chased she'...)