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Ethnologue exercise (was: Conlang StandardLanguagesv.Dialects)

From:Thomas R. Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 29, 2000, 6:51
Shreyas Sampat wrote:

> Potentially stupid question: > What's the format for an Ethnologue entry for this exercise here?
It's not at all a stupid question, because there appears to be no consistent answer for the entire Ethnologue. When I got the idea of creating my own entry for Phaleran, I was looking at the Mandarin entry: [(a)] CHINESE, MANDARIN (MANDARIN, GUANHUA, BEIFANG FANGYAN, NORTHERN CHINESE, GUOYU) [CHN] [(b)] 836,000,000 in mainland China, 70% of the population; including 8,602,978 Hui (1990 census); [(c)] 885,000,000 in all countries. 1,042,482,187 all Han in China (1990 census). Covers all of mainland China north of the Changjiang River, [....] Also in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, [....]. Sino-Tibetan, Chinese. [(d)] Dialects: HUABEI GUANHUA (NORTHERN MANDARIN), XIBEI GUANHUA (NORTHWESTERN MANDARIN), XINAN GUANHUA [....]. [(e)] Official language taught in all schools. [(f)] The Hui are non-Turkic, [....] [(g)] The grammar is basically Altaic or Tibetan, while the vocabulary and phonology is basically Northwestern Mandarin, or a relexified variety of Tibetan. More investigation is needed. [(h)] Typology: SVO, SOV. Hui: agriculturalists (rural), traders (urban). [(i)] Traditional Chinese religion, Buddhist, Muslim (Hui), Jewish. Braille Bible portions. Braille Scripture in progress. Bible 1874-1983. NT 1857-1981. Bible portions 1864-1986. <> I've cut out a lot of detail unimportant for making an entry. The critical points (which I've noted in brackets above), for this entry, seemed to me to be: (a) The name(s) of the language. There may be several of these, depending on dialect, region or culture or other historical factors. The Ethnologue also has a set of three-letter codes which are unique identifiers for purposes of cataloguing them. You may choose to have your own if you want; one would presumably have to go check to see if it's already used. (b) Speaking population. This is always a very iffy speculation, as you might note from the Ethnologue's rounding to the nearest *million*. This is because whether one speaks a language is itself dependent on whether you were born into that language group and if not, how well you learned to speak it; whether your particular dialect is mutually intelligible with the standard; even political factors (e.g., many of the mutually unintelligible languages of China are considered to be only "dialects" because of a common writing system and vague needs for political unity). (c) Geographical extent of the language. You might want to note if there is one predominant country where the language is spoken, or, if not, where the others live and how well they speak it. (d) Dialectal variation. As a question this is closely related to the question of language use: how intelligible are these dialects with one another? Do they all consider themselves to be speakers of the same language? Are there cultural factors which might unite or divide them (e.g., a common writing system for all of China's "dialects")? (e) How does the language relate to society and government? Is it given official or prestige status vis-a-vis other languages? (f) Are there any specific ethnic or social groups which are associated with the language? (g) How is the language related to other languages diachronically? Are the changes that differentiate that language from its related languages phonological, morphological, or syntactic or something else? You might consider whether it is not provably related to any other language: it's a language isolate. (h) How does the language relate to other languages typologically? Is it a fusional, agglutinating, or isolating language? What kind of basic wordorder does the language have, if any? (i) Because the Summer Institute of Linguistics (which publishes the Ethnologue) is a Christian missionary organization, they are always interested in anthropological information, such as what kind of belief-system is important for the speakers; what life-style they lead; what economic system they have; and, of course, whether the Bible has been translated into that language before, and if so, how much of it and what parts. You do not, of course, have to follow this outline. You can do whatever you want. If you are interested in looking at more examples, check out the Ethnologue's homepage at <>. ====================================== Tom Wier | "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." ======================================