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Re: Yiklamu hits the big time

From:Mark P. Line <mark@...>
Date:Monday, June 14, 2004, 16:48
John Cowan said:
> Mark P. Line scripsit: > >> > > I'm not sure about this one, but internal evidence > suggests that the first three hits are derived from the > iLoveLanguages page, formerly the Human Language Page, at > .
Yes, there are dozens of google hits for 'Yiklamu' which derive from a blurb (presumably on the site you cite) that says it covers languages from "Aboriginal" to "Yiklamu". As long as we're on the subject of ostensibly compendious link-sinks for languages: <rant excuse="meager"> I'm actually quite disappointed, frustrated and surprised at the fact that there's not a major website out there that provides reasonably reliable, reasonably theory-neutral (but terminologically controlled) sketches (demographics, phonology, graphology, morphosyntax) of a *large* collection of natlangs. I guess there are a number of reasons why this hasn't happened. The most important one might be that "theory-neutral (but terminologically controlled)" really means using least common denominators, as it were, and there's no coherent ontology (yet) that can support this kind of description. Maybe this is a job for us ontologists... Example for further cogitation: What would a linguistic ontology need to specify for the term 'grammatical case' to allow somebody to decide, say, exactly how many different cases there are in (some appropriately specified variety of) Hungarian? Obviously, the ontology would have exactly one definition for 'grammatical case', and that definition would have to be applicable to all languages, not just Hungarian, in such a way that case marking (or lack thereof) can be meaningfully compared across the whole gamut of human languages. You can think of lots of similar examples: parts of speech, TAM marking, semantic & pragmatic meanings of word order (e.g. the topic/focus/subject fiasco), etc. So-called language "universals" could be reformulated in terms of such an ontology, thus hopefully alleviating some of the problems of "universals" being formulated in such a theory-specific or language-specific way as to be nearly useless. ("No human language is such that a rule moving alpha inside a theta-role container has to be ordered prior to any rule involving the square root of the sine of theta divided by alpha.") ("Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian and related languages all have vowel harmony of the Uralic type.") </rant> An ontology of this magnitude would also be pretty useful for conlang development, too, with or without the bit about "universals". -- Mark