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CHAT: Ojibwe

From:Paul Bennett <paul.w.bennett@...>
Date:Friday, December 21, 2007, 11:41
So, as part of my design process for Uinlinstka, I've been working my
way through Pimsleur's Ojibwe course, trying to think less like a
linguist and more like a semi-literate 11th century Norseman.

That in and off itself is pretty tricky -- I can't stop doing phoneme
analysis (trying to decide which of laxness, voicing, affication,
creakiness, and aspiration are usefully describable as phonemic (or at
least significant), not to mention the nasalised vowels that I swear
I've never heard anyone else mention, or the degrees of length, which
seem to number somewhere between 1 and 5), building mental paradigm
tables, and automatically trying to write the dialog down in my mind's

On top of that, even after just a couple of lessons, Ojibwe is
emphatically not like anything I've ever studied before, including the
occasionally mind-bending stuff presented on this list. Other (more or
less familiar to me) standards of comparison include Georgian,
Dyirbal, Japanese, Khmer, Sumerian, Elamite, Klingon, and several
alleged versions of the Indus Valley language. Heck, even Voynich
seems more describable.

Without resorting to official descriptions, it seems that there's a
complete set of Active vs Stative WH-words, with their complementary
Active/Stative TH-words, and what seems to be a quadripartite (at
least) case marking system for pronouns (marking amazingly many

On top of this, some words that prima facie fit clearly-defined
European POS are actually turning out to be compounds and derivations
of things in quite different POS. Some nouns turn out to be verbs
wearing silly hats. Some verbs reveal themselves to be adjectives
doing a funny voice. Some adjectives are unmasked as
verb.verb.something-else compounds. There seem to be monophonemic
verbs, incorporating either nouns XOR prounouns, and/or with implicit
anaphors. I think some pronouns might actually be adjectives and/or
verbs, too. Speaker-biological-gender-dependent forms of "Yes" (but
not of anything else). Prefixes, postfixes, and circumfixes, oh my.

This is not helped by the male informant constantly sounding like he
really, really, really needs a good coughing session.

I'm going to change tack, I think.

Time to track down Pimsleur's Old Norse, or probably Icelandic (which
I suspect is more likely to exist and be locatable without talking to
a shady character in a dark alley). That ought to give my tiny little
mind a chance to relax a bit, and get into more of a relevant mood for
interpreting Ojibwe in a natural fashion.

After that, back to Ojibwe, and then see if I can track down Eastern
Cree, Mohawk, and/or something else from that general milleu.

If I find myself going too insane too often, I'll have to switch to
Russian so I can properly embark on Uralic studies, and get more of
Terzemian nailed down.

Wish me luck! ;-)