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Re: Native American language sampler

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Date:Saturday, March 22, 2003, 0:52
At 9:38 PM +0000 3/21/03, Tim May wrote:
>Dirk Elzinga wrote at 2003-03-21 07:48:48 (-0700) > > > > An older volume which might still be useful is a collection of > > grammatical sketches edited by Harry Hoijer entitled _Linguistic > > Structure of Native America_. The sketches don't contain word > > lists, but are otherwise pretty good (if dated). It includes a > > sketch by Benjamin Whorf of Hopi, so you can see for yourself what > > he found out about time and the Hopi language :-). > > > > Dirk > > > >Thank you for this - I've recently been reading _Language, Thought, >and Reality_, and I found the papers dealing with Hopi grammar >particularly interesting. I don't know if I'll be able to find a copy >of Hoijer, but I'll add it to the list. > >How accurate is Whorf's descriptive work on Hopi[1] considered today? >There doesn't seem to be much in print on the language, as far as I >can determine.
There isn't much in print. Besides Whorf's materials, there's a pedagogical grammar written by Milo Kalectaca, a short dictionary by David Shaul (and someone else), and a few articles. However, the Hopi Dictionary project recently (well, 6 years ago) published the massive _Hopìikwa Lavàytutuveni_ (Hopi Dictionary). It documents the Third Mesa dialect spoken at Orayvi (Whorf did work on one of the Second Mesa dialects; this dialect is similar to the First Mesa dialect) and includes a grammatical sketch. So documentation is getting better. Whorf's description is fairly accurate. But he had the off-putting habit of creating his own grammatical terminology; this is something which all of the American Structuralists did to some extent, but Whorf outdid them all. I suppose that the rationale was provided by the axiom of the American Structuralists that languages vary without limit, and applying the grammatical categories of one language to another is misleading. Since Whorf believed the Hopis to have a fundamentally different view of the world than Europeans, which was dictated by their language, he was essentially forced into creating a whole new set of terms to describe it. Once you get around the terminology though, the description is pretty good.
>1 As opposed to the broad theoretical extrapolations he drew from it.
There is some of that in the grammatical sketch, but it's confined mostly to the footnotes. Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "It is important not to let one's aesthetics interfere with the appreciation of fact." - Stephen Anderson