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《经济学人》:你说什么语言?

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Linguistics
语言学

Say what?
你说什么?

To find new subjects of study, some linguists simply open their front doors
要寻找新的研究主题,一些语言学家只须打开前门

Sep 10th 2011 | NEW YORK | from the print edition

WHERE in the world is the largest number of different languages spoken? Most linguists would probably plump for New Guinea, an island that has 830 recognised tongues scattered around its isolated, jungle-covered valleys. But a place on the other side of the world runs it close. The five boroughs of New York City are reckoned to be home to speakers of around 800 languages, many of them close to extinction.

世界上哪一个地区使用的语言种类最多?大部分语言学家可能都会坚决地认为是新几内亚,在这个岛上,有830种已被认可的语言散布在丛林广布的偏远山谷中。但在地球的另一端,有一个地方的语言数目几乎能赶上新几内亚。纽约市的五个区被认为是约八百种语言使用者的聚居地,其中很多语种濒临灭绝。

New York is also home, of course, to a lot of academic linguists, and three of them have got together to create an organisation called the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA), which is ferreting out speakers of unusual tongues from the city’s huddled immigrant masses. The ELA, which was set up last year by Daniel Kaufman, Juliette Blevins and Bob Holman, has worked in detail on 12 languages since its inception. It has codified their grammars, their pronunciations and their word-formation patterns, as well as their songs and legends. Among the specimens in its collection are Garifuna, which is spoken by descendants of African slaves who made their homes on St Vincent after a shipwreck unexpectedly liberated them; Mamuju, from Sulawesi in Indonesia; Mahongwe, a language from Gabon; Shughni, from the Pamirian region of Tajikistan; and an unusual variant of a Mexican language called Totonac.

当然,纽约也有许多学术界的语言学家,其中有三人就已一起成立了名为濒危语言联盟的组织(简称ELA),该组织正从城市聚居在一起的移民百姓中搜寻出使用罕见语种的人。去年,丹尼尔•考夫曼、朱丽叶•布莱文思和鲍伯•霍尔曼成立了这个联盟。联盟自创始以来,已对12种语言进行了详细研究,并已将这些语言的语法、发音、构词法还有歌曲、传说等编纂成典。其作品集的语言样本包括:加利弗那语,即非洲奴隶的后代所使用的语言(从前一次海难意外地解放了他们,之后他们就在圣文森特安家);马穆朱语,源自印度尼西亚的苏拉威西岛;马宏威语,一种来自加蓬的语言;舒格尼语,源自塔吉克斯坦的帕米尔地区;还有一种墨西哥语的特别变体,名为托托纳克语。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
intended [in'tendid]

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adj. 故意的,有意的;打算中的 n. 已订婚者 v.

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phonetic [fəu'netik]

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adj. 语音的,语音学的

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recipe ['resipi]

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n. 食谱,秘诀,药方

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linguistics [liŋ'gwistiks]

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n. 语言学

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particular [pə'tikjulə]

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adj. 特殊的,特别的,特定的,挑剔的
n.

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alphabet ['ælfəbit]

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n. 字母表,基本原理(元素),符号系统

 
collection [kə'lekʃən]

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n. 收集,收取,聚集,收藏品,募捐

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yield [ji:ld]

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n. 生产量,投资收益
v. 生产,屈服,投降

 
linguistic [liŋ'gwistik]

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adj. 语言的,语言学的

 
ascertain [.æsə'tein]

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vt. 确定,探知,查明

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