Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Conference blogging 2

Well, it's surprisingly hard to keep up with blogging when you're at a conference of linguists and what you mostly want to do is talk. This is probably more true of me than most, since I'm the only linguist at my university.  It's rare that I'm surrounded by people who totally understand concepts like allophone and absence of copula.  Too much fun.

Also, it's hard to be cranky when the view from your hotel balcony is of the Caribbean Sea. The waves are rolling gently over a line of reefs a few yards off the beach, and a humongous hummingbird flits around in the tree just outside. I am playing hooky from a session going on now to write a bit here before we meet downstairs for lunch.

Today is the third day of the conference, and my two duties are scheduled for tomorrow. I chair a session on varieties of French Creole in the morning, then in the afternoon I do a presentation on a tentative method I've worked out for reducing linguistic prejudice among my students against African-American and other "non-standard" forms of English.

One of the really cool and satisfying things about these conferences is that I get to meet and interact with people whose names were in my dissertation bibliography these many years ago: in particular this time folks like Mervyn Alleyne, John Rickford, and Bernadette Farquhar. It was Farquhar's 1974 dissertation on Antiguan Creole, discovered by me at the University of Florida Library's Latin American Collection in 1978, that as I told her yesterday "ruined my life, but in a good way."  Her description of Antiguan Creole led me to conceive of doing similar work in Carriacou, where I had been a Peace Corps Volunteer from 1971-74.

The conference, incidentally, is celebrating the late Richard Allsopp, a scholar of Caribbean languages who has very unfortunately passed away but who I had met some years back. His magnum opus I suppose is the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, published by Oxford in 1996, with a 2003 paperback edition from the University of the West Indies Press.  However, it was earlier article* on Africanisms in Caribbean creoles that contributed most to my own research by documenting how idioms in African languages had been carried to the New World by slaves and relexified to produce expressions such as "cut-eye" and "hard-ears." 

More later...

*Allsopp, R.  1977.  Africanisms  in the Idiom of Caribbean English.  In Language and Linguistic Problems in Africa, ed by P. Kotey and H. Der-Houssikian.  Columbia SC: Hornbeam Press.  Pages 429-41.

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