December 10, 2004

Saving Hawaiian

A nice article by Richard Monastersky on the attempted revival of the highly threatened Hawaiian language can be found in the December 10 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. [They are meanies: the link to the article will only last about five days, so read it while you can.] It has various audio links — chants, some basics of pronunciation, and part of a Hawaiian language class at the Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii. There are some linguistic pointers on the language at the end of the article, which, in the web version at least (I haven't seen the print edition), include one glaring spelling mistake in Hawaiian, a spelling that couldn't possibly be right for a Hawaiian word for phonological reasons. The first person who sends in the correct answer (email to pullum at the ucsc site in the edu domain) will win our prize: they will be named on Language Log and they will be given some otherwise closely guarded information: the actual location of the next secret cabal at which the nation's linguists will gather in early January.

Sorry, correction: there are two spelling mistakes in Monastersky's tutorial. In fact he cites seven words and misspells two of them. That's a success rate of under 72%, which gets him a grade of D according to the scale I use. For more details, read on . . .

Melissa Fox of Oxford, U.K., was the first to mail me with the spelling mistake I had in mind. The existence of the second spelling error (a straightforward misspelling, but not an impossible phonological form) was pointed out to me by Sandra Fan of the Computer Science department at the University of Washington. It is not clear who should get the prize any more, so they both get their names on Language Log, and here is the scoop on where the next secret cabal of the linguists of this country will be: contrary to incorrect rumors that were put about to fool our enemies, it will be at the Oakland Marriott City Center, from January 6th to 9th. Be there! Sneak in and try to catch sight of famous linguists like George Lakoff who will be giving talks there! Visit the LSA meeting web page and make an honest person of yourself by registering for the meeting!

I'm now looking for someone to send me both spelling errors in the Monastersky article without getting them from Melissa or Sandra. That person will win a free cup of coffee at the book exhibit at the LSA meeting from me personally.

Sorry, correction, I'm not waiting for anything. Lal Zimman of San Francisco State University has spotted both of the typos, and wins the free coffee. Naturally, you'll be wanting to know what the errors were. But not half as much as Rich Monastersky will be wanting to know, assuming that he reads Language Log.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at December 10, 2004 02:23 PM