The Embroidered Wug

A blog about the beauty of language... and grad school. What's a wug? Look here.
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Musing about methods of language description

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about research methods. The next step of my PhD program is writing a dissertation proposal — so in a nut shell, I need to decide what questions I’m asking and what methods I’ll use to answer them.

In general, people usually talk about two data sources for language description: elicitation and texts. Elicitation includes asking for translations of words or sentences — “How do you say X in your language?”. Sometimes the researcher will construct a sentence and ask if it’s grammatical, and sometimes people elicit words and sentences using pictures rather than a verbal prompt, but elicitation always means you’re directly asking for a piece of linguistic information. When we say text, on the other hand, we mean a more natural type of speech — for example someone telling a story, or explaining how to do a particular task. A text could be written or spoken; regardless, linguists then search the text for examples of a particular phenomenon and analyze it’s use.

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The dissertation transition: How do I organize my time??

This fall semester is going to be a little different for me — and not just because COVID-19 has canceled my fieldwork plans and forced me to work from my kitchen. This semester, I am officially a PhD Candidate. I have finished my graduate coursework. I have submitted a Qualifying Paper. I have convinced five kind scholars to be on my dissertation committee. I have reached the notorious ABD stage: All But Dissertation.

Which means that this fall, I have “nothing” to do except plan and write a dissertation.

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Graduate school in the time of COVID-19: Rethinking my dissertation

There are many things to write about COVID-19 and how it’s impacting graduate students right now. It’s overwhelming. I struggle to find words. The words I’ve found are about research travel, so that’s what I’m writing about now.

The Endangered Language Documentation Programme (ELDP), one of the major funding agencies of linguistic fieldwork, announced on March 20 that they will not be reviewing applications submitted during the 2020 cycle:

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These are a few of my favorite things about Oaxaca

I’m home in Austin now. My 2019 fieldwork is complete.

Fieldwork is complicated for me, as I imagine it is for many researchers. It is simultaneously the best part of my job and the most stressful. Research in the field is hard, and by the end I’m mentally exhausted. Traveling is hard for me, and usually after a month I’m emotionally exhausted. But overall, spending time in Oaxaca is one of the greatest blessings of my life (I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make me happy). This post is a collection of things I love about Oaxaca, drafted slowly over the past five weeks.

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What do we mean by "present" tense

A quick glance at the Tlacochahuaya Zapotec habitual

Disclaimer: This is preliminary research

Hello! Like many things I post on this blog, this research is in very early stages. This means that I may have simplified some more complicated details. It also means I might just be wrong! So please take this information as an early hypothesis, not a solid fact. If you'd like to find out my up-to-date opinions on the topic, feel free to email me.

In Tlacochahuaya Zapotec, the “tense” of a verb (which I’m actually going to call the “TAM”) is indicated by a prefix, for example ‘Juan talks’ is rni Jwan with r- at the beginning, while ‘Juan is talking’ is kani Jwan with the prefix ka-. In a previous post, I looked at how verbs are divided into categories based on which TAM prefixes they use for “past” and “future”.

Recently in my research, I’ve been focusing on that r- prefix in rni Jwan ‘Juan talks’. I want to figure out what the r- means, which is a harder question that it might sound!

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A brief introduction to Tlacochahuaya Zapotec

San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya is located in the Tlacolula Valley in Oaxaca, Mexico. Tlacochahuaya is about 18 kilometers east of Oaxaca City, a 40-minute drive from the city’s historical center, and has around 2,300 inhabitants. Like most towns in the area, there are three parts of Tlacochahuaya’s name. San Jerónimo (Saint Jerome) is the patron saint of the town. Tlacochahuaya is the town’s Nahuatl name, and the official name used by the state. And of course, Tlacochahuaya also has a Zapotec name: Zunni ro’o. Incidentally, the word Zapotec also comes from Nahuatl. In Tlacochahuaya, they call Zapotec people Bënza, and the language is Dizhsa.

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