Approaching linguiticalishnessality?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/01/28 03:01 -05:00, original URI:

I took most of Friday off (I ended up putting in a few hours for a small keyboard snafu and answered a question or two while I was there, but otherwise it was a day off).

I decided to go and see a linguistics talk being given over at the University of Washington at their weekly colloquium.

The talk was about Cuzco Quechua, a language that has interested me since we added the following locales to windows XP SP2 (which I first mentioned a year ago in Lions and tigers and bearsELKs, Oh my!):

The talk (given by Rachel Hastings, whose PhD is in fact also about Quechua!) was a very interesting report about investigating the Definiteness Effect in Cuzco Quechua, looking epecially at existential and possessive sentences. Aside from a little bit of linguistic jargon in a few of the questions that people asked afterwards, I pretty much understood all of the things that were being said. I'm still not a linguist but I might have to upgrade that whole 'linguistic aptitude' thing from delusions to notions soon!

I'll probably talk more about Quechua some time soon, it is a very interesting language, somehing I thought even before Rachel proved it is true in more ways than I realized.

Anyway, I was talking to her after the presentation and was explaining about my interest in Quechua and other languages, getting into some of the language issues I had been working on lately. She was interested in the fact that we were supporting several locales covering the Quechua language, and I'll definitely try to get her on the Vista beta so she can see it right alongside all of the other languages (and maybe report if she sees any bugs!). It was cool making a language contact who is a linguist -- because no matter how helpful native speakers can be, someone who has done as much work as she has on the language? She has so much explicit knowledge that can be so helpful, it is amazing to meet such people....

Then listening to people after the talk, like the one who pointed out how much Quechua has in common with Turkish. How does stuff like that happen, anyway?

(A part of me wonders if I should think about going back to school, but I think I lack the discipline that it would take to do that. Perhaps I will look into taking a class next semester or something....)

Then on my way out an undergrad stopped me and asked me if my name was Michael Kaplan. It turned out she had seen my Channel 9 video! I am not sure why exactly, but that is still fairly cool when I think about it. I mean, I know that people who read here might know about it, some may even watch it. But total strangers who are studying linguistics wasting 30 minutes of their lives to see me blather? That is awesome for reasons that I probably won't analyze further.... :-)



This post brought to you by "Q" (U+0051, a.k.a. LATIN CAPITAL LETTER Q)

# Martin Kochanski on 28 Jan 2006 7:44 AM:

Perhaps the Ural-Altaic language family is older than we think? After all, Finnish-Hungarian-Turkish-Korean takes one nearly to the Bering Strait.
Other New World puzzles include the lotus flower motif and the funerary use of jade in Precolumbian Mexico. The question has always been whether this comes from recent (0-1500AD) transpacific contact or reflects a common ancient heritage. The Quechua-Turkish similarity might suggest the latter.

# Maurits [MSFT] on 28 Jan 2006 8:39 AM:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (AKA the Mormons) have a theory that would explain the Turkish/Quechua similarity.

According to them, there was a migration of a post-Moses group of Hebrews to South America. It's conceivable that they spoke a Turkish language.

Alas, this group was eventually wiped out, but not before they wrote their history down on plates of gold... which were later discovered by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I'll leave the plausibility of this theory to everyone's individual judgment ;)

# MSDNArchive on 28 Jan 2006 3:19 PM:

Hi Michael,
Interesting post, as usual.

Do you know that Microsoft and the U. of Washington jointly organize a quarterly symposium in computational linguistics?
The next edition takes place on the MS campus next Friday (2/3/06): the program is here (together with the programs of previous editions):

Given your interests for endangered languages (and language in general), I thought you'd be interested in this piece of news.

We have 3 sessions per year (usually 2 at the University of Washington and 1 on the Microsoft campus, each time with a speaker from UW and a speaker from MS). Linguists from Microsoft Research and from the Speech and Natural Language group collaborate with the UW linguistics dept to encourage contacts and dissemination of information.

Maybe I'll meet you there next week? (I'd be glad to)

best wishes,


Thierry Fontenelle - MS Speech & Natural Language

# Michael S. Kaplan on 28 Jan 2006 4:20 PM:

Ah yes, I definitely know about the quarterly symposium, and I am pretty sure I will be able to be there.

Perhaps I will see you then!

# A UW grad (and fellow building 24 inhabitant) on 28 Jan 2006 8:35 PM:

the UW has quarters, not semesters :) In any case, glad you went to the talk Friday. Wondered where you had disappeared off to!

# Michael S. Kaplan on 29 Jan 2006 12:32 AM:

Heh heh heh, now I wonder who from bldg. 24 I missed! :-)

It is hard to miss me, with the scooter and all....

referenced by

2006/06/22 Quechua me if you can!

2006/02/05 Is a synopsis of a symposium a synopsium? :-)

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