Tersis, Nicole et Michèle Therrien (dir.) 2000 Les langues eskaléoutes, Sibérie, Alaska, Canada, Groënland, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 365 p. [Notice]

  • Mick Mallon

…plus d’informations

  • Mick Mallon
    Iqaluit, Canada

There are fourteen articles in this collection, a selective survey of the state of the art in Eskaleut linguistics at the turn of the century. Such a broad project must have demanded much thought in its conception and development. For the reviewer, restricted to two pages, it presents a daunting task if he is to avoid a series of disjointed summaries. One way out of the dilemma is to target a particular audience. I think I can disregard those who are active in the field. One look at the contributors (a Casablancian list of the usual suspects) and you know what to expect. Instead, I intend to aim at younger students at the beginning of their careers, challenged by the hints they have heard of these intriguing languages in their general courses, and keen to find out a little more at a greater depth. Start with the introduction. Stop skimming and start your serious reading at the section headed Tendances génerales des langues eskaléoutes. That will give you an overview of the topics that will be dealt with in detail later. But be cautious of the word fluidité in the heading fluidité des catégories et des niveaux syntactiques. The glide from noun to verb or vice versa in mid stride may seem liquidly chameleon when you first encounter it, but such changes are handled with the precision that is the hallmark of this language. It is linguists who have trouble with the "imprecise frontiers between morphology and syntax," not the speakers of the language. From there go straight to the first article, Louis-Jacques Dorais’s Présentation géolinguistique et sociolinguistique de la famille eskaléoute. If you don’t get the geography straight from the start then you will get lost in the superficial differences between dialects. From there I would move to Michael Fortescue’s Parenté génétique des langues eskaléoutes. Now you have a broad picture of the whole language family in space and time. In the detailed articles that follow, four contain excellent preliminary overviews of specific language systems. Lawrence Kaplan’s contribution, L’inupiaq et les contacts linguistiques en Alaska, for example, has two introductory sub-sections: Systèmes phonologiques (This sub-title appears in the list of contents, but not in the actual text) and Caractéristiques de la grammaire inupiaq. The remainder of his article deals with the effects of contact between Inupiat and Yupik speakers. At this stage it may be a little arcane for you, but there are some obvious lexical examples, some familiar phonological effects at the segmental level, and a more intriguing discussion of prosodic effects (not usually a feature of the Inuit language). Ronald Lowe’s Systématique du mot inuit, as its title suggests, deals mostly with morphology, which in Inuktitut extends far into the mechanisms dealt with by syntax in French and English, and for that matter Chinese and Malay as well. Lowe’s work has been with the dialects of Inuinnaqtun, on the Canadian arctic coast, but his clear and ordered exposition is among the best introductions to the morphology of the language that I have come across. In fact, those of you who like to start with detail before overview might prefer to plunge in right here. In Indérivation en kalaallisut, Karen Langgård focuses on one particular feature of Inuktitut as spoken in Greenland, but her two-page section Aperçu sur le kalaallisut covers the nature of Inuktitut succinctly. By this stage you may be ready for the more complex processes of Yupik. Osahito Miyaoka’s Morphologie verbale en yupik alaskien central is a detailed step by step description of the morphology of that language, including …