All posts by Guillaume Jacques

Article on Associated Motion in Japhug Rgyalrong

The article Jacques (2013) has been recently published. While the HimalCo project has already produced several presentations at various conferences, this is the first published article of the project.

Like all the scholarly productions of our project, it is based on corpus data (on the Japhug language) that will eventually all be made available on the Pangloss website. The article has two aims: first, to describe the associated motion construction in Japhug Rgyalrong and second, to use these data to contribute to the discussion on cross-category harmony (the idea that word order and affix order are correlated in some way). Since the second part might only interest theoretical linguists, I will now offer some reflections on the first part.

Languages with associated motion have a set of verbal affixes that describe a motion event occurring before, during or after the action referred to by the verb. In addition, they also have a competing construction with a motion verb and its complement. Since none of the world’s major languages has associated motion, this category has been relatively neglected, though it does not appear to be particularly rare. In the article, I focus on the semantic differences between the two constructions and show that a syntactic test involving negation works only with the motion-verb construction, not with the associated-motion construction.

For further information on Associated Motion as a cross-linguistic category, I recommend the work of Antoine Guillaume (2006, 2009) who has extensively worked on Tacanan languages. He and I are planning to work together on the typology of Associated Motion.



Guillaume, Antoine (2006). La catégorie du “mouvement associé” en cavineña: apport à une typologie de l’encodage du mouvement et de la trajectoire. Bulletin de la société linguistique de Paris 101 (2): 415–436.

Guillaume, Antoine (2009). Les suffixes verbaux de mouvement associé en cavineña. Faits de Langues : Les Cahiers 1: 181–204.

Jacques, Guillaume 2013. Harmonization and disharmonization of affix ordering and basic word order. Linguistic Typology, 17 (2):187–215

Third Workshop on Sino-Tibetan Languages of Sichuan: a brief report

Last month our team organised the third edition of the Workshop on Sino-Tibetan Languages of Sichuan, which followed a first workshop in Taipei organised by Jackson T.-S. Sun, and a second one in Beijing in 2010. The conference was hosted at the EHESS.

Alexis Michaud set up a lively website for the workshop. A Book of abstracts is available.

Nearly all fields of linguistics were represented during this conference, and the proportion of papers on phonology and phonetics vs. morphosyntax was relatively well balanced.

It may be unappropriate for me, as one of the co-organizers, to praise the success of our workshop. Yet, I think that it was noteworthy in at least one respect. The advantage of small-scale workshops like this one is that people working on closely related research topics can get together and interact with each other in a better way than in huge conferences. In this workshop, we established a record for the number of presentations on Naish (four) and Rgyalrongic (eight). The presentations on these languages also happened, for some of them at least, to be on related topics: all papers on Naish were about tonology, in particular. This allowed detailed and productive discussions both during the question sessions and during breaks, and it was quite a rewarding experience — at least for me.

Among the participants at the conference were three native speakers of the languages under investigation: Wang Shuangcheng (speaker of Amdo Tibetan and dialectologist himself), Skalbzang Phuntshogs (whose name is sinicized as Geiru Pincuo, a speaker of Northern Pumi collaborating with Henriette Daudey on language documentation) and bLobzang Nyima (a speaker of Rtau [rəsɲəske] who lives in Paris and collaborates with our team). Their presence was in my opinion an essential element of the success of this workshop: during discussions, it allowed for immediate reverification of data cited by participants. It is already a tradition, since 2008, for the Sichuan Workshop to include native speaker participants, and I hope that this tradition will continue in further instalments of this conference.

Zev Handel has expressed his interest to organize the next workshop in Seattle, and I look forward to it already.

Khaling verb dictionary

I came back lack week from a short stay in Kathmandu, where I worked with my main collaborators (in particular Dhana, Dhan Maya, Yadav Kumar and Eka Prasad) on the draft of the Khaling (-Nepali-English) verb dictionary. All entries were revised at least two times, and we recorded most of the example sentences (except for some “sensitive” words). I do not claim, though, that the result is perfect, and I think that some additional proofreading is necessary.

Due to the time constraints, I decided not to go to the Khaling villages this time, but to stay at Dhana’s home in Kathmandu instead. It is amazing how, hundreds of kilometers away from the Kiranti heartland, it is possible to live in a Khaling-speaking environment in a suburb of the capital. Even Dhana’s children (and some of the neighbour’s children too) are good speakers of the language, a remarkable accomplishment in comparison with other Rai communities in Kathmandu.

The recording conditions were not ideal of course at my friend’s home (especially with the dogs barking incessantly), so we looked for a recording studio. Thanks to Dhana’s younger brother, Pavidhan, who is a composer and arranger of local music, we found a first studio, which was unfortunately located nearby the house of people who were keeping a dog: its furious barks were audible from within the recording room. We thus had to move to another location, where we could benefit from better recording conditions, but only a portion of the dictionary was recorded in that studio.

Aside from the dictionary, which was my main focus for this research trip, we worked on the verb paradigms, especially complex predicates and reflexive verbs. I now have enough data to write an article on this topic, which I hope to finish before June. I have also recorded a mythological story recounting the creation of the world, which presents some commonalities with the one analyzed by George van Driem in his Dumi grammar.

Talking dictionaries for Himalayan languages

In addition to parallel corpora, the main objective of this research project (HimalCo) is to create a set of online talking dictionaries, in particular from Japhug Rgyalrong, Khaling, Thulung and Yongning Na. We are still weighing our options concerning the structure of the platform (in particular, whether or not to use LexiquePro), but we have decided that all dictionaries will be encoded in a Toolbox-like format, either directly generated by Toolbox itself or exported from FLEX.

Files in Toolbox format are easily manipulable with PERL scripts. They can be easily converted to HTML and combined with sound files to produce a simple interface for web dictionaries, like the Arapaho talking dictionary (this could be an alternative to LexiquePro):

It is also easily convertible to LaTeX code, which can then compiled into a PDF file to produce a professionally typeset version of the dictionary with hyperlinks for cross-references. We place special focus on online tools, and on the web version of dictionaries, but it is also necessary to have printed versions accessible to the speakers of the languages.

Also, it is trivial to write PERL script to convert from one writing system to another (for instance, from IPA to Devanagari script in the case of languages of Nepal) and to automatically generate entire paradigms for either the complex verbal flexion of the Kiranti languages or the intricate tonal alternations of the Naish languages.

Within the three years time frame of this project, it would be irrealistic to work on lots of dictionaries at the same time. For this reason, we decided, in the case of the three Kiranti languages under study, to compile verb dictionaries only. These dictionaries will comprise all the verb roots, their derived forms, example sentences, and a complete list of automatically generated paradigms. This is also a better service to the communities, as many Rai (Kiranti ) intellectuals attempt at making dictionaries themselves, but experience diffculty with the complex verbal morphology of their languages.

I have finished a first draft of the Khaling verb dictionary (the example sentences were collected during my field trip in Solukhumbu last February), and I am bringing it to Nepal next week for proofreading, finishing the section on complex predicates and recording the examples for the web version. This dictionary will continue to improve over the years; on the other hand, a first publishable version is now in view, and I hope that it can soon be made available to native speakers as a practical, easy-to-use book.