I have just returned from another very successful field trip to Nepal. The frequency of trips–3 a year thanks to the ANR grant–contributes to the efficiency of data collection, as it provides continuity from one visit to the next, not only for me but also for the speakers involved.
Because I work on three different languages–namely Khaling, Thulung and Koyi–one issue is to balance the time spent on each one. Koyi has proven somewhat challenging, as the number of speakers is much lower than for the other two languages, and even then, I have only been able to work with consultants whom I would label semi-speakers. Yet they are semi-speakers in an odd way: limited numbers of nouns, but no problem (seemingly) conjugating verbs, despite the complex verbal morphology we find in these languages. As for Thulung, last year I met a delightful and very good consultant I have been working with since, making great progress resolving some lingering mysteries, such as reflexive derivational morphemes -si and -s (presented at Syntax of the World’s Languages in Pavia in September). Work on Khaling has been very satisfying because of the strong Khaling community that has gathered around our main consultant, Dhana Khaling, who is chairperson of the Khaling Rai association of Kathmandu. As a result of his position in the community, and the fact that Guillaume and I stay at his house when in Kathmandu, we are at the center of a very vibrant community: Khaling people, living in Kathmandu or visiting from the village, are forever stopping by for tea or for a cultural, social or ritual celebration, which provides a wonderful opportunity for us to interact with a great number of Khaling.
My most recent field trip was centered around collecting Khaling ideophones–in collecting mythological texts, we had come across a number of ideophonic prefixes, and wanted to learn more about them. They proved a very entertaining topic to work on, in light of the constant stream of visitors: they are fun to elicit and produce, were starting points for a number of wide-ranging discussions, and we all had many good laughs while collecting what ended up being close to 400 ideophones!
The data needs considerably more analysis before being written up for publication, but ideophones in Khaling (as in other languages) revolve around sensory experiences, with sound being the primary source, but also covered experiences such as texture, color. This topic fits in nicely with previous work–Guillaume and I published a paper recently (https://benjamins.com/#catalog/journals/sl.38.2.05jac/details) about an auditory demonstrative in Khaling, which clearly taps into this grammaticalization of sensory experience, but it also connects with work we have and are carrying out on verbal morphology, as many of these ideophones are adverbial in nature.
Our next trip will also be on Khaling, in February-March 2015, and we will take the opportunity to study the many compound verbs found in Khaling.