Center for the Study of Language and Society

Towards a Corpus of Historical Mapudungun

Tuesday, 2019/09/03, 15:00

The Forum Language and Society is a series of guest lectures on sociolinguistic topics. Doctoral students of the GSAH are credited with 0.25 ECTS per guest lecture attendance. CSLS MA students are credited with 1 ECTS after visiting 6 guest lectures.

Event organizer: Forum Language and Society
Speaker: Benjamin Molineaux (The University of Edinburgh)
Date: 2019/09/03
Time: 15:00 - 16:30
Locality: F-106
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Characteristics: open to the public
free of charge

Minority, non-European languages – such as indigenous American ones – are critically underrepresented in the literature on historical linguistics. This not only narrows our view of the historical interaction of peoples and languages pre- and post-dating European expansion, but also limits our understanding of linguistic change as a whole. In the absence of the hundreds of years of philological study available for Old World languages, digital methods emerge as ideal means for systematically compiling and exploring the available data for language change in the New World.

This talk presents an overview of the plans and progress in the compilation of the Corpus of Historical Mapudungun (CHM), currently under development at the Angus McIntoshCentre for Historical Linguistics, Edinburgh. The resource will document and proposeanalyses for the diachrony of the word- and sound-structure of Mapudungun, the ancestrallanguage of the Mapuche people of southern Chile and Argentina. While present-day varietiesof the language are mostly well described and remain in use, there is very little explicitwork on their history, despite 400 years of textual evidence. Building the CHM will requirethe compilation, tagging, and parsing of the main body of early Mapudungun texts into unitsof meaning (morphemes) and sound (phones), effectively helping us write the morphologicaland phonological history of the language from the bottom up. Such research represents aqualitative leap in the study of Mapudungun, while at the same time laying the groundworkfor historical corpus methods to be applied to minority languages more broadly.The presentation will give an overview of Mapudungun and its history, highlighting sometypologically interesting features (high morpheme-to-word ratio, agglutination, fricative instability)and how they present challenges and possibilities to a corpus-based approach.Some prospects for the use of the corpus in both academic and non-academic settings areproposed, as well as list of desiderata for future developments in historical corpora.