Thursday, August 14, 2014


Universities in Holland have an old traditions involving statements or 'Stellingen'. Historically, a doctoral candidate had to come up with ten statements he or she was prepared to defend publicly. In other words, the defense centered around the Stellingen rather than the dissertation itself. Today, Stellingen are still required from candidates but not with quite the same seriousness as in the past. Both the Stellingen and the thesis can be questioned during a doctoral defense.

Since my grammar of Ik was written as a dissertation at Leiden University in Holland, I was required to put together my own ten statements which are given below. The first four are conclusions drawn from the grammatical study itself. The next group of four are observations made more broadly about African languages, linguistics, etc. And the last two are meant to show that I have thought about (and know something about) life in general and am prepared to share some personally gained wisdom:

1. The voiced obstruents /b, d, ɡ, j, z, ʒ/ and the voiceless glottal fricative /h/ act as depressors consonants in Ik, creating pervasive pitch-depressing effects that have in some cases been phonologized.

2. A 'core argument' can be recognized in Ik as one which does not leave the pronominal enclitic {=dɛ} as a trace when syntactically displaced.

3. The suffix {-kɔ}---along with paradigmatic tone changes---marks the Sequential Aspect which is the verb form used in Ik for any verb encoding simple sequence after a controlling verb or time expression.

4. Ik now uses old Teso-Turkana morphology---the prefix {ɲV-} for nouns and {i-/ɪ-} for verbs---as a lexical strategy to mark all borrowed words.

5. The Ateso language evinces the original ten-vowel system of East Nilotic through a [+ATR] allophone of /a/ in [+ATR] environments.

6. Spoken Ateso is currently undergoing the widespread loss of /k/ in all morphological contexts where it is not absolutely crucial for contrast.

7. Writing a grammar involves linearizing a non-linear grammatical system, a process in which minor changes can have extensive non-local, linguistically 'quantal' effects throughout the rest of the description.

8. Grammar writing has every bit as much to do with a cyclical process of learning and relearning, phrasing and rephrasing, formatting and reformatting as it does with the actual language data being discussed.

9. Parenting is about little children growing up---the parents, that is.

10. Development and education programs that neglect the moral or spiritual side of humanity cannot alone solve Africa's many besetting problems.


rln said...

The last two -
Their substance I knew;
The rest from you
will require a clue.

Richard and Sally Hoffman said...

Ah, Stellingen … We’d wager that Christa is the only one on your committee who can properly address the first four statements. Gerrit comes close as an authority on Turkana, and can thus give the next two statements a good run for the money, as can Eithne on So. I don’t know the Mouses, but assume they are experienced linguists or even Africanists, thus picking up Statements #7 and #8. Statements #9 and #10, however, are far more personal and close to our own hearts: while we have never personally met the others and thus do not know their parental or spiritual status, we think the LORD has led you well to choose Connie as the chair of your committee, for we know she shares your heart (and ours) that our Heavenly Father would continue to work mightily through you in every way, in order that many Ik might join Janet and Lemu in coming in childlike faith to Himself through His perfect Son Christ Jesus☺☺☺.