Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ute fieldwork.

Tomorrow morning I head south to White Mesa, Utah (about 13 miles south of Blanding), to meet members of the White Mesa Ute community. The plan is to begin field work to document the Ute language as spoken in White Mesa. This also means that my active field work on Goshute/Shoshoni will come to an end. For the past 20 years, I've thought of myself as a linguist who works on Shoshoni. If this trip works out, that won't be true anymore: I'll be a linguist who works on Ute.

I don't know how I feel about that.


  1. I wish you the best of luck, Dirk! It is definitely ok to be a linguist who works on more than one language. I'm sure you will find some fun interesting things in common with Shoshone, in your work on Ute. Enjoy you trip down south! I'm planning on maybe taking another year to stay and tie things up here at Utah, maybe next year (once I'm done defending my thesis), you, Dr. Di Paolo and I could collaborate on a Shoshone phonology paper?

  2. Congrats, Dirk. We certainly someone actively working on Ute and the White Mesa dialect has been largely unrepresented in the literature. Brian Stubbs has done some occasional work with the group, but I don't think anything consistent. They are administered by the Ute Mountain Reservation from what I understand, so if their dialect is the same as Ute Mountain that will be an added plus since Ute Mountain is really unrepresented in the literature. I'd really like to see whether or not the nasal-stop clusters typical of the rest of Colorado River, but not Southern Ute, are found there. Be sure to ask for "rock", "foot", and "head" on the first day :) (BTW, do you have a copy of Givon's new grammar of Ute from John Benjamin's press?)

  3. "We certainly ...need... someone actively working..."

  4. John:

    It was Brian who invited me to come down (though I have to admit that I solicited the invitation :-). He and a group of elders put together a preliminary dictionary, and this is what I found:

    tüppwíči 'rock'
    nappá-n 'my foot'
    pappü'ni 'pot, bucket'

    So no NC clusters here. However, Brian said that WMU is sufficiently different from Colorado Ute [sic] to warrant separate attention. I don't know how different it is, though, since I don't know that much about Southern Numic.

    (In the dictionary they used ü for [barred-i], which I really don't like; I prefer ï, but I'll probably cave in and use ü.)

    I didn't know about Givón's new grammar. I'll have to get a copy, though I'm not impressed with his treatement of phonology (judging from the 1980 (?) version).


    I'm definitely still interested in Shoshoni phonology! I just won't be working on collecting new data for a while. I've tried working on two languages at once--I did a brief stint with Chemehuevi and it didn't go well. Besides the cognitive dissonance, there was a definite feeling of guilt, like I was stepping out on my wife or something.

  5. The phonology in the new grammar is still pretty non-existent, but he used a MUCH better orthography (looks like the official S.Ute orthography that Jean Charney worked on with the tribe after Givon did his initial work). I got my copy on Amazon (about $40 or $50 as I recall). (My discovery of it was when I went there to buy a second copy of the Gould-Loether book and Amazon suggested the Givon volume.) I've only read through the first couple of chapters (the phonology, such as it is, and the word classes). It's about half basic linguistic definitions and illustrations from Ute on the theoretical issues and half actual description. The orthography is so much better than the 1980 version, that I'm still giddy about it and haven't gotten too critical yet.