CanIL Electronic Working Papers (CanILEWP)

CanIL Electronic Working Papers (CanILEWP) provides students, alumni and staff of CanIL a forum to electronically publish original work in our areas of specialization (linguistics, translation, scripture use, literacy, language program design, ethnography).

The acronym CanILEWP (pronounced [kænaɪɛl:up]) is meant to conjure up an image of a ‘loop’. By working through the process of contributing to the Electronic Working Papers, students, alumni, and staff are keeping themselves ‘in the loop’ regarding the topics addressed during course work. At the same time, others will have access to the electronically published articles so they too can ‘stay in the loop’ on topics of interest to them. Like all things Canadian, the acronym for our Electronic Working Papers is bilingual. A ‘loupe’ in French is a magnifying glass. Contributers to CanILEWP have the opportunity to examine issues in more detail than is possible in class.

Editorial team: Sean Allison, Rod Casali, Steve Nicolle
Assistant Editor: Bruce Wiebe

For submissions and queries contact us at:

CanIL EWP Volume 1 2015
Allison, Sean. Borrowings? Yes! But diffusion? A case of language contact in the Lake Chad basin

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Makary Kotoko, a Chadic language spoken in the flood plain directly south of Lake Chad in Cameroon, has an estimated 16,000 speakers. An analysis of a lexical database for the language shows that of the 3000 or so distinct lexical entries in the database, almost 1/3 (916 items) have been identified as borrowed from other languages in the region. The majority of the borrowings come from Kanuri, a Nilo-Saharan language of Nigeria, with an estimated number of speakers ranging from 1 to 4 million. In this article I first present the number of borrowings specifically from Kanuri relative to the total number of borrowed items in Makary Kotoko, and the lexical/grammatical categories in Makary Kotoko that have incorporated Kanuri borrowings. I follow this by presenting the linguistic evidence which not only suggests a possible time frame for when the borrowings from Kanuri came into Makary Kotoko, but also supports the idea that this is essentially a case of completed language contact. After discussing the lexical and grammatical borrowings from Kanuri into Makary Kotoko in detail, I explore the limited evidence in Makary Kotoko for lexical and grammatical ‘calquing’ from Kanuri, resulting in almost no structural diffusion from Kanuri into Makary Kotoko. I finish with a few proposals as to why this is the case in this instance of language contact in the Lake Chad basin.

Cadd, Josh. A comparison of anger in Kenyan Sign Language and English
Download PDF This paper considers the emotion ANGER in Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) and in English. It looks at the lexical range of words used in both languages to refer to this emotion, making note of some of the difficulties and misconceptions associated with lexical analysis of sign languages. It then gives a grammatical analysis of the words used to express ANGER, showing how these lexical expressions can be used within each language. It notes that emotion lexemes in KSL appear to be verbs and not adjectives. It discusses the metaphorical expressions used in each language to describe ANGER looking at similarities as well as cultural differences. Finally, it notes that the cognitive model for how anger is understood in each of these language communities appears to be very similar. Keywords: Kenyan Sign Language (KSL), anger, metaphor, prototypical cognitive model
Doerksen, Moss. A diachronic exploration of the temporal sense of over

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Abstract: This paper looks at the development of the temporal sense of the preposition ‘over’ by examining corpus data from the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) and Google Books.

Temporal ‘over’ has come into usage in only the last 200 years, and has become especially common in the last 80. A precise definition of temporal ‘over’ is worked out and then analysed diachronically in the corpora. These findings are compared against the origins of the temporal sense proposed by Tyler and Evans (2003) in The Semantics of English Prepositions. It is shown that the temporal sense of ‘over’ is not derived from a motion sense, as Tyler and Evans imagined, but rather from senses of covering and/or control.

Additionally, some evidence is given to indicate that temporal ‘over’ originated first among people concerned with the stock market and finances.

Keywords: temporal sense, semantic shift

Janzen, Jonathan. A Preliminary Discourse Analysis of Kwak̓wala

Narratives: G̱waw̓ina and Dzunuḵwa1
Download PDF This paper presents a discourse analysis of two narratives in the North Wakashan language of Kwak̓wala: G̱waw̓ina (Raven) and Dzunuḵwa (Wild Woman). Kwak̓wala narratives shed light on the use of many elements of the language which do not appear in dialogue or other types of speech. Specifically, cohesion strategies between clauses are shown to provide the audience with topical and event line information, through connectives la̱m̓is, la̱’a̱m̓ and the absence of either. Kwak̓wala narratives are also shown to employ two emphasis strategies within the discourse: subject fronting, and use of hem̓(is). Fronting is shown to introduce key actors in the discourse, as well as other objects important to highlight within their episode. Hem̓is, being morphologically derived from a demonstrative, is used to bring focus to a particular clause. This acts both to highlight its contents as holding significance throughout the narrative, and to conclude episodes of the discourse. Keywords: Kwakw̓ ala, Wakashan, Discourse, Cohesion Strategies, Emphasis Strategies
Swenson, Janel. ATR Quality in the Luo Vowel System

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ATR quality in Luo has received a fair amount of attention and study, with substantial research dating as far back as Jacobson’s (1978) radiographic investigation of ATR vowels in four Western Nilotic languages. Despite the amount of research that has been done, there is no clear consensus on the acoustic and articulatory properties of Luo ATR quality, nor the harmony patterns seen within the language. The wide variance in articulation of ATR qualities among Luo speakers presents a challenge for researchers who are seeking consistent, measurable data. The equally challenging ATR harmony patterns in Luo reflect a combination of [+ATR] dominance, commonly found in Western Nilotic languages, and assimilation patterns that are triggered from the root, which some have suggested indicates a shift towards the ATR patterns of West African languages (Kutsch Lojenga 1986). Thus, the purpose of this description of Luo is twofold. A preliminary discussion of the acoustic qualities of Luo ATR vowels will first be presented with discussion of relevant literature and the results of an acoustic analysis of Luo’s underlying nine-vowel system. Second, a description of some of the characteristic ATR harmony patterns in Luo will be given. The argument will be made that despite the profuse examples of ATR harmony patterns triggered by the root, there are other factors that suggest that Luo is characterized by strong [+ATR] dominance, namely, strong dominant [+ATR] suffixes, the failure of second person prefixes to harmonize to the root,

[+ATR] leftward spreading across word boundaries, and the presence of an allophonic variant of /a/.

Keywords: ATR, Luo, vowel quality

CanIL EWP Volume 2 2016
Casali, Rod. Jumpstarting Phonological Fieldwork

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This paper discusses the merits of constructing a particular type of phonological database, referred to as a core phonological database, during the very early stages of phonological fieldwork, and addresses in some detail the practical steps required to create such a database. A core phonological database is based on a wordlist with a target total of at least 1500 items. It includes sound files and IPA phonetic transcriptions, morphological marking and other types of information in an electronic format accessible using a dedicated phonology search tool. The time investment required to create a core phonological database is modest; under relatively ideal conditions, all of the necessary steps can be completed in a couple weeks or less. Once it has been created, a core phonological database can greatly facilitate the task of phonological analysis throughout the life of a language project. Many questions about the sound patterns of a language can be quickly and efficiently investigated. The process of checking and confirming phonetic transcriptions in the initial stages of analysis is also facilitated, and a core phonological database can serve as a valuable input to dictionary creation, language documentation, and written phonological descriptions.

Keywords: linguistic fieldwork, phonology, fieldwork methodology, wordlists, language databases, language audio recordings, audio recording equipment, audio recording methodology

Gardner, William. Morphophonemic alternations in the initial consonants of stems in Olunyole, a Luyia Bantu language

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Olunyole, a Luyia Bantu language (JE33), exhibits morphophonemic alternations in the initial consonants of stems following nasals. Some (but not all) of these alternations are similar to processes in other Bantu languages, e.g. Shona languages [S10], including Ndau [S15]. Understanding the linguistic context, both diachronic and synchronic, can help to explain this phenomenon.

Keywords: Olunyole, Bantu, Luyia Law, morphophonemics, noun class prefixes

Janzen, Jonathan. Lax̱a Galabe' Wałda̱m. Defining the word in Kwak̓wala

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In this paper I attempt to define the phonological word in the North Wakashan language of Kwak̕wala. I first define the phonological word to be one which has intuitive salience in the minds of fluent speakers. With this I argue that the phonological word is an identifiable unit for Kwak̕wala speakers. I further argue that there is some inconsistency in both the linguistic and community literature in Kwak̕wala in regards to the parsing of speech into words. This inconsistency always involves competing analysis of clitic morphemes, namely the accusative and oblique case markers χa and sa. I then provide three falsifiable tests to accurately assign phonological word boundaries. These are the stress domain, optional pauses, and self-repair. Applying these three tests to Kwak̕wala speech reveals that phonological word boundaries do appear between the case markers and their host stems, but do not interfere between any other clitic and their hosts.

Keywords: Wakashan, Kwak̕wala, phonological word, prosody

Deborah Nelson, Roderic Casali, Tina Ensz, Jill Francis, Donald Chomiak, Jonathan Janzen. A Preliminary Overview of Gonja Phonology

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Abstract: This paper summarizes the results of a preliminary investigation of the phonology of Gonja, a Guang language of Ghana. It treats the consonant and vowel systems, syllable structure and aspects of tonal phonology. Notable features of the phonological system include a nine-vowel system with ATR vowel harmony, phonemic vowel length, a wider variety of tonal patterns in the noun class system than has been reported in related Guang languages and some unusual syllable patterns involving complex [Cʔ] codas.

Keywords: Gonja, Guang phonology, ATR vowel harmony, vowel length, syllable structure, tone

CanIL EWP Volume 3 2017
Quake, Melissa. Aktionsart

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Have you ever wondered what the difference is between tense and aspect? Did you know that linguists distinguish between grammatical aspect and lexical aspect? Ever been confused as to why someone can stare at a bomb for 10 minutes and defuse it in 2 minutes, but not stare at a bomb in 10 minutes and defuse it for 2 minutes? Let Aktionman explain as we follow him on a mission to defuse a bomb! Keywords: aspect, state, activity, accomplishment, achievement, semelfactive, bomb

Hayashi, Larry S. The blessing of Babel — a theology of languages

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Some interpretations of the Tower of Babel story convey diverse languages as the result of God’s punishment for humanity’s pride. Along with variations of this story found in other cultural mythologies, an underlying archetype exists that casts diverse languages as an outcome of disobedience or the fall of humanity — a hindrance to be overcome. This unconscious paradigm permeates many aspects of Bible translation ministry including our recruitment messaging for personnel and funding, and how we operate and interact with one another as we carry out this ministry. Linguists and Bible translators often exist in dissonance with this archetype, seeing diverse languages not as God’s rod of discipline, but as a rich expression of God’s creation and an opportunity to communicate the heart of God.

In this paper, I articulate a theology of languages, starting in Genesis where we examine God’s invitation to enter into covenant through the gift of language. We examine the evidence and propose an interpretation of Babel that God intended diverse languages from the beginning as a means to express aspects of creation, the Creator and our diverse experiences and understandings in the covenant between humanity and God. We show how this is affirmed in the Gospels and Acts and then consummated fully in the book of Revelation. Having dismantled the unconscious punishment archetype, we then examine how an intentional and conscious application of seeing diverse languages as God’s blessing enhances how we relate to languages, to one another, and to God, as the body of Christ gives testimony and carries out the ministry of Bible translation.

Keywords: missiology, Babel, origin of languages, language diversity, Genesis 11

Nicolle, Steve. Sequentiality and conditionality as temporal and logical contingency: Clause combining in Digo (Bantu E.73)

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In the eastern Bantu language Digo, clauses that describe sequential events contain the verbal prefixes chi or ka in each clause that follows the initial clause. In an interesting case of isomorphy, the same verbal prefixes chi or ka occur in the protasis (the if-clause) of reality and predictive conditional sentences (hypothetical and counterfactual conditionals are marked with a different construction). I argue that the verbal prefixes indicate that there is a contingent relation between two clauses, whilst the syntactic frame in which these morphemes occur determines whether this contingency is temporal or conditional in nature.

Keywords: Bantu, conditionals, consecutive, sequential, clause combining

CanIL EWP Volume 4 2018
Allison, Sean. The notion of ‘word’ in Makary Kotoko (Chadic, Cameroon)

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On the basis of a list of criteria proposed by Dixon & Aikhenvald (2002) for identifying grammatical and phonological words in a language, this paper presents the findings of an application of the relevant criteria to data from Makary Kotoko (Chadic, Cameroon). The criteria of (i) isolatability, (ii) meaning, and (iii) tone assignment are determinative, not for the identification of word per se, but for identifying word classes – in particular, the major word classes of the language: noun, verb, adjective, adverb and ideophone. Cases of misalignment of grammatical and phonological words occur with functional elements of the language and these are presented in discussing the status of clitics. The identification of clitics and their various realizations has a bearing on the issue of orthographic word for this language which has had no known written tradition until fairly recently. Words used for expressing the notion of ‘word’ are discussed and the paper concludes with a brief presentation of some word games used by speakers of Makary Kotoko.

Keywords: Makary Kotoko, Chadic, grammatical word, phonological word, clitic, orthographic word, word games

Steve Nicolle, Brittney Balfour, Bryanne Friesen, Nick Toews and Jesse Workman. Selected narrative discourse features in Kisi, a Bantu language of Tanzania

Download PDF   Download Appendices (charts): A: Subhi| B: Ngunda | C: Njala | D: Nsongolo | E: Bhasongolo

This collaborative paper builds on analyses conducted as part of the CanIL Discourse Analysis course. We provide an overview of a number of features of narrative discourse based on detailed analysis of ten texts, five of which are included as appendices.

Keywords: kiz, Bantu, discourse analysis, participant reference, tense, aspect, information structure, reported speech

CanIL EWP Volume 5 2019
Bernhardt, Julia. A comparative study of the Northern Naga languages and their genetic classification

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As more linguistic data from the Tibeto-Burman languages of Northeast India and Northwest Myanmar have become available, different linguists have proposed various genetic classifications of these languages. This paper first aims to compare and evaluate several of the classifications of the Northern Naga subgroup, then narrows to focus on the languages within the Northern Naga group itself to determine whether further subgrouping is appropriate. A preliminary comparison of lexical similarity between the Northern Naga languages of Myanmar suggests three distinct clusters of languages, which may indicate further subgroups pending an analysis of phonological and morphosyntactic innovations.

Keywords: Northern Naga, Tibeto-Burman, classification, subgrouping, comparative linguistics

Casali, Roderic F. Importing and exporting Dekereke data

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Dekereke ( is a software tool for managing and searching phonetic data as an aid to phonological analysis. This paper provides useful background information to linguists using Dekereke by describing and illustrating a range of possibilities for importing and exporting data to and from the program. It also describes and illustrates in some detail how linguistic data is stored in Dekereke data files.


Jeffery, P. David. Bible translation in challenging situations

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Ideally Bible translation should be a community-owned endeavour, founded on a deep desire by local believers for God’s word in their own language. Yet as a result of many different crises, numerous Bible translation teams have been forced to relocate to some safe location, while adopting various strategies to stay connected to the language homeland. This paper analyzes a select group of case studies, discusses both advantages and pitfalls of such displaced projects, and makes suggestions for future translation projects in crisis situations.


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