Poser on Carrier

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Bill Poser's book The Carrier Language: A Brief Introduction has just come out. The press release is here, and it was reprinted in the Prince George Citizen, under a strong candidate for the worst pun ever used in a newspaper headline, "Endangered speech(ies)".

Unfortunately, it's not yet known to amazon, nor is it yet listed on its publisher's order form.

For some of Bill's scholarly publications on Carrier, see "Noun Classification in Carrier", Anthropological Linguistics 27(2) 2005; "The Solid Phase of Water in Carrier", 2004; "Dating Velar Palatalization in Carrier", 2004; and his three Carrier dictionaries (Lheidli T'enneh HubughunekNak'albun/Dzinghubun Whut'enne BughuniSaik'uz Whut'en Hubughunek) available from the Yinka Dene Language Institute.

On a more general topic, there's Lyle Campbell and William Poser, "Language Classification: History and Method", 2008, which you can buy from amazon, though it'll cost you about fifty cups of Starbucks coffee.


  1. Terry Collmann said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 10:39 am

    If the Prince George Citizen wanted bad puns, I'd have thought "The book for you if Carrier's your bag" was just as awful and more informative (though the phrase "carrier bag" may not exist in Canadian English, I realise).

  2. Nathan said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 12:33 pm

    I've never encountered carrier bag, which Wikipedia says refers to a plastic shopping bag. Where is the phrase used?

  3. Paul Clarke said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

    Nathan: "Carrier bag" is a common phrase in British English.

  4. John Cowan said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

    I'm familiar with it in the Carrier Bag Theory, which supposes that the first technological implement used by gatherer/hunter [sic] peoples was a bag of some sort to put the gatherings into. Naturally, being made of soft organic materials, these have not survived, whereas hunting and butchering implements made of stone have done so.

  5. Aviatrix said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

    Wait, "The Solid Phase of Water in Carrier"? Bill, you published a paper on the number of words a northern language has for snow? With a straight face? What's the answer?

  6. Ray Girvan said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    Carrier bag

    Movies give the impression that Americans don't use them, but use handleless brown paper bags (invariably sprouting celery and a French stick loaf) clutched to the chest with both hands, ideal for colliding with someone, dropping, then initiating a romance with them as they help pick up the contents. Is this just a stereotype?

    I actually thought it was going to be about Robert Carrier.

  7. Spectre-7 said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

    Is this just a stereotype?

    Pretty much. Stores on this side of the pond generally offer a choice between paper and plastic. I'd wager the prevalence of paper bags in film is due to a combination of aesthetics and their obvious utility in initiating romances. ;)

  8. Aviatrix said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

    Canadians and Americans do have what the British call carrier bags, both the plastic and the longer-lived fabric ones, but we call them shopping bags or grocery bags. Many grocery stores offer the handleless brown ones, but we don't carry them clutched to our chests. We wheel them out to the car in a shopping cart and then carry them home in the trunk.

    If I have to actually carry my groceries somewhere, I'll bring a knapsack.

  9. dwmacg said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

    The sorts of Americans who carry their groceries in brown paper bags clutched to their chest are the ones who live in cute walk-ups in Manhattan or perhaps Brooklyn, where of course it's always Christmas, and always snowing. (And of course the snow is always fluffy, never wind-blown, and just moist enough for making snowmen; this may explain why Manhattanites have just one word for snow.)

  10. Dan T. said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

    @dwmacg: Except when they just broke up with their girl/boyfriend, in which case it's invariably raining.

  11. Patrick Hall said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

    It's available at http://www.cnc.bc.ca/Visiting/CNC_Press.htm now. Looking forward to this one.

  12. Patrick Hall said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

    Oooops, no it isn't, that's just the catalog; it's still not on the order form PDF.

  13. Rubrick said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

    Speaking of dreadful puns: Since the Carrier people have presumably had extensive interactions with other nearby language groups, I assume there exist various Carrier pidgins?

  14. David Marjanović said,

    December 14, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    I suppose Chinook Jargon had that function…

  15. Bill Poser said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 4:01 am

    David Marjanović@Chinook Jargon was used in this area, but not nearly as extensively as on the coast and in the southern interior. As best I can tell, it was known mainly to men who freighted on the Fraser or otherwise had significant interaction with whites other than the fur traders. The fur traders initially communicated via Sekani interpreters: they spoke Cree to the Sekani, who interpreted into Carrier. None of the fur traders seems to have learned more than very rudimentary Carrier. Subsequent communication between Carrier and fur traders seems to have been variously in the traders' limited Carrier, Cree, and as time went on, French, of which some Carrier people acquired some knowledge. (Whereas the "gentlemen" were anglophone, the "men" were mostly francophone, and French seems to have been the primary language in use among the fur traders. Anglophone fur traders mention learning and using French.)

    When the Oblate missionaries arrived in 1865, they preached in Chinook Jargon, which was translated into Carrier by one of the men who knew it. I know of only one remaining Carrier speaker of Chinook Jargon, who told me that he learned it by listening to his father, who spoke no English, do business with white men.

    Aviatrix@It depends on how you count words, and what "snow" means. The number of basic snow words in Carrier is not large. One possible answer is "3": yus "snow on the ground", which is the generic term, tsil "blowing snow", and maybe also shulh "snow drift". There are lots of derivatives, and specialized terms derived from other roots, e.g. the term for a light dusting of snow on the ground, which is based on a verb root meaning something like "to condense", related to the noun "condensation", which covers both frost and dew. I suggest reading the paper – it isn't very long. Incidentally, I was inspired to write it by the suggestion of Tony Woodbury that subarctic languages were likely to have more words for snow than Eskimo.

    The CNC Press, which is not exactly a mega-publisher with lots of employees to do these things, hasn't yet gotten around to updating the order form but will do so soon.

  16. Ray Girvan said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 6:09 am

    Bill Poser: Oblate missionaries?

    Having an image of Friar Tuck, I just had to look that up. Presumably from oblatio = offering … oblation = The action of solemnly offering or presenting something to a God … etc rather than oblate (from "ob + latus" = of a spheroid: flattened at the poles)?

  17. Spell Me Jeff said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    I had always believed the object was called a Courier Bag, which makes more sense: a bag of the style a courier used by couriers. Carrier Bag is tautological. Nevertheless, Google turns up many hundred thousand more hits for the tautology.

    My gut tells me that the item was originally called a courier bag, but that the ignorant masses could not parse that, such that carrier bag eggcorned into existence. But I have no way of testing such a thing.

  18. E Marie said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 11:09 am

    I would think that a courier bag and a carrier bag were quite different – a carrier bag being the typical 'plastic/shopping/grocery/eco bag' (fabric or plastic bag with an open mouth and two handles at the top), and a courier bag being a cloth satchel. Is this just me?

  19. David in Brooklyn said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

    "Except when they just broke up with their girl/boyfriend, in which case it's invariably raining."

    Yes! "Raining"! Thank you. I was trying to think of that word for what's going on right now. I knew it wasn't snow.

  20. Bill Poser said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

    CNC Press has updated the order form. They aren't accustomed to a lot of international orders (for some reason, things like the index to the minutes of the Prince George Chamber of Commerce do not attract a lot of interest outside the immediate area) and so haven't yet put up information about postage to foreign countries and whether they take checks on foreign banks and so forth, but you can email them or call them toll free. (Aviation buffs should also check out the book Aviation North. )

  21. Bill Poser said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

    Ray Girvan@I'm not sure why the Oblates of Mary Immaculate are called oblates, as it has a couple of technical senses that don't seem to apply. Before I encountered this order, I know of oblates only in the sense of boys dedicated to a monastic order by their parents. Such oblati were offerings, as you suggest. The OMI are not oblates in this sense, nor are they all laymen, the other technical sense of oblate. I suppose that the second sense of oblate also derives from "offering", though the connection is not as clear. Indeed, the principal missionaries were all priests, though there are also lay brothers.

    The order was founded by French reactionaries, the sort of people who were unhappy with the disestablishment of the Catholic Church after the Revolution, and with liberalism and secularism more generally. As far as I can tell, though they seem to be theologically conservative, they are not today associated with the really conservative wing of the church (e.g. the Lefebvrists) and don't play a large role in intellectual debate within the church. They are quite prominent still in Canada, especially in Western Canada. The University of Ottawa was founded by the Oblates and in some ways still is an Oblate institution though it became non-denominational and provincially funded in 1965.

  22. John Cowan said,

    December 17, 2009 @ 2:12 am

    Some orders are just called Oblates for no specific reason. See Wikipedia for a partial list. The old distinction between oblati and conversi to which you refer collapsed by the 10th century or so, after which oblatus was applied to various kinds of lay brothers.

  23. Aaron Davies said,

    December 19, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

    i must confess i have no idea what the pun in the headline is about. what is a "speechie"?

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