Saturday, October 13, 2012

Arjeplog field work: On languages and dialects in the area

Olavi Korhonen presenting
Olavi Korhonen, professor emeritus in Saami languages and culture at Umeå University, Sweden, started the day by explaining the etymology of the place name Arjeplog, and it's Saami roots. He also told us that we are literally on Ume Saami grounds, at Hornavan hotel, since the traditional isogloss between two Saami varieties in the area, Ume Saami and Arjeplog Saami (Pite Saami), was drawn at lake Hornavan.

On the isoglosses between different Saami varieties, Korhonen stressed that there is not one more important Saami isogloss that actually coincides with any administrative border.

Korhonen also discussed how it is possible to use place names and geographic marks to establish where borders between different Saami areas have been in past times. When place names indicate a linguistic border, an isogloss, you may go looking for geographic proof in the nature,  for instance mounds of stones, often built in pyramid shape to show that they were made by a human hand.

We also heard about Saami crafts, for instance the tradition of making good strong ropes from the roots of pine trees, and learned about different Saami spelling systems and how orthography does not always correspond to the actual local pronunciation. In some instances it is more important to have a more strict correspondence than in others.

Joshua Wilbur
Joshua Wilbur continued by speaking about how Swedish has affected the Saami language in the area. Some examples: In the lexicon there are of course many words for recent innovations that Pite Saami has borrowed, like words for computer or car, but also grammatical words like the adverb kan (corresponding to Swedish kanske 'maybe') have been borrowed.

Also when it comes to prosody Wilbur reports Swedish influence. In recent loan words the prosodic template of initial stress in the Pite Saami language may be abandoned. There are also instances of utterance final devoicing in Saami corresponding to the sound pattern in the Swedish Arjeplog dialect. On a morphosyntactic level Wilbur has noticed that Pite Saami possessive suffixes have essentially disappeared, while possessive pronouns are almost exclusively used to express possession within an NP (just as in North Germanic), and that the dual/plural distinction in verb-subject agreement is diminishing. Also, the question particle in polar questions in Pite Saami is very uncommon, and may have given way to, among other things, verb initial Swedish style polar questions.

After lunch, Ann-Charlotte Sjaggo presented on the subject "Speakers and Speech in Arjeplog" telling us, among other things, how Swedish speakers arrived to the area in the 17th century to work with mining, an occupation that ended in a couple of decades. Some hundred years later there were only eight swedish farms in this vast area, but in the late 18th century the mining at Nasafjäll started again, and a more substantial immigration of Swedish speakers started.

Sjaggo told us that there are records even from the beginning of the 19th century that the Swedish spoken in Arjeplog bore influence from the Saami language. The Swedish Arjeplog dialect has traces also from Ångermanland and Umeå dialects, which is not surprising, Sjaggo reported, since the early Swedish settlers in Arjeplog came from these areas.

Michael Rießler presented in more detail how the Saami language has influenced the Swedish Arjeplog dialect, most of all in the sound system. And last but not least Anna Westerberg from the Institute of Language and Folklore presented Arjeplog, Pite and Skellefte Swedish dialects in more detail, showing – among other things – how different dialectal traits spread in the river valleys. Westerberg also gave us a quick "survival guide" to prepare for the meeting with Pite and Skellefte dialects, for instance their interesting vowel sounds, including the old diphthongs.

/Maia Andréasson

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