Try your hand at linguistics with the puzzles below!
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Linguistics Challenge 1 –
Apinaye Word Order
In English, the word order of a simple sentence is Subject-Verb-Object. For example, “Jane sees animals.” However, in other languages, such as Lotuko (Sudan), the word order is Verb-Subject-Object. As a result, in the Lotuko language, you would say, “Sees Jane animals.”
Directions: Below is some language data from the Apinaye language of Brazil. Determine word order in these Apinaye sentences.
|Kukrẽ kokoi||‘The monkey eats.’||Ape kra mɛtʃ||‘The good child works.’|
|Kukrẽ kra||‘The child eats.’||Ape mɛtʃ kra.||‘The child works well.’|
|Ape kra||‘The child works.’||Ape ratʃ mɨ mɛtʃ||‘The big man works a lot.’|
|Kukrẽ kokoi ratʃ||‘The big monkey eats.’|
Linguistics Challenge 2 –
Isthmus Zapotec Vocabulary
Many languages of the world, like Isthmus Zapotec of Mexico, are agglutinative—they string together morphemes (segments of meaning) in a specific sequence to indicate grammatical features like number, person, and tense.
Directions: Find the roots of the words in this data set and identify their English meanings.
(Hint: As you compare the parts of the words, you may want to mark what is different and what is the same.)
|ñee||‘foot’||kažigitu||‘your (pl) chins’|
|kañeebe||‘his feet’||žikebe||‘his shoulder’|
|ñeeluʔ||‘your foot’||kažikeluʔ||‘your shoulders’|
|kañeetu||‘your (pl) feet’||diaga||‘ear’|
|kañeedu||‘our feet’||kadiagatu||‘your (pl) ears’|
|žigibe||‘his chin’||bišozetu||‘your (pl) father’|
|žigiluʔ||‘your chin’||kabišozetu||‘your (pl) fathers’|
Linguistics Challenge 3 –
Isthmus Zapotec Affixes
Can you determine the meaning of the other morphemes from the data set in Challenge 2? In other words, what does each affix (prefix or suffix) mean?
Linguistics Challenge 4 –
Oaxaca Chontal Vocabulary
Oaxaca Chontal is a language spoken in Mexico. Can you figure out the English meaning of each word?
- šimpa nulyi law?a nulyi lapanla
‘One child sees one duck.’
- šimpa lapanla law?a
‘The duck sees the child.’
- xoy?pa law?a lapanla
‘The child calls the duck.’
- xanaxpa lapanla tige law?a
‘The duck likes that child.’
- xoy?pa? lapanla piłki lapanlay?
‘The duck called all the ducks.’
- xanaxpa? piłki lapanlay? tige law?a
‘All the ducks liked that child.’
- xoy?pa? tige law?a ataxu law?ay?
‘That child called many children.’
- šimpa? law?ay? piłki lapanlay?
‘The children saw all the ducks.’
- xanaxpa? piłki law?ay? piłki lapanlay?
‘All the children liked all the ducks.’
- xanaxpa? piłki lapanlay? piłki law?ay?
‘All the ducks liked all the children.’
- šiñyuy lapanla law?a
‘The duck is seeing the child.’
Linguistics Challenge 5 – Oaxaca Chontal Affixes
Using the language date from Challenge 4, can you determine what each Oaxaca Chontal affix means?
Linguistics Challenge 6 – Kiswahili Morphemes
Kiswahili is spoken in multiple countries in East Africa. In the data set below, can you identify the different morphemes and what each morpheme means?
- ninasema ‘I speak’
- unasema ‘you speak’
- anasema ‘he speaks’
- wanasema ‘they speak’
- ninaona ‘I see’
- niliona ‘I saw’
- ninawaona ‘I see them’
- nilikuona ‘I saw you’
- ananiona ‘he sees me’
- utaniona ‘you will see me’
Linguistics Challenge 7 – Kiswahili Verb Structure
(Use the language data from Challenge 6 above.)
Based on what you discovered in the previous challenge, can you identify the sequencing of Kiswahili morphemes?
Easy? You might be a great linguist!
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merrifield, William R., Constance M. Naish, Calving R. Rensch & Gillian Story. 2003. Laboratory manual for morphology and syntax. Dallas, TX: SIL International. (Problem 139)
Merrifield, William R., Constance M. Naish, Calving R. Rensch & Gillian Story. 2003. Laboratory manual for morphology and syntax. Dallas, TX: SIL International. (Problem 9)
Merrifield, William R., Constance M. Naish, Calving R. Rensch & Gillian Story. 2003. Laboratory manual for morphology and syntax. Dallas, TX: SIL International. (Problem 140)
Healey, Joan. 1990. Grammar exercises. Victoria, Australia: Summer Institute of Linguistics. (Exercise A-5)
Roberts, John. n.d. Grammar exercises for general linguistics 1. Horsleys Green, UK: Summer Institute of Linguistics British School. (Exercise M-3.5)