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Naive Linguistic Explanation

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Chapter Summary

Languages show similar basic vocabularies but differ in the wealth of words they have for specialized domains. Speakers of out-of-the way languages generally do not have words for 'noun', 'verb' and the like. However, intelligent native speakers usually find some 'lateral means' of getting their message through to the linguist. This chapter describes four examples of such 'naive linguistic explanation' from the author's fieldwork in Australia. It concludes that all field linguists need a certain degree of expertise and wit. But they also require the assistance of a native speaker who is dedicated to teaching the structure of the language and helping to uncover generalizations.

Keywords: Australia; languages; linguist; naive linguistic explanation; speakers; vocabularies



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