Update from the field

So I’m in the field right now, working with another native speaker of Iñupiaq in Noatak, Alaska. I didn’t think I’d have much time to spend online – assuming I’d even have internet access – but there’s only so much work I can do in a day. My consultant up here is great, like my consultant in Anchorage is, but with different strengths. One is eager to give lexical items ad nauseam but doesn’t respond to questions about grammar at all; the other is willing to put up with me eliciting various grammatical constructions, many of them minutely different from each other. She said she doesn’t easily get bored, and after working with her, I believe it.

That’s not to say it’s all smooth going, but better than I could have hoped. Sometimes I’ll ask to see if there certain variations are possible, and I’ll get a response like, “Oh yeah, we can say it with the words backwards [i.e., different word order]. But then they’ll change spelling a bit.” If I try to dig deeper and get how exactly they change, then it’s “Oh, they’re the same.” The trials and tribulations of fieldwork, I guess! Tomorrow I’m going to try a different approach and come up with sentences that I suspect are either grammatical or not. At least I’ll find out what is and isn’t grammatical. I hope.

In all of this, I’m greatly aided by Fortescue’s reference grammar of West Greenlandic. While it doesn’t contain ungrammatical alternatives, it is a very detailed grammar. West Greenlandic is too distant on the dialect chain to be understood by my consultants (according to them, not me), but the sheer range of morphosyntax covered in his grammar is a boon for anyone looking for a list of topics to cover.

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