An optimality-theoretic account of split-ergativity in Southern Quiznos—Hans Forz SpecGram Vol CLII, No 1 Contents <i>Linguistic Linguistics</i>—Book Announcement from Psammeticus Press

Book Review: Point’s A Grammar of the Lederhosen Tai

Point, Misty (2006). A Grammar of the Lederhosen Tai. Bangkok, Thailand: Center for Comparative Linguistics of Itsy-Bitsy Language Groups in Vain Search of Vast Foundation Grants Publishing House. 911 hefty pages for only 40 Thai baht.

After her landmark lexical study of the Frog-eating Aika in 1999, this year Point has given us another extensive monograph on the

“He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own.”
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Migratory Tribes of Thailand. While other minorities in Thailand are torn between integrating into the larger society and maintaining their unique cultural identities, the so-called Migratory Tribes have completely isolated themselves from the mainstream. This isolationism has prevented linguists and anthropologists from making much progress, even as peoples such as the Lederhosen (also called Leather Pants) Tai grow in population. Point was able to break through the cultural barriers of this tribe by taking on a job as a waitress in a Phuket beer hall. Such dedication to the field of linguistics has made Dr. Point a leader in the field of comparative linguistics, even though her doctorate was in Applied Cosmetology.

Unlike the Hill Tribes who live in the geographical fringes of Thailand’s society, the Migratory Tribes tend to live in luxury hotels and resorts in the cities and beach areas and rarely spend more than a few days in any one location. Their isolation is more cultural than physical. Shunning the practice of swidden-fallow agriculture, the Migratory Tribes are almost universally involved in trading. They can often be seen staggering through markets and gathering around ATM machines.

“If you can speak three languages you’re trilingual. If you can speak two languages you’re bilingual. If you can speak only one language you’re an American.”

No stranger to controversy, Point has boldly included many anthropological observations in this book to bolster her grammatical argument for a revised Tai taxonomy. Food preferences (for example beer over pasta), drink preferences (beer over wine), and recreational habits (beer drinking over television watching) are all used to make the claim that the Leather Pants Tai, Levi’s Tai and Plaid Kilt Tai all share their own branch of Kam-Tai. The provisional placement with the Yue of the Sino-Tibetan language family by Howard Stern (2000), which was based merely on banking patterns, passive construction and the SVO word order, is effectively debunked.

The price of this fine volume was subsidized by grants from The House Foundation and The Makeup Foundation. I bought several copies in order to improve the ergonomics of my computer monitor, and I suggest that all the readers of Speculative Grammarian do the same.

—Enrich Barbarosa del la Boca, Ph.D
Baylor College of Labio-Dentistry

An optimality-theoretic account of split-ergativity in Southern Quiznos—Hans Forz
Linguistic Linguistics—Book Announcement from Psammeticus Press
SpecGram Vol CLII, No 1 Contents