Monthly Archives: September 2009

Wind vs. Coal Power in Pacific Shipping

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 141-142:

The companies secure within colonial territories made more capital investments in land, stores, and shipping. A major item was the shift from wind power to coal in propulsion and from wood to iron in ship construction. In many ways sail was still more suited to Pacific conditions. Distances were great—some 6,500 miles from San Francisco to Sydney. By then more information was available on favorable winds and currents for passage planning under sail, where calms had always been of more concern than storms. The early steamships, carrying around 1,500 tons of cargo, were disadvantaged, as they burned about thirty-five tons of coal per day to give a speed of seven knots. This meant coaling stations were required across the Pacific, including Honolulu (2,100 miles from San Francisco), Suva (2,800 miles from Honolulu), and to reach Sydney, another 1,700 miles away. Coal was expensive whereas wind was free. Bunkers took up cargo space and added weight, as did the engines, which required spares, skilled engineers, and technical maintenance. Coal in turn had to be brought to bunkering ports by other ships and stockpiled. By the 1870s there were bigger steamships with more efficient engines, requiring a coal consumption of fourteen tons per day at nine knots. Sail then focused internationally on low-value bulk but continued on some Pacific routes.

In the island trades the strategies adopted by several companies were to continue using sail for the long-haul supply ships from main ports, ultimately with auxiliary engines, and steam vessels for trading permanently around the islands, for a time with auxiliary sail. The advantages of steam and diesel propulsion in the islands included improved schedules, greater maneuverability in reef areas, ability to work clear from a lee shore, and the facility to leave lagoons regardless of wind direction. On Chong [Trading Company] employed the barque Loongana for the 2,500-mile passage from Sydney to the north Gilberts, and steam vessels such as the St. George for trading around the islands. It was such a successful division that when the Loongana was lost, she was replaced by the sailing ship Alexa, until she too was lost in 1924.

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Pacific Annexations, 1840-1906

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 140-141:

The managers of the major merchant companies based at the main entrepôts in the [Pacific] islands were often ex-sailors. Several acted as consuls for their governments and supported the companies in many ways, including evoking gunboat diplomacy. A prime example is John Bates Thurston. He served at sea in the island trades, was wrecked at Rotuma in 1865, became British consul in Fiji in 1867, was highly influential in the negotiations for the ceding of Fiji to Britain in 1874, and became governor of Fiji in 1887. The companies, the new settlers, and their sympathetic consuls pressed for annexations. The French were the first to act [but Waitangi was 1840—J.] and took Tahiti, the Marquesas, and the Tuamotus as French protectorates in 1842 and New Caledonia in 1853. These were declared colonies in 1880, and the Australs and Wallis and Futuna in 1887.

The British annexed Fiji in 1874 and established protectorates over southeast New Guinea in 1884, Gilbert and Ellice in 1892, most of the Solomons soon after, and Ocean Island in 1900. They agreed that New Zealand would exercise authority over the Kermadecs in 1887, the Tokelaus in 1889, and the Cooks and Niue in 1901. The Dutch took western New Guinea in 1848. Germany annexed northeast New Guinea in 1885, along with the Bismarck Archipelago and the northwest Solomons; took possession of most of the Carolines in 1885; and ultimately purchased Yap and other islands in the Carolines and Marianas from Spain in 1899. The Germans also acquired the Marshall Islands in 1884 and took over Nauru in 1888. Chile obtained Easter Island in 1888.

America, after its disastrous Civil War, had not recovered a significant merchant fleet and showed little inclination for acquiring Pacific territory. American guano companies had already secured legislation in 1856–1860 that allowed claims over some small Pacific islands, and the US government went on to secure others, including Baker, Jarvis, Johnson, Midway, Palmyra, and Wake. In 1893 the influential American maritime geostrategist Alfred Mahan wrote that it was “imperative to take possession, when it can be righteously done, of such maritime positions as can contribute to secure command.” In 1898, Hawai‘i was annexed (US citizenships were granted in 1900), as was eastern Samoa with Pago Pago as a main naval coaling station, while Guam was captured from Spain by the US Navy in 1898.

The Pacific was now effectively divided between several colonial powers mainly by agreements. In the final carve-up, it was confirmed that Western Samoa was a German colony separated from American Samoa in the east. In turn Germany agreed to relinquish claims for Tonga. As a result, in the closing days Tonga appeared to survive as the only independent Polynesian kingdom, although not quite. It was declared a British protectorate in 1900, and in 1905 it was decreed mandatory for the king of Tonga to take advice from the British consul on all matters of importance. Finally, in 1906 New Hebrides was divided as a condominium between Britain and France.

I’m not sure why Couper omits the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which made British subjects of the Maori. Maybe he considered both New Zealand and Australia to be colonial powers by the 1840s, even though both were earlier annexed by another colonial power. (Like the Americas, of course.)

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Tok Pisin with Isuzu Lu: Ol Skulmanki

Isuzu Lu: Ol Skulmanki

Isuzu Lu: Ol Skulmanki

Lu: “Ol skulmanki i amamas nogut tru bilong wanem sikul i pinis nau … na ol papamama i amamas long mi kisim ol i go bek long ples … Ol i save dispela ka i no bagarap long dispela rot … Oyes, ol i save Isuzu em i gutpela ka tru …”

Lou: “The schoolkids are awfully happy because school is over now … and the parents are happy for me to bring them back to the village … They know this car won’t break down on this road … Oh yes, they know Isuzu is a very good car …”

This is a scan from a faded old photocopy of a cartoon ad by Bob Browne for New Guinea Motors in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 1976. I’ve got a lot more, but I’ll have to limit my scanning to just a sample because I see that the author/illustrator has published a collection of these cartoons. I just bought the last copy of Isuzu Lu Book 5 available on

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Tok Pisin with Isuzu Lu: Hey, Poro!

Isuzu Lu: Hey, Poro

Isuzu Lu: Hey, Poro

Lu: “Hey, Poro … Mobeta yu baim wanpela Isuzu Utility … Ol i strongpela moa … inap long karim ol kain kain kago long baksait … Yu traim, laka!?!”

Lou: “Hey, Friend … You’d do better to buy an Isuzu Utility … They’re very strong … enough to carry all kinds of cargo in back … Try it, okay!?!”

This is a scan from a faded old photocopy of a cartoon ad by Bob Browne for New Guinea Motors in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 1976. I’ve got a lot more, but I’ll have to limit my scanning to just a sample because I see that the author/illustrator has published a collection of these cartoons. I just bought the last copy of Isuzu Lu Book 5 available on

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Ukraine’s Sure Got Talent in Sand Animation

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Preference for Pacific Island Seafarers

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 102-103, 106:

As a result of continued shortages of crew, British and American ships frequently sailed shorthanded for the Pacific. The trips involved passages that were four to five months long, via the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. American ships sometimes picked up a few sailors in the Atlantic Islands but generally shipowners were not unhappy with depleted crews, which reduced labor costs during these unproductive legs of voyages. Not so for the disgruntled seafarers whose lives were endangered from shortages of experienced shipmates in bad weather and when beating around Cape Horn against strong headwinds.

Arrival in the trading and whaling areas of the Pacific entailed supplementing the crew, all the more necessary because ships would lose many of the original crew during the three to four years the men were employed in the Pacific. Most losses were due to desertion….

The cautionary note on the recruitment of Samoans as sailors reflected the persistent bad reputation of those islands, arising from the massacre of the boat’s crew of La Perouse in 1787. [I believe La Pérouse was the name of the commander, not the name of his vessel.—J.] Whalers by the 1820s were likewise returning with stories of treachery and savagery experienced in parts of Melanesia and Micronesia. Such tales led to more misgivings regarding taking crew from several of these islands. The situation was different in Tahiti and Hawai‘i, where local seamen were encouraged by chiefs to serve and showed reliability even in difficult Arctic voyaging. Several Hawaiians are recorded to have been on that coast in 1788 under Captain John Meares. The New Hazard increased her crew from twenty-four to thirty-three in 1811 for voyages to the northwest coast, additions that were simply designated as “kanakas” in logbooks and journals. The ill-fated Tonquin had a Hawaiian crew of twenty-four when it was destroyed possibly by the captain after Indians boarded on the coast, and the fur trading ship Beaver took on ten “kanakas” in 1812, together with an experienced island sailor, bosun Tom. American whalers subsequently obtained most of their crews in Hawai‘i and Tahiti and also periodically at the Marquesas, the Carolines, and New Zealand….

Captains clearly preferred Pacific seafarers, who were used to compliance toward chiefs and thus unlikely to give captains trouble by demanding seafaring customary rights on board. The islanders were useful too as interpreters and understood the Pacific ways of trade. As sailors they were skillful at handling loaded boats through heavy surf when ships had to stand off and on. On whalers they acquired reputations as good harpooners and for boldness in closing on a whale. The keen eyesight of island sailors earned them the tobacco bonuses for spotting whales, and this, along with reading the signs of the sea for sudden squalls and reefs, made them invaluable as masthead lookouts.

Swimming and diving proved other important assets. Turnbull was impressed when, on approaching Hawai‘i, he encountered people a mile offshore supported only by “a thin feather-edge slice of wood.” He refers also to Hawaiians diving from topgallant yards and swimming under the ship. This skill of deep diving was employed on pearling and bêche-de-mer ships, as well as for making underwater hull repairs and clearing fouled cables. The extent to which island men and women were at home in the sea is further alluded to in dramatic rescues. Copping describes how, when the Harriet of Sydney was totally lost near Te Puna in April 1840, “the crew would have been lost also if it had not been for the Maori women on board the ship swimming them ashore.” He relates also that when his own whaleboat broached to, and he was knocked overboard and trapped under the boat, a shark “lay hold” of his shoulder, but “my harpooner a Maori jumped overboard after me.” Similarly when James Bagley fell from the topgallant crosstrees, a Hawaiian seaman, John Mowhee, dived after him and told Bagley to hold on to his shoulder until they were rescued.

For the shipowners a more compelling reason for employing Pacific seafarers was their lower costs in wages and victualing. The whaleship owner F. Parbury, who gave evidence at the British House of Lords Select Committee on the Navigation Laws, readily attested to this and expressed preferences for New Zealand (Maori) crews.

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Wordcatcher Tales: Paying the Crimp

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), p. 105:

At these growing Pacific port towns, beachcombers established themselves as crimps and arranged girls and ships for sailors of all nationalities. Richard Copping walked off the whaler Endeavour in April 1840 at the Bay of Islands along with several other sailors and three harpooners, as “she was leaking badly.” They sought other berths through the agency of a notorious lodging house in the Bay:

Of all the orgies imaginable it was here. There were nearly 100 men, mainly deserters from different ships, drinking, singing and dancing, and fighting. The captains used to come ashore and get their men but dare not touch one. So when a ship wanted hands, two or three captains would come ashore and be hail fellow well met, call for a quantity of their detestable grog, get them nearly all drunk; and at night kidnapped as many as they wanted.

Sailors would waken outward bound and in debt to the captain, who had paid the crimp. They would need to purchase more clothing, tobacco, and drinks from the captain’s slop chest at inflated prices against future earnings:

The next I remember I woke in the morn,
On a three skys’l yarder bound south round Cape Horn,
With an ol’ suit of oilskins, an’ two pair o’ sox,
An’ a bloomin’ big head, an’ a dose of the pox.

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Failed Hawaiian Colony on Erromango

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 88-89:

Kamehameha died in 1819 at the age of about sixty-six. His fleet of foreign-going ships probably never made adequate profits, even though most of the capital and operating costs had been derived from the extraction of natural resources, with free Hawaiian labor ashore. Most of the voyages to China by his ships were ruinous, at least partly due to the unscrupulous agents and merchants in Canton, lack of care, recurring repairs and delays, and related payments of high port dues. His son Liholiho (Kamehameha II) faced increasing debts, as resources from land and sea, used for financing these ventures, had appreciably decreased.

Despite mounting debts the new king went on to purchase more ships. His first acquisition, at enormous cost, was the luxury yacht Cleopatra’s Barge (191 tons), bought from the American millionaire shipowner George Crowninshield Jr. Renamed Haaheo O Hawaii (Pride of Hawai‘i), the ship cruised around the Hawaiian group with the royal family and leading chiefs until 1825, when it was wrecked. It was reported that the ship at this time was “manned by a drunken, dissipated, irresponsible crew from the captain down to the cabin boy.” About the same time, the ship Prince Regent, which Vancouver had promised as a gift, was also wrecked after less than one year in service. To add to the problems of the royal family, news was received in 1825 that the king and queen had died of measles on a visit to England during 1824. They were there to elicit British political support and in the process incurred considerable expenditure.

The family, now with a boy king (Kamehameha III), faced numerous creditors, and with sandalwood and pearls exhausted, a bold maritime venture was conceived to solve these financial problems. Governor Boki of Oahu and Chief Manui‘a of Hawai‘i were to sail for Erromango in Vanuatu and acquire the still plentiful sandalwood of that region for carrying to China on Hawaiian ships. Chief Boki was in effect to occupy Erromango as ruler in a Hawaiian attempt at colonization. They sailed on 2 December 1829. Boki was in charge of the royal warship Kamehameha with a complement of 300 people, including 10 foreigners, Hawaiian sailors, soldiers, servants, women, and some other Polynesians. His navigators were Blakesly (a watchmaker) and Cox (a silversmith), possibly neither being qualified in navigation or experienced in seamanship. Manui‘a was in charge of the Becket, with 179 people. His navigator was more sensibly a former mate of a whaler.

Other merchants were also seeking Erromango sandalwood in 1829–1830 with Pacific Island labor. The Sofia carried more that 100 Tongans to the island in 1829. On a second voyage in January 1830 the Sofia recruited 200 Rotumans for Erromango. The Snapper in turn delivered another 113 Tongans for sandalwood extraction. The Kamehameha never arrived in Erromango, and no trace was ever found of the ship The Becket stayed there for six weeks, but Erromangoans were alarmed at the arrival of four European-type ships with 600 or so Polynesians, and there was much hostility, malaria, and many deaths. The Becket returned to Honolulu on 30 August 1830 with only a few Hawaiians and foreigners left alive….

The last foreign-going vessel independently owned by the Hawaiian royal family was the schooner Kamehameha III (116 tons), which sailed to California in 1848. However, the French Navy commandeered the ship in response to a complaint by its consul in Honolulu regarding unfair treatment of French business interests by the Hawaiian authorities.

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Balkans & Papua New Guinea: Sprachbund issues

The following draft of a paper was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics (FoCAL), in Suva, Fiji, in August 1984, under the title “The Balkans and Papua New Guinea: Language Contact Issues.” It briefly touches on some of the new (and disturbing) ideas about Sprachbund issues that I encountered during my Fulbright year in Romania in 1983–84. It was a frustrating year for linguistic research, but a wonderful year for language learning—and for travel, it being my first trip to Europe.


To many who limit themselves to the study of European languages, “the Balkan languages represent a unique case of evolution from genealogical divergence toward typological convergence” (Saramandu 1979:177). It is likely, however, that any large language family has some members who have to some extent forsaken their relatives for their neighbors. One such group in the Austronesian (AN) language family comprises the New Guinea Oceanic languages. (I continue to use “New Guinea Oceanic” as a typological, not a genetic, label.)

The Balkan Sprachbund may receive more publicity than its counterpart in Papua New Guinea, but in neither area are the issues anywhere near resolved. I intend here to outline some of these issues and to compare the progress being made toward resolving them in each of the two areas of study. The Balkans will receive greater attention because I assume that most Austronesianists are less familiar with that area.


The core of the Balkan Sprachbund is composed of five languages: Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Modern Greek, and Romanian. Compared to the hundreds of languages involved in New Guinea, the number seems quite manageable. Moreover, Bulgarian and Macedonian are sufficiently close that they can be considered together for most purposes. More peripherally involved in the Balkan Sprachbund are Serbocroatian and Turkish. Turkish is usually considered only as an outside donor language, but it would be interesting to compare Balkan or western Turkish with eastern dialects or with other Turkic languages to see to what extent it may also have acquired Balkan, or at least European features.

In order to determine what is specifically “Balkan” about the core languages, one can compare Bulgarian with the other Slavonic languages and with Old Bulgarian (that is, Old Church Slavonic) dating from the 9th to 11th centuries A.D. (Rosetti 1978:480). One can compare Romanian with the other Romance languages and with Latin. The earliest documents in Romanian itself date from the 16th century (Rosetti 1978:482). Records of Greek go back millennia, so it is perhaps the most tractable of the Balkan languages. Albanian, being an isolate with only a brief written history, is harder to deal with, but at least there are two dialects to compare. The southern (or Tosc) dialect shares more features with Bulgarian, Greek, and Romanian than does the northern (or Gheg) dialect. (Comrie 1981:198.)

The surviving languages of the Balkan Sprachbund, then, all belong to different branches of Indo-European. For most of these branches, there is some documentary or comparative basis for sorting out areal features from genetic features. (Comrie 1981:198.) Matters are considerably complicated, however, by the knowledge that the original Balkan substratum did not survive. The most common terms used to refer to this substratum are “Thracian”, “Dacian”, and “Illyrian”. No one is sure whether these are different names for the same language, different dialects of the same language, or three different languages, each with separate dialects. Assumptions vary from linguist to linguist. So does the importance assigned to the role of the substratum in accounting for the similarities shared by the present-day Balkan languages. I shall discuss the substratum issue in greater detail shortly.


Early studies of the Balkan languages taken as a unit perhaps tended to overstate the similarities among them. Sandfeld, in his classic synthesis on the subject (1930), says that, “in going from one of these languages to another … one is struck by the fact that the manner in which things are expressed remains essentially the same throughout the entire territory covered by these languages” (1930:6-7; Grace’s [1981:27] translation).

First, let me illustrate the kinds of explanations I had hoped to find, by briefly summarizing the loss of the infinitive.

In the Balkan languages, finite verbs are used where other European languages would use the infinitive. The loss of the infinitive in Greek can be explained on language-internal grounds. Loss of word-final [n] in Greek made the infinitive formally identical to the 3d person present indicative form of the verb. Distributional evidence suggests that this innovation spread north from Greece. Bulgarian lacks an infinitive entirely. Citation forms of verbs are usually 1st person present indicative. The infinitive exists in Albanian but is used more in the northern dialect than in the southern one. In Serbo-Croation, Serbians prefer to use subordinate finite verbs where Croatians use the infinitive. In Romanian, too, more northern dialects use the infinitive more than the southern ones. I believe there is general agreement on this question.

Unfortunately, not many other issues are as well resolved.

One can say almost the same thing about some areas of Papua New Guinea, but only where the languages involved are all from the same family. The convergence between AN and Papuan languages is on a much grosser level, at least in most cases.

More recent work on Balkan languages, especially that by scholars from the Balkan countries themselves, seems to pay more attention to the differences among the various languages. One reason may be that the Balkan scholars have a greater concern for questions of their own national identity than did the outsiders who originally popularized the concept of the Sprachbund. In fact, Dumitru Macrea, a Romanian scholar, has expressed the view that the whole concept of a Balkan linguistic union being somehow comparable to a language family had its origin in the desire of Germany and Austria to propagate the idea of a unitary Balkan area which those powers then planned to dominate politically, economically, and culturally (Macrea 1982:284).

Another reason more recent scholarship may emphasize the differences among the languages is that there is simply much more data available than there used to be. Finer differences have become more salient. The same thing is happening with regard to Papua New Guinea languages too, as more data becomes available. I suspect that detailed study of the Kupwar village languages would also turn up many, many cases in which those languages are not as perfectly intertranslatable as they are often assumed to be. Even if many texts are morpheme-for-morpheme translatable, I suspect comparable morphemes are never full synonyms.

This raises an important issue. Is absolute convergence necessary? Is it desirable? Is it even possible? What kinds of differences are most tolerable? If fluently bilingual speakers maintain one of their languages solely for emblematic purposes, that is, solely to mark themselves off from speakers of other languages, what portion of their language will serve that emblematic function? Will they be content to say, “You say tomayto and we say tomahto,”, or “You call it eggplant and we call it aubergine”? Or might they also focus on larger differences, like “You put object complements before the verb and we put them after,” or “You have all those heart idioms and we have all those liver ones”? Virtually any recognizable difference would seem sufficient to be emblematic.

Unifying factors

What is it that accounts for the unity that does exist among the Balkan languages? It is significant that no mention at all is made of the possibility of a common Balkan substratum in two recent general works in English that devote some attention to Balkan areal features. These two works are Comrie’s (1981) introduction to typology and universals and Bynon’s (1977) textbook in historical linguistics. Bynon mentions the Byzantine Empire and Greek Orthodox church as unifying factors, while Comrie emphasizes the mutual bilingualism that enabled innovations to spread across language boundaries. Schaller’s (1975) introduction to Balkan linguistics (in German) also tends to discount the role of the substratum and appeal more to the Greek and Latin adstrata as unifying factors. The over dependence on substratum by earlier linguists to explain language change seems to have made many western linguists shy of using the term.

Substratum is generally given a more prominent role, however, by those linguists for whom it is not just an academic issue but also a question of national ethnogenesis. Romanian linguists, for instance, often talk of the history of their language in geological terms. Romanian is said to consist of an autochthonous (pre-Roman Dacian) substratum, a core stratum from Latin, and a superstratum of Slavic. To some, the central problem in Balkan linguistics is the identification of pre-Roman, pre-Slavic, autochthonous elements in the Balkan languages (see Brancus 1978). In spite of much effort, not much progress has been made in this direction (Brancus 1978:374). The only records we have of the Dacian language are a handful of proper names and between 10 and 20 Dacian glosses in two Greek lists of medicinal plants (Academia R.S.R. 1969:314-316).

Al. Rosetti, the Romanian linguist who has concerned himself most with Balkan linguistics in the broader sense—that is, the study of the Sprachbund as a whole, not just the attempt to reconstruct the pre-Roman substratum—nevertheless uses the term “substrate influence”, rather loosely to designate any sort of interference between two languages (Rosetti 1978:205). This perhaps parallels the use of loaded terms like “mixed language” or “language mixture” to describe any sort of contamination between AN and Papuan languages in the New Guinea area.

Gheorghe Ivanescu, one of the principal Romanian Indo-Europeanists, holds a fascinatingly particular view that requires a substrate motivation for each and every sound change. He attacks the “neolinguist” view that phonetic changes are imitative and therefore transferable across language boundaries (1980:735). He asserts instead that a phonetic change is realized only by a change in the “base of articulation”, that is, by a change in the characteristic shape of the oral cavity at rest within a given population (1980:8). He attacks the structuralists for failing to recognize the innateness of certain articulatory tendencies, and suggests that phonetic similarities between some Caucasian languages and Romanian (such as the presence of phonemic schwa) “are to be explained by the anthropological relationship between the peoples of the Caucasus and those of the Carpathians” (1980:733).

An interesting corollary of Ivanescu’s view is that languages do not change at a constant rate. Instead, language change depends on external changes in the speaker population. The “base of articulation”, for instance, changes over time “through changes in the quantitative relationships between the component human types [of a population], as well as through mixtures with other populations, maybe even through biological mutations between one generation and the next” (1980:9).

However, according to Ivanescu (1980:11), the “articulatory basis” of a language can be suppressed. “It does not manifest itself in those eras in which there exists an intense traffic of goods and people” (1980:11). It “cannot manifest itself either in the capitalist era or in the socialist era, except in popular speech … [It] only shows itself in eras in which there is a natural economy, thus in the primitive-commune and feudal eras” (1980:11). For instance, “the adaptation of Latin to the articulatory and psychological bases of the romanized populations, thus the birth of the Romance languages, was not possible except with the change from a trade economy during the slavery era to a natural economy during the medieval era” (1980; 11). (This “natural” economy was organized on a feudal basis in the West and on the basis of village collectives in the East [1980:11].)

A “natural” economy, however, does not allow languages to attain their “natural” condition. In a “natural” economy, divergent local bases of articulation are free to influence phonology, while divergent local temperaments are free to influence morphosyntax (1980:13). These influences are “completely avoided only in eras of intense circulation” of people and goods, thus in eras of higher technological development when unitary literary languages are born (1980:13). “[O]nly in such eras can languages completely attain their natural condition: that of relative stability” (1980: 13).

I’ve lingered over Ivanescu’s views somewhat more than might be necessary for two reasons. In the first place, we often tend to take our shared assumptions for granted. It is healthy sometimes to bring some of them into sharp relief by considering radically different viewpoints. Second, the divergence of assumptions among those of us working on New Guinea language history is relatively narrow compared to that encountered among those working on Balkan language history. Let me give a few more illustrations:

I have already mentioned Macrea’s opinion that Germanic imperialism is responsible for propagating the Sprachbund idea. Macrea (1982:285) and Ivanescu (1980:48 ff.) see similar forces at work in an early hypothesis that attempted to explain the particularly close similarities between Romanian and Albanian. The hypothesis was that the Romanian language and people originally took shape south of the Danube close to where the Albanians are now. A corollary assumption is that when the armies of the Roman Empire retreated south of the Danube in A.D. 275, the whole Romanized population came with them. One can see why this hypothesis would weaken the historical argument for Romanian territorial claims. Although this hypothesis is still kept alive by some Hungarian irredentists (see Du Nay 1977), it is no longer considered seriously by any present-day Romanian linguists. Instead, Romanian linguists are inclined to attribute the similarities between Romanian and Albanian to a common Thraco-Dacian substrate, on the theory that the Romanians continue that portion of the substrate population that adopted Latin as its mother-tongue, while the Albanians continue that portion that borrowed a lot from Latin but did not switch over to Latin (Ivanescu 1980:57).

Romanian linguists, then, are far less reticent than their Western counterparts about appealing to a common substratum as a unifying factor in the Balkan Sprachbund. I believe that part of the appeal to substratum as an explanatory factor is motivated by the desire to establish prior territorial claim to present Romanian-speaking areas. So far, historical linguistics in the New Guinea area has been relatively free from involvement in territorial claims. I hope that situation continues.

Other unifying factors mentioned in the Romanian literature are:

(1) similar conditions of life among the Balkan peoples, particularly the relative mobility their livestock-centered economy afforded them;
(2) exposure to Byzantine civilization, especially the Eastern Church;
(3) subjugation to the Ottoman Empire, a condition which actually reinforced the church as a unifying factor;
(4) widespread bilingualism (Saramandu 1979).

Saramandu (1979), a younger Romanian Balkanologist, distinguishes what he calls “passive” and “active” bilingualism. The distinction is not unfamiliar, but I would use the terms “restricted” and “unrestricted” to describe the two types. By “passive” bilingualism, Saramandu means bilingualism restricted to certain social occasions (religious services, for instance) or certain social strata (priests, administrators, itinerant merchants or craftsmen). The mass of the population would presumably recognize but not use another tongue. By “active” bilingualism, Saramandu means the bilingualism of a person who masters and uses two or more languages in more or less equal measure.

I’m not sure that, for a given population, the end result of either of these types of bilingualism would be very different, except that the second permits the possibility of complete language shift. On an a priori basis, one might suppose that the foreign languages in which a population is passively bilingual might contribute more loanwords or loan translations, and have less effect on phonology, morphology, or syntax; while the foreign languages controlled actively by the mass of a population would influence the phonology and phraseology as much as the lexicon. But French, for instance, seems to have penetrated into every corner of English (except perhaps phonology) even though the great mass of Anglo-Saxons after 1066 were certainly no more than passively bilingual. If sufficiently influential, active bilinguals can spread foreignisms among their own passively bilingual kith and kin at least as efficiently as foreigners can.

Here ends the draft of the paper I presented but never submitted for the conference proceedings. The only record I preserved was a hand-annotated printout from the Wang word processor at the accounting firm where I was working (the Honolulu office of Deloitte). Unfortunately, the bibliography seems to have gone missing. I scanned, OCRed, and then cleaned up those pages to get the text above.

My wife and I began that fascinating year teaching summer extension courses in Yap, Micronesia, during a severe drought that had us bathing out of buckets in our air-conditioned hotel room. Little did we realize at the time what types of shortages we would face during our long, cold, dark winter in Romania. We both made the trip to Fiji, where we stayed in a village near the conference hotel, along with several other participants from far corners of the globe. For the two of us, especially after Romania, that Pacific Island village made us feel we were back home again.


Filed under Balkans, language, nationalism, Papua New Guinea, scholarship

Zhao Ziyang on Deficit Financing

From Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, trans. by Bao Pu and Renee Chiang (Simon & Shuster, 2009), Kindle Loc. 2059-88:

After the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee, our country’s financial revenue gradually declined in proportion to the gross national product, while expenditures steadily increased, thus resulting in a deficit. This was the price we had to pay; it was normal and solvable. In 1984, I began proposing a gradual raising of the revenue-to-GNP ratio. To reduce the deficit, we temporarily scaled back infrastructure construction and reduced the pace of economic development. There was no other choice.

If we had ignored the situation and launched an “all-out fast-paced campaign,” we would have faced seriously high inflation and put greater strains on farmers and workers. The readjustments in 1979 and 1980 and again in 1981 had been necessary. As a result of the 1981 readjustments, the agricultural sector continued to enjoy big harvests, the market continued to prosper, and the nation’s economy showed no negative growth. On the contrary, the economy grew by an annual rate of 4 percent. And as the readjustment deepened in 1981, growth increased. The growth rate in the first quarter was relatively low, the second quarter was better, the third quarter was higher, and the fourth quarter was significantly higher. This proves the readjustment was good and the economy had recovered.

Here’s how we kept the economy growing: by scaling back infrastructure projects and reducing heavy industry, iron and steel production, and machinery production; by expanding light industries such as consumer products and textiles while allowing and encouraging private businesses; by developing service industries. The cities continued to prosper and living standards continued to rise. Employment rates rose. In the end we achieved a balanced budget and the people were generally more satisfied. That said, the policy had its shortcomings. We still hadn’t entirely corrected the traditional way in which the Planning Commission cut back on infrastructure projects, which was to “cut straight across the board.” With the old system still in place, it was hard not to do so, and so we set quotas for each region.

In order to save projects that really should not be cut, however, I asked the Planning Commission to be flexible with a part of the budget so that we could revive some of these projects. After the general spending reduction, we reviewed which cuts would incur too great a loss, or which projects were so beneficial they should continue. Of course, there could not be a large number of exceptions, but we were able to reduce the negative impact of “cutting straight across the board.”

Still, in retrospect, the readjustment was too severe. We should have made exceptions for all projects where equipment had already been received or was urgently needed and could be installed and put into production quickly. This would have been more cost effective, particularly if you consider the cost of storage. Even though some of these projects resumed a year later, time and money was wasted. Some of the projects took years to recover.

The reason we didn’t take more flexible measures was mainly because we lacked sufficient domestic funds to pay for these projects; the deficit needed to be reduced so that a financial balance could be achieved. It was all too mechanical.

For example, if the deficit had not been eliminated immediately and some of the budget had been spent on worthwhile projects, the investment could have been returned in a year or so. And under the open-door policy, we could have resolved the problem by taking out more foreign loans.

But Chen Yun was concerned and firmly insistent. He was afraid of excessive and overly large projects and insisted on the reductions. At the time, there were things we didn’t clearly understand, since we did not have enough experience.

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Filed under China, economics