International Journal of American Linguistics. Volume XVI Number 1, p46.

SIERRA POPOLUCA SPEECH. By Mary L. Foster and George M. Foster. Smithsonian Institution Institute of Social Anthropology Publication 8. Washington, 1948. iv + 45. 

Though no more than a fat journal article in length, this paper is monographic in scope. In achievement, it gives us the first published grammar covering phonemics, morphophonemics, and morphology of any aboriginal language south of the Rio Grande which is up to the standards that we have come to expect for grammars of languages spoken north of the Rio Grande. These standards were set by anthropologists whose first interests lay in the description of unspoken languages; the Fosters are cultural anthropologists who had ethnographic research as their avowed first interest. Perhaps, after all, structural linguistics is not such an esoteric field if a concise and comprehensive work can be produced 'as a more or less accidental and unplanned side line' and, in this instance, with the guidance and encouragement of Harry Hoijer, Stanley Newman, and Ben Elson. Of these, only Elson has had extensive residence among the Sierra Popoluca.

The Foster and Foster data on Sierra Popoluca were gathered during a ten week field trip; their analysis represents their own good insight and that of others, as already mentioned. To some extent, it is a summary of the comprehension which interested scholars have-up to date -- Sierra Popoluca.

As such, it provides a good example of the advantages gained when more than one worker analyzes the same language. In his first paper on this language, George Foster missed the voiced stops as a phonemic series, -in AA 45.531-46 (1943). Now acknowledged by the Fosters, this series was established as phonemic by Ben Elson,-in IJAL 13.13-17 (1947). In his brief IJAL paper, Elson uses the symbol for a high central vowel where the Fosters use a symbol for a less high central vowel,-but this difference does not affect the phonemic contrasts of vowels. Besides, Elson also uses the Foster symbol for the single vowel phoneme in question,-in Tlalocan 2.193-214 (1947). Other substitutions of symbols (such as two identical vowels in place of a single vowel with length diacritic) do not imply other sounds. Elson says stress is phonemic and appears to mark stress with an apostrophe in the IJAL paper, with a subscript vertical mark in the Tlalocan text; the Fosters are phonetically more explicit but noncommittal as to the phonemic status of their three levels of stress (loud, medial, weak). Another paper which essays innovations in phonemic theory,-by Hockett in IJAL 13.258--67 (1947),-is based on Elson, entirely; and, incidentally, provides a partial critique of Elson. The general agreement about Sierra Popoluca phonemes leaves little to be said,except perhaps that their highly symmetrical contrasts could be pointed up by slight rearrangements in presentation.

The Fosters devote more space to morphophonemics than to phonemicsi--just enough to clear the ground for the main body of their paper, essentially a morphology. The almost exclusive problem here is how to relate prefixes and suffixes to various types of bases and to each other. All sorts of interesting things occur in this morphology, including what I would call non-contiguous affix associations, obligatory for one member of each association (p. 15). SIERRA POPOLUCLA SPEECH deserves a wide audience.



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