Greenland. Day 5: When Alignments Are Ergative.

Greenlandic, of course, is a polysynthetic language that allows the creation of long words by stringing together roots and suffixes. And, as we all know, its morphosyntactic alignment is ergative.

Today I have mostly been listening to people speak. I listened to a local man giving an interview about ballet on the radio in English, the interviewer using Danish. Down at the harbour, I listened to a mum shout in Greenlandic at a little boy who was going too near the water. Neither of them seemed to be fully aware of the ergativeness of her morphosyntactic alignment. I listened then as three posh English girls came out of a bar arguing about the advisability of eating onions before a date.  And as I dozed just now in the calm sun of the town square, the flurry of words became a forest of sounds and I could've been at the mart in Skibbereen or St Mark's Square in Venice: for a few minutes, it was hard to distinguish Danish from Greenlandic from Irish from Italian.

Sometimes I find myself fiercely resisting the inexorable disappearance of my native London English. But here, now, I know it doesn't matter at all - we limit ourselves by our clinging to what was in language rather than what we might become in language.

On the way back from the square, I took this photo of a street sign. It made me happy. 

 

#Greenland #Greenlandpioneer #Qaqortoq