Field Report: Blerpish

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Field Report

Zaneta Block
30 November 2012

I was fishing out at sea one day near Seattle when I saw a figure too small to be a dolphin, but too large to be a fish. It definitely had a tail, but it looked a little like a scuba diver as well. As I was making jokes about seeing a mermaid, I see a mermaid just from the water making a sound that sounded like, “blerp”. Then I see several jump into the air and greet me. I come to find out a society of mermaids exist in the Pacific Ocean. There are about a hundred that live in this community and speak a language called “Blerpish”.

My consultant is the owner of the boat I was using while fishing. His name is Daniel Humphrey. He is a 25-year-old male who resides in Seattle. He graduated from the Ohio State University with a degree in marine biology. He took two foreign languages in college, French and Japanese, as well as a couple classes in linguistics. With his background of languages he is able to understand enough of their language to help me translate it into English.

On our first day we heard the word, “blerb” and “blerp” a lot. We learned that “blerb” is a formal way of saying hello, while “blerp” is more casual. “Blerb” can be considered a way of saying, “hi, how are you?” “Blerp” is a way of saying “hey, whats up?” or “what’s going on?” We inferred this because when they said, “blerb” they allowed us to “shake hands” with their tails. Others would wave their tail in a friendly manner, such as waving hello to someone, while saying, “blerp”. So this language has both a formal and informal version of “hello”.

Non-verbal behavior included their movement of their tails. When speaking to us and mermaids of the same generation, they moved their tail a lot. They seemed to splash Dan as well, which is a flirty gesture to them.

Some key words we were able to identify right away were warm, cold, wet, tail, hair, small, sharp, sun, sea, and sand. Throughout our discoveries we also discovered the words seaweed, mermaid, from, the, swim, and arrive. From these words we also learned their use of morphemes and how important inflectional morphemes they use determine gender, number, and tense. We also learned their basic constituent word order is SVO. There are minimal pairs in this language for both consonants and vowels.

Questions are formed in this language for both yes/no questions as well as content questions. Politeness and respect is very vital in this language. Speaking to older generations requires respect both verbally and non-verbally. If any gestures are considered rude then a mermaid can be banned from their school forever. Phonemic Inventory:

British English is language described in this IPA article (Roach 2004). It is interesting to see that British English has fewer consonants on the chart than American chart (Roach 2004). This could be because their accent makes them pronounce some consonants the same, making them share a spot on the consonant chart. There are many minimal pairs in the English language, especially compared to Blerpish. There are twelve known consonants, which is less than the British English that has twenty-five.

“S” and “Z” sounds are a minimal pair in Blerpish. At first, no minimal pair was found, but the further we searched and learned about their language, we were able to find some. An example of this would be between the two words you in the male singular form and the word for boy in male singular form. ‘Son’ is [se] while ‘you’ is [ze]. They have the same ending vowel sound, however the change is between [s] and [z]. Vowels:

This accent, known as Received Pronunciation, is generally described for having a large inventory of vowels grouped into short vowels, long vowels, and diphthongs (Roach 2004). Diphthongs can then be subdivided into centering and closing diphthongs (Roach 2004). Another interesting inventory is there is a triphthong in British English, which is an upside down ‘e’...
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