Peter Unseth, Ph.D.

Associate Professor - Applied Anthropology
E-mail: pete_unseth@gial.edu

Pete Unseth

 

University of Texas at Arlington
  • 2002 Ph.D. Linguistics.
    Dissertation: Biconsonantal reduplication in Amharic and Ethio-Semitic.
University of North Dakota
  • 1981 MA in Linguistics
St. Paul Bible College
  • 1978 BA in Missiology
Moody Bible Institute
  • 1977 Diploma
 

Field experience

I worked in Ethiopia from 1982-1995. My work there included teaching linguistics at Addis Ababa University, doing language surveys, organizing courses for mother tongue Bible translators at the Ethiopian Bible Society, linguistic research on Ethiopian languages, leading a language development project (doing literacy, teacher training, and Bible translation) among the Majangir people under the Mekane Yesus Church.

Personal interests

I am fascinated by the study of the history of Bible translation. There have been some fascinating people involved in Bible translation over the years--everyone from godly pioneers from the far past, to Napoleon’s nephew, to a slave that was rescued by the Italian navy.

I have become fascinated by Wikipedia. I have created or edited a number of articles related to my interests--a dangerous, but fascinating, hobby.

My wife Carole (queen of GIAL interlibrary loan) and I enjoy hosting students in our home, such as a weekly Bible study and an Ethiopian feast every semester.

Current Areas of Interest/Specialization

So many of my interests revolve around (what I think of as) sociolinguistic themes.

  • Proverbs: I have taught an independent study course on proverbs and also supervised a thesis on the study of proverbs in a language community. How can we use a community’s proverbs in positive forms of language-based development? I have more ideas for proverb research than time. I have written book reviews
  • Creation and choice of scripts: A community’s choice of script or creations of a new script involves powerful sociolinguistic factors.
  • Bible translation: Sociolinguistics has much to contribute to Bible translation. For example, I have given two conference papers on the puzzling practice of not using polite forms in Bible translation. So many choices in translation need to be governed by local viewpoints.
Theses chaired:
I have chaired MA theses on the following topics:
  • Scriptal issues in a Tibetan language
  • Language contact in Ethiopia
  • Sociolinguistics in Papua New Guinea
  • Proverbs in Central Asia
  • Body part idioms in a creole language
  • Analyzing the poetry of a Kurdish language (co-chair)
  • Literacy and Comprehension of Vernacular Literature in Southeast Asia
  • Survey of Dialect Intelligibility and Attitudes among a community in Southeast Asia

Courses I regularly teach at GIAL:

  • AA5333 Principles of Literacy
  • AA5361 Principles of Language Survey
  • AA5353 Language Development and Planning
  • AA5357 Oral Tradition and Literature

In addition, I have had students in a variety of independent study courses: got an idea for one?

Topical list of publications
My academic activities have included a number of areas: Sociolinguistics of scripts, Proverbs, Ethiopia and Ethiopian languages, Translation, Literacy.  Most of my publications are listed below under these categories. The categories are not always mutually exclusive.

 
Sociolinguistics of Scripts
 2011Invention of scripts in West Africa for ethnic revitalization. In The Success-Failure Continuum in Language and Ethnic Identity Efforts, (Handbook of Language and Ethnic Identity, Volume 2.), ed. by Joshua A. Fishman and Ofelia García, pp. 23-32. New York: Oxford University Press.
 2008.Edited International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Issue 192, on the topic “Sociolinguistics of script choice.”
 2008.The sociolinguistics of script choice: an introduction. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 192: 1-4.
 2008.Missiology and Orthography: The Unique Contribution of Christian Missionaries in Devising New Scripts. Missiology 36.3: 357-371.
 2005.Sociolinguistic parallels between choosing scripts and languages. Written Language and Literacy 8.1: 19-42.

Sociolinguistics and multilingualism
 2012Edited with M. Lynn Landweer International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Issue 214 on the theme “Language use in Melanesia”.
 2012with M. Lynn Landweer. An introduction to language use in Melanesia. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 214:1-3.
 2008.Edited International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Issue 192, on the topic “Sociolinguistics of script choice.”
 2007Horn of Africa, part of the Language section of The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher, Andrew R. L. Cayton, eds., pp. 321,322. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
 20062006. Review of Amanda Laugesen, Convict words: Language in early colonial Australia (2003). SIL Electronic Book Reviews 2006-008. Dallas: SIL International. http://www.sil.org/silebr/2006/silebr2006-008.
 2005.Sociolinguistic parallels between choosing scripts and languages. Written Language and Literacy 8.1: 19-42.
 2005Review of Language and identity in the Balkans: Serbo-Croatian and its disintegration, by Robert Greenberg. http://www.sil.org:8090/silebr/2005/silebr2005-002
 1997Disentangling the Two Languages Called “Suri”. Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 7:49-69.
 2003Book notice of Language Contact: an introduction, by Sarah Thomason. Language 79.2:672,673.
 2003Review of Language in South Africa, by Rajend Mesthrie, http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-1596.html#1.
 2003Review of Language in South Africa: The Role of Language in National Transformation, Reconstruction and Development, by Vic Webb, http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-452.html#1
 2001Review of Language Death, by David Crystal, American Anthropologist 102.4:1187,1188

Proverbs
 2013Using local proverbs. Evangelical Missions Quarterly 49.1: 16-23
 2012“I have had maxims and verses flung at me all day”: Proverbs in The Horse and His BoyCSL: Bulletin of the New York C.C. Lewis Society 43.3:6-9.
 2012. Review of Ju-Hong Yun, On a mountain there is still a road (2010). Asian Ethnology 71.1: 153-155
 2011Review of Taddese Jaleta Jirata, A Contextual Study of Guji-Oromo Proverbs (2009) and Abdullahi A. Shongolo and Günther Schlee, Boran Proverbs in Their Cultural Context (2007). Proverbium 28: 427-434.
 2011A culture “full of choice apophthegms and useful maxims”: Invented proverbs in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy. Proverbium 28: 323-338.
 2010.Review of W. Jay Moon, African Proverbs Reveal Christianity in Culture: A Narrative Portrayal of Builsa Proverbs Contextualizing Christianity in Ghana (2009). Missiology 37.3: 355,356. Also a different review for a different audience: 2010. Proverbium 27:407-412.
 2008.How to collect 1,000 Proverbs: Field Methods for Eliciting and Collecting Proverbs. Proverbium 25:399-418.
 2006.Analyzing and Using Receptor Language Proverb Forms in Translation. The Bible Translator 57.2:79-85 and 57.4:161-170.
 2005.Translating Proverbs. The ATA [American Translators Association] Chronicle 34.1:39-42.
 
Ethiopia and Ethiopian languages

  Entries for Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, edited by Siegbert Uhlig. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. Vol. 1 “ALERT” 194,195, “Aster Ganno” (together with Kebbede Hordofa Janko) pp. 387,388, “Bible translation into modern Ethiopian languages” p. 574, “Burree Waaqa” p. 649. Vol. 2 “Dawit Amanu’el”. Vol. 3 “Thomas Lambie” p. 491, “Majangir ethnography” p. 629, Majangir language” p. 627-629, Murle language p. 1076, 1077.
 2011Review of Taddese Jaleta Jirata, A Contextual Study of Guji-Oromo Proverbs (2009) and Abdullahi A. Shongolo and Günther Schlee, Boran Proverbs in Their Cultural Context (2007). Proverbium 28: 427-434
 2007.“Horn of Africa”, an article on immigrants, part of the Language section of The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher, Andrew R. L. Cayton, eds., pp. 321,322. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
 2003.Surveying bi-consonantal reduplication in Semitic. In Selected Comparative-Historical Afrasian Linguistic Studies in Memory of Igor M. Diakonoff ed. by M. Lionel Bender, 257-273. Munich: Lincom Europa.
 2002.Biconsonantal reduplication in Amharic and Ethio-Semitic. Dissertation, University of Texas at Arlington.
 1999.Hebrew kush: “Sudan”, “Ethiopia”, or what? Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 18.2:143-159.
 1998.Two Old Causative Affixes in Surmic. Surmic Languages and Cultures, ed. by Gerrit Dimmendaal, pp. 113-126. Köln: Köppe.
 1998.Notes on Clan, Kinship, and Marriage Patterns Among the Majangir. Surmic Languages and Cultures, ed. by Gerrit Dimmendaal, pp. 145-178. Köln: Köppe.
 1998.with Jon Abbink. Cross-ethnic Clan Identities Among Surmic Groups: The Case of the Mela. Surmic Languages and Cultures, ed. by Gerrit Dimmendaal, pp. 103-112. Köln: Köppe.
 1998.with Jon Abbink. Surmic Languages and Cultures: A Bibliography. Surmic Languages and Cultures, ed. by Gerrit Dimmendaal, pp. 127-142. Köln: Köppe.
 1997.Fitting in with Local Assumptions about Literacy: Some Ethiopian Experiences. Notes on Literacy 23.2:1-14.
 1997.An Archaic Surmic Causative Prefix. Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 7:41-48.
 1997.Disentangling the Two Languages Called “Suri”. Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 7:49-69.
 1997.With Jon Arensen, Nicky de Jong, Scott Randal. Interrogatives in Surmic Languages and Greenberg's Universals. Occasional Papers in the Study of Sudanese Languages 7:71-90.
 1996.Review of Reminiscences of My Life, by Ammanuel Abraham. Northeast African Studies, 3.2 (new series): 157-159.
 1995.Review of "Meaza" of Ethiopia, by Kevin O’Mahoney. Northeast African Studies 2.3 (new series): 97,98.
 1994.Verbal Negation in Majang. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, vol. 1, ed. by Bahru Zewde, Richard Pankhurst, Taddese Beyene, 551-567. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.
 1991.Consonant Sequences and Morphophonemics in Majang. Proceedings of the First National Conference on Ethiopian Studies, R. Pankhurst, Ahmed Zekaria, and Taddese Beyene, eds., 525-534. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.
 1991.Book Review of The Ethiopian Tewahedo Church: an Integrally African Church, by Archbishop Yesehaq. Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 10.2:50-53
 1991.Possessive Markers in Surmic Languages. Proceedings of the 4th Nilo-Saharan Linguistics Colloquium, ed. by M. L. Bender, pp. 91-104. (Nilo-Saharan: Linguistic Analyses and Documentation, vol. 7.) Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
 1991.Reduplication in Majang. Proceedings of the Third Colloquium on Nilo-Saharan Linguistics. Franz Rottland and Lucia Omondi, eds., 239-261. (Nilo-Saharan Linguistic Documentation and Analysis, 6.) Hamburg: Buske.
 1990.Linguistic Bibliography of the Non-Semitic Languages of Ethiopia. (Ethiopian Series, Monograph 20.) East Lansing: African Studies Center, Michigan State University and Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University.
 1989.An Initial Comparison and Reconstruction of Case Suffixes in Surmic Languages. Journal of Ethiopian Studies 22:97-104.
 1989.Selected Aspects of Gumuz Phonology. Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Ethiopian Studies, ed. by Taddese Beyene, vol. 2, pp. 617-632. Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies.
 1989.Sketch of Majang Syntax. Topics in Nilo-Saharan Linguistics, M. Lionel Bender, ed., pp. 97-127. (Nilo-Saharan: Linguistic Analyses and Documentation vol. 3. Series editor Franz Rottland.) Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
 1989.with Anbessa Tefera. Toward the Classification of Shabo. Topics in Nilo-Saharan Linguistics, M.L. Bender, ed., pp. 405-418. (Nilo-Saharan, vol. 3. Series editor Franz Rottland.) Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag.
 1988.Majang Nominal Plurals: With Comparative Notes. Studies in African Linguistics 19.1:75-91.
 1988.Review of Amharic-English Dictionary by Amsalu Aklilu. Northeast African Studies 10.2/3:193-195.
 1988.The Validity and Unity of the Southeast Surma Language Grouping. Northeast African Studies 10.2/3:151-163.
 1987.A Typological Anomaly in Some Surma Languages. Studies in African Linguistics 18.357-361.
 1986.With Kebbede Hordofa. Book notice of A Grammar of Harar Oromo, by Jonathan Owens. Language 62:951-952.
 1986.Word Order Shift in Negative Sentences of Surma Languages. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 5:135-143. Institut für Afrikanistik, University of Cologne.
 1986.With Kebbede Hordofa. "Bird Talk" in Oromo. Quaderni di Studi Etiopici 6-7:74-83.
 1985.Gumuz: A Dialect Survey. Journal of Ethiopian Studies 18:91-114.
 
Translation

 2012A False Claim of Translation Quality: Deliberately Omitting Polite Morphology. GIALens 15.2: 1-12. http://www.gial.edu/images/gialens/Vol5-2/Unseth_politeness.pdf
 2011Sacred Name Bible Translations in English: A Fast-Growing Phenomenon. The Bible Translator 6.3: 185-194.
 2006.Watch your language! Translating euphemisms. The ATA [American Translators Association] Chronicle 35.2: 35-37.
 2006.Analyzing and Using Receptor Language Proverb Forms in Translation. The Bible Translator 57.2:79-85 and 57.4:161-170.
 2005.Translating Proverbs. The ATA [American Translators Association] Chronicle 34.1:39-42.
 1999.Hebrew kush: “Sudan”, “Ethiopia”, or what? Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 18.2:143-159.
 1998.Semantic Shift on a Geographical Term. The Bible Translator 49.3:323-331.
 1996.Teaching the Translation of Euphemisms. Notes on Translation 10.2:35-40.
 1996.Review of Translation as Mission by William Smalley. Notes on Translation 10.4:55-59.