Category Archives: Balto-Slavic-Germanic

Is Hardcore New York English a Separate Language?

Steven writes:

You love to categorize, don’t u?

I don’t see the point when I can understand them, all the English accents. Even hardcore NY.

The real true hardcore New York accent is just about dead. In only survives in a few pockets, especially the Bronx. Most of the New York English you hear is understandable.

My Mom works as a secretary as a junior college. A man moved to the area from the Bronx, young Italian man maybe 25 years old. No one could understand him when he showed up, and three months later, still no one could really understand him. They didn’t really understand him any better after three months exposure than on the first day. It got so bad that people started asking him to write down what he wanted.

Furthermore, he did not seem to be able to moderate his accent or make it more understandable. He had one speed and one tone.

After three months, he learned to speak California English and at that point, he was finally understood.

As far as I am concerned, this guy was speaking a foreign language.

There are a couple of reasons that this looks like a foreign language as opposed to a dialect:

1. He was able to adjust his speech to make it more intelligible. Dialect speakers can often “fix up” their speech to make it more intelligible. Speakers of foreign languages often cannot.

2. After three months exposure, California English speakers could hardly understand him any better than on the first day. This is another characteristic of a foreign language. With a dialect, the more exposure you have to it, the better you can understand it. Not so with a foreign language.

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Filed under Dialectology, English language, Linguistics, Northeast, Regional, Sociolinguistics, USA

Is Scottish a Separate Language from English?

thelyniezian writes:

I have certainly heard it argued that the Anglic language spoken in Scotland constitutes a separate Scots language, not simply another set of dialects. However, many people use standard English now anyway if they’re not in casual conversation with other Scots. At least when they go on TV if nothing else. Much the same as with a lot of old English regional dialects, though they’re not different enough to be classified as distinct languages.

The reason they are similar is probably because a lot of the Lowland areas were once part of various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms such as Bernicia and later Northumbria, and would have spoken a form of Old English.

Actually, Scots is indeed a separate language. It has an ISO code from SIL, and they are the ones that give out ISO codes. Anything that has an ISO code means that linguistic science feels that it is a separate language. Scots actually split off from Middle English in ~1500, so it has been separated for 500 years. The amount of divergence in Scots (English has only 42% intelligibility of Scots) is around what you might expect after 500 years of separation.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Linguistics, Scots

A Reclassification of Many Common European Languages

Many common European languages are better seen as more than one language. I have been studying this issue for years, and this is some of my preliminary data. It is not yet in a publishable form, but it will give you some idea of the concepts that I am working with.

 

Kashubian

Really two separate languages as opposed to one.

North and South Kashubian are separate languages. Speakers in the north can’t understand those in the south.

 

Cimbrian

Really three separate languages as opposed to one.

Lusernese Cimbrian, Sette Comuni Cimbrian, Tredici Communi Cimbrian (Tauch). Based on structural and intelligibility differences, the three dialects could be considered separate languages.

 

West Frisian

Really three separate languages as opposed to one.

Schiermonnikoogs (Skiermuontseagersk) is an archaic West Frisian dialect, poorly understood by the rest of West Frisian, that is spoken on the island of Schiermonnikoog. It is actually spoken more in the north of Groningen than in Friesland.

It is in serious decline since WW2 due mostly to immigration from the mainland. The newcomers arrive speaking a West Frisian dialect from Groningen, Vastewal. There are only about 100 speakers left. However, many others speak a “weak” Schiermonnikoogs. Courses in Schiermonnikoogs have been popular since the 1960’s, and there have been a number of publications in the language.

Hindeloopers is an archaic West Frisian dialect, really a separate language, that is spoken on the SW coast of Friesland in the town of Hindeloopen. It has very conservative phonetics and vocabulary, much of it from Old Frisian. Hindeloopers is slowly becoming more like Standard Frisian due to increased exposure of its speakers to Standard Frisian and immigrants moving to the area. It is hard for other Frisian speakers to understand.

 

North Frisian

Really five separate languages as opposed to one.

North Frisian is four different languages as far as % cognates is concerned. Mainland (including Halligen Frisian), Öömrang-Fering, Sölring and Halunder/Heligolandic. Also, Hallig is not very intelligible with other mainland varieties like Mooring.

 

Manx Gaelic

Really a living language as opposed to an extinct one.

There are now 2,000 people who claim to speak Manx. Some are raising their children in Manx.

 

Breton

Really probably five or six separate languages instead of one.

Vannetais is a separate language. It is not intelligible with Leonard, another main dialect. Spoken in Brittany – the entire area of the department of Morbihan (with the exception of Belle Isle and regions around the Faouët and Gourin): Valves, Pontivy, Lorient, Plouay, Guémené-sur-Scorff, Baud, Auray, Quiberon, Sarzeau and the commune of Finistère Arzano.

Further, West Vannetais cannot understand East Vannetais.

Leonard is a separate language, not intelligible with Vannetais. Spoken in Leon (Leon or Bro Leon), the northern third of the department of Finistère (Brest, Morlaix, Plouguerneau, Landerneau, Saint-Pol-de-Léon, Landivisiau, Ouessant).

Leonard is about as far from Vannetais as it is from Cornouaillais. Intelligibility between Vannetais and Cornouaillais is not known.

Cornouaillais may be a separate language due to its distance from Leonard.

Groisillon, spoken in the Groix, is reportedly hard to understand for speakers of other dialects. It may be extinct, but more likely there are a few speakers left. Breton reportedly has 77 different dialects.

The new Neo-Breton taught in the schools often can’t be understood by traditional speakers because it is full of borrowings from Cornish and Welsh.

 

Asturian

There are two languages – Eastern Asturian and Central/Western Asturian instead of one.

 

Leonese

There are two languages – Eastern Leonese/Extremaduran and Central/West Leonese instead of one. Extremaduran is intelligible with Eastern Asturian.

 

Aragonese

Navarese is not really spoken anymore or it is just a Spanish dialect. Benasquesque/Ribacorgano is a separate language in between Aragonese and Catalan. Far northern and far southern Aragonese cannot understand each other.

 

Gascon

Apparently more than one language. Aranese is apparently a separate language.

 

Languedocien

Apparently more than one language.

 

Auvergnat

Apparently more than one language.

 

Limousin

Apparently more than one language.

 

Provencal

Apparently more than one language.

 

Walloon

Walloon is four separate languages instead of one.

East Walloon – Barvaux, Huy, Liège, Hesbaye Liégois, East Liégeois, Verviers, Malmédy. South Walloon – Marche-en-Fanenne, Bastogne, Neufchâteau, Saint-Hubert, Bouillon. Central Walloon – Basse-Sambre, Nivelles, Rochefort, Dinant, Namur, Charleroi, Beaumont, Chimay, Philippeville, La Louvière. West Walloon – East Brabançon, Jodoigne, Wavre, Hesbaye Namur, Gembloux, Sombreffe, Eghezée.

 

Francoprovençal

This is more than one language. It may well be up to an incredible 24 different languages or even more.

Dauphinois, Jurassien, Lyonnais, Savoyard, Vaudois, Valdotan and Piedmont and are the major dialects, and all are probably separate languages.

Franche-Comte, spoken in Neuchâtel, Vaud North, Pontassilien, Ain, Valserine is a separate language.

Faetar is a separate language from Arpitan. It split off in 1400 and has undergone heavy influence from Standard Italian and Apulian. It has 1,400 speakers in two towns, Celle and Faeto in Apulia in southern Italy. Language use is still vigorous even though most people in the towns are unemployed or retired. A few work in the fields.

Bressan has some internal diversity. The youngest speakers are about 60 years old now, but there are still dialect associations that promote it strongly. Bressan was the main mode of communication here until the 1970’s. Bressan itself is probably a separate language.

Forézien is now almost extinct. Forezien is apparently a separate language.

Geneva, Fribourgeois, Neuchatel, Valaisan and Vaudois are the dialects of Switzerland, and all of those are probably separate languages too.

Valais has some of the strongest dialectal differentiation in the entire Arpitan region. Valais is divided into two large languagesWest Valais spoken around Lake Geneva and East Valais spoken around Sion. Intelligibility is poor between the two poles.

In Valloire, Valmeinier and Valle Arvan at the far southern end of Savoyard, between St. Jean de Maurienne and Modane, a Savoyard dialect – Southern Savoyard – is spoken that is not intelligible with the rest of Savoyard. It is also different in Valloire, Valmeinier and Valle Arvan, but intelligibility among those three varieties is not known. Probably heavy influence of Occitan in this region. Possibly three separate languages here.

In Valloire, all persons over 60 use Arpitan as a daily language. St. Michel-Modana Savoyard is a separate language.

Valloire is a separate language. It is not intelligible with the dialect spoken in Albanne near St. Jean de Maurienne. Valmeinier, Valle Arvan and St. Michael de Maurienne also appear to be separate languages. The speech of Albertville and Chambery could be called South Savoyard. Dauphinois is still widely spoken in the villages around Villard de Lans south of Grenoble.

In the Savoyard area from Mt. Blanc to Geneva to Montreaux to Evian to Abondance, there is good intelligibility among dialects. This could be called North Savoyard. As one moves to the south, it gets harder to understand. North Savoyard and South Savoyard seem to be two different languages. In the Val d’Illiez area between Montreaux and Martigny, some Arpitan dialects are spoken that are very different from everything else.

 

Romansch

There are actually five or more separate languages instead of one. Each dialect is a separate language.

Upper Engadine: Puter, Lower Engadine: Vallader, Upper Rhine: Surselva, Lower Rhine: Sutselva, in between: Surmeiran. Romansh is actually 5 different languages, at least. Intelligibility is probably on the order of 80% or so, though testing might be nice.

Val Bregaglia/Valtellina Romansch (Bergajot) is an old Romansch dialect formerly widely spoken in the Val Bregaglia and Valtellina region of Italy. It is now only spoken by the elderly and a few younger people. It is mostly a mixture of Puter Romansch and Ladin with an overlay of Western Alpine Lombard Italian. It was the lingua franca in the region 100 years ago, but has since been replaced by Western Alpine Lombard Italian. Not intelligible with the rest of Romansch or with Italian. Some intelligibility of Ladin, some of Romansch, less of Ticinese Italian.

Bergajot is spoken in the Bregaglia Valley near Chiavenna and upwards towards Switzerland. It is more Italian than Puter Romansch, but Puter Romansch and Bergajot speakers can understand each other. This was probably the natural extension of Romansch to the south, but the language was never written down, and Italian was adopted as the written language, so what developed was a cross between Romansch and Italian.

Unknown whether Bergajot is a separate language or part of Puter Romansch.

 

Ladin

Ladin is a number of separate languages instead of one. Possibly 12 or more different languages.

Western Ladin includes Fassan, Gardenese, Novi, Nones and Solandro.

Fascian Ladin or Fassan Ladin: Spoken in Val di Fassa and variants in Moena and Canazei in the Fassatal Valley of the Dolomites. There are 8,620 residents, of whom 60-75% speak Lain as a mother tongue. There are two main varieties, Canazei Fascian in the upper valley and Moena in the lower valley. Heavy Italian influence. Fassan is Dolomitic Ladin. Spoken in Trentino Province.

Brach Fascian: Spoken in the center of the valley in Soraga, Pozza di Fassa and Vigo di Fassa. Intelligibility with Moena or Canazei is unknown, but may be nearly intelligible. Possibly not intelligible with Fiemmese Ladin.

Moena Fascian: Spoken in the lower part of the Val di Fassa. Canazei Fascian has problems understanding Moena Fascian. Spoken in Moena, Mazzin, Vigo de Fassa, Pozza and Soraga. Intelligibility with Fiemmese or Brach is unknown but may be nearly intelligible.

Gherdëina Ladin: spoken in Val Gardena or Gröden Valley, South Tyrol, by 8,148 inhabitants, 80-90% of the population. This dialect is close to German. Spoken in Bolzano, extremely protected. Gherdëina is described as “completely different” from Fascian, Anpezan and Cadore. Val Badia can understand Gherdëina but Fassa cannot. Part of South Tyrolean Ladin. Intelligibility between Gherdëina and Novi Ladin is unknown but probably good.

Nones/Solandro Ladin: spoken in Val di Non (as Nones) and with variations in different parts of the valley and the adjacent lower Val di Sole (as Solandro) in Trento Province just north of Trento and just west of Bolzano.

Nones has a lot of German words in it. Two different forms – Nones and Solandro or Solander. Solandro is spoken in Val di Sole, Val di Peio and Val di Rabbi (as Rabies). The last linguistic census of 2001 found that more than 7,000 residents in Val di Non and Val di Sole spoke Ladin. It is uncertain whether Nones/Solandro is a language of its own. Some say it is part of the Trentino language. Nones/Solandro is basically a Ladin dialect transitional to Trentino East Lombard. Often referred to as Anaunico Ladin. Val Badia and Fassa cannot understand Nones.

Intelligibility between Nones and Solandro is uncertain, but they are considered to be part of one language. There are two main dialects of Solandro, one in the lower valley and one in the upper valley. The lower valley has heavy Nones influence, and the upper valley is more conservative and has Celtic influences.

Lower Valley Solandro in the lower valley is spoken by 4,000 people in the towns of Caldes, Terzolas and Male and has heavy Nones influence.

La Montàgna Solandro is very conservative and very different. It is spoken in Termenago and Castello in Pellizzano and in Ortisé and Menàs in Mezzana. It is very conservative and has almost nothing to do with the valley dialects such as Pellizzano and Ossana.

Pellizzano-Ossana Solandro is spoken in the towns of those names and the two are very similar. This dialect resembles Eastern Lombard. Many miners came from Lecce and Como in the 14th Century to work in mines here, and this accounts for the Lombard influences on the lect. It is spoken by 500 people in Pellizzano and 800 in Ossana. May be intelligible with Vermiglio Solandro.

Rabies Solandro spoken in the Val di Rabbi is one of the most conservative forms of Ladin in existence.

Nones has 30,000 speakers, but there is some debate over whether it it Ladin or not. Solandro is also under question about whether or not it is Ladin. It has 15,000 speakers.

Central Ladin: (transitional to Alpine Venetian).

Val Badia-Marebbe Ladin (Maréo/Badiot Enneberg/Abtei): Gadertal and Val Marebbe (formerly in Val Luson and lower Val Badia), South Tyrol, by 9,229 inhabitants, 95% as their mother tongue. Mareo/Enneberg/Marebbe are three names for the Mareo version which is spoken in the lower valley. Badiot is spoken in the upper valley.

The language varies from town to town. Less Germanized than Gherdëina, probably the closest to a pure Ladin. Spoken in Bolzano, extremely protected. Maréo/Badiot is said to be “completely different” from Fascian, Anpezan and Cadore. Part of South Tyrolean Ladin. Intelligible with Gherdëina. Not intelligible with Fodom.

Fodom, Alta Val Cordevole, Buchenstein or Livinallese Ladin: spoken in the municipalities of Livinallongo Col di Lana, Colle Saint Lucia and Arabba in the villages of Cherz, Alfauro and Varda in Belluno by about 80 to 90% of the population as their mother tongue. Fodom has two very different dialects, one in the main valley, Livinallongo Col di Lana Ladin, resembling Val Badia and the other, Colle Saint Lucia Ladin, looking more Italian. Heavy Venetian and Italian influence. Considered part of Dolomitic Ladin. Not intelligible with Val Badia. Similar to Agordo Ladin Venetian.

Intelligibility with Anpezan is not known. Intelligibility with Rocchesano Ladin is unknown but may be good.

Eastern Ladin (transitional to Alpine Venetian-Friulian)
Near Belluno in Belluno Province.

In practice, Eastern Ladin except Anpezan is regarded as a separate language from Dolomitic Ladin.

Eastern Ladin – differences.

Anpezan, Ampezzo or Ampezzano Ladin: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Belluno. Similar to Cadore Ladin. Spoken in the Ampezzo Valley of the Dolomites. Heavy Venetian influence, but has many archaic qualities since it was under Austrian rule for 400 years – longer than the surrounding areas. Halfway between Ladin and Venetian. Anpezan is said to be “completely different” from Fascian, Maréo/Badiot, Gherdëina and Cadore.

Considered part of Dolomitic Ladin. Intelligibility with Fodom is not known, but Anpezan is not intelligible with Val Badia. Anpezan can understand Central Cadore, especially Oltrechiusano Ladin. Oltrechiusano and Anpezan form a sort of a grouping.

Central Cadore Ladin (Cadorino): Spoken in Valle di Cadore, Pieve di Cadore, Perarolo di Cadore, Calalzo di Cadore and Domegge di Cadore, except Comelico and Sappada, with Venetian influences. It is spoken in the Cadore all the way down to Perarolo di Cadore. Below Perarolo, it turns into Venetian. It is not uniform and differs greatly across the area. Pozzale Ladin is very archaic, with Oltrechiusano traits. Calalzo Ladin and Domegge Ladin are also archaic.

Pieve di Cadore Ladin, Tai di Cadore Ladin, Sottocastello Ladin, Valle di Cadore Ladin, Calalzo di Cadore Ladin, Domegge di Cadore Ladin, Ospitale di Cadore Ladin and Perarolo di Cadore Ladin have few speakers left. In these places, a variety of Cadore Venetian is now spoken. Sometimes included in Ladin and sometimes not.

Eastern Cadore Ladin (Cadorino): Spoken in Lozzo di Cadore, Vigo di Cadore, Lorenzago di Cadore and Auronzo di Cadore. More conservative than Central Cadore. The Laggio Ladin of Vigo and Auronzo is very archaic, similar to Comelico. This is apparently a separate language from Central Cadore.

Aurunzo di Cadore speaks Aurunzo Ladin, an Eastern Cadore dialect. Also spoken in Rizzio. The dialect of Aurunzo is very archaic, similar to Comelico. Aurunzo is very similar to Oltrepiavano, but it is very different from Comelicese. Oltrepiavano/Aurunzo di Cadore may be a single language.

Comelico, Comelicese or Comeliano Ladin: widespread in Comelico, Belluno. It is the most conservative of the Eastern Cadore dialects, even more conservative than Anpezan. Similar to Cadore but could also be confused with Friulian. The Comelico dialect could be divided into two sections: 1) Eastern Comelico: towns of Costalissoio, Campolongo, San Pietro di Cadore, Mare, Presenzio and Cosalta di Cadore; 2) Western Comelico: towns of Candide, Casamazzagno, Dosoledo, San Nicolò, Cosat, Parola, Danta, Santo Stefano, Campitello and Casta.

 

Friulian

Friulian may be up to five separate languages instead of one.

The tiny towns of Erto e Casso (dialects Ertano and Cassanese), Claut and Cimolais in Friuli Venezeia Giulia speak a Rhaeto-Romansch dialect that is transitional between Friulian and Ladin. Later it came under Venetian influence. Ladin was formerly spoken in a nearby area, which explains the Ladin influence.

The people say they speak Friulian, but the towns voted not to be included in the Friulian speaking region. The variety is not intelligible with the rest of Friulian. It is probably not intelligible with Ladin either. The name is Vajontino. The nearby village of Casso speaks some sort of Venetian, possibly Ladino Venetian. It is not really known what this lect is, whether it it is Friulian or Ladin at its base. It is probably a Friulian lect that came under serious Cadore Ladin influence.

In the town of Forni di Sotto on the border between the Comelico Ladin and the Friulian region, a dialect called Fornese is spoken that is often considered to be a part of Ladin. However, it is a cross between Carnico or Carnian Friulian and Cadore Ladin, especially Comelicano. It is said to be so different from the rest of Carnico that it is not even a part of that language. At the same time, it does not seem to be Ladin either.

Probably similar to Vajontino, but intelligibility between this lect and Vajontino is not known. Probably not intelligible with Cadore Ladin. This is basically a Friulian dialect that has undergone profound Cadore Ladin influence.

The Central Friulian of Gemona di Friuli in the north of the province has difficult intelligibility with Northern Friulian dialects spoken in Moggia Ugidense only 10-15 miles away.

In addition, Low Friulian has a hard time understanding Carnian Friulian in the far north.

 

Karaim

Karaim is two separate languages instead of one, Halich Karaim and Trakai Karaim.

 

Crimean Tatar

Crimean Tatar is two separate languages instead of one, Crimean Tatar and Turkish Crimean Tatar.

 

Gaguaz

Maritime Gaguaz and Balkan Gaguaz are two separate languages instead of one – see Ethnologue.

 

Basque

Basque is actually four separate languages instead of one- Standard Basque, Souletin, Vizcayan, and Gipuzcoan.

There is a unified Basque that everyone speaks so that they can understand each other.

However, there are cases where Guipuzcoan cannot understand Viscayan.

Souletin and Biscayan (France) do not understand each other.

Zuberoan or Souletin is spoken in France. It is not intelligible with the other Basque dialects. Souletin has influence from Béarnese, a dialect of Gascon (Occitan).

 

Yiddish

Yiddish is two separate languages instead of one, Western Yiddish and Eastern Yiddish.

 

Ladino

I am not sure Ladino is a separate language as it appears to be intelligible with Spanish.

 

Channel Islands French

This is actually four languages instead of one, Jerriais, Serquiais, North Guernesiais and South Guernesiais.

Jèrriais or Jersey French is a French language spoken on Jersey Island. Jèrriais has some intelligibility of Guernésiais. There are 2,874 speakers left. 15% of the population understands the language. The language is being revived. It is recognized as a regional language by the British government. Monolingual children were showing up at school as late as 30 years ago. There is a heavy English and some Breton influence.

Serquiais is a separate language spoken on Sark, descended from the Jèrriais of the colonists of the 1500’s. The remaining speakers are mostly elderly. It has suffered in recent years due to the influx of tax exiles. It is not inherently intelligible to Jèrriais or Guernésiais, nor with the Norman spoken on coast. There are only 20 speakers left. Serquiais is the most different of all compared to Standard French.

Guernésiais is spoken in Guernsey. It is recognized by the British government as a regional language. Guernésiais and Jèrriais have some intelligibility. There are 1,327 speakers. Speakers are mostly over age 64. 14% of the population have some understanding of the language. No intelligibility of Serquiais.

There are two Guernésiais languages, North Guernésiais, spoken in the lower parishes, and South Guernésiais, spoken in the upper parishes. There is poor intelligibility between them. Only one variety is being revived. Most Guernsey residents use some Guernésiais words in everyday speech without even knowing it. Speakers were evacuated to the mainland during WW2, and they quit speaking the language.

 

Arbëreshë Albanian

Arbëreshë Albanian is actually five separate languages instead of one, Sicilian Albanian, Calabrian Albanian, Central Mountain Albanian, Campo Marino Albanian and Molise Albanian.

Arbëreshë Albanian spoken in Italy is actually five separate languages, Sicilian Albanian, Calabrian Albanian, Central Mountain Albanian, Campo Marino Albanian and Molise Albanian. From a migration in the 1400’s-1500’s. Not intelligible with Standard Albanian. 80,000 speakers. Taught in some schools.

 

Arvanitika Albanian

Arvanitika Albanian is actually three separate languages instead of one.

Arvanitika Albanian is spoken in Greece. Thracean Arvanitika, Northwestern Arvanitika, South Central Arvanitika, dialects of Arvanitika, are actually separate languages. 50,000 speakers.

 

Greek

Greek is made up of at least seven different languages instead of one – Standard Greek, Cappodachian Greek, Cypriot Greek, Cretan Greek, Pontic Greek, Olympos Greek and Mariupolitan Greek.

Cappadocian Greek is not extinct at all as was previously thought. Thought extinct in the 1960’s, it was rediscovered in 2005.

Cypriot Greek and Cretan have marginal intelligibility with Standard Greek. Cretan has ~80% intelligibility and Cypriot ~60% with Standard Greek. Mariupolitan Greek is probably a dialect of Pontic Greek. See The Story of Pu: The Grammaticalization in Space and Time of a Modern Greek Complementizer by Nick Nicholas.

The dialect of Olympos, a village on the Greek island of Karpathos, is not even intelligible to other residents of the island.

Mariupolitan Greek is spoken in Mariupol in the Ukraine. This is a group of Greeks who moved into the area 200 years ago. Their Greek lect is still spoken to this day. It has a great deal of Turkic in it from Crimean Tatar so it is hard for Greeks to understand.

 

Turkmen

Turkmen and Trukhmen are two separate languages.

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The Scottish Don’t Speak English Anyway

The Scottish Independence Vote is coming soon. They may as well form a separate country as they already speak a foreign language.

Ronnie writes:

I could believe that Neanderthal came from Glasgow.

Sorry, should have explained the Neanderthal from Glasgow connection. Primarily the language still spoken, in modern times. Also some behavioural traits, such as the instinctive continued use of crude sharp weapons under circumstances where territory is threatened by someone not of the tribe inadvertently wandering into the wrong area, or when protecting food.

All I know is Glaswegian is a foreign language and once you get up in the islands, I doubt if even the Lowland Scots can understand their compatriots anymore.

Heading into a coffee shop, I heard these two guys talking a language that sounded really familiar to me, but I could not place it. The rhythm almost seemed like English, but I couldn’t understand a single word they said. In line at Starbucks, I innocently asked them what language they were speaking, and they looked offended and answered English. I was going to ask them if they were speaking Scots, but they acted like they didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I am now convinced that they were speaking Scots.

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Language and Ethnic Map of the Ukraine

Language and ethnic map of the Ukraine

Click to enlarge. Language and ethnic map of the Ukraine

Look at the map above. Much of the mostly-Russian speaking area is in rebellion. Lugansk and Donetsk Oblasts are at the far right. Those along with Kharkiv and Zaporozhye Oblasts, also have significant populations that not only speak Russian but are actually ethnically Russian. Lugansk and Donetsk are in open revolt, and in the past week, guerrilla actions have spread to Kharkiv, where sabotage has been going on for some time. Just now guerrilla activities are being reported in Zaporozhye, the furthest to the south and west of the four yellow-brown striped regions. Between Zaporozhye and Crimea, which is mostly in brown is Kherson Oblast, where guerrilla activities have also begun this week.

To the far southwest is Transcarpathia, in red stripes with green on the border. The red stripes are Rusyns, who have gotten sick and tired of this new Ukrainian ethnostate. I also understand that there is a lot of unrest by Hungarians in Transcarpathia (in green). Slovaks in that state (not shown, but presumably next to Slovakia to the northwest of Transcarpathia, are also quite unhappy.

Although the region declared its independence around the same time that Donetsk and Lugansk did, about half of the regions in Transcarpathia are now in open armed rebellion. Checkpoints have been set up all over these rebellious regions and gunmen guard them, only letting people they know come through. Today, Ukrainian troops have been ordered into Transcarpathia to deal with the armed revolt there. What will happen? Will there be another region embroiled in civil war as in the east?

You can see that Odessa is also majority Russian-speaking. This of course is the scene of the Nazi massacre of a large number of unarmed pro-federalist  protestors in the Labor Ministry of the capital city. Conceivably, armed actions could also spread to Odessa. There are also Romanians, Moldovans and Bulgarians in this part of the Ukraine. There was a recent video out of the Romanian part of Bukovina (the area in red in the southwest with grey creeping up into the red). They were very unhappy about their sons being drafted to fight in the East. Many were burning their family draft call-up papers.

However, guerrilla activities have not yet spread to Odessa and Bukovina.

To the west of Odessa is a region called Transdniestria, on the far east of Moldova. The Russian majority here has been in armed rebellion since 1991 when they ceded away from Moldova. There is a significant Russian force there, and the region has its own significant militia along with quite a bit of military hardware. There are calls by the same idiots who started this mess for Moldova to go in with its military and reconquer this rebellious area.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Bulgarians, Europe, Europeans, Hungarians, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Linguistics, Moldovans, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Romanians, Russian, Russians, Slavic, Ukraine, Ukrainians, War

Check Out Upper Sorbian

Upper Sorbian is a Slavic language spoken in Eastern Germany in Lusatia. Upper Sorbian is in pretty good shape and may have as many as 40,000 speakers, but Lower Sorbian is not in good shape and has only ~8,000 speakers, most of them elderly. I would expect Upper Sorbian to live at least until 2100 since children are being brought up speaking it. However, the outlook for Lower Sorbian seems to be quite poor.

East Germany always supported the Sorbian language, and the Sorbs had their own schools set up for them. However, upon German reunification, most of the Sorb schools were shut down for some dumb reason. This was just wrong.

Stanislaw Tillich is a major German politician with the Christian Democratic Party in Germany and he is also a Sorbian native speaker. It appears that children are still being brought up speaking Upper Sorbian.

Sorbian has a close relationship with both Czech and Polish. Its roots were in a movement of Slavic speakers into Lusatia in the 500’s, so it seems to have been split from the rest of Slavic for possibly 1,500 years. Lower Sorbian at least has undergone heavy German influence. Czechs say that they cannot understand a single word of Sorbian, but Poles say they can understand it quite well. I think the Poles are exaggerating though,and Sorbian-Polish intelligibility must not be complete. In fact, I doubt if even Lower and Upper Sorbian have full intelligibility.

I must say that this language sounds rather odd. To my untrained ears, it sounds something like a mixture of Polish and German. Anyone else have any impressions?

 

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Robert Burns, “Tam O Shanter”

This poem was written in and is being read in a language called Scots, which is not a dialect of English as many people think. Scots split off from English in ~1500, or 500 years ago. This is approximately what two languages sound like when they have been split apart for 500 years. I listened to this, although I can make out some words and even phrases here and there, honestly, I do not have the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I am missing most of this language. I can hear ~25% of it, if that.  However, a good friend of mine from England listened to it and she said she could make out ~70%. So there you go. See if you can make heads or tails of this stuff.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, Germanic, Indo-European, Language Families, Linguistics, Literature, Poetry, Scots

English Speakers in the EU

% in each country who can hold a conversation in English.

% in each country who can hold a conversation in English.

Hmm, let’s see now. If you want to find an English speaker, leaving aside the UK and Ireland for now, what are your best bets? It turns out that more people in The Netherlands speak English than in any other European country. Close behind are Sweden and Denmark. After that, it is Austria, Cyprus and Finland. Further behind still are Slovenia, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Greece and Estonia.

Bringing up the rear are Latvia, and then even further behind are Lithuania, France, Poland, Italy and Romania.

The worst places of all to find someone to speak English to are Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

Of course, your mileage may vary. A friend of mine from Sweden, who speaks English well, was just visiting his brother in Barcelona, Spain. The brother speaks Swedish, Spanish and Catalan now. My friend does not know Spanish or Catalan so he has to try to communicate with people in English, but he told me it was hard because “no one speaks English here.”

It is pretty amazing that Spaniards are some of worst in Europe at speaking English.

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Mutual Intelligibility of Scots and Scottish English with Other English Varieties

Lesley writes:

Do you mean Scots as in Robert Burns or just a Scottish accent with slang e.g Trainspotting? I’m not sure Scots (Robert Burns) is a different language as such, just a far older dialect, like the English Shakespeare wrote in or they wrote in the 17th century etc, certain ways of speech have changed over the centuries and certain words have fallen out of common use. Even writers like Jane Austen write a fair bit different than people would today, but she can still be understood after a short time with a little patience. Actual Old English is another language though:

(Sorry to repeat myself)

I’d say Robert Burns and Shakespeare are about equally hard to understand to modern readers or listeners, but it’s far easier to make out some of what their saying than it is with Old English – which is a completely different language. I think understanding Shakespeare or Robert Burns could be taught in a few short lessons, where as to learn Old English would be more like trying to learn German or something, though we’d notice a few similarities to English.

I think if you are talking about Americans inability to understand Scots (Robert Burns) without any proper lessons then fair enough, but if your just taking about a Scottish accent i.e like the one in Trainspotting, then it’s probably more a case of they just don’t want to attempt to understand.

The 42% figure is for the real Scots language, not for Scottish English, the dialect used in Trainspotting.

Middle English (Canterbury Tales) and Modern English are two separate languages.

Shakespeare is much easier to understand than Scots. When I play a video of a person speaking Scots to an American English speaker, they look puzzled for a bit, then they start shaking their heads and laughing, then pretty soon, they just start waving their hands and laughing and leave the room, saying, “I don’t want to listen to this anymore.” When I go to ask them, they usually say they could barely understand a single word of it. However, some American English speakers say they can understand it better than that.

Two men were speaking Scots while I was walking into a coffee shop recently. The rhythm of it sounded very familiar, and I kept thinking maybe they were speaking English, but obviously they were not speaking English at all. Instead they were clearly speaking some weird foreign language. I thought it might have been Dutch or Danish. They got in back of me in line and I asked them what language they were speaking and they looked offended and said, “English.” I shook my head and said, “Huh?” They didn’t want to pursue it any further, but it was soon obvious that they were speaking Scots.

A former commenter on this blog speaks Scottish English but he tells me that he can’t really understand a word of Scots except for the variety spoken right around where he grew up. He said Scots speakers from 20-30 miles away can’t understand each other. He said he had a Scots speaking with co-worker who spoke a Scots variety different from the one he grew up once for 9 months, and in that whole time, he understood maybe 10 words. He just nodded his head and said, “Sure thing, mate,” whenever the man said anything.

Americans who watch Trainspotting typically say that it is horribly hard to understand and often say they wish it had subtitles. I believe later versions did have subtitles. It is certainly not true that Americans do not want to understand Scottish English. We simply cannot make heads or tails of what in God’s name they are talking about no matter how hard we listen to them.

But Americans understand Scottish English better than Scots.

Americans have a horrible time with Scouse, Yorkshire, Geordie, Cockney, Somerset and other atrocities, whereas the British have an easier time with them. I have an English friend from Somerset who lived in the US for six years. She tells me that people were always saying that they could not understand her. I sometimes have a hard time understanding her myself!

Lesley comes from London. Speakers of British English can definitely understand the more difficult British English lects better than we Americans can. I also hear that they can understand Scottish English and even Irish English better than we can. So the British cannot translate their experiences to ours.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Cinema, English language, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Linguistics, Literature, Scots

How Do Literary Authors of Small Languages Survive?

One wonders how a literary author of a small language could possibly survive, but they do. The following nations at the very least have, good, thriving publishing industries in their native languages, however, they do not have huge, world-class publishing industries.

Tier 1:

Albania (Albanian)

Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro (Serbo-Croatian)

Bulgaria (Bulgarian)

Burma (Burmese)

Czech Republic (Czech)

Denmark (Danish)

Finland (Finnish)

Georgia (Georgian)

Greece (Greek)

Iceland (Icelandic)

Hungary (Hungarian)

Iran (Persian)

Macedonia (Macedonian)

Norway (Norwegian)

Poland (Polish)

Romania (Romanian)

Slovenia (Slovenian)

Sweden (Swedish)

The Netherlands (Dutch)

Ukraine (Ukrainian)

Tier 1 are relatively small languages, but authors writing in those languages, especially novelists, can probably sell a lot of books simply because the market is rather small. All of those countries have thriving publishing industries.

Further, many of these languages are translated into German. More books are probably translated into German than any other continental language. Germany is basically a clearinghouse for translations from smaller European countries. If your work in say Czech gets translated into German, it will get much wider readership because many Europeans even outside of Germany speak German. German is one of the main lingua francas of Continental Europe.

Books in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, Georgian, Gikuyu, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian are often translated first into German and then into other languages. Germany is often the first stop for a foreign translation from a big author from Continental Europe, and a German translation often comes before an English one.

The other big language that Continental European books get translated into is French. French of course is a huge language in Continental Europe and is spoken even by many people outside of France. If you publish in your small language first, you often wish to take it to France to get your first or second translation done. France, like Germany, specializes in translations of good authors of small Continental languages.

Books in Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese often receive a French translation, though a German translation is more common.

Works in Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Sanskrit, Swedish and Turkish are sometimes translated into Spanish. Works in Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian are sometimes translated into Italian.

Works in Macedonian are typically translated first into French.

Most Albanian works also go into French first.

Some Persian works are translated first into Urdu.

Other languages have thriving industries of all sorts of published materials:

Tier 2:

China (Chinese)

Italy (Italian)

Japan (Japanese)

Korea (Korean)

Portugal and Brazil (Portuguese)

Russia (Russian)

Spain and Latin America (Spanish)

Turkey (Turkish)

Tier 2 are huge languages in their own right with vast publishing industries in their native languages. In addition, works in these languages are often translated into German and French.

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