Category Archives: Indo-European

Intelligibility Figures for Romance Languages

Here is some new work I did on mutual intelligibility in the Romance family. If you speak any of these languages, feel free to chime in. The one figure I am worried about is 0% of Italian understanding of Romanian. One informant said that, but I have a feeling it is higher than that.

Intelligibility Figures for Romance Languages

Intelligibility for Spanish speakers, oral: 80% of Asturian, Aragonese and and Extremaduran, 78% of Galician, 62% of Catalan, 50% of Portuguese, 25% of Italian, 6% of Romanian, 1% of French, and 0% of Sicilian.

Spanish has 95% written intelligibility of Ladino, 93% of Galician, 87% of Catalan, 78% of Portuguese, 50% of Italian and Romanian, and 16% of French.

Catalan has 94% oral intelligibility of Valencian, 63% intelligibility of Belearic, 27% of Italian, 5% of French.

Catalan has 27% written intelligibility of Italian.

Asturian has 82% oral intelligibility of Mirandese and 71% of Portuguese.

Mirandese has 82% oral intelligibility of Asturian and 71% of Portuguese.

Portuguese has 95% oral intelligibility of Almedilha dialect, 86% of Galician, 71% of Mirandese and Asturian, 58% of Spanish, 40% of Hermisende dialect, 55% of Catalan, 25% of Leonese and Italian, 17% of French, and 5% of Romanian.

Portuguese has 90% written intelligibility of Italian.

Galician has 58% intelligibility of Catalan, and 0% of Extremaduran and Andalucian Spanish.

French has 30% oral intelligibility of Catalan, 27% of Portuguese, 16% of Italian, 13% of Spanish, 7% intelligibility of Romanian, and 0% of Sicilian.

French has 90% written intelligibility of Catalan and 70% of Portuguese.

Romanian has 70% oral intelligibility of Istroromanian, 40% of Italian, 25% of Spanish, and 15% of French and Portuguese.

Romanian has 60% written intelligibility of French, 45% of Galician and Piedmontese and 33% of Italian.

Italian has 40% oral intelligibility of Catalan, 16% of Portuguese, 11% of French, and 0% of Romanian, Arpitan and Sicilian.

Italian has 75% written intelligibility of French and Spanish, 25% of Portuguese, and 20% of Catalan.

Piedmontese has 0% intelligibility of Arpitan.

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Filed under Andalucian, Applied, Aragonese, Asturian, Catalan, French, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Leonese, Linguistics, Multilingualism, Portuguese, Romance, Spanish

Germanic Influence on French

I knew that French had some Germanic influence, but I did not know where it was from. I thought maybe it was from the Gauls. But it turns out it was from a Germanic group called the Franks who apparently ruled France for many years. There are a number of German languages called variations of the word Franconian in Germany, mostly right over the border from France – Moselle Franconian, Rhine Franconian, etc.

The piece is correct that northern France is more Germanic. Southern France or the Occitan region is more like Spanish or Catalan.

As a result of over 500 years of Germano-Latin bilingualism, many Germanic words became ingrafted into the Gallo-Romance speech by the time it emerged as Old French in AD 900. And after the Franks abandoned Frankish, the Old French they spoke tended to be heavily Frankish influenced, with a distinctively Frankish accent, which introduced new phonemes, stress-timing, Germanic grammatical and syntactical elements, and contained many more Germanic loans not found in the Old French spoken by the native Gallo-Romans.

Even though the Franks were largely outnumbered by the Gallo-Roman population, the position of the Franks as leaders and landholders lent their version of Old French a greater power of influence over that of the Gallo-Romans; it thereby became the basis of later versions of the French language, including Modern French (see Francien language).

It is for this reason that Modern French pronunciation has a rather distinct and undeniably “Germanic” sound when compared to other Romance languages, such as Italian and Spanish, and is a major contributing factor in why there exists a distinction between Northern French varieties spoken in regions where Frankish settlement was heavy (langue d’oïl) vs. those where Frankish settlement was relatively slight (langue d’oc).

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Europe, European, France, French, German, Germanic, Germany, History, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Middle Ages, Moselle Franconian, Regional, Romance

What Romance Languages Do You Know?

If you are interested, tell us in the comments what Romance languages you have knowledge of. As you can see, I am into Romance languages.

Spanish: I had four years in school and then another 1 1/2 years at university, so I can speak it fairly well. I often use it with Spanish speakers around town. However, I am not fluent like a native speaker by any means. I can also read it fairly well to the point where I can actually do research in it. But I certainly do not know every word, and it is not like doing research in English. I can write Spanish fairly well. When I meet South Americans on the Net, they ask me if I was born in Latin America. However, some of them catch on that I am not a native speaker. I can understand it pretty well when spoken but I have a lot of problems with radio, TV and any video or audio in Spanish. I can understand it better if I read it.

I was talking to this Guatemalan woman, and after a while, she said, “You know…You don’t really speak Spanish, do you? But boy do you try!”

This is the only Romance language I can write.

Portuguese: Well I studied it a bit because I was dating a Brazilian woman. I started to learn the language within 24 hours after meeting her. I spoke to her in English and Spanish and she spoke to me in Portuguese, English and Spanish. She spoke some English and Spanish. This arrangement actually worked out pretty well!

I used to get emails a lot from another Brazilian woman I know. I tried to read them, but it was pretty slow going. I still study Portuguese and I try to read it sometimes. I even try to do research in Portuguese, but research in Portuguese is so much harder than doing it in Spanish. To tell the truth, reading Portuguese is a pain. I do know some words of Portuguese but not a lot. I can’t really speak it at all at the moment. When it is spoken, I can understand some of it, but that is mostly due to Spanish resemblance. All in all, I consider Portuguese to be a pain in the ass.

Galician: Cannot speak it but can understand it pretty well when spoken in the standard dialect. I understand it a lot better than I understand Portuguese because it sounds a lot more like Spanish. I have quite a hard time reading Galician. It really isn’t fun at all. Galician is a pain to read. I know a few words, hardly any really.

Asturian/Leonese: Cannot speak it. Cannot understand a word of it when spoken. I have tried to read it and even do research in it, but that is just awful. One of the worst languages in Iberia to read. I do know a few words here and there.

Mirandese: Cannot speak it. Haven’t listened to it in a while. Surprisingly, I find this language fairly easy to read. It looks a lot like Spanish. It is much easier to read than Portuguese or Galician. Don’t really know any words though.

Aragonese: Can understand some of it when spoken. It is very hard to read and I cannot speak it. Do not know any words.

Extremaduran: Reading this language is a complete pain, more or less like reading Asturian-Leonese if not worse. Do not know any words.

Fala: I have heard Fala spoken on videos and I can understand some of it, but honestly, this language is quite a mess, and Galician is a lot easier to understand. I don’t know any words. I have never seen it written down, and I am not even sure if it is a written language.

Catalan: I cannot understand a word of it when spoken, and I cannot speak it. Reading Catalan is quite difficult and very slow-going. It is not pleasant at all. This language is very different from the rest of the Iberian languages. I do not think I know any Catalan words.

Occitan: Cannot speak it. Can understand Aranese fairly well when spoken. I have tried to read Occitan many times but it is a complete nightmare to read. I do not know one word of Occitan.

French: I did take a semester of French at university. I also had a French girlfriend for a while. Not that it did me any good. I cannot understand one word of spoken French. I have tried to speak it a bit, but French speakers kept laughing at me (including the girlfriend) so that inhibited me. I have tried to write French to French speakers on the Net but I can hardly write it at all. French is very hard to read, much worse than Spanish. I have even tried to do research in French, but it was extremely slow-going. French is very different from Iberian languages. I continue to study French off and on. I do know quite a few French words.

Arpitan: Never seen it written, cannot speak it. When listening to it, I can only get occasional words. Very hard to understand. I do not know any words.

Italian: I have studied Italian somewhat but it is very different from Spanish or French and many words do not have obvious connections to Spanish or French. I can read a bit of Italian, but it is very slow-going. I do know some words. I cannot speak Italian at all, and I have never even tried to write it. Italian varies when listening to it on video. With some slow TV-type announcers, I can get some of it. With regular speech, I often will not get one word in a 5 minute broadcast. Italian is extremely hard to understand.

Romansch: I can hardly understand this at all when spoken on TV broadcasts. Interviews with native speakers are easier to understand if they speak slowly. Intelligibility is about like Italian. I do not know any words.

Romanian: Simply awful. I have listened to 8 minute broadcasts of this language and I could not understand one word. Romanian is very hard to read. It is much worse than Italian when it comes to not having obvious connections to other Romance languages I know. This is one of the worst ones of all in terms of reading. I do not know any words. Cannot speak it.

I do not think I have ever heard any of these languages spoken or even seen them written down: Arumanian, Barranquian, Cajun French, Campidanese, Corsican, Emilian, Romagnol, Friulian, Gallurese, Istriot, Istro-Rumanian, Italkian, Ladin, Ladino, Ligurian, Logudorian, Lombard, Megleno-Rumanian, Neapolitan, Picard, Piedmontese,  Sardinian, Sassarese, Sicilian, Venetian, or Walloon.

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Filed under Applied, Aragonese, Asturian, Catalan, French, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Language Learning, Leonese, Linguistics, Occitan, Portuguese, Romance, Romansch, Spanish

Spanish-Italian Mutual Intelligibility

See this video here.

This is an interview with the director of a documentary called Rio De Onor which I would really like to see, except that it is in Italian. Rio de Onor is a town on the border of Spain and Portugal where an odd Senabrian Leonese with Galician influences lect full of Portuguese words is spoken. It is probably similar to Mirandese, but I think it is in a different branch of Leonese than Mirandese is. Rihonores-Mirandese mutual intelligibility (MI) is not known. The town is split. Half of the town is in Portugal, and the other half is in Spain! The residents typically spoke Rihonores, but they also all spoke both Portuguese and Spanish. They spoke Spanish and Portuguese indifferently, mixing them together along with Rihonores.

It is said that Rihonores is extinct or nearly extinct, but that does not seem to be the case. The writeup for this movie says that all of the town’s residents spoke “Mirandese” often during the filming, which took place in 1996. Rio de Onor does not speak Mirandese, but it does speak Rihonores, so the writeup must be referring to Rihonores.

I doubt if Rihonores has gone extinct since then. In addition, a recent paper was written on the grammar of Rihonores. The paper was authored in the mid-1990’s and was written in Portuguese, but I was able to read it in part anyway, especially with the help of a translator. The paper stated that residents of the town now spoke Spanish and Portuguese most of the time. They all knew Rihonores, but its use seemed to be more reserved for special occasions as if it were some sort of ceremonial language.

The town is located in a binational national park and it has a Medieval appearance about it. Rio de Onor has been losing population for some time now and there are not many people left in the town.

At any rate, I continue to see comments that Spanish and Italian are mutually intelligible. Well, I just watched 5 1/2 minutes of an interview with this Italian director, and I can tell you right now that I did not understand one single word he said. That’s a Spanish-Italian MI rate of 0%.

If you don’t know Italian but have knowledge of another Romance language, watch this video and tell me how much Italian you can understand.

I think the MI of Spanish and Italian is much exaggerated.

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Filed under Applied, Cinema, Europe, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Leonese, Linguistics, Multilingualism, Portugal, Portuguese, Regional, Romance, Spain, Spanish

A Scots Lexicon

Here is a brief lexicon of some common words in the Scots language. The notion that Scots is a separate language from English frequently evokes howls of rage for all sorts of ignorant quarters. Whereas we calm linguists rarely get worked up about such things.

Look at that list below. Does that look like the English language? If someone came into your house and started talking to you using a lot of words like those, would you be able to understand them? How could you?

Obviously Scots and English are two separate languages. They split apart about 1500 for some reason. Anyone know why they might have split apart around that time? I do not.

a'thing      everything
ablo         lowest
adee         wrong
ae           one
ahint        behind
aiblins      perhaps
airselins    backwards
aisedom      leisure
anent        about, concerning
aneth        beneath
athort       across
atweesh      between
awfu         bursting
awgates      always
ay           always
ayont        beyond
bairnag      little
bairn        child
bann         curse
beard        bread
below        lower
ben          in
bide         live
birling      spinning
bittock      little bit
bosie        hug
bouat        lantern
boun         ready
bowk         retch
brae         slope
braw         fine, handsome
brawlies     splendidly
breeks       britches
brulzie      broil
buiner       upper
buinmaist    topmost
bummer       foggy
burnie       small
burn         stream
byken        wasps' nest
cast         drop
caumie       calm
caur         calves
chap         knock
Cheordag     Geordie
chield       fellow
claik        gossip
cludgie      toilet
clum         climbed
cowp         overturn
cuit         ankle
darg         work
daunter      saunter
dicht        wipe
dous         pigeons
dowp, dock   butt
dree         endure
dreich       dreary
dunch        push
een          eyes
endweys      straight ahead
evyte        avoid
Fa?          Who?
fair         very
Fan?         When?
fauchelt     tired
fauch        fallow
Faur?        Where?
feartie      coward
fell         kill
feth         faith
Filk?        Which?
fillie       long time
Fit?         What?
fly          cup of tea
fon          folly
forenicht    evening
forenuin     morning
forfochten   tired
fowkgates    culture
fuishen      fetched
futrat       weasel
Fy?          Why?
gaberlunzie  a beggar
gaed         went
gamie        gamekeeper
gate         street
gealt        cold
geylies      pretty well
girse        grass
gloamin      early morning
gnegum       tricky nature
grieve       overseer
gulsochs     sweets, cream cakes, donuts, caramels
haingles     influenza
hauflins     partly
hause        neck
heuch        cliff
hidlins      secretly
hooseockie   small house
hypothec     shebang
ilkagate     everywhere
ilkawey      everywhere
ingangin     reception
kent         knew
knapdarloch  dung knots in wool on a sheep's bottom
kye          cows
lavvy        toilet
ligaun       dusk, day
louns        boys
lown         calm
luif         palm
luitten      let
maistlins    almost
maunna       mustn't
maw          seagull
mayat        meat, food
Menzies      Mackenzie
muith        sultry
nether       lower
ngan         onion
onygate      anyhow
oo           wool
pad          path
piece        food
playock      toy
pooshun      poison
qoho         for whom
queans       girls
rax          stretch
raxt         reached
ream         cream
reive        steal
rhodie       rhododendron
ruise        praise
sark         shirt
scaith       damage
sheuch       ditch
skelpit      smacked
skelp        smack
sour rock    sorrel
spae         foretell
spate        flood
speir        inquire
speirt       asked
stank        a drain
steek        shut
stoursucker  vacuum cleaner
stroup       spout
sybae        onion
the hairst   autumn
the nou      at the moment
thir         these
thrang       busy
tint         lost
twaloors     midday
twalt        twelfth 
weeoors      twilight
wey          at times
whit wey     how
wifeockie    little woman
wyte         blame
yett         gate

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

Check Out Furniello Berciano

This is an extremely interesting lect being spoken here. It looks more like Furniello spoken in the Fornela Valley region around where Asturias, Leon and Galicia all come together. The language itself looks something like Berciano, Western Asturian or Eastern Galician.

Here are some of my notes on this language:

Forniellu is spoken in the Fornela Valley in and around the towns of Guimara, Peranzanes, and Transcastro. It is a mixture of Leonese, Asturian, Galician and Castillian. It is probably not intelligible with Galician. It is difficult to place this lect. Formally it is considered to be transitional between Leonese and Galician, but it is more likely to be Leonese transitional to Galician. This is sometimes said to be part of Berciano. Best characterized as Leonese. Intelligibility with Fabieru Berciano speakers from nearby Fabero nine miles to the south is excellent.

The people in this area say that they speak Galician, but the truth is they are really speaking Leonese or Berciano. When Berciano speakers go to Galicia, they are not understood, so Berciano is not a type of Galician.

I was utterly lost with this old lady’s story. I could hear a few words now and then, but it wasn’t enough to figure out what she was talking about. After seven minutes, I did not have the slightest idea of what she was talking about. You are listening to it and thinking, “You know, this really does sound like Spanish…” but then you still can’t seem to make out of a word of it. To my untrained ear, it also seems to sound like some sort of a Portuguese-Spanish mix.

If you can speak Spanish or Portuguese, see how much Furniellu you can understand.

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Filed under Asturian, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Language Samples, Leonese, Linguistics, Romance, Spanish

Is Romance Mutual Intelligibility Overrated?

Paul S. writes:

I can speak Spanish decently, though I read it better, and that wasn’t a tough read. That being said, I can read Portuguese pretty well too and can’t understand it spoken much at all.

Well try doing research in Portuguese then. I can speak a bit of Portuguese, and I have been trying to read it for some time now. Lately I am doing a lot of research, and much of it is in Spanish. I use translators a lot, but even then I have to go back to the original Spanish. I can do research ok in Spanish, but it is not real easy.

I also run across a lot of Portuguese, Galician and Asturian. Research is quite hard in all of these. I am having an extremely hard time reading Portuguese, and previously I thought I could read it fairly well. Also I have a friend in Brazil, and she used to send me mails all the time in Portuguese, and honestly, I was pretty lost reading that stuff. I think Spanish-Portuguese written intelligibility is overrated.

I cannot understand much spoken Portuguese either. I watched a clip on Youtube the other day about some city council meeting in a town on the Spanish-Portuguese border, and I could not understand a word they said.

I have a feeling that the oral intelligibility of Romance is also overrated. You hear a lot of anecdotes. Eonavians said that Western Asturians could not understand one word of Eonavian, which is a Western Asturian-Eastern Galician transitional dialect!

Castillian speakers who went to Valencia to live said that after seven years, they still could not understand one word of Valencian and Catalan spoken at normal speed. However, they could understand TV announcers in those lects very well because the announcers used Castillian intonation as opposed to Catalan/Valencian intonation.

Some people from the north of Spain say that they cannot understand a single word of the hard Andalucian spoken on the streets of the big cities.

Commenter James Schipper lived in Brazil for years and is fluid in Portuguese. However, he only understood 40% of the strange lect spoken in Hermisende, Zamora, in Spain. Linguists say that this is a Galician dialect with heavy Portuguese influence and significant Leonese influences. On some linguistic maps, it is colored as a Portuguese dialect.

He was also able to understand only 25% of Alistano Leonese.

And we haven’t even left the Iberian Peninsula yet!

A while back, in a large city in northern Italy, an old woman had become lost. They took her into the police station and she was chattering away for a few hours. They kept asking her questions but she did not understand them as she didn’t speak Standard Italian. People had all sorts of theories on where she was from. Some thought Greece, and there were many other guesses. Finally a worker came in who was familiar with the strange Western Lombard dialect from the high northern Italian mountains that she spoke. The old lady and the cops all spoke a Northern Italian dialect, and none of them could understand the old lady.

On the border of France and Italy in and around the city of Menton near Nice, a lect called Mentonasque is spoken. It is close to the old language of Nizzard spoken in Nice. This is an Occitan-Ligurian transitional dialect, a halfway between Maritime Provencal Occitan spoken in France and Ligurian spoken in Italy. Nevertheless, Mentonasque speakers say that they cannot understand a word of the Ligurian spoken in Italy. And linguists now see Mentonasque as a Ligurian dialect!

One would think that if these languages were that close, one could learn one or another of them pretty easily. To some extent this is true, but not to the extent of dialects of a single tongue or very closely related languages where you can adjust fairly easy over a period of 1 hour-3 weeks.

For instance, in Asturias, there are many Castillian speakers who have been living there for some time who simply state that they cannot understand Asturian. If they were really so close, one would think they would have picked it up easily over the years.

Down in the Bierzo zone transitional between the Leonese and Galician languages, there are Castillian speakers who have been living there for years who cannot understand Leonese, Galician or Berciano. With languages like that being spoken around them all the time, one would think they would have picked up them easily over the years.

The truth is that these languages are not as close as they seem, and much has to do with intonation as the example of the Castillian speaker living in Valencia indicates. In addition, one way to tell that you are dealing with a separate language and not a dialect of a single tongue is that the other language doesn’t necessarily get easier to understand the more you hear it. The factor of motivation cannot be ruled out. The Castillian speakers above who cannot understand Galician, Leonese, Berciano, Asturian, Valencian, Catalan or Andalucian have obviously never taken the time to try to learn the language. They simply cannot be bothered. If people do not want to try to learn a language, even a very closely related one spoken around them all the time, they simply will not learn it.

It is said that after 2-3 months of close contact, a Castillian speaker can pick up Aragonese, Catalan, Asturian, Leonese or Galician. But that is if one is sufficiently motivated. The powerful variable of motivation in language learning cannot be underestimated.

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Research in a Foreign Language

Lately I have been doing a lot of research on Iberian Romance languages. I tend to dive into one subject and then I often just tunnel away at it like a tunnel rat until it feels like I am one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. Then at some point, when I have completely tunneled out the subject as far deep as I want to tunnel, I move over to something else and I am might start tunneling away at that one too.

Research is a blast to me. I could research all day and all night to my heart’s content. I usually take notes while I am doing it, and I am typically formulating hypotheses, testing them out, seeing the results, drawing conclusions, and then changing my conclusions around. What is great is that when you do research all of these new questions keep popping up. Questions that don’t have very obvious answers. Some of the questions are suggested by others, and others I dredge up myself just by looking at the data. For a given subject, at times there are  number of competing theories that try to explain the data. I like to work through the theories and try to figure out which one fits the data best.

Plus I get to get away from the frequently ugly world of other humans and politics and just wallow away in something fun. People can be a pain sometimes and politics often just makes me depressed and angry. Like real depressed and real angry. But the stuff I research about is often outside of politics. Or if there is politics involved, I could care less about those particular issues because they are not important to me.

So for Iberian Romance, unfortunately, there is but a limited amount of data in English. Much of the data is in, you guessed it, Spanish! Quite a bit is also in Portuguese. Some of it is Galician. And unfortunately some of it is in Asturian or Extremaduran. You can use translators to translate some of these languages, but the translators do not work real well. A lot of times when the translation looks a bit funny, you go back to the original language and then compare that L2 with the English translation. For Spanish, Galician and even Portuguese, I can often figure out what they are really trying to say by looking at the original text and the English translation.

Some of the data is in online books, and those are written in Spanish only. Not only that, but there is no way to translate it from the books. So you just have to work your way through the Spanish and try to glean what you can get out of it. It is not as hard as it seems.

I was amazed at how well I can read Portuguese, but I must say, reading Portuguese is dramatically more difficult than reading Spanish.

Galician is sort of in between. It is like Portuguese with a lot of Spanish mixed in, so it seems easier to read than Portuguese.

Asturian and the few texts in Extremaduran are total disasters. I really do not have the foggiest clue what they are saying. The written standard for both languages is very odd and even if you can understand Spanish, Galician and Portuguese fairly well, good look with Asturian!

Anyway, if any of you had to do research in a foreign language, could you do it? Have you ever done research or in depth type reading in any language (L2) other than your native language (L1)? If so, tell us what your native language is and what languages you are capable of doing research or in depth reading in.

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Filed under Asturian, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Portuguese, Romance, Scholarship, Spanish

La Almedilha Portuguese

Portuguese is spoken in several places in Spain. One of those places is the town of Al Almedilha in Salamanca Province, where it is spoken right on the border with Portugal. This area was part of Portugal until the 1100’s when the kingdom of Leon conquered it for Spain. Nobody is very sure about what this language is. Linguists are uncertain whether this lect is Galician, Portuguese or Extremaduran.

Intelligibility with Portuguese is not known, but speakers got subtitles in a Galician documentary. It is strikingly similar to the Fala Galician spoken in the nearby Xalima Valley. But Fala is intelligible with Galician, so then why the subtitles for Galicians listening to La Almedilha? The implications are that this lect is not fully intelligible with Galician. Galician speakers say this lect is not Galician. Portuguese speakers who hear this say it sounds like the Portuguese spoken in far northeastern Portugal.

However, older reports from 1962 said that this was a Senabrese Leonese dialect with some Portuguese influences. In that case, it would be similar to Mirandese, Rio de Onorese and Guadramiles, and it may be more similar to . Mirandese than anything else. It would be interesting to see how intelligible this lect is to Mirandese speakers.

Actually what this looks like more than anything else is the remains of the old Galician-Portuguese language that is still spoken in the Baxia Limao and Tras os Montes region of far northeastern Portugal. This language is also called either Old Portuguese, Old Galician or Medieval Galician. It was spoken and written in Portugal and Galicia from 800-1516. This also sounds a lot like Brazilian Portuguese. Galician also sounds like Brazilian Portuguese. This is because Brazil was colonized by Portuguese from the northern part of Portugal, so they continue to speak with a Northern Portuguese/Galician accent.

If you speak Portuguese, could you listen to this woman’s speech and tell me whether you can understand it or not?

I understood some of it, but then I do not really understand Portuguese anyway.

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Filed under Europe, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Portugal, Portuguese, Regional, Romance, Spain

Alistano Leonese

As you can see, I really love Romance languages and I especially love Iberian Romance, probably because I understand, speak, read and even write Spanish pretty well. Hence, all of the Iberian Romance languages related to Spanish are pretty interesting to me.

I am finally figuring this show out. The announcer, who I previously thought was speaking some sort of Castillianized Asturian, is instead simply speaking Castillian Spanish. It is hard to understand because I cannot understand Castillian very well.

This clip is interesting. The announcer speaks Castillian all the way through it, but the 88 year old man speaks two languages. For most of the clip he speaks Castillian, but it is apparently so Leonized that I had the darnedest time understanding. So let us call his speech Leonese Castillian. At one point, the announcer asks him to speak something in Alistano and then he breaks into a short tale in Alistano. This starts at 3:54 and goes until 5:13. Then he goes back to his Leonese Castillian again. The Alistano was almost comical-sounding and I could barely get a single word of it. It almost sounded like a language from outer space.

If you can speak Spanish, see how well you can understand:

1. The Castillian of the announcer.

2. The strange Leonese Castillian of the old man.

3. The Alistano Leonese from 3:54 to 5:13.

Here are a couple of maps.

This shows the Asturian-Leonese language area at this time.

This shows the Asturian-Leonese language area at this time.

Western Asturian-Leonese is spoken in the orange area, except that Mirandese seems to be a separate language. In Leon, it is called Western Leonese and in Asturias, it is called Western Asturian. Western Asturian still has a lot of speakers. Western Leonese and Western Asturian do not seem to differ a lot. Western Leonese is the only Leonese that is in decent shape at all.

The green area is called Central Astur-Leonese. The Asturian standard is set in Central Asturias, which is where most of the speakers are. Leonese speakers dislike this standard because it is far from what they speak. This is one of the arguments they use to say that Leonese is a separate language from Asturian. As you can see, Central Leonese is in quite bad shape.

The brown area is Eastern Asturian-Leonese. The dialect is in quite bad shape. Even Eastern Asturian is not doing well. Eastern Leonese is almost dead, but it still has a few speakers.

The map shows the brown area extending into the western half of Cantabria, but this is not correct, as the lect spoken in Cantabria is Cantabrian, not Asturian, and it seems to be another language altogether. Cantabrian is frequently said to be dead, but that does not seem to be the case. There were monolingual speakers until very recently.

They had stubbornly refused to learn Castillian as they considered it to be an imposed language. In the mountains of Cantabria, as 2007, children were still showing up in school speaking a relatively pure Cantabrian. There were frequent complaints of teachers not being able to understand their students. As recently as 2003, a relatively pure Cantabrian could still be heard on a daily basis in the mountains. Cantabrian is best seen as an Asturian-Castillian transitional language.

Cantabrian seems to be together with Extremaduran in a single tongue, Cantabrian-Extremaduran. Both seem to represent far extensions of Eastern Leonese. In the case of Extremaduran, this is an Eastern Leonese dialect that got isolated down in Extremadura with the rapid expansion of Castillian. Extremaduran is intelligible with Cantabrian, but not with Central Asturian. This implies that we have two separate languages here.

The blue area on the map is Galician-Portuguese. The border between Galician and Portuguese is the red line on the far right of the picture. Galician is not well understood in Portugal, but people on the border speak a different lect that is intelligible on both sides of the border in the Minho and in Tras Os Montes. This lect looks Galician-Portuguese transitional, but it seems to be more Galician than Portuguese. In the Spanish part of the Minho, few residents speak Castillian because they have no use for it as all of their trade is across the border with Portugal. Spanish Minho speakers say that Minho Galician is not understood well outside of the Minho.

The yellow zone seems to be an area that was formerly Galician-speaking but has now gone over to Castillian. However, the Castillian in this area is heavily Leonized as you can see in the clip above. Castilian influence on Leonese was strongest in the south as this area is a lot less rugged so the language could penetrate easier. Up in the north, the Astur-Leonese area is very mountainous so Castillian had a harder time penetrating. Many towns still have only a poor road or even no road connecting them with the outside world.

Leonese in Zamora.

Leonese in Zamora.

A better view of the languages of Zamora. As you can see, the far west of the province is indeed Galician speaking. The bright orange area is Leonese speaking, but Leonese here is in very bad shape and in many places, it is dying out. The yellow area is Castillian with heavy Leonese influence. The light area is some sort of a Leonese-Castillian transition zone. However, I would argue that Leonese is in terrible shape in the light orange area and is almost extinct in its purer form. Nevertheless, the speech here is quite Leonized.

Aliste on the map is where the Alistano speaker in the video is from. As you can see, it is at the far southern end of Leonese, and this is where Castillian influence was strongest.

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