Category Archives: Arabic

Some Little-Known Truths about Arabs

Lin writes:

To Pranav:

…To me, (Sunni) Islam is basically an Arab/pan-Arab civilizational push, or it’s just a veneer over Arabized power. Let me recollect what I posted here before:

1) Arabic is said to be language of Paradise.

2) Arabs are said to be a superior race.

Superiority of the race of Arabs over non-Arabs

3) Though faggotry is condemned, large % of Arab/Muslims are closet fags as long as the closet is tightly shut and doesn’t embarrass the establishment.

4) The strictest sect of Islam, the Wahhabi Saudis, allied with the British and French kufirs during WW1 to topple the Ottoman Turk Caliphate, treason of the worst kind I must say, yet they consider themselves guardians of Islam. What a farce and shame.

I personally don’t think the Sunni Arabs have much of an economic future (Persians could be an exception that their Shiite Islam is more flexible, like they allowed sex change). I also foresee an Euro/Mediterranean Jihad One, after which the Middle East will be further fragmented…

Most of this is correct.

Sunni Islam is indeed an Arab or Pan-Arab civilizational project, and it is also a thin veneer over Arabized power. In addition, it is a vehicle for Arab supremacy.

1 is correct. They do speak Arabic in Paradise, and the only true Qurans are those written in Arabic, for God transmitted the Quran to Mohammad in Arabic. There are many translations of the Quran into all sorts of languages, but many Muslims consider them to be nearly illegitimate, as the only proper Quran is the one written in Arabic.

2 is also correct. If you go to Islamic sites on the web, you will see articles along the lines that Arabs are a superior to non-Arabs. No doubt all of these sites were written by Arabs, but nevertheless, Islam is a sort of an Arab Supremacist religion.

3 is true, but some Islamic countries tolerate it more than others.

4 is sadly true, and it is quite a blight on the Saudis’ claim to be the ultimate in hardline Islamists. Instead they seem traitors to the umma.

I personally don’t think the Sunni Arabs have much of an economic future (Persians could be an exception that their Shiite Islam is more flexible, like they allowed sex change).

I do not know what to say about this. The Sunni Arabs are definitely sitting on a lake of oil and gas that isn’t going away soon. Some of the Gulf countries have started to branch out away from an oil rentier economy. Dubai is now an international port city, one of the largest on Earth.

About the rest of the Sunni Arab states, I do not know what to say. Iraq, Syria, and Libya appear to be failed states right now, and Yemen is turning into one awful fast. There is some violence in Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon, but state structures appear to be largely intact. Palestine is a war zone and increasingly so is the Sinai.

Indeed the Shia do not appear to be going on jihad now or anytime soon. They do not believe in offensive jihad like the Sunnis do, and Shiism is quite a bit more progressive than Sunnism. Like Catholicism with its Pope, Shiism has its clergy. As the Pope and Vatican continue to update Catholicism to keep up with a changing world, the Ayatollahs and clergy in Lebanon and Iran do the same with Islam. The clergy in the latter two lands are surprisingly progressive, but those in Iraq, not so much. I know little about the Houthi Shia in Yemen.

The only people involved in the global jihad right now are radical Sunnis. The Shia, instead of being involved in this project, are victims of it, as global jihadists see the Shia as heretics to be killed on sight if not exterminated altogether. So the Shia, like the Arab Christians, are literally fighting for their lives against global jihad and are much more victimized by it than the Christian West is. Almost all terrorism in the world today is committed by Sunnis. In fact, the Shia are responsible for little terrorism outside of attacks on Israelis outside of Israel. There is some state terrorism being practiced by the Shia Iraqi state against Iraqi Sunnis.

I also foresee an Euro/Mediterranean Jihad One, after which the Middle East will be further fragmented…

I have no idea if this is going to occur, but it seems like it already is at a low to high variable level, right? Surely the Tunisian, Libyan, Egyptian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian parts of the Mediterranean are heating up, and a few are out and out jihad war zones right now. Turkey is increasingly starting to resemble the beginnings of a war zone. Terrorism in Europe is at a fairly low level, but the few attacks have been spectacular and there is a steady drumbeat of low level attacks happening in the background.

Comments along with your own predictions are welcomed.

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Filed under Africa, Afroasiatic, Arabic, Arabs, Christianity, Egypt, Iraq, Islam, Jordan, Language Families, Lebanon, Libya, Linguistics, Middle East, North Africa, Palestine, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Semitic, Shiism, Sunnism, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, Yemen

A Look at the Arabic Dialects

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Arabic dialects in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic

Arabic dialects,in the first place, are often not even dialects at all. Instead as many as 25-30 of them may be full-blown languages according to Ethnologue, which represents linguistic consensus or last word on whether something is a language or a dialect. Arabic dialects are often somewhat easier to learn than MSA Arabic. At least in Lebanese and Egyptian Arabic, the very difficult q’ sound has been turned into a hamza or glottal stop which is an easier sound to make. Compared to MSA Arabic, the dialectal words tend to be shorter and easier to pronounce.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic
Central

To attain anywhere near native speaker competency in Egyptian Arabic, you probably need to live in Egypt for 10 years, but Arabic speakers say that few if any second language learners ever come close to native competency. There is a huge vocabulary, and most words have a wealth of possible meanings.

Egyptian Arabic is rated 4.5, very to extremely difficult.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic
Maghrebi
Moroccan Arabic

Moroccan Arabic is said to be particularly difficult, with much vowel elision in triconsonantal stems. In addition, all dialectal Arabic is plagued by irrational writing systems.

Moroccan Arabic is rated 4.5, very to extremely difficult.

Afroasiatic
Semitic
Central
South
Arabic
Maghrebi
Siculo-Arabic
Maltese

Maltese is a strange language, basically a Maghrebi Arabic language (similar to Moroccan or Tunisian Arabic) that has very heavy influence from non-Arabic tongues. It shares the problem of Gaelic that often words look one way and are pronounced another.

It has the common Semitic problem of difficult plurals. Although many plurals use common plural endings (-i, -iet, -ijiet, -at), others simply form the plural by having their last vowel dropped or adding an s (English borrowing). There’s no pattern, and you simply have to memorize which ones act which way.

Maltese permits the consonant cluster spt, which is surely hard to pronounce.

On the other hand, Maltese has quite a few IE loans from Italian, Sicilian, Spanish, French and increasingly English. If you have knowledge of Romance languages, Maltese is going to be easier than most Arabic dialects.

Maltese is rated 4, very difficult.

2 Comments

Filed under Afroasiatic, Applied, Arabic, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Maltese, Romance, Semitic

Is Old High German Close to Old Persian?

I am going to republish this older piece that has been called into question. Supposedly this language is totally made up. However, that is almost certainly not true, although I am looking into it at the moment. A Croatian professor even wrote a 27,500 word dictionary of this language. I am enclosing here 97 different references that discuss this language in the hopes that this puts an end to the Gan-Veyan controversy once and for all.

Beatrix writes:

Robert,Is it true that 1,000 yrs ago a German & a Persian spoke basically the same language?

No, it is not  true at all that Old German and Old Persian were the same language 1,000 years ago.

However there are some Croatian dialects such as Archaic Islander Čakavian spoken on the islands off the coast of Croatia that are quite similar to Persian or Iranic. They are actually closer to Kurdish and Zazaki though. They are actually completely separate languages, as the lexical similarity with Croatian is only 4%! There is a theory that the pre-Slavic Croatians may have come originally from Persia, and there may be something to that.

These ancient tongues are the remains of the pre-Slavic languages spoken in this area before the Slavs came. The language that these tongues are closest to is called Liburnian. The Liburnians inhabited that region thousands of years ago. Liburnian is an ancient Indo-European language.

I did a study on one of those old languages, an Archaic Islander Čakavian tongue called Gan-Veyãn. I obtained a short dictionary of Gan-Veyãn and went through half of it from M-Z looking on my guesses as where the roots seemed to have originated. The results were remarkable and are listed in order with the language with the most roots first and the language with fewest roots last.

  • Indic
  • Persian
  • Avestan
  • Hittite
  • Akkadian
  • Basque
  • Tocharian
  • Sumerian
  • Lithuanian
  • Aramaic
  • Hurrian
  • Etruscan
  • Gothic
  • Russian
  • Ukrainian
  • Celtic
  • Kurdish
  • Armenian
  • Latin
  • Arabic
  • Mittani
  • Apian
  • German
  • Geez

I will go down the list now and describe these languages.

Indic means all of the Indo European or IE languages related to Hindi.

Persian is well known.

Avestan is best described as Old Persian.

Hittite is an ancient IE tongue formerly spoken in Turkey.

Akkadian is a language isolate formerly spoken in Iraq by the people of that name who had a kingdom there.

Basque is the well known language isolate and pre-IE language spoken in northeastern Spain. Although it formally has no relatives, I would say it is related to NE Caucasian languages like Chechen. In fact the placename Iberia has deep connections to the land of Georgia.

Tocharian is an ancient IE languages formerly spoken by Caucasian people who lived in what is now Xinjiang in far western China where the Uyghurs now live.

Sumerian is an ancient tongue, a language isolate formerly spoken in the Sumerian Kingdom in Iraq.

Lithuanian is interesting because for some reason it is one of the most archaic living IE languages.

Aramaic of course is the language of Jesus spoken in the Levant, Mesopotamia, Iran and Turkey. It is still spoken by Assyrian Christians in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey to this day.

Hurrian is an ancient IE language like Hittite formerly spoken in Turkey.

Etruscan is an ancient language isolate formerly spoken in Italy.

Gothic is the ancient Germanic language of the Visigoths who lived not only in Germany but also in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

Russian and Ukrainian are well known. This ancient language may have roots close to these two Slavic languages because in a way Russian and Ukrainian are ancient Slavic languages being heavily based on Old Church Slavonic, a liturgical language that originated in northeastern Greece with roots close to Old Slavic or even Proto-Slavic.

Kurdish is the well known Iranic language of the Kurds.

Armenian is a living language, but it is rather ancient and archaic as IE languages go.

Latin is well known and these islands were part of the Roman Empire for a while.

Arabic is well known and quite a few languages along the European coast of the Mediterranean Sea have some Arabic in them.

Mittani is a language isolate formerly spoken around northern Iraq and Iran that nevertheless seems to have some relationship with Indo-Iranian languages.

Apian is an ancient IE language formerly spoken in Italy.

German is well known. How German words got into this language is a head scratcher but Croatia itself is quite close to Germany as a former part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which had German as an official language.

Geez is the ancient language of the Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic Christians which was thought to be long dead. However a family in Cairo was recently discovered who spoke Geez at home.

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Yošamýa, Mitjêl I Sur. 1998. Podrijetlo Liburna i Njihovo Etnokulturno Naslijedje U Hrvata. Ognjište 9: 175-187. Karlovac.

Yošamýa, Mitjêl. 1999. Veyski Prazemljopis Svijeta i Jadrana (Iskon I Nestanak Starohrvatskog Mjestopisa). Ognjište 10, 185-196. Karlovac.

Yošamýa, Mitjêl I Sur. 1999. Predslavenske Legende Indoiranskog
Podrijetla Na Starohrvatskim Pradialektima. Monograph: Old-Iranian Origin of Croats, pp. 353-366. Tehran: Iranian Cultural Center.

Yošamýa, Z. 2001. Zavjera Šutnje O Kvarnerskoj Jazovki (U Jami Kričavno Na Krku Pobijeni Otočani i Ličani). Politički Zatvorenik 112/113: 20-21. Zagreb (Srpanj-Kolovoz).

Yošamýa, Z. & Mileković, M. H. 2001. Podrijetlo, Značenje I Sudbina Starodalmatskog Jezika. Bujština: 247-255. Matica Hrvatska Umag.

Yošamýa, Mitjêl. 2004. Bascânski Besidãr. Zagreb: Itg.

Yošamýa, Mitjêl I Sur. 2005. Gan-Veyãn, 27,500 Besêd Rječnici Istočnog Kvarnera (Gan-Veyãn and Cakavism of Baška). Zagreb: Torra Editûra Itg.

Žic, I. 2001. Vrbnik Na Otoku Krku, Narodni Život i Običaji. Rijeka: Adamić.

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Arabic, French and English Versions of ISIS’ Claim of Responsibility for the Paris Terror Attacks

The initial statement was released in French and Arabic:

Here is the Arabic version first:

Original Arabic version.

Original Arabic version.

The following is the French version:

French version.

French version.

It’s not perfect, but this is the best English translation I could come up with.

In the name of Allah the merciful, the very merciful Allah:

Allah the transcendent has said: And they thought their fortresses would truly shelter them against Allah, but Allah came to them from where they didn’t expect and put terror in their hearts. He demolished their houses by their own hands as well as those of the believers. Learn this lesson, ye who is blessed with foresight. Surat fifty nine second verse

In a holy attack made possible through Allah, a group of believers and soldiers of the Caliphate, from the Caliphate – blessed with power and triumph be it through Allah – targeted the capital of abominations and perversion, the one which bears the banner of the cross in Europe: Paris.

A group which tore asunder its earthly ties chased the foe, searching for death on the path of Allah for the sake of His faith, His prophets and His allies, and the willing humiliation His enemies. They have been true to Allah, and true we consider them. Allah has conquered by their hand, and instigated fears in the hearts of the Crusaders in their own land.

Eight brothers wearing explosive belts and bearing assault rifles attacked precisely chosen determined places in the heart of the French capital.

The targets were the Stade de France during a match between opposing Crusader countries, France and Germany, which was attended by the fool of France, François Hollande; the Bataclan, where hundreds of heathens were gathered for a most perverse party; and many in the 10th, 11th and 12th arondissements simultaneously. Paris has trembled under their feet, and the streets tightened in their wakes. The death toll is at least two hundred Crusaders with many more wounded, glory and praise be to Allah.

Allah made it easy for our brothers by allowing them martyrdom, so their explosive belts went off on the heathens when the ammunition ran out. May Allah accept them among the martyrs and allow us to join them.

France and those who tread its path must know that they remain the main targets of the Islamic State and that they will continue to smell the stench of death for having led the Crusade, insulted our Prophet (PBUH), and boasted about fighting Islam in France and striking the Muslims in the land of the Caliphate with their planes which were of no help in the reeking streets of Paris. This attack is only the beginning of the storm and a warning to those who heed the lesson to be learned.

Allah is the greatest. And power be to Allah and to his messenger as well as believers. But the hypocrites may never know. Surat 63 verse 8.

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Judith Mirville on English Spelling Reform

Judith Mirville,commenter, weighs in on English spelling reform. I really love this person’s wild prose.

It would be far easier to force Americans into Anglish, that is to say, English as it would have looked liked had William the Conqueror’s invasion of England never taken place. Or better still had The Normans themselves feared more for words of French, Latin and Greeks origin to give ideas of Greek democracy, Roman law and French sensuality to their subjects, than for their own Anglo-Saxon parlance to produce Robin Hoods. And seen in Anglo-Saxon a language having remained closer to their own forebears’ that the French-like one they had been forced to adopt in Normandy proper for political reasons.

I am now surrounded by people who are so intent on seeing Greece stifled with more economic sanctions, and are so resentful against that country for having given the world the idea of democracy (whatever the efforts I deploy to prove that their accusation to that effect is downright false: no other city than ancient classical Athens did more to vindicate the notions of Heaven-willed human inequality and human powerlessness as well as to make the quest of sheer contempt towards the downtrodden the noblest aim in life of all), that they have asked me, as an amateur linguist, to devise Greekless versions of English, French and other Western languages.

The World elites seem dead intent on suppressing the very notion of humanism not only as a form of benevolence towards fellow humans but also in the older Renaissance sense of the word meaning open-mindedness through knowledge of classical languages and cultures.

To that effect they have tried several times to disfigure etymological orthography in many languages, but the Anglo-Saxon egregor could never be convinced to accept what other European languages submitted to under the pretext of making school learning easier. So the thing to do with English is to bring it back to a purely Barbarian one so to speak, where scientific, political and other specialized terms would derive only from Germanic or Scandinavian roots through Nordic and Indic, not Greek-inspired metaphors, with the exception of a few monosyllables easy to seam into the fabric, such as joke, graph, rate…

The only rather proximate language I know of to be nearly devoid of Renaissance-inspired terms compounds is Arabic, safe for a few dozens no more of Greek words such as philosophy, democracy, geography that are half-heartedly accepted as temporary linguistic manpower so to speak, more to be humiliated as pariah words denoting concepts that will remain always alien and to be considered as foreign propaganda concepts than to render real communication service, it is the language now closest to the anti-humanistic ideal fostered by the world elites, a language where the higher level of cultural reference always refers to dogma, scripture, and military strategy at the service of predation, never to history or to former cultures of open-mindedness and research, a language where any notion of historical or political consciousness sounds like pollution by foreign intruders.

Hebrew hasn’t made such a meritorious effort and is half-Western, half-Oriental to the point it is now called an Euromitic language rather than a Semitic one (I rather say an emetic one, for modern Hebrew is downright ugly, vulgar, unwieldy, and unfit for information rendering, it is doomed to become rapidly a modern low-grade Westernized Arabic dialect like Casablanca Moroccan bound to flow into Globish).

The changes I would bring or bring back to English would be the following:

First of all, to make back English into a full-fledged Germanic language the passive form with “to be” should get replaced with “to get” as the most correct form, as is more or less the popular tendency.

German has the marvelous auxiliary verb “werden”, unfortunately the English cognate “worth” (“wirth”, “werth”) is worn out phonetically, but hadn’t it been for the late Latin style awkward French model with be (for it being ambiguous between perfect and present meaning and therefore less used in conversation for clarity’s sake) it would have been the medio-passive form of get, to git, I gat, which should be reestablished as the most regular form (many ghetto people already use git plus participle to form passives and do form it more frequently that active forms).

All Latin words such as allusion should be rebuilt for that instance as onplay, and Greek ones such as misogyny should be clearly understood as for that instance bitch-hunting, but forgotten medieval-sounding words should also be introduced to bring to the new language a more lurid and barbaric aspect as is the case with video games.

Social class distinctions as there are in Japanese should be implemented, by more regular and stringent rules than nowadays in class-conscious Britain four or five levels of status should be defined for each concept.

The ghetto and lower middle class people should be left out more or less with their vulgar parlance provided it be purged from forbidden elements, but the higher classes applying for qualified jobs should be given or imposed the luxury version of the language with a syntax imitated more or less from Icelandic minus the declensions, so as to smack of a perpetual Dungeons and Dragons game.

The highest version of it together with many terms should be forbidden of use by the lower ranks. Women should also be given a different version of the language, as well as different rules for pronunciation and this can be marketed through feminism before it be too late for these girls when they realize they have closed themselves back into gunaikeions smacking of Old Constantinople.

Of course I am speaking like some psychopathic nerd who would have been given the job to redesign English like is done with a computer programming language threatened with obsolescence and also, as a frustrated non-Anglo, with the afterthought of curbing the world-wide imperialistic prevalence of that language through ridiculous and gratuitous ideological impediments, with the most probable practical effect of breaking it for good into one thousand impoverished broken dialects no longer capable of intercommunication and yielding to a more civilized civilization language to come, I just want to give the American Republicans the neuroleptic dosage of obscurantism they need no longer to be able to use Monsanto’s products, I want them to become exactly like Haitian sorcerers in the middle run in the name of Jewish and Aryan racism not for real.

It must be noted as you showed it yourself that High German as has been imposed as Germany’s common language is a very artificial and quite recent and very ideological creation, with among others the objective to get the language rid of as many foreign coinages as possible, as if it were to become the new classical language owing nothing to any foreign one.

This objective has misfired as since the defeat of 1945 German is being flooded with English importations and with Greek and Latin terms again that come through English.

It is time for English itself to embark upon that kind of task, and the German experience that could have been successfully completed had the Nazis won over is the proof that it can work with a sufficiently fanatical regime acting at the behest of corporations dead intent on bringing back obscurantism and cut everybody, especially the new bailiff class, from the literary works of the free-thinking past.

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Judith Mirville on Language

I really enjoyed this piece. Those idiots at Badlinguistics are going to hate this post so much, but nevertheless, I think she is mostly correct here. This post is definitely Beyond Highbrow! Something to strive for, commenters! Reach for the skies!

Judith Mirville writes:

English has on one hand grown easier by shedding most of the heavy declension and conjugation-based Germanic grammar of old Anglo-Saxon and old Norman French it also derives fully from, but on the other hand it has grown into one of the most difficult languages of the earth due to the fact that to master it in a workable way, you have to work with roots coming from just too many linguistic horizons, each one having its own rules of combination.

You have more words of French origin in English than remain in French proper. For instance jeopardy and legerdemain are no longer understood in French, and poisonous is no longer correct. More words of Latin and Greek origin than allowed for in real Latin and Greek, apart from the simpler one-syllable, quite often more purely Saxon words that form more numerous prepositional idioms in the popular language than there are words formed likewise in German or Dutch, not counting a larger array than in other languages of purely exotic words having no common roots with any of the main ingredients of English.

The only other one language I know to be quite difficult for foreigners wanting to go beyond the cafeteria level for that very same reason is Hindi. Its grammar has retained only very few of the original complex Indo-European forms, and you cannot master its vocabulary without understanding that even though a few words of daily usage were originally Sanskrit or Pali, they have now undergone much transformation not necessarily for the simplest.

Yet most of the everyday vocabulary used in polite conversations is deformed Arabic imported through Persian, itself a compound language from Old Iranian and Semitic languages.

There is also a whole array of more recently learned terms artificially derived from Classical Sanskrit when it comes to science or Hinduism.

There is also quite a wide array of even more recently learned terms artificially derived from Classical Arabic when it comes to political science, economics, politics or Islam of course, which is an obligatory subject of conversation for all even those who combat it.

This is not counting an even wider array of words imported from English since the British era which is now widening with the advent of globalization. Each of those variegated language sources imposes its own ways of lexical derivation and quite often its grammatical forms.

Hindi, like English, seems somewhat easier than Sanskrit or Tamil as you begin, though it is never as easy as broken or basic English. But like higher-level English, you never, ever come close as a foreigner to master a working knowledge of it for universities or big enterprises.

In German (as well as in many Indian languages other than Hindi), by contrast, you have a much harder time mastering the grammatical machinery as you start, quite like a Mercedes engine, but once you do and you also master the root word combination system, you access very rapidly the highest realms of German philosophical thought.

I perfectly agree with you in stating that the idea put forth by many linguists that all languages are equal in terms of difficulty and ease of learning is a piece of utter fallacy and mendacity.

This is somewhat true only in the very specific context of automated learning of everyday language reflexes to be used without thinking in various situations, as if one were a spy working among a very distant people, and having learned to pronounce with the right accent most automated answers to daily practical situations like ordering toasts and coffee, paying a traffic ticket… one has also to pass more unnoticed in that environment than another person speaking a neighboring and similar dialect with less ease but more ability to express his thought.

This linguistic egalitarianism only works with people who will never bother to express anything they love to say but rather conceal what they know and camouflage it under nonsensical conversation of the kind that will never elicit any suspicion of unorthodoxy, as was the case in early Soviet Union.

And it comes to no surprise that such a linguistic theory came along together with Marxism. This theory can also work quite well in the context of enforced intellectual limitation by a ruling empire over all cultures to be stultified in the same way. But as soon as you are bothering to excel in a language and say everything you would love to say in your own or want to make serious intellectual research, this is simply untrue.

Some languages are really hard to learn, and some others quite easy, though the reasons may vary. Some languages are more difficult due to their lack of relationship with your native one, and some are quite difficult even to their own native speakers.

This PC view about languages just tells us about the limitation of all language they want to impose on us: prohibiting real self-expression and allowing only for a narrow range of practical commands. As they do when they say all races are equal and should mix with each other: what they tell is not the truth, but their aim instead is for the creation of a general stultified world citizen where all possible ancestral talents cancel out each other in favour of sheer mediocrity except for the cunning to make money by fraud and accepting bribes from the higher strata.

Anyway it won’t work: the most mongrelized White-African-Arabic new underclass they wanted to promote as model to be followed by all in France turned out to have lost all personal qualities and prejudices by race and culture mixing … except conspiracy-finding antisemitism as a natural federating factor as epitomized by Dieudonné. The result is that the new-fashioned intellectual Jewish elite of Paris are panicking, developing their own local version of neoconservative thought and telling the White Frenchmen to preserve their heritage from Africanization and mongrelization.

What I cannot stand though is the contrary point of view manifested by race realists such as Gedalia Braun that Negro languages are always more simple and primitive in structure and lacking in the power to express many concepts making civilization possible like metric graduation in the expression of distance in space and time and the notion of appointment and faithfulness as well as a vocabulary needing a dictionary to be relied upon and maintained.

I happen to be a passionate speaker of Haitian Creole of the most purely hillbilly kind as the language of my main love in life, and what Gedalia Braun says is 100% dead wrong even though Creole is supposed to be the zero ground in terms of general linguistics and mental development.

First of all, there is an elaborate tense system in Creole. It seems non-existent only relative to French verbs. Actually it works quite in the same way as English in terms of  morphology and auxiliaries though the shades of tense and aspect meaning are as elaborate as in Classical Spanish. It is much more refined and detailed in expression than the tense system of German or of Hebrew which is without any refinement in its modern form. And we are not even talking about the East Asian languages which are said to devoid of the notion of taste and actually more like what one caricatures as a Negro language.

Like English, and for the same reasons, Creole vocabulary is actually huge and of complex derivation, even though it seems easy to catch it when you begin as a traveling salesman, before long, you realize you will never be over with it.

You’ve got three main levels of language.

One that outwardly looks like simplified French but is combined very differently according to syntactic rules more like Semitic languages, possibly Aramaic, and of semantic rules more like Germanic languages. It is also very detailed, accurate and flexible as regards the expression of movement in space and time. A few engineers I know say it is seducing as an instrument for expressing equations.

The second level is the voodoo one, which works according to a different syntax copied from the Gbe language where the determinant comes before the determined as in German, not afterwards as in the first level, and is used for psychic manipulation purposes and power politics.

A third level of language is used for reasons of communication and compatibility with the surrounding modern sophisticated world and comprises all terms of Latin and Greek etymology present in either French, English and Spanish, generally with a rather French pronunciation but the same meaning as in English, and also a greater freedom in forming new terms by Pseudo-Latin derivation.

I don’t know anything about the Piraha language of Amazonia, but after having read a book by a pastor (Everett) who said he had witnessed the marvel of nonthinking people using it, and it had only three vowels, ten consonants, and no structured sentences, I can assure you this guy has been played with by those “primitives.” After all, as an American Evangelist missionary, he deserved to be shot by a poisoned arrow, but they defended themselves in a grander way by neutering his brain, maybe by the use of other less poisonous botanicals.

What that missionary says in a frantic, ecstatic mood is pure delusion.

First of all, there is a consecrated non-wordy, non-analytic, non-recursive way of expression most delicious to use whenever feasible in many languages closer to ours.

Portuguese is one of the best known examples of it.

Even though Portuguese is a very intricate and rich, complex language as regards its literary form proper, it possesses a register of expression that is very difficult to pick up. You have to develop extrasensory modes of communication to do it.

In this register, you exchange only one-word whispered sentences (like so pode) conveying each one a world of implications, making the conversation more like birds’ concert so to speak. Maybe the Portuguese Catholic Inquisition made that a matter of survival at some time, but its reputation for mortal totalitarian control has been grossly exaggerated compared to other control-freaks like the Judaeo-Anglo-Saxon PC crowd.

Everett has remained in the same kind of racist outlook with direction only reversed. Actually, the Pirahas he has met with have always known much more about his culture and his world, together with many other ones that have been threatening them into extinction for centuries, and which they have circumvented through manipulation so far, than he has about theirs, even after all he thinks he has discovered. I suspect the Pirahas to be a very cunning and not so charming and benevolent crowd, though capable of huge good practical jokes: not at all the last castaways from Eden that Everett still imagines as a former Evangelical.

There is certainly a huge higher initiation level of language the Pirahas are dead intent on reserving to themselves, which as high in left brain content as KGB Russian, the same level as in Portuguese, and my beloved Creole. Haitians even used to have computer-like programming languages long before computers, except that they were used to program humans made into zombies, and the purpose of them was always evil.

Arabic, among the languages of worldwide use, is one of the most difficult technically, not only because of its non-relationship with any roots we know in our own languages or its very heavy and irregular morphology as regards plurals, conjugations, declensions and its convoluted syntax, but also because very simple notions in most other languages even in supposedly closely-related Hebrew never can be said in clear simple terms in Arabic and need a cumbersome grammatical apparatus to be conveyed.

To express the concept of doing again or re-doing something, you have to fully conjugate the two verbs re- and do (prepositions are conjugated too, with as many special rules as with verbs), you cannot add something like un- or de- to express the undoing of something.

Instead you have to use a full clause like I am undoing the attachment of my shirt instead of I am untying it. You cannot say I have done it already, instead you have to say something like It is already overtaken by my doing it. You generally don’t say I must do it (even though you could in theory), instead you more commonly say There is no alternative for me apart from doing so.

One thing I like about Arabic though is its closure towards foreign admixture and the difficulty for foreign words to get naturalized, with the result that the semantic universe is simpler than elsewhere and more coherent.

The most difficult aspect though is that you cannot form compound terms and verbs the way you do in English and Romance languages by using suffixes and prefixes, especially when as a stranger or a beginner you are short of the exact term and would use a synonymous compound word instead. Even the negation of adjectives is not guaranteed, and you have to learn the contrary ones which have independent roots.

One thing remarkable about Arabic is the utmost difficulty of expressing in it the idea of excess or of extremism as being an undesirable thing, and conversely, of moderation as being a virtue. The word too or too much simply doesn’t exist. Phrase books and Google translation recommend to use the word very (jiddan) instead, but it has nearly always a laudatory connotation, and if you insist in using it for meaning too much you are spotted as a clumsily-speaking foreigner.

The problem is that practically all comparatives and superlatives that are used to render the idea of relative excess to a situation, like a truck too high for a tunnel to pass through, are also by themselves as elatives having an admirative value. When you say akbar for instance, it is very big or bigger than expected, but it can never really be too big. It is always something like “Wow my Gosh, how it’s big!” Even apart from the worldwide known religious and terroristic use of Allahu Akbar proper, it is just too big eventually for the sum of money it would cost or some other accidental impediment like a ceiling.

In theory, in very Classical (though non-Koranic) Arabic, you could also use a difficult conjugated verb in a serial clause for expressing the simple adverb too much (the verb ifrat:a, meaning overdoing) as is the case with most simple English adverbs, but  that would sound as pedantic, unnatural and unusual as Shakespearean “multitudinously” (except as verbal nouns to form scientific compound terms used in universities only) and make everybody around laugh, even among religious speakers of Classical Arabic only.

The word “moderate” is generally recommended to be translated in journalistic lingo as mutaäddil.

But if you leave the Western-style university class for the university cafeteria and say Ana muslimun mutaäddil (I am a moderate Muslim), your colleague from a non-Western culture-related subject will understand something completely different.

He will know that your appetites are well moderated by your faith in Islam, that you have renounced all alcohol, you no longer smoke, you skip one meal out of two and fast for the whole Ramadan, you never indulge in erotic or profane literature and try live a spartan life in order to spare money for the Hajj, which things are not a promise of tolerant conduct towards non-believers.

All good translators into Arabic will tell you of the challenge to render such an expression as too much or of the general concept that an extremist point of view (mutat:arrif) might be condemnable.

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The Jewish Languages of the Jewish Diaspora

Sam asks:

Robert I should have asked you this before but I had forgotten it. This post jogged my memory. I read once…somewhere…that all Jewish languages were bastardizations of whatever language they were using at the time. The idea being that they could converse amongst themselves without others knowing what they are saying. Seems also the way they transformed the language was supposed to be a bit tricky so as to make it even harder to understand. Does that sound as if that scenario is true or could be true?

I am not sure if they did it on purpose so as not to be understood or if their versions are bastardizations (a term we linguists do not use) of the native tongue, but in just about every nation in which Jews were living in a large number, the Jews were speaking a different language than the natives. In Europe, the Ashkenazim were speaking Yiddish in the north and the Sephardics were speaking Ladino in the South. In the Crimea, the Karaite Jews spoke Ukrainian Karaim and other Jews spoke Krypchak, both of which are closely related to but not the same language as Crimean Tatar. In other parts of Ukraine and in Lithuania and Poland, other Jews also spoke Lithuanian Karaim, a different language from Ukrainian Karaim.

In the Arab World, in each nation where the Arab Jews reside, they speak a different form of Arabic than the natives, for instance, Moroccan Jews might have spoken something called Moroccan Jewish Arabic instead of Moroccan Arabic. They also spoke their own forms of Aramaic where they were living with a lot of Arab Christians in the north of Iraq, Syria and Iran. The Jewish language often had many Hebrew loans in it and was different in other ways. In each case, Ethnologue regards the Jewish language as actually a separate language from the native tongue of the land.

In Northern Europe, Jews took Palatinian German and fashioned a new Jewish language out of it. In the South, they did the same with Spanish. In Ukraine, the Jews melded Crimean Tatar into three separate Jewish languages. In the Arab Muslim and Arab Christian worlds, the Jews took the common and Arabic or Aramaic languages of those lands and fashioned them into separate Jewish languages.

It seems as though everywhere they lived, the Jews desired to be different and set themselves apart from the rest, even in a linguistic sense.

N.B. Most of these Jewish languages are now in very bad shape and by the year 2100, most will probably be extinct with the probable exception of Yiddish and Lithuanian Karaim.

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Differences Between Spanish and Ladino

Judaeo Spanish or Ladino is the language of the Sephardic Jews of Europe. It is dying out now, but it still has tens of thousands of speakers. It was created when Spanish Jews left Spain around the time of the Inquisition to find refuge in various areas of the Mediterranean, particularly in Turkey.

It is 1492 Spanish mixed with 4% Hebrew, about 20% Turkish and Arabic, 60% Old Spanish and Portuguese and 7% other. Spanish has 60% intelligibility of Ladino and 95% when written. This is a language frozen in time, the Spanish spoken when they were expelled from Spain in the 1400’s.

Ladino:

Shalom (or Bonjur ) Komo estash vozotros? Yo esto muy bien, gracias. Esto es lo ke me paso oy: Primeiro, yo me levanto i entonses desayuno. Me visto i pongo mi chapeo i salgo de la kaza. Yo vo al trabasho i kuando regreso, dayaneo. Despues ke yo me levanto miro de la bentana i veo ke mis amigos van a Bet Knesset . Esto tarde, tyengo menester de darme prisa porke tyengo la avtaha de avlar kon el rabi. Despues ya es ora de acostarme. Shalom!

Spanish:

¡Hola! ¿Como estais (estan)? Estoy muy bien gracias. Esto es lo que me paso hoy: Primero, me levanto y entonces desayuno. Pongo la ropa  (Me visto , only in Spain) y pongo mi sombrero y salgo de la casa. Voy al trabajo y cuando regreso, descanso. Despues que me levanto, miro de la ventana y veo que mis amigos van a la sinagoga. Estoy tarde, necesito de darme prisa proque tengo la esperanza de hablar con el rabi. Despues, ya es hora de acostarme.

English:

Hello! How are you (all)? I am very well thanks. This is what happened to me today: First, I get up and then I eat breakfast. I get dressed and I put on my hat and I leave the house. I go to work and when I return, I rest. After I get up I look out of the window and I see that my friends are going to the synagogue. I am late, I need to hurry because I have the hope to speak with the rabbi. Afterward, it is already time to go to bed.

List of languages from which each Ladino word is:

Shalom– Hebrew (hello, goodbye)
Bonjur – French (hello)
estash – Old Spanish (you pl. are)
chapeo – Old Portuguese
vo – old form of voy in Old Spanish (I go)
trabasho – Spanish (modern= trabajo)
dayaneo – Turkish – (I rest). It is conjugated like all Spanish verbs. It is slightly adapted from Turkish so you can conjugate it like Spanish.
Bet Knesset – Hebrew – synagogue
menester – Old Spanish and Portuguese (to need)
avtaha – Turkish (hope)

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Romance Languages and Latin

A linguist named Mario Pei undertook a study of Romance languages to determine how far they had deviated from Latin. This is what he came up with. Lower scores means closer to Latin and higher scores means further from Latin:

Sardinian  8% 
Italian    12% 
Spanish    20% 
Romanian   23.5% 
Occitan    25% 
Portuguese 31% 
French     44%

I had always heard that Sardo was like Latin frozen in time. Italian is also said to be quite close to Latin still. In fact, it is from this land that Latin emerged in the first place. Spanish has deviated quite a bit, but I am not certain why that is. For one thing, quite a bit of Arabic has gone into Spanish. As far as other influences, I am not sure. There are influences from pre-Latin languages, but I am not sure how significant they are. The impact of Basque (which would be included under pre-Latin influences, is also not known, but it has effected Aragonese and Aranese.

Romanian has obviously been flooded with Slavic words.

Occitan is also different, but this is probably due to the French influence as Occitan is sort of a Spanish-French hybrid language like Catalan.

Portuguese is also very different, but I am not sure why that is. Clearly the Portuguese vowels have gone crazy, but why is that? Brazilian Portuguese had influence from Indian languages, but that did not affect European Portuguese.

French is the most different of all. The odd vowels appear to originate from a Celtic base (Gaulish). In addition, quite a bit of Germanic has gone in via the Franks and there was a strong Norse influence in the far north. Basque and Breton influences are not known. It is due to this strong differentiation that other Romance language speakers say that no one can understand the French.

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Filed under Arabic, Aragonese, Basque, Catalan, French, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Isolates, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Occitan, Portuguese, Romance, Slavic, Spanish

A Look at the Arabic Languages

From here.

This post will look at the Arabic languages from the POV of how hard they are to learn for an English speaker.

Afroasiatic
Semitic

Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew are notoriously difficult to learn, and Arabic (especially MSA) tops many language learners’ lists as the hardest language they have ever attempted to learn. Although Semitic verbs are notoriously complex, the verbal system does have some advantages especially as compared to IE languages like Slavic. Unlike Slavic, Semitic verbs are not inflected for mood and there is no perfect or imperfect.

Central
South
Arabic

Arabic has some very irregular manners of noun declension, even in the plural. For instance, the word girls changes in an unpredictable way when you say one girl, two girls and three girls, and there are two different ways to say two girls depending on context. Two girls is marked with the dual, but different dual forms can be used. All languages with duals are relatively difficult for most speakers that lack a dual in their native language. However, the dual is predictable from the singular, so one might argue that you only need to learn how to say one girl and three girls.

Further, it is full of irregular plurals similar to octopus and octopi in English, whereas these forms are rare in English. With any given word, there might be 20 different ways to pluralize it, and there is no way to generalize a plural pattern from a singular pattern. In addition, many words have 2-3 ways of pluralizing them. Some messy Arab plurals:

kalb -> kilaab
qalb
-> quluub
maktab
-> makaatib
taalib
-> tullaab
balad
-> buldaan

When you say I love you to a man, you say it one way, and when you say it to a woman, you say it another way. On and on.

The Arabic writing system is exceeding difficult, and is more of the hardest to use of any on Earth. Soft vowels are omitted. You have to learn where to insert missing vowels, where to double consonants and which vowels to skip in the script. There are 28 different symbols in the alphabet and four different ways to write each symbol depending on its place in the word. Consonants are written in different ways depending on where they appear in a word. An h is written differently at the beginning of a word than you would write it at the end of a word. However, one simple aspect of it is that the medial form is always the same as the initial form. You need to learn not only Arabic words but also the grammar into to read Arabic.

Pronouns attach themselves to roots, and there are many different verb conjugation paradigms which simply have to be memorized. For instance, if a verb has a و,  a ي, or a ء  in its root, you need to memorize the patters of the derivations, and that is a good chunk of the conjugations right there. The system for measuring quantities is extremely confusing. The grammar has many odd rules that seem senseless. Unfortunately, most rules have exceptions, and it seems that the exceptions are more common than the rules themselves. Many people, including native speakers, complain about Arabic grammar.

Arabic does have case, but the system is rather simple.

The laryngeals, uvulars and glottalized sounds are hard for many foreigners to make and nearly impossible for them to get right. The ha’(ح ), qa (ق ) and غ sounds and the glottal stop in initial position give a lot of learners headaches.

Arabic is at least as idiomatic as French or English, so it order to speak it right you have to learn all of the expressionistic nuances.

One of the worst problems with Arabic is the dialects, which in many cases are separate languages altogether. If you learn Arabic, you often have to learn one of the dialects along with classical Arabic. All Arabic speakers speak both an Arabic dialect and Classical Arabic.

In some Arabic as a foreign language classes, even after 1 1/2 years, not one student could yet make a complete and proper sentence that was not memorized.

Adding weight to the commonly held belief that Arabic is hard to learn is research done in Germany in 2005 which showed that Turkish children learn their language at age 2-3, German children at age 4-5, but Arabic kids did not get Arabic until age 12.

Arabic has complex verbal agreement with the subject, masculine and feminine gender in nouns and adjectives, head-initial syntax and a serious restriction to forming compounds. If you come from a language that has similar nature, Arabic may be easier for you than it is for so many others. Its 3 vowel system makes for easy vowels.

MSA Arabic is rated 5, extremely difficult.

Arabic dialects are often somewhat easier to learn than MSA Arabic. At least in Lebanese and Egyptian Arabic, the very difficult q’ sound has been turned into a hamza or glottal stop which is an easier sound to make. Compared to MSA Arabic, the dialectal words tend to be shorter and easier to pronounce.

To attain anywhere near native speaker competency in Egyptian Arabic, you probably need to live in Egypt for 10 years, but Arabic speakers say that few if any second language learners ever come close to native competency. There is a huge vocabulary, and most words have a wealth of possible meanings.

Egyptian Arabic is rated 4.5, extremely difficult.

Moroccan Arabic is said to be particularly difficult, with much vowel elision in triconsonantal stems. In addition, all dialectal Arabic is plagued by irrational writing systems.

Moroccan Arabic is rated 4.5, extremely difficult.

Maltese is a strange language, basically a Maghrebi Arabic language (similar to Moroccan or Tunisian Arabic) that has very heavy influence from non-Arabic tongues. It shares the problem of Gaelic that often words look one way and are pronounced another. It has the common Semitic problem of difficult plurals. Although many plurals use common plural endings (-i, -iet, -ijiet, -at), others simply form the plural by having their last vowel dropped or adding an s (English borrowing). There’s no pattern, and you simply have to memorize which ones act which way. Maltese permits the consonant cluster spt, which is surely hard to pronounce.

On the other hand, Maltese has quite a bit of IE loans from Italian, Sicilian, Spanish, French and increasingly English. If you have knowledge of Romance languages, Maltese is going to be easier than most Arabic dialects.

Maltese is rated 4, very difficult.

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Filed under Afroasiatic, Applied, Arabic, Hebrew, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Maltese, Semitic