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Fake Controversies, Fake Settled Questions, and Ideological Authoritarianism in Modern Linguistics, with an Emphasis on Mutual Intelligibility and the Dialect/Language Question

There is a lie going around that the dialect/language question is controversial in Linguistics. It really isn’t. Most linguists have a pretty good idea of where to draw the line. If you don’t believe me, study the internals of the Summer Institute of Linguistics change request forms for languages. The field is a lot more uniform on this question than the cranks think.

Hardly anyone thinks Valencian is a separate language. There were 5-10 experts writing in on Valencian and they were all in agreement.

Romagnolo and Emilian were split with zero controversy. All it took was a few authoritative statements by the experts in these varieties to settle the question.

In other words, the language dialect question is what is known as a fake controversy.

Really the only controversy about this question comes from nationalists and language activists.

Sadly, many linguists are nationalists, and their work has been poisoned by their ideology for a long time now. Some of the worst ones of all are in Europe.

Linguistics in the Balkans and Poland has been badly damaged by nationalist linguists for a long time, with no sign of things getting better.

Similar nonsense is going on in of all places ultra-PC Denmark and Sweden. Bornholmian and Southeast Jutnish should have been split from Danish long ago. In fact, Jutnish was split, but Danish nationalist linguists pathetically had it removed.

The many langues d’oil have never been listed and probably never will be. No doubt this is due to the state of Linguistics in ultra-nationalistic France. There are easily 10-15+ langues d’oil that could be split off.

Greek linguist nationalists have raised their ugly heads over splits in Macro-Greek.

Bulgarian Linguistics is all nationalist and has been lost in retardation forever now. No, Macedonian is not a Bulgarian dialect.

There have been some ugly and ridiculous fights in the Baltics especially with Estonian and Latvian, neither of which is a single language. I doubt that Estonian and Latvian linguists are comporting themselves well here given the fanatical nationalism that overwhelms both lands.

There are easily 350-400 language inside of Sinitic or Chinese according to the estimate of the ultimate Sinologist Jerry Norman. The real figure is clearly closer to 1,000-2,000 separate languages. Chinese nationalism is mandatory for anyone doing Sinitic linguistics. No one wants to bring down the wrath of the Chinese government by pulling the curtain on their big lie that Chinese is one language. I am amazed that SIL even split Chinese into 14 languages without getting deluged with death threats.

Arabic is clearly more than one language, and SIL now has it split into 35 languages.  This is one odd case where they may have erred by splitting too much. That’s probably too many, but no one can even do any work in this area, since Arabists and especially Arabic speakers keep insisting, often violently, that Arabic is a single language. Never mind that they routinely can’t understand each other. We have Syrians and Yemenis at my local store, and no, the Syrian Arabic speakers cannot understand hard Yemeni Arabic, sorry. Some of the Yemeni Arabic speakers have even whispered conspiratorially in my ear when the others were not around that speakers of different Yemeni Arabic varieties often cannot even understand each other, and that’s not even split by SIL. I have a feeling that the Arabic situation is more like Chinese than not.

A Swedish nationalist wiped out several well documented separate languages inside of Macro-Swedish simply by making a few dishonest change request forms. SIL pathetically fell for it.

Occitan language activists wiped out the very well-supported split of Occitan into six separate languages based on ideology. They are trying to resurrect Occitan, and they think this will only work if there is one Occitan language with many dialects under it. Splitting it up into six or more languages dooms the tongue. So this was a political argument masquerading as a linguistic one. SIL fell for it again. Pathetic.

No one has talked much about these matters in the field, but a man named Harold Hammerstrom has written some excellent notes about them. He also takes the language/dialect question very seriously and has proposed more scientific ways of doing the splitting.

SIL was recently granted the ability to give out new ISO codes for languages, and since then, SIL has become quite conservative, lumping varieties everywhere in sight. This is because lumping is always the easy way out, as conservatives love lumping in everything from Classification to Historical Linguistics, and the field has been taken over by radical conservatives for some time now. Splitters are kooks, clowns, and laughing stocks. One gets the impression that SIL is terrified to split off new tongues for fear of bad PR.

As noted above, the language/dialect question is not as controversial in the field as Net linguist cranks would have you believe. SIL simply decides whatever they decide, and all the linguists just shrug their shoulders and go back to Optimality Theory, threatening to kill each other over Indo-European reconstructions, scribbling barely readable SJW sociolinguistic blather, or whatever it is they are crunching their brains about.

SIL grants an ISO code or refuses to grant one, and that’s that. No ISO code, no language. The main problem is that they refuse to split many valid languages mostly out of PC fear of causing a furor. Most of the opposition to splitting off new languages comes from linguistic hacks and cranks who exist for the most part on the Internet.

Most real linguists don’t seem to care very much. I know this because I talk to real linguists all the time. When it comes to the dialect/language split, most of them find it mildly intriguing, but hardly anyone is set off. You tell them that some dialect has now been split off as a separate language or two languages have now been merged into one, and they just perk up their ears and say, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Sometimes they shrug their shoulders and say, “They (SIL) are saying this is a separate language now,” as if they really don’t care one way or another.

Linguists definitely get hot under the collar about some things, but not about the dialect/language question, which is regarded more as a quizzical oddity. Most linguists furthermore care nothing at all about the mutual intelligibility debate, which at any rate was resolved long ago by SIL way back in the 1950’s. See the influential book by Cassad written way back then for the final word on the science of mutual intelligibility. Some enterprising linguists are finally starting to take mutual intelligibility seriously, but even they are being much too wishy-washy and unsciency about it. A lot of very silly statements are made like “there is no good, hard scientific way to measure mutual intelligibility, so all figures are guesswork.”

There’s no need for these theoretical shields or hyper-hedging because no one cares. No one in the field other than a few nutcases and kooks on the Internet even gives two damns about this question in the first place. The mutual intelligibility question is actually much less controversial in the field that the linguist kook loudmouths on the Net would have you believe.

We have more important things to fight about, like Everett’s resurrecting of the hated Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis; Chomsky’s Universal Grammar (defended pathetically by the Old Guard and under attack by the Everett crowd who everyone hates); not to mention Altaic; and Joseph Greenberg’s poor, regularly pummeled ghost, along with mass comparison in general.

The field is full of many a silly and pretty lie. One for instance is that Linguistics rejected the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis long ago, and now it is regarded as a laughing stock. Actually that’s not true. Really a bunch of bullies got together and announced very arrogantly that Sapir-Whorf was crap, and then it become written in stone the way a lot of nonsense our field believes does.

If you go back over the papers that “proved” this matter, it turns out that they never proved one thing. They just said that they proved Sapir-Whorf was nonsense, and everyone fell for it or just got in line like they were supposed to.

Not to mention that Linguistics is like an 8th Grade playground.

Let’s put it this way. If you advocate for Sapir-Whorf in academia, I pray for your soul. You also damn well better have tenure.

I don’t know how anyone advocates for Altaic these days. I would never advocate for Altaic or any remotely controversial historical linguistics hypothesis without tenure.

The field is out for blood, and they burn heretics at the stake all the time. We’ve probably incinerated more wrong thinkers than the Inquisition by now.

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Did Liebnitz Discover Indo-European?

The language or dialect of the ancient Goths is very different from present-day Germanic, although it draws from the same source. Ancient Gaulish was even more different, to judge from its closest relative, which is Welsh, Cornish and Breton. But Irish is still more different and displays the traces of a very antique British, Gaulish and Germanic tongue.

However these languages all come from one source and can be considered to be alterations of one and the same language, which could be called Celtic. In the Antiquity, Germanic and Gaulish people were called Celts, and if one tries to understand the origins of Celtic, Latin and Greek, which have many roots in common with Germanic or Celtic languages, one may hypothesize that this is due to the common origin of all these peoples descended from the Scyths, who came from the Black Sea, crossed the Danube and the Vistula Rivers, of whom one part went to Greece, and the other formed Germanic and Gaulish people. This is a consequence of the hypothesis that Europeans came from Asia.” [original in French]

– Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, Nouveaux Essais sur l’entendement Humain, 1764.

Change a few things here and there, and you have Sir William Jones famous speech in Calcutta in 1876, 112 years after this was written.

More than anything else, I suppose this just goes to show us that most great theories have one or often more intellectual precursors.

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Sprung from Some Common Source

What is this famous quote taken from? The quote is from a famous speech. What is the speech? Who made the speech? When was the speech given (approximately)? Where was it given? What is the significance of this speech? Why is it so famous? What subfield of a popular Humanities field of studies was actually begun with this speech?

You don’t have to get all the answers right, but if you can tell us who made the speech, the approximate date and the significance of the speech that would be good enough.

That is actually all one sentence below. It seems like a run-on, but back in those days, people liked to write long twisting and turning sentences like that. I actually like the writing from this era a lot.

The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists: there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family, if this were the place for discussing any question concerning the antiquities of Persia.

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Last Word on Phoenicians, Phonetics, Etc.

It looks like we finally got the answer to whether Phoenician and phonetic, phonology, phone, phoneme, etc. are related – they are not, but both are from Greek words. Phonetic, phone, phonology, phoneme, etc. are derived from Greek Phonein, which means quite logically “to sound.” Phoenician, on the other hand, derives from a Greek word Phoenikoi for the people and region, derived from the word Phoenix which originally meant a particular conch shell that yielded a nice purple dye and later acquired the meaning via legend of a bird that rises from the ashes after it dies. I am not sure what the Phoenikoi were named after – perhaps the conch shell?

Anyway, the roots have no relationship to each other, but it was a nice hypothesis anyway. “Scientists” always like to chortle with ridicule at the notion of a “bad hypothesis” but I think in many cases, most hypotheses that seem prima facie reasonable are not bad hypotheses. Furthermore, I dislike the very notion of bad hypotheses as it smacks of the horrific arrogance all of the sciences engage in these days, even the ridiculous fake social “sciences” like my own pitiful specialty, Linguistics.

Miville writes:

Phonein (to sound) should first be sounded as the ancient Athenians did: not phoney-in, but pf-hone-een (or pf-honey-an as the Spartans did): the important thing is to try to sound out an f not with the teeth against the upper lip but with both lips as gently as to let off a beautiful soap bubble instead of ordinary spittle.

The Romans despite being the new lords on the block felt they were no match for Greece however decadent and derelict so they made that effort to sound the Greek ph the Greek way rather than like their own f, at least so as to spit gracefully down upon their own people, hence the spelling we inherited from them despite the fact no longer any Roman nor Greek knows any other sound than our own vulgar present f.

Phonein in Greek is written with an Omega, which was sounded Oh like in OMG in Athens and like Awe or (Golden) Dawn in Sparta. Phoenicia is derived, as regards the Greek language, from Phoenix, which was written with the false diphthong (original simple sound lacking a proper letter in the alphabet and therefore written two ones) oi which bore but little relationship whatever with either simple o or Omega and was rather sounded œ as in German Goethe or u as in turn depending on the city. Phonein meant to sound, phoenix rather derives from a word meaning a conch, the particular one whence came a very precious dark red dye, purpur or purple.

It also meant a legendary bird capable of rebirth after having passed through burnt offering. The legend was common (and still is in works such as the One and Thousand Nights) to all Near and Middle Eastern countries and the red color also pictured the Rising Sun, the Orient, hence the name given to the mariners stemming from the land of the rising sun also most renowned for its production of purple dye from the conch and for having given to Greece the alphabet.

The Phoenicians themselves called their own language and nationality Cana’an, so the name we use is a pure Greek creation, like the name Greek which is a Roman appellation for a people who call themselves Hellenes. The letters, of Phoenician origin, meant sounds, or phonemata.

The conch could also be used as a sounding horn, as is the symbol of the primeval creating divine vibration in many cultures, apart from the fact that in many languages a telephone receiver can be called a conch (Muschel in German). The proximate sounds, however, prove no common etymology, even though they are marvelous for poetry.

The early Roman soldiers when it came to name the same people that had settled Carthage did not make the effort their betters made when trying to pronounce Greek names and sounded Phoenikoi like Punici, simplifying the very peculiar Greek ph into p rather than into f. By regressive derivation they likened the word to their own poena, a punishment, and to the verb punire, but there is no common etymology.

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The Roots of the English Language

I was finally able to get a good breakdown of English language roots with the exact percentages. In a previous post I had only guessed at the figures.

According to a 1973 analysis of the shorter (but still 80,000 words) Oxford Dictionary:

28% of English words came from Latin
28% came from French (which is largely Latin)
25% came from elsewhere in the Germanic family
5% came from Greek.

Long story short, more than half of our words (56%) come from the Romance branch and one quarter of our words are more or less from German. Romance and German account for 81% of English words. If we add in the 5% Greek, fully 86% of English words (or almost all of them) come from Romance, German and Greek. Of course the Romance words are all borrowings and only the German words are truly genetically English.

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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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A Look at the Greek Language

From here.

A look at the Greek language from the POV of how hard it is for an English speaker to learn it. The truth is that Greek is a very hard language to learn, and Ancient Greek is probably one of the most Godawful languages on Earth to learn.

Hellenic

Greek is a difficult language to learn, and it’s rated the second hardest language to learn by language professors. It’s easy to learn to speak simply, but it’s quite hard to get it down like a native. It’s the rare second language learner who attains native competence. Like English, the spelling doesn’t seem to make sense, and you have to memorize many words. Further, there is the unusual alphabet. However, the orthography is quite rational, about as good as that of Spanish. Whether or not Greek is an irregular language is controversial. It has that reputation, but some say it is not as irregular as it seems.

Greek has four cases: nominative, accusative, genitive and vocative (used when addressing someone). There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. Nouns have several different declension patterns determined by the ending on the noun. Verb conjugations are about as complicated as in Romance. Greek does retain the odd aorist tense. Greek syntax is quite complicated.

Greek gets a 5 rating, extremely difficult to learn.

Classic or Ancient Greek is worse, with a distinction between aspirated and unaspirated consonants, a pitch accent system and a truly convoluted, insanely irregular system of noun and verb inflection. It has a dual number in addition singular and plural and it has a very difficult optative case. Irregular verbs have one of six different stem types. The grammar is one of the most complex of all languages and the phonology and morphology are truly convoluted.

Classic Greek gets a 5 rating, hardest of all.

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Check Out Siculo Gallo-Italic

These are fascinating Romance dialects spoken in Sicily. The are called the Gallo-Italic dialects of Sicily. Some of them are also found in other parts of Italy, mostly in the far south in Basilicata.

Gallo-Italic languages are spoken in far north of Italy and are so called because there is heavy French influence on these Italian varieties. They include Venetian, East and West Lombard, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Emilian and Romagnolo.

In the 1100’s and 1200’s, Sicily was ruled by Norman rulers from the north of France. They had conquered much of Italy, and were in control of parts of the north also. In order perhaps to consolidate their rule in Sicily, which they had just conquered, they sent some Norman soldiers to Sicily to help populate the region and set up Norman outposts there.

These were mostly soldiers from the southern Piedmont (Monferrate)  and Ligurian (Oltregiogo) regions of Italy and from the Provencal area in the south of France. There were also a few from the Lombard region and other parts of northern Italy. They went down there with their families and formed a number of settlements in Sicily and a few other places in Italy.

Over the next 800 years, their Gallo-Italic language came under heavy influence of varieties of Sicilian in Sicily, Basilicatan in Basilicata and other languages in other parts of Italy. Yet the heavy Gallo-Italic nature of their lects remains to this day and Sicilian speakers of surrounding villages find Gallo-Italic speakers impossible to understand.

The dialects have tended to die out somewhat in the past 100 years. Villagers were tired of speaking a language that could not be understood outside the village and increasingly shifted to the Sicilian language. A situation of bilingualism in Gallo-Italic and Sicilian developed. Over time, this became trilingualism as children learned Standard Italian in school. Gallo-Italic was used inside the village itself, and Sicilian was used for communication with outsiders.

Whether or not Gallo-Italic lects in different parts of Sicily can understand each other is not known, but they have all undergone independent paths of development over 800 years or so. The same is also an up in the air question about Basilicatan Gallo-Italic and Gallo-Italic settlements in other parts of the country. This is an interesting question in need of linguistic research.

In this 1 1/2 minute video, I am not sure if I understood a single word he said. The language he is speaking sounds like a mixture of Provencal Piedmontese with a heavy dose of Sicilian. Sicilian itself is so odd that a Sicilian speaker can barely be understood at all outside of Sicily. It has at least 250,000 words, 25% of which have no equivalent in Standard Italian. It underwent heavy French, Spanish and especially Greek and Arabic influences.

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The Proto-Hellenic Homeland

The proto-Greek homeland prior to 4000 YBP.

From Indo-European linguist V. I. Georgiev:

The Proto-Greek region included Epirus, approximately up to Αυλών in the north including Paravaia, Tymphaia, Athamania, Dolopia, Amphilochia, and Acarnania), west and north Thessaly (Hestiaiotis,, Perrhaibia, Tripolis, and Pieria), i.e. more or less the territory of contemporary northwestern Greece)

So prior to 4000 YBP, the proto-Greeks were already in Greece. When did they come there? Sometime between 4800 YBP and 4000 YBP. Who was already there? Probably some sort of non-Indo-European group that that existed in Greece prior to the Greeks. There are many non-IE words in the Greek language and placenames in Greece and the surrounding area.

These people are generally called Pelgasians, but no one quite knows who they were. A relationship with the Etruscans of Italy is possible. They may also have been a non-IE group from Anatolia or from the Caucasus. At any rate, the Greeks moved in over 4000 years ago and intermingled with the people already there, creating the Greek people who created Classical Greece 1,500 years later.

Where did the proto-Greeks come from? No one seems to know, but it’s generally thought that they came from somewhere to the north.

References

Georgiev, Vladimir Ivanov. 1981. Introduction to the History of the Indo-European Languages. Publishing House of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. pp. 156.

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Does Speaking Indic As a Native Language Help You Learn English?

Commenters are discussing this question. Mr. India first said that Indians speak English well because they speak an Indo-European language natively. First of all, it’s dubious whether most Indians speak an Indic language natively. Many speak Dravidian and Asiatic languages natively.

Wade: I doubt that the fact that both are Indo-European really matters a lot. I doubt learning Russian would be easy just because I speak English. The European countries don’t have a “native” English tradition implanted by colonialism like India does.Cyrus: Trust me when I say it does, Wade. It is more than just remembering words, but a way of thinking. For you to learn Russia would be simpler than if you tried to learn Chinese. Like wise, you could pick up Persian far easier than Turkish. I’ve seen that happen over and over again.

The problem is that the obvious cognates are few and far between. I know Indo-European studies pretty well, and I have been through a lot of the IE etymological dictionary (Pokorny). Indic is one of the most screwed up branches as far as cognates with English are concerned. Sure there are lots of cognates, but they look little or nothing like their English cognate words! Iranic is similar – there are almost no obvious cognates left that I’m aware of. The cognates are there, but they are badly mangled.

Slavic is bad too, but I think maybe not quite as bad as Indo-Iranian. Baltic is bad, maybe the same as Slavic or closer.

The closest to English are obviously Germanic and Italic, which obviously has lots of words in which cognates line up quite well with English words, though in many cases the only English word cognate anymore is a dead one from Old English or Middle English.

For some reason, Celtic is actually ok as far as English cognates, but a lot of them are pretty removed from the English word, and it’s a stretch to see how the Celtic looks like the English word. But it’s probably second after Italic – Germanic.

Greek is ok due to all the borrowings, but there’s not a lot there either, plus the alphabet is different, so that seems to ruin everything.

Albanian and Armenian are disasters. There’s virtually nothing left, and the few cognates typically look almost nothing like the English word.

I have known many speakers of Dravidian languages and many speakers of Indian Indic languages. The Dravidian speakers’ English is no better or worse than the Indic speakers’ English.

Speaking Indic as a native language seems to be little or no benefit in learning English as opposed to speaking Dravidian as a native language.

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