Category Archives: Celtic

Problems with Newly Created Standard Languages and Speakers of Traditional Varieties: Evidence from France In Occitan and Breton

Mountleek: And it’s quite problematic that there are five Breton languages. The official written version is probably quite alien to actual speakers. Then they don’t use the written form, and extinction will probably speed up. Or maybe not. It depends on how people speak among themselves. I wonder how much it is possible nowadays to maintain a spoken language through generations where the written language is different.

There is an official Breton. It may be used on radio and TV and whatnot. I have no idea if the traditional speakers understand it. Who knows? It would be nice to have a Breton koine.

The problem is that they have created some Neo-Breton that is being taught to the youngsters. Some young people are growing up to speak it quite well. The problem is that it is a fake language, and tragically the Neo-Breton speakers say they cannot understand the speakers of the traditional Breton languages and the traditional speakers say they cannot understand the Neo-Breton speakers either. I do believe that Breton will continue on until the end of the century though if only in the Neo-Breton form . A Breton koine is certainly needed if it does not already exist, but given the gap between traditional and new speakers, it seems a schism has already opened between the two groups.

A somewhat similar situation is developing with the creation of a new Neo-Occitan out of the ~20 Occitan languages and many more dialects. It isn’t a language that anyone ever spoke. There is some sort of problems regarding this Neo-Occitan but I am not sure what they are. The main thing is the traditional speakers are not giving up their native lects in favor of this new fake language.

Occitan also should last until the end of the century if only in the Neo-Occitan form. However, children are still being raised speaking Occitan, especially in the Occitan Valleys of Italy where entire villages speak the local lect which in most cases is actually a separate language. There are still many speakers of the traditional Occitan languages. Most are older, but there are quite a few speakers in their 30’s and 40’s in some areas. Aranese Occitan in Spain seems to be spoken by most everyone, but people worry that even it is in trouble.

A koine for Occitan would also be very nice, or they could just speak French, but that sort of defeats the notion of speaking Occitan in the first place.

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Filed under Celtic, Europe, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Italy, Language Families, Linguistics, Occitan, Regional, Romance, Sociolinguistics, Spain

Western Europe: What Native Languages Are Spoken in France?

Montleek: Robert, is it possible that in Western Europe, the regional lects have been preserved better, while in eastern Europe are preserved worse? There was communism/socialism in Eastern Europe, therefore more tendency not to continue speaking with regional lect.

In France, the regional lects are the langues d’ oil (still spoken, believe it or not!), Occitan, Breton, Alsatian, Franconian, Arpitan, and Flemish.

With Arpitan, Alsatian, Occitan and the langues d’oil, you can definitely get to the point of having a different lect in every major city if not every town in some cases.

There are a number of languages split through these regional lects. There are probably at least 10 full languages in the langues d’oil, ~20 in Occitan and Arpitan, five in Breton and more than one in Alsatian. The Flemish spoken in France is a separate language from that spoken in Belgium, hardly intelligible to a Belgian.

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Filed under Belgium, Celtic, Europe, France, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Moselle Franconian, Occitan, Regional, Romance

What Was the Worst Cultural Genocide Ever?

How about the Romanization of the Celtic World?

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Yes, all of that land was formerly controlled by the Celts. Even Southwest Poland was Celtic. There is an endangered language spoken there called Silesian that has at its very base a Celtic layer which is the oldest layer of this Slavic language. The French language was Celtic Gaulish, the influence of which can still be seen in the odd French phonology. I do not think there is much Celtic left in the Iberian languages, but I could be wrong on that. Surely there is little or no Celtic left in Turkish. One wonders about Celtic traces in Dutch, German and the rest of Slavic.

In our modern era, Celtic languages only (barely) survive in Ireland (Irish), Scotland (Scottish Gaelic), Wales (Welsh), the Isle of Man (Manx) and Cornwall (Cornish) in England, and Brittany (Breton) in France. In Eastern Europe, Celts were supplanted by Germanic, Iranian and Slavic tribes. In France, Iberia and the Balkans, the Celts were assimilated to the Roman Empire.

It is not particularly difficult to convert a native elite to the language of a conqueror, but converting an entire population to a new language in a short period of time is quite a feat. The Romans did this mostly by showing the superiority of the Latin language and convincing the natives to give up their Celtic words.

In fact, the Romanization of Dacia where the original Celtic speaking people were completely converted to Latin which then turned into Romanian is cited by Wikipedia as one of the worst cultural genocides ever.

Of course there are many other examples of cultural genocide, some of them ongoing.

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Linguistic/National Question

In what countries is the language spoken in the capital different from the language spoken by the majority of people in the rest of the country? As you can see, there is more than one country where this is the case.

Some cases from the past include

Austria-Hungary, where the capital Vienna spoke High German but most of the people spoke Czech, Slovak, Venetian, Slovenian, or Serbo-Croatian.

In Ireland, before English became popular in the early 1800’s, most people around the capital spoke English, while the majority of the population spoke Irish.

I found nine countries, two in Europe, two in Southeast Asia, two in South Asia, one in Oceania, one in the Caribbean, and one in Africa.

Hop to it!

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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 Celtic Languages

From here.

A look at the Celtic languages from the point of view of how hard they are to learn for an English speaker.

Insular Celtic
Goidelic

The verbal system in Old Irish is one of most complicated of all of the classical languages.

Irish students take Irish for 13 years, and some take French for five years. These students typically know French better than Irish. There are inflections for the inflections of the inflections, a convoluted aspiration system, and no words for yes or no. The system of initial consonant mutation is quite baffling. Noun declension is mystifying. Irish has irregular nouns, but there are not many of them –

the womanan bhean
the women
na mná

and there are only about 10 irregular verbs. There are dozens of different declension types for verbs. The various phonological gradations, lenitions and eclipses are not particularly regular. There are “slender” and “broad” variants of many of the consonants, and it is hard to tell the difference between them when you hear them. Many learners find the slender/broad consonants the hardest part of Irish.

Irish and Old Irish get 4.5 ratings, extremely difficult.

Both Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are written with non-phonetic spelling that is even more convoluted and irrational than English. This archaic spelling is in drastic need of revision, and it makes learners not want to learn the language. For instance, in Scots Gaelic, the word for taxi is tacsaidh, although the word is pronounced the same as the English word. There are simply too many unnecessary letters for too few sounds. Of the two, Scots Gaelic is harder due to many silent consonants.

Irish actually has rules for its convoluted spelling, and once you figure out the rules, it is fairly straightforward as it is quite regular and it is actually rational in its own way. In addition, Irish recently underwent a spelling reform. The Irish spelling system does make sense in an odd way, as it marks things such as palatalization and velarization.

Scottish Gaelic and Manx have gone a long time with no spelling reforms.

Scottish Gaelic gets a 4.5 ratings, extremely difficult.

Manx is probably the worst Gaelic language of all in terms of its spelling since it has Gaelic spelling yet uses an orthography based on English which results in a crazy mix.

Manx gets a 4.5 ratings, extremely difficult.

Common Byrthonic

Welsh is also very hard to learn, although Welsh has no case compared to Irish’s two cases. And Welsh has a mere five irregular verbs. The Byrthonic languages like Welsh and Breton are easier to learn than Gaelic languages like Irish and Scots Gaelic. One reason is because Welsh is written with a logical, phonetic alphabet. Welsh is also simpler grammar-wise, but things like initial consonant mutations can still seem pretty confusing and are difficult for the non-Celtic speaker to master and understand. Verbal declension is irregular.

caraf   I love
carwn   we love

cerais  I loved
carasom we loved

The problem above is that one cannot find any morpheme that means 1st person, 3rd person, or past tense in the examples. Even car- itself can change, and in connected speech often surfaces as gar-/ger-. And carwn can mean I was loving (imperfect) in addition to we love. There are no rules here, and you simply have to memorize the different forms.

Welsh and Breton get a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

Breton is about in the same ballpark as Welsh. It has a flexible grammar, a logical orthography and only four irregular verbs.

On the other hand, there are very few language learning materials, and most of those available are only written in French.

Breton gets a 4 rating, very hard to learn.

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Somerset English

Here.

The Somerset English dialect.

I am sorry, but this is some of the most messed up English I have ever heard in my life. I could barely make out a single word this fellow is saying. Speaker is an elderly man, about 80 years old, from Somerset County in southwest England. This area is south of Wales and east of Cornwall in a region called Exmoor. It is heavily forested with rolling  hills. This is a rural area where homes are spaced far apart. Sheep grazing is a common industry.

This man’s speech was probably typical of the region 80 years ago, in the 1920’s. Nowadays few young people speak like this anymore, as most have adopted the more popular London dialect.

It is said that this accent is similar to that spoken by early immigrants to America from the Mayflower era to 50 years later, who came disproportionately from southwestern England for some reason. Why? Easy access to the coast from which to sail ships? There is a town in Virgina called Tangier that retains a Restoration Era English accent to this very day. It was settled in 1670 by English form the southwest of England near where this Somerset dialect is spoken.

The entire accent in this region is known globally by the term “West Country dialect.” It encompasses most of southwest England over to Cornwall, east to Bristol or so and then southeast at least to Bournemouth on the coast. It is quite a strong accent, and it is rather unique.

I am not sure what this even sounds like. It might sound a bit like Scottish or possibly like Scouse from Liverpool. It is possible that Middle or even Old English sounded something like this. A commenter from Ireland said that it sounds something like Irish Gaelic for some odd reason. Why would an English accent sound like Gaelic? Because of the nearby influence of Welsh perhaps?

But honestly I felt that it sounded more like German, or better yet, Frisian, than anything else. There is a dialect of Danish, actually a separate language, called Jutish spoken in the far south of Denmark that sounds something like Scots and possibly like this dialect. Danes report that Jutish, at least the hard form spoken by people middle aged and older, is not intelligible with Standard Danish. However, Jutish or Synnejysk is further from Standard Danish than Danish is Swedish. If this is true, then Jutish is surely a separate language.

As Old English came from the Frisian (especially North Frisian) region of far northern Germany and far southern Denmark, it makes sense that these lects would resemble each other. Recall that three tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, were the ones who invaded England, conquering it from decaying Roman rule. Old Saxon pretty much went to Frisian, especially West Frisian. The language of the Jutes is maintained today by the Jutish speakers.

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An Excerpt From the “Memoirs of Hadrian” by Marguerite Yourcenar

Repost from the old site.

For this post I am going to post a bit from a delightful book I just came across called The Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar, a French novelist. It was translated from French to English in the 1950’s and 60’s by her lesbian live-in partner, Grace Frick. The English translation was published in 1963. Frick’s translation was widely praised.

This is a psychological and historical novel, not an actual memoir, and perhaps that is why it sounds so contemporary. This choice novel, a best seller in France 50 years ago, is just as contemporary as if it had been written yesterday. A film adaptation by John Boorman is due to start shooting in Italy in Spring 2006.

No matter how long ago they lived, the Romans were so much more like us than we ever want to believe. The fictional voice of Hadrian, the third of the five so-called “good Roman emperors”, so eloquent, learned and wise, could be that of a high-ranking military or political official in 2006.

I will intersperse this bit of treasure with my comments, which will be in bold. My comments will often try to relate this ancient events to contemporary events, to show how history lives within all of us, as we are all products of the past and molders of the future, and how thereby the past, present and future tend to merge via human agency, culture, genetics and tradition.

We are where we are and we do what we do in part because of history, whether we like it or not. And what we are and do now creates the future, whether we like that or not.

Hence, as Kurt Vonnegut notes in one of his books, referring to a obscure science fiction short story (I think, The Music of the Spheres by Stuart J. Byrne, but I may be wrong), the past, present and future are all simultaneously occurring right at this very moment.

But I digress…

This section refers to the Simon Bar Kokhba Rebellion (otherwise known as either the Second or Third Roman-Jewish War) amongst the Jews which took place in the Roman colonial province of Judaea (now Israel or Palestine) from 132-135 AD. There is also a passing reference to Jewish heroine Esther and the Jewish holiday of Purim, the celebration of which just passed us by.

Since this blog frequently discusses Israel, Jews, Palestine and the conflict in that region, and a recent post discussed Purim, I figure this excerpt has contemporary relevance, if only to replay the skipping record called “History repeats itself”.

Perhaps the word Judaean is more appropriate than the word Jewish in this context, since the Jewish religion at that time was quite different, in my opinion, despite what Zionist propaganda tells us, from modern rabbinical Judaism. Hence, I will use Judaean instead of Jew when describing this war. This is also a dig at Jewish primordialist volkisch Zionism, which I oppose).

Judaea was still majority-Judaean at this time, even after the failed First Judaean Revolt and the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem around 65 years prior that left around 950,000 Judaeans dead and many others sold into slavery.

Though this blog supports most anti-colonial rebellions as a general rule, it is interesting to see the Bar Kokhba Revolt through the eyes of a secular Roman. Hadrian felt the Judaeans were fanatics, and clearly they were.

Many Romans also felt that the Christians of that time were also fanatics, and in fact many of them were also. In the Romans’ eyes, all the Romans asked was for the Christians to swear allegiance to Rome and pay their Roman taxes, and the Christians refused to do either, especially the swearing allegiance part. Instead, they preferred to kill themselves.

The Romans thought these suicides were the acts of an insane religious fanatical death cult, in the same way that many of us nowadays feel that Muslim suicide bombers are part of a crazy fanatical religious death cult.

Many Romans were secular, believe it or not, especially the educated ones. They had their Roman gods, of course, but many Romans, especially the ruling classes, didn’t really believe in their own gods very much.

In 130, Hadrian visited the devastated city of Jerusalem, which had still not been rebuilt after the Romans laid it to ruins some 70 years prior. Hadrian felt sorry for the Judaeans and promised to rebuild the city.

But the Judaeans became angry when word got out that Hadrian was going to rebuild the city as a pagan metropolis instead of a Judaean holy city and that he was going to rebuild the Judaeans’ Second Temple as a pagan temple to the Roman god Jupiter. The new city was to be named Aelina Capitolina. The Judaeans regarded the excavation of the Temple to rebuild it as a pagan monument as a religious transgression.

In 131, Hadrian added insult to injury by banning circumcision, which the Judaeans practiced as an essential part of their religion. Hadrian viewed circumcision as primitive, barbaric, body mutilation.

The Jewish wise man Akiva convinced the Judaean religious leadership of the Sanhedrin to rebel against the Romans. A military hero named Simon Bar Kokhba was chosen to be the leader. The name means sun of a star in Aramaic. It is interesting that the Judaeans at that time were speaking Aramaic, not the Hebrew of primordialist Zionist fantasy.

Simon Bar Kokhba was also designated the Judaean Messiah. This designation deeply offended many Christians (who were still mostly converted Jews at this time) since they felt that Christ was the real Messiah. Consequently the Christians would not support the rebellion.

In 132, the rebellion began, and the Judaeans had learned from the two previous rebellions and fought well. The Romans were routed, and for 2 1/2 years a Judaean state called The Era of the Redemption of Israel was formed. Bar Kokhba designated himself Nasi Israel, or ruler of Israel.

The crazy, endless procession of animal sacrifice at the Judaean Temple was restarted, which, in my opinion, is an example of one of the most primitive forms of ethnoreligious barbarism known to mankind (Sorry, Jewish readers!).

From morning to evening, the line of Judaeans with animals to sacrifice would snake away from the Temple and the blood of the slaughtered beasts ran red like a river away from the building!

The Romans gathered up a huge army and fought for three years. In 135, Bar Kokhba was driven to a redoubt at Betar. The fortress of Betar was then overwhelmed and the Judaeans were defeated. 580,000 Judaeans lay dead.

Much later, the name Betar was adopted in the 1920’s by a Jewish proto-fascist organization in the Jabotinskyist tradition. In my opinion, the recrudescence of the Betar decades later became the Kach or Kahane Movement, although the original Betar Movement apparently still exists at a much reduced level, since I visited their website not long ago.

However, just to demonstrate the proto-fascist roots of the Israeli Likud party, let us note that current and former Israeli Likud leaders such as former Prime Ministers Yitzak Shamir and Menachem Begin, current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and former Defense Minister Moshe Arens are all former members of Betar.

The fact that the US media fawned and fawns over such crypto-fascist characters is profoundly disturbing and makes one question the extent to which our media believes in democracy, if such folks are regarded as role models.

Hadrian tried to wipe out the Judaean religion, which he felt was the source of repeated rebellions. He banned the Judaean calendar and Torah Law and had many Judaean scholars executed. He built Roman statues on the ruins of the Temple and burned the Judaeans’ sacred scroll.

Jewish scholarship moved to Babylonia (Iraq) where the Babylonian Talmud was written hundred of years later, from 400-700, laying the foundation for modern rabbinical Judaism. Judaism started to reject radicalism and messianism and became more cautious and conservative. This can be seen in the Talmud’s reference to Bar Kokhba as Ben-Kusiba, which means false prophet.

As the final insult, he renamed Judaea to Syria Palaestina, after the Judaeans’ ancient, now-extinct enemies, the Philistines. This is one silly reason that Jewish Zionists find the geographical term Palestine so infuriating and illegitimate. Do Zionists really get livid about events 1,870 years ago? Zionists do.

It is interesting that hysterical, racist Jewish Zionist promoters of settler-colonialism in Palestine may be entirely wrong about the name Palestine coming from the Roman renaming of Jerusalem as Syria Palaestina, even if ultimately the dispute is just more Zionist verbal subterfuge and sophistry.

For instance, in the 1100’s BC, Egyptians refer to the inhabitants of Palestine as “Peleset” or “sea-people” because around this time, there was a lot of settlement going on in Palestine via Mediterranean seafaring trade merchants. The Akkadian language from the same period refers to the Southern Syrian region as Palashtu.

In fact, most Egyptian and Akkadian references to the region, even during the Judaean period, refer to it as Peleset (Egyptian also refers to it as Deyen, probably a reference to Danaos of myth) or Palashtu, and less commonly as Israel.

Judaeans only started showing up in Palestine en masse around 900 BC. But according to crazy Zionist ethnonationalist volkisch liars, only the Jews have always been there! Go figure!

Following Hadrian’s order, Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina, turned into a Roman pagan city, and Judaeans were forbidden from entering the city. Most modern Jews regard the uprising as a horrible tragedy, and certainly many Judaeans lost their lives.

But at the time, Bar Kokhba was widely regarded as a religious fanatic akin to the way many of us see Osama bin Laden or Pat Robertson, even by many of his own people. As you can see in the text, most Jews outside of Judaea were not much interested in the rebellion, which they tended to view as fanatical and not in their interests.

This text shows another side to the Bar Kokhba rebellion, cleansed of its Zionist primordialist whitewashing, exemplified by Jabotinsky’s proto-fascist Betar above and David Ben-Gurion (the father of Israel) taking his name from one of Bar Kokhba’s generals.

This text comes to me via a friend who got it from a mailing list he is on. He reports that a “cultured Arab” typed the text below out from the novel and sent it to the list. We thank this Arab, whoever he may be, for this bit of manna from heaven.

Now – On to the Romans and the Israelites!

Memoirs of Hadrian

By Marguerite Yourcenar

Translated from the French, New York,1954-1963

Excerpts from pages 233-249 for the years 132-135 AD:

…Jewish affairs were going from bad to worse. The work of construction was continuing in Jerusalem, in spite of the violent opposition of Zealot groups.

[RL: The construction referred to is Hadrian’s rebuilding Jerusalem as Aelina Capitolina, a Roman pagan city with a Roman pagan temple built in place of the destroyed Judaean temple. The violent opposition described is that of Judaeans who regarded the construction as a sin.]

A certain number of errors has been committed, not irreparable in themselves but immediately seized upon by fomenters of trouble for their own advantage.

The Tenth Legion Fretensis has a wild boar for its emblem; when its standard was placed at the city gates, as is the custom, the populace, unused to painted or sculptured images (deprived as they have been for centuries by superstition highly unfavorable to the progress of the arts),

[RL: Note that Hadrian regarded the Judaeans as uncivilized, backwards, fanatical barbarians, a view shared by many Romans.]

…mistook that symbol for a swine, the meat of which is forbidden them, and read into that insignificant affair an affront to the customs of Israel.

The festivals of the Jewish New Year, celebrated with a din of trumpets and ram’s horns, give rise every year to brawling and bloodshed; our authorities accordingly forbade the public reading of a certain legendary account devoted to the exploits of a Jewish heroine (Easther) who was said to have become, under an assumed name, the concubine of a king…

…of Persia (Iran), and to have instigated a savage massacre of the enemies of her despised and persecuted race. The rabbis managed to read at night what the governor Tineus Rufus forbade them to read by day; that barbarous story, wherein Persians and Jews rivaled each other in atrocities, roused the nationalistic fervor of the Zealots to frenzy (a feast of Purim).

[RL: Note the Roman view of Purim as a barbaric spectacle of bloodthirsty revenge, a view that, unfortunately, I share. Are the Jews to celebrate this blood-soaked festival, which promotes the notion that Jews and non-Jews are locked in eternal conflict until the end of time, forever? If so, what are the chances of reconciliation between Jews and non-Jews? Zero?]

Finally, this same Tineus Rufus, a man of good judgment in other respects and not uninterested in Israel’s traditions and fables, decided to extend to the Jewish practice of circumcision the same severe penalties of the law which I had recently promulgated against castration (and which was aimed especially at cruelties perpetrated upon young slaves for the sake of exorbitant gain or debauch).

[RL: Note that the Romans put circumcision on a par with castration! I certainly do not agree, being circumcised myself. I regard anti-circumcision activists as ill-advised kooks, and the whole movement has a wide streak of anti-Semitism running through it.

If you are interested in the subject, just search Google and discover all sorts of web pages devoted to the “horrors of circumcision”.]

He hoped thus to obliterate one of the marks whereby Israel claims to distinguish itself from the rest of human kind.

I took the less notice of the danger of that measure, when I received word of it, in that many wealthy and enlightened Jews whom one meets in Alexandria (Egypt) and in Rome have ceased to submit their children to a practice which makes them ridiculous in the public baths and gymnasiums and they even arrange to conceal the evidence on themselves.

I was unaware of the extent to which these banker collectors of myrrhine vases differed from the true Israel. As I said, nothing in all that was beyond repair, but the hatred, the mutual contempt, and the rancor were so.

In principle, Judaism has its place among the religions of the empire; in practice, Israel has refused for centuries to be one people among many others, with one god among the gods.

The most primitive Dacians (Bulgarians) know that their Zalmoxis is called Jupiter in Rome; the Phoenician Baal of Mount Casius has been readily identified with the Father who holds Victory in his hands, and whom Wisdom is born; the Egyptians, though so proud of their myths some thousands of years old, are willing to see in Osiris a Bacchus with funeral attributes; harsh Mithra admits himself brother of Apollo.

No people but Israel has the arrogance to confine truth wholly within the narrow limits of a single conception of divine, thereby insulting the manifold nature of Deity, who contains all; no other god has inspired his worshipers with disdain and hatred for those who pray at different altars.

[RL: Here Hadrian hints at an age-old clue to the riddle of anti-Semitism – the chauvinism of the Jews. How did the Jews persevere as a minority for 2000 years amidst frequent oppression? It’s the racism, stupid!

How about by preaching racist hatred against all non-Jews, banning most contact with Gentiles other than for business, and even building ghettos for themselves to keep their people from mingling with Gentiles?

How about by saying prayers throughout the day, every day, cursing the Gentiles in every way and wishing for their destruction, and instituting vicious penalties for Jewish women who had sex with Gentile men (like having their noses chopped off)?

Note that as late as 1800, any observant European Jew would refuse to eat or even have tea with any Gentile as a matter of custom. While this sort of behavior is a smart ethnocentric way of ensuring continuity of your race as a minority, it didn’t exactly help the Jews to win friends and influence people, and to the extent it yet exists, it still doesn’t.

Jewish separation and chauvinism is and was one of the major contributors to anti-Semitism, despite dishonest denials by Jewish scholars who specialize in and propagandize the mystification of anti-Semitism.]

I was only the more anxious to make Jerusalem a city like others, where several races and several beliefs could live in peace; but I was wrong to forget that in any combat between fanaticism and common sense the latter has rarely the upper hand.

[RL: Note here that Hadrian comes across as some sort of a Second Century universalist and multiculturalist!]

The clergy of the ancient city were scandalized by the opening of schools where Greek literature was taught; the rabbi Joshua, a pleasant, learned man with whom I had frequently conversed in Athens…

…but who was trying to excuse himself to his people for his foreign culture and his relations with us, now ordered his disciples not to take up such profane studies unless they could find an hour which was neither day or night…

[RL: Note again the ferocious condemnation by the Judaeans of those Judaeans who had extensive contact with Gentiles and the refusal of the Judaeans to assimilate to larger society in the tiniest way by studying Greek, which they regarded as a sin.]

…since Jewish law must be studied night and day. Ismael, an important member of the Sanhedrin, who supposedly adhered to the side of Rome, let his nephew Ben-Dama die rather than accept the services the Greek surgeon sent to him by Tineus Rufus.

[RL: Wow! Talk about fanaticism! No wonder the Romans were appalled by the Judaeans. The guy let his Judaean son die rather than have a “contaminated” and “unclean” Gentile doctor profane him by operating on his body!]

While here in Tibur means were still being sought to conciliate differences without appearing to yield to demands of fanatics, affairs in the East took a turn for the worse; a Zealot revolt triumphed in Jerusalem. An adventurer born of the very dregs of the people, a fellow named Simon who entitled himself Bar-Kokhba, Son of the Star, played the part of firebrand or incendiary mirror in that revolt.

I could judge this Simon only by hearsay; I have seen him but once face-to-face, the day a centurion brought me his severed head. Yet I am disposed to grant him that degree of genius which must always be present in one who rises so fast and so high in human affairs; such ascendancy is not gained without at least some crude skill.

The Jews of the moderate party were the first to accuse this supposed Son of the Star of deceit and imposture; I believe rather that this untrained mind was of the type which was taken in by its own lies, and that guile in his case went hand with fanaticism.

He paraded as the hero whom the Jewish people had awaited for centuries in order to gratify their ambitions and their hate; this demagogue proclaimed himself Messiah and King of Israel.

The aged Akiba, in a foolish state of exaltation, led the adventurer through the streets of Jerusalem, holding his horse by the bridle; the high priest Eleazar rededicated the temple, said to be defiled from the time that uncircumcised visitors had crossed its threshold.

[RL: Note again the Judaean association of Gentiles with uncleanness, contamination and profaneness. Gypsies also have this view of non-Gypsies, and similarly, they have also played the role of European minority from the East locked into endless conflict with non-Gypsies, as the European Jews from the East were locked into endless conflict with Gentiles].

Stacks of arms hidden underground for nearly twenty years were distributed to the rebels by agents of the Son of the Star; they also had recourse to weapons formerly rejected for our ordnance as defective (and purposely constructed thus by Jewish workers in our arsenals over a period of years).

Zealot groups attacked isolated Roman garrisons and massacred our soldiers with refinements of cruelty that recalled the worst memories of the Jewish revolt under Trajan; Jerusalem finally fell wholly into the hands of the insurgents, and the new quarters of Aelia Capitolina were set burning like a torch.

The first detachments of the Twenty-Second Legion Deiotariana, sent from Egypt with utmost speed under the command of the legate of Syria, Publius Marcellus, were routed by bands ten times their number. The revolt had become war, and war to the bitter end.

Two legions, the Twelfth Fulminata and the Sixth Ferrata, came immediately to reinforce the troops already stationed in Judea; some months later, Julius Severus took charge of the military operations. He had formerly pacified the mountainous regions of Northern Britain…

[RL: This is a reference to the last holdouts of the Celtic Empire, (in this case, Scotland) which once stretched across Europe from one end to the other, already at this time largely destroyed and scattered by Roman conquest.

The most recalcitrant of the Celts were in the far western edges of Europe, in the least habitable and most difficult-to-pacify areas, where to this day, the last holdouts of the Celtic languages Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Breton, and Welsh fight for survival and the Cornish and Manx languages rise from the dead.]

…and brought with him some small contingents of British auxiliaries accustomed to fighting on difficult terrain.

Our heavily equipped troops and our officers trained to the square or the phalanx formation of pitched battles were hard put to it to adapt themselves to that war of skirmishes and surprise attacks which, even in open country, retained the techniques of street fighting.

Simon, a great man in his way, had divided his followers into hundreds of squadrons posted on mountain ridges or placed in ambush in caverns and abandoned quarries, or even hidden in houses of the teeming suburbs of the cities. Severus was quick to grasp that such an elusive enemy could be exterminated, but not conquered; he resigned himself to a war of attrition.

The peasants, fired by Simon’s enthusiasm, or terrorized by him, made common cause with the Zealots from the start; each rock became a bastion, each vineyard a trench; each tiny farm had to be starved out, or taken by assault. Jerusalem was not recaptured until the third year, when last efforts to negotiate proved futile; what little of the Jewish city had been spared by the destruction under Titus was now wiped out.

Severus closed his eyes for a long time, voluntarily, to the flagrant complicity of the other large cities (which) now become the last fortresses of the enemy; they were later attacked and reconquered in their turn, street by street and ruin by ruin. In those times of trial my place was with the army, and in Judea….

In the spring of the third year of campaign the army laid siege to the citadel of Bethar, an eagle’s nest where Simon and his partisans held out for nearly a year against the slow tortures of hunger, thirst, and despair, and where the Son of the Star saw his followers perish one by one but still would not surrender.

Our army suffered almost as much as the rebels, for the latter, on retiring, had burned the forests, laid waste the fields, slaughtered the cattle, and polluted the wells by throwing our dead therein; these methods from savage times were hideous in a land naturally arid and already consumed to the bone by centuries of folly and fury.

The summer was hot and unhealthy; fever and dysentery decimated our troops, but an admirable discipline continued to rule in those legions, forced to inaction and yet obliged to be constantly on the alert; though sick and harassed, they were sustained by a kind of silent rage in which I, too, began to share….

In my dispatches to the Senate I suppressed the formula that is regulation for the opening of official communications: THE EMPEROR AND THE ARMY ARE WELL. The emperor and the army were, on the contrary, dangerously weary.

[RL: The leaders of Roman military campaigns, by tradition, began their missives and return speeches to the Roman Senate with the phrase, “The army and I are well.” In this case, Hadrian left out this characteristic phrase. The fact that he did not say it is attested widely by historians, making it one of the most famous aspects of the Bar Kokhba Revolt.]

At night, after the last conversation with Severus, the last audience with fugitives from the enemy side, the last courier from Rome, the last message from Publius Marcellius or from Rufus, whose receptive tasks were to wipe up outside Jerusalem and to reorganize Gaza, Euphorion would measure my bath water sparingly into a tub of tarred canvas; I would lie down on my bed and try to think.

There is no denying it; that war in Judaea was one of my defeats. The crimes of Simon and the madness of Akiba were not of my making; but I reproached myself for having been blind in Jerusalem, heedless in Alexandria, impatient in Rome.

[RL: Hadrian traveled widely.]

I had not known how to find words that would have prevented, or at least retarded, this outburst of fury in a nation; I had not known in time how to be either supple enough or sufficiently firm.

Surely we had no reason to be unduly disturbed, and still less need to despair, the blunder and the reversal had occurred only in our relations with Israel; everywhere else at this critical hour we were reaping the reward of sixteen years of generosity in the Orient.

Simon had supposed that he could count on a revolt in the Arab world similar to the uprising that had darkened the last years of Trajan’s reign; even more, he had ventured to bank on Parthian (Persian) aid.

He was mistaken, and that error in calculation was causing him slow death in the besieged citadel of Bethar: the Arab tribes were drawing apart from the Jewish communities; the Parthians remained faithful to the treaties.

The synagogues of the great Syrian cities proved undecided or lukewarm, the most ardent among them contenting themselves with sending money in secret to the Zealots; the Jewish population in Alexandria, though naturally so turbulent, remained calm; the abscess in Jewish affairs remained local, confined within the arid region which extends from Jordan to the sea; this ailing finger could safely be cauterized, or amputated.

And nevertheless, in a sense, the evil days which had immediately preceded my reign seemed to begin over again….The evening courier had just informed me that we had reestablished ourselves on the heap of tumbled stones which I called Aelia Capitolina and which the Jews still called Jerusalem; we had burned the Ascalon, and had been forced to mass executions of rebels in Gaza.

[RL: The Ascalon was the Judaeans’ sacred scroll.]

If sixteen years of rule by a prince so pacifically inclined were to culminate in the Palestine campaign, then the chances for peace in the world looked dim ahead. I raised myself on my elbow, uneasy on the narrow camp bed.

To be sure, there were some Jews who had escaped the Zealot contagion: even in Jerusalem the Pharisees spat on the ground before Akiba, treating that fanatic like an old fool who threw to the wind the solid advantages of the Roman peace, and shouting to him that grass would grow from his mouth before Israel’s victory would be seen on this earth.

But I preferred even false prophets to those lovers of order at all cost who, though despising us, counted on us to protect them from Simon’s demands upon their gold (placed for safety with Syrian bankers), and upon their farms in Galilee.

I thought of the deserters from his camp who, a few hours back, had been sitting in my tent, humble, conciliatory, servile, but always managing to turn their back to the image of my Genius.

Our best agent, Elias Ben-Abayad, who played the role of informer and spy for Rome, was justly despised by both camps; he was nevertheless the most intelligent man in the group, a liberal mind but a man sick at heart, torn between love for his people and his liking for us and for our culture; he too, however, thought essentially only of Israel.

Joshua Ben-Kisma, who preached appeasement, was but more timid, or more hypocritical (than) Akiba. Even in the rabbi Joshua, who had long been my counselor in Jewish affairs, I had felt irreconcilable differences under that compliance and desire to please, a point where two opposite kinds of thinking meet only to engage in combat.

[RL: We see here the ancient complaint against the Jews of “dual loyalty”, which obviously is and was often based on verifiable fact (much more so in the past than today).

The Jews have been ferociously ethnocentric for centuries, to the point of seeing non-Jews as agents of contagion and contamination, and even banning Jews from the tiniest non-business relations with Gentiles.

That this mindset would make most Jews (at least until around 1800 or so, and in some places and/or during certain times afterwards) more loyal to the tribe than to whatever despised state they were minority residents in at the time seems as clear as air.]

Our territories extended over hundreds of leagues and thousands of stadia beyond that dry, hilly horizon, but the rock of Bethar was our frontier; we could level to dust the massive walls of that citadel where Simon in his frenzy was consummating his suicide, but we could not prevent that race from answering us…

I raised my head and moved slightly in order to limber myself. From the top of Simon’s citadel, vague gleams reddened the sky, unexplained manifestations of the nocturnal life of the enemy. The wind was blowing from Egypt; a whirl of dust passed like a specter; the flattened rims of the hills reminded me of the Arabic range of moonlight.

I went slowly back, drawing a fold of my cloak over my mouth, provoked with myself for having devoted to hollow meditations upon the future a night which I could have employed to prepare the work of the next day, or to sleep.

The collapse of Rome, if it were to come about, will concern my successors; in that eight hundred and forty-seventh year of the Roman era my task consisted of stifling the revolt in Judea and bringing back from the Orient, without too great loss, an ailing army. In crossing the (camp’s) esplanade I slipped at times on the blood of some rebels executed the evening before.

I lay down on my bed without undressing, to be awakened two hours later by the trumpets at dawn.

End of the excerpt.

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How To Divide Languages from Dialects – Structure or Intelligibility?

There are many ways of dividing languages from dialects. The three general methods are:

1. Historical

2. Structural

3. Intelligibility

The traditional method has tended to utilize structural and sometimes historical, but intelligibility is also often used. For an example of historical, let us look at some lects in France and Spain.

The various “patois” of French, incorrectly called dialects of French, are more properly called the langues d’oil. It is often said that they are not dialtects of French for historical reasons. Each of the major langues d’oil, instead of breaking off from French Proper (really the Parisien langue d’oil) had a separate genesis.

This is what happened. France was originally Celtic speaking. Around 700-800, the Celtic languages began being replaced by vulgar Latin. People didn’t travel around in those days, so a separate form of vulgar Latin + Celtic evolved in each region of France: Gallo and Angevin in the northwest, Poitevin and Saintongeais in the west, Norman and Picard in the north, Champenois, Franche-Compte and Lorrain in the east, Berrichon, Tourangeau and Orleanais in the center. None of these split off from French (Parisien)!

Each one of them evolved independently straight up from vulgar Latin on top of  a Celtic base in their region from 700-1200 or so. The distance between the langues d’oil and French is almost as deep as between English and Frisian.

After French was made the official language of France in 1539, the langues d’oil came under French influence, but that was just borrowing, not genetics.

In addition, in Spain, there are various languages that are not historically related to Spanish. Aragonese is straight up from vulgar Latin on a Basque base, later influenced by Mozarabic. Catalan started evolving around 700 or so. Murcian evolved from vulgar Latin later influenced by Mozarabic, Catalan and Aragonese. Extremaduran, Leonese and Asturian also broke off very early. None of these are historically Spanish dialects because none of them broke away from Spanish!

Of course it follows that langues d’oil, Catalan and Aragonese, evolving independently of French and Spanish from 700-1200 to present, will have deep structural differences between themselves and French and Spanish.

So you can see that the historical way of splitting languages ties in well with the structural method. Where languages have a deep historical split and a millenia or so of independent development, it follows logically that some deep structural differences would have evolved in a thousand years or so. So these two methods are really wrapping around each other.

Now we get to intelligibility. Intelligibility actually ties in well to structural analyses. Linguists who say we divide on structure and not on intelligibility are being silly. Where you have deep structural differences between Lect A and Lect B, it logically follows that you have intelligibility problems. Profound structural differences between two lects makes it hard for one to understand the other. The differential structure really gets in the way of understanding. So once again, one method is wrapping around the other.

As we can see, historical, structural and intelligibility analyses of splitting languages all tend to be part of the same process, that is, they are all talking about the same thing. And they will tend to reach similar conclusions when it comes to splitting languages.

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Dying Minority Languages and Standardization: Some Problems

I have been studying some of the minority languages of Europe lately. One thing that they have in common is that in a number of cases, there have been proposals made for centralization and standardization of the language. Dying languages very much need standardization. This is because in many cases, these languages are split up in a number of dialects. These dialects are typically quite different, and in many cases, they are flat out separate languages with poor intelligibility with other dialects.

If everyone just goes on speaking their dialects, they won’t be able to talk to other speakers much, and the language will soon die, because most dialect speakers are 35-60+. It’s not a useful solution. Sure, the dialects are very interesting and it might be nice to preserve them, but it seems to be a lost cause. Further, most dialects are not being passed on to children anymore. For the languages to survive, the dialects must all die.

For instance, Occitan has a multitude of dialects, 23 of which are actually separate languages. A unitary Occitan has been created based on Languedocien, one of the largest Occitan macrolanguages. The problem is that this new neo-Occitan is nothing like the Occitan spoken by  Auvergnat, Croissant, Limousin and Gascon speakers.

Further, the unitary spelling and writing style does not represent the way that these languages speak. For instance, a particular word may be written in a unitary way in neo-Occitan, but the graph for that word would look nothing like the way the word is pronounced in the speaker’s language. The word “bricklayer” might be written something like “frondyard.” Ridiculous or what?

Children are being taught neo-Occitan in special language schools. The neo-Occitan is regarded as an abomination by speakers of traditional dialects, and neo-Occitan speakers can’t understand traditional dialect speakers.

A similar thing is going on with the Breton language in Brittany in northwest France. This is actually a Celtic tongue similar to Welsh that is strangely enough spoken in France. Breton is actually made up 4 major dialects that are frankly all separate languages. Intelligibility is poor between the four Breton lects, but the lects are not being passed on to children and most speakers are over 50 anyway.

In schools called Diwans the children are being taught a neo-Breton, an invented “language that no one speaks.” The neo-Breton speakers come out of the schools, and they can’t understand speakers of the traditional Breton lects. And speakers of traditional dialectal Breton can’t understand neo-Breton. Kids and their elders are speaking the same language, but they can’t understand each other. Sad situation.

In the Basque country, a similar situation is going on. The schools are teaching a neo-Basque, a fake language made up of the amalgamation of all of the major Basque dialects plus a lot of made-up neologisms. Speakers of traditional dialects have a hard time with neo-Basque, and neo-Basque speakers have a hard time with traditional speakers.

Nevertheless, there is no way around standardization. Teaching every group of children the separate small dialect of their region is useless. It will create new generations of speakers that can’t even communicate with most of the speakers of the language. If they are taught the unified language, at least they will be able to communicate with all other speakers of the language, at least when the older dialect speakers die off.

Languages must be standardized. It’s essential. Not only so everyone can talk to everyone, but so that everyone can read everyone. Can you imagine what chaos it would be if every writer of English wrote English phonetically in exactly the way that they speak it. You might have millions of different Englishes out there. Yet this is the way that nonstandardized languages are typically written, phonetically.

Further, spelling must be standardized. There must be a correct way and an incorrect way to spell most any given word of English. This makes reading faster and communication transparent. If you don’t like English spelling rules, then don’t write in English!

It’s easy to understand why typical dialect speakers regard the neo-languages are some sort of abomination. Let us use an example from English.

Suppose there was an attempt to unify all of the Englishes on Earth into some sort of World English.

This language would include speech and writing based on the phonetics of various types of British English, Scottish English, African English, Indian English, Singlish, Australian English, Canadian English and New Zealand English.

As if that were not bad enough, the speech and writing would also be based partly on various US Englishes: Southern English, Ebonics, New York English, Boston English and Appalachian English.

If you turned on the TV, the announcers would be speaking in some insane English based on all of the English dialects listed above. Any English writing would also be phonetically based on a mixture of all of the above dialects. The new language would also have a ton of new terms derived from slangs of the various Englishes.

Could you imagine how furious we speakers of US English would be? This is the way traditional dialect speakers feel about the unified neo-languages slated to replace their dialects.

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