Category Archives: Italian

An Overview of the Corsican and Sardinian Languages

Italian writes:

I’m surprised, I thought Corsican was close to the Tuscan dialect and part of the Central Italian languages, much unlike Sardinian?

This is correct, but in the north of Sardinia are two languages that are Sardinian-Corsican transitional. One is Gallurese, and the other is Sassarese.

Gallurese is close to Corsican and Sassarese and not as close to Logudorese and Campidanese to the south, which are the real pure Sardinian languages. Gallurese has only 81% lexical similarity with Sassarese. Some people say Gallurese and Sassarese are are just Corsican. Indeed, the Encyclopedia of Endangered Languages treats Gallurese as an outlying dialect of Corsican.

However, Gallurese is not even intelligible with itself, so the idea that it is a Corsican dialect seems dubious. For instance, Santa Teresa Gallurese (Teresino) and San Teodoro Gallurese are not intelligible with the rest of Gallurese. San Teodoro is transitional Gallurese-Logudorese, and Teresino is transitional Gallurese-Corsican.

Sassarese is close to Gallurese and Corsican and not as close to Logudorese and Campidanese to the south. Sassarese has to be seen as the same language as Gallurese due to claims that they are mutually intelligible, but such claims may be dubious.

Sassarese has much more Logudorese influence than Gallurese does. Gallurese has only negligible Logudorese influence. So in that sense, Sassarese and Gallurese are quite different.

Sassarese has a number of dialects. Sassarese is sometimes also known as Turritano. But strictly speaking, Turritano is the dialect of Porto Torres (Portotorrese), and Sassarese is the dialect of Sassari. The dialect of Valledoria is called Muddizzesu.

Typologically, Sassarese is a mix between Gallurese, Sardinian and Italian with Italian plurals. Sassarese arose from  a mix of Tuscan, Corsican, Logudorese and Genoese. The base of Sassarese is 12th Century Pisan Tuscan, and it still resembles a Pisan dialect from the 1100’s. It also has a bit of Genoan in it and quite a few Sardinian words.

The Encyclopedia of Endangered Languages treats Sassarese as an outlying Corsican language. This is the same classification they give to Gallurese. However, given that Sassarese-Corsican intelligiblity is not full, it does not make sense to say that Sassarese is a Corsican dialect.

Gallurese has only 81% lexical similarity with Sassarese. The 81% lexical similarity between Gallurese and Sassarese implies that the two varieties probably are not fully mutually intelligible.

Campidanese is not intelligible with Sassarese.

There are some transitional Gallurese-Sassarese dialects, but most of them are better analyzed as Sassarese.

Castellanese is a transitional Sassarese-Gallurese dialect, but it resembles Sassarese more. Castellanese is really a part of Sassarese, even though it is Sassarese-Gallurese transitional. The dialect of Castelsardo is said to be completely different from the Sassarese dialects of Sassari and Stintino. Intelligibility data is not known.

Castellanese is spoken in Sedini (Sedinese), Turgu (Terghese), Santa Maria Coghinas, Lu Bagnu, Valledoria, La Ciaccia and La Muddizza. In Turgu, three dialects are spoken – Nulvese, Osilese and Castellanese. In Valledoria they speak three different dialects – a mixture of Sedinese and Gallurese, a Muddizza dialect close to Sedinese, and Gallurese from the Aggius region (Aggese). Because we cannot split Gallurese and Sassarese due to claims of mutual intelligibility, we cannot split these Gallurese-Sassarese transitional lects either because at the moment, Gallurese and Sassarese are a single language, so a transitional lect between them is a part of that single language.

Corsican itself is probably more than one language.,

Bonifacio is less intelligible to the rest of Corsican than the rest of the dialects. It is dying out and only has 600-800 speakers or so. It is closer to Genoese Ligurian. It is best seen as a separate language.

On Maddalena Island a lect called Islanu, Maddelaninu, or Maddalenino. It is probably not intelligible with the rest of Gallurese, but it may be intelligible with Bonifacio Corsican and Teresino Gallurese.

It closely resembles Bonifacio. These people came from Bonifacio 200-300 years ago. Subsequently a lot of Genoan words went in when it was a Genoan naval base. This may be best seen as a Bonifacio dialect.

Corsican is spoken on the Tuscan island of Capraia (Capraiese). The language is mostly Corsican, but it has many Ligurian words. Intelligibility between Capraia and the rest of Corsican is not known, but it is probably not full, as Standard Corsican speakers say that they cannot Bastia Corsican which is very close to Capraiese. Capraiese probably lacks full intelligibility with Ligurian.

Corsican is indeed intelligible with Italian, but mostly with Tuscan Italian from Livorno and Florence. Tuscans can understand Corsican perfectly. It is said that Standard Italian speakers can understand it well, but actually Standard Italian-Corsican intelligiblity is somewhat marginal and probably below 90%.

This is interesting because Standard Italian is based on Florence Tuscan from the 1500’s, so one would think that Standard Italian speakers could understand Corsican as well as modern day Tuscans. However, Standard Italian has undergone many changes since the 1500’s to the point where Standard Italian speakers, especially from the south of Italy, say that they cannot understand old Tuscan men speaking hard Tuscan Italian at all. Italian speakers to the north of Italy such as Trieste understand even hard Tuscan quite well.

Sometimes Standard Italian and Corsican are just close enough to more or less understand each other – other times, they are just far enough to not be understood. Intelligibility is probably around 80-90% between the Corsican and Standard Italian. Intelligibility between Corsican and Sassarese is good but not total, possibly on the order of 80%. Intelligibility of Gallurese is said to be “not immediate, but not difficult either.” It is not known how to quantify that.

All of the principal Corsican dialects have low lexical similarity with each other. Major Corsican dialects have 79-89% lexical similarity, hence may be separate languages. Dialects are Cismontano Capocorsino,  Oltramontano, Oltramontano Sartenese, Bonifacio, Bastia, and Capraiese (spoken in Capraia). 79-89% is lower than the lexical similarity between languages like French, Italian and Spanish, to give you an idea of how lexical similarity relates to intelligibility.

Indeed, Cismontano speakers cannot understand the Oltramontano Sartenese spoken in Sartene, nor can they understand Bastia. Bastia is close to Capraiese.

Southern Corsican dialects are actually closer to the Gallurese and Sassarese languages than they are to the rest of Corsican.

Sardinian is absolutely at least two languages – Logudorese, Campidanese, and possibly more. Logudorese dialects are not all mutually intelligible, nor are Campidanese dialects. Logudorese and Campidanese are not fully intelligible with each other. Sardinians themselves say that the language changes about every 15 miles in Sardinia, there are many dialects and they can’t understand half of them.

Campidanese is one of the real Sardinian languages. Lexical similarity is only 73% with Logudorese and 66% with Gallurese. There is no way that it could possibly be intelligible with either Logudorese or Gallurese with lexical similarity numbers that low. It is widely used in the south and is very different from the rest of Sardinian. Campidanese has 670,000 speakers. It is spoken by about 69% of the population in the area, but it is understood by 97%. Campidanese is more variable than Gallurese but not as much as Logudorese.

Arborese is often regarded as a fourth split in Sardinian. It is lumped in with Campidanese, but it’s really transitional between Campidanese and Logudorese. It is spoken in Oristano Province, San Vero Milis, Cabras, Milis, Samugheo, Bonarcado. Bonarcado speaks North Arborese, and San Very Milis and Milis speak South Arborese. Milis speaks West Arborese, and Samugheo, Busachi, Neoneli and Fordongianus speak East Arborese. It is spoken in the northeast  of the Campidanese region on the border of Logudorese. Intelligibility between Arborese and either Campidanese or Logudorese is not known.

Barbaricino is another major language-level split in Campidanese. It is spoken in Mandrolisai and Barbagia around the towns of Laconi, Seulo, Samugheo, Sorgono, Meana Sardo, Ortueri, Atzara, Tiana, Aritzo, Belvì, Desulo, Ollolai, Fonni, Orgosolo, Oliena, Ovodda, Mamoiada, Lodine, Gavoi, Olzai,and Tonara. While Barbaricino is similar to Nuorese, it is  very divergent.

Cagliaritano Logudorese speakers cannot understand the Barbaricino dialect spoken in the far north of the Campidanese region near the border to Logudorese. South-Central Barbaricino is probably best seen as a separate language within Campidanese, but it is probably intelligible with Logudorese Barbaricino. Barbaricino, a Campidanese-Logurdorese transitional lect, apparently has dialects that are more Campidanese and dialects that are more Logudorese.

Barbaricino in general does not appear to be intelligible with other Sardinian lects. It  is formally part of Nuorese, even though part of it is Logudorese and part of it is Campidanese. On the other hand, it appears that even the Nuorese spoken in Dorgali is not intelligible with Barbaricino.

There are a number of large language-level major splits in Campidanese. Whether these represent separate languages or divergent dialects is not known.

The following are the large splits in Campidanese:

Ogliastrino is considered by some to be a major language-level split in Campidanese. It is spoken in the east-central part of Sardinia from Tertena to Urzulei and is very archaic.

Sarrabese is spoken in the Sarrabus-Genei region of far southeastern Sardinia around the towns of San Vito, Muravera, Villaputzu and Castiadas.

Sulcitano is spoken in Sulcis around the towns of Iglesias, Carbonia and Sant’Antioco in far Southwest Sardinia on the coast and on the island of Sant’Antioco Island.

Cagliaritano is spoken in the capital of Cagliari and in Quartu Sant’Elena and Sinnai.

Western Campidanese is spoken in the states of Trexenta, Marmilla (Barumini, Tuili, Genoni and Mandas) and Medio Campidano (Gonnosfanadiga, Villacidro, Sanluri and Guspini).

Logudorese is the other major split in Sardinian along with Campidanese. It is very different from the rest of Sardinian. Lexical similarity other Sardinian languages is low – 73% with Campidanese and Sassarese and only 70% with Gallurese. There is no way that Logudorese can be intelligible with those three languages with figures that low. Farmers and housewives over 35 speak only Logudorese and hardly speak any Italian. It is spoken by 330,000 people and understood by 533,000.

Logudorese is very different from place to place. Olbia, Berchidda, Oschiri, Tula, Posada and Siniscola all have huge differences in their dialects. It is more variable than Campidanese and much more variable than Gallurese.

Baroniese is major split in Logudorese. It is similar to Nuorese. Baroniese is spoken in the Baronie region in the area of Orosei, Siniscola, Galtellì, Lode and Done.

Nuorese is often considered to be the third major language-level division of Sardinian – Logudorese, Campidanese and Nuorese, but Nuorese is much closer to Logudorese. It is spoken in the east-central part of Sardinia. Nuorese is said to be almost the same language as Logudorese, and the only differences are some archaic words and differences in pronunciation. Apparently Logudorese speakers from Macomer cannot understand Nuorese. Nuorese appears to be a separate language.

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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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An Analysis of Romance Language Difficulty by Verb Tense

One way to measure language difficulty in the Romance languages would be to look at verb tenses and compare their difficulty across the family.

Let us take a look:

Most difficult: European Portuguese. There are 8 simple tenses used in speech (5 indicative and 3 subjunctive). In addition, there is the personal infinitive, and the pluperfect can also be a simple tense in writing. In writing, “I had spoken” can become either eu tinha falado or eu falara.

Above average difficulty: Italian and European Spanish (generally 7 endings – 5 indicative and 2 subjunctive, though American Spanish only has 4-5).

Average difficulty: French is  simplified from a morphological point of view compared to European Spanish and Italian. In French, there are are always more written endings then spoken endings because of silent letters at the end of a word. In writing, there are always 5 endings and in speech there are 3-4. In speech, the endings of the first and second person of the plural are always pronounced. It is the ending of the third person plural that is sometimes not pronounced. Here are the present and future of parler, with pronunciation between parenthesis.

1 – parle (parl)……….parlerai (parleré)
2 – parles (parl)……..parleras (parlera)
3 – parle (parl)……….parlera (parlera)
1 – parlons (parlõ)….parlerons (parlerõ)
2 – parlez (parlé)……parlerez (parleré)
3 – parlent (parl)……parleront (parlerõ)

Here are the present and future of finir:

1 – finis (fini)……………finirai (finiré)
2 – finis (fini)……………finiras (finira)
3 – finit (fini)…………….finira (finira)
1 – finissons (finissõ).. finirons (finirõ)
2 – finissez (finissé)…. finirez (finiré)
3 – finissent (finiss)…..finiront (finirõ)

The difficulty not only varies with regard to the number of endings but also with regard to the number of tenses. In French, there are 5 simple tenses in common use (4 indicative and 1 subjunctive).

Easiest: Standard Brazilian Portuguese makes use of just 3-4 different endings for every verb tense.

Look at falar in the present and imperfect:

1 – falo……….falava
2 – fala……….falava
3 – fala……….falava
1 – falamos…falávamos
2 – falam…….falavam
3 – falam…….falavam

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Romance Languages and Latin

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

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

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

Romanian has obviously been flooded with Slavic words.

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

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

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

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Intelligibility Figures for Romance Languages

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

Intelligibility Figures for Romance Languages

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

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

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

Catalan has 27% written intelligibility of Italian.

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

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

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

Portuguese has 90% written intelligibility of Italian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piedmontese has 0% intelligibility of Arpitan.

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What Romance Languages Do You Know?

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

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

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

This is the only Romance language I can write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spanish-Italian Mutual Intelligibility

See this video here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Is the Intelligibility of English with Spanish and Other Romance Languages?

I would the regard the mutual intelligibility (MI) of English with not only Spanish but Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian to be 0%. Sure there are similar Latinate cognates in English via Latin borrowings in the Middle Ages, but that won’t be enough to make a conversation intelligible. I meet English speakers all the time who tell me they can’t speak or understand a word of Spanish. They never say, “Well, you know, English and Spanish are so similar that, even though I don’t speak Spanish, I can still get a lot of the conversation.”

I also meet monolingual Spanish speakers around my town all the time. I start speaking English to them, and they just wave their hands and say, “No speak English.” So I shift to Spanish with them, and they look like they just saw God. Sometimes I shift back to English again in the conversation, and that baffled look returns to their face. It’s obvious that they don’t understand a word of it.

Even though I have had four years+ of Spanish in school, and I started studying Spanish when I was six years old, I am typically befuddled by in vivo native Spanish speakers. Around town here, I am around native Spanish speakers all the time. Even if they are standing right next to me, I often cannot understand one single word that they say. Now if I talked to them and got them to slow down their Spanish, we could have a bit of a conversation, but as is, forget it.

I have heard French audio on the Net and in my former town, there were French tourists who came into town a lot. I would often be buying coffee and French speakers would be blabbing away all around me. I can never understand one single word of spoken French.

I haven’t heard much Italian in vivo, but I have heard quite a bit of it on Internet audio and video. Spoken Italian is simply gibberish to me to a large degree. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Usually you can understand a language in audio or video better than in vivo, because speakers on audio and video are more professional speakers and are trained to speak slowly and clearly whereas in vivo, most speech is much more rapid and less clear.

I have also heard Italian on a Youtube video, and it made no sense to me.

Now this is all coming from a guy who is advanced in Spanish.

So obviously I would say that English has 0% intelligibility with all of the Romance languages.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, French, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Romance, Spanish

A Look at the Italian Language

From here.

A look at the Italian language from the POV of an English speaker trying to learn it. Compared to other Romance languages, Italian is about average in difficulty.

Italian is said to be easy to learn, especially if you speak a Romance language or English, but learning to order a pizza and really mastering it are two different things. Foreigners usually do not learn Italian at anywhere near a native level.

For instance, Italian has three types of tenses, simple, compound, and indefinite. There are also various moods that combine to take tense forms – four subjunctive moods, two conditional moods, two gerund moods, two infinite moods, two participle moods and one imperative mood.

There are eight tenses in the indicative mood – recent past, remote pluperfect, recent pluperfect, preterite (remote past), imperfect, present, future, future perfect. There are four tenses in the subjunctive mood – present, imperfect, preterite and pluperfect. There are two tenses in the conditional mood – present and preterite.

There is only one tense in the imperative mood – present. Gerund, participle and infinite moods all take only present and perfect tenses. Altogether, using these mood-tense combinations, any Italian verb can decline in up to 21 different ways.

Italian has many irregular verbs. There are 600 irregular verbs with all sorts of different irregularities. Nevertheless, it is a Romance language, and Romance has gotten rid of most of its irregularity. The Slavic languages are much more irregular than Romance.

Counterintuitively, some Italian words are masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural. There are many different ways to say the:

Masculine:

il
i
lo
gli
l’

Feminine:

la
le
l’

Few Italians even write Italian 100% correctly. A problem with Italian is that meaning is inferred via intonation. If you mess up the intonation of your utterance, you’re screwed and will not be understood. However, there is no case in Italian, as in all of Romance with the exception of Romanian.

Italian is still easier to learn than French, for evidence see the research that shows Italian children learning to write Italian properly by age six, 6-7 years ahead of French children. This is because Italian orthography is quite sensible and coherent, with good sound-symbol correspondence. Nevertheless, the orthography is not as transparent as Spanish’s.

Italian has phrasal verbs as in English, but the English ones are a lot more difficult. The Italian ones are usually a lot more clear given the verb and preposition involved, whereas with English if you have the verb and the preposition, the phrasal verb does not logically follow from their separate meanings. For instance:

andare fuorito go + out  = get out
andare giù
to go + down = get down

However, in a similar sense, Italian changes the meaning of verbs via addition of a verbal prefix:

scrivere
ascrivere
descrivere
prescrivere

mettere
smettere
permettere
sottomettere

porre
proporre

portare
supportare

In these cases, you create completely new verbs via the addition of the verbal prefix to the base. Without the prefix, it is a completely different verb. Italian is somewhat harder to learn than Spanish or Portuguese but not dramatically so. Italian has more irregularities than those two and has different ways of forming plurals, including two different ways of forming plurals that can mean different things depending on the context. This is a leftover from the peculiarities of the Latin neutral gender.

Italian pronunciation is a straightforward, but the ce and ci sounds can be problematic.

Italian gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.

Often thought to be an Italian dialect, Neapolitan is actually a full language all of its own. Neapolitan is said to be easier than Standard Italian. Unlike Italian, Neapolitan conjugation and the vocative are both quite simple and any irregularities that exist seem to follow definite patters.

Neapolitan gets a 2.5 rating, fairly easy.

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Filed under Applied, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Romance

Phrasal Verbs in English

From here.

English verbal phrases or phrasal verbs are a nightmare for the English language learner. English language learners often say that phrasal verbs are one of the hardest if not the hardest aspects of learning English. Even after many years of even one or more decades of learning English, English L2 speakers often do not have phrasal verbs down pat (to have down pat is another phrasal verb by the way).

Phrasal verbs are not very common in other languages, and where they exist, you can often piece together the meaning a lot easier than you can in English. Phrasal verbs are formed by the addition of a preposition after the verb which changes the meaning of the verb. Phrasal verbs are probably left over from “separable verbs” in German. In most of the rest of IE, these become affixes as in Latin Latin cum-, ad-, pro-, in-, ex-, etc.. In many cases, phrasal verbs can have more than 10 different antagonistic meanings.

Here is a list of 123 phrasal verbs using the preposition up after a verb:

Back up – to go in reverse, often in a vehicle, or to go back over something previously dealt with that was poorly understood in order to understand it better.
Be up – to be in a waking state after having slept. I’ve been up for three hours. Also to be ready to do something challenging. Are you up for it?
Beat up
– to defeat someone thoroughly in a violent physical fight.
Bid up – to raise the price of something, usually at an auction, by calling out higher and higher bids.
Blow up – to explode an explosive or for a social situation to become violent and volatile.
Bone up – to study hard.
Book up – all of the booking seats have been filled for some entertainment or excursion.
Bottle up – to contain feelings until they are at the point of exploding.
Break up – to break into various pieces, or to end a relationship, either personal or between entitles, also to split a large entity, like a large company or a state.
Bruise up – to receive multiple bruises, often serious ones.
Brush up – to go over a previously learned skill.
Build up – to build intensively in an area, such as a town or city, from a previously less well-developed state.
Burn up – burn completely or to be made very angry.
Bust up – to burst out in laughter.
Buy up – to buy all or most all of something.
Call up – to telephone someone. Or to be ordered to appear in the military. The army called up all males aged 18-21 and ordered them to show up at the nearest recruiting office.
Catch up
– to reach a person or group that one had lagged behind earlier, or to take care of things, often hobbies, that had been put off by lack of time.
Chat up – to talk casually with a goal in mind, usually seduction or at least flirtation.
Cheer up – to change from a downcast mood to a more positive one.
Chop up – to cut into many, often small, pieces.
Clam up – to become very quiet suddenly and not say a thing.
Clean up – to make an area thoroughly tidy or to win completely and thoroughly.
Clear up – for a storm to dissipate, for a rash to go away, for a confusing matter to become understandable.
Close up – to close, also to end business hours for a public business.
Come up – to approach closely, to occur suddenly or to overflow.
Cook up – to prepare a meal or to configure a plan, often of a sly, ingenious or devious nature. They cooked up a scheme to swindle the boss.
Crack up
– to laugh, often heartily.
Crank up – elevate the volume.
Crawl up – to crawl inside something.
Curl up – to rest in a curled body position, either alone or with another being.
Cut up – to shred or to make jokes, often of a slapstick variety.
Do up – apply makeup to someone, often elaborately.
Dream up – to imagine a creative notion, often an elaborate one.
Dress up – to dress oneself in formal attire.
Drive up – to drive towards something, and then stop, or to raise the price of something by buying it intensively.
Drum up – to charge someone with wrongdoing, usually criminal, usually by a state actor, usually for false reasons.
Dry up – to dessicate.
Eat up – implies eating something ravenously or finishing the entire meal without leaving anything left.
End up – to arrive at some destination after a long winding, often convoluted journey either in space or in time.
Face up – to quit avoiding your problems and meet them head on.
Feel up – to grope someone sexually.
Get up – to awaken or rise from a prone position.
Give up – to surrender, in war or a contest, or to stop doing something trying or unpleasant that is yielding poor results, or to die, as in give up the ghost.
Grow up – to attain an age or maturity or to act like a mature person, often imperative.
Hang up – to place on a hanger or a wall, to end a phone call.
Hike up – to pull your clothes up when they are drifting down on your body.
Hit up – to visit someone casually or to ask for a favor or gift, usually small amounts of money.
Hold up – to delay, to ask someone ahead of you to wait, often imperative. Also a robbery, usually with a gun and a masked robber.
Hook up – to have a casual sexual encounter or to meet casually for a social encounter, often in a public place; also to connect together a mechanical devise or plug something in.
Hurry up – imperative, usually an order to quit delaying and join the general group or another person in some activity, often when they are leaving to go to another place.
Keep up – to maintain on a par with the competition without falling behind.
Kiss up – to mend a relationship after a fight.
Knock up – to impregnate.
Lay up – to be sidelined due to illness or injury for a time.
Let up – to ease off of someone or something, for a storm to dissipate, to stop attacking someone or s.t.
Lick up – to consume all of a liquid.
Light up – to set s.t. on fire or to smile suddenly and broadly.
Lighten up – to reduce the downcast or hostile seriousness of the mood of a person or setting.
Listen up – imperative – to order someone to pay attention, often with threats of aggression if they don’t comply.
Live up – to enjoy life.
Lock up – to lock securely, often locking various locks, or to imprison, or for an object or computer program to be frozen or jammed and unable to function.
Look up – to search for an item of information in some sort of a database, such as a phone book or dictionary. Also to admire someone.
Make up – to make amends, to apply cosmetics to one’s face or to invent a story.
Man up – to elevate oneself to manly behaviors when one is slacking and behaving in an unmanly fashion.
Mark up – to raise the price of s.t.
Measure up – in a competition, for an entity to match the competition.
Meet up – to meet someone or a group for a get meeting or date of some sort.
Mess up – to fail or to confuse and disarrange s.t. so much that it is bad need or reparation.
Mix up – to confuse, or to disarrange contents in a scattered fashion so that it does not resemble the original.
Mop up – mop a floor or finish off the remains of an enemy army or finalize a military operation.
Move up – to elevate the status of a person or entity in competition with other entities- to move up in the world.
Open up – when a person has been silent about something for a long time, as if holding a secret, finally reveals the secret and begins talking.
Own up – to confess to one’s sins under pressure and reluctantly.
Pass up – to miss an opportunity, often a good one.
Patch up – to put together a broken thing or relationship.
Pay up – to pay, usually a debt, often imperative to demand payment of a debt, to pay all of what one owes so you don’t owe anymore.
Pick up – to grasp an object and lift it higher, to seduce someone sexually or to acquire a new skill, usually rapidly.
Play up – to dramatize.
Pop up – for s.t. to appear suddenly, often out of nowhere.
Put up – to hang, to tolerate, often grudgingly, or to put forward a new image.
Read up – to read intensively as in studying.
Rev up – to turn the RPM’s higher on a stationary engine.
Ring up – to telephone someone or to charge someone on a cash register.
Rise up – for an oppressed group to arouse and fight back against their oppressors.
Roll up – to roll s.t. into a ball, to drive up to someone in a vehicle or to arrest all the members of an illegal group. The police rolled up that Mafia cell quickly.
Run up
– to tally a big bill, often foolishly or approach s.t. quickly.
Shake up – to upset a paradigm, to upset emotionally.
Shape up – usually imperative command ordering someone who is disorganized or slovenly to live life in a more orderly and proper fashion.
Shoot up – to inject, usually illegal drugs, or to fire many projectiles into a place with a gun.
Show up – to appear somewhere, often unexpectedly.
Shut up – to silence, often imperative, fighting words.
Sit up – to sit upright.
Slip up – to fail.
Speak up – to begin speaking after listening for a while, often imperative, a request for a silent person to say what they wish to say.
Spit up – to vomit, usually describing a child vomiting up its food.
Stand up – to go from a sitting position to a standing one quickly.
Start up – to initialize an engine or a program, to open a new business to go back to something that had been terminated previously, often a fight; a recrudescence.
Stay up – to not go to bed.
Stick up – to rob someone, usually a street robbery with a weapon, generally a gun.
Stir up – stir rapidly, upset a calm surrounding or scene or upset a paradigm.
Stop up – to block the flow of liquids with some object(s).
Straighten up – to go from living a dissolute or criminal life to a clean, law abiding one.
Suck up – to ingratiate oneself, often in an obsequious fashion.
Suit up – to get dressed in a uniform, often for athletics.
Sweep up – to arrest all the members of an illegal group, often a criminal gang.
Take up – to cohabit with someone – She has taken up with him. Or to develop a new skill, to bring something to a higher elevation, to cook something at a high heat to where it is assimilated.
Talk up – to try to convince someone of something by discussing it dramatically and intensively.
Tear up – to shred.
Think up – to conjure up a plan, often an elaborate or creative one.
Throw up – to vomit.
Touch up – to apply the final aspects of a work nearly finished.
Trip up – to stumble mentally over s.t. confusing.
Turn up – to increase volume or to appear suddenly somewhere.
Vacuum up – to vacuum.
Use up – to finish s.t. completely so there is no more left.
Wait up – to ask other parties to wait for someone who is coming in a hurry.
Wake up – to awaken.
Walk up – to approach someone or something.
Wash up – to wash.
Whip up – to cook a meal quickly or for winds to blow wildly.
Work up – to exercise heavily, until you sweat to work up a sweat. Or to generate s.t. a report or s.t. of that nature done rather hurriedly in a seat of the pants and unplanned fashion. We quickly worked up a formula for dealing with the matter.
Wrap up
– To finish something up, often something that is taking too long. Come on, let us wrap this up and getting it over with. Also, to bring to a conclusion that ties the ends together. The story wraps up with a scene where they all get together and sing a song.
Write up
– often to write a report of reprimand or a violation. The officer wrote him for having no tail lights.

Here is a much smaller list of phrasal verbs using the preposition down:

Be down  – to be ready to ready to do something daring, often s.t. bad, illegal or dangerous, such as a fight or a crime. Are you down?
Burn down
– reduce s.t. to ashes, like a structure.
Get down – to have fun and party, or to lie prone and remain there. Get down on the floor.
Drink down
to consume all of s.t.
Kick down – Drug slang meaning to contribute your drugs to a group drug stash so others can consume them with you, to share your drugs with others. Often used in a challenging sense.
Party down – to have fun and party
Pat down – to frisk.
Take down – to tackle.
Cook down – to reduce the liquid content in a cooked item.
Run down – to run over something, to review a list or to attack someone verbally for a long time.
Play down – to de-emphasize.
Write down – to write on a sheet of paper

Italian has phrasal verbs as in English, but the English ones are a lot more difficult. The Italian ones are usually a lot more clear given the verb and preposition involved, whereas with English if you have the verb and the preposition, the phrasal verb does not logically follow from their separate meanings. For instance:

andare fuorito go + out  – get out
andare giù
to go + downget down

German has phrasal verbs as in English, but the meaning is often somewhat clear if you take the morphemes apart and look at their literal meanings. For instance:

vorschlagento suggest parses out to er schlägt vorto hit forth

whereas in English you have phrasal verbs like to get over with which even when separated out, don’t make sense literally.

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Filed under Applied, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, German, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Romance