Category Archives: Italo-Celtic-Tocharian

Judith Mirville on Language

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

Judith Mirville writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got three main levels of language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portuguese is one of the best known examples of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Afroasiatic, Applied, Arabic, Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, French, German, Germanic, Hindi, Indic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Irano-Armenian, Indo-Irano-Armeno-Hellenic, Italic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Portuguese, Romance, Sanskrit, Semitic

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

The Roots of the English Language

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, French, German, Germanic, Greek, Hellenic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Indo-Irano-Armeno-Hellenic, Italic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Romance

One Day Languages and Two Day Languages

A colleague writes:
Mutual intelligibility is difficult to measure since speakers of two different tongues could meet each other and hardly understand each other at first but after a week of close contact, they can understand each other quite well.
As far as intelligibility goes, it is usually measured blind with only one group at a time. It is uncertain where to split dialect and language, but Ethnologue (SIL) seems to generally split at 90%. Above 90% = dialect. Below 90% = dialect.

With two separate but closely related languages such as Turkish and Azeri, after 3-4 weeks of close contact, they can communicate quite nicely. I would put 3-4 weeks at the barrier of dialect and language.

At the other end, in Africa, speakers of various lects talk of one day languages and two day languages, referring to how long it takes speakers of Lect A to understand speakers of Lect B. These 1 day languages and 2 day languages are best seen as dialects of a single tongue.

Closer to home. it takes one day of close contact for other Spanish speakers who land in San Salvador by plane to completely understand Salvadoran Spanish. It takes Argentines three days to understand Chilean Spanish. So we can call Salvadoran Spanish and Chilean Spanish dialects of the Spanish language. Salvadoran Spanish could be called a 1 day language and Chilean Spanish could be called a 3 day language.

However, with Canarian Spanish and Dominican Spanish of the Dominican Republic, it takes other Spanish speakers about three weeks to catch onto it. So Canarian Spanish and Dominican Spanish are like Azeri and Turkish. I honestly think that Canarian Spanish and Dominican Spanish are separate languages on MI grounds, but it would cause a political firestorm if you tried to split them so no one will.

In Spain, there are various lects such as Asturian, Galician and Andalucian. A Spanish speaker may take two months or so of close contact to learn to understand Asturian and Galician well, and indeed, both are listed as separate languages.

Some Spanish speakers report that Andalucian sounds absolutely insane when they first listen to it and they can hardly understand one word, however, after 2-3 hours of steady close listening, they can understand it quite well. We may call Andalucian a 3 hour language and clearly Andalucian is a dialect of Spanish called Andalucian Spanish.

Once it starts to take as long as 3-4 weeks of close contact for speakers of Lect A to understand Lect B, I think we are looking at two separate languages. Anything less than that, starts to seem a lot more iffy.

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Filed under Africa, Americas, Applied, Argentina, Asturian, Central America, Chile, Dialectology, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Europe, Galician, Language Families, Language Learning, Latin America, Linguistics, Regional, Sociolinguistics, South America, Spain, Spanish, Turkish

Differences Between Spanish and Ladino

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

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

Ladino:

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

Spanish:

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

English:

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

List of languages from which each Ladino word is:

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

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Filed under Afroasiatic, Altaic, Arabic, European, Europeans, Hebrew, History, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Jews, Language Families, Linguistics, Oghuz, Portuguese, Race/Ethnicity, Romance, Semitic, Spanish, Turkic, Turkish

What Language Is This?

Yes, this is a Romance language of course. And you may never figure out the region where it is spoken. This language is closely related to a very famous Romance language with 10’s of millions of speakers. In fact, it is considered to be a dialect of this language in the country where it is spoken. However, according to Ethnologue, this is indeed a separate language with possibly 10 million speakers. Indeed, it is hardly intelligible with the language it is said to be a dialect of. The truth is that this language itself is no doubt a number of completely different languages.

‘A cucina è, comme tutte ‘e cucine reggionale, ammagliata ê prudotte e ô crima d”o luoco, e risente forte forte d”e riggine grieche d”a pupulazione, quanto ad ausanze, lengua ed -ovviamente- alementazione.

Nce songo tuttavota d”e differenze tra ‘e preparazione culinarie d”e singole pruvince. Ad esempio, ‘e legumme (ca pure songo canusciute ‘n tutt’ô territorio), n”a cucina ‘e so’ servite comme primme piatte ma pure comme cuntuorno e comme piatto unneco, pe ttramente ‘int’ô (zona cchiù attacata a tradizione marinare) fanno pparte ‘e ricette recenale comme chillo d”e fasule cu ‘e cozzeche.

Simbolo ‘e chesta cucina è senza dubbio ‘a margherita, preparata cu pummarola, ‘e vufera e vasenicola ‘n anore d” triculore e d”a riggina Margherita ‘n visita a. Faceva cocere ‘e ppizze ‘int’ê furne ‘e Capomonte, ‘e stessi ‘int’ê quali nascetteno ‘e cceramiche famuse, pe servirla ‘int’ê banchette suje. Molto spannuto è pure ‘o cunzumo d”e cazone fritto, na variante d”o tipico cazone, cu ‘mbuttitura ‘e zuco ‘e pummarola, pepe, cicule (zo’ ausate pe ‘a farenella).

N’ la cucin ci sta na frec di piatt. Si magn lu pesc, l’agnill, lu porc chiu di tutt, e po ci sta na frec di piatt di past e le pallott. Un di li piatt chiu famus so propr le pallott cac e ov c si fa ng l’ov e chiu tip di casc (lu pecorin, lu e tutt quell che si po rattà). Si fa l pallott e po si frije, quand li sa preparat tutt si fa lu sug semplice e s’ammisch tutt.

L’agnill di solit si fa arrost semplice semplice, invece lu chiu famos piatt di porc e la Purchett. E’ cuscì famos che lu Pap si le veniv a pijà in da le part d. In c sapess nzi fa tant li salum (anc se ci sta cac’cos) ma si fa na frec di savicicc nch lu porc.

Pi lu pesc si magn assai le cozz e le (vongole) (ha chiamat li della television proprio accuscì pecchè parev le quann sapriv e si chiudev), lu brudett, la cod di rosp, lu branzin, l’urat, l bobbe (mormore), li merluzzet e lu scorfn. Poi a Urton pi tropp ch mpurtant ci sta la sagr d l trije.

Si magn assai sempre le verdur n’tutt li varietà. Soprattutt li faciul nc lu famos piatt di Sagn e faciul. Na curiosità: In si fa la pulent. Di solit si fa l’invern quann fa fredd e si mischij nc lu sug, la savicicc, la pancett e lu casc, mic la farina giall è sol di lu Nord.

Pe bev ci sta na frec di vin. Prim’a’tutt lu Montepulcian, lu Trebbian e mo a riscit pure lu Pecorin e la Passerin (du vin che savevn scurdat) e pi li liquor ci sta lu liquor, la grapp, la centerb, la liquiriz e la genzian e natr poc di liquore nchi li erb.

‘A cucina tene auriggine storiche assaje antiche che s’allicordano ‘o tiempo d’ ‘e griece e d’ ‘e antiche, e s’è arriccuta c’ ‘e siecule cu l’influenza d’ ‘e culture differente ca songo venute una appriessa a ‘n ata cu ‘e varie dominazzione d’ ‘a città. Assaje ‘mpurtante è sempe stato chello ch’hanno purtato ‘a fantasia e ‘a criatività d’ e’.

Siccome ca era capitale d’ ‘o rregno, ‘a cucina ‘e ha pigliato da ‘e vvarie cucine tradizziunale ‘e tutt’ ‘a arrivanno a mettere ‘nzieme piatte ‘e terra (verdure, latticine) e piatte ‘e mare (pisce, frutte ‘e mare). Tanta ricette hanno pigliato d’ ‘a cucina d’ ‘e nobbile, come ‘e timballe e ‘o sartù ‘e riso, ca vonno ‘na priparazione elaborata, mentre ‘e cchù pupulare tenono ingrediente povere ma nutriente, come pasta e fasule o ati piatte cu’ pasta e legume.

Spisso non è facile a truvà jonte cu ‘a tradizzione d’ ‘a cucina d’ ‘o tiempo antico grieco. Ntra chelle poche tracce d’ ‘e sapure classiche, ce stanno paricchie piatte griece ca arrappresentano pisce, e mullusche, signo ca pisce e frutte ‘e mare se magnavano pure a chell’epoca. Paricchie aggrische a arrappresentano fescine ‘e frutta, fiche, granate, e dinto â villa ‘e Poppea, a Oplontis, ce sta pittato ‘nu dolce, ca pare ‘na cassata, ma ca non canuscimmo comme fuje fatto.

Facilmente, s’allicorda ‘o garum rumano ‘a culatura d’alice ca se fa a Cetara, e po’ essere nu remasuglio d’ ‘o gusto agro-ddoce, tipico d’ ‘a cucina ‘e Apicio e dell’antiche l’uso ‘e mettere dinto a diversi piatte salate l’uva passa, comme dinto â ‘e scarole, o dinto ‘e braciole a ragù. ‘O grano ca se ausa dinto ‘a pastiera, ddoce ‘e Pasca, putesse tenere ‘nu valore simbolico, ca vene da ‘e culte ‘e Artemide, Cibele e Cerere e da ‘e rituale pagane ‘e fertilità ca se facevano dint’ ‘o periodo de l’equinozio ‘e primmavera. Da o vucabbolario στρόγγυλος (stróngylos, ca significa “‘e forma tonna”), ‘nfine, veneo ‘o nomme d’ ‘e struffule ‘e Natale.

Da ‘e vvarie dominazione, specialmente chella francese e chella spagnola, se songo spartute ‘a cucina nobbile, cu pietta cchiù elabburate e ispirate a ‘e piatte ‘nternaziulale, sustanziuse, e appriparate cu ‘ngrdiente ricche e ‘a cucine de ‘e puverielle, che ausava chello ca crisceva dint’ ‘a terra (farina, legume, verdure). Appriesso a ‘e cagnamiente ca songo succiese dint’ ‘e siecule, e ‘a cuntaminazzione cu ‘a cultura d’a cucina nobbile, spisso pure ‘e piatte ca auriginariamente erano povere songo addivintate assaje sapurite.

Sicuramente uno de’ ‘e cchiù gruosse monzù d’ ‘e corte d’ ‘e nobbile fuje. ‘A varietà d’ ‘e è tale ca ce vulesse ‘nu capitulo a pparte. ‘A nun fuje ‘nventata a ma certamente ccà è stata purtata ê livelle ‘e perfezzione cchiù avete. P’ ‘a precisione, a Gragnano a pochi chilometre d’ ‘o capoluogo, s’ è truvata a manera d’ ‘a siccarla e cunzervarla, crianno accussì a produzione ‘ndustriale ‘e ll’alimento cchiù ca ce stà.

Siccomme ‘a materia primma è ‘o ggrano tuosto, assaje difficile ‘a ‘mpastà e faticà, ‘e tenono massima fiducia dint’ ‘e ‘ndustriale e nun penzano, comme succede dint’ ‘a ati rreggione, addò se penza ca a pasta cchiù bbona ha dda essere fatta a mmano. ‘Nverità ‘a è eccezziunale sia pe qualità che perfezione d’ ‘a cuttura, che ha dda essere al dente (comme se dice dint’ ‘o pecché dint’ ‘o non ce sta bisogno d’ ‘o ddicere manco), e pure d’ ‘e cundimente.

Mmiezo ê varietà cchiù ausate ce stanno, a parte ‘e classiche, pure’ ‘e pacchere, ‘e zite, ca s’hanno ‘a spezzà a mmano, e se cundiscene specialmente c’ ‘o rraù. Pe appriparà ‘a cu ‘e legume s’ausa spisso ‘a ammescata, ca ‘na vota se venneva a ‘nu prezzo cchiù vascio, da ‘e remasuglie spezzate ‘e ati fforme ‘e. Non s’hann’ ‘a scurdà ‘e appriparate cu farina e patane. Ce stanno pure forme ‘e pasta cchiù miderne, e mmò se portano assaje ‘e scialatielle.

‘A pummarola, ca vene all’America, fuje ‘mpurtata all’Europa d’ ‘e spagnuole dint’ ‘o XVI seculo, ma niscuno se ne ‘mpurtaje ‘e ll’ausà p’ ‘a cucina p’ ‘attuorno a doje secule. ‘A primma vota cha se trova annummenato fuje ‘o 1743 dint’ a ‘nu canto ‘e carnevale, ma sulamente tra ‘a fine d’ ‘o XVIII seculo e ‘o pprincipio d’ ‘o XIX seculo addevenette cumune dint’ ‘a parecchie icette e ‘a cultivazione se allargaje, nfino a addeventà una d’ ‘e cchiù mpurtante d’ ‘a.

Tra ‘e varietà cchiù famose a ce stanno ‘e pummarole ca scumparettero quasi â fine d’ ‘o XX seculo e sulamente ‘a poco tiempo se so’ turnate a semmenà. Assaje ‘mpurtante songo ‘e pummarulelle d’ò ca s’astipano pe’ paricchio tiempo arraunate dinto a ‘nu piennolo, ca s’appenne fore ‘o barcone. A è nata l’industria d’ ‘e cunzerve ‘e pummarole ca ha purtat dint’ ‘a tutt’ ‘o munno ‘e “pelate” e ‘o “ccuncentrato” ‘e pummarole. Ce stanno paricchie mmanere ‘e cunzervà ‘e pummarole dint’ ‘e bbuttglie, a pezzulle o passate, pe essere sempe pronte pe ll’ausà ‘e cchiù varie mmanere; ‘a famosa “cunzerva”, addo’ a pummarola vene stracotta e cuncentrata nfino a deventà ‘na crema scura e vellutata.

‘E piatte a bbase ‘e verdure ca venono d’ ‘e campagne d’ ‘a comma ‘a ‘e mulignane o ‘e puparuole ‘mbuttunate, ponno addeventà vere e proprie capo piatte ‘ncopp ‘a tavula. Tra ‘e verdure cchiù tradizionale ce stanno ‘e friarielle, ‘a scarola, riccia o liscia, diverse qualità ‘e vruoccole (vruoccole ‘e foglie, vruoccole ‘e rapa), ‘a verza e ‘e verdure p’a menesta mmaretata. S’ausano pure assaje fasule, cicere, e lenticchie.

‘E cucuzzielle so’ assaje ausate; ‘e cchiù gruosse se fanno fritte â scapece, cu l’aceto e ‘a menta. ‘E sciurille se priparano fritte c’ ‘a pastetta. ‘A fora ‘e puparuole russe e gialle, ca so’ gruosse, ce stanno e’ puparuole verde piccerille, ca non songo forte comma ‘e cerasielle, e ca se fanno fritte.

‘A ‘nzalata se mette vicino a tanta piatte, specialmente chille ‘e pesce. ‘A ‘ncappucciata s’ausa cchiù assaje d’ ‘a lattuca, e s’ammesca cu pastenche, fenucchie, ruteca, e, ‘na vota, pure c’ ‘a pucchiacchella, ca crisceva a pe’ essa dint’ ‘e campagne, e ‘e campagnuole ‘a vennevano p’ ‘a via c’ ‘a ruteca. ‘E rafanielle tradizionale songo chilli luonghe e piccante, ma oggie songo sempe cchiù rare, e se trovano sempe cchiù spisso sulamente chilli tunne, cchiù ddoce.

L’aulive nere ca s’ausano dint’ ‘a cucina songo l’aulive ‘e. ‘O tiempo ‘e ‘uerra dint’ ‘e famiglie cchiù puverelle se cucenavano pure ‘e parte ‘e scarto, comme ‘e scorze ‘e fave o ‘e pesielle. ‘Na presenza ‘mpurtante dint’ a cucina e d’ ‘a songo ‘e latticine. Partenno d’ ‘e cchiù frische, ‘e cchiù ‘mpurtante songo:

‘A ‘e fuscella, freasca assajue, ca se venneva ‘na vota dint’ ‘a cestine ‘e fuscelle. ‘A fresca, che se magna sia a ssola ca come cundimento, o pure ‘ncopp’ ‘p rraù. ‘A salata, più stagiunata, ca s’ausa ‘o tiempo ‘e Pasca. ‘A caciuttella fresca d’ ‘a penisula ca tene ‘nu sapore assaje delicato. ‘A ‘e vufera, fresca, a pasta filata, ca se fa specialmente â zona d’Aversa e â zona d’a piana d’o Sele.

‘O scior’ ‘e latte, fatto c’ ‘o llatte ‘e vacca, ‘o cchiù meglio se fa â zona d’Agerola. ‘A provola affumicata, ‘nu scior’ ‘e latte ‘nprufumato d’o fummo ‘e quercia, culurato a fore ‘nu marrò chiaro, e a dinto verso ‘o ggiallo, ca tene ‘nu sapore chino. ‘E burrielli d’ ‘ cardinare, piccerelle mise cu’ ‘o llatte o ‘a panna dint’a mmummere ‘e terraglia. ‘E scamorze, janche o affumicate. ‘E burrine ‘e piccerille ca tenono ‘o cire ‘e burro. ‘E ‘e casocavalle, ‘e varia stagiunatura.

Tutto ‘o pesce d’ ‘o s’appripara assaje spisso dint’ ‘a cucina. Assaje apprezzate songo pure e pisce poco peggiate, specialmente alice, ma pure ‘o pesce ‘e zuppa, comm’a scuorfane, tracine cuocce, e pure pisce cchiù gruosse, come spigule, aurate, ca mo’ se vennono specialmente d’allevaminto, dentice, sarache, marmule e pezzogne. Pure ‘e pisce piccerille s’ausano:

E cicenielle, pisce azzurro piccerille e trasparente, ca se fanno o scaurate c’ ‘o limone, o frijute c’ ‘a pastetta. E fravaglie luonge pochi centimetre, specialmente ‘e treglia o ‘e retunne, ca se fanno fritte. ‘A cucina ausa purpe, secce, e pure jammare, astice e ‘raoste. ‘O bbaccalà, ca vene d’ ‘e mare d’ ‘o nord Europa, se fa specialmente frijuto, o pure cu ‘e patane e ‘a pummarola.

‘E frutt’ ‘e mare (cozzeche, cannulicche, taratufe, fasulare, tunninole, scunciglie e maruzzielle) se maggano pure a oggie crure, ma cchiù raramente ‘e ‘na vota. ‘Na nota particulare s’hadda dà â vongola verace (Venerupis decussata), ca non s’hadda maje scagnà p’ ‘a vongola d’ ‘e Filippine (Venerupis philippinarum), ca ô nord ‘a chiammano verace, e d’ ‘e lupine (Dosinia exoleta), ca ‘o nord pure chiammano vongole, ma vongole non songo.

Non s’avessero maje magnà ‘e dattere ‘e mare (Lithophaga lithophaga), ca pe’ furtuna mò songo vietate pe’ legge. Pe piscarle, se ‘nguajano seriamente ‘e coste petrose, specialmente d’a custiera ‘e.

‘A carne non s’ausa spisso dint’ ‘a cucina pecché era ‘na pietanza carsa, e scarziava dint’ ‘e case d’ ‘e cciù povere. Non se trovanao dint’ ‘a tradiziona filiette, custate o tagliate ‘e carne. ‘E tipe ‘e carne ca se trovano cchiù spisso songo:

Sasicce e cervellatine, cu’ carne tagliata a ponta ‘e curtiello. Fecatielle ‘e puorco, arravugliate din’t ‘a rezza cu’ ‘na foglia ‘e lauro. ‘A carnacotta e ati frattaglie, comme a ‘o pere e ‘o musso, e ‘a zuppa ‘e suffritto. Braciole ‘e puorco, ca s’arravogliano cu a dint’ passule, pignuole e ati addore, nzerrate cu ‘e stecchine, cucuite dint’ô rraù. Crapetto e ‘o pecuriello, cucenati cu’ patane e pesielle a furno, specie ‘o tiempo ‘e Pasca. Pullo e cuniglio, specie cucenate ‘a cacciatora, arruscate c’ ‘a pummarola.

‘O ppane cchiù sapurito è ‘o ppane cafone, ‘mpastato cu ‘o crissceto, cuciuto dint’ ‘o furno a legna, c’ ‘a scorza abbruscata, cu ruossi purtuse. Se cunzumano pure ‘e sfilatine, ca parono ‘nu poco ‘e baguette francese, ma so’ cchiù curte e ‘nu poco cchiù chiatte, e ‘e rusette, panine tunne.

D’ ‘a classuca pummarola ô semprice aglio e uoglio ‘nfino a tutta ‘a sparata ‘e sarze, accumpagnata a verdure o frutte ‘e mare, e ‘a specialità d’ ‘p rraù, l’arta dà ccà ‘o mmeglio suojo. ‘A Cucina cchiù povera mette assieme spisso ‘a cu ‘e legume. Apprezzate songo: pasta e fasule, specie c’ ‘e cotiche, pasta e cicere, pasta e lenticchie’ e pesielle. Oggie è difficile ca s’ausano pure ‘e cicerchie. S’appriparano â stessa manera d’ ‘e legume pure e patane, pasta e caulisciore, pasta e cucozza.

‘A manera ‘e cocere cchù pupulare è ‘e cocere prima ‘e cundimente (ca po’ essere frijere l’agili dint’all’uoglio, po’ aunì ‘e fasule scaurate, o po’ essere frijere ‘a cepolla e alaccia, po’ nce mettere ‘e patane tagliate a pezzule), po’ s’allonga cull’acqua, ca se fa vollere, s’acconcia ‘e sale, e se votta a pasta crura a dinto. ‘A pasta se coce assieme ê cundimente, e mantene a posema, ca ‘nvece se perde si ‘a pasta se coce a parte e se scola.

‘E sta manera ‘e cocere ‘o zuco vene cchiù cremuso e azzeccato, e è ‘na manera differente d’a tradizione cchiù nobbele, ca vò appriparà ‘e stesse piatte cchiù bruruse, ammiscanno ‘a pasta sculata a parte a ‘e cundimente all’urdemo mumento.

Pe’ fà ‘nu primmo piatto puveriello, ma cchiù sustanziuso, ‘a se ammesca cu ova sbattute e furmaggio (caso e ova). ‘E cundite c’ ‘a salza ‘e pummarola, aulive ‘e e chiappere, pigliano nomme ‘e â puttanesca. Fantasiosa è pure ‘a ricetta criata p’ ‘e tavule cchiù puverelle, addò mancavano è frutte ‘e mare, assaje care: se mette ‘ncopp’ ‘e ‘na salza ‘e pummarulelle cu’ aglio, uiglio e petrusino, c’addeventeno accusì â vongole fujute.

‘A s’appripara pure cu l’avanze ‘e pasta, o ‘n bianco o c’ ‘a pummarola. S’ammesca ‘a scaurata cu l’ova sbattute e furmaggio. Se po’ fa’ cchiù sfiziosa mettennece ati cundimente. ‘A s’ha da cocere ‘a tutte e dduje ‘e late, e si è fatta bbona, se mantene tutto ‘nu piezzo, se po’ taglià a felle, e se po’ magnà pure fore casa. ‘A cucina aristucratica ausa ‘a pa priparazione cchiù ‘mpicciose, comm’ ‘e timballe, ca mo’ s’appriparano raramente dint’ ‘a cucina ‘e tutte ‘e juorne.

Mmiezo ‘e piatte ca sonogo cciù ricche d’ ‘a cu fasule o cicere, de la quale avimmo scritto cciù ‘ncopp, ce sta ‘a co diverse specie ‘e salze comme a:

‘A sumigliante ‘nu poco ô rraù ‘e appriparato cu cepolla pastenaca a pezzulle, carne macenata e pummarola. ‘A ca nun tene niente a che spartere cu e s’appripara cu ‘na salza ‘e carne chiena ‘e cepolla suffritta eti addore. C’ o rraù s’ausano specialmente ‘e zite luonghe e scavate mmiezo, ca se spezzano a mano primma d’ ‘e cocere. ‘O rraù s’ausa, assimee ‘o sciore ‘e pe cuncià ‘e ‘a surrentina, ca se fernescene ‘e cocere a furno dinto a ‘nu pignatiello.

Paccare s’abbinano assaje bbuono cu frutte ‘e mare e pesce. Accussì se priparano ‘e piatte cchiù ‘mpurtante, specialmente p’ ‘e matrimonie. ‘E cchiù ausate songo:

‘E â vongole o ê frutte (cu’ vongole, cozzeche, fasulare, taratufe)). ‘E paccare c’ ‘a zuppa ‘e pesce, cu scuorfane cuocce, tracene e ati pisce â zuppa. ‘A cu ‘e cuciute cu ‘na sprizzata ‘e vino janco. Esistono pure tanti variante, comme ‘e c’ ‘o zuco d’ ‘o merluzzo frisco janco (senza pummarola, sulo cu aglio, uoglio e petrusino). ‘E piatte d’ ‘a cucina povera cu ‘e legume se ponno abbinà c’ ‘e frutte ‘e mare; accusì se po’ appriparà e fasule c’ ‘e cozzeche, o variante cchiù muderne, comme cu cucuzzielle e vongole, ma accussì facenno se perde tutta a tradizione, e non se tratta cchiù ‘e piatte tipicamente.

‘O ‘e riso è comm’a ‘nu timballo ‘e riso ‘mbuttunato ‘e fecatielle ‘e pullo, sacicce, purpettelle ‘e carne, schiore ‘e latte o provola, pesielle, funge, e cundito c’ ‘o rraù, o pure dint’ ‘a verzione janca c’ ‘a besciamella. Dint’ ‘a cucina povera s’appriparano virze e riso, ‘nzapurute cu scurzette ‘e tagliate a pezzulle, ca se squagliano quanno se cociono.

A base ‘e pesce è ‘o â piscatora, ca se pripara cu purpetielle, secce, vongole, lupine, jammere e e cu ‘nu broro fatto vullenno ‘e scorze ‘e tutt’ ‘e frutte ‘e mare. A s’ausono pure ‘e palle ‘e riso, ‘mbuttunate e fritte.

‘A è forse ‘a criazione cchiù famosa ‘e tutta ‘a cucina. Ll’origgene soje songo assaje antiche, sicuramente ‘o periodo, quanno ce stevano fucacce ‘e rano, pure citata dint’ ‘e. Ma ‘a verace, c’ ‘a pummarona ‘ncoppa, ha poco ‘e cchià ‘e duicient’anne. Addivintaje ampressa famosa mmiezo o popolo, ma pure add’ ‘e barune e principe, e nce steva pure a bizzeffe add’ ‘e festine d’ ‘e rre Burbone, ca ce piaceva assaje.

Ma pure ‘e rrè piemuntise se lasciajene cunquistà a chisto mmangià: fuje p’ ‘a riggina Margherita ‘e Savoja ca dint’ ‘o 1889 ‘o ‘nventaje ‘a tricuolre, addò ‘o janco, ‘o rrusso e ‘o vverde erano fatte d’ ‘a ‘a pummarola e a vasenicola; e chesta se chiammaje d’allora “Margherita”. ‘A cuttura d’ ‘a vera have bisogno d’ ‘o furno a llegna cha riesce a tenere ‘na temperatura ‘e 450 – 485°C. Per chesta raggione, sia ‘a fatta â casa ca chella appriparata dint’ ‘t lucale cha ausano ‘e furne eliettriece non arrivano a apparà l’unico sapore d’ ‘a vera.

‘E purpe â luciana songo nfra ‘e cchiù ‘mpurtante piatte ‘e pesce. Se chiammano accussì add’ ‘o rione ‘e Santa Lucia, addo’ nascetterro. ‘O purpo se mette senz’acqua c’ ‘a pummarola e ‘o cerasiello. ‘O purpo se coce pure scaurato, a ‘nzalata, cu uoglio, zuco ‘e limone, petrosino e aulive verde. Pe ‘na ‘nzalata ‘e mare cchiù ricca ce vonno pure secce, e jammere.

‘O pesce ‘e media grandezza se cucina bbuone all’acqua pazza, ca fosse c’ ‘a pummarulella e ‘o petrosino; ‘e pisce cchiù grusse ‘a morte lloro ‘e arrustute ‘ncoppa a brace, accumpagnate, p’ ‘e pranze cchiù ‘mpurtante, ‘a jammarune e mazzauncuoglie. ‘E cozzeche se cocene ‘e varie mmanere: ‘a cchiù semprice è â mpepata, cotte ampressa dint’ ‘a ‘na caccavella c’ ‘o cummuoglio, c’ ‘o pepe acoppa e ‘na goccia ‘e limone; o se fanno pure a grattè. Vongole e ati frutte ‘e mare se cocene a soté, suffritte dint’a ‘na tiana cu uoglio, aglio, e spase dint’ ‘o piatto ‘ncppp ‘e crustine.

Pure ‘o pesce meno priggiato vene sapurito si cucenato bbuono:

L’alice ‘ndurate e fritte, spinate e passate primm dint’ ‘a farina, appriesso dint’all’ova, e po’ fritte. L’alicw marinate, o c’o zuco ‘e limone, o dint’all’acito. L’alice arreganate, spinate e passate ampressa dint’a ‘na turriera cu’ aglio, uoglio, arecheta e zuco ‘e limone o acito. ‘E cicenielle, ca songo pisce piccerille, se appriparano scaurate o frijute din’t a na leggera pastetta, accussì comme se fa cull’alghe ‘e mare.

‘A frittura ‘e paranza è spisso fatta cu’ merluzzielle, treglie, fricassuare, ma ‘nce ponno sta pure ati specie ‘e pisce piccerille, comme a alice o mazzune. S’hadda magnà assaje cavera, o, comme se dice, frijenno magnanno. ‘E jammere piccerille ‘e nassa, ca se venneno ancora vive, e ca sumpetteano, se frijono ampressa ampressa, senza ‘e passà dint’ ‘a farina, comme ‘nvece se fa c’ ‘a paranza.

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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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Germanic Influence on French

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

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

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

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

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

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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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