Category Archives: Indo-Hittite

Romanian As a Romance Language Outlier

Andrei writes:

As a native speaker of Romanian, I suspect that the closeness between Latin and Romanian is vastly overstated. First let’s start with the obvious fact that nobody really knows how Latin sounded. Second, even though the Romanian base vocabulary is very much Latin, the use of Latin words is highly non-standard.For example while all other Neo-Latin languages use a world similar to ‘terra‘ to express the idea of ‘earth’, in Romanian is ‘pamânt‘ – coming from ‘pavimentum‘ (paved road). So a radical change in meaning.

There are hundreds of such examples where in Romanian worlds of Latin origin have very surprising meanings, meanings which cannot be guessed at all by any other speaker of neo-Romance languages. For political and patriotic reasons, Romanians tend to overestimate their language’s closeness to Latin, Italian and so on, but the truth is that Romanian is the oddest neo-Romance language in Europe, and distinctly different from all the others.

Still, Romanian is an interesting language to learn for people with a passion for Romance languages, as it gives you a better understanding of how many language registers existed in Latin. The other major neo-Romance languages will only give you an incomplete image of Latin, as they represent a highly correlated evolution of vulgar Latin, in which major feature appeared or disappeared simultaneously (i.e the case system, the neutral gender etc.). Romanian is something else and you can notice that the moment you dwell in the language.

What an interesting language this is. I mess around with many Romance languages, including Portuguese, French, and Italian. I already speak Spanish pretty well. I have tried to mess with Romanian but it is too weird and written Romanian does not seem to make much sense.

Wow! Instead of earth meaning land as it does in most sane languages, earth means pavement! LOL! Where did Romanian evolve? Manhattan?

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

Is Dravidian Related to Japanese?

Thirdeye writes:

The Tamil-Japonic connection isn’t quite as off the wall as one might think at first glance. There’s apparently a strong Andaman-Indonesian language connection. The convention of repeat plurals seems to have found its way to Japan. There’s also some similarity between the Finno-Ugric languages, which are Uralic outliers in a sea of Indo-European languages, and Dravidian languages that have a remnant in Pakistan. Contact between proto-Dravidian-Uralic and Altaic languages is a real possibility.

If Uralic is close to anything, it is close to Altaic and Indo-European and probably even closer to Chukto-Kamchatkan, Eskimo-Aleut, Yukaghir and Nivkhi. Yukaghir may actually be Uralic itself, or maybe the family is called “Uralic-Yukaghir.”

There is no connection between Austronesian (Indonesian) and the Andaman Islanders. Austronesian is indeed related to Thai though (Austro-Tai); in my opinion, this has been proven. If the Andaman languages are related to anything at all, they may be related to some Papuan languages and an isolate in Nepal called Nihali. A good case can be made connecting Nihali with some of the Papuan languages.

Typology is not that great of way to classify. Typology is areal and it spreads via convergence. What you are looking in search genetic relationship among languages more more than anything else is morphology. After that, a nice set of cognates.

There is probably no connection between Dravidian and Uralic in particular. Dravidian is outside of most everything in Eurasia. It if is close to anything, it might be close to Afro-Asiatic. There also looks to be a connection with Elamite.

Dravidian and Afro-Asiatic are probably older than the rest of the Eurasian languages, and they were located further to the south. Afro-Asiatic is very old, probably ~15,000 YBP.

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Filed under Afroasiatic, Altaic, Andaman Islanders, Austro-Tai, Austronesian, Chukotko-Kamchatkan, Comparitive, Dravidian, Eskimo-Aleut, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Isolates, Japanese, Japonic, Language Classification, Language Families, Linguistics, Negritos, Paleosiberian, Race/Ethnicity, SE Asians, Tamil, Thai

Listen to the Romanian Language

Romanian as spoken by a Romanian TV announcer. I didn’t understand it when I first heard it. This time I listened right up close and I didn’t have the faintest idea of what she was talking about. If someone told me this was a Romance language, I would tell them that they were joking.

Here is another one, by a young man with thespian tendencies who loves the sound of his own voice and loves to see himself on film. The audio is much better on this one than on the TV announcer. It’s as loud and clear as you need it to be. Nevertheless, I did not have the tiniest clue of what he might be talking about, and I was basically lost in this whole video. It seemed like I might have heard a recent English borrowing or two, but that’s useless if you don’t understand what he is talking about.

Now mind you, I know Spanish quite well, and I also have some knowledge of French, Portuguese and Italian. I can understand Spanish videos fairly well, and I can understand something of Italian and Portuguese videos. French, not so sure. I can read it a bit, but I am pretty lost with the spoken language.

Nevertheless, despite my Romance background, I am utterly lost with Romanian, and not only that, but it doesn’t sound like Spanish, Portuguese, French or Italian.

I have heard a TV announcer speaking Romansch once and if this sounds like anything, it might sound like Romansch.

What does it sound like? No idea. How about Italian mixed with Czech!?

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

English Speakers in the EU

% in each country who can hold a conversation in English.

% in each country who can hold a conversation in English.

Hmm, let’s see now. If you want to find an English speaker, leaving aside the UK and Ireland for now, what are your best bets? It turns out that more people in The Netherlands speak English than in any other European country. Close behind are Sweden and Denmark. After that, it is Austria, Cyprus and Finland. Further behind still are Slovenia, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Greece and Estonia.

Bringing up the rear are Latvia, and then even further behind are Lithuania, France, Poland, Italy and Romania.

The worst places of all to find someone to speak English to are Portugal, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary.

Of course, your mileage may vary. A friend of mine from Sweden, who speaks English well, was just visiting his brother in Barcelona, Spain. The brother speaks Swedish, Spanish and Catalan now. My friend does not know Spanish or Catalan so he has to try to communicate with people in English, but he told me it was hard because “no one speaks English here.”

It is pretty amazing that Spaniards are some of worst in Europe at speaking English.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, English language, Europe, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Linguistics, Regional

Mutual Intelligibility of Scots and Scottish English with Other English Varieties

Lesley writes:

Do you mean Scots as in Robert Burns or just a Scottish accent with slang e.g Trainspotting? I’m not sure Scots (Robert Burns) is a different language as such, just a far older dialect, like the English Shakespeare wrote in or they wrote in the 17th century etc, certain ways of speech have changed over the centuries and certain words have fallen out of common use. Even writers like Jane Austen write a fair bit different than people would today, but she can still be understood after a short time with a little patience. Actual Old English is another language though:

(Sorry to repeat myself)

I’d say Robert Burns and Shakespeare are about equally hard to understand to modern readers or listeners, but it’s far easier to make out some of what their saying than it is with Old English – which is a completely different language. I think understanding Shakespeare or Robert Burns could be taught in a few short lessons, where as to learn Old English would be more like trying to learn German or something, though we’d notice a few similarities to English.

I think if you are talking about Americans inability to understand Scots (Robert Burns) without any proper lessons then fair enough, but if your just taking about a Scottish accent i.e like the one in Trainspotting, then it’s probably more a case of they just don’t want to attempt to understand.

The 42% figure is for the real Scots language, not for Scottish English, the dialect used in Trainspotting.

Middle English (Canterbury Tales) and Modern English are two separate languages.

Shakespeare is much easier to understand than Scots. When I play a video of a person speaking Scots to an American English speaker, they look puzzled for a bit, then they start shaking their heads and laughing, then pretty soon, they just start waving their hands and laughing and leave the room, saying, “I don’t want to listen to this anymore.” When I go to ask them, they usually say they could barely understand a single word of it. However, some American English speakers say they can understand it better than that.

Two men were speaking Scots while I was walking into a coffee shop recently. The rhythm of it sounded very familiar, and I kept thinking maybe they were speaking English, but obviously they were not speaking English at all. Instead they were clearly speaking some weird foreign language. I thought it might have been Dutch or Danish. They got in back of me in line and I asked them what language they were speaking and they looked offended and said, “English.” I shook my head and said, “Huh?” They didn’t want to pursue it any further, but it was soon obvious that they were speaking Scots.

A former commenter on this blog speaks Scottish English but he tells me that he can’t really understand a word of Scots except for the variety spoken right around where he grew up. He said Scots speakers from 20-30 miles away can’t understand each other. He said he had a Scots speaking with co-worker who spoke a Scots variety different from the one he grew up once for 9 months, and in that whole time, he understood maybe 10 words. He just nodded his head and said, “Sure thing, mate,” whenever the man said anything.

Americans who watch Trainspotting typically say that it is horribly hard to understand and often say they wish it had subtitles. I believe later versions did have subtitles. It is certainly not true that Americans do not want to understand Scottish English. We simply cannot make heads or tails of what in God’s name they are talking about no matter how hard we listen to them.

But Americans understand Scottish English better than Scots.

Americans have a horrible time with Scouse, Yorkshire, Geordie, Cockney, Somerset and other atrocities, whereas the British have an easier time with them. I have an English friend from Somerset who lived in the US for six years. She tells me that people were always saying that they could not understand her. I sometimes have a hard time understanding her myself!

Lesley comes from London. Speakers of British English can definitely understand the more difficult British English lects better than we Americans can. I also hear that they can understand Scottish English and even Irish English better than we can. So the British cannot translate their experiences to ours.

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Filed under Balto-Slavic-Germanic, Cinema, English language, Germanic, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Language Families, Linguistics, Literature, Scots

Good Evidence for the Aryan Migration Theory

From the comments section, nice stuff. He is right.

The IE people who invaded India did come from Southern Russia bringing the horse, the chariot, the Sanskrit language, the IE religion and Gods and also the swastika symbol, the oldest symbol in the world. The Indian revisionists are trying to change all this by trying to make the Indus  Civilization part of the Aryas, people who called themselves noble.

One deep and telling difference between the two is that the Indus Civilization, brilliant as it was, is covered in cemeteries, whereas the IE peoples cremated their dead. Also, one other factor is that the Indus Script is not a language or it would have been the national language of India. The introduction of Sanskrit by the IE people overwhelmed India with its different dialects.

The problem facing the Indian revisionists is that IVC being in existence for over 5,000 years had enough time to make their language the national language of India but it did not happen. Natural earthshaking events, decline of its civilization and the spread of Sanskrit evolving into Hinduism sounded its death knell.

Apparently, the Vedas does not describe the civilization for its a fact that when the IE tribes appeared in India, the IVC had vanished. One other outside factor is that the mythological pantheon of the IVC does not have the horse or chariot. The Aryas or noble ones did.

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Filed under Anthropology, Asia, Cultural, Hinduism, India, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Irano-Armenian, Indo-Irano-Armeno-Hellenic, Language Families, Linguistics, Nationalism, Political Science, Regional, Religion, Sanskrit, South Asia, Ultranationalism

How Do Literary Authors of Small Languages Survive?

One wonders how a literary author of a small language could possibly survive, but they do. The following nations at the very least have, good, thriving publishing industries in their native languages, however, they do not have huge, world-class publishing industries.

Tier 1:

Albania (Albanian)

Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro (Serbo-Croatian)

Bulgaria (Bulgarian)

Burma (Burmese)

Czech Republic (Czech)

Denmark (Danish)

Finland (Finnish)

Georgia (Georgian)

Greece (Greek)

Iceland (Icelandic)

Hungary (Hungarian)

Iran (Persian)

Macedonia (Macedonian)

Norway (Norwegian)

Poland (Polish)

Romania (Romanian)

Slovenia (Slovenian)

Sweden (Swedish)

The Netherlands (Dutch)

Ukraine (Ukrainian)

Tier 1 are relatively small languages, but authors writing in those languages, especially novelists, can probably sell a lot of books simply because the market is rather small. All of those countries have thriving publishing industries.

Further, many of these languages are translated into German. More books are probably translated into German than any other continental language. Germany is basically a clearinghouse for translations from smaller European countries. If your work in say Czech gets translated into German, it will get much wider readership because many Europeans even outside of Germany speak German. German is one of the main lingua francas of Continental Europe.

Books in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, Georgian, Gikuyu, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian are often translated first into German and then into other languages. Germany is often the first stop for a foreign translation from a big author from Continental Europe, and a German translation often comes before an English one.

The other big language that Continental European books get translated into is French. French of course is a huge language in Continental Europe and is spoken even by many people outside of France. If you publish in your small language first, you often wish to take it to France to get your first or second translation done. France, like Germany, specializes in translations of good authors of small Continental languages.

Books in Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malayalam, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese often receive a French translation, though a German translation is more common.

Works in Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Sanskrit, Swedish and Turkish are sometimes translated into Spanish. Works in Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Bengali, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian are sometimes translated into Italian.

Works in Macedonian are typically translated first into French.

Most Albanian works also go into French first.

Some Persian works are translated first into Urdu.

Other languages have thriving industries of all sorts of published materials:

Tier 2:

China (Chinese)

Italy (Italian)

Japan (Japanese)

Korea (Korean)

Portugal and Brazil (Portuguese)

Russia (Russian)

Spain and Latin America (Spanish)

Turkey (Turkish)

Tier 2 are huge languages in their own right with vast publishing industries in their native languages. In addition, works in these languages are often translated into German and French.

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Filed under French, German, Language Families, Linguistics, Literature

What Is a Group of Cats Called?

A group of cats is known as a glaring, a clowder, or a clutter of cats. Glaring may have a sort of shaded meaning in that it is sometimes defined as a group of cats who don’t exactly get along with each other or who live in some sort of a tenuous peace with each other.

Glaring at least is from 1450, Middle English. Exact etymology is not known, but it may be a Gaelic borrowing.

Clowder is related to clutter. Clutter is a Welsh borrowing. Both are from around the same time period as glaring.

There used to be all sorts of collective nouns for many common species, but most of these words have dropped out of the language. A very interesting one is a murder or crows -> a group or flock of crows. We still have herd for cows, pack for dogs, school for fish and flock for birds, but most of the rest are gone.

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Filed under English language

Are Persian and Kurdish Mutually Intelligible?

The answer is not at all. There is no mutual intelligiblity (MI) between the two – the intelligibility figure is essentially 0%.

One commenter said that Persian-Kurdish MI is about the same as between English and Spanish.

What is odd is that Kurdish and Persian have a lexicostatistics rating of 80% of a 41 word Swadesh basic vocabulary list. That is, 80% of the words are cognates on that list. That list is not so good for judging MI though. For that, I would go with a Swadesh-215 list, including borrowings. You should get quite a bit lower numbers on the Swadesh-215 list than on the Swadesh-41 list as basic vocabulary tends to change less between any two related languages.

So you see that even in languages where 80% of the core vocabulary consists of similar words, they can’t understand a word of each other’s speech when they talk to each other. How fascinating.

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Filed under Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Irano-Armenian, Indo-Irano-Armeno-Hellenic, Language Families, Linguistics

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.

Comments?

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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