Linguistic Discussion Of European Languages of Obscure origin

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So I stop cluttering up Mark S's thread with them:

"he entered the forest and the phantoms came to meet him"

Finnish, Basque, Pictish, Etrustcan and other european languages which may or may not be of the Indo-European Language Family.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 11:43 (fifteen years ago) link

Apparently Albanian is indeed a subgroup of the Indo-European language!

And my confusion over Celtic languages was caused by the controversy over the origin of Pictish. Some claim Pictish was indeed a P-Celtic language (and therefore Indo-European after all) while others tried to claim that it was more like Basque and therefore not Indo-European at all.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 11:48 (fifteen years ago) link

I can see already this is going to be my least popular thread ever.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 11:52 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm interested in the connection between the Basque language and that of some Native American tribes. Anyone know anything about this?

Are all these non Indo-European languages total mysteries to the linguists or is there an explanation for their origin?

Didn't know Finnish was an obscure language either.

dog latin (dog latin), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I am trying to think of something to say, as this area does interest me, but sadly doing a degree in linguistics has left me pretty much in the dark regarding linguistics. Oh well. Sorry.

alix (alix), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:02 (fifteen years ago) link

Ohmigod, people on my thread now!

(They're not actually "obscure" - o.O.o. is a term for words which I jokingly applied on the other thread to non-Indo-European European languages.)

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:04 (fifteen years ago) link

Here's a nice diagramme of all the indo-european languages:

(I see that site has a discussion board, maybe I should go there and ask about the Pictish-Basque link, but I'd be told off for being off topic, probably.)

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:05 (fifteen years ago) link

I heard Finnish and Hungarian are in a language group of their own, possibly related to Turkish and Japanese.

Does anyone still speak Etruscan?

I don't really know anything about this at all, but it's fascinating.

Cathy (Cathy), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:07 (fifteen years ago) link

no one speaks etruscan. It got squashed by latin, didn't it?

alix (alix), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:08 (fifteen years ago) link

The Finnish group is called Finno-Ugric and I had a nice link on the other thread...

No one speaks Etruscan any more, no. But it was another weird non-connected language. Apparently there used to be a lot more of them before the Indo-Europeans overran everything.

Now the only languages left in Europe of non-I-E origin are Finno-Ugric languages, Basque, and ... erm ... Maltese, I think?

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:09 (fifteen years ago) link

Not only does none still speak etruscan but no one has been able to decipher it. There is a large body of etruscan writings but there has been no 'rosetta stone' to decode it with.

Ed (dali), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:09 (fifteen years ago) link

I'm trying to google-research Indo-European but I keep getting either poorly designed academic sites, or weird quasi-Nazi "Aryan" nonsense.

(An interesting article actually pointed out that the blonde-haired blue-eyed-ness of the so-called "Aryans" of Europe was probably more likely to be caused by interbreding with the indigenous peoples of Europe, anyway...)

A nice quote on Basque:

The languages of the previous inhabitants of Europe, with the exception of Basque—a non-lndo-European language with possible remote relatives in the Caucasus—were crowded out by the Indo-European dialects.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:12 (fifteen years ago) link

Thanks for posting that link, Kate. How interesting.

A complete side-track (resulting from some google-research), but look how cool the numbers one to ten are in Cornish:

onan dew tri peswar pymp hwegh seyth eth naw deg

Cathy (Cathy), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:15 (fifteen years ago) link

I just found this totally whackadoo site trying to link Welsh and other Celtic languages to Hebrew!

Which makes my Welsh dream somewhat slightly more sinister...

Hebrew is part of a completely different family of languages altogether!

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:17 (fifteen years ago) link

Has anyone translated Linear A yet?

thing of thing, Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:17 (fifteen years ago) link

This is where my crazy idea about Pictish being a non-I-E language comes from:

The most respectable long-term fallacy was actually the one that eventually brought the field to its current position, with Kenneth Jackson's radical theory (1955) that there were in fact two languages used concurrently by the Picts, one Celtic and one non-Indo-European. This is not a ridiculous suggestion, as even today there are many cultures which use two or more languages or dialects in the course of daily life (this situation is called 'diglossia' if you are more interested). But current thought has completely dismissed Jackson’s idea, though it did help to bridge the old school (who are convinced that Pictish was non-Indo-European) and the new school (who believe that it’s Celtic).

From this interesting site about the Picts:

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:21 (fifteen years ago) link

Just as "punch" is a Hindi word meaning "five," referring to the number of ingredients in a delicious bowl of punch, "pymp" is a Cornish borrowing indicative of the number of women needed under the thumb of...

Dickerson Pike (Dickerson Pike), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:23 (fifteen years ago) link

pymp my ryde

tokyo rosemary (rosemary), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:27 (fifteen years ago) link

Now you're just being silly. Ryde is on the Isle of Wight which is quite clearly Saxon and not Pictish at all!

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:28 (fifteen years ago) link

Wow, I was about to post a "Who All Up In This Bitch Is Finno-Ugric?" thread when I return to find Kate discussing our shared obsession with all comers

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:32 (fifteen years ago) link

Well, Dadaismus, I found much stuff on the web to support the original idea that Finno-Urgic is, indeed non-I-E.

(What would that make Finnish and Maltese? Safari and Netscape?)

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:34 (fifteen years ago) link

Also P-Celtic = Breton

Also Q-Celtic = Manx

Not sure where Sarkese fits in

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:37 (fifteen years ago) link

Maltese is what, Phoenecian or Punic or sumthin'? With heavy Arabic and Latin influences?

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:39 (fifteen years ago) link

Phoenecian I believe.

Ed (dali), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:41 (fifteen years ago) link

Well, it's interesting to see that the Picts were P-Celtic because the P-Celtic wave was *later* (Iron Age) than the Q-Celtic wave (Bronze Age). (At least that's my understanding.)

Trying to remember what Maltese was... I think Arabic. There was another Mediteranean (island?) language which was basically Turkish, but I can't remember where that was.

Will look it up!

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:41 (fifteen years ago) link

The only possible link left for Basque is something or other in Armenia, so say the experts. There was going to be an expedition to investigate the link a few years ago, but it was postponed/cancelled.

PJ Miller (PJ Miller), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:42 (fifteen years ago) link

Maltese is related to is the only one of such languages to be written in the Roman alphabet.

a few words in English have recognisably Sanskrit origins - apple is 'apul' in Sanskrit.

MarkH (MarkH), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:42 (fifteen years ago) link

Maltese was originally Punic, but since the 11th Century or so, it is an independant branch of an Arabic-related language.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:43 (fifteen years ago) link

Someone once tried to convince me that Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian were related to Korean. It all sounds highly implausible.

Tag (Tag), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:44 (fifteen years ago) link

the big link in all indo-european languages ama - maman - mama - mother etc. OK so in indiamn languages ama often means older woman to whom I show respect rather than strictly mother but its the strongest continuity.

Ed (dali), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:45 (fifteen years ago) link

I used to work in an office with a Finnish girl (don't ask) and on the phone she did sound slightly Oriental

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:46 (fifteen years ago) link

It's actually more plausible than it sounds. Finno-Ugric languages are related to Siberian languages, so the Northern bit of Korea possibly might have some intersection.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:46 (fifteen years ago) link

The languages originated in Siberia, as did the tribes who settled in Finland - hence why Finland is characterised as non-Scandinavian. Hungarian more difficult to pinpoint.

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:49 (fifteen years ago) link

talks about the Central Asian languages and their possible links to both Finno-Urgic languages and East Asian languages like Japanese and Korean.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:55 (fifteen years ago) link

"The whole is world is just a great big onion"

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 12:57 (fifteen years ago) link

I still need a good site/explanation of the Basque language!

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:02 (fifteen years ago) link

There is no adequate explanation for it as yet

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:05 (fifteen years ago) link

Well, someone could TRY! It's someone else's turn to google and post a link.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:07 (fifteen years ago) link

No, what I mean is even among academics I don't think there's one yet - so Googling cannot help us here!

Dadaismus (Dada), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:07 (fifteen years ago) link

the atlantis explanation is more than adequate! (just wrong) (probably)

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:08 (fifteen years ago) link

Alright, alright, here is a tedious (I suspect from his not wanting to hear any Atlantaen theories) academic site on it:

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:08 (fifteen years ago) link

Isn't there a theory that it is indigenous? If this is discussed above, please ignore me. I struggle when the subject matter isn't football.

Mikey G (Mikey G), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:08 (fifteen years ago) link

I like Basque! It's all Z's and K's! Which are the two coolest letters, anyway!

A quote from this site:

Q17. Are the Basques genetically different from other Europeans?

A17. Apparently, yes. It has long been known that the Basques have the highest proportion of rhesus-negative blood in Europe (25%), and one of the highest percentages of type-O blood (55%). Recently, however, the geneticist Luiga Luca Cavalli-Sforza has completed a gene map of the peoples of Europe, and he finds the Basques to be strikingly different from their neighbors. The genetic boundary between Basques and non-Basques is very sharp on the Spanish side. On the French side, the boundary is more diffuse: it shades off gradually toward the Garonne in the north. These findings are entirely in agreement with what we know of the history of the language.

Q18. Does this mean the Basques are directly descended from the earliest known human inhabitants of Europe, the Cro-Magnon people who occupied western Europe around 35,000 years ago?

A18. Nobody knows. This is possible, but we have no real evidence either way. The only evidence we have is negative: the archeologists can find no evidence for any sudden change in population in the area for thousands of years before the arrival of the Celts and later the Romans in the first millennium BC.

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:11 (fifteen years ago) link

what a square!

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:11 (fifteen years ago) link

Basque numbers:

1 bat
2 bi ~ biga
3 hiru ~ hirur
4 lau ~ laur
5 bost ~ bortz
6 sei
7 zazpi
8 zortzi
9 bederatzi
10 hamar

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:12 (fifteen years ago) link

bost(a) ryme

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:13 (fifteen years ago) link

Hey, I'm vindicated!

As a footnote, the football club Athletic Bilbao will only field Basque players and yet, miraculously have won the league a number of times. Real Socieded (based in San Sebastian) will only field Basques or foreignors and not Spanish players. The other Basque teams are not so selective.

Knew I could work a football reference in somehow.

Mikey G (Mikey G), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:15 (fifteen years ago) link


Another weird language: Celtiberian!!!

In Spain, the linguistic position was rather complicated. Much of central and northern Spain was occupied by the Celtic people who we call the Celtiberians. These Celts had writing, and they left behind some written texts, including the famous bronze tablet of Botorrita, which we can read only partly. The Mediterranean coast of Spain (and also a small part of southern France) was occupied by a quite different people who we call the Iberians. The Iberians too had writing, and they have bequeathed us a sizable number of written texts in their Iberian language. For a long time we could make no sense of these, but, in the first half of the 20th century, the Spanish linguist Manuel Gómez Moreno succeeded in figuring out the phonetic values of the characters, and so we can now read Iberian to the extent of being able to pronounce it. However, we still can't make the slightest sense of the texts, because Iberian has turned out to be a completely unknown language: it is certainly not Indo-European, and in fact we are confident that Iberian is not discoverably related to any other known language (including Basque -- see below).

I *knew* there was a Celtic language which was non-I-E!

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:16 (fifteen years ago) link

Catalan is a pretty weird/neat language, especially in terms of punctuatio.n

hstencil (hstencil), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:17 (fifteen years ago) link

But I'm pretty sure that Catalan, although pronounced and written strangely, is a Latinate language, is it not?

Super-Kate (kate), Wednesday, 28 April 2004 13:18 (fifteen years ago) link

I had a curry last night to celebrate the Great Bowel Shift.

I'm sorry, that was a poor attempt at a joke. Cracking thread, Kate.

Mikey G (Mikey G), Thursday, 29 April 2004 07:48 (fifteen years ago) link

Happy Birthday, Pater S!

(The Carribean-West Country connection is actually more plausible. Except, again, with large interference by West African grammar and syntax.)

The Southern US - West Country thing seemed plausible because of the vowels. (Southern US vowels show distinct pre-GVS tendencies, but this was common all over the more backwater parts of the UK at the time, such as the Midlands, where many of the Puritans etc. actually came from) However, Southern US accents do *not* show the consonant shift which is very distinctive of West Country accents. ("Zee" for see, "Zoider" for cider, "Vox" for fox, etc.)

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 07:56 (fifteen years ago) link

Great vowel shift happening at the same time as spelling became standardised = one of reasons English spelling is so fucked.

Ricardo (RickyT), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:10 (fifteen years ago) link

This thread is really really putting my linguistics degree to shame. Actually the only reason I wanted to do linguistics was so I could find out about this kind of stuff, but sod it we ended up discussing fucking grammatical structures an' the workings of the mouth an' shit.

So did anyone find out anything about the Basque-American Indian connection? Off topic - but have they proven where the Native American originally came from, as there is evidence to say they could have come from Russia, Scandinavia, West Ghana and practically anywhere you may care to choose. Someone who knows about these things said they were definitely from Northern Asia via the Bering SStraits but I'm not entirely convinced. Sorry, I know this is kind of diverging from the topic in hand so a quick answer is appreciated to stop derailment.

dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:12 (fifteen years ago) link

Back to Romansch. Research tells me it's a Latin dialect spoken by about 1% of the Swiss population. Is Helvetia a Romansch word?

And what of Luxembourgois?

Tag (Tag), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:13 (fifteen years ago) link

Hmm. I've always thought the American accent, especially the Southern variant, had lots of input from French colonials, whereas in the North you've got the Irish influence.

Is the next great vowel shift to do with Estuary English?

suzy (suzy), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:14 (fifteen years ago) link

the mersey estuary

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:23 (fifteen years ago) link

Last really obvious vowel shift was in RP between 1940 and 1970. Queen vs Princess Diana, innit?

Ricardo (RickyT), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:27 (fifteen years ago) link

brief encounter => swift arf

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:36 (fifteen years ago) link


OK, thinking about GREAT VOWEL SHIFTS...

(N.B. I don't actually know anything about this, so this is all theorisation on my part and possibly wildly wrong.)

The current one, I am guessing, has a lot to do with the mass media. The advent of radio, and the "BBC Standard Accent" first did its bit to erradicate local accents. Yet as the BBC has de-stuffified, and culture has changed (especially with the influx of American media) UK accents have "dropped" in class.

HSA was commenting (after listening to a BBC radio programme his grandfather was on) that middle class people of his grandfather's generation spoke in accents that sound to us almost unbelievably posh. A person of the same class today, rather than making a conscious or unconscious effort to sound standardised "posh" makes the same effort to sound "street". Part of this is cultural (reverse classism, social socialism or whathaveyou) but part of this is very definitely down to the media.

Up until 100 years ago, the only accents a person would have been exposed to would be those of their neighbours. For the past several decades, we have had standarising (or de-standarising as the case may be) accents beamed directly into our homes by the media. This *is* going to change our accents.

So... what was going on in the England of the 16th Century to provoke the GREAT VOWEL SHIFT? Culturally, there was a shift away from Europe. England lost its land and its stake in France by the end of the Tudor dynasty. You have English Kings (or, more notably Queen) ruling a country which thinks of itself as distinct from Europe. Hence, the abandonment of "European" style vowels.

And in terms of the media, you have the invention of the printing press less than a century before. The Press (both literally and in its current meaning) had a standardising effect on languages all across Europe. Both regional dialects and spelling were regularised. And in England's case, they were standardised to the London/Southeast dialect.

This change would have happened more slowly than our own Vowel Shift, hence the delayed effect of about a century from the invention of the press. Because, indeed, pronounciation was still changing, even as spelling was being standardised. (Hence why so many English words have such odd, non-phonetical, to our ears, spellings.)

The first generation of people reading printed books, their accents would not have been affected. But their children, their grandchildren, as literacy became more common - as people began being taught English from books, rather than books reflecting spoken English - in 50 to 100 years, you have your vowel shift.

Wow, that was long. Now I need to go to the library and prove myself right or wrong!

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:49 (fifteen years ago) link

yes i wd def speculate along those lines kate: the arrival of the book in ppl's homes coincident w.the breakaway of the mercantile classes from feudalism (basically tudor royalty sided with the Commons against the aristocracy) (also dissolved the monasteries = the major repository of books and literacy previously)

(it's also one of the causes of the Civil War! everyone started reading the bible and interpreting it THEIR way)

spelling was as you spoke, but gradually stabilised, meaning that orthography standardised towards a particular (regional? fashionable?) zone, almost certainly NOT one determined "democratically"... i forget exactly when standard modern spelling was established - but once it was, that wd constitute the final end of this pressure towards vowel shift, and a stabilisation until new mass media bumped speech sideways again

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 29 April 2004 08:58 (fifteen years ago) link

Last really obvious vowel shift was in RP between 1940 and 1970. Queen vs Princess Diana, innit?

Princess Di was edging towards a more Estuary accent, but I wouldn't count this as a vowel shift. Nobody speaks like the Queen anyway as she has some kind of special version of RP reserved especially for her. So really using the royal family as a metre of language isn't really accurate. But yes, the prestige of the Estuary accent in England is growing and may one day succeed RP. It's likely that RP as we know it will cease to exist in the next couple of decades, spoken only by older generations. This is not as dramatic a shift as the original great vowel shift though.

To add to Kate's post - of course the GVS did not affect all English speakers. It was particularly effective in the South of England whereas the North kept most of it's vowels - hence the difference between the long and short "a" in regional variations of the word "bath" etc.

dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 09:01 (fifteen years ago) link

OK, apparently, the Basque-Native American connection is as spurious as the Atlantaen connection. (At least, according to that killjoy site, and he seems to know what he's talking about, so I believe him.)

Native American languages are a whole nother kettle of fish - the Americas were settled over an astonishingly long time scale, with various groups getting cut off by various Ice Ages at different times. As with Europe, there were many different waves of settlement by tribes with vastly different geographical origins and vastly different languages. However, the preponderance of evidence does suggest that the continents were colonised from West to East - i.e. over the Bering Straits and down that way. So bad news for those who would like to believe that the Mayans were really Egyptians (I mean, look at those pyramids!) or Atlantaens (hence the Basque connection, clearly!)

And as for French influence on Southern speech - depends which part of the South. I've read lots of things about various influences being betrayed by the pronounciation or non-pronounciation of R's. But I can't remember what they are. (Apart from the fact that Americans are more likely to pronounce them than Posh British.)

OK, x-post, but I've got to get offline now and go do some shopping...

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 09:02 (fifteen years ago) link

(xpost)Kate, it's the same in America - if you watch a 40s/50s film where people are supposed to be middle-class they are unbelievably well-spoken by today's standards (Vincent Price, from St. Louis, was believed by many to be British, for ex).

suzy (suzy), Thursday, 29 April 2004 09:08 (fifteen years ago) link

i just want to thank kate for the spectacular site on basque language and culture you have linked.
very interesting, indeed.

joan vich (joan vich), Thursday, 29 April 2004 09:29 (fifteen years ago) link

Oh my goodness, Finnish grammar, Iron Age vs. Bronze Age Celts: FITE, Tudor Politics, the Atlanaeans being the missing link between Basques and the Mayans... the only way this thread could possibly get any more PERFECT would be if...

Ah yes! Why, in one particular pop group, the entire changing face of Southern English is laid bare!

Charlie speaks a posh, Public School version of RP so thick that his own bandmates admitted that they could not understand him when he first joined the band. Perhaps he might be able to chit-chat with Chaucer!

James speaks with a middle class Estuary accent so flat that even his affected Americanisms (ah, the perfidious influence of pop culture and the media) sound exotic by comparison.

Cheeky Cockney Matt provides the lower end of the spectrum, with its social socialism cred of "cool" and "street" (Though, knowing he's been to stage school, it might actually be more Albert Square than Street.)

Matt and James, middle and lower class, are perfectly decipherable to one another. Yet, as far as they are concerned, Posh Charlie might as well be speaking the same Olde French that the Normans brought over in 1066!

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 09:35 (fifteen years ago) link


dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 09:40 (fifteen years ago) link

I was thinking vowel shift when I recently heard a BBC announcer say "globble" for the word that we yanks pronounce "globe-al".

briania, Thursday, 29 April 2004 12:14 (fifteen years ago) link

it is globe-al! isn't it?

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Thursday, 29 April 2004 12:23 (fifteen years ago) link

globble? no, we don't say that. maybe he had a regional accent?


dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 12:27 (fifteen years ago) link

Hey, if it's on the World Service, I take it to be the Queen's English. I'm switching to "globble."

briania, Thursday, 29 April 2004 12:38 (fifteen years ago) link

Actually, back to the original topic, I've reread the chapter of my current book on linguistics which discussed the Finns, and I misinterpreted what it said.

Apparently, Finnish is a phonetically conservative language - words tend to be pronounced the same way for hundreds, even thousands of years.

He did not say that it *was* an Indo-European language, but that it borrowed heavily from its Indo-European neighbours. Recently borrowed words were phonetically intact Medieval Swedish, while older words were phonetically intact Old Norse, meaning that the really old borrowings can be counted on to provide likely examples of the original proto-Germanic branch of Indo-European. (Which produced German, Scandinavian languages and English.)

Hence, a non-I-E could provide examples of an ancient and now lost branch of Indo-European!

Finns! Conservative! Well I never!

(No one likes my Busted analogy, boo hoo. Well, it took 92 posts before there was a fart joke! I was good!)

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 12:52 (fifteen years ago) link

I can only imagine a Scottish presenter pronouncing it "globbal". As I say, there is no such thing as the "Queen's English" - it's a myth. And BBC English ain't much better - they've decided that it's "an hotel" - not "a hotel". What rollocks.

dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 13:19 (fifteen years ago) link

Oh dear lord, I am NEVER going into that bookshop by ULU Ever. Again. I went there cause I thought they would have good, academic quality books on linguistics. And I came out having spent WAY too much money and bought way too many books. On linguistics.

I looked at Sassaure (or however you spell his name) and decided that it looked very dry and academic and slightly too proto-post-modern for me, and then I saw... THE ATLAS OF LANGUAGES which had colour glossy pictures and maps and diagrammes and shaded map diagrammes which showed every language and language family in the world mapped in full colour glossy images of the continents and I fell in love with it before looking at the price, ouch.

I also got Tore Janson's "Speak" and yet another History Of English Words (I am such a sucker for the maps and diagrammes, I am...)

Oh, but this history of English words has a wonderful diagramme of swearing from 1350 to 1909. Odsbodikins!

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 14:54 (fifteen years ago) link

man, i never read the books they prescribed me on my course but Kate's last post made me want to go out and get some more! If anyone wants some linguistics/language books I am selling them dirty cheap.

dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 15:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I also got Tore Janson's "Speak"

This is a great little book. I was looking for my copy yesterday so that I could contribute to this thread without getting things wrong.

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 29 April 2004 15:02 (fifteen years ago) link

man, i never read the books they prescribed me on my course but Kate's last post made me want to go out and get some more! If anyone wants some linguistics/language books I am selling them dirty cheap.
-- dog latin (doglati...), April 29th, 2004.

did you have to read "The Language Instinct" that one was good.....other than that, I didn't pay much attention to my classes. Grammar trees are lame.

waxyjax (waxyjax), Thursday, 29 April 2004 17:35 (fifteen years ago) link

Ah, grammar trees. If my aborted linguistics degree had been half as good as this thread, maybe I wouldn't have switched out after all.

the krza (krza), Thursday, 29 April 2004 18:12 (fifteen years ago) link

Maybe I should have followed my 9th Grade Latin-teaching nun's advice and become a linguist. My classes would have been fun!

(My big atlas of languages has thrown up about half a dozen strange, displaced, languages unrelated to the ones around them. There seems to be one on every continent! Except two near Japan!)

Super-Kate (kate), Thursday, 29 April 2004 18:29 (fifteen years ago) link

I thought it'd be fun, Kate, but I don't think linguists these days are so hot on historical linguistics (at least my school's department wasn't), which to me is the most fascinating.

the krza (krza), Thursday, 29 April 2004 18:35 (fifteen years ago) link

Also, as for isolates, according to this, it seems like there's an inordinate number in the Americas. It kind of makes sense, given the long migration, separations due to ice ages, and so forth, but I don't think that completely explains it. Under those circumstances, you'd still expect to see at least some similarity.

the krza (krza), Thursday, 29 April 2004 18:43 (fifteen years ago) link

I seem to remember being told that California's native population had a linguistic variety as great as any similarly sized region on earth.

Michael White (Hereward), Thursday, 29 April 2004 18:46 (fifteen years ago) link

yeah, i think everyone gets into linguistics because the historical, anthropological and sociological aspects are so fascinating....then they get suckered into analyzing "deep structures" and other chomskyan ideas...which in a broad sense were revolutionary discoveries, but in the classroom were incredibly boring.

waxyjax (waxyjax), Thursday, 29 April 2004 19:06 (fifteen years ago) link

well, that's what happened to me anyway waxyjax - i kind of regret not doing anthropology in many ways.

dog latin (dog latin), Thursday, 29 April 2004 23:08 (fifteen years ago) link

It was semantics that killed it for me, but I'd had my share of "deep structures," sentence trees and the like by that point, too. Phonetics was really interesting, but that's probably because so much of the historical work is based on it in a way.

the krza (krza), Thursday, 29 April 2004 23:40 (fifteen years ago) link

even though it is a slavic language ... and, hence, indo-european (and outside of this thread's purview) ... there are still about 100K people in the middle of the former east germany who speak sorbian (or wendish). sorbian is a western slavic language (more akin to polish or czech, as opposed to russian or serbo-croatian), and even though there are barely 100K sorbs there are at least TWO sorbian dialects -- east sorbian and west sorbian!

Eisbär (llamasfur), Friday, 30 April 2004 01:20 (fifteen years ago) link

Cool! I didn't realize any other language had the Polish ³, but there it is. Weirdly, in Sorbian they call themselves "Serbs." I wonder if this has a similar meaning to the Serbian "Serb"...

the krza (krza), Friday, 30 April 2004 02:07 (fifteen years ago) link

um, that ³ should be the Polish (and Sorbian, I guess) crossed l

the krza (krza), Friday, 30 April 2004 02:08 (fifteen years ago) link

The Great Vowel Shift probably didn't have a proximate cause. It can be explained by the fact that languages exist in a state of flux. Drastic changes like the GVS are the rule for language, not the exception.

I'm not sure I'd want to say there is any current vowel shift happening in English on par with the Great Vowel Shift. That took about two hundred years and involved a major reshuffling of vowels. Due to widespread literacy and a huge corpus of English texts, modern English speakers have a much stronger concept of our language as being something that exists by itself independent of what people actually speak. This acts as a check against the natural tendency of our language to undergo changes. The 15th and 16th centuries were much less literate. Language has been around a lot longer than writing so the effect of writing on language change isn't something I'd call natural but it's there.

For the past several decades, we have had standarising (or de-standarising as the case may be) accents beamed directly into our homes by the media. This *is* going to change our accents.

Be careful here... the research I've seen about the effect of TV, radio and film on dialects finds it has almost zero impact. Counterintuitive yes but language quite often is.

What books are you reading, Kate?

(the krza)I thought it'd be fun, Kate, but I don't think linguists these days are so hot on historical linguistics (at least my school's department wasn't), which to me is the most fascinating.

I think it depends on where you're studying. At the University of Texas there wasn't a huge emphasis on syntax and semantics. I loved historical, and a big thing in linguistics today is documenting the world's languages before a lot of them go away, and to do that properly you need a pretty good handle on phonology, phonetics, and how languages change.

fortunate hazel (f. hazel), Friday, 30 April 2004 02:14 (fifteen years ago) link

twelve years pass...

What the fuck?

Larry 'Leg' Smith (Tom D.), Thursday, 19 May 2016 21:38 (three years ago) link

The Basque people fished in north Atlantic waters for many, many centuries and may have been the first group to systematically fish for cod and herring off the Newfoundland coast, but they didn't share this information with other groups because of its commercial value. Iceland was probably a good place to do ship repairs and to resupply while out on fishing expeditions.

a little too mature to be cute (Aimless), Thursday, 19 May 2016 21:45 (three years ago) link

The phrases all sound like trading phrases, which makes sense. (man alive), Friday, 20 May 2016 01:46 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

In many parts of rural northern England, a system of counting sheep based on ancient Brittonic persisted until relatively recently. In the Dales, 1-10 was yain, tain, edderoa, peddero, pitts, tayter, leter, overro, coverro, dix (or variants thereof).

— History of Leeds | James Rhodes (@rh0desy) July 9, 2019

calzino, Tuesday, 9 July 2019 22:10 (three months ago) link

See also: Jake Thackray - Molly Metcalfe

ShariVari, Tuesday, 9 July 2019 22:22 (three months ago) link

Yeah, that's pretty well known - and not confined to Yorkshire by any means.

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Tuesday, 9 July 2019 22:33 (three months ago) link

My immediate thought was Jake Thackray, that's how I knew about this. I really like the song, too.

emil.y, Tuesday, 9 July 2019 22:34 (three months ago) link

... or the North... or England...

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Tuesday, 9 July 2019 22:35 (three months ago) link

a Thackray wormhole on you tube is a very good hour spent.

calzino, Tuesday, 9 July 2019 23:03 (three months ago) link

Jake was The Man.

Orpheus Knutt (Tom D.), Tuesday, 9 July 2019 23:22 (three months ago) link

Beautiful song. I never knew there were so many variants of Yan Tan Tether Mether (the version I knew, which according to the wiki, turns out to be the Swaledale variant!).

Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Wednesday, 10 July 2019 10:20 (three months ago) link

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