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Inter-linguistic comprehension

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745428.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:19 pm Reply with quote

"Kiedyś był człowiekiem, z Nantucket....

745440.  Tue Sep 21, 2010 10:52 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
But being able to more or less read a language by analogy isn't the same thing as mutual intelligibility. Yes, I can more or less read Catalan by pretending that it's French - but then I've studied languages and I know what I'm looking for; most people can't do this.

All the same, there is one pair of languages which are generally reckoned to be mutually intelligible when written but not when spoken, and that pair is Icelandic and Faroese.

I've watched Spaniards carry on conversations with Italians, each in their own language. "Louder and slower" actually seems to work in that case — con buona volontÓ & buena voluntad.

You're right about the assymetric situation of Iberian Spanish and Portuguese. A Spaniard has little trouble reading a newspaper from Portugal, even though he won't be able to understand the language as spoken. The two languages share over 90% of radical cognates. That's really rather high for a pair of languages that aren't mutually intelligible when spoken, don't you think?

In contrast, a Spanish speaker from South America probably will understand most of what a Brazilian is saying aloud. The difference is that Portuguese is stress timed, but Brazilian is syllable timed. I believe that's part of why, suze, you once observed that it always sounds to you like the Portuguese elide everything: there's something to that idea.

Catalan sounds more intelligible to a Spanish speaker than does Portuguese, but it actually isn't. Catalan is only about 73% radically cognate with Spanish; I've never seen any data on a combined figure for the overlap if you combine Spanish and French. It must be much higher, since I can more or less read Catalan probably for many of the same reasons you can. Catalan does share certain phonologic similarities with Portuguese you're probably not aware of which help my ear a bit. But yes, the verbs that aren't first conjugation often have forms more like French than Spanish. Also my having studied Italian for a year or so at university helps, because if I can't find the cognate in Spanish or French, or rarely Portuguese, it's surely from Italian. (First semester was like the first 3-4 semesters of regular-speed Italian; second was literature.)

For example, hat in Catalan is barret (more like French) or gorra (like Spanish), but head is cap (more like Italian). Streets can be carrers (more like Spanish; think carretera for highway) or ruas (more like French), while day is dia (like Spanish) yet night is nit (more like French).

I even have a Portugese–Catalan dictionary. Don't ask.


745546.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 10:29 am Reply with quote

A French-speaking Canadian friend of mine told me that when she went to France, she was surprised at the difficulty they had understanding her Canadian version of French. I'm told there can be a similar difficulty with Spanish people understanding the Latin American version of Spanish - don't know about the Brazilian version of Portuguese.

745558.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 11:36 am Reply with quote

I'm mid exams, so will admit to having not read this entire thread.

Worth pointing out, though it's probably hugely common knowledge - Swiss German and German German aren't mutually understood. Swiss German gets subtitled in Germany. I'm sure Mr. Mof would know more than me about it...

745575.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 12:11 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
A French-speaking Canadian friend of mine told me that when she went to France, she was surprised at the difficulty they had understanding her Canadian version of French.

That doesn't surprise me at all. I speak reasonably good French, but it's "France French" - and when I've been in MontrÚal, the locals have sometimes preferred to speak with me in English.

tchrist knows more than I do about Brazilian Portuguese, but my notes inform me that vocabulary differences between Brazil and Portugal are many more than between Britain and the USA. In many cases, Brazil has borrowed words from English and French. There are also spelling differences (silent letters are often omitted in Brazil) and some grammar differences (for instance, the second person familiar tu is little used in Brazil, and Brazilians have largely forgotten how to conjugate a verb in that person).

South American Spanish shows comparable differences; there are many loanwords from English and (especially in Argentina) Italian which are not used in Spain. Again, is little used in some parts, and the present tense endings are slowly falling out of use. (This requires the pronoun to be used; in Spain it is often omitted since the verb ending implies it.)

Hans Mof
745583.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:26 pm Reply with quote

Swiss German and German German aren't mutually understood. Swiss German gets subtitled in Germany. I'm sure Mr. Mof would know more than me about it...

Very true. Recruitment agencies looking for multilingual staff usually differentiate between German and SchwytzerdŘtsch.
Last year there's been some commotion about a presenter daring to talk standard German on Swiss TV.

I would expand, but at the moment I'm recuperating from a concussion and thinking of Switzerland and the Alps makes me feel rather dizzy.

745613.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:58 pm Reply with quote

Hope you recover from concussion soon. Second year medical exams here (which are apparently a world record-breaker for volume of information needing to be learnt in 8 months) are similar to being hit in the head by a solid object, so I feel your pain.

745616.  Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:06 pm Reply with quote

Speedy recovery, Hans :)

I found this QI blog about American/English linguistic differences, with lots of aside links.

Hans Mof
745779.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:51 am Reply with quote

Thank you, smiley and 'yorz.

Back to Swiss German now.

As mentioned earlier in this thread, whether something is a dialect or a language is often considered to be a cultural and political question. Officially Swiss German (as well as Swabian) is a dialect in the Alemannic dialect continuum. The SIL International (Summer Institute of Linguistics) and UNESCO describe Alemannic German as one or several independent languages. I, for one, agree with them for one simple reason. While I can follow a conversation in Frisian in "real time" by derivation, even though I never actively learned that language, I have real trouble understanding Swiss German (or even Swabian, which is closer to Standard German) even when it's spoken slowly and repeated several times.

SchwytzerdŘtsch is the spoken everyday language, regardless of social standings. It is spoken by bankers and farmers alike. However, the German Swiss do understand (and speak) Standard German as well, even though there are only a few specific settings where speaking Standard German is demanded (in education, in multilingual parliaments, in news broadcasts or in the presence of German-speaking foreigners). This situation has been called a medial diglossia since the spoken language is mainly the dialect whereas the written language is mainly Standard German (only difference being that after the last spelling reform they got rid of "▀" completely).

As a side note: Alemßn Coloniero is another member of the Alemannic German family, spoken since 1843 in Venezuela by Black Forest emigrants.

745780.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:05 am Reply with quote

Pity - I always loved the florish of the Ringel-s (Dutch name for the ▀).

Hans Mof
745783.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:15 am Reply with quote

It's still around in Germany and Austria, and we have no intention to let it go. Well at least I don't. To return neighbourly pleasantries:
I'm very fond of the Dutch "IJ" and the "skipping" uper case.

't Huis ...

745788.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:28 am Reply with quote

Wiki says that the ringel-s was used in stead of the 'sz'-combination. Now that's odd, since we in school were taught to use it als ersatz for double-s, as in "Ich wei▀ nicht was soll es bedeuten, da▀ ich so trau-haurig bin..." etc.

745793.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:46 am Reply with quote

As for the IJ, well that's a strange one. In Dutch there are several combinations of vowels like au, ou, ei, eu, oe, ui, and indeed ij. As far as I know, the ij is the only sound that is written in capitals when the i and j combined are the first two characters of a new sentence or as a sole word in a heading (IJs, IJmuiden, IJk). The other combinations will only feature the first letter in capital, as in Oegstgeest, Oefening, Eindelijk, Uiterst, Auw, Oubollig, Euvel when appearing at the beginning of a sentence.
No idea why. No doubt there will be lots of relevant info available but, frankly my dear,.......

As fot the 't, at the beginning of a sentence you can either write Het huis, or 't Huis, it's just an abbreviation. However, when you write Het Huis, it turns the two words into a name, or something with specific emphasis.
I'm sure there are proper latin names'expressions to write all this more understandible but that I haven't mastered.

Hans Mof
745794.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 10:49 am Reply with quote

While it's often called es-zett it is a ligature of two ways to write an "s", long s "ſ " and short s "s" the latter only used at the end of words. Well, at least it is today.
Until 1876 there hasn't been much of a standard German orthography, and "s" and "z" where at times interchangeable. Therefor "ſ " + "z" ligatures exist as well.

1. ſ s
2. ſ +s
3., 4. ſ +z

745804.  Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:44 am Reply with quote

I remember when I was a teenager on a school trip to Germany standing next to a couple of elderly American tourists, who were looking at a sign pointing the way to the castle, and written "Schlo▀". "Gee honey," said the wife to the husband, "Let's go look at the schlob!"

Yes I did snigger. I was an ungracious child.


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