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Dialect

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AndyE
43721.  Fri Jan 06, 2006 8:21 pm Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
When does a dialect stop being a dialect and become a seperate language?


Suze here!

There isn't really a rule about this one - it's a matter of definition and whether or not people think it's a different language. The distinction can be controversial and is sometimes politically inspired.

A couple of examples: no-one in England would suggest that English as spoken in Scotland is a separate language. The Scots use some words that the English don't (e.g. "aye" for "yes" which is understood in England even if little used, or "dreich" which is Gaelic and gets into weather forecasts - even English ones - now and then). But that's about the only difference, and most would consider what the Scots speak to be a dialect. Even so, there are those linguists (especially American and Scottish ones) who classify Scots as a separate language.

Similarly, Serbian and Croatian are now considered separate languages. But the differences between them are little more than those between English and Scots (with the obvious exception that Croatian is written in the Roman alphabet and Serbian in the Cyrillic). In the days of "old" Yugoslavia, the language was called Serbo-Croat and some publications used to write the two scripts side by side in parallel columns.

Conversely, most linguists consider "Chinese" to be a number of languages, conventionally seven. But the Chinese government say that they are dialect forms of one language.

The following sentence is an over simplification but a reasonable starting point: any Chinese whether Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka or the others would write the same ideogram for the concept of, say "a horse". Yet they would pronounce it differently.

Now to Polari. As stated in Balderdash and Piffle, you cannot hold a full conversation in Polari. It's just English with some words changed (often though not exclusively, the Polari words are borrowed from Romany), and was spoken by specific groups of people so that others couldn't understand them. As such, it's really more a form of slang than a dialect - it's not native to an area but to a group of people.

But just like a dialect, a slang could aspire to become a language in its own right if it were spoken by enough people as a first choice. Or, more commonly, a term from a slang could become some widespread that it supplants the alternative in the language. (For example, my grandmother had "bosoms", my mother had "busts" and I have "breasts". The next generation will have "boobs" - few teenagers today use the other "b" words. Some don't like the fact that what they think of as a "rude word" can already now be used on children's TV, but that's language change for you ...)

Anyway, must to bed. While I'm sat here, I'm NAFF ...

 
mckeonj
43754.  Sat Jan 07, 2006 5:28 am Reply with quote

gerontius grumpus wrote:
mckeonj wrote:
Jenny wrote:
I think the method of counting on one hand involves using the thumb as a pointer and counting on the phalanges of the fingers, but that only takes you up to twelve. However, if you use both hands, that can take you up to 144.

Actually, you 'cheat' by checking the thumb as three, then using the thumb as a pointer to the rest of the phalanges, starting with the nearest. And as any factoid hound knows, anyone can do sums up to three.
"primitive tribes have only three counting words - one, two, many."



I'm not quite sure what you mean, but if you mean counting to three on the thumb and then using it as a pointer on the other digits, it doesn't work because there are only two phalanges in the thumb.


Begin with a false assumption. Assign the value of three to the thumb, or, stick out your thumb and say 'three', and carry on from there. If, when subtracting, you arrive back at the thumb, operate on the remaining three in your head.

 
dr.bob
44281.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:14 am Reply with quote

AndyE wrote:
There isn't really a rule about this one - it's a matter of definition and whether or not people think it's a different language. The distinction can be controversial and is sometimes politically inspired.


Thank you for a very QI answer.

AndyE wrote:
Anyway, must to bed. While I'm sat here, I'm NAFF ...


Though that nearly made me fall off my chair laughing.

Which is quite embarrassing in an office environment :)

 
Tas
44283.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:17 am Reply with quote

Query:

I'm NAFF...?

:-)

Tas

 
Quaintly Ignorant
44294.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 11:51 am Reply with quote

Polari

There are a number of folk etymologies of the term "naff", many based around acronyms - Not Available For F***ing, Normal As F*** - though these are probably backronyms.

Polari on Wikipedia

 
Gray
44299.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:12 pm Reply with quote

I enjoyed that B&D show - nice idea and QIly done, I thought. Can NAFF really have its origin as an acronym, though - I'm automatically suspicious of anything that claims to originate in that way (see 'POSH', etc.) Backronymns, they're called.

My (slightly creaking) OED doesn't list it, but does list NAAFI (The Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) which was the slightly rubbish canteen for the armed forces, established in 1927. Might it have come from that, reflecting the distinctly non-luxurious nature of the food? The Goon Show, like nearly all immediately post-war humour, is full of NAAFI jokes...

 
Gray
44300.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:13 pm Reply with quote

Oops, sorry Quaintly Ignorant, I missed your post for some reason!

 
Tas
44302.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:16 pm Reply with quote

I always thought that naff was something particularly bad.
I suspect that comes from nasty? nafty?

:-)

Tas

 
rat
44312.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 12:44 pm Reply with quote

Princess Anne once told photographers to naff off after she had fell off her horse at the Badminton Horse trials in 1985.
s. BBC News web site

 
mckeonj
44357.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 2:33 pm Reply with quote

NAFF is definitely derived from NAAFI; I should know, I was there! "Cream slice and a Ruby Goffa; and a packet of Woodbines, Brenda."

 
djgordy
44361.  Mon Jan 09, 2006 2:50 pm Reply with quote

mckeonj wrote:
NAFF is definitely derived from NAAFI; I should know, I was there! "Cream slice and a Ruby Goffa; and a packet of Woodbines, Brenda."


I posted on this a few weeks ago:

http://www.qi.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p=41595&highlight=naff#41595

 
dr.bob
44527.  Tue Jan 10, 2006 9:52 am Reply with quote

The Polari explanation offered in Balderdash and Piffle was that people were referred to by two acronyms. If they were gay, then they were "TBH" or "To Be Had". If they were straight, then they were "NAFF" (Not Available For Fucking).

I suppose it's possible that NAFF would've caught on better than the less pronouncable TBH, though I know how everyone is a bit suspicious of acronym explanations of words.

 
mckeonj
44577.  Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:02 pm Reply with quote

On Dialect .v. Language:
In Northern Ireland, also known as Norn Irn, an attempt is being made at the moment to have the 'Ulster Scots' dialect officially designated as a language on a par with Erse (Irish Gaelic). Hopeless case, I'd say, the dialect is literally barbaric, to my ear it sounds something like 'hoot na hoot na hoo'. Aye.

 
QI Individual
44597.  Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:55 pm Reply with quote

mckeonj wrote:
In Northern Ireland, also known as Norn Irn

Hence Irn Bru?

 
AndyE
44669.  Tue Jan 10, 2006 7:39 pm Reply with quote

"Made in Scotland from Girders"

Is it actually correct that the Advertising Standards Authority made A G Barr and Co (who make Irn Bru) stop saying this on the grounds that it wasn't true? Or is it just an urban myth, and the company simply got fed up of it?

Meanwhile, if you doubt that the dialect v language debate is political, the Northern Ireland thing proves it. I imagine the proponents of language status are chiefly to be found among the Lesser Number. I quite like that accent/ dialect/language though - too many years of watching Jim McDonald be the only sensible person on Coronation Street. Too many years, so it was James.

 

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