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Sparkyweasel
1037281.  Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:52 pm Reply with quote

julesies' diagram is not so much a family tree of languages as a family Cabomba. :)

http://idtools.org/id/aquariumplants/Aquarium_%26_Pond_Plants_of_the_World/key/Aquarium_%26_Pond_Plants/Media/Html/Fact_sheets/cabomba.html

 
Fien
1037295.  Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:45 am Reply with quote

julesies wrote:
I also think it's cool how Sumerian is a language isolate. It's interesting that the language family that includes a language from such an influential civilization could die out.

It's also fascinating that although language is so important to humans and is universal among humans, writing was invented only 3 (or 4, depending on whom you ask) times.


I think the sumerian writing is very curious. It's funny how they start with these little pictures (like hieroglyphs) and end with these abstract figures, because they had to write more quickly and started to simplify the characters. I think the English call this writing "Cuneiform". The name in Dutch is "Spijkerschrift", which means as much as "nailwriting" (if you translate it literally), because the symbols look like nails.
It's curious that people nowadays can learn to write in cuneiform, eventhough the sumerian language is extincted, as you said. It's even more strange, because they have no idea how the language must have sounded. You don't need sound to write, but it's bizarre that they learn a language they can't speak.

I heard something very interessting about the japanese script. They use the chinese script, but learn with every character the chinese and japanese meaning. On the top of that, they use systems to read the chinese texts correctly, because the wordorder in Japanese is entirely different from chinese. They learn which word they have to read first and how to construct the entire sentence.

 
ali
1037334.  Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:34 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
julesies wrote:
It's also fascinating that although language is so important to humans and is universal among humans, writing was invented only 3 (or 4, depending on whom you ask) times.


The "easy three" being the Sumerians, the Chinese, and the Olmec in what is now Mexico, I suppose.

What do you have as the possible fourth? Egyptian hieroglyphs, or do you consider that the Egyptians got the idea from the Sumerians, even if they implemented it differently?

A case is sometimes made for the Indus script of what is now Pakistan. There is some dispute as to whether or not it really counts as writing, and also as to whether or not the Indus civilization could have borrowed the idea from the Sumerians.

And then there is the Rongorongo of Easter Island. Again there's a debate to be had about whether it's really writing, but no pathway has ever been presented by which the Polynesians who decamped to Easter Island could have known of the existence of - let alone been influenced by - any other literate culture.


A case could possibly be made for Nsibidi, as it is known to be oldish (possibly dating back 1600 years) and has no known provenance. It is likely that whoever invented it (according to local myth, baboons) was at least aware of the concept of writing, however.

 
julesies
1037358.  Sun Nov 24, 2013 12:37 pm Reply with quote

Fien wrote:
I think the sumerian writing is very curious. It's funny how they start with these little pictures (like hieroglyphs) and end with these abstract figures, because they had to write more quickly and started to simplify the characters.

This seems to have happened a lot with logographic scripts. It happened with Egyptian hieroglyphics which were simplified to Hieratic, and it happened with Chinese (oracle bone script compared to today's standard script):


Fien wrote:
I heard something very interessting about the japanese script. They use the chinese script, but learn with every character the chinese and japanese meaning. On the top of that, they use systems to read the chinese texts correctly, because the wordorder in Japanese is entirely different from chinese. They learn which word they have to read first and how to construct the entire sentence.

Japanese and Chinese characters usually have the same, but learning both meanings for the ones that differ would be useful. The Japanese also learn the Japanese and the Chinese pronunciation of the characters. They learn this because both are used in everyday Japanese. The Japanese pronunciation is used when the character is a single word in and of itself or when the character is part of a verb or an adjective. But for nouns that are compounds of characters, the Chinese pronunciation is used. This is because the Japanese adopted these compounds from the Chinese. A Japanese person wouldn't really be able to uses these pronunciations to pronounce the modern Mandarin characters though, because these pronunciations are not only transliterated into Japanese but also represent often times very ancient pronunciations of characters (i.e., classical Chinese, not modern).

Here's an example:
The adjective "big": 大きい (ookii); the 大 is pronounced "oo"
The noun "university": 大学 (daigaku); the 大 is pronounced "dai"
The Mandarin Chinese pronunciation of 大 is "da (falling tone)"

I didn't know that Japanese students learn the word order thing. That's fascinating.

ali wrote:
A case could possibly be made for Nsibidi, as it is known to be oldish (possibly dating back 1600 years) and has no known provenance. It is likely that whoever invented it (according to local myth, baboons) was at least aware of the concept of writing, however.

That's fascinating. Do they have grammatical words? I think that's what linguists require to consider it writing; it has to be able to match the spoken language word-for-word.

 
chrisboote
1037485.  Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:20 am Reply with quote

julesies wrote:
It's also fascinating that although language is so important to humans and is universal among humans, writing was invented only 3 (or 4, depending on whom you ask) times.

One of the theories of Ogham is that it is a manufactured alphabet to prevent Latin speakers from reading it - does that count as the 'invention' of writing, however?

 
'yorz
1037510.  Mon Nov 25, 2013 9:33 am Reply with quote

I just used the word 'mollified' - and I wonder, what is a moll apart from a grass? 'Grassy Moll'... na, that's wrong.

 
julesies
1037526.  Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:08 am Reply with quote

chrisboote wrote:
One of the theories of Ogham is that it is a manufactured alphabet to prevent Latin speakers from reading it - does that count as the 'invention' of writing, however?

By invention of writing I mean that, to the peoples who invented it, it is something entirely novel. The peoples who invented writing had never before seen a method in which language, exactly as it is spoken, could be recorded word-for-word using symbols. Before that they could only draw what they meant (e.g., drawing a cat to symbolize "I saw a cat"), not record grammatical words and things like that (e.g., writing "I saw a cat").

 
germananglophile
1037535.  Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:48 am Reply with quote

lily-livered

ETYMOLOGY:
The first known use of lily-livered was in 1605. From the medieval belief that the liver was the seat of courage, and the pale color of the lily flower. A person who had no blood in their liver would have no courage and would thus be a coward.

MACBETH : "Go, prick thy face and over-red thy fear,Thou lily-livered boy."

From Wikipedia:
The play is believed to have been written between 1603 and 1607, and is most commonly dated 1606. The earliest account of a performance of what was probably Shakespeare's play is April 1611

 
suze
1037551.  Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:30 pm Reply with quote

chrisboote wrote:
One of the theories of Ogham is that it is a manufactured alphabet to prevent Latin speakers from reading it - does that count as the 'invention' of writing, however?


As julesies has noted, that would be an instance of inventing a new kind of writing but with the advantage of already being aware of the concept of writing.

There are a fair number of other instances. Pitman's Shorthand is actually as good an example as any, although it's rarely mentioned in discussions of the subject. Everyone here can read and write English, but few of us know Pitman's Shorthand - so those who do could potentially use it as a secret code.

More often though, the example cited is the script used for Tsalagi (Cherokee). The Tsalagi people had never had writing, but a few of them had become aware of the concept because they'd seen white men doing it.

So a silversmith named Sequoyah decided that it was time for his own people to adopt reading and writing. He acquired a bundle of old English-language newspapers (and at least one old Russian-language newspaper or so it would seem, although quite what a Russian newspaper was doing in Alabama in 1809 is not known), and based his writing system on the symbols used therein.

Now, Sequoyah couldn't read English and so he didn't know what the symbols actually meant. His first thought was that each different symbol represented a word (as in Chinese, at a simplistic level), but soon realized that there weren't enough different symbols for that to be possible.

So he decided that it must actually be that each symbol represented a syllable, and it was on that basis that he devised the writing system for Tsalagi. Since he couldn't read English he had no way of knowing which symbol meant what, and so for instance he used B to represent the syllable /yə/. He didn't know about big letters and little letters, nor yet about numbers, so he used b to represent /si/ and 4 to represent /se/. (I've avoided using a Tsalagi font here since most readers won't have one.)

Most other writing systems for use by previously non-literate cultures have been designed by outsiders, which is why (for instance) most of the languages of black Africa are written in the Roman alphabet. The Cherokee syllabary appears to be the only instance in historic times of a previously illiterate person devising a writing system for his own language.

 
CharliesDragon
1037622.  Mon Nov 25, 2013 5:40 pm Reply with quote

I think the story of Sequoyah and the Tsalagi writing is beautiful.

As for how he could have aquired a Russian newpaper or book, there could have been a family or at least one person who had brought it when immigrating as a reminder of the home country, I guess. Or someone who collected newspapers/books in different languages for a period before losing interest.

 
dr bartolo
1037714.  Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:55 am Reply with quote

julesies wrote:

[
.


As a matter of interest, four of the scripts that you have featured in the picture are still in use today

* The large and small seal scripts are used for the "chop" or seals that the Chinese use.
* The clerkly or rather, clerical script tends to be used for headings or signboards.
However, when it comes to legibility, most Chinese would be able to read the clerical script, but the seal and oracle scripts require special training.


An interesting point can be made about wen yan wen, or classical Chinese. The spoken language essentially died out by the 2nd cent. AD. However, books continued to be written in the language up until the 20thc. As a result of being a dead language for over a millennia, some pretty strange things can happen. For example, it is perfectly possible to write a poem that makes sense when written, but when read out, is merely the sound shi repeated 92 times.

 
ali
1037734.  Tue Nov 26, 2013 9:06 am Reply with quote

dr bartolo wrote:
For example, it is perfectly possible to write a poem that makes sense when written, but when read out, is merely the sound shi repeated 92 times.


Et voilà!

 
dr bartolo
1037738.  Tue Nov 26, 2013 9:40 am Reply with quote

Oui monsieur c'est le poème

You also me interested to note that the Chinese have two different ways of writing numbers. The first, and more common system is as follows, from 1-10 :

一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九 十However, as you can see, this system is a bit too simple for financial purposes. It is all too easy to alter a cheque from 一 (one) to 十 ( ten) by adding another line. As the Chinese cannot write out numbers as we do in English ( the above figures are how the numbers are "spelt" in Chinese), the Chinese accountants came up with the following system, seen below. ( from 1-10)

壹、贰、叁、肆、伍、陆、柒、捌、玖、拾
As you can see, the digit for one '壹" is a lot more complicated than "一", hence negating the possibility of fraud. However, some of the characters in the financial system , as it is called have other meanings. For example, 陆, ( 6) also means "continent"-- both words have a similar pron. in Chinese.

 
ConorOberstIsGo
1041545.  Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:07 pm Reply with quote

Anyone mentioned http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leet yet? I find it a nice idea, like Arabish.


Last edited by ConorOberstIsGo on Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:35 pm; edited 1 time in total

 
RLDavies
1041720.  Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:28 am Reply with quote

If we're going to do L for Language, then I there's got to be some mention of L for Lojban.

Lojban describes itself as "the logical language". It's an attempt to create an entirely unambiguous, strictly logic-controlled, yet fully functional language.

Personally, I very much doubt it can ever be used as a living language between people, as it operates in a way entirely at odds with human psychology. However, there's a possibility that Lojban or something like it might eventually function as a way for people to communicate with computers.

Lojban recognises two types of words: brivla or content words (equivalent to nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs), and cmavo or structure words (equivalent to articles, prepositions, conjunctions, numbers, punctuation, etc.). The meaning of each word is very strictly defined to avoid ambiguity, although words can be combined to produce new concepts.

The grammar is formulated in terms of logical propositions. A Lojban "sentence" is called a bridi, and consists of specific positional slots into which words or phrases are placed. Each word is considered to be an argument (in the mathematical sense), and the bridi expresses a specific relationship between the arguments.

Every content word implies its own particular bridi structure; so for instance the word meaning "go" can automatically be expanded into a structure with slots indicating who or what goes, from where, to where, by what route, and by what means. Each slot can then be filled with other words or phrases, and each of these words can also be expanded into its own bridi in turn, so a sentence can become a complex nested structure.

The offical Lojban organisation:
http://www.lojban.org/tiki/Lojban

Basic grammar textbook:
http://www.lojban.org/tiki/What+Is+Lojban%3F%2C+The+Book

 

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