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samivel
147511.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:11 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Irish Sign Language is actually a dialect of French, and bears no relation to the English or Irish languages.



See, now that's the kind of information that makes posting on this site so much fun.

:)

 
Spinoza
147573.  Thu Feb 15, 2007 1:46 pm Reply with quote

I've now had time to look into the question of official languages in the USA. There's an intersting discussion at:
www.ling.ed.ac.uk/linguist/issues/6-644.htmlpost
The general gist of this is that the QI consensus is broadly right. There is no officiaol language in the USA, though individual states can declare one if they want, and some have done so. In some states at various times, provision has been made for laws to be promulgated in various languages, where the need has been perceived. However, the US Congress has never voted on the issue.

What has happened is that in the years following American Independence, in certain quarters the idea of declaring some language other than English as the official language was mooted as a means of emphasising the break with Britain, and both Greek and German (and French) were among the suggested candidate languages. In Philadelphia, a state which held a high number of German-speaking immigrants, a vote was taken. The decision was made by the casting vote, ironically of a German speaker, who expressed the view that the sooner all immigrants became Americans, the better. (I think that by then, English was the de facto American language).

The legend about German narrowly missing becoming the official language was half-heartedly resurrected by the Nazis, and was apparently circulated at meetings of the HitlerJugend.

 
Asta
150471.  Thu Feb 22, 2007 4:03 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Irish Sign Language is actually a dialect of French, and bears no relation to the English or Irish languages.


Yep. British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL) are mutually unintelligible. The manual alphabets aren't even similar -- BSL uses two hands to sign each letter (http://www.british-sign.co.uk/learnbslsignlanguage/fingerspelling2handedbsl.htm), where ASL uses one. However, the BSL manual alphabet gets some use in North America among the deaf-blind population, where it's useful as a more readily tactile way of spelling out communication (the "listener" holds their hand out while the "speaker" touches the listener's hand). I can tell you from experience that understanding ASL fingerspelling receptively without sight is *not* easy.

ASL is closely related (and likely derived from) French Sign Language, which was transported to the states by Laurent Clerc, who helped Gallaudet establish the American School for the Deaf in Connecticut in the 19th century (http://www.westislandlife.com/asl/history.htm). Gallaudet looked into British deaf education while researaching for his American school, but went with the French approach since the British focused on lipreading and speech (not what he was looking for).

There is some debate, however, about the extent to which ASL derived from French Sign Language. Indigenous sign systems definitely existed before Gallaudet and Clerc found the ASD, Martha's Vineyard being a well known example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha's_Vineyard_Sign_Language).

I could go on for days about this. Heh. Let me end here: The moral of the story is that signed languages are not just manual codes for speech (which exist, but are invented, artificial communication systems, not "languages" per se). They're seldom closely related to the spoken languages of their corresponding geographical regions.

 
greentree
184326.  Thu Jun 21, 2007 12:45 pm Reply with quote

Swiss German or 'Schwyzertütsch' is also not a language per se, but lots of regional dialects with common features, but aren't all exactly the same. Going from Bern to Zurich, for example, the dialects are different, and some words won't be understood by those from a different region.

Swiss German is almost never written down either - all newspapers, road signs, literature, national news programmes - basically anything written down or nationally broadcast - is in 'High' German (spoken in Germany), but Swiss German is only a spoken language. Most Swiss wouldn't know how to spell Swiss German words if you asked them to write them down.

source
http://switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/contexts/german.html

Having been to 'German' Switzerland twice, I can say that Swiss German is a nightmare to understand - it's pretty much unintelligible - even to someone with a fair bit of 'High' German!

 
eggshaped
214091.  Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:07 am Reply with quote

A "Guinness Book of Records" that I had as a child said that Papua New Guinea was home to the most languages in the world.

Don't know if it's true, just thought I'd throw a name into the mix that has not yet been mentioned.

 
AlmondFacialBar
214111.  Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:26 am Reply with quote

greentree wrote:
Swiss German or 'Schwyzertütsch' is also not a language per se, but lots of regional dialects with common features, but aren't all exactly the same. Going from Bern to Zurich, for example, the dialects are different, and some words won't be understood by those from a different region.

Swiss German is almost never written down either - all newspapers, road signs, literature, national news programmes - basically anything written down or nationally broadcast - is in 'High' German (spoken in Germany), but Swiss German is only a spoken language. Most Swiss wouldn't know how to spell Swiss German words if you asked them to write them down.

source
http://switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/contexts/german.html

Having been to 'German' Switzerland twice, I can say that Swiss German is a nightmare to understand - it's pretty much unintelligible - even to someone with a fair bit of 'High' German!


most call centres around dublin recruit seperately for german and swiss german. actually us ignorant gits from germany tend to refer to the swiss version of the language in terms related to respiratory diseases, and 3sat, a german-austrian-swiss public tv channel subtitles its swiss programmes in standard german (high german is something different linguistically speaking) so the rest of us can understand them. i'll never forget the time when i was working in a call centre and a swiss co-worker - whose german sounded fairly standard to my ears - was trying to explain something to a german customer, only to be met with the suggestion: "would it be easier for you if we spoke english." that made us all laugh for about a week... ;-)

don't forget, btw, that languages are also a political matter. "letzebuergisch", for instance, is by all means and purposes a dialect of german, to be precise of the ripuaric variety like cologne and most of the rhine dialects, but calls itself a language to assert luxemburg's cultural and political independence from its huge neighbours.

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
suze
214164.  Thu Sep 27, 2007 10:29 am Reply with quote

Some good points there AFB - it's entirely possible to argue that Letzbuergisch is a dialect of German, and indeed not the biggest leap of faith in the world to argue that Dutch is as well!

Although if one wants to go to the other extreme, it's equally possible to argue that Bavarian, Schwyzertütsch, and the like aren't dialects but separate languages.

As noted, the distinction is very often made on political grounds - Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Bosnian/k (even the name is political there) claim to be distinct languages, but they are rather more similar than (say) the Low German of AFB's former home in Bremerhaven and the speech of the Allgäu in Swabish Bavaria.

Among the major European languages, Italian and Norwegian are probably those which show the most variation across their territory, but even they must bow before Arabic. Countries from Mauritania to Kuwait claim that their official language is Arabic, but the reference work Ethnologue reckons that "Arabic" is actually no fewer than forty related languages (and then there's Maltese, which is little more than a dialect of Arabic with a load of Italian and English loan words). For instance, a Moroccan and a Lebanese would be more likely to speak to one another in French than to attempt to understand each other's spoken Arabic.
(The written language is largely standardised and understood across the region; it's based primarily on the language of the Qur'an and is not the way anyone speaks.)

On egg's point, his old Guinness Book of World Records is quite right - Ethnologue identifies no fewer than 820 living languages in Papua New Guinea. Indonesia seems to come second, with 739.

 
AlmondFacialBar
214306.  Thu Sep 27, 2007 4:41 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
Some good points there AFB - it's entirely possible to argue that Letzbuergisch is a dialect of German, and indeed not the biggest leap of faith in the world to argue that Dutch is as well!


well, that depends on if you consider dutch a dialect of low german or of low franconian, doesn't it? if the former, it's not a german dialect, if the latter, it is. personally, i'm of the low franconian school of though btw. dutch has far more vocabulary in common with the franconian german dialects than with any low german one for all i can see.

suze wrote:
As noted, the distinction is very often made on political grounds - Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Bosnian/k (even the name is political there) claim to be distinct languages, but they are rather more similar than (say) the Low German of AFB's former home in Bremerhaven and the speech of the Allgäu in Swabish Bavaria.


BEEP! bremerhaven low german or bremerhaven german? two different languages after all, as defined by the eu carta on minority languages. actually, even bremerhaven german - a comparatively new dialect as up to about two generations ago the spoken language up north was low german - and allemanic german dialects like swabian, swiss and austrian are so different from each other that they can end up mutually unintelligible. i openly admit that i have an austrian friend i speak english with because we find it really hard to understand each other in german. *blush* sort of like your morrocan and lebanese arab conversing in french...

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 
bucken
235604.  Mon Nov 26, 2007 7:38 pm Reply with quote

I feel I must protest against the degradation of Dutch to a dialect of German. It would be like classifying English as being a dialect of French, German, Dutch and some other languages.
It's true that Dutch and German have many things in common, but that's because they're sister languages. Both languages, as do others such as English and Danish, have roots in the saxony region and have evolved from Old Saksish and Germanic.
German, however, has suffered another vowel shift, while Dutch was later much more influenced by French (as was English).

Biggest difference between Dutch and German (and indeed nearly all other European language) is pronounciation. Dutch has the velar fricative 'hard' G [x], and a 'rolling' r such as that in the West-country, I believe.

So there :p

 
suze
236037.  Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:29 am Reply with quote

Oh no, I think I just had a tongue stuck out at me! Welcome aboard, by the way, bucken.

You're absolutely right about Dutch of course, and I don't think many people would seriously attempt to classify it as a dialect of German.

But all the same, if we are to consider Arabic as one single language - and to do so is the standard position, at least in the West - then consistency would say that Dutch should be considered a dialect of German.

 
bucken
236066.  Tue Nov 27, 2007 10:49 am Reply with quote

yeah, but I was never one for consistency. I think it would be better to change the Western idea of Arabic, because that's the path of least resistance :p
On a more personal note, the dialect of Dutch spoken in Drenthe (a.o.), where I live, is a derivative from Low Saxon, so more German than other parts of NL, and even we consider ourselves a different language from German.

regional dialect where I live.

Hi, everyone, by the way :p[/url]

 
samivel
236083.  Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:17 am Reply with quote

Welcome :)

 
suze
236105.  Tue Nov 27, 2007 11:44 am Reply with quote

Thanks bucken. So here's the tricky one. If we decide to define three distinct languages in your corner of Europe - Dutch, Standard German, and Low German - is your dialect then a form of Dutch or of Low German?

 
bucken
236221.  Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:26 pm Reply with quote

Well, our regional speech, though recognised by the Dutch government as a dialect of Dutch, actually preceeds Dutch.

In a nutshell, back in the day when everyone in northern Europe spoke Germanic, some thaugt the time was right for a vowel shift, so a part of Germanic transformed into what is now High German, the remainder - the low german languages - could be classified into two groups;
Nether (or Low) Frankish and Nether (or Low) Saxon (not sure about the English spelling).
The Franks gave birth to Dutch as a language, but the Saxon language in the late middle ages could be heard from the Dutch coastlines through to the Baltic states. It didn't, however, produce a single national language.
Because the main trade capitals, and indeed the nation's capital spoke the Frankish Dutch, this became the main language when the Netherlands were formed, though up north and in the east of the country people still cling to the more Saxon accents.
So I guess you could call Dutch and German (and all dialects in the north of NL) related, as the offspring of Germanic, but Dutch and the dialects would be sisters with a common aunt in High German.
I hope you can make something of this :p

 
bucken
236246.  Tue Nov 27, 2007 3:56 pm Reply with quote

pretty big nutshell, by the way, innit?

 

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