pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Someone on Quora linked to the Wikipedia article on the ‘Canaanite shift’:

In historical linguistics, the Canaanite shift is a sound change that took place in the Canaanite dialects, which belong to the Northwest Semitic branch of the Semitic languages family. This sound change caused Proto-NW-Semitic *ā (long a) to turn into ō (long o) in Proto-Canaanite. It accounts, for example, for the difference between the second vowel of Hebrew שלום (šalom, Tiberian šālōm) and its Arabic cognate سلام (salām). The original word was probably *šalām-, with the ā preserved in Arabic, but transformed into ō in Hebrew.

The article cites several examples, some of which I had known independently as Arabic and Hebrew forms, but I had never inferred that regular sound shift from them! (Quite possibly because I don’t really know Hebrew and Arabic.)

Interesting!

Long cows

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 15:03
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I just found out that Czech has “1 kráva; 5 krav” while Slovak has “1 krava; 5 kráv” with exactly opposite vowel length distribution in those two forms. Amusing :)

pne: Plush Martin wearing a Santa Claus hat (Christmas)

Have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year—Philip


We spent this Christmas in Borstel again at my sister’s: a family get-together, as usual. My second sister couldn’t be there in person with her family, at least partly due to the recent birth of her youngest son, but she was there virtually for part of it by Skype.

We exchanged presents in the morning, ate dinner (and later cake) together, and just talked. The children played with one another a fair bit.

It was interesting to see who spoke which language with whom :) All the children are growing up with at least English (for my youngest sister’s children, the father speaks to them in English, too; for the others, the spouse speaks German to them), yet some of them spoke German to each other. But not necessarily to everyone!

For example, Amy speaks German with her cousins Emily and Frederick but English with their little sister Lucy—and Lucy speaks English with Amy but German with cousin Tamino.

I think part of it is what “category” their cousins fit into in their minds; most know that most children only speak German and so when they meet a new cousin, they assume that German is the appropriate language to speak to them. But I presume that Amy speaks English to Lucianne because when Lucy was small, she spoke only English, and so I guess she got put into the category “people to speak English to”: even now that Lucy speaks quite reasonable German.

I got a number of books: a couple of Calvin and Hobbes ones, some language-related ones and a maths-related one.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

If an opportunity has passed, you might say in English, “That ship has sailed.”

In German, it’s “Der Zug ist abgefahren” (That train has left).

Interesting that the metaphor is quite similar, except for the choice of vehicle.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

A while ago, I saw an English insurance policy (I think it was) and was struck by how clear the language seemed to me, compared to what I’m used to in German.

I don’t remember the details, but the language style was along the lines of (if it had been for a mortgage), “If you do not pay your instalments on time, you are at risk of losing your house.” (Which in German could be, “Wenn Sie Ihre Raten nicht rechtzeitig bezahlen, könnte es sein, dass Sie Ihr Haus verlieren / …, laufen Sie Gefahr, Ihr Haus zu verlieren.”)

Whereas I think a German policy would tend to use language along the lines of “Verspätete Rückzahlung Ihres Darlehens kann den Verlust Ihrer Immobilie zur Folge haben” (“Tardy loan repayment can have as a consequence the loss of your real estate”), heavy on noun phrases and legal language.

The English seemed quite a bit clearer, and I wonder whether the slight loss of precision by use of normal language rather than legal terms was such a price to pay for making things more understandable to the layman who is asked to sign.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

The wardrobe in the bedroom: an interesting article in John Wells’s phonetic blog, about juncture or syllabification and how it influences the difference between pairs such as nitrate and night rate or great ape and grey tape.

With a side discussion on how some (including Prof. Wells and I) pronounce words such as bedroom, beetroot, and wardrobe as if be-droom, bee-troot, and war-drobe (or bedr-oom, beetr-oot, and wardr-obe, if you prefer) rather than bed-room, beet-root and war-drobe, while other, similar words such as headroom often do not receive such treatment (and again, I happen to follow Prof. Wells in this).

This is possibly connected to the age of acquisition of such words (bedrooms are a much more common topic of conversation for children than headroom) and/or the degree to which such words are felt as being a single word rather than a compound.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I came across this Romanian Wikipedia article on Cetatea Albă street in Chișinău (while looking for the diacriticful spelling of a Postcrosser’s address), and what struck my eye was this bit:

Strada Cetatea Albă (până în 1991 str. Krasnodonskaia) se află în sectorul Botanica, cartierul Muncești. (emphasis mine)

That reminded me of Sursilvan Romansh sesanfla for “to be located (somewhere)”, literally “to find oneself”, which I believe comes from a Latin root along the lines of anflare. (Rumantsch Grischun uses sa chattar for this instead, and I think Vallader also has as chattar.)

Hm, checking MeinPledari.ch, it seems that Vallader is as rechattar; ah well. And Sursilvan also has secattar, though it seems to me that sesanflar is more common. (The non-reflexive forms are cattar, anflar.)

So! I guess this Romanian sentence means that C.A. street “is located” (se trouve) in B sector, etc.—and I imagine that the verb is cognate to the Sursilvan one, which I hadn’t otherwise come across in Romance before.

Whee!

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

At least twice in recent days, I’ve seen people using “in dem” and “indem” incorrectly (I think one each of the two possible directions of mix-up).

It should be simple, really: the two-word one is the more literal “in which”; the one-word one is the fossilised “by” indicating the means:

“Er öffnete den Kofferraum, in dem er das Schloss transportiert hatte.”

“Er öffnete den Kofferraum, indem er das Schloss knackte.”

Annoying, especially because I hadn’t seen this particularly misuse before, and since the two are used rather differently syntactically, my mind was completely garden-pathed.

(By comparison, I think I’m less confused by people using the wrong spelling from the set “they’re, their, there”, because I’ve seen those errors too often.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

So when signing up for SES 2012 in Nitra (an Esperanto meeting), the choices for “sex” were ina (female) and malina (opposite-of-female). I picked the latter.

Just now, looking through the Kauderwelsch guide to Slovak, I see that malina means “Himbeere” (raspberry).

This amuses me :)

Hm, now I wonder whether ina means anything in Slovak; it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that it means “different” (based on knowing the Polish word inny).

And indeed, iná (with a long final vowel) means “other, different”.

So I guess men are raspberries and women are “other”!

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Sometimes I wish I had more relatives so that, when learning another language’s kinship terms, I can remember them more easily by attaching labels to my own relatives, whose relationships I already know.

Since many languages don’t use the comparatively simple system English does (this entry was prompted by my having suspended the kinship term flashcards in my Klingon Anki deck), but use criteria such as older/younger, female/male, and so on. Typically most visible in words for “uncle/aunt” (for example, I had a farbror and still have several morbrors and mosters, but I have no faster).

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

An interesting sentence, which I found on an old blog entry of Professor John Wells’s:

Who would know aught of art must act, learn and then take his ease.

If it is read with an RP accent, using strong forms for would of must and the weak form for and, it supposedly not only uses all monophthongs and narrow diphthongs but does so in a regular order: roughly, going clockwise around the periphery of the IPA vowel diagram.

(For the remaining diphthongs, one could add something along the lines of My loud voice nears their moors.)

Très nifty!

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I remember at a meeting of the Hamburg Esperanto Society, someone mentioned that pronouncing “n” as a velar (rather than alveolar or dental) nasal before “g” or “k” was wrong; words such as “benko” should always be [benko] “ben-ko” and never [beŋko] “beng-ko”. And that this was supported by tapes that Zamenhof supposedly made and sent out for instruction.

Now I’m leafing through a book on “language answers” by Zamenhof in response to various questions, and found this as item 71 (translation on request):

Pri prononco en teorio kaj en praktiko.

Kiel en ĉiuj lingvoj, tiel ankaŭ en Esperanto la sono «j» ordinare moligas la konsonanton, kiu staras antaŭ ĝi; oni sekve ne devas miri, ke ekzemple en la vorto «panjo» la plimulto de la Esperantistoj elparolas la «nj» kiel unu molan sonon (simile al la franca «gn»). Tiel same oni ne miru, ke en praktiko oni ordinare antaŭ «g» aŭ «k» elparolas la sonon «n» naze, aŭ ke antaŭ vokalo oni elparolas la «i» ordinare kiel «ij». Batali kontraŭ tia natura emo en la elparolado ŝajnas al mi afero tute sencela kaj senbezona, ĉar tia elparolado (kiu estas iom pli eleganta, ol la elparolado pure teoria) donas nenian malkompreniĝon aŭ praktikan maloportunaĵon; sed rekomendi tian elparoladon (aŭ nomi ĝin «la sole ĝusta») ni ankaŭ ne devas, ĉar laŭ la teoria vidpunkto (kiu en Esperanto ofte povas esti ne severe observata, sed neniam povas esti rigardata kiel «erara») ni devas elparoli ĉiun sonon severe aparte; sekve se ni deziras paroli severe regule, ni devas elparoli «pan-jo» «san-go», «mi-a».

Respondo 56, Oficiala Gazeto, IV, 1911, p. 222

citita el: Doktoro L. L. Zamenhof, Lingvaj Respondoj: Konsiloj kaj Opinioj pri Esperanto, ed. G. Waringhien, 6a eldono, Esperantaj Francaj Eldonoj, 1962.

So it seems that not only is the velar pronunciation of “n” before “g” and “k” allowed, Zamenhof himself even considered it (at least at one point) as “more elegant” than the “purely theoretical” (in the sense, I believe, of “adhering to a pure reading of the theory”, not in the sense of “not occurring in practice”) pronunciation.

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Amy seems to be turning into a rhotic speaker; I’ve often heard her say things such as “car” and “are” rather than “cah” and “ah” as I do.

It’s still a bit unstable; this morning, she said “dinosaur” and “dinosaw” in separate sentences.

And not completely authentic, due to overgeneralisation/hypercorrection: she also said “girarff”.

I wonder why that is. More exposure to rhotic than non-rhotic accents due to films and the like?

Ah well. Let her talk however she wants, as long as she speaks English :)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

The other day, I finally got around to taking all the words I had jotted into the margin of my notebook during the week-long Esperanto course in March and look them up the dictionary and make Anki flashcards out of them.

Two of the words I got that way were ebeno and ebenaĵo.

They were defined in my eo–de dictionary as something like “(Geometrie, Physik) Ebene” and “Ebene (konkret; besonders in der Geografie)”, respectively.

And yesterday morning, I had the insight that while, in English, both of those words are 𐑐𐑤𐑱𐑯 in the Shaw alphabet, 𐐹𐑊𐐩𐑌 in the Deseret alphabet, /plɛɪn/* in IPA, and presumably Gregg shorthand outline p-l-a-n in Gregg shorthand, the first sense is spelled plane while the second is spelled plain.

Funny how both of those English words correspond to the same German one; I don’t think I’ve ever connected them. Presumably they both come from Latin but one of them took the scenic route through France.


* (or however you choose to notate English phonemes; perhaps you would prefer /pleɪn/.)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

In Gregg shorthand (simplified), “thorough” is written th-e-r-o.

I would have used different vowels there, so I tried to see where those came from.

The first was easiest; I was expecting a STRUT vowel there, since I have STRUT in case such as “hurry”, but I have heard NURSE in such words from Americans. Essentially, I have “hu-ry” while they have “hur-y”. (I do have NURSE in words where I segment things with the r in the same syllable as the u; for example, in “furry”.)

OK, so this presumably represents a pronunciation with NURSE; that sound is regularly spelled e-r, so that made sense.

But I have commA at the end of the word; the vowel in both syllables is nearly the same for me. So seeing an o there seemed odd. (So I would have spelled the word th-oo-r-a, since oo is used for STRUT.)

I checked dictionary.com and while that gave both STRUT and NURSE for the first syllable, it gave only GOAT for the final vowel.

Then I had a look at Forvo; that had seven pronunciations recorded. Clicking through them one by one, it seems that there is a Commonwealth/US split for this word, with commA for the former (the UK samples and the Australian one) and a fairly clear, unreduced GOAT for the latter.

Huh! Learn something new every day.

(And now, thorough sounds extremely odd to me. Typical result of listening to a word over and over!)

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

At the moment, there are election posters in Hamburg with the slogan, “Reicht das Erzählte, oder zählt das Erreichte?”

I thought that a rather clever turn of words. (And I’m sure it wasn’t the candidate pictured who came up with it, though I had never heard it before.)

For those who don’t speak German, the meaning is, “Is what has been told enough, or does what has been achieved count?”, or perhaps a bit more fluently, “Are you going to be satisfied with what other people have told you they wanted to do, or are you going to measure people by what they have actually achieved?”.

The punchy bit is in the parallelism of the nouns and verbs: reichen “to be enough, be sufficient” vs. erreichen “to achieve” on the one hand and zählen “to count” vs. erzählen “to tell [e.g. a story]” on the other hand.

O, E, A

Thursday, 15 December 2011 09:02
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

Sometimes when people press multiple buttons in the lift in my office building, I see a Braille letter. (The buttons are in a 4×4 grid.)

Yesterday and today, there was a >-shaped pattern that’s Braille "o" (at different positions; yesterday, my floor was the middle dot, this morning, the top dot).

And I noticed that as the “lower” dots progressively disappeared, that the corresponding Braille letters remained vowels! Interesting.

First, there was a ⠕ “o”, then a ⠑ “e”, and finally a ⠁ “a”.

Fun.

It was a bit like discovering that you can build up a katakana letter stroke by stroke with each new stroke forming a new letter along the way (though you wouldn’t write it in that order): ノ “no” --> フ “fu” --> ワ “wa” --> ウ “u”.

pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

In German there’s a saying, “Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur schlechte Kleidung!” (There is no bad weather, just bad clothing).

Today, I learned that this phrase is used in Swedish and Norwegian, too, and that it rhymes in those languages! So I wonder whether it originated in Scandinavia.

Specifically, the Swedish phrase is said to be “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” and the Norwegian one, “Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær.” (Or, supposedly more natively, “Det fins'kje dårlig vær, bare dårlig' klær. /de finʃe dɔrli vær, bare dɔrli klær/”)

Now I wonder whether this phrase exists in Danish, too (and Faroese and Icelandic).

Whee!

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June 2015

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