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Month: October 2015
What are some common Greek and Turkish words?
There used to be a lot more Turkish words in Greek, but purism and changes in institutions have gotten rid of a lot of them. There are still a fair few in daily use. Nikos Sarantakos’ blog [Page on wordpress.com] has a list of 218 Turkish words that remain in daily use. I am taking […]
What is an ergative-absolutive language?
Ergative languages are a very hard thing to wrap your head around, if you don’t speak one. A *very* crude way to explain it is: verbs look like they’re passive by default: I am slept.I am killed by the enemy. If you’re just sitting there, including having something done to you, you’re the subject. (Absolutive […]
Would Hebrew be better revived if linguists did it?
Language revivals almost never restore the language to what it was. Because the initiatives say they are “revivals” and not “reinventions”, they don’t particularly highlight the fact: but yes, there are much more Yiddish grammar and German calques and Ashkenazi phonology in Modern Hebrew than linguistically there should be—to the extent that Ghil’ad Zuckermann considers […]
Why doesn’t English have diacritics?
Been thinking about this question for a little while. I don’t have a firm answer, but I do have some idle chatter. tl;dr (a) English does not have consonant diacritics because England isn’t in Eastern Europe.English does not have vowel diacritics because (b) initially neither did French, and (b) by the time diacritics could have […]
Why are Greeks called Greek in English, Yunan in Turkish and Arabic, Ellines in Greek?
Thx for A2A. The Wikipedia treatment of the topic, Names of the Greeks, is pretty damn good. Basic story: The Classical Greek term for Greeks, Hellenes, had not generalised until early Classical times. Before then, Greek tribes used local terms for themselves, and any peoples that came in touch with them would pick up those […]
Will languages other than English eventually die out?
I’m not as sanguine as other respondents on this. If history and human and society go on as they have done, then yes, there are centripetal and centrifugal pressures on language: communities want to be understandable within each other, but communities also want to sound distinct from each other. The community you identify with in […]
With TV, radio, film and other forms of mass media will accents and dialects slowly die out or transform until there is just one national/non-regional dialect?
Certainly the trend in many countries is for dialects to die out, particularly countries with a strong centralising tendency in culture and education. Greece and France are very good examples of this. Even in England, what survives is more accents with some variant vocabulary than the full-fledged dialects of two centuries ago. Countries that have […]
Why do some languages have translations for cities while others don’t?
Some other factoids from Greek: * Languages with inflectional morphology will tend to inflect town names, especially town names they care about, as Daniel Lindsäth correctly points out. Ancient Greek tended to do that a lot, though not universally, as you can see in the Geography (Ptolemy): most towns end up looking declinable, though some […]
What is it like to be able to fluently speak Klingon?
Surprising. You are aware of the gaps in the vocabulary, and they are annoying; but it’s a buzz when you manage to actually hold a decent conversation anyway. The last conversation I had in Klingon was the most surprising: at an airport, about how come deixis is pronounced with an [aj]. You wouldn’t think Klingon […]
How does Esperanto sound, to you?
One objection raised about the vowels of Esperanto by Kalocsay and Waringhien (the authors of the standard Esperanto Grammar Plena Analiza Gramatiko – Vikipedio) was that there was no alternation of vowel length, so it sounded rat-tat-tat — like Spanish and Greek do. They proposed introducing vowel length according to syllable structure, which was meant […]