Does “nigh” have the same etymology as “near”?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-16 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: English, Linguistics

The five answers given quote the facts, but I’m afraid they don’t understand the facts.

Nigh comes from the original Old English word for “near”.

Near comes from the Old Norse for “nearer”. It came to England with the Vikings.

They are not the same etymology. They are related (cognate) words, just as shirt from Old English and skirt from Old Norse are related: but the last time they constituted the selfsame word (ignoring that one is a comparative) was in proto-Germanic. In 800, when the Vikings came to England, English nēah and Norse nær were two separate words from two separate languages.


My thanks to Syarif Fadhlurrahman for his clarification in comments.

Near comes from Old English with some influence from Old Norse. It’s not totally from Old Norse:

‘nigh’
ON: ná
OE: neah

‘nearer’
ON: nær
OE: near

‘nearest’
ON: ‘næst’
OE: ‘niehst’

Granted, Oxford assigns only the Old Norse etymology, but I don’t see why. Perhaps due to non-adjectival use? (Old Norse ‘naer’ can function as adverb and preposition)

Updated 2017-08-16 · Upvoted by

Logan R. Kearsley, MA in Linguistics from BYU, 8 years working in research for language pedagogy. and

Steve Rapaport, Linguistics PhD candidate at Edinburgh. Has lived in USA, Sweden, Italy, UK.

What would it be like to have a made up language as your first language?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-15 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Artificial Languages

If you’re being brought up to speak Esperanto or Klingon or Lojban or (in the case of Itamar Ben-Avi) Revived Hebrew [yes, I’m calling Eliezer Ben-Yehuda’s work a made up language], the main issue you’d run into is not having anyone but your parents, and maybe occasionally your parents’ weirdo friends, to use the language with.

That is actually a very common dealbreaker for kids with Esperanto, and the parents end up acquiescing; there may be 10k denaskaj Esperantistoj (native speakers of Esperanto) that are still engaged with the language, but there are a lot more that aren’t. This got addressed in the surveys behind Peter Forster’s book The Esperanto Movement. I haven’t asked him personally, but I think it’s a big reason why Alec Speers gave up and D’Armond Speers acquiesced, with Klingon. Itamar, unfortunately, was not given the option, which is why he could only talk to his dog as a kid.

(I know someone bringing up his kid to speak Lojban, and my Facebook feed has intermittent reports of how it’s going; but I haven’t been following it. Lojban is certainly going to be a lot more alien than Klingon.)

A second issue, which I’ve heard for Esperanto and which D’Armond certainly reported for Klingon, was the lack of vocabulary that you can use with a kid around the house. It’s not necessarily that Esperanto lacks such vocabulary, but that Esperantists usually don’t learn that vocabulary, because that’s not the context in which they use the language. Just as people who learn foreign languages formally usually don’t end up learning the word for armpit. So you may grow up with circumlocutions or ad hoc words.

Chomskyans may mutter darkly that if you are brought up to speak a made up language, that will warp your language acquisition FOREVAH, and that bringing up a kid to speak Klingon is somehow child abuse. I even heard that from non-Chomskyans.

Poppycock. Kids survived being brought up in slave plantations creolising their parents’ pidgins without sustaining brain damage; the brain is a flexible thing, far more flexible than knob-twiddling universal parameters gives it credit for; and in any case, no kid is being brought up with no exposure ever to natural languages in parallel. (Not even Itamar. Poor kid.)

What influence has Bollywood had in Greek music?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-15 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Modern Greek, Music

Material drawn from forum thread ΙΝΔΙΚΑ ΚΑΙ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΤΡΑΓΟΥΔΙΑ. There is a book on the influx of Bollywood tunes into Greek music:

Ινδοπρεπών αποκάλυψη. Manuel Tasoulas & Eleni Ambatzi. 1998. Ινδοπρεπών αποκάλυψη [Revelation of the Indian-styled]. Athens; Περιβολάκι, Ατραπός.

Bollywood productions were very popular in Greece in the 1960s; my mother remembers watching them as a teenager. Greek music also has some resemblance with the kinds of music featured in Bollywood productions, via the family resemblance chain Greek–Turkish–Persian, Arabic–Indian.

As a result, the 1960s saw a substantial number of Bollywood songs repurposed as Greek hit songs. Not particularly obscure songs either: they include some of the most memorable songs of the 60s. Λίγο-λίγο θα με συνηθίσεις. Καρδιά μου καημένη. Αυτή η νύχτα μένει. Όσο αξίζεις εσύ. Είσαι η ζωή μου.

That trend appears to have dried up since the 60s. Popular Greek music does now occasionally borrow songs from the Arab world; e.g. Katy Garbi’s 1996 hit Περασμένα ξεχασμένα, which is a cover of Hisham Abbas’ Wana Wana Amil Eih.

(Ο κλέψας του κλέψαντος: Διαμάχη Ελλάδας-Αραβίας για τραγούδι της Καίτης Γαρμπή – People Greece has the producer of the song admitting that he got the song on a pirated tape in Jordan, and that he preferred to seek forgiveness rather than permission.)

But. The question is about Bollywood songs.

As one poster in the forum thread says,

Αυτό που κάνει εντύπωση είναι πόσο το ύφος άλλαξε όταν μεταφυτεύτηκαν αυτά τα ινδικά λουλούδια στο ελληνικό χώμα!

It’s impressive how much their style changed when these Indian flowers were transplanted to Greek soil.

Two CDs have circulated, Ο γυρισμός της Μαντουμπάλα “The return of Madhubala” and Το τραγούδι της Ναργκίς “The song of Nargis”, pairing 30 Indian originals and their Greek covers. Here’s the six Greek songs I recognise by title. I’m interested to read what readers make of the contrast.

DUNIA ME HAM AAYE HAIN: MOTHER INDIA, 1957. Naushad / Miina & Usha
Mangeshkar.

Καρδιά μου καημένη / Μπ. Μπακάλης, 1960 / Στρ. Διονυσίου – Γ. Κάλη

ΥΑ ALLAH, YA ALLAH DIL LE GAYA: UJAALA, 1959. Shankar – Jaikishan / Lata Mangeshkar – Manna Dey

Λίγο – λίγο θα με συνηθίσεις / Απ. Καλδάρας, 1963 / Μιχ. Μενιδιάτης

ULFAT KA SAAZ: AURAT, 1953. Sankar – Jaikishan / Lata Mangeshkar

Αυτή η νύχτα μένει / Στ. Καζαντζίδης / 1959 / Στ. Καζαντζίδης

DUNIAVALON SE DUUR: UJAALA, 1959. Sankar – Jaikishan / Lata Mangeshkar – Mukesh

Όσο αξίζεις εσύ / Απ. Καλδάρας / 1963 / Μαν. Αγγελόπουλος

GHAR AAYA MERA PARDESI: AWAARA, 1951. Sankar – Jaikishan / Lata Mangeshkar

Είσαι η ζωή μου / Στ. Καζαντζίδης / 1959 / Στ. Καζαντζίδης – Μαρινέλλα

AAJAO TARAPT HAI ARMAN: AWAARA, 1951. Sankar – Jaikishan / Lata Mangeshkar

Μαντουμπάλα, 1959 / Η επιστροφή της Μαντουμπάλα, 1964 / Ήρθα πάλι κοντά σου, 1959 / Στ. Καζαντζίδης / Στ. Καζαντζίδης – Μαρινέλλα

You’ll notice that half of these were sung by Stelios Kazantzidis. I used to snob off Kazantzidis when I was a kid, and I’m sure a lot of his contemporaries snobbed him off too, for picking Indo-Gypsy songs (ινδογύφτικα, as Tsitsanis maliciously called them).* It takes time for an outsider to get what he speaks to in the Greek soul. It takes maturity to recognise that those Indo-Gypsy songs resonate deeply with the Greek soul for good reason.

It’s just the icing on the cake that the Greek songs and the Indian originals repeatedly share the Arabic word دنيا (dunya), ‘world’, and its connotations of it being in opposition to Heaven.


* All the more maliciously, because Manolis Angelopoulos, who sang #4, was Roma. And of course of the two names the Roma were traditionally given in Greek, tsinganos and ɣiftos, ɣiftos is the more negative. In fact, rendering ινδογύφτικα as “Indo-nigger songs” would not be that inaccurate.

Is it mathematically possible to create a language where terms describing complex ideas can be made up starting from simpler ideas, with simple logical reasoning in real time, so that knowing vocabulary is not necessary?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-15 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: General Language, Linguistics

I’m sceptical to what extent mathematics enters into any reasoning about human language (and Lojbanists actually highlight that language is not reducible to truth-conditional logic). But much of what you’re saying is the bet behind Natural semantic metalanguage, which tries to define every concept ever in a language that looks like English, but that has only an extremely small number of primitive words.

NSM was a thing of cruel, adamantine beauty back in the 70s and 80s, when it had just 14 primitives. It was also of course utterly unusable as a practical tool for eliciting meaning. It’s now up to 63.

A favourite party trick of Anna Wierzbicka’s undergrads, at least in my day, was to try to hold conversations in NSM. It can be done. It can’t be done efficiently enough to count as a real conversation; but it does meet a generous definition of “in real time”.

How do you say ‘the thing about the eagle’ in ancient Greek?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-15 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Ancient Greek, Linguistics

I have been edified by the margent:

I have found out that the Iliad means ‘The thing about the lion’ and I was just wondering how one would say, ‘The thing about the eagle’.

No. No it doesn’t, and you need to slap whoever told you that in the face. Iliad means ‘The thing about Ilium’, where Ilium was an alternate name of Troy. ‘The thing about the lion’ would be Leontiad, Λεοντιάς, -άδος, ἡ.

And ‘the thing about the eagle’ would accordingly be Aeëtiad or Aëtiad, Αἰετιάς/ Ἀετιάς, -άδος, ἡ.

Yes, I use Latinate transliterations. Deal. 🙂

Why do many people say that Koine Greek is close to Modern Greek and distant from Attic, while grammatically it seems to be very close to Attic and still some significant distance away from Modern Greek?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-14 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Mediaeval Greek

Well has Dimitra Triantafyllidou’s answer put it:

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Here’s some ways in which Koine is closer to Modern Greek:

  • Phonetics: there’s lots of disagreement about precise dates, but in lower-class Koine, potentially as few as two sounds were left to change over between Koine and Modern Greek, ɛ > i (η) and y > i (υ, οι). Accent was already likely stress- and not pitch-based, and vowel length was lost.
  • Morphology: No dual, moribund optative. No Attic declension.
  • Syntax: At the very start of hína replacing infinitive
  • Lexicon: Substantial move forwards in both meanings of words, and Latin loans. Some of it straightforwardly legible by Modern Greek speakers.

Here’s some ways in which Koine is closer to Classical Greek:

  • Phonology: Gemination was still present.
  • Morphology: Still has dative, perfect, future, infinitive, third declension, athematic conjugation
  • Syntax: Still has clause-chaining strategies using participles
  • Lexicon: Still basically legible for someone reading ancient Greek

Phonetically, it’s almost Modern Greek. Morphologically, it’s identifiably Ancient, though there has already been some simplification. Syntax and lexicon are in between.

Why do I not appear to have a regional accent?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-14 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: General Language, Linguistics

Without knowing anything whatsoever of your circumstances, OP, I’ll guess you’ve picked up some supraregional dialect koine somehow.

Like, I dunno, RP, or whatever has replaced RP in England these days.

It’ll have a lot to do with your upbringing and your socialisation, as others have said. This kind of accent mixup is very commonplace in children of military personnel, who move around a country frequently; hence the term “army brat”. And of course prestige variants of a language are produced all over a language community, unified by ideology or class rather than regional identification—even if their origin is often regional.

Why are there ancient, long extinct scripts (e.g. cuneiform) in Unicode?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-14 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Other Languages, Writing Systems

I’m going to put in a less popular answer:

Because they can.

Yes, there is research ongoing on extinct scripts, and scholars should be able to exchange texts in those scripts. The thing is, scholars usually exchange Sumerian, Old Egyptian, Mayan etc texts not in the original scripts, but in transliteration. The scholars are consulted in putting together the Unicode representations of their scripts, but they are not, from what I have seen, desperate to see them adopted because their absence was blocking them doing their work.

You can’t rule out that someone will want to use them, even if just in illustratory text, and you do occasionally see old scripts used as plaintext by scholars (Egyptian hieroglyphics more than cuneiform, cuneiform more than Mayan hieroglyphics). And Unicode is intended to be the definitive encoding of all scripts that could ever be digitised. So their presence in Unicode is legitimate; but it was never pressing even within specialised fields. That’s why they got bumped to the “Astral Plane” (the Supplementary Multilingual Plane, U+10000 to U+1FFFF.)

Who faces more difficulty, a Greek who reads the original Koine New Testament or an English speaker who reads the works of Shakespeare?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-14 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Linguistics, Mediaeval Greek

How on earth do we quantify this? Especially given (a) we read Shakespeare in modernised orthography; (b) we ignore the pronunciation differences, unless we’re tuning in to Ben Crystal for Reconstructed Shakesperian, and Randall Buth for Reconstructed Koine; (c) there is huge stylistic disparity in the New Testament: Mark is much easier to read than Paul.

  • Pronunciation: Koine slightly harder: the vowels sound like a pirate in English, but we have heard pirates before in the movies. Greeks are going to be really taken aback by eta as /ɛ/ and omicron iota, upsilon as /y/; but they’re getting off easy. Those are the only real differences.
  • Morphology: A lot of Koine grammar got reintroduced to modern ears via Puristic (I’m saying that deliberately: Puristic never really used pre-Koine Attic grammar). Still, that’s an alien though familiar grammar for Koine, vs only minor grammatical differences for Shakespeare.
  • Syntax: Same as morphology, although Shakespeare’s syntax can at times be convoluted for modern ears. I’d call it a wash.
  • Lexicon: This can be quantified, but I don’t know of any studies. Both are contaminated, because of how canonical both are in the contemporary cultures: the vocabulary of the New Testament and of Shakespeare are more familiar to modern readers than they should be, because both are taught (and because of Puristic). And you’ll need to be “edified by the margin” for both. Especially if you used an edition of Shakespeare that uses the word margent instead of margin. I’m calling it a wash, but more out of frustration than conviction.

Koine somewhat harder than Shakespeare, but I say that with little conviction. Koine maybe as easy as Chaucer. But certainly easier than Early Middle English, from what little I’ve seen of it.

What would a living natural language that couldn’t change or evolve look like?

By: | Post date: 2017-08-14 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: General Language, Linguistics

Well, what drives language change? Whatever needs drive language change would not be met by such a language. And speakers of such a language would get very frustrated.

  • They’d be bored to death with each other. A major driver is the pursuit for novel and vivid ways of expressing a concept. You would not have them. You would have heard all the ways of expressing excitement a millionfold, and nothing in language would surprise you any more.
  • Their facial muscles would be twitching. A major driver is ease of enunciation; that’s how words get slurred together, syllable structures get simplified, phonemes assimilate to each other. That capability would be frozen.
  • They would be constantly asking each other “huh?”. A major and contrary driver is ease of comprehension; expressions that become too indistinct, semantically or phonetically, are remodelled so that they can be understood more readily. The easy pathways for doing so would all be blocked off; any attempt to make themselves understood would be trapped in ponderous circumlocution.
  • They would yell at each other a lot. Language is a major vehicle of conveying what in-group you belong to, and what out-group you don’t belong to; people unconsciously, and at times consciously, change their language to mark themselves off from others. Without that subtle vehicle, they would have to resort more often to more overt signals of their group identity. Which would probably manifest themselves more aggressively.

Expanding answer promoted by OP.

This was a good, interesting answer. Thanks.

However, there are a few things I’d like to point out/ask, if you don’t mind.

  • It seems your answer focused more on the socio-cultural aspect, especially the consequences, while I also had the language itself in mind. That is, the actual phonological and grammatical side of it.
  • The various issues you mention are seemingly based on existing languages, while my question was more hypothetical (I didn’t mean an existing natural language).
  • For example, you mention ease of enunciation, which means the language would not yet have arrived at the point where speakers feel they no longer need to make it easier.
  • Rather than “What if a language suddenly no longer could evolve?”, my question was more about “How would a hypothetical natural language end up in such a state that all or most parts of specch and phonology had become a closed class?”.

An isolating language is going to be crying out for its function words to be reanalysed as affixes, changing it into an agglutinating language. An agglutinating language is going to be crying out for its affixes to be phonologically assimilated, resulting in a fusional language. A fusional language is going to be crying out for its inflections to become phonologically indistinct, and disambiguating function words to be added, resulting in an isolating language.

In other words, there is a cycle of language change, in this and in many other aspects of language; and so long as the forces which bring about language change exist, a language can’t hop off the cycle. The core conflict of ease of production vs ease of comprehension results in language being in an unstable equilibrium: any perturbation (and there are constant perturbations) leads to local language change. And those opposing factors are not intrinsic to any one language structure; there is no language structure that is guaranteed to be stable.

For example, you say “the language would not yet have arrived at the point where speakers feel they no longer need to make it easier.” It never will. A language which speakers feel they no longer need to make easier to pronounce is a language consisting of the single word “uhhhhhhhh”. The contradictory pressure to make the language easier to understand is going to kick in way before then.

What would it take for a language to have most of its parts of speech and phonology be a closed class? Have the language be in a world where there are no novel concepts to express. Failing that, have the language have no compounding, and no phrases consisting of multiple words and a single denotation, which could be reanalysed into a single word, and accented accordingly. It just won’t happen with language as we know it.

Answered 2017-08-14 · Upvoted by

Steve Rapaport, Linguistics PhD candidate at Edinburgh. Has lived in USA, Sweden, Italy, UK.

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