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  #51  
Old 07-15-2018, 07:37 AM
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Of course not all signs are iconic, but it's a larger proportion than words in audible languages.
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Old 07-15-2018, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Kolak of Twilo View Post
I had a Dutch person say it is pretty easy for them to understand spoken American English even if they haven't studied it.
I seriously doubt that. Many Dutch people speak French, too, so that would help a bit, especially with written English, but the pronunciation between Dutch and English can be quite different. But maybe they are exposed to so much English media that they learn quite a bit without formal study. Take a Dutch speaker who hasn't been exposed to English and he's going to recognize some common words here and there, but no way would he understand a conversation.

As it happens, I was having dinner at the bar at one of my favorite restaurants last night when a foreign couple sat down next to me. I listened to the for awhile and couldn't quite figure out what they were speaking. I was pretty sure it was a Scandinavian language, so I asked them. They smiled and asked me to guess, and I said "Danish". Nope. Norwegian? Nope. Swedish! Yes. I was a bit surprised because normally Swedish and Norwegian sound very sing-songy to me, and Danish sounds more flat. They sounded flat, but I guess I missed the lilt-- maybe because the place was kind of noisy. I asked asked them about mutual intelligibility and they said Danes, Norwegians and Swedes just speak to each other in their own languages and usually it's no problem.

Last edited by John Mace; 07-15-2018 at 08:31 AM.
  #53  
Old 07-15-2018, 09:07 AM
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Of course not all signs are iconic, but it's a larger proportion than words in audible languages.
True; but this simply reflects the fact that most or all signs are fairly recent innovations. It's the same thing in audible languages. The PIE word for "raven" was something like korh (omitting diacritics). This is a pretty accurate rendition of the most common calling sound of the bird itself. Later, it morphed into Latin corvus (still pretty accurate, if you omit the masculine suffix) and, with the change k>h and metathesis of the r and vowel, into Proto-Germanic hrabn(az), which gave us Icelandic hrafn (h is still audible, and f is pronounced as voiceless b before n) and, of course, English raven and Danish ravn, which are much less readily recognized as onomatopoetic.
The cognate of this word has gone extinct in Swedish, though, which instead has the fairly recent innovation korp, even better than the PIE word and easily understood from a pure acoustic/imitative standpoint. It will probably be much more less so in a few thousand years, if the language itself spawns descendants lasting into that future...
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Old 07-15-2018, 09:45 AM
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When a third dialect is constructed, perhaps politically, as a compromise between two other dialects, the process is called koineization if the sources are mutually intelligible, but there is no general term (except pidginization or creolization!) when the sources are separate languages.
This reminds me of an article I saw recently somewhere. The author, a foreigner living in Indonesia, learned the official Indonesian language, which is a somewhat artificial language based on various dialects of Malay. And then they find they can't understand anyone, because no one uses that language.

Last edited by dtilque; 07-15-2018 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 07-15-2018, 11:06 AM
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That's clearly an exaggeration. About 10% of the population of Indonesia speak Indonesian as their native language. It's used for most of the mass media in Indonesia. The majority of the population speak it either as their first or second language. There are at least 300 native languages in Indonesia. Whatever language you speak in Indonesia will make someone unhappy, but you have to make a choice.
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:33 PM
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Something I'm sure a few folks around here would know: Are Quenya and Sindarin mutually intelligible?
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Old 07-15-2018, 02:42 PM
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Something I'm sure a few folks around here would know: Are Quenya and Sindarin mutually intelligible?
Generally not readily. When the Noldor returned to ME after the Curse, they found it problematic to talk to the Sindar of ME. Of course, even before the Noldor left ME originally, they'd travelled apart from the Sindar and their tongues were already diverging.

The Ardalambion website explores all JRRT's languages in depth, and has some special sections on how elven languages diverged, resulting not just in Sindarin, but variants like Teleri, Doriathrin, Nandorin (Danian), and others.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:33 PM
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Wow, that was breg!
  #59  
Old 07-15-2018, 07:14 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Wow, that was breg!
Thand too, I hope.
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Old 07-15-2018, 11:10 PM
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Which is impressive, considering that those two languages diverged that far in a single generation.
  #61  
Old 07-16-2018, 01:41 AM
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One thing I learned from studying both Uyghur and Uzbek is the asymmetricality between them. They are very closely related languages that were both derived relatively recently from Chaghatai, the literary language of Central Asia until about a century ago.
Wow, really interesting. I didn't know that. Did a little more hunting on wiki to understand better.
  #62  
Old 07-16-2018, 06:28 AM
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Which is impressive, considering that those two languages diverged that far in a single generation.
That's my take on it as well. It's of course possible that elves are different from humans, or that humans would change their language over multiple thousands of years, but humans don't tend to change their language much over a single lifetime.
  #63  
Old 07-16-2018, 07:38 AM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Which is impressive, considering that those two languages diverged that far in a single generation.
JRRT did write that elves were fascinated with words, and were always changing them, seeking to use better terms for what they saw and did and thought.

There's also ambiguity in his writing as to how many generations did pass from the awakening at Cuivienen until Orome showed up to take them to Valinor.

But yeah, you'd think the old timers would still remember the original words . . .
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Old 07-16-2018, 07:44 AM
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Ironic too, is the fact that French and Spanish are considered derived from Latin. But if you speak one, you certainly can't understand the other.
You can, although not very well (*), and if you can read one, you can read the other. In fact, if you can read either French or Spanish, you can read the other one much more easily than you can read Latin: the changes to grammar have been quite parallel.

When I was 15yo, I went to Ireland as a group of Spanish teenagers to study English. There was a group of French students who attended the same school we did, and whose English was between "horrid" and "abysmal" except for three of them (and two of those refused to speak with anybody else ). The first few days we just spoke slowly, making sure to separate words, and then someone hit on the idea of teaching the French to read French as if it was Spanish. That is, when there was a word we didn't understand, they'd say it again "with all the letters", and ta-da! It was understandable! And as one of the nicest French people pointed out "I'm now on my way to starting to learn Spanish, I already know how to read it! "




* French people can understand careful Spanish pretty easily if the Hispanics make sure to pick synonyms that have Latin or Greek roots rather than their counterparts from other origins. Since this is the same "trick" we have to use to make it easier to communicate with anybody else who speaks a Romance language... well, the first time you find yourself in that situation you say "oh, so THIS is why we had to study the roots of Spanish in class!"
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  #65  
Old 07-16-2018, 08:39 AM
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You can, although not very well (*), and if you can read one, you can read the other. In fact, if you can read either French or Spanish, you can read the other one much more easily than you can read Latin: the changes to grammar have been quite parallel.

When I was 15yo, I went to Ireland as a group of Spanish teenagers to study English. There was a group of French students who attended the same school we did, and whose English was between "horrid" and "abysmal" except for three of them (and two of those refused to speak with anybody else ). The first few days we just spoke slowly, making sure to separate words, and then someone hit on the idea of teaching the French to read French as if it was Spanish. That is, when there was a word we didn't understand, they'd say it again "with all the letters", and ta-da! It was understandable! And as one of the nicest French people pointed out "I'm now on my way to starting to learn Spanish, I already know how to read it! "




* French people can understand careful Spanish pretty easily if the Hispanics make sure to pick synonyms that have Latin or Greek roots rather than their counterparts from other origins. Since this is the same "trick" we have to use to make it easier to communicate with anybody else who speaks a Romance language... well, the first time you find yourself in that situation you say "oh, so THIS is why we had to study the roots of Spanish in class!"
I used to joke that when I wanted to speak French I just spoke Spanish, dropped off the last syllable of most words and then slurred the rest together. I was only half-joking. It helps, too, if you know how French vowels work. Italian is nice because you don't have to do any of that.

I had a somewhat similar experience when in France on business. I was traveling with a co-worker and we had some free time on the weekend to do some sight seeing. Touring one of the cathedrals (can't remember which one), I started translating some of the inscriptions near the artwork. My co-worker said she didn't know I spoke French, and I said I didn't. Knowing that she had studied Spanish in school, too, I told her to not be intimidated by French and just read it as if it were Spanish. She started doing that and was just amazed that all this time she didn't even try, assuming it would be a meaningless jumble of words. She didn't understand it all, of course, be was shocked that she could get any of it. Of course it helps a lot that English has so many French loan words.
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Old 07-16-2018, 08:48 AM
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French is, however, more different than most of the Romance languages. I can think of several words where the translations into all other Romance languages are cognate, but not in French.

John Mace, back when I was in 8th grade, we were doing The Sound of Music as our school play, which meant that a lot of the girls playing nuns were wondering about the Latin they were singing in some scenes. I was able to translate it all for them, using a combination of my knowledge of word roots used in English and my exposure to the vestigial level of Latin still used in church. This, of course, before I had taken any Latin classes (I had had some middle-school-level French, but I doubt that helped much).
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Old 07-16-2018, 02:51 PM
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French is, however, more different than most of the Romance languages. I can think of several words where the translations into all other Romance languages are cognate, but not in French.
Don't forget Romanian. Lots of Slavic influence there.

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John Mace, back when I was in 8th grade, we were doing The Sound of Music as our school play, which meant that a lot of the girls playing nuns were wondering about the Latin they were singing in some scenes. I was able to translate it all for them, using a combination of my knowledge of word roots used in English and my exposure to the vestigial level of Latin still used in church. This, of course, before I had taken any Latin classes (I had had some middle-school-level French, but I doubt that helped much).
I was an alter boy just before Vatican II, and we had to read the responses in Latin. I was about 9 at the time, and had very little idea what I was saying. But the phrases were etched into my brain and when I started taking Spanish in 8th grade there were several moments when: Oh, that's what that stuff means!!
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Old 07-16-2018, 09:37 PM
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A video about this subject:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E042GHlUgoQ
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:47 AM
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I was an alter boy just before Vatican II
You came out if one of the regular altar boys took sick or something?
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  #70  
Old 07-17-2018, 12:05 PM
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My standard anecdote regarding this is when my wife and I took a honeymoon in Italy. My wife speaks English and Spanish fluently, and a smattering of other languages including Italian. We reached our first test at a bus kiosk and my wife's rudimentary attempts to speak Italian were met with shrugs. She kept trying and remained frustrated in her attempts. Finally she started speaking Spanish with an Italian accent and we finally got places.

For the rest of the trip, that was how she spoke and it worked probably 90% of the time. Sometimes she's have to toss out a few synonyms to find a mutually intelligible one (cup, mug, glass...) but her accented Spanish gambit is what got us through the trip. I'm sure some of the people she spoke with were wondering "What's up with this woman?" but it was better than the blank stares her attempted Italian drew.
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Old 07-17-2018, 04:03 PM
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Heck, even between English and Spanish: One of my friends in grad school was from Ecuador. His English was good, but occasionally he'd come to a word that he didn't know how to say in English, and would stop talking while he tried to figure it out. I'd always just ask him for the Spanish word, then chop off an "-io" from the end of it, and hand it back to him.
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Old 07-17-2018, 04:10 PM
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My standard anecdote regarding this is when my wife and I took a honeymoon in Italy. My wife speaks English and Spanish fluently, and a smattering of other languages including Italian. We reached our first test at a bus kiosk and my wife's rudimentary attempts to speak Italian were met with shrugs. She kept trying and remained frustrated in her attempts. Finally she started speaking Spanish with an Italian accent and we finally got places.

For the rest of the trip, that was how she spoke and it worked probably 90% of the time. Sometimes she's have to toss out a few synonyms to find a mutually intelligible one (cup, mug, glass...) but her accented Spanish gambit is what got us through the trip. I'm sure some of the people she spoke with were wondering "What's up with this woman?" but it was better than the blank stares her attempted Italian drew.
I would not be surprised if that worked almost as well speaking straight Latin as long as one made sure to use an Italian accent.
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:57 PM
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The varieties of Arabic are considered by some to be separate languages. While this might be arguable for the spoken forms (though different dialects is more reasonable), the written forms are in no way distinct enough to be called different languages. Indeed 90%+ of the differences are in vocabulary. This means that when native Arabic speakers from widely separate locations meet, if they are litterate, they most easily communicate by writting, even if they are seated next to each other. Different volcabulary is worked out by using synonyms until an "ah ha!" moment occurs.
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Old 07-17-2018, 09:18 PM
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Just s bit of a inside info from another side. As a Slavic mother tongue speaker (Slovene) who is reasonably fluent in one Germanic language and one (somewhat bit less) Romanic linguatic expression system (Italian), can throw in my 5c.

Serbian and Croatian are less apart than native suburban Boston and rural Georgian English speakers. To me they both sound like angry drunk Scotsman without teeth would probably sound to typical Texan. But it can be grasped pretty much quickly. West Slavic languages sound familiar but it is mostly childish Sims gibberish. Russian sounds like swearing but that is because they do swear a lot. 80% of all strong words in Slavic are common to all subgroups. We can build on that.

Can grasp some Spanish through Italian, but not Dutch or even German through English.

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Old 07-18-2018, 04:54 AM
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Referring to one of the posts above... I'm Dutch and I would think it impossible to live here without being in contact with English all the time. Pretty much all entertainment is in English with subtitles (cartoons are often available in two versions: original with subtitles or dubbed in Dutch). Personally I believe this has played the biggest role in the development of my English language skills.

yo han go, I'd say somethinig similar might be true for Slovenian and Serbo- Croatian (yeah I know, two different languages now). I think a large aspect of Slovenians understanding that language is history and society. Anyone over 50 (or 40 even) probably had Serbo- Croatian in school and pretty much every Slovenian spends some time in Croatia in the summer of most years. Maybe this is becoming less standard, but for decades Slovenes have spent their holidays there (from the days of Yugoslavia, til nowadays). I happen to have some Slovenian family and even the kids have spent summers in holiday camps in Croatia or Serbia. When seeing if anything is on TV, HTV is just as valid an option as the Slovenian TV channels (in my experience). All my family members that are native Slovenian speakers have no trouble speaking Croatian, probably not perfectly, but they definitely don't just speak slovene. As someone who just speaks conversational Slovenian (with a fairly small vocab an little to no formal education), I can follow subtitles and news to some extent... but really struggle to converse (read "fail") when in Croatia. And the farther south it gets, the more trouble I have in understanding what is going on.

I always have the feeling Slovenes understand Croatians a lot better than the other way around. Funnily enough, just a couple of days ago I had a German guy say the same thing to me about German and Dutch. Again, most probably because the Dutch spend a lot more time in German speaking countries than the other way around. It does seem to be true though, even Dutch people that speak no real German (I know because I can see them try), seem to be able to converse with something that resembles German...

Whenever mutual intelligibility is discussed, I think this kind of context plays a big role. Just like other languages you know. For instance, I have a lot of conversations in Romanian nowadays (even though I would never claim to speak it at all) and speaking Slovene helps a lot in dealing with the vocab that has a slavic origin... as does my high school French (which I've never been able to use efficiently). Add knowing a handfull of verbs and a specific context for the conversations... and suddenly you're able to have conversations (sometimes quite lengthy).
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:43 AM
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Sounds about right. I understand Serbo-Croatian with all the usual accents as much as I do English (can distinguish well among basic USA different English accents, English English, Australian English, etc). But I talk English slightly better. (first 20y of mi life a used SC a bit more - it was/is exactly as polar bear said, then English a lot more). But here is the catch. They (S-C sub-sub group) will understand me about 70-80% too even if they can't talk shit in Slovenian. Russian OTOH is more like Swedish to English. And Swedes will still understand English a lot more English than vice versa. But not without dangers of serious misinterpretation.

It is all about environment. Having 3m speakers for first language helps to some point to overcome some intelligibility problems.
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Old 07-18-2018, 07:32 AM
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I visited the Netherlands (Amsterdam and the Hague) a few years ago. When the Dutch speak English, it sounds kind of German to my ears. But when they speak their own language, it sounds like German words with an American accent. Given their history with New York, it's not hard to imagine that their influence on American English is pretty damned profound.
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Old 07-18-2018, 07:39 AM
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I would not be surprised if that worked almost as well speaking straight Latin as long as one made sure to use an Italian accent.
No, because word order in Latin is very different - at least, in Classical or Ecclesiastical Latin. Word order in Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan... is very, very similar. If you could speak, say, 7th-century vulgar Latin, I suspect that one would be intelligible without having to play word-order-Tetris.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:07 AM
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Intelligibility might be greater the other way, then, because while Latin usually follows subject-object-verb and noun-adjective, the range of allowed word orders is very fluid, and matters mostly only for emphasis.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:21 AM
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I visited the Netherlands (Amsterdam and the Hague) a few years ago. When the Dutch speak English, it sounds kind of German to my ears. But when they speak their own language, it sounds like German words with an American accent. Given their history with New York, it's not hard to imagine that their influence on American English is pretty damned profound.
It's pretty easy for me to imagine that it wasn't terribly profound. Relatively few Dutch came to the US compared to people from England,Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and other places, including Africa (mostly involuntarily). So you get relatively few people in a fairly small area. English does contain quite a few Dutch loan words, but most of them came into England first, not America.
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:01 PM
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nm

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Old 07-18-2018, 05:02 PM
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It's pretty easy for me to imagine that it wasn't terribly profound. Relatively few Dutch came to the US compared to people from England,Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and other places, including Africa (mostly involuntarily). So you get relatively few people in a fairly small area. English does contain quite a few Dutch loan words, but most of them came into England first, not America.
The point is, that Americans have a Dutch accent (which I agree with). Not that they use Dutch loan words.

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Also, another interesting story. Polish was my mother's first language. And she told me, one time when she was a young girl, she saw a movie in Russian. And she said she was surprised, she could almost understand much of it. This is ironic, because Polish and Russian are both Slavic. But they are slightly different branches of that tree, I believe.
I had a co-worker who was translating for a non-english-speaking co-worker. I was surprised: I didn't know he knwe /both/ Russian and Polish. He told me: "Maybe in Warsaw and Moscow they speak different languages, but in the country, on the border, they are the same language."

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I know English has no such thing, i.e., a language that is mutually-intelligible.
Kreol's and Pidgens. I can understand tok Pison if you speak slowly and carefully.

Last edited by Melbourne; 07-18-2018 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:20 PM
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The point is, that Americans have a Dutch accent (which I agree with). Not that they use Dutch loan words.
OK, still disagree. When I hear Dutch, it sounds a bit like Old English, which doesn't sound much like Modern English at all. Many (most?) features of American accents trace back to regions in England where early settlers come from.

Last edited by John Mace; 07-18-2018 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:34 PM
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Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian are the obvious ones where things are mutually more or less understandable. I don't know how easy or hard Faroese and Icelandic are for the other three.
Faroese and Icelandic is incomprehensible to the average Scandinavian (in Scandinavian Scandinavia only includes Denmark, Norway and Sweden). It's like reading Old English for the average Englishman, or, at best, like reading the oldest samples of Middle English.

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Old 07-19-2018, 07:24 PM
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OK, still disagree. When I hear Dutch, it sounds a bit like Old English, which doesn't sound much like Modern English at all. Many (most?) features of American accents trace back to regions in England where early settlers come from.
The Pilgrim Fathers came by way of living in Holland.

I don't have any educated opinion.
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