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Old 07-14-2018, 11:46 AM
Jim B. Jim B. is offline
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Languages That Are Mutually-Intelligible.

I just know I once read an interesting entry in an almanac once. (You all do remember almanacs. That's what we used before we had the internet.) Anyways, they said speakers of Swedish could almost understand other Scandinavian languages, I forget exactly which.

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 know English has no such thing, i.e., a language that is mutually-intelligible. If you see a page in French or Spanish, or even Latin sometimes, you can pick out a word or
two. But those languages aren't even in the same PIE family as English.

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.

What other languages are mutually-intelligible, even though they are considered separate languages? I brought up Scandinavian, English and Romance. But feel free to offer other examples, of entirely non-PIE languages even.

Thank you in advance to all who reply.

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Old 07-14-2018, 11:55 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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(I don’t understand how any of this is “ironic,” but whatever)

A lot of adjacent dialects in the Romance dialect continuum that covers Portuguese, Castilian, Catalan, Italian, Provençal, French, etc. are mutually intelligible.

The spoken dialects of Urdu and Hindi are mutually intelligible.
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Old 07-14-2018, 12:02 PM
DPRK DPRK is offline
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These things really depend on the individual speaker, but, as with many things, you could start with the Wikipedia list:
Quote:
Written and spoken forms

Afrikaans: Dutch (partially)
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: Turoyo (to a limited degree, asymmetrically)
Astur-Leonese: Spanish, Galician and Portuguese (high)
Azerbaijani: Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Turkish and Urum (partially and asymmetrically[verification needed])
Belarusian: Russian (partially) and Ukrainian (closely) Polish (partially)
Bulgarian: Macedonian
Catalan: Occitan (high), Italian, Spanish, Galician and Portuguese (partially)
Cebuano: Hiligaynon (high)
Crimean Tatar: Azerbaijani, Gagauz, Turkish and Urum (partially and asymmetrically[verification needed])
Czech: Slovak (significantly)
Danish: Norwegian and Swedish (both partially and asymmetrically
Dutch: Afrikaans (in written form; in spoken form partially), West Frisian (partially)
English: Scots (significantly)[
Estonian: Finnish (partially)
Finnish: Estonian (partially), Karelian (high) Kven language and Meänkieli (very high)
French: Walloon (high),
Gagauz: Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, Turkish and Urum (partially and asymmetrically[verification needed])
Galician: Astur-Leonese and Spanish (high), Portuguese (very high), Catalan (partially)
Judaeo-Spanish: Spanish (very high).
Hiligaynon: Capiznon (very high)[citation needed] and Cebuano (high)
Irish: Scottish Gaelic (partially; varies greatly according to dialect. The greatest mutual intelligibility is between Ulster Irish and southern Scottish dialects.). See also: Comparison of Scottish Gaelic and Irish.
Italian: Corsican, Sicilian and Neapolitan (high).
Italian: Catalan, Spanish and Portuguese (partially)
Macedonian: Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian (partially and asymmetrically)
Maltese: Tunisian Arabic (significantly) and Sicilian (partially)
Manchu: Xibe
Norwegian: Danish and Swedish (partially and asymmetrically)
Portuguese: Galician (very high), Astur-Leonese (high), Spanish (high and asymmetrically), Catalan and Italian (partially)
Russian: Belarusian and Ukrainian (both partially)
Slovak: Czech (significantly) Polish (partially)
Slovenian: Serbo-Croatian (partially and asymmetrically)
Serbo-Croatian: Slovenian (partially and asymmetrically) Macedonian (partially and asymmetrically)
Spanish: Astur-Leonese and Galician (high), Portuguese (high and asymmetrically), Catalan and Italian (partially)
Swedish: Danish (partially) and Norwegian
Tunisian Arabic: Maltese (significantly), Algerian Arabic and Libyan Arabic (both partially)
Moroccan Arabic: Algerian Arabic (high), yet the mutual intelligibility degree may vary depending on local dialects
Turkish: Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz and Urum (partially and asymmetrically[verification needed])
Ukrainian: Belarusian and Russian (both partially)
Urum: Azerbaijani, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz and Turkish (partially and asymmetrically[verification needed])
Xibe: Manchu
Zulu: Ndebele (partially), Xhosa (partially), and Swazi (partially)

Spoken forms mainly

Akha, Honi, Hani (variety of different written scripts)
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: Lishanid Noshan (partially) and Hulaulá (partially) (because Assyrian Neo-Aramaic is usually written in the Syriac alphabet and the latter two are usually written in the Hebrew alphabet)
Dari: Tajik (because, currently, Tajik is usually written using Cyrillic script, while Dari is usually written in the Persian alphabet).
Dungan: Mandarin, especially with Central Plains Mandarin (partially; Dungan is usually written in Cyrillic and Mandarin usually in Chinese characters)
German: Yiddish (because German is usually written in Latin script and Yiddish usually in the Hebrew alphabet). However, Yiddish's use of many borrowed words, chiefly from Hebrew and Slavic languages, makes it more difficult for a German speaker to understand spoken Yiddish than the reverse.
Isan: Lao (because Isan is usually written in the Thai alphabet while Lao is usually written in the Lao alphabet, although Isan is a set of Lao dialects)
Lao: Thai, Southern Thai, Lanna, Shan and Lü (both partially and asymmetrically, with every language having its own script while Thai and Southern Thai use the same script.)
Persian: Tajik (because, currently, Persian is usually written in the Persian alphabet, but Tajik is usually written using the Cyrillic script)
Polish: Ukrainian and Belarusian (both partially, because Belarusian and Ukrainian are written in Cyrillic, while Polish is written in Latin)
Tajik: Persian and Dari (because, currently, Tajik is usually written in Cyrillic, whereas Persian and Dari are usually written in the Persian alphabet)

Last edited by DPRK; 07-14-2018 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 07-14-2018, 12:17 PM
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And then you have the few dozen different Chinese languages, which are completely incomprehensible in the spoken form, but almost identical written.
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Old 07-14-2018, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
And then you have the few dozen different Chinese languages, which are completely incomprehensible in the spoken form, but almost identical written.
Even with Japanese and Chinese there is a considerable degree of comprehension in the written form. Not perfect by any means, but still pretty good especially since they're not even in the same language family.

And as we always say in these threads (they pop up all the time), it depends on whether the two people are trying to communicate with each other or if one person is eavesdropping on a conversation in the other language.

The OP might be surprised how much mutual comprehension there is between French and Spanish if the two people are trying to communicate. If they can write things down, even more so. Accents can often disguise cognates.
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Old 07-14-2018, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
I know English has no such thing, i.e., a language that is mutually-intelligible. If you see a page in French or Spanish, or even Latin sometimes, you can pick out a word or
two. But those languages aren't even in the same PIE family as English.
The closest to English is Frisian.

You can, in fact, pick out a LOT of words in Frisian (and Dutch) that are the same as English words. You have to just think of them phoenetically, rather than focusing on the spelling.
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Old 07-14-2018, 01:48 PM
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NativLang's most recent youtube video is about this, except with more focus on asymmetric intelligibility.
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:05 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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What you need to understand is that there is no precise dividing line between two varieties being two dialects of a single language and being two closely related languages. (The word "variety" is often used for two things that could be either two dialects or two languages.) Look, suppose in medieval times there was a single civilization speaking a single language. Then half of that civilization moved to another continent. Now, languages are always changing. Before the one half of the civilization moved to another continent, everyone in the civilization spoke a single dialect of the language. The language changed over time, but it changed pretty much the same over all the civilization. After the one half moved, the two halves don't (we'll say) have any contact anymore. Each of the two halves continue to have changes in their speech. However, the changes are now different in the two halves. Slowly the speech of the two halves change so much that they speak two different dialects. Slowly the two dialects change so much that they are two different languages. So where is the dividing line between them being two dialects and being two languages? The answer is that there is no precise dividing line. The difference between two distinct dialects and two distinct languages is arbitrary. To some extent it's a matter of politics. All those cases given in DPRK's post are cases of two distinct but closely related languages which are in fact so close that they are almost two dialects of a single language. I know that this will bother a lot of people here that there are no precise definitions for two well known terms like "dialect" and "language", but that's the way it is.
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:15 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Would you say that's what's happening to English, internationally? Certainly, American-, British-, Australian-, and New Zealand-English show significant variations already. When do they become sister-languages instead of dialects?
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:27 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Yeah, but it's only been about two hundred and fifty years since they split up. Furthermore, these days there is much more communication and travel between two groups of speakers of a single language than there was in the Middle Ages, even if those two groups are on different continents. Splitting up into two dialects and into two languages happens more slowly than it used to.
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:34 PM
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Would you say that's what's happening to English, internationally? Certainly, American-, British-, Australian-, and New Zealand-English show significant variations already. When do they become sister-languages instead of dialects?
Language and dialect aren't opposites. Everything is a dialect, always. What we think of as a "language" is by some important definitions just a dialect with special status.

In some sense, the answer is circular. One way to define it is to say that two dialects are different languages when they are no longer mutually intelligible. But that would make the distinction between mutually intelligible and unintelligible dialects somewhat redundant. A lot of linguists prefer to just avoid the question, and only speak of dialects instead of languages.
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:50 PM
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I'm persuaded by the Wikipedia page on Scots that it is a separate language (keeping in mind of course that Scots also speak Standard Scottish English which is a dialect of English.) The clincher for me was that English and Scots started to diverge before English became Modern English, and you can't really be a dialect of a language you were never part of to begin with.
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:51 PM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is offline
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Would you say that's what's happening to English, internationally? Certainly, American-, British-, Australian-, and New Zealand-English show significant variations already. When do they become sister-languages instead of dialects?
I think the essential part of the answer is "A whole lot more difference would be required, to even start considering that question".
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
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.
Two things going on here. 1) The Slavic languages have preserved a surprising amount of mutual intelligibility. 2) Often, the mutual intelligibility is asymmetrical. Poles are probably exposed to quite a bit of Russian whereas Russians might not be exposed to that much Polish.



Quote:
What other languages are mutually-intelligible, even though they are considered separate languages? I brought up Scandinavian, English and Romance. But feel free to offer other examples, of entirely non-PIE languages even.
PIE is proto-Indo-European, which is the root language. You are thinking of IE: Indo-European, which is the language family.

Last edited by John Mace; 07-14-2018 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 07-14-2018, 02:58 PM
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I just know I once read an interesting entry in an almanac once. (You all do remember almanacs. That's what we used before we had the internet.) Anyways, they said speakers of Swedish could almost understand other Scandinavian languages, I forget exactly which.
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. Finland is geographically in the same area, but Finnish is very different; however, due to previous politics a lot of Finns speak Swedish too, either for convenience or because they were forced to long ago or because their parents are Swedish.
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Old 07-14-2018, 03:25 PM
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The old saying is that "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy". Though, of course, that still doesn't work for the Anglosphere, all of which are (generally) considered to be speaking the same language, despite armies and navies.
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Old 07-14-2018, 03:28 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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Yeah, but it's only been about two hundred and fifty years since they split up. Furthermore, these days there is much more communication and travel between two groups of speakers of a single language than there was in the Middle Ages, even if those two groups are on different continents. Splitting up into two dialects and into two languages happens more slowly than it used to.
Indeed, I would almost say that this has changed direction, and these various versions of English are growing more alike. Given the amount of communication via the internet and easy international phone calls, and the worldwide market for TV, films, & music, it seems like speakers of English are becoming more monolithic.

Even among people who don't natively speak English, there seems to be a convergence in the language & culture. i was surprised lately when speaking in English to a young Scandinavian to have him recognize a comment I made -- it referred to a Monty Python sketch from decades before he was even born ('Nudge, nudge') -- yet he had no trouble understanding it.
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Old 07-14-2018, 04:12 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. Finland is geographically in the same area, but Finnish is very different; however, due to previous politics a lot of Finns speak Swedish too, either for convenience or because they were forced to long ago or because their parents are Swedish.
Finnish is a Uralic language, not an Indo-European language. Somewhat similar to Estonian, and distantly related to Hungarian. About 5% of the population of Finland are Swedish speaking Finns.
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Old 07-14-2018, 05:32 PM
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Serbo-Croatian developed as effectively a single language blob, with the main differentiation being between speakers of different religions and political entities, whihc determined the written language [Serbian Orthodox Christians, usuing Cyrillic; Croat Roman Catholics using Latin script; Muslim Serbs + Croats following their locality]. Dialectical differences ran across the region, reflecting other types of settlement patterns and connections. Effectively if you were at one end of the Serbo-Croat blob on the map you'd understand someone at the other end, but the accent and local dialect and slang might make it hard.

Since the dissolution of Yugolsavia, both Croatiaa and Serbia [and the other former Yugo bits] have all expended considerable effort to create defined specific versions of their languages. This is to reinforce the big political split but also invariably makes non-standard dialects anomalous and at greater threat through centralised and education. But the same thing happened in Italy and that seems to have survived as a dialectic jig-saw.

Last edited by Banksiaman; 07-14-2018 at 05:34 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 07-14-2018, 05:51 PM
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Serbo-Croatian developed as effectively a single language blob, with the main differentiation being between speakers of different religions and political entities, whihc determined the written language [Serbian Orthodox Christians, usuing Cyrillic; Croat Roman Catholics using Latin script; Muslim Serbs + Croats following their locality]. Dialectical differences ran across the region, reflecting other types of settlement patterns and connections. Effectively if you were at one end of the Serbo-Croat blob on the map you'd understand someone at the other end, but the accent and local dialect and slang might make it hard.

Since the dissolution of Yugolsavia, both Croatiaa and Serbia [and the other former Yugo bits] have all expended considerable effort to create defined specific versions of their languages. This is to reinforce the big political split but also invariably makes non-standard dialects anomalous and at greater threat through centralised and education. But the same thing happened in Italy and that seems to have survived as a dialectic jig-saw.
Analogous with Hindi/Urdu and India/Pakistan.
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Old 07-14-2018, 05:54 PM
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Serbo-Croatian developed as effectively a single language blob, with the main differentiation being between speakers of different religions and political entities, whihc determined the written language [Serbian Orthodox Christians, usuing Cyrillic; Croat Roman Catholics using Latin script; Muslim Serbs + Croats following their locality]. Dialectical differences ran across the region, reflecting other types of settlement patterns and connections. Effectively if you were at one end of the Serbo-Croat blob on the map you'd understand someone at the other end, but the accent and local dialect and slang might make it hard.

Since the dissolution of Yugolsavia, both Croatiaa and Serbia [and the other former Yugo bits] have all expended considerable effort to create defined specific versions of their languages. This is to reinforce the big political split but also invariably makes non-standard dialects anomalous and at greater threat through centralised and education. But the same thing happened in Italy and that seems to have survived as a dialectic jig-saw.

I remember that when I visited Yugoslavia, people were supposed to speak Serbo-Croatian. Now, they speak Serb, or Croatian, or Bosnian, apparently. However, the funny thing is that, among the various Serbo-Croatian dialects, they all picked the same as the basis for their new fangled national languages : Shtokavian ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shtokavian ). So I can only assume that all these "national" languages are more similar to each other than the different dialects within any of these countries are.
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Old 07-14-2018, 06:02 PM
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I speak American.
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Old 07-14-2018, 06:26 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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The closest to English is Frisian.

You can, in fact, pick out a LOT of words in Frisian (and Dutch) that are the same as English words. You have to just think of them phoenetically, rather than focusing on the spelling.
One sentence, 1.05 languages:

"Bread, butter and green cheese is good English and good Fries" (Fries here, meaning Frisian, is pronounced 'freese')
"Brea, bûter en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk"

I heard some Frisian spoken in the Netherlands on a long-ago trip to said nation to visit some cousins at the ancestral Merkotijn manor. Hauntingly familiar but not readily comprehensible to me.

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Old 07-14-2018, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Lamoral View Post
The closest to English is Frisian.

You can, in fact, pick out a LOT of words in Frisian (and Dutch) that are the same as English words. You have to just think of them phoenetically, rather than focusing on the spelling.
Isn't Scots closer than Frisian?

Here's a chunk:
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Originally Posted by The New Testament in Scots, William Laughton Lorimer 1885–1967
This is the storie o the birth o Jesus Christ. His mither Mary wis trystit til Joseph, but afore they war mairriet she wis fund tae be wi bairn bi the Halie Spírit. Her husband Joseph, honest man, hed nae mind tae affront her afore the warld an wis for brakkin aff their tryst hidlinweys; an sae he wis een ettlin tae dae, whan an angel o the Lord kythed til him in a draim an said til him, "Joseph, son o Dauvit, be nane feared tae tak Mary your trystit wife intil your hame; the bairn she is cairrein is o the Halie Spírit. She will beir a son, an the name ye ar tae gíe him is Jesus, for he will sauf his fowk frae their sins."

Aa this happent at the wurd spokken bi the Lord throu the Prophet micht be fulfilled: Behaud, the virgin wil bouk an beir a son, an they will caa his name Immanuel – that is, "God wi us".

Whan he hed waukit frae his sleep, Joseph did as the angel hed bidden him, an tuik his trystit wife hame wi him. But he bedditna wi her or she buir a son; an he caa’d the bairn Jesus.
I can read this, but every so often, it just veers off the rails and looks incomprehensible. I suspect that listening to it would be clearer.
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Old 07-14-2018, 06:34 PM
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I speak American.
Which dialect?
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Old 07-14-2018, 06:45 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Well, isn't that the trick?

Back to English for a second...

What about more obscure dialects. Even with modern telecom, dropping someone from the Ozarks or central Appalachia into, say Tasmania or rural Wales might just meet some level of incomprehensability.
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Old 07-14-2018, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Lamoral View Post
The closest to English is Frisian.

You can, in fact, pick out a LOT of words in Frisian (and Dutch) that are the same as English words. You have to just think of them phoenetically, rather than focusing on the spelling.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
One sentence, 1.05 languages:

"Bread, butter and green cheese is good English and good Fries"
"Brea, bûter en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk"
That's fun and all, but I challenge any English speaker who hasn't studied those languages to pick up a newspaper in Dutch or Fries and make sense out of an article. Here's one in Dutch:

Quote:
Ryanair-vlucht daalt zo snel dat passagiers uit oren bloeden: “Ik dacht dat mijn einde nabij was”

Een Ryanair-vlucht vanuit Dublin is niet bepaald verlopen zoals gepland: het vliegtuig dat 189 passagiers naar de Kroatische badplaats Zadar moest brengen, daalde bij een noodlanding in Duitsland zo snel dat sommige passagier uit de oren bloeden.
Something happened in or near Croatia (I assume) or Dublin or Germany with some sort of transport (189 passengers) and there was blood involved. OK: 189 Irish-Croats were traveling in Germany and someone started bleeding. Or something.

That's all I got. I tried not to cheat by using my (limited) knowledge of German. Speaking of which, Dutch and German form a dialect continuum. Low German (Plattdütsch) is quite similar to Dutch.
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Old 07-14-2018, 06:50 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Isn't Scots closer than Frisian?
Linguists seem to be arguing over whether Scots (as opposed to Scottish gaelic) is a dialect or a whole 'nuther language. Frisian is accepted as a language.

I admit I do find the debate over which is closer to english, Scots or Frisian, to be quite fascinating.

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Old 07-14-2018, 06:58 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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That's fun and all, but I challenge any English speaker who hasn't studied those languages to pick up a newspaper in Dutch or Fries and make sense out of an article.
You get no argument from me. Change the Frisian sentence a bit and you get something confusing to me:
"Bûter, brea en griene tsiis; wa't dat net sizze kin is gjin oprjochte Fries"
("Butter, bread and green cheese, whoever can't say that is no genuine Fries).
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:05 PM
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Finnish is a Uralic language, not an Indo-European language. Somewhat similar to Estonian, and distantly related to Hungarian. About 5% of the population of Finland are Swedish speaking Finns.
A lot of people confuse the Scandinavian peoples with the Baltic peoples. They are completely different. The indigenous peoples of the Baltic region have been influenced by Arctic peoples. They share both genetic ancestry and language etymology with northern Eurasian tribes - as do the Hungarians. The Scandinavians don't have this.
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:06 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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Also noteworthy about the Frisian language: You've got your West Frisian (in the Netherlands), your East (Or Saterland) Frisian in a tiny spot of northwestern Germany) , and your North Frisian (Northern Germany on the west coast) dialects. All 3 dialects are considered to be mutually unintelligible to each other.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frisian_languages
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:10 PM
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Well, for what it's worth, I'm a native German and can figure out written Dutch quite well and spoken Dutch good enough to be able to help in road navigation and such, simple conversations. Probably it helps that my second language ist English. I'm at least better at figuring out Dutch than Palatine (which is spoken in my home country not far away from where I live) or Swiss German.
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:10 PM
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And the Scandinavian point of view heard from.

https://satwcomic.com/language-lesson
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:23 PM
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FWIW, here is my experience. A friend of mine from Georgia (US) and I from Philly were having dinner with a Serbian who spoke excellent English. My friend asked him how different were Serbian and Croatian. He replied that the difference was less than between the two of us. He added that they were trying make the difference greater was not to much effect.

A colleague of mine who left Germany at age 16 spent a year in Zurich and said that by the end of the year he was just beginning to understand Schwyzertuusch (Swiss German). I am not sure to what extend Plattdeutsch and Hochdeutsch are mutually comprehensible, but it would not at all surprise me if speakers of Platt could understand Dutch.

I have visited Barbados 17 times for two or three weeks each time and I cannot make anything of the native variety of English, although they understand me perfectly and can crank up a good facsimile of American English. This really is a distinct language, possibly as different as Swiss and standard German. I have twice run into Cockneys I simply could not understand. I once met a highland Scot who spoke beautiful English, but then gave a sample of his native dialect (of English, not Gaelic) which was incomprensible.

Finally, I will mention a detective story I once read (in English translation) by the Swedish pair Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. The murder took place in Malmo and the perp had escaped to Copenhagen. As a result the head of the Swedish and Danish police had to collaborate. According to the story, although they had known each other well, in this case when they had something substantive to discuss, they gave up the pretense that each understood the other's language and settled comfortably into English. I did know a Norwegian who married a Swede and they each understood the other's language well enough that each spoke their native language. I assume their kid just learned Mommy's language and Daddy's language.
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
That's fun and all, but I challenge any English speaker who hasn't studied those languages to pick up a newspaper in Dutch or Fries and make sense out of an article. Here's one in Dutch:



Something happened in or near Croatia (I assume) or Dublin or Germany with some sort of transport (189 passengers) and there was blood involved. OK: 189 Irish-Croats were traveling in Germany and someone started bleeding. Or something.

That's all I got. I tried not to cheat by using my (limited) knowledge of German. Speaking of which, Dutch and German form a dialect continuum. Low German (Plattdütsch) is quite similar to Dutch.
When I did "cheat" using a little bit of German, I had something happening to the people's "stupid ears". Sometimes "bloed" is just blood after all.
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Old 07-14-2018, 07:46 PM
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You get no argument from me. Change the Frisian sentence a bit and you get something confusing to me:
"Bûter, brea en griene tsiis; wa't dat net sizze kin is gjin oprjochte Fries"
("Butter, bread and green cheese, whoever can't say that is no genuine Fries).
Perhaps there was a time when these foods fit a Frisian stereotype of some kind.
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Old 07-14-2018, 08:01 PM
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Ryanair-vlucht daalt zo snel dat passagiers uit oren bloeden: “Ik dacht dat mijn einde nabij was”

Een Ryanair-vlucht vanuit Dublin is niet bepaald verlopen zoals gepland: het vliegtuig dat 189 passagiers naar de Kroatische badplaats Zadar moest brengen, daalde bij een noodlanding in Duitsland zo snel dat sommige passagier uit de oren bloeden.
My brave/stupid attempt; I made everything over-literal to show where I think the words came from; (...) means I added something, [?] means a word I don't understand, and I hyphenated some things to show Dutch compound words that aren't compounds in English. I'm guessing "daalde/dalt" is something about descending or landing because otherwise the story makes no sense.


Ryanair flight [?] so fast that passengers out ears bleed: "I thought that my end nearby was"

One Ryanair flight from-out Dublin is not [?] [?] so-as planned: the plane [?] 189 passengers near the Croatian bath-place Zadar [?] [?], [?] by one need-landing (i.e. emergency landing) in Germany so fast that some passengers out the ears bled.
  #38  
Old 07-14-2018, 08:09 PM
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On the Slavic languages: my mother was a linguist, who specialized in them, and spoke virtually all of them with different degrees of fluency. Slovak was her first language, and she was qualified to teach Russian, Czech, and Slovak. She could read Old Church Slavonic as well.

Anyway, according to her, Czech and Slovak blurred the line between being separate languages, or just dialects of one language. This was because of an historical period when the Germans had controlled Czech area, and had tried to suppress it. It was revived eventually, but it made greater differences in the two languages than there otherwise might have been. THEN, the two language speaking areas got mashed together into Czechoslovakia (a word my mother made me learn to spell when I was 7), with no borders between the areas, and this promoted a closeness between the two languages. Basically, a Czech could speak Czech to a Slovak, and the Slovak could answer in Slovak, and they'd understand just fine, kind of like when people in the US from different regions speak very different dialects, but understand each other.

All Slavs pretty much had to study Russian in school from about 1920 to 1990. Anyone who grew up in that time probably did not become fluent in Russian, but absorbed quite a lot of passive knowledge, and can therefore understand a Russian movie. It helps that the languages are similar, but it's the reason there is no reciprocation from Russians.

On another subject: American Sign Language and French Sign Language are very close, that they are mutually intelligible as long as you stick to simple subjects. I had a conversation in DC with some people, and I was having a little trouble following them, and then they said they were French. Now they had been visiting their daughter at Gallaudet for over a week, so they'd picked up some ASL, and I know French, so I could fingerspell words in French, but after that was cleared up, we went on to have a long conversation, and it was quite rewarding. It was mostly about how they liked DC, and what their daughter was doing, and my background in sign-- how I worked as an interpreter, and so forth. It was very interesting.

I have had exchanges with Deaf people in other countries. It is possible to have very basic "I'm from American"; "Where's the bathroom?"; "Is this restaurant good?" exchanges with Deaf people even without a mutually intelligible signed language, but with ASL & LSF, much more is possible.
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Old 07-14-2018, 09:55 PM
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Of course, ASL (and presumably FSL) is much more "onomatopoeic" than audible languages, and that's going to help inter-intelligibility a lot. In fact, even without knowledge of a formal sign language, humans from different cultures will often understand a lot of each others' gestures.
  #40  
Old 07-14-2018, 10:32 PM
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I happen to work with several people whose native language is Spanish and several others whose native language is Italian. They claim they can understand each other without too much difficulty when speaking those languages.

I also recall being in the Netherlands and looking at signs and get a pretty good sense of what some of them were saying. I had a Dutch person say it is pretty easy for them to understand spoken American English even if they haven't studied it.
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Old 07-14-2018, 11:08 PM
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Quote:
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I suspect that listening to it would be clearer.
Hm. I dunno about that--here's a lecture (in Scots about Scots) from someone who is an academic. It's a lot like how you describe that biblical passage: Every so often, it just veers off the rails and sounds incomprehensible. But much of its makes sense (especially once you pick up on the meaning of words like "leid").

But again, that guy's an academic, speaking (I presume) a pretty high register of Scots, about high-falutin' topics like history and linguistics. (Note that in English, "history" and "linguistics" ultimately come from Greek and Latin roots; and words like that very often are recognizably cognate in many European languages, even ones that aren't very closely related: histoire; Linguistik.)

By contrast, here's a very brief clip from, I presume, Scotland's answer to Jerry Springer. I...I think they're speaking Scots (and not Scottish Gaelic).
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Old 07-14-2018, 11:09 PM
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The other part of intelligibility is the receptiveness or flexibility of the listener and their capacity to manage problems in comprehension.

Travelling through Czechslovakia, as it was back then, I found my school-boy and fairly meh Serbo-Croatian was readily understood. And when words failed us the Czechs seamlessly rolled into the equivalent word in German, Russian or whatever other language they had. They were very comfortably multilingual.

When hitchhiking near Bratislava a trademan picked me up and was trying to explain what he did. Eventually, having gone through his half dozen languages and exhausting my pathetic two, he said something like 'Chemiska PB'. He'd run out of languages but very comfortably segued into the Table of Elements to explain he was a lead piping saleman.
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Old 07-14-2018, 11:55 PM
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I find that Dutch is rather hard to read since the rules are harder to learn and there are weird (to English speakers) phonemes, while languages like Norwegian have easier rules so once you know them it seems almost like near-English with idiosyncratic spelling.
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Originally Posted by Jim B. View Post
I just know I once read an interesting entry in an almanac once. (You all do remember almanacs. That's what we used before we had the internet.) Anyways, they said speakers of Swedish could almost understand other Scandinavian languages, I forget exactly which.
The general rule is: spoken Norwegian and Swedish are closer than either are to Danish. The more popular Norwegian writing style (Bokmal) is closer to Danish and vice versa than either are to written Swedish.

Quote:
This is ironic, because Polish and Russian are both Slavic. But they are slightly different branches of that tree, I believe.
East Slavic: Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian.
West Slavic: Czech, Slovak, Polish.
Western South Slavic: Serbo-Croatian (Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, Montengrin), Slovene.
Eastern South Slavic: Bulgarian, as well as the almost identical Macedonian.
Albanian in Kosovo: non-Slavic language.

Plus some minor languages like Sorbian.
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I remember that when I visited Yugoslavia, people were supposed to speak Serbo-Croatian. Now, they speak Serb, or Croatian, or Bosnian, apparently. However, the funny thing is that, among the various Serbo-Croatian dialects, they all picked the same as the basis for their new fangled national languages : Shtokavian ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shtokavian ). So I can only assume that all these "national" languages are more similar to each other than the different dialects within any of these countries are.
A given Serb and Croat may understand each other better than two Croatians from opposite sides of the country.
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Originally Posted by John Mace View Post
Something happened in or near Croatia (I assume) or Dublin or Germany with some sort of transport (189 passengers) and there was blood involved. OK: 189 Irish-Croats were traveling in Germany and someone started bleeding. Or something.
It's okay, Reddit's r/ireland is right now an almost completely pro-Croatian page due to them beating England in the World Cup
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
On another subject: American Sign Language and French Sign Language are very close, that they are mutually intelligible as long as you stick to simple subjects.
Also Irish Sign Language is in the same family while the British one is not, so trans-Atlantic communication is easier than across the Irish Sea.
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Old 07-15-2018, 03:27 AM
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I'm persuaded by the Wikipedia page on Scots that it is a separate language (keeping in mind of course that Scots also speak Standard Scottish English which is a dialect of English.) The clincher for me was that English and Scots started to diverge before English became Modern English, and you can't really be a dialect of a language you were never part of to begin with.
English and Broad Scots are separate languages in the English subfamily of Anglo-Frisian, but the same Wikipedia describes a seamless continuum between Standard Scottish English and the Broadest Scots.
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:08 AM
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What you need to understand is that there is no precise dividing line between two varieties being two dialects of a single language and being two closely related languages. ... The difference between two distinct dialects and two distinct languages is arbitrary. To some extent it's a matter of politics....
The fuzzy continuum extends further. Two different languages may be close enough to make bilingualism easy. Or, even when bilingualism is difficult, the languages may be similar enough to make it easy to borrow grammatical forms.

Whether two dialects which neighbor geographically move toward or away from each other is often a matter of politics. The English of Wessex and the "English" of the Danelaw may have been separate languages before the Norman Conquest, but (because "my enemy's enemy is my ally") came into contact with each other as the English rallied to resist Norman rule. (I think there's evidence that early dialects of Old or Middle English were sometimes mutually unintelligible — even some dialects of Modern English are unintelligible!)

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. I wonder if koineization might be a useful description for new dialects, perhaps including London Middle English, that arose from very close but separate languages.
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Old 07-15-2018, 04:55 AM
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... I wonder if koineization might be a useful description for new dialects, perhaps including London Middle English, that arose from very close but separate languages.
Googling just now I see that Peggy Mohan, cited in this pdf was willing to extend the definition of koineization:
[In 1976 Peggy Mohan defined] koineization as: 'a convergence and levelling between language varieties which are either closely related genetically or typologically very much alike.'

... koines and pidgins differ in the degree of simplification: "the common syntactic core and similar morphological categories and contrasts make the drastic levelling of pidginization unnecessary."
(Her viewpoint may not have become popular, but Googling further I see Ms. Mohan is a brilliant teacher and author.)
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Old 07-15-2018, 05:22 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.

The difference is that Uzbek has become phonologically simplified from its ancestor, while Uyghur has developed a lot of phonological strangeness mostly affecting the vowels, which change pronunciation as a word is inflected.

The upshot is that Uyghur speakers can understand spoken Uzbek quite well, while spoken Uyghur is very difficult for Uzbek speakers.
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Old 07-15-2018, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Of course, ASL (and presumably FSL) is much more "onomatopoeic" than audible languages, and that's going to help inter-intelligibility a lot. In fact, even without knowledge of a formal sign language, humans from different cultures will often understand a lot of each others' gestures.
"Imitative", if you please, if only because calling a language for the deaf "onomatopoeic" is a bit much for my poor, abused ears.

Anyway, defining "language" is to linguistics what defining "species" is to biology, in that there will never be a last word on either.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:02 AM
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Yeah, I knew that "onomatopoeic" wasn't the right word there, hence the scare quotes. The point is that a lot of the signs in some way resemble the thing they represent.

Aside: I once had a conversation through interpretation with a deaf relative, and was asked what it was I did. I'm never sure how much detail to give in answer to that question, so given the difficulty of the communication medium, I anticipated follow-up questions, and answered "Physics. Relativity. What Einstein did.". I almost fell over laughing when I saw the sign for "Einstein", because it was a near-perfect representation of his wild hair.
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Old 07-15-2018, 07:09 AM
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Of course, ASL (and presumably FSL) is much more "onomatopoeic" than audible languages, and that's going to help inter-intelligibility a lot. In fact, even without knowledge of a formal sign language, humans from different cultures will often understand a lot of each others' gestures.
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"Imitative", if you please, if only because calling a language for the deaf "onomatopoeic" is a bit much for my poor, abused ears.
"Iconic" is the term for signs that look like what they are. But not all signs are iconic, and many that began that way have moved far away from iconicity. Sign languages are not gestures. ASL and LSF are mutually intelligible because they are related. British Sign Language, for example, is completely unrelated to American Sign Language, and Deaf people from the UK and US cannot understand one another. They can resort to gesture, which Deaf people are skilled at, from doing so with hearing people all their lives, or, because they share a written language, they can text on their phones. But Deaf UKers in the US are lost until they have some time to learn ASL.
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