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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vanilla Arabic

There's not just one Arabic Language, or Chinese Language, there are many many different types

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22 comments:

  1. "A sprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot."

    I feel the Chinese dialects wouldn't be called dialects were it not for the Only One China thing.

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    1. Well, this is sorta true. I am actually perplexed why some of the Chinese dialects are even known as 'dialects'. If I am not mistaken, Spanish and Portuguese are partly mutually intelligible, but they are considered as separate languages; however, take the two most spoken dialects of Chinese, Hokkien(aka as Minnan(a dialect of Chinese spoken in Fujian state, China), similar to Taiwanese, mainly spoken in Southeast Asia) and Cantonese, they are mutually unintelligible. It's impossible for a Hokkien-speaker to understand a Cantonese-speaker, and vice versa. Even written form is difficult for the person who speaks only one of the two dialects to understand, as words, grammar and idioms are very different in both the 'dialects'.
      Can anyone please explain to me why are dialects of Chinese considered as 'dialects', when they are mutually unintelligible and written form of the 'dialects' is even difficult, or might take some time, to understand; while 'languages' like Spanish and Portuguese are considered as separate 'languages'?

      PS. I speak Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese. I'm Malaysian.

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    2. pretty easy. Bc the distinction between language & dialect is political not scientific.

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    3. A good question. The use of ‘dialects’ for varieties of Chinese is traditional and has probably caused a lot of confusion since people expect it to mean something similar to in Europe: mutually intelligible varieties of a single language.

      I’m guessing that one reason might be cultural: that Chinese all consider each other as speaking fundamentally the same language since they are one people (Han), even if the varieties have diverged over the centuries.

      Another reason might have been mistranslation of the Chinese term into English (or picking the wrong term) decades ago, which then simply stuck.

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    4. Small but important correction: Portuguese and Spanish are just as close as Italian and French. Related but not quite so similar. Even between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese Portuguese there are so many differences that many claim they should be officially considered two languages.

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  2. This happened to me when I wanted to learn Welsh, of all things!

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    1. Good point!

      If you have relatives or friends who live in Wales (or China or North Africa/Middle East), then you can pick the dialect appropriate for their place, but if you have no connections and just want to "learn Welsh (or Chinese or Arabic)", it can be harder to pick.

      I had that when looking at Romansh, which has five main written forms (plus one newer, supradialectal written form that represents nobody's speech exactly), and again with Inuktitut (NE Canadian Eskimo). Neither of those had a clearly dominant variety that would (for instance) be used on regional news or taught to foreigners, as far as I could tell.

      On the site "SaySomethingInWelsh", on the question of which dialect to pick, I saw them say "the first lesson is free - listen to both the North Welsh one and the South Welsh one and pick the one you like the sound of better!".

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    2. Woah really? I had no idea...interesting!

      Funny that Romansch would have FIVE written forms. It's spoken by like three villages.

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    3. Yup! The ‘healthiest’ areas are the ones where they write Sursilvan (in the south-west) and Vallader (in the north-east), possibly followed by the areas where they write Surmiran (in the center) and then Puter (in the south-east).

      Romansh is all but dead as a spoken language in the area where they write Sutsilvan (in the west), though formerly that region must have had quite a diversity of dialects from what I have read: I understand that Sutsilvan has some spelling tricks to cover several different sounds in one letter (which each village then would have read differently depending on their local dialect).

      Then you have Val Müstair, which also retained the language pretty well, but for some reason never got around to writing down their dialect: instead, they traditionally wrote Vallader, based on dialects on the other side of the mountains. They introduced the supradialectal ‘Rumantsch Grischun’ in schools for a while (I guess based on the fact that since what they used to write didn’t exactly match what they spoke anyway, they might as well switch to that) but I believe they ended that experiment after a couple of years and teach the children to write in Vallader again.

      Plus the odd case of Bergün/Bravuogn, which spoke a dialect related to the ones that wrote Surmiran, but wrote Puter for religious reasons (they were Protestant like the Puter-writing people on the other side of the mountains, rather than Catholic like the Surmiran-writing people in nearby villages with similar dialects to theirs). Though now only 10% of the population speaks Romansh any more so that’s kind of a historical curiosity nowadays.

      Lots of fun for such a small language!

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    4. That's interesting about Romansh. Yeah, Welsh has three dialects that I know of: North Welsh, South Welsh, and Patagonian Welsh... which they speak in Argentina! I decided on North Welsh since I have a friend there.

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    5. I had NO idea Welsh was spoken in Argentina, of all places. How awesome!

      Even more awesome, though, is Philip's "superdialect." Now we're getting into superhero territory.

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  3. I love the ones where the opposite case is true and you more or less get a few extra languages at the same time: Norwegian (plus the other two Scandinavian languages), Slovak (plus Czech), Afrikaans (plus Dutch), etc.

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    1. Bosnian–Croatian–Serbian–Montenegrin is also a popular one. And Macedonian–Bulgarian.

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    2. Wait, I don't understand what you mean here. If you learn Afrikaans, for example, you're also learning Dutch? Or just that you'd be able to understand it pretty well?

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    3. I would say yes to both. It's impossible to not learn Dutch while learning Afrikaans, and you will end up understanding it pretty well. That's why I always advise people who are looking to switch from one similar language to another to not bother, unless they have a real reason to do so (i.e. learning Norwegian now but got a job in Denmark starting next month).

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    4. Afrikaans is a daughter-language of Dutch; it's based on a Dutch dialect from the province of South-Holland (apparently), spoken in the 17th century. When contact with the mother-country was broken, it took its own path. It's a bit like simplified Dutch. However - if you speak Afrikaans, you can have a conversation with a Dutch speaker, but only if you both speak slowly. Problem is, that Afrikaans borrowed extensively from English, Malaysian and local African languages, so the vocabulary of Afrikaans and Dutch have come to differ quite a bit over the centuries.

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    5. Why has Afrikaans borrowed words from the Malay language?

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    6. Probably because of the Cape Malays https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Malay

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  4. As an American kid growing up in Cairo it was hellish for me to learn Arabic. I went to an all-girls school where half of the subjects were taught in English, and half in Arabic. I learned to speak it pretty easily as all my classmates were Egyptian, so I was fluent by the time I was in 3rd grade, but I couldn't translate that to my studies. By the last semester in 3rd grade I was just about flunking the classes in Arabic because they were all taught in the classic style that no one spoke. Or modern standard. Who cares, still so miserable! It was all memorize and copy this chapter 4 times. There. You shoulda learned that by now. Ugh!

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  5. Where can you found such a place as that kind of language school that could teach you any language?

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    1. Not ANY language, that's ridiculous! This language school only teaches every Arabic, every Chinese, and according to the flags on their desk, English, Spanish, and Japanese.

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