Archive for Quizzes

Bilingual, biscriptal sign in Virginia

Sticker at a gas station near the Richmond airport, courtesy of Jonathan Smith:

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Ottoman Hebrew scroll

Or so it would seem, but the people who have looked at this scroll so far cannot make much sense of what's written on it.

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Unknown language #10 is a membership-based website that targets freelance translators.  They currently have posted a job for which they are seeking a qualified translator, but are uncertain of what language the source text is in.  On first sight, the sample text (see below) looks vaguely Turkic to me.  The person who posted the job notes:

We are trying to figure out this language. It was thought to be Turkish of which it is not familiar to native Turkish translators. It is thought to possibly be Turkish Tartar, Bulgarian, Georgian, Uzbek.

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Unknown language #9

Forwarded by Geoff Wade (sans Twitter comments):

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Unknown language #8

Michael Carasik, on behalf of NAPH (National Association of Professors of Hebrew), has forwarded to me a letter that was written to Oscar P. Schaub in the 1920s. Can anyone identify the script and/or translate it for him?

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He comfortable! He quickly dry!

A neighbor of mine, a respectable woman retired from medical practice, set a number of friends of hers a one-question quiz this week. The puzzle was to identify an item she recently purchased, based solely on what was stated on the tag attached to it. The tag said this (I reproduce it carefully, preserving the strange punctuation, line breaks, capitalization, and grammar, but replacing two searchable proper nouns by xxxxxxxx because they might provide clues):

ABOUT xxxxxxxx
He comfortable
He elastic
He quickly dry
He let you unfettered experience and indulgence. Please! Hurry up
No matter where you are. No matter what you do.
Let xxxxxxxx Change your life,
Become your friends, Partner,
Part of life

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Undeciphered inscriptions

In the 60s of the last century, six gold coins were unearthed at Jinshi, Hunan, China.  They are said by the local museum to be Indian coins struck by the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526).  The obverse apparently carries the title and name of the ruler while the reverse is thought to be written in a form of Arabic script.  So far no one has been able to read the inscriptions on the reverse.  The museum is offering a reward of 10,000 yuan (US$1,531.36) to anyone who can read the inscriptions.

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Mystery message

Email from Diego Viana:

I am a Brazilian journalist and reader of the Language Log blog. I'm writing to you because the blog came immediately to my mind when a friend showed me a piece of paper she found in a recently bought jacket. It's written in an alphabet we don't know and, obviously, the first thing we thought was that it might be a message from over-exploited Asian workers. (It looks Asian, I guess…)

I'm sending you a picture of the note attached. Do you think one of the blog contributers might help?

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Farsi shekar ast

This is a quiz.  It's a short, pop quiz, but the post is going to be very long.

1. In what language is the title of this post written?

2. What does the title mean?

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Mystery Language

Can anyone determine what language this woman is speaking?

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Mutual intelligibility


Assuming no prior, formal study of or contact with the opposite language in a given pair (i.e., one is coming at these languages completely cold), roughly what degree (percentage) of intelligibility would exist between the spoken forms of the languages in the list below?  Naturally, you are not expected to comment on all of these pairs, but knowledgeable assessment of any of the pairs would be both valuable and appreciated.  Feel free to add any other pairs not listed, or to combine a language from any of the given pairs with a language from any other pair.  Unless otherwise noted, the languages listed are the national standards.  If the name of a city or region is given, the reference is to the language spoken in that area.

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Unknown Language #7: update

In "Unknown Language #7", I described the case of a woman in a refugee center in Kathmandu, Nepal who spoke in an unidentifiable tongue and who wrote in an odd mixture of languages and scripts.  The post generated a large number of comments (173 at last count), with a tremendous amount of helpful information and analysis being shared by Language Log readers.

Now I have just heard from Son Ha Dinh, who first brought this case to my attention, that — with the help of Language Log readers and the diligent efforts of his colleagues — the identity of the woman has been determined.

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Unknown Language #7

The attached materials came to me from the UN refugee office in Damak city, Jhapa district, in the far southeast of Nepal. There is a sound recording of a female refugee and a sample of her writing in which she employs at least two different scripts, Roman letters and another that looks like some syllabaries of South China I've seen.

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