Archive for Dialects

Arabic and the vernaculars, part 5

Today I went to a shop in a nearby mall.  I heard two people who worked there speaking a language that sounded a bit like Arabic, but was softer and different enough that I could tell it wasn't really Arabic — al-ʻArabīyah al-Fuṣḥā (العربية الفصحى) ("eloquent Arabic").

They were a young woman in her early 20s and a man who was probably in his late 20s or early 30s.  The woman was Moroccan and the man Algerian.

I asked them what language they were speaking and the man said he was speaking Arabic.  The woman declared, "I would never say that I speak Arabic.  I don't understand people who speak Arabic and they don't understand me.  I am half Berber and I speak a Berber tribal language."  The man, who had honey blond hair and blue eyes, chided her and said, "You do speak Arabic."  She replied, "Never!"

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Canton OH colloquialisms

My sister Heidi's friend Janet Bush told me that her husband Brett is from Canton OH and her favorite of his colloquialisms is "red up", as in "I will red up the kitchen."  To clean, to make ready.

He also used to call hamburgers "hamburgs".

I remember both of these expressions from my Canton youth.

Marjorie Corsi reminded me that we said "pop" (meaning a beverage containing CO2) instead of "soda".  Margaret Kaser agrees that we called Coke and Pepsi "pop", whereas in other areas they are called "soda".  She also noted that we drove on a parkway and parked on a driveway.

Back in the day when I lived in East Canton (before 1961), I think that most people said "warsh", as in "warsh the clothing" or "warsh the dishes".  I don't know what they say now.

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Local toponymic pronunciations in northwestern Ohio and northern Indiana

Continuing my run through the Midwest, among many others, I have passed through the following towns and counties:  Lima, Cairo, Gomer, Delphos, Van Wert, Warsaw, Kosciusko, Hamlet, Wanatah, and Valparaiso.  These names reflect the variety of ethnicities and origins of the inhabitants.  Several of them are locally pronounced in ways that I had not expected:

Lima is Laima, not Leema (one of my students flew to the capital of Peru that same day I went to its reputed namesake in Ohio).

Cairo OH is Kayro, not Kairo; I don't know for sure how the same name of the southernmost city in Illinois is pronounced locally.

Kosciusko is Kaziasko, not Koskiusko.

Valparaiso is colloquially known as Valpo.

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The Ramsey hypothesis

Chris Button writes:

I’ve been working on adding Japanese readings to my dictionary*. I decided to add pitch accents on the kun readings, and started getting interested in the history there. I came across some amazing work by Bob Ramsey—notably this one**.

[*VHM:  Comparative historical dictionary of Sinitic and Indo-European.]
 
[**"The Old Kyoto Dialect and the Historical Development of Japanese Accent", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 39.1 (June, 1979), 157-175.]
 
Clearly, to my novice eyes, he is absolutely correct. I’m staggered no-one really accepted it! I suppose it’s that age-old issue with academia around it being very difficult to disrupt the old guard with their vested interests. In any case, it looks like this recent article adds some nice typological data to Bob’s brilliant proposal.
 
I wonder what Bob thinks of it nowadays?

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Multilingual Korean TV drama

New article by Sophie-Ha, posted on allkpop (news.naver.com) yesterday:

"Apple TV+ drama 'Pachinko' praised for the attention to detail and accuracy of all the languages and dialects"

We often talk about topolects and dialects of Sinitic, but seldom do so for Korean.  We can get some idea of what the situation is like by reading sections of Sophie-Ha's article:

Various languages appear in the Apple TV+ original drama 'Pachinko' as the main characters are immigrant families who left their homeland during the Japanese colonial period and went through various countries. Korean, Japanese, and English are all used in one story, as well as different dialects of these languages. The Busan and Jeju dialects were used in the Korean language, and the dialect used by Korean-Japanese immigrants was also refined by seeking advice from Korean-Japanese individuals.

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Pro-Mandarin, anti-topolect movement in Singapore

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From Rusyn / Ruthenian and Ukrainian, and on to Russian

[This is a guest post by Don Keyser, responding to Grant Newsham's "Rusyn" (3/22/22)]

This one brought back memories.

In 1959, my high school in Towson, just to the north of Baltimore, rose to the challenge posed by Sputnik and launched a Russian-language program. I had studied Latin for three years, and when invited to "enlist" (as a patriotic duty) in study of the enemy's language, I was delighted to abandon Latin … for my country, and otherwise. So I took two years of Russian in high school, and went on to study Russian language and Russian/Soviet area studies through undergrad and M.A. work. I only "defected" to Chinese/Japanese in PhD studies and thereafter in the U.S. government.

Anyway … my very first Russian language teacher was named Josef Glus. He had been teaching wood shop*, of all things, to kids not expected to go on to university. But he spoke Russian, and was tapped to teach the maiden course in that language offered by the high school. He was Ruthenian. I had to look up Ruthenia — in the days before a few taps of the fingers on a computer yielded up a map, the history, and so on.

[*VHM: For the concept of "shop" in the high school curriculum, see "The weirdness of typing errors" (3/14/22)]

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Rusyn

[This is a guest post by Grant Newsham]

My mother was Rusyn. (Carpatho-Rusyn, Ruthenian, Lemko [in Poland]).  Originating in a small village, Volica, up in today's northeast Slovakia — though she grew up in coal country near Pittsburgh.  Her first language was Rusyn — but I don't think she really knew exactly what language it was until much later in life.  They had no real sense of nationhood.  She said she spoke 'Russian' — but referred to it as just 'Kitchen Russian' — or some inferior form of Russian.  I think it did kind of bother her – thinking that she was a hillbilly of sorts and speaking uneducated Russian.

However, the language is basically Ukrainian (with some differences) — so close that the Ukrainians don't consider it, or the Rusyns, as distinct entities.  After the communists were overthrown, the Slovak government allowed Rusyn nationality (and have set up some Rusyn-language schools [a cousin teaches at one]) and you'll see signs in Rusyn, but the Ukrainians still do not.  My grandfather was very clear that they were not Ukrainians.

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"Little Russian"

In "Give Elfdalian, Haitian, Limburgish, Patois, Ukrainian and, yes, Black English their due", NYT (3/11/22), John McWhorter writes:

It was long ago common for Russians to regard Ukrainian as just a dialect of Russian. “Little Russian,” it was called. Writing for The Conversation this week, Florida International University’s Phillip Carter said, “If you ask some Russian nationalists, Ukrainian isn’t a language at all,” noting that in the 1863 Valuev Circular, Pyotr Valuev, Russia’s interior minister, decreed that a separate Ukrainian language did not exist.

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A mishmash of languages, "dialects", and characters

We've just been through the problems of standard language versus the vernaculars in Arabic (see "Selected readings" below).  Now we're going to look at a photograph, a caption, a book review, and a letter to the editor that encompass these contentious issues in spades — but for Chinese.  Here's the photograph:

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Another early polysyllabic Sinitic word

In various publications and Language Log posts over the years, I have collected scores of old polysyllabic words (e.g., those for reindeer, phoenix, coral, spider, earthworm, butterfly, dragonfly, balloon lute, meandering / winding, etc.), which proves that Sinitic has never been strictly monosyllabic, although that is a common misapprehension, even among many scholars.  The reason I call the one featured in this post "another early polysyllabic Sinitic word" is because I don't think I've ever pointed it out before.

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Shandong vernacular, then and now

A week ago, Julie Lee made this interesting comment on Language Log:

…when I studied Yuan dynasty drama and had books from the library, my husband (a physicist) picked them up to read and was amazed at the 13th century dialogue. "That's just the way we spoke at home in Shandong", he exclaimed. He grew up in Tengxian County*, Shandong, and went to school in Qingdao. I couldn't understand his Shandong speech. I too was amazed that Chinese colloquial speech (in Shandong) lasted from the 13th century till the 20th century — 700 years. The dialogue in Yuan drama was popping with lively expressions.

[*Likely the birthplace of the populist, egalitarian, pragmatic, empirical, scientific minded philosopher, Mo Zi / Micius (ca. 470-391 BC.)]

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An American with native fluency in Taiwanese Mandarin

Here's a video clip of a young American businessman named Ben Metcalf (Mai Banda 麥班達) in Taiwan making a presentation for his company's first public launch as part of their IPO process.

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