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Calling all language lovers!

(243 Posts)
Gauchita Thu 25-Jul-13 21:25:02

I'll shamelessly plug a friend's blog here because it's great!

If you're interested in language, etymology, linguistics, etc, head this way.

She's an etymology addict (and doesn't mind me saying so grin) and is teaching the rest of us a lot, so thank you Alex wink

Niarfi Fri 26-Jul-13 10:36:37

If you do find out more about the San Antonio cow, I would be very interested! Come back and start another thread!

Caitycat Fri 26-Jul-13 10:42:07

Thanks for this, it will help me increase my supply of anecdotes that my classes love so much (or so I tell myself!)

NellVarnish Fri 26-Jul-13 10:58:29

Great blog, thanks for posting the link. smile

JemimaMuddledUp Fri 26-Jul-13 11:09:25

Fantastic blog!

HorryIsUpduffed Fri 26-Jul-13 12:12:00

There are also languages which distinguish between you-and-me, you-and-me-and-someone-else, me-and-someone-else ... and all of the above in various permutations and combinations of plurals! Which presumably significantly reduces the instances of someone saying "Who's we?" for clarification grin

My favourite "language is cultural" example is that what we think of as basic concepts such as "left" and "right" are very European. Some languages of small tribes instead distinguish by proximity to a river, or upstream/downstream, or north/south, etc.

But what makes that interesting is how it affects memory. Imagine being shown a picture of a man standing next to a tree. Half an hour later you're shown a picture of a man next to a tree. You and I probably wouldn't notice that the tree is different, but we would notice that he'd gone from the left of the picture to the right, and your tribesman would not notice the position change because he doesn't know where the river is...

TheMagicKeyCanFuckOff Fri 26-Jul-13 12:14:25

Great blog!

alexpolistigers Fri 26-Jul-13 13:34:32

That's so interesting, Horry!

I was just thinking this morning how locational prepositions affect our spatial awareness. For example, did you know that Modern Greek does not distinguish between by/at/to/in/on in many many situations in ordinary speech, and they really can't see the need for it. So "at the table" would be "sto trapezi", but "on the table" would also be "sto trapezi". Of course, there are ways you can stress the difference, but it's not normal to in ordinary speech.

alexpolistigers Fri 26-Jul-13 13:35:10

And thank you all for your kind comments about my blog!

MrsTwgtwf Fri 26-Jul-13 13:37:18

Marking my place....

HorryIsUpduffed Fri 26-Jul-13 13:41:03

Isn't it, Alex! Unfortunately, the lecturer who taught that paper died at the end of my second year, so I didn't get to do any more about it. But the example that really blows people's minds is that obviously we count cows and measure milk ... but some languages count milk, and others measure cows grin

JacqueslePeacock Fri 26-Jul-13 13:41:27

>> e.g. in quechua there are two different pronouns (they actually appear as suffixes) meaning 'we' - inclusive and exclusive. so one version means 'us including you' and the other means 'us but not including you' for the person at whom it is directed. it is an insight into what they feel is an important distinction

That's interesting - Chinese has exactly the same thing.

MardyBra Fri 26-Jul-13 13:45:11

Marking my place too to come back and read properly when I have more time. I sometimes dip into David Crystal's blog too

ProudNeathGirl Fri 26-Jul-13 13:46:21

Doh! It's blocked on work pc sad

Will have to check it out when I get home.

alexpolistigers Fri 26-Jul-13 13:47:22

Horry I know exactly what you mean about the countable/ uncountable nouns! I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked by Greeks why we don't say "one bread, two breads" in English. But equally, it's amazing to English speakers how common it is to use "water" in the plural in Greek...

Sconset Fri 26-Jul-13 13:53:43

japanese has different words for number of objects, dependent on the shape of the object, e.g. the word for 3 tub-shaped items is different from the word for 3 pencil-shped objects.

Gauchita Fri 26-Jul-13 13:55:43

Alex, Horry, yes! Those are concepts that also cause confusion for EFL learners. In Spanish we have loads of things we can count, and in English you measure. Also, there are some in SP that can be both countable and uncountable, e.g. water.

BaronessBomburst Fri 26-Jul-13 14:01:22

Joining this thread for later! (just off to work)

alexpolistigers Fri 26-Jul-13 14:03:02

That's interesting, Sconset, could you give us some of the words so we can see the difference?

PetiteRaleuse Fri 26-Jul-13 14:12:29

Brilliant blog smile

cakesonatrain Fri 26-Jul-13 14:20:05

Oh god yes Sconset, that confused the crap out of me when I tried to learn Japanese!

cakesonatrain Fri 26-Jul-13 14:22:14

Very interested in the counting/measuring water thing, too.

alexpolistigers Fri 26-Jul-13 14:26:52

I can't speak for Spanish, but in Greek you use water in the singular when you want to drink it, for example, but you might say "the waters from the heavy rainfall" or "I had to clean up the waters"

GrimmaTheNome Fri 26-Jul-13 14:30:13

Americans make more of a distinction between 'holiday' and 'vacation' than us brits.

Something else I came across recently was about how some languages have more words for some shades of colour and that alters perception of them.

alexpolistigers Fri 26-Jul-13 14:37:01

I love comparing British and American English, there are so many interesting differences. From things like ladybird/ ladybug to grammatical differences, to preferred slang terms.

HorryIsUpduffed Fri 26-Jul-13 14:40:09

Grimma you mean frinstance how Russian doesn't distinguish between red/pink but does between light blue/dark blue?

There is a fascinating hierarchy of colours.

If a language has two colours, they are white and black (dark/light).
If they have three, the third is red.
Then green or blue, then the other.
Then yellow.

And so on. Most Europeans named the colour orange after the fruit orange, because until then we weren't too bothered about distinguishing it. It was just kind of brown or kind of yellow or kind of red, as needed.

I really want to link here to the excellent xkcd color (sic) survey results.

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