How many languages / What languages do you speak?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Giambattista, Feb 26, 2007.

?

How many languages are you fluent in?

  1. 1

    29.4%
  2. 2

    37.3%
  3. 3

    22.4%
  4. 4 or more.

    10.9%
  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,539
    Presumably you mean on this thread. How about an example from a recent year?

    SciForums is rather lax about enforcing the rules against personal insults because it's an impossible standard to maintain in this crowd. I generally try to avoid insulting the people who post on my own subforum, but I have my weak moments, as most people do.

    As for insulting political systems, religious hokum, crackpottery, unscientific assertions, proud ignorance, etc., those are fair game.
     
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  3. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

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    mormons back in the 19th century made a stab at it, developing a new alphabet for english. it rather looks like greek in some respects, but it reads like english:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deseret_alphabet
     
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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,539
    It looks a lot like the Armenian alphabet.

    Noah Webster (1758-1843, the "Webster" in "Webster's Dictionary") tried to standardize English spelling. He attempted to make it more sensible, but his efforts in that direction were limited to things like respelling "centre" and "labour" as "center" and "labor." Considering that in both words the second syllable is pronounced the same way, why didn't he write "laber" or "centor"??? And all he really did was make American spelling different from British, which is hardly an accomplishment!

    A major problem in any effort to make English spelling more phonetic is the fact that there are at least four recognized dialects of English (British, North American, Indian and Australia-New Zealand) and possibly a fifth (South African), and within those dialects there are quite a few different accents. Dialects differ in vocabulary and/or grammar ("you" vs. "youse" vs. "y'all" is both), while accents differ almost exclusively in pronunciation. Any way we re-spell a word, it's very likely that a couple of hundred million native speakers will call it illogical.

    Now that people are used to spelling "before" as "B4" and "why" as "Y" in text messages, who knows where our spelling rules will go next? Probably out the window.

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  7. Olinguito Registered Member

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    I’ve always had a great interest in learning languages, and in the course of my life I’ve learnt or tried to learn German, French, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Norwegian, Chinese (Mandarin), and various others. In recent times however I’ve become less ambitious, deciding to concentrate on what I call my Big Three: French, Spanish, Italian. (Together with my native language English, these make up my Big Four.

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    I’m fairly fluent in reading and writing French, which until recently was my favourite foreign language. Recently however I’ve switched to Italian as my favourite foreign language. The reason is, see, I’ve met this Italian girl …

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  8. nebel Registered Senior Member

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    German, English, French, very fluent speaker, learned because I lived there for decades , do not write French, neither do Parrots, Myna birds.
    True anecdote : 1958; French teacher to English radio audience: " when pronouncing the French "U" (umlaut) sound, think of kissing your girlfriend,--- no no no, not French kissing, no, - kissing her for the first time, with puckered lips!"
    My favoured cross language understanding?:
    " sterben" = dying in German
    "starving" in english; it is medically correct that we all die of starvation. it is the same, and the ancients knew it.
    my avatar means "life" in german when read backward, --"fog" like in "I don't have the foggiest--" on the title.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,539
    No. People die of asphyxiation, brain injuries up to and including a crushed skull, and many other causes that have nothing to do with food.
     
  10. nebel Registered Senior Member

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    330
    F R you are correct, in the narrow meaning of the word, --but the doctor who wrote the book "wie wir sterben' used it in a more general sense, like dying because the body is "starved" of Oxygen, although the apparent cause of that may be lung cancer, leukemia, hanging, or starved of input from the brain with a severed or crushed head, blood loss. Starvation, because the metabolism at every level finally ended.
    Perhaps starvation in one way or another was observed to be the cause of death in the olden days, when these languages were closer. thank you!
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,539
    The Angles, Saxons, Jutes and other Germanic tribes sailed to Britannia around 450CE, when the Roman Empire began to fall apart and the Roman administrators and Legionnaires left. We used to call their language "Old English," but since it was merely a pastiche of various intercomprehensible dialects of Old High German, we now call it Anglo-Saxon. So the first Anglisc (or "English" as the word is now spelled and pronounced) people did, indeed, speak German.

    It wasn't until the Normans invaded in 1066 and seized control of "Angle Land" that the language began to diverge greatly from German, because of all the changes in vocabulary, grammar and phonetics caused by a huge influx of French words as Middle French became the language of government, business and scholarship. By the time the French overlords had assimilated into the population of what was now "England," Middle English became the official language.

    So it's been barely one millennium since English started on its own evolutionary path and greatly diverged from German. That's probably not enough time to establish a new paradigm for death.

    In any case, I'm sure those people understood that death can be caused by decapitation, a sword through the heart, being set on fire, and various other ghastly events that have nothing to do with food.

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  12. nebel Registered Senior Member

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    330
    FR, I agree, the old folks probably did not dwell deeply into into the process of dying as a doctor would today, but I found it striking that the two words starving and sterben would agree so closely with what happens when life ebbs and goes out.This book was written by a doctor that tended to dying patients in the American Midwest. He went into great detail what happens to the different organs, cells as they are starved of nutrients, Oxygen, vital signals because of the failure or destruction of one of the organs furnishing them. Death does not occur with the squeeze of a trigger, the thrust of a dagger the fall of the blade of a guillotine, but in the minutes to hours after the flow of sustenance stops. Each cell becomes like a besieged, starving city. and linked to linguistics,
    talking of the french conquest: The german word for sheep is Schaf, but the animal's meat in England is Mutton, from the french Mouton, les Brebis, so the indigenous tribes were allowed to raise the animals, but the new overlords took care of the eating. or?
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,539
    It was quite common for words to shift meanings slowly, in the centuries before the printing press made literacy nearly universal, allowing people to communicate on a regular basis with people in distant lands who spoke the same language. Peek at the etymological section for any word definition in Dictionary.com . You'll find some downright fascinating instances of a word adopting quite different meanings in two language communties. For example, the German word knecht now means "farmhand," virtually the opposite of our modern English version of the word, "knight."
    If tissues are provided with oxygen, they will survive for quite a while without nutrients... as long as several hours, depending on species and type of tissue. But if the blood stops flowing, denying oxygen to the tissues, many kinds will die rather quickly--again, depending on the species. Most importantly, brain tissue in the cerebrum begins to lose its delicate structure within a few minutes. The more primitive parts of the brain will often keep the organism as a whole alive, but (assuming that it's a mammal or bird) the animal will never again exhibit the complete set of qualities that define life, such as the ability to eat.

    Humans who have been in comas for many weeks are kept alive only by hooking them up to machines that keep their metabolism operating, for example by pumping nutrients into the blood.

    It's rather common with many meats that the animal itself carries the original Germanic name, which was used by the farmers. But the meat was named by the tax collectors and the money-changers, who spoke French.

    Chicken/cock, cow/beef, sheep/mutton, pig/pork, deer/venison...
     
  14. nebel Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    330
    very interesting! I am thinking of "Bauer" too, which relates to Builder, not just a cultivator of the land, agricola, but a creator of settlements, strong "forts". thank you for the stimulation!.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,539
    It's more a matter of the people who actually ran the farms, who spoke Anglo-Saxon, a dialect of Old German; whereas the people who ran the business of selling meat were Normans who spoke Medieval French. The same parallels can be found throughout the meat counter: deer/venison, chicken/cock, pig/pork, steer/beef.
     
  16. Dr_Toad It's green! Valued Senior Member

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    1,695
    Fascinating thread!

    Thank you, Fraggle, for your historical knowledge.

    I'm nearly fluent in Spanish, I have a little German, and a smattering of other languages here and there. I find it much easier to understand other tongues as I get older, as well. Curious...
     
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,539
    Each new language you study--even without mastering it--opens up new synapses in your brain. These come in handy when you start dabbling in the next language.

    In particular, I find that the differences between various languages help me realize not to make any assumptions when exploring a new one.

    Who would have expected to encounter a language in which vowels are not phonemic, as in the entire Afro-Asiatic family: Arabic, Hebrew, Ancient Egyptian, Berber, Amharic, Somali, Ge-ez, etc.

    Or one in which singular/plural and present/past/future are considered quaint and unnecessary paradigms, like Chinese?
     
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