Another Language Quiz!

David Shariatmadari at the Guardian has one of those silly but enjoyable quizzes I can’t resist: Know your Hrvatski from your Old Norse? The first couple questions are relatively easy, but don’t get cocky — the only way you can get 100% is with the help of luck, since some require you to guess what year a word was first recorded. That said, I should have done better than 15/20; I tried to second-guess the quiz and got a little too tricksy. Don’t do what I did; if it seems right, it probably is right. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    I too got a mere 15. (Obviously, the five I missed were stupid questions.)

  2. Say What? says:

    God, I only got 11; I’m senile – or dumb- enough to be president.

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    Not the right conclusion at all: evidently there were actually nine stupid questions, and Hat and I missed some.

  4. Speaking of senile, I didn’t even try no. 14, the one about High Valyrian, and I wound up with a 14. Obviously I need to visit Human Resources and stock up on humanity.

    And yes, Hat is right about overthinking. For no. 17, “mausgras,” I wrongly guessed “mouse-dropping” because I was thinking of English frass, which means insect dropping and is related to English fret and German fressen. Nabokov uses the term — not just in his entomological papers but in at least one novel.

  5. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I got 14/20. I got gras bllong fes correct, but I was offended by the comment that I guessed: I didn’t; I knew.

    I don’t think any of the six I missed were things an educated person would be expected to know. Who cares about Klingon?

  6. I got 16/20. Some were guesses (like the Game of Thrones one). Some I got annoyingly wrong, like ‘nice’.

    Comment: the one about languages still alive is a sneaky one. It depends on whether you are using a period name (i.e., the name of a language at a certain period) or not.

  7. SPOILER ALERT!

    The earlier view—referred to in question 7—which related Lithuanian lokys, Latvian lācis “bear” as “the licker” to Lithuanian lakti “lap (up a liquid like an animal)”, Latvian lakt, is not compatible with Old Prussian clokis “bear”, also in place names like Tlokumpelk, “Bears’ Swamp”. Instead, the bear is probably “the furry one”. See for example Henning Andersen (2006) “On The Late Common Slavic Dialect Correspondences Kl – Tl – L”, p. 6ff:

    The Novgorod materials have made small, but significant contributions to Slavic etymology. For our purposes it is of interest that the birchbark texts, correlated with modern dialect materials and toponyms, have served to consolidate a few etyma with initial PS tl–, reflected in the Northwest dialects and in Lechitic with kl– (cf. Nikolaev 1989:193–194); see (8).

    (8) (a) PS, PB tlākā- ‘fleece, pelt’ (OPr. Tlokum[-]pelk top. ‘bears’ swamp’, clokis ‘bear: lit. the furry one’, Li. lokỹs, La. lacis), LCS klaka || tlaka || dlaka || laka: P kłaki ‘hair, locks’, wilkołak ‘werewolf; lit. wolf-coat’, Cz. o. tlaky ‘hair’, vlkodlak, Sk. vlkodlak, C-d. vlkolak, Sn. dláka, volkodlàk, SChS vlĭkodlakŭ, BCS dlȁka, vukòdlak, Bg. vŭrkolak, U vovkulák, Br. volkolák, R (ChS) dlaka ‘fur, fleece’, d. (Smolensk) volkodlák, volkolák.

    There is a recent article on names for the bear in Indo-European languages here) here on JSTOR. (If Language Hat readers don’t have institutional access to JSTOR, it is easy to register and take advantage of the monthly offer of free articles, currently 100.)

  8. 19/20. I seem to have a knack for reading the editors’ minds on the multiple choice for year a word is first recorded.

  9. AJP Crown says:

    I took it to make this a blinder study. Then I got 13 not the 3 1/2 I’d expected. I ought to have got snicket but I was lured into considering lemony boiled sweets as the compiler must have hoped. To assume knowledge of Game of Thrones is very Guardian, either that or I’m even older than I think.

  10. Trond Engen says:

    15/20. Missing on two years, number of native speakers, High Valyrian, and the word from Ancient Greek,

  11. To assume knowledge of Game of Thrones is very Guardian,

    Lifetime Guardian reader here. Never seen any Game of Thrones; guessed that one wrong.[**] But got 16/20 overall. (I didn’t look at the comments here first.)

    Yes the dates of first use q’s were completely random — got most of them wrong.

    [**] It’s also very Guardian to not own a TV, which I don’t. Keen listener to the wireless/Round the Horn/Kenneth Williams, so the Polari was easy.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    There is a recent article on names for the bear in Indo-European languages here) here on JSTOR.

    The scan quality is terrible; I’m going to read it the much better scan on academia.edu.

  13. 16. Got two of the first attestation questions wrong. Also “snicket”, even though I think that had come up here at the Hattery previously.

  14. AJP Crown says:

    Ant, As a long time reader myself I’ve just noticed the Guardian mentions Game of Thrones – I’ve never seen it either – Apple and new mobile phones more often than is strictly necessary. So far, I can’t deduce anything from it.

  15. For no. 17, “mausgras,” I wrongly guessed “mouse-dropping”

    Me too!

    Also “snicket”, even though I think that had come up here at the Hattery previously.

    Back in 2003, which is why I got it right.

  16. the Guardian mentions Game of Thrones – I’ve never seen it either – Apple and new mobile phones more often than is strictly necessary.

    So does the NYT, and I suspect most general-interest papers; they’re trendy subjects that attract attention. It’s not a Graun thing in particular.

  17. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Snicket came up much more recently than 2003 in another group that I frequent. However, that’s not why I got it: in the mists of time (1954 to 1965) I lived in a place where it was an everyday word.

  18. 15/20 for me. I thought Hindi had already surpassed English in the number of native speakers. Not yet, apparently.

    “Mausgras” is similar to “gras bilong fes.” I knew that “bilong” was a universal preposition and particle in Tok Pisin.

    Despite having seen four seasons of A Game of Thrones, I got the High Valyrian answer wrong.

  19. I thought Hindi had already surpassed English in the number of native speakers. Not yet, apparently.

    Same here!

  20. I got 13/20. I got the question about Hrvatski wrong, which annoyed me, but then I got the one about Magyar right, which cheered me up. The years of the words were quite tricky.

  21. Hindi has fewer native speakers only if you count Urdu as a separate language.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    English also grows as a native language in India. When will it overtake Hindi in number of new speakers?

  23. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    English also grows as a native language in India

    Having come over here from the discussion about berries and where they grow, that gave me a baffled moment 🙂

  24. January First-of-May says:

    I thought Hindi had already surpassed English in the number of native speakers. Not yet, apparently.

    I actually thought it was the other way around – that English had not yet surpassed Hindi.

    I also didn’t get the High Valyrian (which I knew nothing about and guessed at random), was successfully misled by snicket, missed the Ancient Greek word, and got one of the attestation dates wrong (with the other two I had a fairly good idea of which option sounded like a plausible quiz answer, but in one case several options were very close within a plausible range and I chose the wrong one).
    I think I must have gotten everything else right, since, as far as I recall, my result was 15/20.

  25. John Cowan says:

    I actually thought it was the other way around – that English had not yet surpassed Hindi.

    The Loglan/Lojban root words were created by merging natural-language equivalents chosen from the top languages by their number of L1 speakers plus half the L2 speakers. The words were then respelled and merged using weights chosen by those same speaker populations. Eight languages were used in 1955, but when the words were remade for Lojban in 1987, only six languages were found helpful. A few additional words were created in (I think) the late 90s, memorably including dzipo ‘Antarctica(n)’, the land of the cadzu cipni ‘walking birds’. All such words not made by algorithm have -o, because it is rare otherwise due to its absence from Mandarin. And of course penguins can be found right up to the Equator. But I digress.

    At any rate, according to this metric the first three languages were Mandarin, English, Hindi+Urdu in that order for the first two creations, but in the third creation the order was Mandarin, Hindi+Urdu, English. The full list is English, Mandarin, Hindi+Urdu, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, French and German for 1955, and Mandarin, {English, Hindi+Urdu}, Spanish, Russian, Arabic for the second and third creations.

  26. Garrigus Carraig says:

    [JWC] […] -o […] is rare […] due to its absence from Mandarin.

    Rarity in Mandarin?

    15/20, exactly the right score.

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