Glottophobie.

Kim Willsher reports for the Guardian on a new French law:

In France, it’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it. When the prime minister, Jean Castex, opens his mouth, he is often accused of being “a bit rugby” – he comes from the south-west, where the sport is popular. Others with regional accents sound like “they should be reading the weather”.

Now the French have not only come up with a word for this kind of prejudice – glottophobie – but a new law banning it. The Assemblée Nationale has adopted legislation making linguistic discrimination an offence along with racism, sexism and other outlawed bigotry.

The legislation, approved by 98 votes to three, was the subject of acute debate in the house. Among those who voted against was Jean Lassalle, a former presidential candidate, the head of the Libertés et Territoires (Freedom and Land) party and a well-known orator.

“I’m not asking for charity. I’m not asking to be protected. I am who I am,” he said in a south-west accent with knife-blunting properties.

An earlier piece by Hugh Schofield for BBC News was written before the law was passed but has further details; it begins:

Imagine a well-known Westminster MP – a party leader – caught in a press scrum and being asked a question which is delivered in a thick Scottish accent.

He looks at the journalist in mocking incomprehension, and says: “Sorry I didn’t understand a word of that. Can someone ask me a question in proper English?” Unthinkable, right?

And yet in France more or less exactly that exchange was caught on camera between left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon and a hapless woman reporter from French regional TV. Her offence: having a strong southern twang.

And The Local.fr has more material on the topic. Thanks, Lars and Bathrobe!

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’m with Lassalle on this. Just because something is wrong, it doesn’t follow that there ought to be a law against it.

  2. J.W. Brewer says:

    The Assemblée Nationale reportedly has 577 members, so I’m puzzled by a reported vote of 98 to 3. 476 abstentions? Will Occitan speakers stop claiming it’s a separate language (presumably not protected) and recharacterize their speech as a regional dialect of French in order to get legal protection from the glottophobes?

  3. J.W. Brewer says:

    Lassalle’s (English) wikibio has this interesting anti-Ile-de-France anecdote: “On 3 June 2003 Lassalle stood up in the National Assembly during questions to Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy and sang the Occitan anthem Se Canta in protest at an announcement by Sarkozy concerning the housing of 23 gendarmes tasked with guarding the Somport tunnel, which links France with Spain through the Pyrenees.”

  4. David Eddyshaw says:

    French Wikipedia says his mother tongue is Occitan.

  5. “knife-blunting”? “twang”? Inquiring minds want to know.

  6. Stu Clayton says:

    Jean Lasalle chante à l’Assemblée Nationale

    So that’s a “knife-blunting” accent ? Sounds like plain ol’ French to me, perhaps slightly muffled in the production. Easy to understand. Obviously it’s not the hoity-toity-with-final-velar-fricative speech of TV5 news presenters, precious little cupcakes all.

  7. Stu Clayton says:

    TV5 news presenter speech is easy to understand too, but at what aesthetic cost!

  8. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Assemblée Nationale reportedly has 577 members, so I’m puzzled by a reported vote of 98 to 3. 476 abstentions?

    It’s pretty common for the UK House of Commons to be quite sparsely attended in cases where there is no party-political agreed line and only enthusiasts and wonks care much about the issue under discussion. The impression you get from the TV coverage of the sort of debates that attract widespread media interest is quite misleading. I imagine this is equally true for the Assemblée Nationale.

  9. Stu Clayton says:

    In another youtube clip, “Lasalle bringing the assembly to tears of laughter”, one can see that only a few seats are occupied.

  10. Stu Clayton says:

    Toesen !

  11. About regional speech and the not-particularly-evil-in-context term “good French,”

    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.80890/page/n261/mode/1up

    This is a page from an American expatriate memoir, Samuel Putnam’s Paris Was Our Mistress: Memoirs of a Lost & Found Generation (Viking, 1947). Spoiler: at least one of Putnam’s children, the ones who “were growing up speaking only French, and not even good French but a patois which the village four miles away, with a patois of its own, did not understand,” turned out fine back in the United States. That one was Hilary Putnam.

  12. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ah, but how much better a philosopher might he have been if he had grown up speaking good French? He might have been on a level with Derrida, parbleu!

  13. Mélenchon … a strong southern twang

    That was covered in Language Log. Mark Liberman attempted to translate Mélenchon’s imitation of the reporter’s accent into English as “So what y’all sayin’?”, only to be taken to task by commenters who thought the mapping of Southern France to the American South was a poor fit. I wonder if the BBC writer was trying to make the same analogy with “southern twang”.

    The feature that Mélenchon was caricaturing with “Quesseu-que ça veut direuh?” was the meridional pronunciation of standardly-silent e at the end of words.

  14. Jonathan Morse, David Eddyshaw: Well, you learn something new every day: it seems Hilary Putnam grew up as an English-Occitan bilingual (Mirmande definitely was Occitan-speaking at the time). And his father, Samuel Putnam, was a scholar of Romance languages, who translated both Cervantes and Rabelais. Hmm. What do the children of Romance scholars typically become, I wonder? Philosophers? Or is that fate solely reserved to the offspring of Romance scholars who also acquire a Romance variety in childhood?

  15. Just because something is wrong, it doesn’t follow that there ought to be a law against it.

    It costs a lot of time and effort to raise consciousness about things that are wrong. Passing a law is an effective way of doing it on the cheap. The start of the battle, not the end.

    Mélenchon in the video clip is a real prick. No wonder people get so worked up about being put down.

  16. [A well-known MP] looks at the journalist in mocking incomprehension, and says: “Sorry I didn’t understand a word of that. Can someone ask me a question in proper English?” Unthinkable, right?

    There was an incident at a presser in Australia many years back, in which a hoity-toity journalist asked Pauline Hanson whether she was ‘xenophobic’. I guess Hanson’s politics would align with a ‘Freedom and Land’ party, although orator she is not. Hanson clearly didn’t know the word (although it’s an accurate description of her politics), and from her response ‘Please explain’ has become a meme in Australian politics. This was long before Trump’s railing against the ‘fake news media’; but cut of the same cloth: journalists from the bubble of the nation’s political elite are out of touch with ocker battlers in the regions and their hearts of gold.

    It would be fair to say that the Australian media bait Hanson and her party(s) mercilessly — but then she and her dodgy accomplices have furnished plenty of grounds to.

    So is it glottophobie to discriminate against those who use a $10 word?

  17. I wonder if the BBC writer was trying to make the same analogy with “southern twang”.

    That’s weird, given the piece talks earlier about a thick Scottish accent. Why switch from British accents to American, to explain an episode in French?

    Of course in Britain, it’s the Southerners who have the monopoly on RP, and everyone North/West/East that has ‘regional’ accents. Notwithstanding that the model pronunciation of English is around Edinburgh.

    Do Occitanese ‘twang’, to Parisian ears? I guess there’s no British regional accent you could describe as a ‘twang’. The famously impenetrable accents are Geordie and Glaswegian.

  18. David Eddyshaw says:

    It costs a lot of time and effort to raise consciousness about things that are wrong. Passing a law is an effective way of doing it on the cheap.

    It can be; there are a huge number of cases where it’s a good strategy, and the benefit clearly outweighs the damage. But passing a law is never costless; there is always some collateral damage, though it may be negligible in comparison to the benefits. And there are quite a number of entirely well-intentioned laws out there which do more harm than good to the very cause they were supposed to be helping.

    I think that – in general – it’s a bad response; there are a great many things that I personally think are Very Wrong (as a good Socialist Calvinist, my list of such things is long – we’re talking multiplicative, not merely additive here) that I’m damn sure ought not to be illegal. Failure to make this important distinction is one of the many things wrong with my American coreligionists (and by no means the least important.) These people should be outlawed … er …

    I strongly suspect that repealing unjust laws has been historically rather more beneficial to society than hoping to frogmarch unwilling humanity into virtue with legislative shortcuts.

    But I think we agree in principle. We’re just arguing about strategy.

  19. J.W. Brewer says:

    For example (re collateral damage) if M. Melenchon managed to successfully suppress his natural inclination to be a real prick out of fear of negative legal consequences, French voters desirous of not voting for real pricks might be deprived of potentially valuable information. (Separately, in the very specific professional context we are talking about, I don’t think politicians have any right whatsoever to have journalists be civil or polite to them, and correspondingly I don’t think that journalists have any right whatsoever to have politicians to be civil or polite to them. It’s *supposed* to be adversarial and occasionally nasty, innit?)

    But are we entering a Brave New World where an actor/actress who learns an accent not his/her own by upbringing in order to play a character of different regional/class background be viewed as negatively as (in increasingly wide circles) an actor who plays a character of a different race/ethnicity/other-status-category from their off-stage identity is?

  20. David Eddyshaw says:

    I was struck, in the French Wikipedia article on Jean Lassalle, by

    Jean Lassalle et son épouse, Pascale, ont quatre enfants : Alizée, Geoffray, Amaury et Thibault Lassalle, rugbyman professionnel.

    Rugbyman is one of those wonderful French words which both is, and at the same time isn’t, loaned from English; like smoking and parking, only more so.

    Rugbyman surely belongs in the Marvel Universe …

  21. Well, whaddya know. Twang has a long history of being used to mean “a foreign accent”. OED, e.g. 1705 “I’ll make you Master of ye Gallick Twang”, 1706, “Twang,..an ill sound in one’s Pronunciation”, 1781 “The Hibernian twang of his pronunciation”, 1852, “This family..spoke French with the twang which the Flemings use”, 1883 “You must not be too near them, or you will hear the Cockney twang”, etc.

    I used to assume from context, that “twang” equalled “drawl”, the pronounced diphthongs of southern American dialects, such as Texan. Others use it to refer to what is called nasality (1839, “…has the true Kentucky twang through the nose, converting that promontory into an organ of speech”). There’s a really interesting discussion of the usage of Twang/Drawl in the Dialect Blog, including in the comments.

    Twang is nowadays used to describe a vocal register, used in some styles of singing. It is incorrectly described as “nasal”, but is rather produced with a lowered epiglottis (one helpful explanation likens it to a stereotypical “nerd voice” or “robot voice”.)

  22. They’ll soon make it illegal to mock people for their stupidity.

    Just you wait.

  23. All of languagehat uniting in defense of language snobbery is a strange sight.

  24. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I just read in the Guardian that only boys with an EU-and-not-UK passport will cast in the role of 11yo Prince Charles in some upcoming Diana movie. Just think of the stress of needing a visa to go to Cannes for the palms if (when) that man Johnson has bungled the ball, we can’t have that.

    But I imagine that there are scads of boys with French passports and a proper U twang (or was it a mumble) living on granddad’s money in the general vicinity of Nice, though acting can hardly be proper I should think.

  25. Lars Mathiesen says:

    mock — though they’ll need some terribly smart people to find out when the stupidity-challenged actually mock the properly stupid as opposed to stupidly failing to keep within the law’s boundaries of cleverness.

  26. I wanted to say something to the effect:
    let’s finish buildind a spaceship (a real one, to get out) before someone bans stupidity.

  27. PlasticPaddy says:

    Re mocking people for “stupidity”, this probably already counts as bullying in some contexts. I think you have to distinguish ignorance, where a person is operating outside of his/her comfort zone or area of expertise, from real stupidity, where the person should know better. An example of the latter would be an electrician cutting through a live high voltage line.

  28. Trond Engen says:

    It’s interesting that French extends the suffix -phobie to mean much the same as English -ism, German -ismus etc. in the same contexts.

    It’s also an interesting guestion if it’s a suffix when used like this, English -ism et al surely are.

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    We should regularise our usage, and start talking about homoism and xenoism.

    Now that you mention it, the English usage is actually rather peculiar. I mean, shouldn’t an “ageist” be in favour of old age? Or a practitioner of it, at least? As with “oboist”, “sexist” …

  30. PlasticPaddy says:

    The English usage for nationalist, sexist, chauvinist has slid from “pride in one’s own nation/sex/Chauvin” to “disparagement of other nations/sexes/Chauvins”. This is deplorable, but as a descriptivist, one must accept it with an appropriate degree of resignation.

  31. English -ism et al surely are

    There is wasm as well.

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    but as a descriptivist

    But as a descriptivophobe?

  33. All of languagehat uniting in defense of language snobbery is a strange sight.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about. Can you point to even one comment defending language snobbery?

  34. Trond Engen says:

    PlasticPaddy: The English usage for nationalist, sexist, chauvinist has slid from “pride in one’s own nation/sex/Chauvin” to “disparagement of other nations/sexes/Chauvins”.

    Yes, I forgot to mention that. It follows from ‘racism’, which I think must have been extended from ‘nationalism’ with a meaning “the (purportedly positive) ideology of a system promoting the welfare of one’s own race”. But this is a less-than-zero-sum game, and favoring one’s own doesn’t really mean giving anything special to one’s own but denying it from others. Hence the meaning “disparagement and/or discrimination on racial grounds” and the moral need to contort scientific or historical or religious justifications for the policy. The extension to sexism carries this duality: “Disparagement and/or discrimination based on gender, justified morally in an assumption of inferiority”, And the rest follows from there, even if the moral arguments necessarily will vary.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    I’m at two minds with the whole business. It’s high time that the French elite does something about its own culture of privilege and poltical and social arrogance. But I suspect this cause is one with very few actual implications.

  36. It’s high time that the French elite does something about its own culture of privilege and poltical and social arrogance.

    No kidding.

  37. Marc Ethier says:

    I’ve heard about glottophobie on Mathieu Avanzi’s Français de nos régions blog, which specialises in the regional diversity of French. This blog post contains some research about the experience of glottophobie, which might be interesting. As for whether discrimination based on accent should be made illegal, I’m also not convinced about it, but on the other hand, if it is illegal to discriminate (in hiring, renting apartments, etc.) on the basis of ethnicity, then discriminating on the basis of accent isn’t very different.

  38. Marc Ethier says:

    (And now that I look more closely, this blog post from Français de nos régions was linked to and discussed in the article from thelocal.fr in Hat’s original post.)

  39. Computer glottophobie

    https://youtu.be/1ugivNRYfjc?t=214

  40. Trond Engen says:

    @Marc Ethier: No reason to apologize. I had overlooked the link, so thanks for the extra chance. It’s a very sensible piece and useful background for those of us who usually base our comments on French politics on superficial facts.

    Of course, what’s actually needed is a cultural change towards appreciation for linguistic diversity. That doesn’t happen without a change of behaviour from the top. So let’s hope the new law makes that happen.

  41. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I had quite a good opinion of Mélenchon before the presidential election, but I’ve gone off him in a big way since then. He has never got over the embarrassment of coming 4th in the first round, beaten even by scandal-ridden Fillon.

    As for Lassalle, he was very impressive, but there was no way he was going to get into the second round, let alone win. His southern accent sticks out like a sore thumb, not like that of Castex, which is more subtle. Anyway, if Lassalle isn’t worried about being ridiculed for his way of speaking why should anyone else be.

  42. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    the hoity-toity-with-final-velar-fricative speech of TV5 news presenters, precious little cupcakes all.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard the news on TV5. I’ll give it a try.

  43. Lars Mathiesen says:

    In Denmark, and I suppose in much of Western Europe at least, race in the US sense is not really something you keep track of; I don’t think I’ve heard a “race” assigned to anybody since maybe books about Greenlanders on my grandparents’ bookshelf (from when it was accepted science). Not to say that African (black) descent won’t get you grouped with the other targets of xenophobia, but immigration is the operative word there, and North Africans are no better off.

    (Historically, the people who had to work the fields in deplorable conditions in the old days were Polish (and native Danish cottagers before that), and WWII and Solidarity (in very different ways) put paid to any ideas there might have been about a Slavic “race.” What may have happened on the Virgin Islands has not left Denmark with a a concept of minorities being racially defined either).

    Never the less, the word racist is used with abandon to smear people you don’t like, imputing bad opinions of other ethnicities and religions and skin colors. I haven’t heard aldersracist yet, but it’s probably just a question of time.

  44. Anyway, if Lassalle isn’t worried about being ridiculed for his way of speaking why should anyone else be.

    Because they are not Lassalle?

    FWIW I think that actual discrimination based on accent (employment, housing, etc.) is extremely stupid and should be suppressed. Doing it as a law would be a disaster in the US because of our litigiousness, but maybe it is better in France. Outlawing mocking is absurd. I also do not understand how the proposed law would prohbit what Mélenchon did. He didn’t mock anyone and didn’t discriminate.

  45. In Denmark, and I suppose in much of Western Europe at least, race in the US sense is not really something you keep track of

    No offense, but I would want the word of a person of color for this; members of majority groups are notoriously unreliable when it comes to the presence of prejudice. (If you want to know if there’s antisemitism in the air, ask a Jew.)

  46. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t think Lars means to say that there’s no discrimination, or that “race” or “physical appearance correlated to social stratification” isn’t part of it, just that it’s not talked about (be it positively or negatively) as related to “race”. It’s instead understood in terms of immigration and culture.

  47. I understand that, but it’s still the case that majority and minority tend to understand the situation differently. I’m sure Lars knows what he’s talking about, but he’s still seeing it from his own point of view. I have learned over the years that I cannot trust my own intuitions about these things.

  48. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Oh, there’s prejudice based on skin color, I’m not saying there isn’t. But you just need to look a bit Middle Eastern to get targeted by police and so on; and most people will tell you that for instance Somalians are a problem, not that black people in general are. The prejudice doesn’t cut along US racial lines, is what I’m saying, and “race” is not used to define people, it goes by what sort of country you think people come from — and anything but pasty-pink Danish skin is a marker for “one of those places”.

    (For instance, we are told that the Duchess of Sussex is black. To a Danish eye she does not look essentially different from a lot of Southern European women, and if we hadn’t been told, that salient fact of her identity as a US woman would not be visible. Compare the Danish and English Wikipedia articles for the former Princess Alexandra of Denmark — the English one has “mixed Chinese-European ancestry” in the subhed, in the Danish one you have to locate where her grandmother is mentioned to find out that she was “Asian,” and the equivalent of mixed does not occur at all. I’m sure some Danes have opinions on the national character of the Chinese, but most people didn’t find her ancestry interesting as long as she quickly learned to be Danish).

    And anyway, my real point was that we don’t talk about race, but racisme is still the cover term for all the xenophobic prejudices.

  49. PlasticPaddy says:

    @lars

    “(Historically, the people who had to work the fields in deplorable conditions in the old days were Polish (and native Danish cottagers before that), ”
    Are we forgetting someone?
    https://da.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelle_Erobreren_(film)

  50. PlasticPaddy says:

    @do
    I think Mélenchon did mock the questioner, he said something like “kess-e ke sela veu dir-e?” where the final e’s were enunciated in the Southern way.

  51. David Eddyshaw says:

    “Racial” prejudice is pretty free-floating, as befits a set of views based on fantasy.

    It doesn’t matter to a racist which particular group can be blamed for his own misfortunes, so long as it seems sufficiently distinct from his own; it doesn’t matter to a right-wing populist which specific group is targeted, so long as he can ride the hate to power. Just “immigrants” will do fine; the actual demographics of the immigrants in question are then quite irrelevant.

    I suppose that this is (in a way) the apotheosis of the toxic notion of “race”-based nationalism; in the end, the actual genetics of your fellow-nationals becomes irrelevant, as they are of the “same race” as you by definition. One could get quite Pinkerish about this, seeing it as a positive development …

  52. As usual, someone else makes the point much better than me while I’m writing. I’ll keep my comment anyway, even though it’s not very well written. Readers, beware.

    Oh, it would be seen as very racist to keep track of people’s race! (I’m not sure it’s an improvement asking it of a person of colour as opposed to a white person.) I agree that we don’t have a concept identical to the US definition of race. It’s very confusing to try to keep track of the US definition, especially since it’s something that people just are expected to know. There was an amazing questionnaire on the blog “Separated by a common language”, with examples. I’m not sure I would have been able to choose anything there even if I wanted to (do these questionnaires exist in reality? And are people trusting enough to fill them in? Just reading it gave me the creeps).

    In Sweden the category race is even more looked down on, since the word for race and the word for breed are the same, so when you talk about different races, it sounds like you compare people to animals. I’d strongly recommend against it. Just stay with the more mainstream terms.

    Anyway, racism and xenophobia is alive and all too common, sadly, in Europe, despite the lack of an US style racial category, and mostly used as synonyms. Xenophobia is the more fancy word, and racism the more common one.

  53. Yeah, obviously the details differ from country to country, but the basic fact of xenophobia is omnipresent, alas.

  54. Racism in the sense: prejudices based on ancestry, ancestry evident in appearance, darker skin in particular, is more or less universal.

    But the US has a very peculiar idea of racism and race. It is very meta: there has been a lot of reflection upon these and as result their forms are very peculiar too. It is not undercurrents.

    Amercian culture is influential, seeing some American notions that only make sense in America applied universally (both by Americans and others) is a part of experience of being, say, a Russian.


    The same is true for French patois and regional langauges. There is a history behind this prohibition. I only know it from the Breton side, and can’t say I understand how things work in France.

  55. What is the current view of racism or lack thereof in Roman times? I’ve seen the claim that skin color counted for relatively little in prejudicing one’s place in Roman society. What Lars describes for present-day Denmark sounded to me like what I imagined the Roman situation was, but I may be grossly off the mark.

  56. Yeah, obviously the details differ from country to country

    Sometimes you really want it to be more obvious:(

    Sometimes it feels as if you’re being taught to treat your slaves well. Then you ask, what is slaves, and learn what is slaves and that you only can enslave infidels. The guy can stand for abolition of slavery and prohibition of all religions, but a whole system is getting imported, with its ugliest elements too (for it is the ugliest elements that make the “progressive” elements seem “progressive”).

    It is particularly obvious with feminism: Western feminism is not really going to be popular in Arab countries or in Russia, moreover, it is often irritating for Arab feminists. Having this said, Russia does have very serious issues with racism. Arabs, famously, have issues with women’s rights. And Arab feminists, maybe, are not addressing these issues properly (people are not good at addressing issues properly) and could learn something useful from others.


    Do prejudices against Caucasians in Russia count as “racism”? It is mostly inter-ethnic (or cultural) conflict but it does have a racist (appearance-based) component too. “Black” in Russia is a slur directed mostly at Caucasians (people from Caucasus, especially Muslim regions). Or it is only dark-skinned people who are a “race”? Africans are targeted too, but most Russians haven’t ever met any.

  57. Yes, excellent questions. As for feminism, I have no patience with its unpopularity — it’s going to be unpopular until women realize they can live better and don’t have to put up with their subordinate position (sanctified by religion/tradition/whatever). Foot-binding was very popular with lots of Chinese women, and they resisted its abolishment. That didn’t make it right, and I’m pretty sure none of their descendants would choose to reinstate it. The same will happen with all the stupid restrictions imposed everywhere on women.

  58. David Eddyshaw says:

    What is the current view of racism or lack thereof in Roman times?

    I don’t know, but ignorance has never inhibited me from commenting before …

    There was certainly plenty of xenophobia*. But I’ve never been very convinced by the (undeniably well-meaning) attempts to suggest that the Roman Empire contained the sort of widespread variation in physical appearance we’re used to in modern Europe or the US. I would have thought most people looked more or less (what we would call) Mediterranean, apart from outright barbarians like the Germans and suchlike. There surely can’t really have been many black Africans about in the Empire, even if it would be nice to imagine otherwise.

    On the other hand, free Romans were perfectly OK with the idea that people who looked exactly like themselves were just property. “Natural slaves”, in fact. So their categories of prejudice evidently didn’t match ours at all closely.

    *In principle, it seems useful to me to distinguish “xenophobia”, where the irrational bigotry is not centred on imaginary (or real but trivial) genetic differences, from “racism”, where it is; but I’d have to concede straight away that a rigid division is impossible; moreover, bigots don’t care, and their victims are unlikely to derive any comfort from knowing the precise motivation of their oppressors.

  59. @drasvi
    Do you need to identify “race” to be able to identify racism? Ethnic prejudice is usually referred to as racism in northern Europe. I don’t hear a lot about the racism against Caucasians specifically, but I’m pretty sure it would be called racism no matter if it was seen as an ethnic or cultural prejudice. (Perhaps it would be called Islamophobia if it’s mostly based on religion.)

    As for feminism, I used to think that the end goal of feminism was the freedom of women everywhere. Then I read some very interesting arguments, and now I’m convinced that the freedom of women is not enough, we also need to take away the restrictions imposed on men. But that’s perhaps a discussion for another day.

  60. I recall that there was prejudice based on language in the Roman Empire. There is the story of a Roman emperor who had to send his sister back to her home town because she caused him embarrassment with her thick Punic / Berber accent.

  61. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Are we forgetting someone? Skåne is old Danish territory, and despite 400 or so years of central governance from Uppland, you can still see it in the types of farms, building styles and so on. The dark grim Sweden starts with Småland.

    More to the point, there may be strongly held opinions on both sides of the border, but Swedes and Danes are aware of their common ancestry and the mobbing would probably have happened to a poor Danish father and son in the same circumstances.

  62. David Eddyshaw says:

    @zyxt:

    Claudius proposed at one stage that Greek-speaking Roman citizens should lose their citizenship if they could not demonstrate proficiency in Latin, but IIRC this was regarded as grossly impractical at the time and as just one more piece of evidence for his general eccentricity posthumously.

    There are comments here and there about how “ugly” Aramaic sounded. The Romans certainly were cultural bigots: though actually less so than the Hellenistic Greeks, if Momigliano’s Alien Wisdom has it right.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnaldo_Momigliano

  63. Trond Engen says:

    I used to believe that the linguistic difference between rural Skåne and rural Bornholm was quite small at Pelle’s time, but I think not. The Bornholm dialect is grouped with Skånsk, but it’s (or it was) probably more a display of what Skånsk could have been without the Swedish superstrate.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    Plautus’ play Poenulus has the Carthaginian character Hanno, who is a good guy (and gets lines in actual Punic in Act V.)

    This is the more remarkable as the play seems to date from not long after the Second Punic War (the one with Hannibal, which seriously threatened the survival of the Republic, and from which – it’s been said – southern Italy has never completely recovered to this day.)

  65. Racism requires very strong cultural affinity with people who belong to different ethnic groups, speak different languages, live in different countries, but of the same race.

    That was very far-fetched idea for most people throughout history if you think of it.

  66. J.W. Brewer says:

    Just in terms of the conceptual distinction between “xenophobia” and other sorts of animus, my oldest child recently interviewed (in connection with a college class she was taking on Cuban history) her maternal grandfather on his experiences growing up in pre-Castro Cuba’s small community of Ashkenazim. One of the questions she asked was whether he’d experienced anti-Semitism, and he said no, with the explanation that he had had various negative or offputting experiences with Cubans who thought that to be a “real” Cuban you necessarily had to be Catholic and anyone who wasn’t was therefore not really a real Cuban. Since he thought that e.g. a Cuban Presbyterian (and pace David Eddyshaw, they did exist in small numbers pre-Castro, although I don’t know if any of them had Welsh ancestry) would have been viewed in the same negative light, he didn’t think anti-Semitism was an accurate or useful label and it seemed (although he didn’t say this part explicitly) that he viewed this as significantly less malign than actual anti-Semitism (the kind where the Catholics and the Protestants and the Shi’ites and the Shinto all set aside their own differences to gang up on you …) would have been.

    Pace hat, I am not confident that another Cuban Jew of the same age with the same experiences would have interpreted and classified them in the same way, possibly because they might not have thought to benchmark their negative experiences against those of the otherwise-similarly-situated Presbyterian. “Ask an X if there is anti-Xism” runs up against the problem that X’s are not guaranteed to be reliable narrators of their own lives any more than non-X’s are and/or that different X’s may have had different experiences and/or different interpretations of comparable experiences and who’s to say which one’s point of view should be treated as typical of X’s in the given time and place.

  67. Sure. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all Jews would agree on the quality and level of anti-Semitism at any given place and time, just that they were likely to be better judges than gentiles.

  68. J.W. Brewer says:

    Re my own question upthread about the possible hazards of an actor trying, for a role, to speak with an accent not his own, I just read about this kerfuffle involving alleged “auditory blackface.” I can’t entirely tell whether the problem was that the white voice actor who apparently attempted an AAVE-ish accent he thought suitable for the particular text just got it wrong and was not presenting anything like an authentic-sounding version of the accent intended, or if the problem was the deeper one that it was thought offensive and unseemly to have made the attempt even (especially?) if the attempt succeeded. https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2020/11/28/fireside-black-essay/

    I stumbled into a similar issue myself last night when reading a Dr. Doolittle story aloud to my six-year-old and coming across a section featuring Cheapside the sparrow, who is intended to speak with a Cockney accent and whose lines are accordingly written in Cockney eye-dialect. I was too tired to essay an imitation of Cockney phonology, although I did faithfully do, in my own accent, the non-standard syntax and tried to do the frequent homissions of hinitial haitches, not to mention the haddition of haitches where they hain’t standard. If a lion could speak, it would be in an accent that you would be morally/politically nervous about imitating, as Wittgenstein didn’t quite say.

  69. PlasticPaddy says:

    @de,zyxt
    Re septimius severus sending his sister away, the account occurs in a passage which seems to me to be making the point that S.S was plagued with rumours about being influenced by Chaldaean astrologers and sorcerers and therefore did not like to be reminded of his Near Eastern origins. Here is the Latin:

    multos etiam, quasi Chald[a]eos aut vates de sua salute consuluissent, interemit, praecipue suspect[an]s unumquemque idoneum imperio, cum ipse parvulos adhuc filios haberet idque dici ab his vel crederet vel audiret, qui sibi augurabantur imperium. denique cum occisi essent nonnulli[s], Severus se excusabat et post eorum mortem negabat fieri iussisse, quod factum est. quod de Laeto praecipu[a]e Marius Maximus dicit. cum soror sua Leptitana ad eum venisset vix Latine loquens ac de illa multum imperator erubesceret, dato filio eius lato clavo atque ipsi multis muneribus redire mulierem in
    patriam praecepit, et quidem cum filio, qui b[us] [r]evi vita defunctus est.

    From Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Aeli Spartiani Severus 15.1-15.7

  70. Then I read some very interesting arguments, and now I’m convinced that the freedom of women is not enough, we also need to take away the restrictions imposed on men. But that’s perhaps a discussion for another day.

    It is simple.

    How many men in this tread would dare go to work in a female dress (with or without lipstick and high heels) – without pretending to be transgender, just as a humorous act of solidarity: “after all, it is just a dress (isn’t it)”?

    Give a lecture in a university this way, maybe? Or it is a shame for a man to be so?

    I assume 0.

  71. David Eddyshaw says:

    auditory blackface

    I used to know a white Jamaican at school, who would occasionally get into trouble with black people in the UK on account of his entirely natural Jamaican accent.

    The idea that people should stay in their own lane takes many forms, all of them bad to varying degrees. Still, it’s hardly surprising that people are sensitive in cases overshadowed by a long tradition of mimicry as dehumanising mockery. It seems reasonable for those targeted by such mockery to expect some understanding of this point, even if it’s illogical from a Vulcan standpoint.

  72. David Eddyshaw says:

    @Plastic:

    Thanks. Looks like Severus’s problem with his sister was that she was a bit too unmetropolitan. Something like Billy Carter …

    (I hereby stake my claim to be the first person ever to draw an analogy between Septimius Severus and Jimmy Carter.)

  73. drasvi

    Young men used to have innocent fun dressing up like girls all the time, but they stopped, because of relentless sexualization of everything in modern society.

    These days, such dress up would be taken as a statement about your sexuality which straight men just don’t want to make.

    Even two men holding hands while walking – absolutely innocent gesture of friendship which I remember from my childhood is now socially impossible.

  74. David Eddyshaw says:

    The fact that I would feel uncomfortable going to work in a frock seems to me to be somewhat uncompelling as an argument that men are oppressed for their maleness just as much as women for their femaleness. I think I can live with it.

    Also, there are kilts. Extremely manly.

  75. I used to know a white Jamaican at school, who would occasionally get into trouble with black people in the UK on account of his entirely natural Jamaican accent.

    I knew a blonde, blue-eyed Slovak woman who was married to an Indian man, had learned English mostly in India and thus (naturally) spoke English with a strong subcontinental accent and vocabulary. She was fine living in Vienna, but I was always afraid what might happen to her if she walked around London talking like that.

  76. The law was proposed by Christophe Euzet, who called accents a “grave matter”. He commented: “At a time when visible minorities benefit from the legitimate concern of public powers, the audible minorities are the poor cousins of the social contract based on equality.”

    Audible minorities, really…

  77. David Eddyshaw says:

    who called accents a “grave matter”

    I’d say that the problem was acute. (President Macron, of all people, ought to be sensitive to these concerns.)

  78. He ought, indeed, to be circum… spect.

  79. ə de vivre says:

    I don’t get this whole “racism and racial hierarchy are a US thing that don’t apply in Europe” thing. Remember all those globe-spanning European empires that only started to come undone a few decades ago? The entire European economic system is founded on racial hierarchy, and just because until the Post-War period, European countries were more successful at keeping their racial others physically distant from the metropole (thanks to the systems of racial hierarchy they created) doesn’t mean they didn’t integrate white supremacy into their social fabric. We learned it—as the kids say—from watching you, dad!

  80. PlasticPaddy says:

    @a de v
    I think what is meant here is that a segregation and “unequal opportunity” system, as implemented in law in some colonies (notably S. Africa) and in (parts of) the U.S., was never implemented as a norm in Europe, despite in some cases large-scale immigration, where e.g., Portugal or Holland would have a higher percent of non-whites than the U.S. This means that (a) there is more upward mobility for “coloured” immigrants and (b) the immigrants do not have the same distrust for the law, fear of being lynched or expropriated, need to form gangs for protection, etc. Of course it does not mean there is no racism or racially motivated violence.

  81. Yeah, racism is complicated. Brazilians say they’re not racist because they have rich/famous/popular black people, and yet the people in charge are largely white and always have been. Russians say they’re not racist because of Patrice Lumumba University. Everybody’s got a different situation and a different story.

  82. ə de vivre says:

    The resonance of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world makes me skeptical of claims that racial minorities in Europe trust the police as much as white people. The norm of jus sanguinis citizenship in Europe is essentially an unequal opportunity system, especially since colonial subjects were usually not given the same status as European ones (viz., the Windrush generation, Muslim Algerians).

  83. David Eddyshaw says:

    I used to know a married couple, American (him) ~ Togolese (her), who had lived for extended periods in Germany, the UK and the US. They were quite clear that they encountered most prejudice (qua “mixed” couple) in Germany, somewhat less in the UK, and least of all in the US. I don’t think their experience was unique (though obviously the matter is going to be highly skewed by where exactly you live, if you have extended family there, etc, etc.)

  84. J.W. Brewer says:

    One simple example of “OMG those Europeans are worse than Americans” is the reported propensity into quite recent times of European soccer fans to throw bananas on the field, make fake-monkey noises, etc. when the visiting team has a black player. But I assume that that propensity was perhaps not geographically uniform within Europe and regional variation might tell you something? I guess that to the extent the general baseline level of vulgarity and thuggishness among soccer fans is itself not geographically uniform within Europe* you might need to control for that, though.

    There was over the decades from c. 1950 on a significant subset of black US jazz musicians who became expatriates living in Europe, often claiming they were treated better than they had been back home. I think they tended to cluster in some cities (Paris, Copenhagen) but not so much in others (London, Milan) perhaps for somewhat contingent and path-dependent reasons but perhaps based on perceptions that local racial attitudes were materially different. Although even that could have been one early guy claiming to have had better experiences in Copenhagen than Milan and then that just getting passed on by word of mouth without later expats deliberately trying to spend time in Milan to fact-check the word-of-mouth.

    *Even all these centuries after we overthrew foreign rule, many Americans, esp in the pseudo-intelligentsia, think of Europeans as inherently more sophisticated and cultured than their fellow primitive Americans. I tend to think that forced exposure to soccer hooligans and the Eurovision Song Contest would be the best way to disabuse them of this illusion.

  85. David Eddyshaw says:

    Eurovision Song Contest

    In its own particular way, a rampant festival of tolerance.
    Rampant, I say.

  86. J.W. Brewer says:

    Sorry if unclear; I wasn’t referencing the song contest as an instance of European intolerance, just as an instance of conspicuous absence of sophistication and culture. It should be reassuring to know that rampant intolerance can if need be co-exist with rampant vulgarity, cheesiness and what I believe is called in BrEng “naffness.”

  87. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I used to know a white Jamaican at school, who would occasionally get into trouble with black people in the UK on account of his entirely natural Jamaican accent.

    I met a woman 35 years ago who was head of the Chemistry Department at the Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta (Colombia). Before I met her I was told she was Argentinian. Maybe, but she spoke excellent English, with an obvious Jamaican accent. Why would an Argentinian resident in Colombia speak English with a Jamaican accent? I wondered. It turned out that her husband was Colombian from San Andrés or Providencia (I forget which), where the everyday language is English, and she had lived there long enough to learn English with a Caribbean accent. Although she was no blacker than the Duchess of Sussex one could detect it a bit when one knew.

  88. I have remarked before that, while I have essentially native-level fluency in AAVE,* I seldom have an opportunity to speak it. Unless I an with African-Americans that I know extremely well, my using AAVE is too likely to be misconstrued. And this has been true whether I was living in Massachusetts or South Carolina.

    * This is not at all hard to achieve for a native speaker of standard American English, if one spends a bit of time with African-Americans, speaking un-self-consciously.

  89. Lars Mathiesen says:

    @Trond, three hundred years of having Standard Swedish as the Dachsprache has removed Scanian quite far from the Bornholm version of Danish. But I think the fact that the Dachsprache could just be changed by installing Swedish-speaking priests shows how much of a dialect continuum there still was in 1720.

    The thing about intolerance in Europe is that for historical reasons, there are at least as many people who would be counted as Caucasians in the US who have been and are on the receiving end, as there are of the other “races”. Ask the Northern Irish Catholics, the Basque and the Catalonians — even the rroma can hardly be said to be a race of their own, but still they are on the bottom rung. So yes, there is a huge problem and skin color is part of it, but framing it as only racial prejudice doesn’t quite work.

    Also if anybody is curious about the murder case on Bornholm and why the Danish authorities seem to ignore the racial aspect (since the international press was present in large numbers, you may have heard about it):

    The criminals have pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the prosecutor is seeking a verdict of murder. The motive is that the deceased was intimate with the mother of the killers, and it is very possible that they had a racist reason for not liking that — but the Danish system doesn’t have consecutive sentences; any conviction for a hate crime has a shorter prison term than manslaughter and/or murder, so it’s automatically dropped. If they had “just” threatened to beat the man up because of his skin color, that would actually aggravate a charge of threat of violence (if the investigator and prosecutor cared about it, I hear that they don’t in many cases).

    There was a high-profile case a while back where an Austrian man threw a punch at the (black, Brazilian) husband of the (Conservative, gay) Minister of Justice, with some racially offensive language included. He got the book thrown at him and didn’t make the plane home, but if it had been any other black Brazilian gay man in Copenhagen nightlife I doubt it would have gone beyond a fine for disturbing the peace.

  90. We shouldn’t use words like racism to mean “evil”. Evil is “evil”.

    When a Fingalian says: “Fingalia doesn’t have your sort of racism” you should not hear “Fingalians are better”.

    When it is a patriotic Fingalian, yes.
    When it is a honest Fingalian, no.

    It simply means: lets start with Fingalian context if we want to discuss patterns and sources of Fingalian evil.

  91. If we do exactly this, if we begin our discussion with Fingalia we do, of coruse, use words “racism” and “colourism”. We obtain the meaning from (local) context:

    When a Tunisian says: “Tunisians are racists” it is one thing.
    When the same Tunisian says: “French are racists” it is the opposite.

    We just shouldn’t postulate a Platonian “ideal racism”.

    1. attitudes to the skin colour. Positive and negative prejudices associated with colour exist in numerous cultures.
    2. prejudices agains populations of people (based on appearance, not just culture).

    These two things exist in many countries, and can and should be studied. But speaking about “racism” as a global phenomenon always centered on “blacks” you raise “blacks” themselves to the status of objective essentially different entity.

    Prove its existence first, or you are teaching me racism. Because I, honestly, don’t want to have this crap in my mind if it doesn’t exist.

  92. John Cowan says:

    Patriotism is not inconsistent with honesty.

    I guess there’s no British regional accent you could describe as a ‘twang’.

    Well, -perhaps not any more. American pervasive nasality must come from somewhere. East Anglia, perhaps? It was historically more marked in New England.

  93. Is there really “American pervasive nasality”? I used to have that impression of some people’s speech, but now I think it’s mostly nasalized r’s and l’s which create that impression.

  94. John, yes, “patriotism” is an unfortunate word. I apologize.

  95. Fingalian

    https://www.google.com/search?q=%D1%84%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BB

    I am kind of worried about human rights situation in this made up country

  96. When I grew up in 70s Germany, people of African descent (from here on, “Africans”) were a rarity. Germany had lost all its colonies in WW I, so we didn’t have any influx from colonies after decolonisation. Most Africans people actually met were Americans, predominantly G.I.’s, so relatively high status people. Still, a lot of stereotypes and prejudices existed; one set was based on old colonial imagery, Africans as primitive, living in grass huts, either carelessly living an easy life, singing and dancing, or being menacing cannibals; both tropes were freely used in children’s books and cartoons. That’s where the banana-throwing comes from. The other set was based on images from America – Africans being good at sports and popular music, but also a shunned minority living in ghettos. For most Germans at that time, Africans were people who lived far away and these prejudices harmed few concrete targets, but when the number of Africans started to rise due to immigration, the prejudices started to matter. In some cases, real life encounters were stronger than the prejudices – one of my cousins had an Ethiopian husband for some time, and it took my grandfather a bit to wrap his head around the idea that he’d have an African in his family, but he got used to it. But there certainly are Africans in Germany who encounter those prejudices in their daily lifes, and there have been cases of attacks against them. How much these attacks were motivated by prejudices against Africans in particular or against immigrants in general, is hard to say, but it’s certainly the case that Africans visually stand out in a way that lighter-skinned and more German-looking immigrants like Eastern or Southern Europeans don’t.

  97. I’ve told this story before, but when I was teaching college in Taiwan in the 1970s I was shocked to discover how omnipresent anti-Semitism was among my students, even though none of them had ever met a Jew (that they knew of). It was carried across the ocean like the ashes from a volcano.

  98. Rugbyman is one of those wonderful French words which both is, and at the same time isn’t, loaned from English; like smoking and parking, only more so.

    There ought to be a similar list of English words which both is, and at the same time isn’t, loaned from French.

    I remember it was argued somewhere (maybe even here) that one such word is brunette – the word which isn’t French now and very likely never even was French. It was coined by some Gallomaniac Englishman sometime in the 17th century.

  99. A well-known one is “nom de plume.” (Actual Frenchpersons say nom de guerre.)

  100. PlasticPaddy says:

    Re brunette
    https://www.lalanguefrancaise.com/dictionnaire/definition/brunette
    Re nom de guerre, a name used by an author instead of his/her real name is a “pseudonyme”.
    https://www.lalanguefrancaise.com/dictionnaire/definition/pseudonyme
    For Italian alfresco is an example (correct is all’aperto).

  101. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I hereby stake my claim to be the first person ever to draw an analogy between Septimius Severus and Jimmy Carter.

    You may be right, but I wouldn’t count on it. Most of the original thoughts one tries to express turn out not to be original.

    We are writing a review at the moment that begins with a quotation from 22 centuries ago:

    Nullum est iam dictum, quod non dictum sit prius (Terrence, 161 BCE)

    A bit pretentious, I know, but we had a problem. We had an article earlier this year that covered much of the same ground: we wanted to avoid repeating too much, but repeating nothing was impossible. We wouldn’t have written the current one at all if we hadn’t been under a lot of pressure to write something for a special issue related to a meeting in Paris two years ago.

  102. David Eddyshaw says:

    Cul de sac.

  103. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nullum est iam dictum, quod non dictum sit prius

    Bush the Elder gets compared to Septimius Severus, in the course of this pumpkinification discussion:

    http://www.exilesbazaar.com/home/george-h-w-bush-and-septimius-severus

    Can’t find any prior art on Jimmy Carter and SepSev so far; I thought I had, but I wasn’t reading with due care and attention. Still, it’s a wide-ranging list:

    https://listverse.com/2015/07/26/10-noteworthy-sibling-rivalries-through-history/

    (Why is Ray Davies like Cleopatra?)

  104. Stu Clayton says:

    Le cul-de-sac de Douglas, as the French say. I guess he invented it, they borrowed it back (the designation, not the pouch).

  105. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think that’s more of a sac de cul.

  106. J.W. Brewer says:

    The characters in Neal Stephenson’s first published novel, which he has disowned as an allegedly embarrassing piece of juvenilia, include a university president named Septimius Severus Krupp. Pres. Krupp is said to resemble in personality (if not in name) the rather controversial John Silber (1926-2012), who was president of Boston University when Stephenson was a student there [EDITED TO ADD: which was coincidentally or not while Jimmy Carter was president in a non-university capacity].

  107. David Eddyshaw says:

    Aha!

  108. John Cowan says:

    It’s all meant, you tell us. Which is certainly consistent with predestination.

  109. J.W. Brewer: John Silber was a weird guy in many ways. He was famous around Massachusetts for being, while president of Boston University, a major public figure—including running for governor on the Democratic ticket in 1990 and losing to William Weld, the first of an extended series of Republican governors; a lot of people felt that during the campaign, Silber showed himself to be temperamentally unsuited to public office, blowing up in response to questions and alienating many natural Democratic allies. After he went back to his main job at BU, he quickly became the highest paid college president in the country (and on top of that, he received double his regular salary every third year); keep in mind that this was while serving as head of a large but academically unremarkable university in the most prominent college town in the world. He clearly impressed a certain number of people though (including the BU trustees), despite overseeing some real financial setbacks for the university, including the loss a sixth of its endowment in a since bad investment. I did some reporting on Massachusetts college presidents’ salaries when I was an undergraduate, near the end of Silber’s tenure as president of BU, and I concluded that a) there was very little rhyme or reasons to who was paid how much, but b) even so, Silber’s compensation was by far the biggest outlier in the state.

    Separately, I remember reading a 2002 article about the death of Abu Nidal, in which the writer began his summary of the terrorist’s history with Sabri Khalil al-Banna’s birth in Jaffa, adding in a too-clever-sounding parenthetical that, “‘Abu Nidal’ was a nom de guerre.”

  110. “Abu [X]” is a pattern so common among Muslim underground leaders, that it is hard not to call it nom de guerre.


    in 13th Warrior, the movie, Vikings decide to call Ahmad ibn Fadlan ibn al-Abbas ibn Rashid ibn Hammad simply Ibn.I have seen the film (and did not read the book) but I don’t remember the detail. A friend reminded me.

    Which reminds me numerous young Arab’s Facebook accounts suffixed with Slavic -ovich, thanks to Zlatan Ibrahimović

    —-
    I am kind of worried about human rights situation in this made up country

    I haven’t heard about them since the revolution in 1963 (Галич, “баллада о прибавочной стоимости”). Presumably, they all are refugees, the ruins concealed by the jungle.

  111. in 13th Warrior, the movie, Vikings decide to call Ahmad ibn Fadlan ibn al-Abbas ibn Rashid ibn Hammad simply Ibn.

    The reverse of “When Battuta arrived…”

  112. Russians know what to do with Ibn

    Volka, a 12-year-old Soviet Young Pioneer, discovers an ancient vessel at the bottom of a river. When he opens it, a genie emerges. He calls himself Hassan Abdul-rahman ibn Khattab, but Volka renames him Khottabych. The name Khottabych is derived from the Arabic Khattab with the Russian patronymic suffix -ych, yielding a Russian equivalent of ibn-Khattab (son of Khattab). Khottabych later claims to be 3,732 years and 5 months old. The grateful Khottabych is ready to fulfill any of Volka’s wishes, but it becomes clear that Volka should use the powers of the genie carefully, for they can have some unforeseen undesirable results.

  113. Когда приехал Баттутыч…

  114. Fadlanson, Khattabson and Battutson walk into a bar…

  115. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ap Ffadlan, Ap Chatab ac Ap Batwd …

    Actually, McFadlan sounds like a perfectly cromulent Scots name.

  116. John Emerson says:

    Wikipedia lists several hundred Swedish noble families, and something like ten of them are the familiar Scandinavian kind of “-son” names.

    For a long time “-son” names meant you had no surname and were a commoner, and families would adopt a surname once ennobled. John Anderson’s son Peter would be Peter Johnson, and so on. At some point, sometimes only after coming to America, a patronymic became a surname and it was Johnsons all the way down.

  117. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Actually the nobility, at least in Denmark, used to go by christian name and patronymic until the custom of family names came in from Germany. King Frederick I made a law in 1526 that all noble families should use a family name, but the Chancellor of Christian IV still called called himself Christen Thomesen until his death in 1659 to emphasize that his family (Sehested) had always been Danish nobility.

    At that time, patronymics simply weren’t inheritable (as they still aren’t on Iceland today) but everybody had one, noble, burgher or peasant. Most people who were ennobled later took German-sounding composite names of the type Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, while the old nobility had single morpheme family names like Grubb and Bille. There is a de Jessen family ennobled in 1681, however, and a few since then.

    (And the Viking age names we know (probably the equivalent of nobility all of them) are usually single plus an epithet (ekename) which could be a patronymic, but that evidently standardized on patronymics during the middle ages).

    Source (in Danish, with more later complications than you can shake a stick at).

  118. Trond Engen says:

    Hamish McFadlan.

    In recent history, -sen/-son was mainly an optional additon to apply when needed. Those with inherited surnames rarely did. Patronymics could become inherited surnames when a bearer got a public position or became the owner of an entreprise, though I don’t know why some chose that instead of any other surname. In Norway it could maybe be the sosial prestige of the Holsteiners in the 17th century, many of whom seem to have made their patronyms inherited after migrating to Norway. But that doesn’t explain why the Holsteiners did it.

  119. Hamish Ibn Fadlan is 100% Arabic name.

  120. @Brett:
    the only people i knew who voted for silber, as a young person in the boston area at the time, were folks who worked at BU. but every one of them i knew voted for silber, in hopes that he would win and no longer be their boss. and that was before he really started looting the place on a grand scale…

    as for the history of white supremacy (ain’t no such thing as racism; it’s a term designed to make a one-way street look reversible), i highly recommend both nell irvin painter’s The History of White People and part two of cedric robinson’s (cedric* ibn robin, i should say) classic Black Marxism.

    * b”sh wikipedia: invented via metathesis by scott in Ivanhoe, but popular on account of Little Lord Fauntleroy. the things i didn’t know until a hattery tangent led me to them!

  121. There was even a real Cedric Errol Fauntleroy! (Must have been hard having that surname as a kid born five years after the novel. I guess his parents figured they might as well go full Boy Named Sue on him.)

  122. ouch! that’s amazing…

    i did have a friend named jessica stein whose (queer, i hasten to clarify) life the 2001 film made hell for a few years – but she was certainly one of at least dozens…

  123. David Marjanović says:

    Mélenchon has a very odd ideology; it’s an oversimplification to call it “left”.

    For instance, we are told that the Duchess of Sussex is black. To a Danish eye she does not look essentially different from a lot of Southern European women, and if we hadn’t been told, that salient fact of her identity as a US woman would not be visible.

    Oh yeah. The TV had to tell me that Colin Powell and Kamala Harris are black; I didn’t notice, and probably wouldn’t have, at least not the first 20 times.

    (And that was after I knew Harris’s father was from Jamaica and knew about the one-drop rule.)

  124. I think everybody who refers to Colin Powell, Kamala Harris or Duchess of Sussex as black is, of course, racist.

    Or maybe it’s the other way around – you are racist if you don’t see them as black.

    Whatever.

    But the word racist has to be thrown in somewhere.

    That’s the rule.

  125. The TV had to tell me that Colin Powell and Kamala Harris are black; I didn’t notice, and probably wouldn’t have, at least not the first 20 times.

    I didn’t notice it about Vanessa Williams (not to mention Rebecca Hall):

    Vanessa Lynn Williams was born in The Bronx, New York,[1] with a birth announcement that read: “Here she is: Miss America.”[2][3] Later in life, she participated in a DNA test with the following results: 23% from Ghana, 17% from the British Isles (specifically English, Welsh, and Irish), 15% from Cameroon, 12% Finnish, 11% Southern European (specifically Italian), 7% from Togo, 6% from Benin, 5% from Senegal, and 4% Portuguese.[4]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanessa_Williams

  126. David Eddyshaw says:

    I am duly impressed by a test that can differentiate between Ghanaian and Togolese DNA. I presume that there is some sort of offset for the 1956 plebiscite.

  127. Danes spent two centuries in Ghana.

    More than enough time to differentiate Ghanaian population from Togolese, surely.

  128. Ghanaian DNA has a G-C base pair where the Togolese has T-A.

  129. Frustrating news, Brett and Rozele: Nora Ephron’s “Academic Gore” (Esquire, September 1, 1977) is (a) lots of gruesome fun about John Silber and (b) online, but (c) accessible only at the cost of a Facebook-sized corpus of your personal information.

  130. per incuriam says:

    When I grew up in 70s Germany, people of African descent (from here on, “Africans”) were a rarity. Germany had lost all its colonies in WW I, so we didn’t have any influx from colonies after decolonisation. Most Africans people actually met were Americans, predominantly G.I.’s, so relatively high status people

    For me that conjures up Günther Kaufmann particularly in thisss.

    Ruth Negga is another film actor from a mixed background, Irish and Ethiopian in her case. She played Mildred Loving in the movie Loving, based on the real-life struggle of an interracial couple against anti-miscegenation laws in the 1960’s US. Negga grew up in Limerick, in a largely pre-immigration Ireland, and says she encountered no prejudice whatsoever. It was only when she subsequently moved to London that she became “black” and experienced racism for the first time (for being Irish as much as for being black, but that’s another story).

  131. per incuriam says:

    cul de sac

    This used to be mainstream French until Voltaire, finding it unspeakably vulgar (une infamie qui fait rougir les dames), took it upon himself, more or less single-handedly by all accounts, to have it banished to the margins.

    It would undoubtedly have appalled him no end to find that the anglo’s, of whom he was such a phile, had gone and adopted the word (though he would of course have defended to the death their right to say it).

    J’en dis autant à le Breton, imprimeur de l’Almanach royal, je ne lui payerai point l’almanach qu’il m’a vendu cette année. Il a eu la grossièreté de dire que M. le président… M. le conseiller… demeure dans le cul-de-sac de Ménard, dans le cul-de-sac des Blancs-Manteaux. Jusqu’à quand les welches croupiront-ils dans leur ancienne barbarie? Comment peut-on dire qu’un grave président demeure dans un cul ?…

    That line “Jusqu’à quand les welches croupiront-ils dans leur ancienne barbarie?” might have potential as a conversation-filler in the right company (though Voltaire’s welches are of course gaulois rather than gallois).

  132. particularly in thisss.

    Which led me on a search that ended up here:

    After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the song was adapted into the “Honvágy-dal” (‘The Song of Homesickness’) and used as an unofficial anthem for refugees scattered around the world. Recorded by Ida Boros, it became a cultural phenomenon and a sign of protest against the communist government.

    I did not know that!

  133. Trond Engen says:

    per incuriam: the anglo’s, of whom he was such a phile

    Admiration & envy.

  134. Trond Engen says:

    Unlike the glotto’s, of whom he was such a phobe, I might add.

  135. Voltaire was phile of every country except France.

    Even

    Aimer son roi, le devoir et la patrie,
    Sacrifier son bien, sa santé et sa vie,
    Tourmenté par des fous, chicané pour un rien,
    Voilà le vrai portrait d’un officier prussien.

  136. I thought he just liked these words, le président demeure dans un cul:/ But I think my image of the French language is spoiled by my first contact with it: Breton courses and Brassens and leur ancienne barbarie.

  137. David Eddyshaw says:

    @SFReader:

    Seems a bit like the intellectual Athenians’ fetishization of the Spartans (yes, I’m looking at you, Plato!)
    Eggheads admire those strong, silent types. It reminds me (by antithesis) somewhat of Auden’s

    Behold the manly mesomorph
    Showing his bulging biceps off,
    Whom social workers love to touch,
    Though the loveliest girls do not care for him much.

    Pretty to watch with bat or ball,
    An Achilles, too, in a bar-room brawl,
    But in the ditch of hopeless odds,
    The hour of desertion by brass and gods,

    Not a hero. It is the pink-and-white,
    Fastidious, almost girlish in the night
    When the proud-arsed broad-shouldered break and run,
    Who covers their retreat, dies at his gun.

  138. PlasticPaddy says:

    @de
    There seem to be two poetic schools of thought:
    1. People who are pretty have no character, their prettiness serves to disguise this.
    2. People who are ugly have no character, their ugliness serves to reveal this.
    I think poets who write disparagingly about the pretty or the ugly may have suffered rebuffs or other ill-treatment, which have affected the poet’s judgment. Such poets would be better to stick to the plain. As one Irish poet says “A pint of plain is your only man”.

  139. @PlasticPaddy: The main theme of The Picture of Dorian Gray is that, of course, neither of those things are true. Anyone, beautiful or ugly, can be a nihilist.

  140. David Marjanović says:

    What’s going on is that European racism is different. There never were two categories of different-looking people with distinct cultures in the same place for centuries*. The closest thing to an exception – a visually distinct minority present for centuries – were the Roma, and I don’t know if they were the target of more prejudices than other “nomadic” people (Jenische, Irish Travellers).

    In the US, racism and xenophobia are two different things. In Europe, racism is a subset of xenophobia; it’s not an independent problem.

    * …well, not since the Neolithic, when that was actually the case for two thousand years.

  141. David Eddyshaw says:

    A pint of plain is your only man

    Is it about a bicycle?
    (Chilling words …)

    I don’t think Auden is thinking about beauty so much, more rugged outdoorsy first-fifteen fine-figure-of-a-manliness. My view (and his, I dare say) is that these categories need not coincide. The context is specifically ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs; he goes on to say that he prefers his own personal physician to be endomorphic:

    Give me a doctor partridge-plump,
    Short in the leg and broad in the rump,
    An endomorph with gentle hands
    Who’ll never make absurd demands
    That I abandon all my vices
    Nor pull a long face in a crisis,
    But with a twinkle in his eye
    Will tell me that I have to die.

  142. […]two categories [….] in the same place for centuries. …
    In the US, racism and xenophobia are two different things. In Europe, racism […] it’s not an independent problem.
    These are the very exact words I wanted to say about Russia. Not the parts I cut out, though. I’m not sure about “subset”, and I thoguht about Jews and prejudices against Caucasians (people from Caucasus) rather than Roma.

  143. I’ve mentioned it a few times.

    The most widespread xenophobic sentiment in old Russia was anti-German and it was far ahead of anti-Semitism. It was extremely popular among peasants and commoners, but also among Russian educated classes as well.

    Strangely enough, it seems to have started to abate after the war (which by the way confirmed every prejudice Russians felt about Germans). Apparently once you beat and conquer your enemy, they stop being frightening.

  144. And this presents enormous difficulties for widespread adoption of racism.

    Racism is not just a negative attitude to people from different race, it also requires positive attitude to people of your own race even if they live in different countries and speak different languages.

    And this is something Russians are not ready to accept. And vice versa – how many Western white supremacists would regard Russians as equal and white?

    So for this simple reason, racism in Russia will remain a marginal American import.

    But xenophobia, of course, is much more common and it doesn’t distinguish between races. In fact, some of the most intense xenophobic sentiments in recent years were towards Ukrainians, who are hardly even recognizable as separate from Russians.

  145. David Eddyshaw says:

    Racism is not just a negative attitude to people from different race, it also requires positive attitude to people of your own race even if they live in different countries and speak different languages.

    This looks like a somewhat arbitrary redefinition.
    Moreover, any distinction between xenophobia and racism is of little interest to the targets thereof; nor is xenophobia intrinsically morally superior to racism.

  146. The other way around surely.

    American racism’s ability to see people from another ethnic group (or even from another country) as being part of his own Great White Race is surely morally superior to narrow European xenophobia which reserves sympathies only for people speaking same language within same country and treats Africans and Germans with equal hatred.

    A Marxist would say that racism is a progressive next step over xenophobia just like feudalism was a progressive advance compared to ancient slavery.

  147. The most widespread xenophobic sentiment in old Russia was anti-German and it was far ahead of anti-Semitism. It was extremely popular among peasants and commoners, but also among Russian educated classes as well.

    You’ve got to be kidding. Obviously there was plenty of suspicion against Germans, and when WWI started there were attacks on German businesses, but there was nothing even comparable to the pogroms that took place repeatedly wherever there were Jews. And anti-Semitism too was “extremely popular among peasants and commoners, but also among Russian educated classes.” Give me a break. Germans got the side-eye, Jews got beat up, dispossessed, and killed.

  148. That’s because Russian Germans enjoyed state protection until the WWI and even had a privileged status for a long time.

    Anti-Semitism was relatively safe, anti-German xenophobia not so much.

    But feelings involved were very similar. Here is an excerpt from famous anti-German speech by General Skobelev:

    I must tell you, confess to you, why Russia does not always stand at the height of its patriotic duties and its Slavic role, in particular. This is because both internally and externally, she has to fight against foreign influences.
    We are not the owners of our own house.
    Yes! We’ve got a stranger. His hand is visible in everything. We are the toys of his politics, the victims of his intrigue, the slaves of his power … His innumerable and fatal influences dominate us to such an extent and paralyze us that if, as I hope, we will ever be able to get rid of them, then it will be only with weapons in hands.
    And if you want to find out from me who is this foreigner, this climber, this intriguer, this so dangerous enemy of the Russians and Slavs, then I will name him.
    This is the culprit of “Drang nach Osten” – you know all of him – this is a German!
    I repeat to you and ask you not to forget, our enemy is a German!
    The struggle between the Slavs and the Teutons is inevitable …
    It’s even close …
    It will be a long, bloody, terrible struggle, but as for me, I am convinced that in the end the Slavs will win.

    Jews fill find the rhetoric very familiar. Only target is different.

  149. Do you seriously think that if the tsar had removed his protective hand, Russians would have risen up en masse, from peasants to aristocrats, and brutally dispossessed and killed the “Germans” (most of whom, of course, merely had German names and ancestry)? That’s delusional. Or are you just making some rhetorical point? I shouldn’t have to point out that General Skobelev was a crackpot whose speech represents nothing but himself. I remind you also of the extreme reverence for German culture expressed by much of the Russian intelligentsia right up to WWII. (Tsvetaeva is an extreme but not unrepresentative example.)

    It’s as if you were saying anti-German sentiment in America was far ahead of racism.

  150. After Russian German minority lost tsar’s protection during WWI, they suffered from anti-German pogroms, lost their lands (the Tsarist Government was preparing laws to nationalize all lands owned by ethnic Germans in Russia by 1917), then Baltic German gentry was almost totally killed off and dispossessed in Russia during the Civil War (surviving only in independent Baltic states), ordinary ethnic Germans fared better for a while, but then came another war with Germany and in 1941 Soviet Germans were exiled en masse to Siberia and Central Asia and weren’t allowed to return even after Stalin’s death.

    Few ethnic groups in Russia fared worse than ethnic Germans in 20th century.

    Regarding reverence of German culture and civilization, of course, it’s perfectly compatible with extreme dislike of Germans themselves. Many Eastern Europeans have similar strange attitudes towards Russian culture and ethnic Russians – great respect for the former and hatred of the latter.

  151. nor is xenophobia intrinsically morally superior to racism.

    David Eddyshaw, of course. It is not that when a Tajik girl is killed it is better, because her nose was straight.

  152. J.W. Brewer says:

    One salient difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Teutonism in pre-Soviet Russia was that Jews were largely barred from living outside the Pale of Settlement, so in many parts of Russia they could only be despised (however vituperatively) in theory rather than actual practice, whereas ethnic Germans were found in other regions and may to some extent have filled some of the same economic/social niches that Jews typically filled in the parts of Eastern Europe were they were more plentiful. Yuri Slezkine’s interesting writing about the history of Jews under Soviet rule makes the point that the combination of the persecution of ethnic Germans during WW1 and its aftermath and the abolition of the Pale of Settlement meant that Jews were often plausible candidates to “fill the vacuum” thus created, at least for the first few decades until the Soviet regime became, shall we say, rather less philo-Semitic than it might have seemed at the beginning.

  153. J.W. Brewer says:

    As to the U.S. at the same time one might perhaps make a comparable point that some of the places where WW1-era hostility to allegedly unassimilated ethnic-Germans led to extreme and illiberal measures (e.g. Nebraska and Oregon) were places where the black population was de minimis and thus did not provide all that much occasion for real rather than theoretical bigotry.

    And then of course there were places like France where anti-Semitism and anti-Teutonism naturally fit together, because the whole point of many the anti-Dreyfusards was that of course the Jews were in league with the Germans (and I suppose the Freemasons too) against the True Frenchmen because duh.

  154. John Cowan says:

    Voltaire was phile of every country except France.

    “The idiot who praises in enthusiastic tone / All centuries but this, and every country but his own.”

    There never were two categories of different-looking people with distinct cultures in the same place for centuries.

    Al-Andalus.

    how many Western white supremacists would regard Russians as equal and white?

    Most of them, I think, provided the Russians in question were not illegal immigrants. Indeed, there is no shortage of Jewish white supremacists in the U.S., from the alt-right terrorist and neo-Nazi Judah Goldberg to the Secretary of War of the Confederacy, Judah P. Benjamin.

  155. David Marjanović says:

    Al-Andalus.

    True, but that situation was ended with drastic ethnic cleansing 500 years ago.

    Judah Goldberg

    Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism?

    (I just stumbled across Jonanism, “the logical fallacy of believing that everyone you hate is the same. The term is a portmanteau of the name of Jonah Goldberg, and Onanism.”

  156. Consider also the strange case of Jordan Gollub, the Jewish would-be klansman.

    Ed.: and others.

  157. And vice versa – how many Western white supremacists would regard Russians as equal and white?

    I have seen recently (online) an American white supremacist who is very positive about Russians.

    racism in Russia will remain a marginal American import.

    There is a strong component of “American import”. But not only this.

  158. 1. possible “instinctive” component.
    Something about our perception of races can be predetermined by our visual background and brains. And there can be something special about such perception of Africans by Europeans and vice versa. Not necessarily negative. But it can make them likely targets of both positive and negative prejudices.

    2. possible Soviet roots.
    You can only learn racism from people, media or experience. Most people here have never talked to a black guy. Africans were not discussed often within communities either*: there are not Africans around. Soviet media was Soviet propaganda and the Soviet propaganda was strongly anti-racist.

    It makes Soviet anti-African sentiments more uncommon, and also harder to observe.


    * for example, the children(ru) of the festival was something I heard about. In my circle at least the story was told without disapproval, as a funny observation about our girls and their passionate fight for people’s freindship against capitalism.

    It repeated during the recent football World Cup, by the way.

  159. 3. At least in Moscow xenophoby is common.

    The first thing you see when you go out of your house is Uzbek workers (not one of them as in 50s, but a group of them: their labour is cheap and local administration is rich). I hear Tajik (technically, Persian) langauge from my window every morning, I think it is cool. But most people are wary of anything that is different, and many are arrogant to anything different and poor. When I hear how local people speak to those workers, it is not fun at all. Their boss is also a walking illustration for 19th centrury plantations. She communicates in yells.

    People from the North Caucasus, now Russian citizens (and in the case of Dagestan, usually staunch patriots) used to live in the North Caucasus. Now they are much more mobile. If you take the stereotype of them by nationalists, and present it positively, you have… d’Artagnans.

    Clashes of these with local Porthoses are a long and sad story, the Tajik child mentioned above was murdered during riots that followed death of an ethnic Russian guy killed by Caucasians. This illustrates a pattern: there is youth violence, and thus North Caucasians (Russian citizens) are pushed to the forefront as trouble-makers.

    But it is mixed with general anti-migrant sentiment and is spilled over “all those blacks”. A police officer once tried to convince me that all of them (including, say, Uzbeks) actually carry knives and only waiting for a moment when you turn your back to them to hit you.

    Won’t the rising general level of xenophobia affect Arfican students (Africans here are international students)?

    If you are specifically interested in Africans, you still can’t analyze it without xenophobia in general.

  160. Racism in Russia: Stories of prejudice:

    Recently a video of a taxi driver refusing to take a black man in his cab made waves on the internet in Russia. The person left standing on the kerb was 21-year-old Roy Ibonga, a Congolese man studying economics at Bryansk State University. In his video, published on social media, the driver can be heard saying “If I don’t like a person, I won’t give them a ride. It’s my car”. When Roy asks him bluntly “Are you a racist?” the driver replies, “Yes, of course.” […]

    Roy lives in Bryansk, a city 380km (236 miles) south of Moscow, where he is not the only African student, but all of them, he says, experience similar racist treatment. “That incident with the taxi – it happens a lot. I just decided to video it this time to show people. It’s the same every time. It happens to my friends too, but they can’t talk about it because they don’t speak Russian. […]

    Isabel Kastilio, marketing manager, 27:
    “I live in Moscow, but went to university in St Petersburg and I was born in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk [in the Russian Far East].” Isabel says she was treated meanly by other kids at school and reminded every single day that her skin colour was different. “It was very hard to put up with every day, even though I went to one of the best schools in town, specialising in maths and physics. I couldn’t stand up for myself there. I didn’t tell my parents about it. My big brother protected me at school. Sometimes he had to get into fights for me.”

    Isabel dreamt about moving from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to a place where she would be able to walk down the street without people looking at her. Both she and her Dominican dad were routinely stared at. “When I moved to St Petersburg everything was so much better, I began to forget that I look different. But later, when I started work and needed to rent a flat, I felt the racism again.” It was particularly bad in Moscow, says Isabel. All the letting ads said “Slavs only”. […]

    Kamilla Ogun, basketball player, 21:
    “I have been following the protests in the USA right from the start. I’m shocked by the brutality against people of colour there. Racism is a problem in Russia, too, but here everything is hushed up.” Kamilla is of Russian and Nigerian origin. She grew up in Stary Oskol, a town 600km south of Moscow. There weren’t many other people of colour around. “You could count the number of black people there on the fingers of one hand. I was lucky because my class was quite tolerant and we all knew each other from nursery school. But kids in other classes called me names. That was racist for sure and they insulted me.”

    I know, you’re going to tell me these stories are cherry-picked and not representative…

  161. David Eddyshaw says:

    This supposed absence of Russian racism puts me in mind of Mr Deasy in Ulysses:

    Mr Deasy halted, breathing hard and swallowing his breath.
    – I just wanted to say, he said. Ireland, they say, has the honour of being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No. And do you know why?
    He frowned sternly on the bright air.
    – Why, sir? Stephen asked, beginning to smile.
    – Because she never let them in, Mr Deasy said solemnly.
    A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm. He turned back quickly, coughing, laughing, his lifted arms waving to the air.
    – She never let them in, he cried again through his laughter as he stamped on gaitered feet over the gravel of the path. That’s why.

    The entire passage (as they say) bears reading. Later …

    – What is your nation, I may ask, says the citizen.
    – Ireland, says Bloom. I was born here. Ireland.

  162. I know, you’re going to tell me these stories are cherry-picked and not representative…

    LH, I said this:

    If you are specifically interested in Africans, you still can’t analyze it without xenophobia in general.

    You should not single out Africans and ignore the rest. Even if you have a very personal reason to be concerned with well-being of African students here.

    ll the letting ads said “Slavs only”. […]

    “Slavs only” means: not Uzbeks. Not Chechens. If a black girl comes the landlady is surprised. But very likely she won’t welcome a black girl either. My Uzbek freind (a guy with very refined manners, one of our best go players who would read Poincaré works when he is bored, without being a mathematician) couldn’t rent a flat here. Because Uzbeks are supposed to be poor villagers and surely some 20 of his relatives will arrive soon and ruin the property and god knows what problems you should expect from a girl from Africa.

  163. LH these stroies are representative I think.

    This supposed absence of Russian racism
    I can only repeat: It is not that when a Tajik girl is killed it is better, because her nose was straight.

  164. This BBC propaganda piece (presumably part of the British campaign against 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia) struck me by the most implausible choice of a Russian provincial city portrayed as a den of Russian racism.

    Actually, typical school in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk looks like this:

    https://yuzhno-sakh.ru/files/news/12957.jpg

  165. You should not single out Africans and ignore the rest.

    Forgive me, but this reminds me of the Soviet reaction to the Holocaust: You should not single out Jews and ignore the rest — all Soviet citizens suffered in the war! Prejudice against black people is different in kind from prejudice against random Others. As I’ve said before, if I want to know about prejudice, I’ll ask the victims, not those who have only an intellectual stake in the question.

  166. This BBC propaganda piece

    And there we go. If it talks about Russian racism, it’s propaganda!

  167. I happened recently to have gotten curious about Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and drove around it on Google. Big fancy downtown, squalid outskirts. I was cheered by a dumpster emblazoned MASHA DURAK. Kids everywhere.

  168. John Cowan says:

    I did get the name wrong, but no, Joshua Goldberg is who I meant.

    Moreover, any distinction between xenophobia and racism is of little interest to the targets thereof

    Any distinction between murder, manslaughter, and entirely accidental killing is of no interest whatsoever to the targets thereof, but that does not mean that we, the living, should make no distinctions between them. Nevertheless I take your point.

  169. I don’t see how that could be a “typical school in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk”. Per WP, the largest minority in Y-S (and Sakhalin) are Russians Koreans, who form 12% of the population. The crowd in the photo seems to be families of students, and is about half-Korean. Either the school is in a neighborhod with a large Korean population, or more relatives of the Korean students showed up for the event (graduation, I presume), or the the picture is of a non-representative part of the crowd.

    Anyway, the existence of Koreans, a sizeable minority who’d been there for generations, says nothing to contradict the first-hand account of discrimination and harrassment by a solitary dark-skinned woman in that town.

  170. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t thnk we disagree much, but we compare red and green apples as if they belonged to different genera. Both xenophobia and racism are everywhere, reflecting innate crude mechanisms to deal with the unknown and unpredictable, but for the distinction between them to be meaningful outside of a specific cultural context, one also has to assume that the mechanisms behind the two are different and clearly discernable.

    It is probably meaningful to discern between the psychological mechanisms of skepticism towards that which we can’t control, rationalization of learned behaviour, and generalization of socially determined variables onto superficial traits, but their cultural and behavioral reflexes are intermingled in both xenophobia and racism and the two can hardly be discerned outside of a cultural context. If we agree that blackness is an arbitrary variable, just the most visually obvious of many superficial inherited traits that vary between local populatons, and that racist attitudes towards black people can arbitrarily be extended to whoever are culturally defined as black regardless of whether those inherited traits are present, then it doesn’t make sense to treat white racism towards blacks as inherently different from other culturally defined biases towards groups or populations as played out in different cultures, even if the two groups can’t be discerned on physical traits alone.

    So, going back to the mechanisms, Both xenophobia and racism prey on the same generalizations. If there’s a difference between them, it’s that the former is more about anxiety for the unknown while the latter is more about rationalization of learned behaviour. But one person’s skepticism is the next person’s learned behaviour. Maybe we could say that xenophobia is how racism is born.

  171. I think they are two different concepts, although they both belong to that continuum known as “discrimination”. And needless to say, there is plenty of potential for overlap.

    Xenophobia is (and I quote from a definition on the Internet) “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries”. That is, foreigners. It seems to assume that the ‘in-group’ (people of a particular country) have a feeling of solidarity internally, and a (monolithic) fear of people from other countries as an ‘outgroup’.

    Racism is more complex. Google gives “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism by an individual, community, or institution against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized”. Merriam-Webster is much more particular: “1. a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, also: behavior or attitudes that reflect and foster this belief : racial discrimination or prejudice; 2. the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another specifically : WHITE SUPREMACY sense 2; 3. a political or social system founded on racism and designed to execute its principles.

    The definition of “racism” is more specific than that of “xenophobia”, which would seem to reflect the fact that it is historically grounded in Western colonialism. It’s not directed at “outsiders”; it’s directed at people of a different “race”, regardless of nationality or citizenship. Still-lingering 19th century ideas would divide humanity into three races, ‘white’, ‘yellow’, and ‘black’, and although it’s possible to add “brown”, “swarthy”, etc., I think this gross categorisation still lies at the bottom of what people mean by “race” and “racism”. As is often pointed out, race defined according to skin colour is not a biologically valid construct.

    Black people, in particular, are stigmatised by this categorisation, perhaps due to the history of European encounters with Africans in the colonial era. In other words, it’s the product of a particular era and mentality, and it is “international” in that it tends to set “white people” who belong to more than one country against “black people” who belong to more than one country. Thus the white supremacist idea in some Western countries that Russians are also part of the “white race”. (It would be interesting to see how far back prejudice against people for being “black” goes. Did it exist in ancient times? White people possibly think so, a notion that has been challenged by the thesis that Egyptians were actually blacks.)

    The case has been made that discrimination against black people in the US is a kind of caste system (I believe an entire book was recently published about the topic). A caste system is not xenophobia; it is discrimination against a particular segment of society. It doesn’t have to be based on “race” (however that is defined). Physically indistinguishable groups might be subject to caste discrimination, e.g., the burakumin in Japan.

    I do think that it’s useful to distinguish between “racism” and “xenophobia”, and also that it is possible to distinguish between different types of discrimination practised in different societies, e.g., Europe vs the US. Other bases for discrimination also exist, such as that based on social class. But subsuming everything under the term “racism” on the basis that they’re all a kind of discrimination doesn’t seem very helpful.

    Needless to say, discrimination usually has a historical background, which means that one system (racism) could easily grow out of another (xenophobia, class or caste systems, etc.).

  172. I think xenophobia is basic, perhaps even natural and common to every human group in history.

    Racism in some sense is just xenophobia based on a few racial characteristics, but white supremacy based on racism is something unique to America and Western Europe and is relatively recent, it arose after introduction of plantation slavery.

    Asians don’t have anything similar to white supremacy concept, for example. (but they have xenophobia in abundance, mostly against other Asians).

    So I would distinguish xenophobia, xenophobic racism and white supremacy.

    Everyone has xenophobia, nations which often encounter people from other races may develop xenophobic racism, but only Americans and Western Europeans (and Western European settlers elsewhere) have concept of white supremacy which encompasses idea of a wider white race.

    It is a marginal import in Eastern Europe and Russia, a region which is otherwise very xenophobic, but it’s xenophobes are usually more concerned with a threat from their close neighbours.

  173. Perhaps other racial groups which historically suffered from white supremacy might develop similar ideas as a reaction.

  174. Perhaps other racial groups which historically suffered from white supremacy might develop similar ideas as a reaction.
    My understanding is that such ideas were strong in Japan in the first half of the 20th century, assuming a racial superiority of Japanese about other people, and that ideas about the racial superiority of Koreans are part of the official ideology in North Korea. So, suprematist ideas existed and exist in Asia; I assume they are mostly a reaction to colonial white suprematism.

  175. No, these ideas are not even remotely similar to white supremacy.

    White supremacy requires belief in belonging to a superior race which goes beyond one country. For example, if Japanese fascists were ready to include Koreans and Chinese as part of some superior Asian race, then it would be similar, but it never even came close to that.

    Present day Asian nationalisms (and associated xenophobia and racism) are extremely parochial and barely exceed in sophistication primitive tribes which called themselves “true people” and all others “enemies”.

  176. David Eddyshaw says:

    You are tacitly assuming, in making your distinction between “xenophobia” and “racism”, that there is a scientific basis to “race.” There isn’t; there is therefore no reason why Japanese fascists should not regard themselves as of superior “race” to Koreans (and they did.)

    Indeed, the idea that Koreans, Japanese and Chinese all belong to a single “Mongolian race” is itself a vapouring of Western “scientific” racism.

    When I was teaching anatomy, I came across a (Japanese-produced) book in the university library which dated from the Japanese hypernationalist period before the war: it was called The Anatomy of the Japanese Body. The introduction explained the necessity for the work in terms which mutatis mutandis would have made a KKK Grand Wizard proud.

    There seemed to be a lot of overlap with the anatomy of the Scottish body. I did not make a systematic comparison with the anatomy of the Welsh body, however.

  177. Racism is more complex.

    Honeslty, from here it seems that xenophobia is. There is a variety of reasons and ways of fearing or disliking “aliens”. Racism for me is:

    1. assigning undue uimportance to a person’s race.
    2. negative attitudes discrimination etc, based on race.
    3. any ideology supporting it.

    And it appears to be a very primitive ideology: “we are better than them”. But I can be wrong.

    For example, a mother bleaching her daughter’s skin because in the country women must be as white as possible – that is, for a girl skin colour affects her social success. Aristrocatic (male and female) beauty based on avoding sunlight and tan is also well known to Europe. It is clearly colourism. But it can be connected to racism if there is a history of black slavery or racial inequality in this country. What I mean by this: there is a variety of things that may have to do with racism, but have little to do with racism as you know it. Racism can be complex.

    1. is interesting. For me this point is important. I can imagine a “cute” racism of this kind: I can claim sexism, for example, because as a man I care more about women.

    But I also can be extremely hostile to attempts to divide the world in “black” and “white” and assign fundamental importance to these notions. Often I feel, an anti-racist is teaching me racism and really want to call her a racist and say somethign rude.

    Why I would give a crap for whether you’re white or black or what? You’re Mary, or John. If you hate Finns and “Finns” for you are a race, it is racism. If people with darker skin (colourism) OR Africans (racism) face discrimination more often this pattern must be analyzed of course and countered too.

    But we base our moral on “persons” and then study patterns of discrimination against persons. Not against blacks.

    If you think it is moral to protect blacks – you’re a racist. You don’t even respect them, possibly.

    If you think it is moral to protect persons, don’t fail to recognize discrimination against whites when you see it, but, having defined your moral in terms of “persons” see uneven distribution of discrimination – you are not.

  178. dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries”.

    Why “country” would matter?

    You are prejuced based on person’s beard, langauge and looks. His citizenship is not what you care about at all.

  179. PlasticPaddy says:

    @drasvi
    Maybe this is not what you are saying, but I am vaguely uncomfortable with an assertion that discrimination should be discussed in relation to persons, not groups, and that all groups (independent of relative size or impact of discrimination) should be considered together. I am reminded of the attitude of some of my co-religionists in Northern Ireland who would insist on amending legislation to alleviate anti-Catholic discrimination in order to include not just Catholics but also Jews, Hindus, sun-worshippers, etc. I feel a similar vague discomfort when Michael O’Leary or Bill Gates say it is more “logical” to deal with individual employees than trade-union reps.

  180. David Eddyshaw says:

    it is more “logical” to deal with individual employees than trade-union reps.

    Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
    Unless we organize

  181. Why “country” would matter?

    Merriam-Webster agrees with you. Xenophobia is “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign”.

    But this is not the same as “racism”. Racism is based on race, not strangeness or foreignness.

    I also can be extremely hostile to attempts to divide the world in “black” and “white” and assign fundamental importance to these notions.

    But racism is is concerned with dividing the world into “black” and “white” and assigning fundamental importance to these notions. It’s not about seeing people for what they are; it’s about seeing people through the prism of race. It buys into an entire ideology which ascribes characteristics to individuals by assigning them to a category based the colour of their skin.

  182. Important also to note that the meaning of “race” has changed over time. In the 19th century people talked of “the German race” or “the British race”. Now it’s mostly used for skin colour and other “racial”characteristics.

  183. Indeed, the idea that Koreans, Japanese and Chinese all belong to a single “Mongolian race” is itself a vapouring of Western “scientific” racism.
    Exactly.
    What the Korean and Japanese racists took from Western racism was the idea of a superior race, just not linking it to skin colour. This is still racial suprematism, because it defines supremacy based on supposedly shared genes, and leaves no room for cultural assimilation. In this, it is similar to Nazi racial suprematism, for which also skin color wasn’t sufficient for inclusion in the Aryan race – lily-white Jews and Slavs were still Untermenschen, with Jews even below Africans on the racial scale – the latter were supposed to be servants to the “master race”, the former to be exterminated.

  184. PlasticPaddy that is not what I am saying. What I mean is: it is important for me to think in terms of “persons”, especially when I define my internal moral and my ideas of right and wrong.

    Speaking in groups can be harmful, and it can make you a (racist, sexist, -ist) etc.

    But it is not either/or.

    For most Jews their Jewish roots are important. Naturally, if you respect a Jew personally, you respect her Jewishness (to the extent it is important for her) and femininity, if she is a woman. Anti-Semitism is a powerful enough idea, so we speak about it too.

    My main interest is not convincing others. Rather protecting my own mind and soul. The proposal is not that we never generalize: humans love to say “we”, humans do see patterns.

    These groups and patterns tend to then leak deeper into our thinking and this is the point where I fight back.

  185. But racism is is concerned with dividing the world into “black” and “white” and assigning fundamental importance to these notions. It’s not about seeing people for what they are; it’s about seeing people through the prism of race. It buys into an entire ideology which ascribes characteristics to individuals by assigning them to a category based the colour of their skin.

    Absolutely. Racism is ugly. And the above is what racism is all about.

  186. David Eddyshaw says:

    If I understand you right, drasvi, your worry is that even acknowledging the concept of racism makes one somehow complicit, as it seems to be endorsing the racists’ own false categorisation of humanity.

    I have some sympathy with that; indeed over the (long-ago) argument about whether there should be “Black Sections” in the Labour Party it bothered me that we seemed to be in danger of adopting the very divisions we should be opposing: how do you decide that someone is eligible to be a member of a “Black Section”? Ask an Apartheid enforcer?

    In practice, self-identification seems to have worked fine without the sky falling in; and much as one dislikes pandering to these poisonous fantasy notions of “race” in any way, the fact is that people supposed to belong to an inferior “race” by racists do as a direct consequence have a whole set of legitimate specific problems (to put it mildly) justifying them banding together for strength; problems which will not be alleviated by telling them that the entire reason for their persecution is nonsense (even though it is.)

    When everyone in the world is like you, we won’t need to oppose racism any more; for now, we do.

  187. Exactly.

  188. fantasy notions of “race”

    Anti-Semite: We Hate Jews!
    Shlomo Zand: Jews Don’t Exist.

    Interesting defense mechanism. “Race is a social construct” argument has similar motivation, I suspect.

  189. “Race is a social construct” argument has similar motivation, I suspect.

    Do you seriously argue there is such a thing as scientifically definable race?

  190. Perhaps it will help to point out that “race” as understood today is a product of the Enlightenment you so dislike.

  191. Phrase “race is a social construct” has about same utility as “everything in this Universe you can think of is a social construct”.

    Explains everything and nothing.

    Nation is a social construct. Family is a social construct. Tribe is a social construct. Individual is a social construct. Language is a social construct.

    OK, suppose they are.

    So what?

    Does this make Jews or American blacks (or whites* for that matter) non-existent?

    *There is a peculiar argument popular among Russian liberals which tries to prove that Russians don’t exist. Because, you know, if you dig into your genealogy deep enough, you’ll inevitably find some non-Russian and therefore “Russians don’t exist”.

    But I agree, of course, that with some effort it would be possible to make Jewishness or blackness go away (it doesn’t even matter if they are social constructs or not), but it requires sufficiently strong assimilation pressure by the state (and desire to assimilate by the minorities).

  192. Phrase “race is a social construct” has about same utility as “everything in this Universe you can think of is a social construct”.

    Nonsense. It means specifically that there is no such thing as scientifically definable race, that “race” is purely a social construct. In other words, without racists there would be no race, there would just be people of a wide variety of appearances. Stars, tables, rocks, etc. are not social constructs, even though of course they have social meanings. It’s not that hard to understand.

  193. In the United States, race is a social reality (with somewhat blurry borders). In Africa, race is an anthropological reality.

    It is theoretically possible to make United States a raceless society, but you’d need very muscular assimilationist policy and strong nationalism encompassing all English-speaking Americans. (but the end result after maybe a century would be a very different America)

    In Africa, forget about it.

    “Race is a social construct” is basically a childish desire to close your eyes and make the ugly thing go away.

    It won’t.

  194. Do you really not understand the difference between race and physically determinable entities, or do you not want to understand? Perhaps you have not noticed that saying race is a social construct does not mean denying its existence as a social fact.

  195. In Africa, race is an anthropological reality
    Now I’m curious what you mean with that.

  196. Me too.

  197. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wait, hat thinks that tables are not social constructs? Not only in the sense that a given object we might, if speaking English, agree should be called a table exists but in the sense that there is an objective definition or essence of tableness that distinguishes all tables from all non-tables without any fuzzy boundaries or disputed cases and without the conventional lines being drawn differently in different languages and/or at different times and places?

  198. Sharp borders. Much more obvious and self-evident differences between races than in America.

    Removes any need for “scientifically definable race”.

  199. tables are not social constructs?

    In Russian, tableness turns into chairness by vowel shift…

  200. 1. populations do exist.

    2. perception of species, subspecies and race may natrually arise from your brain combined with your background. Distinguishing between populations may very well be a biological thing.

  201. A lot about races and their taxonomies is indeed arbitrary.

    When Obama is “black”, your “black” is definitely a social construct. He still look like someone with mixed East-African and European ancestry.

    it was very suprising for me. I heard about a black guy – and then found myself looking at someone who is as white as he is black and whose black roots are clearly from the East fo Africa, not from where most American black come. They I googled his biography.

  202. “Race is a social construct” has a specific meaning in the US. It strikes back at the historic notion of easily definable and unmixing races and emphasises that whatever differences between people of widely different ancestries exist, they don’t need to be conceptualized in a way that historically happened. I don’t find it either too profound or troubling.

    There are plenty of scientific racists in US today. For some reason they have settled on IQ as a variable of choice. I hope that when advanced AI makes human intellegence obsolete we can finally live in peace. But I think that my hope is in vain.

    Suprematism.

  203. David Eddyshaw says:

    Sharp borders. Much more obvious and self-evident differences between races than in America.

    Where are these sharp borders of which you speak, exactly? I must have been blinded to them by my wet liberal preconceptions when I lived in Africa.

    There is a tiny scintilla of truth buried in this, inasmuch as the great majority of the trivial genetic variation within our species occurs in Africa. Big deal.

    Race is certainly an anthopological reality. Anthropology is primarily the study of human culture in all its astonishing variety. Perhaps you have only previously encountered the (intellectually sterile) subfield of physical anthropology, and mistaken this fragment for the whole?

  204. J.W. Brewer says:

    One of my favorite paintings in the entire history of humans making paintings is the lovely one by Malevich titled in Russian Точильщик (variously “The Knife-grinder” or “The Scissors-grinder” in English), which he produced only two or three years before he did the banal and ugly thing D.O. linked to. He got mixed up with Theories and they sucked the life out of him.

  205. Lets note by the way, that Russian “negr” – in my idiolect – is a different thing. It is an aesthetical entity. Someone with features common for Africa (but not for black skinned people elsewhere).

    If you need negative connotations, take maybe “Africa”. This one has some. Wars etc.

    By comparison, Russian “black” is an insult. Racists were the first to borrow “white” and “black”! And I use “whites” and “blacks” specifically when referring to racist context, just like I say “Coloureds” meaning somethign specifically South African.

    “Is Stivell a negr?” “No, he is Frenchman, a Breton. His mom is a Jewess, though”. This is neutral for me.
    “Is Stivell (a) black?” “No, he is (a) white”. This is somewhat racist conversation for me.

    In Russian nouns are neutral and adjectives like white, black, red etc tend to be loaded (black-skinned, light-skinned aren’t but they are not very convenient).

    In English it is the opposite. Hope people here realize this difference. Russian “negr” is a word I can use when discussing stereotypes, but it brings a visual image of a member of some African populatrions.
    Not someone, for example, who likes music (one of stereotypes of Africans).

  206. David Eddyshaw says:
  207. Wait, hat thinks that tables are not social constructs? Not only in the sense that a given object we might, if speaking English, agree should be called a table exists but in the sense that there is an objective definition or essence of tableness that distinguishes all tables from all non-tables without any fuzzy boundaries or disputed cases and without the conventional lines being drawn differently in different languages and/or at different times and places?

    You’re right, bad example. I just meant that you can kick a table but you can’t kick “race.”

  208. “blonde” is also a noun in Russian. A blonde, a brunette, a marokkanka (a female Moroccan)

    It is quite different in English where some people say that adjectives are better, because nouns say what I “am”, while adjecties just describe me. Cf. “Jewish” vs “Jews and Jewesses”.

  209. Decades ago I was told by a US second-generation Indian, a very dark-skinned Dravidian, that on some form or another (census?) he was marked as “white”.

    For the 1930 census,

    There were specific instructions for reporting race. A person of mixed White and Negro blood was to be returned as Negro, no matter how small the percentage of Negro blood; someone part Indian and part Negro also was to be listed as Negro unless the Indian blood predominated and the person was generally accepted as an Indian in the community.

    A person of mixed White and [American] Indian blood was to be returned as an Indian, except where the percentage of Indian blood was very small or where he or she was regarded as White in the community. For persons reported as American Indian in column 12 (color or race), columns 19 and 20 were to be used to indicate the degree of Indian blood and the tribe, instead of the birthplace of father and mother.

    In order to obtain separate figures for Mexicans, it was decided that all persons born in Mexico, or having parents born in Mexico, who were not definitely White, Negro, Indian, Chinese, or Japanese, would be returned as Mexicans (Mex).

    That’s race as a social construct, laid out in detail.

  210. Here’s a perhaps relevant passage from Sinyavsky/Tertz’s Прогулки с Пушкиным about Pushkin’s pride in his African ancestry:

    Это уже абсолютно живой, мгновенно узнаваемый Пушкин (не то что Поэт), лишь немного утрированный, совмещающий в себе человеческие черты с поэтическими в той густейшей смеси, что порождает уже новое качество, нерасторгаемое единство чудесной экзотики, душевного жара и привлекательного уродства, более отвечающего званию артиста, нежели стандартная маска певца с цевницей. Безупречный пушкинский вкус избрал негра в соавторы, угадав, что черная, обезьянообразная харя пойдет ему лучше ангельского личика Ленского, что она-то и есть его подлинное лицо, которым можно гордиться и которое красит его так же, как хромота — Байрона, безобразие — Сократа, пуще всех Рафаэлей. И потом, чорт побери, в этой морде бездна иронии!..

    О как уцепился Пушкин за свою негритянскую внешность и свое африканское прошлое, полюбившееся ему, пожалуй, сильнее, чем прошлое дворянское. Ибо, помимо родства по крови, тут было родство по духу. По фантазии. Дворян-то много, а негр — один. Среди всего необъятного бледного человечества один-единственный, яркий, как уголь, поэт. Отелло. Поэтический негатив человека. Курсив. Графит. Особеный, ни на кого не похожий. Такому и Демон не требуется. Сам — негр.

    “There were a lot of aristocrats, but only one Negro.”

  211. J.W. Brewer says:

    You can kick an object that almost all AmEng speakers would agree is a table and you can (although this may be more morally dubious and legally risky) kick an individual human being that almost all AmEng speakers would agree is a member of a particular race. So if you think that the category is natural/useful/benign in one case and artificial/distracting/pernicious in the other, it’s not the kickability of individual alleged exemplars that’s the distinction.

    About 40 years ago there was a certain vogue in some circles for adapting objects conventionally thought of as non-tables for use as tables — with the seeming incongruity being more striking than instances like whether the object on which the keyboard on which I am now typing is located is a “desk” or a “table” or both — leading Walker Percy to pose the following question:

    Question: Why was not a single table designed as such rather than being a non-table doing duty as a table?
    (a) Because people have gotten tired of ordinary tables.
    (b) Because the fifty non-tables converted to use as tables make good conversation pieces.
    (c) Because it is a chance to make use of valuable odds and ends which otherwise would gather dust in the attic.
    (d) Because the self in the twentieth century is a voracious nought which expands like the feeding vacuole of an amoeba seeking to nourish and inform its own nothingness by ingesting new objects in the world but, like a vacuole, only succeeds in emptying them out.

    (CHECK ONE)

  212. There is a tiny scintilla of truth buried in this, inasmuch as the great majority of the trivial genetic variation within our species occurs in Africa
    This is an important point. It would probably be possible to sort humanity into genetic lineages in some kind of a scientific manner (even if intermixture between those lineages would make that difficult), but what you would come up with then would not be the traditional division into a black, white, and yellow race; there would be dozens of African lineages that would be more genetically distant from each other than, say, a Swede would be from a Chinese or a dark-skinned Australian Aborigine. Dividing humanity into a white, yellow, and black race is about as scientific as dividing it into, say, Russians, Finns, and Others, and then making judgments on physical, intellectual, and cultural abilities where all “Others” are treated as indistinguishable. (Not that I think that it would make sense to judge about intellectual or cultural abilities based on genetic lineages, either).

  213. it’s not the kickability of individual alleged exemplars that’s the distinction

    Of course not, I was just explaining my thought process, such as it was.

  214. Stop kicking tables! In school Russian children learn that an Ancient Russian prince so-and-so “sat on his father’s table”. You wouldn’t want to kick that kind of a table now, would you?

  215. Funny you should mention Russian princes and tables; later on in the same passage, Sinyavsky says:

    И тут ему снова потрафил черный дед Ибрагим. Надо же было так случиться, что его звали Ганнибалом! Целый гейзер видений вырывался с этим именем. Туда, туда, в доисторическую античность, к козлоногим богам и менадам убегала тропинка, по которой пришел к нам негритенок Пушкин. «Черный дед мой Ганнибал» сделался центральным героем его родословной, оттеснив рыхлых бояр на нижние столы — первый и главный предок поэта.

  216. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think the problem is not so much whether “race” is “real” but what kind of real it is: the core problem is that racists pretend it’s one kind of “real” when it isn’t.

    Race is perfectly real in the sense that many other intangible cultural artefacts are, like Christianity or Tottenham Hotspur or true love or alliteration or money or America.
    None of these things is real in the sense that a table is real (except for hardcore Idealists and the like whom I propose to ignore for simplicity and because they deserve it.)

    The findings of physics, chemistry and biology belong in the former category. On some level, they too are cultural constructs. However, most (normal) people in our culture accord them a privileged status: rightly so, because scientific method (in the sense of being systematically prepared to admit your own errors and revise your theories in the light of new evidence, which should be actively sought for) has a moral claim on belief (a point I endeavour to get over to creationists now and then when feeling penitential); scientific theories may be wrong, but they are not just matters of custom or opinion (unless you’re Paul Feyerabend.)

    What “scientific” racists do is to make the false claim that “race” belongs in this privileged category. The more housebroken among them pretend to regret their “findings”: “it would be lovely to deceive ourselves with liberal fantasies, but the cold scientific truth is …”

    Non-scientific racists don’t care, of course. They know what they like, and that’s all that matters.

  217. None of these things is real in the sense that a table is real (except for hardcore Idealists and the like whom I propose to ignore for simplicity and because they deserve it.)

    Hm.

  218. There are many levels of reality vs. (social) construct between “table” and “race”. Chemical element is not real in the same sense as table is, and saying something is a “gas” is another level of reality/construct, and difference between organic and inorganic chemistry is somewhat real, but mostly on a “construct” side and division between physics and chemistry (and maybe even biology) is a pure construct. “Race” IMHO is somewhere between organic/inorganic and chemistry/physics distinction on a reality/construction scale. xkcd should have made a cartoon out of it.

  219. David Eddyshaw says:

    There are many levels of reality vs. (social) construct between “table” and “race”

    Absolutely. I was also cheating a bit by not clearly distinguishing between levels of reality and plausibility of claims on belief: they’re not the same thing at all (even for hardcore Nominalists like me.) But I’m just not capable of teasing out all the details properly. As you rightly imply, only Randall Monroe can do that.

  220. Regarding race, what do you guys think about this:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genetic_Diversity:_Lewontin's_Fallacy

  221. J.W. Brewer says:

    The question is maybe what “level of reality” is occupied by zoologists’ taxonomic categories. It is apparently the current consensus that the claim that chimpanzees form a single species but are further subdivided into four or five subspecies is … I dunno … True, or maybe just Useful (for some relevant set of anticipated uses). Although perhaps there are a minority of lumpers among chimpanzee specialists who think the the dominant splitter approach is untrue and/or unuseful?

    As I understand at least some of the so-called scientific racists, they assert that it is similarly True or maybe just similarly Useful to subdivide the chimpanzee’s cousin species H. sapiens into finer taxonomic categories below the species level. That seems in the abstract like it could be a valid claim or an invalid claim, in light of all relevant evidence, in very much the same way as the current consensus claim about chimpanzee taxonomy could be either valid or invalid, although obviously there’s no reason to think that if the claim is valid for chimpanzees it is likely valid for humans or vice versa. And rather importantly there has been no particularly strong motivation for outsiders to rigorously question (or unrigorously disparage) the current conventional wisdom among chimpanzee specialists, because not much of importance to non-specialists seems to hinge on what chimpanzee subtaxonomy is or isn’t the correct one.

  222. @Serner: From a scientific point of view, I think neither Lewontin’s study nor Edwards’s critique are particularly interesting. They were arguing about categories which to begin with had no scientific basis, based as they were on superficial and biased observation. A modern geneticist would not bother to think about whether an Andamanese should be classified as Mongoloid, Australoid or Negroid.

    From a political point of view, Lewontin’s study was important in helping to quench some remaining embers of so-called scientific racism. It’s unfortunate that the study was flawed, but its political purpose was accomplished, for its time. That purpose was further established by later and better studies.

  223. I note that everyone in America, including apparently racists (scientific or otherwise) somehow misses one single fact about African Americans which would be central to any European nationalist.

    African Americans are one quarter White American by descent. Most of that quarter is English (and the rest perhaps French).

    This fact ought to have some significant implications, I would think.

    Nazis, for example, were positively obsessed with percentages of Aryan blood* in various Slavic peoples. And one of the favorite topics of Russian ethno-nationalists is the share of Slavic blood in Eastern Germans (about one third). These figures mattered a lot – they directly influenced how this particular ethnic group was viewed.

    * I think a quarter of African American population would be classified as white if Nazi Nuremberg laws applied to them – the rest would be Mischlingen of 1st or 2nd degree. And there would zero pure-blooded Negroes.

    ** One drop rule is absolutely crazy by world standards, it has no parallels in history of any other nation anywhere. People usually tend to attach a lot more value to their own flesh and blood.

  224. I note that everyone in America, including apparently racists (scientific or otherwise) somehow misses one single fact about African Americans which would be central to any European nationalist.

    You might get farther if you stopped making crazed statements like that. I assure you everyone in America is perfectly aware of this fact; it is not hidden or ignored. It’s as if I said “everyone in Russia somehow misses one single fact about Jews: they have a different religion!” Get serious.

  225. And yes, I know many Jews in Russia and elsewhere aren’t religious. That’s not the point.

  226. it is not hidden or ignored.

    “Race is a social construct” theory is a very roundabout way to acknowledge this fact.

  227. …which would be central to any European nationalist

    This is an absurd statement. There is hardly a 2 cent difference between Russians and Ukrainians and yet the hatred is alive and kicking. And I’d guess there is a very small difference between all sorts of Slavs and yet they are constantly sobachat’s’a (in a dogfight). French speaking Swiss dislike French and German speaking Swiss do not like Germans (on information and believe, I didn’t observe any hostility, not that I looked closely).

  228. David Eddyshaw says:

    Nobody likes the Swiss. It’s a mystery.
    I expect it is in some way connected with Heidi.

  229. We have wandered once again into the territory of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, number three.

  230. “Race is a social construct” theory is a very roundabout way to acknowledge this fact.

    Not only do you not understand the idea, you think “Race is a social construct” is the sum total of the understanding of everyone but yourself.

  231. Trond Engen says:

    It’s generally fruitless to rank the different xenophobic and racist worldviews by logical coherence. The axiomatic truths of the ideological system are whichever produce the necessary arguments for a foregone conclusion.

  232. J.W. Brewer says:

    FWIW, the strict version of the “one-drop” rule developed rather late in the U.S. Some years ago while looking for something else quite different I stumbled into a discussion of that issue in an interesting contemporaneous source, viz. John Belton O’Neall’s 1848 treatise “Negro Law of South Carolina,” which is written in more or less the same practical tone as a legal text explaining the zoning law of Oregon would be written in today. It is fascinating in part because of the clinical tone, suitable for explaining the technical details of some phenomenon the author and his assumed readership find so commonplace as to warrant neither condemnation nor justification. You can find it scanned on archive.org. (Wikipedia claims the book was controversial at the time because it was perceived as insufficiently vehement in its defense of the status quo. Maybe so, although I read its occasional calls for moderate reform of the status quo, often accompanied with the rhetorical point that that such-and-such moderate reform would deprive abolitionist propagandists of one of their talking points, as giving the point of view of someone who is not particularly uncomfortable with the status quo.)

    In any event, it says “When the mulatto ceases, and a party bearing some slight taint of the African blood ranks as white, is a question for the solution of a Jury. … No specific rule, as to the quantity of negro blood which will compel a Jury to find one to be a mulatto, has ever been adopted. Between 1/4 and 1/8 seems fairly to be debateable ground. When the blood is reduced to, or below, 1/8, the Jury ought always to find the party white. When the blood is 1/4 or more African, the Jury must find the party a mulatto.”

  233. I assume one reason for the “one drop of blood” rule was economical – it made it easier to keep children of slaves fathered by whites as slaves, dispensing of any necessity to investigate whether and how much white fathering had gone on among the slave child’s ancestors.

  234. Hans got to the nub of it:

    It would probably be possible to sort humanity into genetic lineages in some kind of a scientific manner (even if intermixture between those lineages would make that difficult), but what you would come up with then would not be the traditional division into a black, white, and yellow race; there would be dozens of African lineages that would be more genetically distant from each other than, say, a Swede would be from a Chinese or a dark-skinned Australian Aborigine.

    SFReader had it right the first time: “Racism in some sense is just xenophobia based on a few racial characteristics”. The most salient characteristic in Africa is black skin (lots of melanin), plus a few others. Apart from that, Africans are genetically extremely diverse. So what sense does it make to talk of a “Negroid race”? The “Negroid race” is the result of adopting a few narrow criteria to consign (sub-Saharan) Africans to a single race — it’s not a scientifically valid concept. And SFReader himself pointed out the consequences in the United States: one drop of blood from this unscientifically defined “Negroid race” and you are an “Afro-American” in the eyes of the law and of society. Perhaps you’re allergic to the term “social construct”, SFReader, but that’s exactly what this is about.

    Your other examples (ethnicity, nationality, etc.) are, as you point out, equally “social constructs”. As the mantra goes, nations are imagined communities. Nationalism (and xenophobia) brings its own set of woes, as I’m sure anyone here would agree. Westphalian states are legal entities, and citizenship is precisely defined, again a kind of social construct.

    The problem is that racism is based not on assignment to a particular Westphalian state, which at least has a legal basis, but on assignment to “races” — both within and between Westphalian states — based on pseudo-science. And the results are pernicious. (The division of populations between Westphalian states brings about its own deep inequalities. For example, being a citizen of a Western country gives you far greater opportunities to travel to different countries, due to broader access to visas, than being a citizen of a Third World country.)

  235. When you say that a certain population is “inferior”, my defence is not science. Science is likely to find some correlations between ancestry and character traits. Or IQ. Or whatever. If with “blacks” it is embarrassing, let it be: Russians less smart or less noble or less something than Arabs. Science is very good at producing nuclear warheads, why genetics can’t make unpleasant discoveries?

    I assume, in early 20th century eugenics looked like basic common sense for many.

    But I honestly don’t think that pigs are inferior to humans. I also value personal expereince. Am I expected to subject the woman I love to an IQ test before marriage?

    You are a sailor. You discover a continent. People there look like nothing you ever seen before. How exactly you tell if it is a species, subspecies or a race? And why does it matter? You just trade beads for what you need from them. And what do you mean when saying that orangutans are hominids, but not humans?

    Reproductive isolation? This can only be learned from an experiment. There is a degree of communicative isolation: you can’t teach them English. Also an experiment.

    Then in 19th centruy you are technologically advanced. And a professor says that your civilization and culture are superior to theirs. Then he also says, they are half-animals. What does he mean? 1. their culture sucks (exactly this) 2. some other sort of isolation, technological. You can’t teach most of them science.

    And the same professor and many around him think the same about peasants in his own country. Well, indeed the professor has no a priori reason to expect a population not to be another Homo species. Why there can’t be such a population and why it can’t be discovered? And with his (common sense!) belief in superior and inferior cultures, why can’t it be transferred to people of that culture?

  236. I just mean: “that was unscientific but now it is scientific” doesn’t sound very comforting to me.

    If your goal is being a human, you don’t rely on science, you just stay a human.

  237. David Eddyshaw says:

    It’s really not hard to recognise that another person is a human being. We are not so different from one another.

    Denials of this are always a matter of bad faith at some level.

  238. It’s very human to discriminate…

  239. Let me add one rather trifling thought. Both Britain and the U.S. have a similar background in racism. But some people have said (*don’t remember where I saw it) that the British and American varieties are somewhat different. My very shallow and tentative attempt at differentiating them, not being a citizen of either country, is that a) the US variety is based on the solidification of “race” as a caste phenomenon b) the British variety is not so solidified, but appears to be becoming intertwined with the class system — I remember an article in the Guardian (I think) where a black woman pointed out that black men tend to taken by lower class white women, leaving no partners for black women.

    Pretty flimsy, I know. But my point is that it’s not always helpful to use words like “racism” as if they are universally valid terms.

    My own feeling about China is that the Chinese aren’t that racist. But they are extremely “culturist”. If you accept the superiority of Chinese culture and become assimilated to it, you can be accepted as Chinese (ok, maybe there are limits but…) That’s why the repressive Chinese attempts at assimilating Tibetans, Uyghurs, etc. might actually be successful in the long run. There is no reason why the racially different Uyghurs can’t become “Chinese” as long as they unconditionally adopt the culture. It doesn’t matter how you look, as long as you act and think like a Chinese, the Chinese will accept you as Chinese.

    With those jejune thoughts I will sign off.

  240. My own feeling about China is that the Chinese aren’t that racist.

    Well, of course it depends how you define “that racist,” but I have talked with someone who was called hēi rén in China and definitely didn’t feel he was treated like any other Westerner.

  241. John Cowan says:

    People usually tend to attach a lot more value to their own flesh and blood.

    American slaveowners attached a great deal of value to their own flesh and blood. Actual cash value, that is.

    Nobody likes the Swiss. It’s a mystery.

    I do. In particular, in the early 80s I was invited to eat at the U.N. cafeteria by a friend who worked there. I dressed as I usually do: casual slacks and shirt. Everyone else, including my friend, was in suit and tie. When I noticed this, I asked “Will people see that I’m an outsider?”

    “No,” he said. “They will just assume you’re Swiss.”

    Racism in some sense is just xenophobia based on a few racial characteristics.

    U.S. racism is not xenophobia by any reasonable definition.

    Reproductive isolation? This can only be learned from an experiment.

    As far as I know, no such human x chimp experiments have been made: they would be at once extremely interesting and deeply unethical.

    It’s really not hard to recognise that another person is a human being.

    Contingently, yes. I have been reading a novel about an isolated group who are generally believed to be a non-human species (they live for about a thousand years and are touch-telepaths like Vulcans). However, it is first found that they can interbreed with ordinary humans (the traits are dominant) and then that what they actually are is the genetically entirely human bearers of nanites that not only repair their bodies and provide the touch telepath, but pass with the germ cells (which explains why their traits appear to be dominant).

  242. J.W. Brewer says:

    “It’s really not hard to recognise that another person is a human being.” It seems rather naive of David E. to implicitly assume that absolutely everyone believes in the equal moral worth and rights and dignity of all “real” human beings such that X-supremacism and caste-ism and whatnot must therefore be based on a denial (perhaps a bad-faith one) that the other fellow is really a human being. Maybe some folks (many folks, probably most folks over a wide enough range of times and places) just don’t believe that being-human-as-such necessarily leads to liberal and/or egalitarian moral/social/political consequences.

  243. someone who was called hēi rén in China

    黑人 hēi rén isn’t too bad. 老黑 lǎo hēi is discriminatory.

    In treatment of foreigners I’m sure there is a pecking order. The question is whether your acquaintance would be accepted if they were born and bred in China. Maybe, maybe not…

    There is discrimination in China; I’ve seen it. But it doesn’t strike me as quite the same as Western racism, where “if you’re white you’re white; if you’re black you’re black”, and that’s it, whatever your culture.

  244. There is hardly a 2 cent difference between Russians and Ukrainians and yet the hatred is alive and kicking.

    This is the central contradiction of any European ethno-nationalist position.

    On the one hand there is a desire to create barriers between us and them, even if it’s only 2 cent difference.

    But on the other hand, there is a desire to assimilate the other, make them part of us, so that our group becomes even bigger and stronger.

    Even the Nazis, otherwise pretty extreme kind of ethno-nationalists, were quite interested in the latter.

    This is what is so baffling about US racism. There appears to be no attempt to assimilate the blacks, no desire to claim them as being part of us even though they are already one quarter there.

    I note that the de facto assimilationist position is taken instead by the liberal opponents of racism, but in a very roundabout way.

    This is what “race is a social construct” concept would lead to if we follow its implications to the logical end.

  245. This is what is so baffling about US racism. There appears to be no attempt to assimilate the blacks, no desire to claim them as being part of us even though they are already one quarter there.

    That’s why you can’t get your head around racism.

  246. I thought that racism begins when your daughter sleeps with a guy of a wrong tint and size, and you commit seppuku:-/

    I remember an article in the Guardian (I think) where a black woman pointed out that black men tend to taken by lower class white women, leaving no partners for black women.

    That is, basically I thought that racism has to do with how a society deals with sexuality. And there is this asymmetry. I don’t know about the US, but it seems that in most places in the Old World an “exotic lover” is supposed to be African for females and East Asian for males.

  247. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think that a proper respectable racist would kill his daughter for besmirching his honour, not commit seppuku.

    @JWB:

    While I am always happy to be called naive (I wish), I was in fact replying to drasvi’s specific point.

  248. …has to do with how a society deals with sexuality.

    …like most of crap in our lives.

  249. Mongolian father would only approve if his daughter married Russian or Westerner, accept somewhat less enthusiastically Korean son-in-law, after initial shock would even grudgingly tolerate an African, but if she married a Chinese…. ;-(((

  250. But on the other hand, there is a desire to assimilate the other, make them part of us, so that our group becomes even bigger and stronger.

    Even the Nazis, otherwise pretty extreme kind of ethno-nationalists, were quite interested in the latter.

    This is what is so baffling about US racism. There appears to be no attempt to assimilate the blacks, no desire to claim them as being part of us even though they are already one quarter there.
    As Bathrobe said, that exactly is one important difference between ethno-nationalism and racism. Ethno-nationalism leaves the other side the possibility to join you by shedding one’s old ethnicity / nationality, or at least for their children, by mating into your group, at least in theory. Racism assumes that descent is destiny, and that mixture can only result in spoiling the blood of the “better” race. You mentioned the Nazis – they had their racial hierarchies, and some groups were allowed to marry members of the “master race”, but there were strict rules against not only marriage, but even sexual intercourse with Jews (and that was not only the “classical” trope “they can’t have our women”, it was also a crime for Aryan men to have sex with Jewish women.)

  251. “it is nevertheless a crime for an inflecting woman to marry an agglutinating man” (by memory)

  252. David Eddyshaw says:

    This is from a footnote in Sapir’s Language (in Chapter 6: “Types of Linguistic Structure”):

    One celebrated American writer on culture and language delivered himself of the dictum that, estimable as the speakers of agglutinative languages might be, it was nevertheless a crime for an inflecting woman to marry an agglutinating man. Tremendous spiritual values were evidently at stake. Champions of the “inflective” languages are wont to glory in the very irrationalities of Latin and Greek, except when it suits them to emphasize their profoundly “logical” character. Yet the sober logic of Turkish or Chinese leaves them cold. The glorious irrationalities and formal complexities of many “savage” languages they have no stomach for. Sentimentalists are difficult people.

    (I don’t know who the “celebrated American writer” was. Sapir does well to draw a discreet veil over his identity.)

  253. On the one hand there is a desire to create barriers between us and them, even if it’s only 2 cent difference.

    But on the other hand, there is a desire to assimilate the other, make them part of us, so that our group becomes even bigger and stronger.

    This sounds like the story of the Russian empire.

  254. Yes, it was “was”, not “is”.

    Like in Hans’s line. O, those glorious old times when everythign was a crime…

  255. David Eddyshaw says:

    To be fair, it’s the story of nationalism in general. (At the time of the French Revolution, most inhabitants of France did not speak French.)

    You will be assimilated! Resistance is futile!

  256. Soviet classic on this topic:

    Nagulnov smiled dreamily and continued with a sigh: – After we erase all the boundaries, I will be first to shout: “Go forth and marry those of foreign blood!” Everybody will mix, and there will be no longer such shame in this wide white world when someone has white body, another yellow, and the third black, and the white ones consider others below themselves. Instead, all would have pleasantly swarthy faces and everyone would look the same as everyone. I think about it at night sometimes…

  257. Yet the Guardian and BBC speak about accents. It is one absolutely fascinating thing about English: how its speakers are aware of their accents, and love to imitate them sometimes. Phonetics and phonology are well represented in English universities. This is also captured in fiction: from eye dialect to “wanna” in subtitles to Pygmalion.

    And I see numerous English speakers online claiming that “English doesn’t have dialects. It has accents”. I think they mean: “unlike German”. But it is inaccurate, of course. Also, as I understand, for LH “language” is a good word and “dialect” is less so.

    Russian has undergone serious levelling and I’m quite sad. First, I like diversity as such. Second, loss of dialects must affect further evolution of the literary Russian.

    Attitudes towards dialects are just one factor among many (TV, literacy, urbanisation), but attitudes are often such that when there are two forms, one must be “incorrect”.

    What I want to say is that:

    “Sorry I didn’t understand a word of that. Can someone ask me a question in proper English?” Unthinkable, right?

    This was said about accents.

    Other variables, meanwhile, can be interpreted in terms of “educated/uneducated”. In Russia they are. You don’t say “корова доить” on TV.

  258. Also, as I understand, for LH “language” is a good word and “dialect” is less so.

    I have no idea where you picked up that idea, but it’s not true.

  259. Oh, maybe you mean my objecting to the idea that the various forms of Chinese are dialects. That’s because it’s bullshit, not because I don’t like the word.

  260. I think he is way off the mark in saying that ‘for LH “language” is a good word and “dialect” is less so’. He obviously doesn’t know much about LH. But he is correct in thinking that “dialect” isn’t a totally neutral word for English speakers. “I speak English; you speak a dialect” would be a nice putdown.

  261. David Marjanović says:

    As far as I know, no such human x chimp experiments have been made: they would be at once extremely interesting and deeply unethical.

    Two or three ham-handed attempts have been made, by the combination of a mad scientist with the early Soviet Union (late 1920s or so). They’re not numerous enough to allow any conclusion.

    But on the other hand, there is a desire to assimilate the other, make them part of us, so that our group becomes even bigger and stronger.

    Even the Nazis, otherwise pretty extreme kind of ethno-nationalists, were quite interested in the latter.

    To some extent, those Nazis who promoted that were thinking they were cheating: that some people are “close enough to German for government work”, or that “there aren’t actually enough Germans to settle all that Lebensraum, so we need to look the other way and relax our standards on that, or we’ll be crushed and all will be lost”.

    To some extent they just told themselves that everybody blond & blue-eyed was really underlyingly Germanic and could be restored to that state.

    Instead, all would have pleasantly swarthy faces and everyone would look the same as everyone.

    Of course that’s not how genetics works, and we’ve known that at least since Mendel was rediscovered.

    There are places today where this kind of panmixia has been reached, e.g. the Cape Verde islands. Instead of everyone looking the same, the diversity has expanded to fill the gaps. For instance, if someone has dark skin and curly hair, that hair can be light blond.

    And I see numerous English speakers online claiming that “English doesn’t have dialects. It has accents”.

    Two grains of truth:

    1) Because of their settlement history, the US and Canada don’t have much in the way of distinct dialects. Other than accent, a few vocabulary items with vaguely geographic distribution and of course AAVE vs. the rest, there isn’t much variety there. Outside of AAVE, Appalachia and I guess Newfoundland, the differences in grammar can be counted on one hand, and in Appalachia on about two. South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are even more uniform (I mean each of them separately – but they’re not that different from each other either; like maybe half the diversity found within Standard German). So what people notice first is each other’s accents, and that’s most of the diversity there.

    2) What English does have, especially in England (on top of the dialects there), are sociolects that are much more loosely connected to geography. That system is unusually well developed by European standards.

  262. J.W. Brewer says:

    I’m not entirely convinced that AAVE is dramatically more divergent from standard/prestige AmEng than other varieties. One of the problems, I think, is an apples-and-oranges one. Most AAVE speakers can code-switch along a continuum when it comes to syntactic patterns and lexeme choice, although maybe not as much so in phonology. Treating one extreme of that continuum (the most divergent one) as real-or-normative AAVE while not doing the same for regional white dialects and/or class-based white sociolects (with maybe the exception of Appalachian, for similarly exoticizing reasons) may distort the picture a bit.

    This is separate and apart from the difficulty of quantifying divergence as if there’s a simple one-dimensional metric for doing so.

  263. Languagehat, sorry, I chose vague words and I was going to clarify in the next comment or a PS, but then I had to go. I named you personally, because I had an impression that for you this distinction is important.

    I could have said “we”, but I thought you have an opinion on the matter.

    “Good” meant that by saying “X is a language” we defend it (this is why I used “less so” rather than “bad”):

    Our great and mighty Klingon is a language. Ugly barbarian patois that some uncultured people still speak on periphery are dialects“.

    What “a dialect” means here is: a language which is 1. barbarian and 2 doestn’t decerve a certian status. (note that some people called Breton “barbarian” and “patois”, and these politicians knew that it is closer to Welsh)

    We pick Orbital Klingon and say: “this one is a language!” and repeat this with other, less arrogant races. We mean:
    (A) O-K is a language (B) a language is not ugly => (C) O-K is not ugly.

    Sonds like teaching cranimetry to people who discriminate based on crania.

  264. “Good” meant that by saying “X is a language” we defend it (this is why I used “less so” rather than “bad”):
    […]

    We pick Orbital Klingon and say: “this one is a language!” and repeat this with other, less arrogant races. We mean:
    (A) O-K is a language (B) a language is not ugly => (C) O-K is not ugly.

    But when you say “we” you mean “average people who know nothing about language.” We here at LH may not be professionals in the field, but we know enough about language to know how stupid that average-people idea is (note: I’m not calling the people stupid, just the idea). Anyone with the slightest awareness of linguistic science knows that “dialect” is a neutral term referring to a distinct form of speech that does not meet the criteria of being a separate language. (Of course those criteria are fuzzy and much debated, but that is irrelevant to the point, which is that “dialect” is not an insulting term.)

  265. Bathrobe, I referred to LH just in order to make my claim falsifiable. If LH has an opinion, he can confirm it… or not.It was not meant as an attack.

    I don’t think that anyone here thinks that dialects are bad. But I think almost everyone (English speaker or not) assigns extra importance to an idea that something is a “language”. There is this scale (outside of linguistics): a language is worthy, a dialect is less so. When a linguists speaks to public and emphasizes that “X is a langauge” she can make the whole scale sound like Science.

    “Linguists distinguish between languages and dialects for a reason“.

  266. Langaugehat, by “we” I mean: linguists and langauge enthusiasts (people who usually oppose prescriptivism, la glottophobie and certain dumb policies) when they choose their line.

    When someone says: “X is a dialect” (in the sense: unworthy) and I counter “X is a language” (implying: worthy) it only works when we accept that languageness entails worthyness. When called a Muslim, I do not always object. Sometimes it feels like betraying my Muslim freinds.

    The problem is that people don’t understand ecology. Teaching them to distinguish families (“Hominids”) from genera (“Homo”) won’t help: it is not what biology is about. In biology these are arbitrary. It is good, of course, to supply people with the Red List of endangered species, but as long as they have no slighest idea of an ecosystem, their conservation efforts will keep ruining habitats.


    As for linguistics:

    (1) “a lect N is a language”
    (2) “a lect N is not a language”

    Do these two mean anything in linguistics?

  267. Langaugehat, by “we” I mean: linguists and langauge enthusiasts (people who usually oppose prescriptivism, la glottophobie and certain dumb policies) when they choose their line.

    Then it’s simply not true. People who oppose prescriptivism, la glottophobie, etc. also oppose denigrating dialects. The difference between dialect and language is simply a (contested) definitional one; it implies no preference for one over the other. When linguists say “Cantonese is a language, not a dialect,” they’re not trying to elevate its status, just stating a linguistic fact.

  268. ,” they’re not trying to elevate its status, just stating a linguistic fact.

    I assumed they are.
    If they wanted to tell Xi Jinping that Cantonese is not a variant of Putonghua they would have just said so.

    No linguistic facts here, only status.

  269. David Eddyshaw says:

    (1) “a lect N is a language”
    (2) “a lect N is not a language”

    Do these two mean anything in linguistics?

    Yes they do: very much so. I don’t think anybody has spelt it out above, probably because we take it so much for granted.

    When limguists and linguist-adjacent people talk about “dialects”, they mean, specifically, forms of language which are different, but not so different that the speakers can’t understand each other; when they talk about “languages”, they mean forms of speech which are so different that the speakers can’t understand each other. This technical use has nothing to do with status: British English RP is every bit as much a “dialect” as Devon English.

    There is a tension between this technical use, which all anglophone linguists subscribe to, and lay use of the term “dialect”, which does indeed often imply “inferior language”; but no linguist uses the word that way.

    There is a specific problem with Chinese “dialects” in that Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taiwanese etc are absolutely different languages in the technical linguistic sense. Calling them “dialects” is a political move; in the past this was a relatively harmless thing based on the evident cultural unity of China; in the current political climate it is a deliberate suppression of regional distinctiveness. It’s not quite the same as the anglophone denigrating sense: more a denial of real difference.

    Quite apart from the potential mismatch with lay use of the term “dialect”, there is the fact that the technical linguistic use is itself often hard to apply, because in many cases mutual comprehension isn’t all-or-nothing but a question of degree, and partly a matter of how hard people are prepared to try (which then overlaps with attitudes to the speakers.)

    An example in Ghana is the Twi and Fante languages. These are actually pretty readily mutually comprehensible, and from a linguistic point of view are clearly dialects of one single language, which traditionally had no overarching name of its own (it’s now usually called “Akan”, but this is itself a bit of a technical term: you wouldn’t normally ask someone “Do you speak Akan?”)

    The Bron people of Brong-Ahafo understand Twi pretty well, but their own dialect is regarded as unprestigious, and Ashanti often say they can’t understand it: the situation is asymmetrical. So it’s not straightforward to say whether Bron is a dialect of Akan.

    There are also “dialect chains”, where neighbouring dialects are mutually comprehrensible but speakers from the ends of the chains can’t understand each other (there are lots of these in Africa and elsewhere.) How many “languages” you recognise within a dialect chain can be pretty arbitrary.

  270. I assumed they are.
    If they wanted to tell Xi Jinping that Cantonese is not a variant of Putonghua they would have just said so.

    I have no idea what you mean or who exactly you’re talking about, but I’m pretty sure you’re imposing a lot of your own assumptions.

  271. I say things like “literary Arabic and what an Arab speaks at home are, basically, two different languages”, to anyone who wants to learn Arabic.

    But it is a matter of convenience not of a холивар (holy war). Holy wars are inconvenient. Other time I say “dialect”. I’m just communicating a meaning in context, and it is what a lingust does when she uses an English word “language” in her work.

    It is NOT an objection to a popular (among speakers) claim that the literary Arabic is “a language”, and what is spoken at home by professors to their families is “not a language, just a dialect” or “just slang”, with implications “it has no grammar”, “it is unsuitable for this or that purpose” etc.

  272. David, saying

    “A and B are different langauges” is NOT the same as saying

    “a lect A is a language” or
    “a lect B is not a langauge”.

    And it is these statements that provoke pointless discussions. Because the staments are pointless. They are as meaninful as “a langauge A is a language” and “a langaueg B is not a lnaguege”, respectively.

  273. “I speak English; you speak a dialect” would be a nice putdown.

    Would be? When did RP speakers stop saying this to Americans?

  274. I don’t think anyone would say “B is not a language,” since all forms of speech are languages. What people say is “A and B are (or are not) two different languages,” and that is not pointless at all. It is an important linguistic fact that Mandarin and Cantonese are two different languages, and anyone who says otherwise is doing so for political purposes.

  275. “”What people say is “A and B are (or are not) two different languages,” and that is not pointless at all.”

    Langaugehat, yes, exactly! But when someone starts using “a langauge” and “a dialect” as two mutually exclusive cathegories a nightmare begins.

    I once listened to 4 hours long argument between two my friends: a specialist in Classical phylology and a lignguist. The linguist was insisting that any variety can be called a dialect. The phylologist found the idea that St.Peterburg’s Russian is “a dialect’ absurd. Then they wasted 4 hours and a half of a buirthday party going in circles and it was instructive, but not very fun after the first 2 hours.

  276. Ah, we’re on the same page then, and I’m glad I wasn’t at that party!

  277. David Eddyshaw says:

    On the pejorative use of “dialect”: I well remember having to suppress a quiver when hearing a southern Ghanaian ask one of my Kusaasi colleagues what “dialect” he spoke. On reflection, I may have leapt to conclusions too readily: she might very well have called her own mother-tongue, Twi, a “dialect” as well, in line with the colonial notion that only English is a “language” (perhaps French, too, at a pinch, though it is of course incontestably a foreign language.)

  278. J.W. Brewer says:

    The notion floated upthread was that the situation in which language varieties A and B have notably different phonology (so it’s easy to tell pretty quickly who’s speaking what) but no significant differences in morphosyntax are not distinct “dialects” in the way they would be if they also had morphosyntactic differences. I can see a conceptual difference between the two situations but I’m not sure that using “dialect” to refer to only one of them is helpful as opposed to making up more jargony terms to label the two different situations.

  279. J.W. Brewer says:

    Separately, we can get all huffy and egalitarian about how everyone speaks some dialect (even if the standard/prestige one) and everyone speaks with some accent (even if the standard/prestige one) but I wonder if maybe we should sometimes put on our descriptivist hats and think about how other people are maybe using those words contextually or deictically. Using “speaks with an accent” to mean “speaks with an accent different from that which is common/expected/normative in the given time/place” seems like a perfectly normal sort of shortcut.

  280. David Eddyshaw says:

    If Literary Arabic were not the common Arab culture language but the everyday speech of some contemporary group of people, I’m pretty sure that linguists would call it a separate Arabic “language” rather than “dialect.” Indeed, this is implicit in the actual term “diglossia”, coined to describe this very situation.

    But there are cases like Literary Welsh, which nobody ever learnt at their mother’s knee, and nobody can produce correctly without being explicitly taught, but is much less remote from the spoken dialects than Standard Arabic from Arabic colloquials. Even French has whole tenses only used in writing; and German … is German. Especially in Switzerland.

    And on the other hand, nobody talks of “diglossia” when the usual written and spoken languages are completely unrelated, which is also a thing, of course.

    I suppose that as drasvi implies, it doesn’t really matter what you call things so long as you’ve explained yourself properly and are not deliberately trying to mislead.

  281. Using “speaks with an accent” to mean “speaks with an accent different from that which is common/expected/normative in the given time/place” seems like a perfectly normal sort of shortcut.

    Yes, of course, and it wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t almost invariably combined with a (usually unspoken, but known to all) “…and thus is a lesser person than those of us who don’t.” That’s exactly why it’s so important to try to educate people about the facts of language — not out of some abstract desire for maximum public knowledge about everything, but so they won’t despise or condescend to (or refuse to hire) people who use language differently than themselves.

  282. I speculate that a lot of what makes people call a speech variety a “language” is a widely-used writing system, when compared to other varieties. So Cantonese and Alemannic don’t get to have that privilege (the Swiss have an army but not a navy, that’s another thing.)

    I keep thinking there must be other clear, well-known examples of a terms used in a neutral meaning by specialists, pejorative in the common language. I can’t think of any right now. Linguists rarely use guttural anymore, or it would be another example. Cult is not quite it, since the common and technical terms refer to different things.

  283. Same with irrational (math).

  284. That’s not it, because it refers to a different thing. No one calls π “irrational” pejoratively (or “transcendental”, admiringly), the way one would refer to a speech variety as a “dialect” (distinct from similar varieties), or a “dialect” (inferior).

  285. I know, I was responding to “Cult is not quite it, since the common and technical terms refer to different things.”

  286. Lars Mathiesen says:

    well ordered is a neutral term in mathematics, but usually positive in other contexts. (An ordering is a well ordering if any subset has a minimal element — this obviously implies that the ordering is total and strict. Note how well becomes an adjective, but AFAIK you can’t quite say the ordering is well).

  287. My friend, a musician, who is good at improvising in langauges he doesn’t know, once spoke to an Italian in my presence. He doesn’t know Italian apart of maybe “Deh, vieni alla finestra, o mio tesoro”, an area/serenade from Don Giovanni. What my freind was saying was not Italian. It was authentic qausi-Italian, the kind of Italian a Russian would improvise when imitating Italian. Like this. I could hear that. The Italian rispondeva, and from his responso it was obvious that he understood my freind perfectly. My freind understood him, they continued this way for a while, and had a totally meaningful and informative conversation.

    I don’t know Italian too, slightly better than my freind, though. But I can’t improvise in it, or never tried.

    “Mutual intelligibility” is a flawed idea, in other words.

  288. Trond Engen says:

    Here is the Norwegian comedian Vegard Ylvisåker speed-dating in Holland in pretend Dutch.

  289. @ Y,

    I keep thinking there must be other clear, well-known examples of a terms used in a neutral meaning by specialists, pejorative in the common language. I can’t think of any right now.

    “Bitch” is neutral in its literal canine sense but pejorative in its metaphoric human sense. There’s also “Jew,” not to mention “Protestant” and “Catholic” in different parts of Ireland.

    Or consider how euphemisms become synonymous with the terms that they euphemized and then have to be re-euphemized as they acquire the old terms’ pejorative senses. “Idiot” becomes “retarded” becomes “developmentally different,” for instance, and “asylum” and “insane” have to go the way of “madhouse.” If you teach The Rape of the Lock to undergraduates you have to be prepared to explain to the snickering sophomores that the lines

    The merchant from the exchange returns in peace,
    And the long labors of the toilet cease

    are actually funnier if you take the trouble to look up what “toilet” meant in Pope’s time, before there were commercials to say “bathroom bowl.” The 18th-century sense of the couplet is that in Belinda’s magical world the men work hard all day making money and the women work hard all day looking at themselves in the mirror.

  290. John Emerson says:

    “Yid” , “Pollack”, and “Russki” are all normal self-designations on their own languages but insulting in English.

    Drasvi / Trond: I can’t link from here, but Adriano Celentano has an utterly hilarious nonsense-lyric version of American rock n roll. I listen to it once or twice a year and crack up every time

  291. John Emerson says:

    A French Canadian MD I know said she could fake Spanish in Mexico.

    Reportedly, anarchism came to Spain when monolingual Italian sailors had long talks with monolingual Spaniards (or maybe Catalans)

  292. @John Emerson: Lots of links to different performances of Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol” can be found here at Language Log. I also like Mark Liberman’s description of Celentano as “channeling the Elvis of some parallel universe.”

  293. An English-teaching friend of mine once observed to me that when English teachers attend conferences, they commonly describe what variety of English they speak — except for Americans. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is, it could be regarded as a subtle attitudinal marker of whether one speaks “neutral English” or “a variety”.

  294. For one thing, everyone on the planet who might attend such a conference will recognize American English from the movies. For another, North America is so poor in dialects that North American linguists often use dialect to refer to mere accent differences.

  295. Heh. I just found this comment by Anthony from June 1, 2003:

    The meaning of ‘dialect’ in linguistics (in itself only roughly defined) is different from its lay usage, where it seems to mean ‘not a national language’, probably with connotations (either bad or good) of provincial backwardness.

  296. I notice, though, that nobody answered my question about the morphology of the name Zlotolow, which (as I wrote then) “is clearly based somehow on Slavic zlat-/z(o)lot- ‘gold’).”

  297. David Eddyshaw says:

    everyone on the planet who might attend such a conference will recognize American English from the movies

    I’m just envisaging Star Wars dubbed into Scots.
    (To my great joy, I’ve just discovered that the dubbed version of Backstroke of the West is still up there on Youtube.)

  298. Zlotolow sounds like a bad translation into Polish (should be “lowca zlota”?).

    Original German Jewish surname was probably Goldfaenger/Goldfenger/Goldfänger (‘gold catcher’) or something like that.

  299. “Goldfänger… He’s the man, the man who can catch the gold…”

  300. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hat
    There is a town Złotów in present-day Poland. However, I believe the name of the town is not from gold, because the area was originally settled by Polabians, who may have used the name Wielatow (the German name is Flatow). Whatever its origin, the name of the town could be the origin of your surname.

  301. There was a period in the history of my English, when I was already able to read in it fluently, but still could hardly understand even BBC news (1/3 of what was said maybe). The only accents I could understand, more or less, were those of some speakers from Scotland. I guess when they introduce their varieties at conferences, others ask to repeat.

    Why do not they teach this accent in Russian (and Arab, they would really appreciate the rhoticity) schools?

  302. Why do not they teach this accent in Russian (and Arab, they would really appreciate the rhoticity) schools?

    In an article titled “RP – R.I.P.?”, David Abercrombie actually suggested that Scottish English would be a good model for English learners because “It is admired everywhere, is highly intelligible, and phonetically offers a minimum of problems.”

  303. David Eddyshaw says:

    Unfortunately the pool of native speakers is too small (the population of Scotland is a bit over five million.) And other native English speakers are no good at imitating the accent …

    It’s one of those unsourceable (AFAIK) tropes that the “best” spoken English is that heard in Edinburgh (or Perth, or Aberdeen, or wherever. Never Glasgow, for some reason.) I would imagine that the story arose because Scots English has fewer of those awkward diphthongs which annoy foreign learners.

  304. i think there’s an interesting distinction to be made between the lay and technical senses of “mutually intelligible”, too!

    i take “i can understand what people are saying to each other when i eavesdrop” as a decent proxy for the technical sense – the thing that makes two spoken varieties part of the same basic linguistic unit. (which of course has gaps, especially since monolingualism is an invention of 20thC nationalism)

    but that’s a much more restricted space than “i can have a reasonably conversation with people if we put in some effort”, which i think is closer to the lay sense of the phrase. and as folks have said, you don’t need a lot of linguistic relationship for that to work as long as you’ve got some cognates to work with, plus facial expressions, hand gestures, and grammelot…

  305. There’s a story that when Maggie Smith was working on her role as Miss Jean Brodie, she was given the name of an elderly lady who spoke a highly refined version of Edinburgh Scots English. So she called the lady, introduced herself and explained that she was hoping to learn how to imitate the Edinburgh accent. A frosty pause ensued, after which the lady said, ‘my dear, you are mistaken, I do not speak with any kind of accent.’

  306. Well, of course. She doesn’t speak with just any kind of accent; she speaks with a good accent. It’s all in the inflection.

  307. David Marjanović says:

    I’m just envisaging Star Wars dubbed into Scots.

    My sister informed me today that, 24 hours before Christmas Eve, Austria’s public-owned TV broadcaster will show a Simpsons episode dubbed “into Austrian”. Judging from Homer’s voice, it’s going to be Viennese, not the president’s Alemannic dialect for example.

    inflection

    *obligatory linguist wince*

  308. @rozele: From what I have read, there does not seem to be so broad agreement, even among linguists, about what constitutes “mutual intelligibility.” It’s not merely the technical sense of that phrase that is highly ambiguous, and different linguists use it in quite different ways. “Mutual intelligibility” as a criterion for whether two individuals speak the same language has almost* all the same problems as the biological species concept—ring species, limitation to eukaryotes, etc.—plus some additional ones that arise because intelligibility is much more a scalar concept than whether two organisms can produce a fully functional offspring. What error rate is allowed by the intelligibility criterion? (And even measuring information transfer in a natural language quantitatively is well known to be an exceedingly hard problem.) How much normal disfluency is expected? How much repetition, with or without inflectional modification is permitted?

    * The one big issue with the biological species concept is that does not seem to crop up in the analogous linguistic context is whether mere separation makes two populations distinct species. There are plenty of cases where populations are split in two by the appearance of some geographical barrier,** so that mating between the populations no longer occurs. Given sufficient time, the two populations will evolve toward eventual reproductive incompatibility. However, some ecologists think that the populations should be considered separate species from the moment when interbreeding ceases in nature—even if the cessation is not due to anything anatomical about the organisms but solely to the physical separation meaning that conspecifics*** can no longer reach each other to mate.

    ** For example, we know that chimpanzees and bonobos were divided by the expansion of the Congo River system 1–2 millions years ago, although how long it took for the separated populations to reach complete reproductive isolation is controversial.

    *** My choice of words here indicates what I personally think of this viewpoint.

  309. *obligatory linguist wince*

    Given that the word “linguist” refers to someone who speaks multiple languages, I fail to see what this has to do with my use of the word “inflection.”

    Furthermore, I am disappointed in the lack of capitalization in this phrase. You would think comments on a site called Languagehat would be written using correct grammar, but apparently not.

  310. David Marjanović says:

    intelligibility is much more a scalar concept than whether two organisms can produce a fully functional offspring

    That, too, is a scalar concept; whether chromosomes line up together isn’t all-or-nothing. At very rare occasions, mules are fertile…

    …and “can produce fertile offspring in captivity” vs. “actually produce fertile offspring in the wild” are separate as well.

    Worse yet, none of this needs to line up with the tree. It happens that you have a tree (A(B(C(D,E)))) where A and E are fertile with each other, but all other combinations don’t work. Have B, C and D evolved away and become separate species while A and E are still the same one? By that criterion, yes, but do we really want to keep that criterion?

    The most important reason the Biological Species Concept is hardly ever used is simply that it’s so difficult to test, though.

  311. A linguist is a follower of Linguism.

    Cf. Slavic yazychnik 1. “pagan” 2. “linguist”.

  312. John Cowan says:

    one of those unsourceable (AFAIK) tropes

    Why, it comes from Scotland, of course (though indeed it cannot help it). J.Y.T. Grieg (a Scot) on the “silliest and dwabliest of all English dialects”, RP. As a bonus, Jespersen on the superiority of English to Danish.

    Never Glasgow, for some reason

    About as likely as the idea that Americans would acclaim Brooklynese as the best English.

    the population of Scotland is a bit over five million

    The population of L2 anglophones in India amounts to 25 times as many, which would provide an excellent pool of teachers for use worldwide. Some simplifications would be required for use outside India, such as eliminating the aspirated/unaspirated distinction (used to approximate the t/th and d/dh distinction) and sticking with rhotic (younger) Indian English rather than the non-rhotic (older) variety.

  313. David Eddyshaw says:

    A linguist is a follower of Linguism.

    Undeniable. Indeed, by ineluctable logic, a linguist should be someone prejudiced against language.

    However: in Ghana, a “linguist” is a chief’s councillor who addresses the chief’s subjects on his behalf (the chief being too elevated to do this himself.) A bit like a herald, but more important, as he’s a hereditary advisor to the boss in his own right. It’s okyeame in Twi, nɔdi’es “command-transmitter” in Kusaal. The Kusaal Bible translates “prophet” as Wina’am nɔdi’es “God’s linguist.”

  314. And we should not forget, of course, that pervert known as the “cunning linguist”.

  315. @Brett:

    yes to the fuzziness of the ‘technical’ version, too!

    and the species : language analogy is an interesting one. until very recently, i was a very unreconstructed nominalist in my thinking about the former, but i’ve been persuaded otherwise by a very rewarding trip through steven jay gould’s doorstop of a magnum opus. he makes a very good case for the material reality of species as darwinian individuals. i won’t/can’t try to summarize it, but will recommend The Structure of Evolutionary Theory to anyone with time for a book that can’t be carried around comfortably…

    one thing i did take from the book that seems relevant to the Hattery, though, is the usefulness of looking to up-to-date (or even up-to-date-ish) evolutionary biology for analytic hints and metaphors for linguistics. for example: not being a historical linguist, or particularly up in that professional literature, i’m wondering whether there are folks who’ve looked at whether the gradualist assumptions built into the (for lack of a better term) paleo-darwinian model of evolution that informed the field’s emergence hold up. they’ve needed to be heavily revised in evolutionary biology (with focused analysis both of punctuational events and of the stasis they stand out against); do they in historical linguistics?

  316. whether two organisms can produce a fully functional offspring

    Sables can interbreed with pine martens. This has been observed in the wild, where the two species overlap in the Ural Mountains, and is sometimes deliberately encouraged on fur farms. The resulting hybrid, referred to as a kidus, is slightly smaller than a pure sable, with coarser fur, but otherwise similar markings, and a long bushy tail. Kiduses are typically sterile, although there has been one recorded instance of a female kidus successfully breeding with a male pine marten.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sable#Reproduction

    More on kiduses/kidases (in Russian).

  317. Why would they encourage having smaller animals with coarser fur?

  318. Out of scientific curiosity, I presume.

  319. There are other uses for fur-bearing mustelids, besides being harvested for their fur and subcutaneous fat. For example, planetary defense!

  320. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    @rozele

    Lass 1997 (Historical Linguistics and Language Change) cites Gould in several places, and generally I think Lass was familiar with up–to-dateish evolutionary theory at the time.

  321. Определять границу между языком и диалектом можно по-разному. Можно на основании базовой лексики (таких слов, которые реже всего заимствуются) — какой процент базовых слов совпадает. Можно на основании сходств в фонетике или в грамматике. Можно на основании взаимопонимания — могут ли люди, впервые услышав речь на этом языке, понять его просто потому, что он похож на их родной язык. Можно руководствоваться тем, что сами люди думают об этом — считают ли жители соседних сел, что они говорят на одном языке, или нет. Еще бывает так, что группа родственных идиомов (вариантов языка) имеет один литературный язык. Например, кубачинский очень сильно отличается от других даргинских идиомов, но у него нет собственной письменности — это не литературный язык. Кубачинские дети в школе учат литературный даргинский язык, который им совершенно непонятен. Но именно из-за того, что в школе преподается литературный даргинский, многие назовут кубачинский даргинским диалектом.

    Подробно на сайте Это Кавказ:
    https://etokavkaz.ru/nauchnyi-podkhod/sem-mifov-o-dagestanskikh-yazykakh

  322. More on hybridization:

    The European bison (Bison bonasus) or the European wood bison, also known as the wisent[a] (/ˈviːzənt/ or /ˈwiːzənt/), or the zubr[b] (/zuːbr/), is a European species of bison. It is one of two extant species of bison, alongside the American bison. Three subspecies existed in the recent past, but only one, the nominate subspecies (B. b. bonasus), survives today. Analysis of mitochondrial genomes and nuclear DNA revealed that the wisent is theoretically the descendant of a species which arose as a result of hybridisation between the extinct steppe bison (Bison priscus) and the ancestors of the aurochs (Bos primigenius), since their genetic material contains up to 10% aurochs DNA sequences; the possible hybrid is referred to informally as the Higgs bison,[2] (a play-on-words in reference to the Higgs boson), which is also extinct. Alternatively, the Pleistocene woodland bison has been suggested as the ancestor to the species.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_bison

    Both extant bison species descend from hybrids. American bison (“buffalo”) descend from a hybrid of the now extinct steppe bison and the wild yak.[1] European bison (also known as wisents) descend from the so-called “Higgs Bison” (a play on Higgs boson), a hybrid of the steppe bison and the aurochs, which is also now extinct.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovid_hybrid

  323. I am curious about the etymology of кидас ~ кидус. In the vaguest way, it recalls the Turkic words for “beaver” like Turkish kunduz, Uzbek qunduz, Tatar кондыз, Tuvan кундус, etc. (And further Chuvash хӑнтӑр, along with the apparent early borrowings from Turkic into Uralic, such as Mansi хонтел. Compare also Mari умдыр, ындыр “beaver” and apparently Udmurt удор, ундор, too, all possibly ultimately from an Oghur/Bulgar Turkic *һŏndŏr.) Both the kidas and the beaver are exploited for their pelts… (Does the typical kidas pelt have a color like a beaver’s? Note the apparent shift from “beaver” to “mole” in some Uralic varieties mentioned at the link above.) However, the animals are otherwise so dissimilar that the semantics are not appealing. And the phonetic match is also far from exact. Is there any light shining from elsewhere?

  324. There are other variants of kidus as well:

    КИ´ДАС, КИ´ДУС, КИ´ТУС, КИ´ТАС. Помесь соболя и
    куницы. Кидус помесь соболя с куницей, мех у нее более
    грубый, сжелта (пос. Пожва Юсьв.). Кидус — куница,
    желта ось-та у ее (с. Вильгорт Черд.). У его хвост
    подольше, у кидаса (д. Морозково Сукс.). Куница есть
    китус. Эта дороже — китус-от. Это вид куницы (с.
    Ленское Кунг.).

    From here.

    Regrettably, no etymology so far.

  325. David Marjanović says:

    i’m wondering whether there are folks who’ve looked at whether the gradualist assumptions built into the (for lack of a better term) paleo-darwinian model of evolution that informed the field’s emergence hold up. they’ve needed to be heavily revised in evolutionary biology (with focused analysis both of punctuational events and of the stasis they stand out against)

    …depends. I work on timescales where the difference between punk eek* and gradualism is simply not visible: the vertebrate fossil record of 300 million years ago doesn’t let you trace the evolution of a lineage across 0.01 million years.

    However, there are cases where the fossil record is dense enough to show such things. And it shows that sometimes a lineage splits in two in a gradual way. The textbook example is about diatoms in the equatorial Pacific some 3 million years ago.

    * punctuated equilibrium

  326. There are other variants of kidas as well:
    КИ´ДАС, КИ´ДУС, КИ´ТУС, КИ´ТАС…

    Thank you for this, juha.

    Another potential Scheingleichung: the kid-, kit- element in these recalls affective words for small or young animals across Eurasia, such as the family of Byzantine Greek κάττος, κάττα (modern Cretan κάτης “tomcat”), English cat, etc., and the family of English kid (< Old Norse kið), German Kitz, etc., or the family of Indic words including Hindi and Bengali kuttā, “dog”, and the family Iranian words including Zazaki kutik, Sogdian ’kwt “dog”, etc., and much further from the Urals, the family of Cebuano and Ilokano kutíŋ, Toba Batak hutiŋ, Malay kucing “cat”, etc. In connection with these words, we can also note that felines and mustelids were sometimes combined in folk taxonomies: Latin fēlēs was sometimes used for “marten, ferret”; similarly Greek αἴλουρος, “cat”, but sometimes also “weasel”; English polecat and fisher cat, etc.

    However, when we consider the places in which terms of the form кидас, кидус, китус, китас are in active use, it is tempting to look for a Uralic etymology. In this regard, the family of Proto-Uralic *kaδ̕wa is of note both for its general phonetic shape and for the meaning of its reflexes in Khanti, Saami, and Old Hungarian, where it was specialized to indicate the female of various animals trapped for their pelts.

    (And in connection with this Proto-Uralic word meaning “female”, we can note the semantic nexus seen in such pairs as Greek γαλῆ “weasel, marten, any mustelid” beside γάλως “husband’s sister; brother’s wife” (as well as Modern Greek νυφίτσα “weasel” from diminutive of νύφη “bride, daughter-in-law”, Turkish gelincik “weasel” from diminutive of gelin “bride”, and Hungarian menyét “weasel” from meny “daughter-in-law”); Italian donnola “weasel” from diminutive of donna, woman; Spanish comadreja “weasel” from deprecatory diminutive of comadre, “mother of one’s godchild, godmother of one’s child”; and indeed English marten if this is ultimately related to Lithuanian marti, “daughter-in-law” and Latin marītus, “married; husband” (< *“having a bride”). Since the kidas is slightly smaller than the prized sable, perhaps this would be the reason for the designation as a female, since male mustelids are typically somewhat larger than females?)

    This is all rank speculation on my part. I hope someone can ferret out a more secure etymology.

  327. Stu Clayton says:

    wisent

    Just this week I saw an article in the SZ saying that wisents are now classified as less threatened than previously, according to the Red List. I sometimes get the impression here that this is not true of certain species of etymology.

  328. In regard to the etymology of кидас (кидус, китас, китус) and the European words for mustelids deriving from words for female relatives that I mentioned above, the following possible Proto-Uralic form is interesting:

    *kiδɜ

    Note especially the Krasnojarsk Khanty reflex kitə “wife’s younger sister; wife’s younger brother’s daughter”. Can the -ас/-ус of the Russian form be explained as a suffix on the Uralic end?

  329. Can the -ас/-ус of the Russian form be explained as a suffix on the Uralic end?

    They do not seem likely as native Russian affixes. Off the top of my head, I can give палтус ‘halibut’, хариус ‘grayling’ (which is a borrowing, as can be seen below
    Finnish
    Etymology
    From Proto-Finnic *harjus, either derived from *harja of Baltic origin or possibly borrowed from Proto-Germanic [Term?], from Proto-Indo-European *kr̥snós. Related to Estonian harjus, Karelian harjus and Veps harjus. Borrowed from Finnic into Russian as Russian хариус (xarius).
    ), and ярус ‘tier; layer’ (a borrowing, too: Borrowed from Old Norse jarðhús (“underground room”); compare jǫrð (“earth, modern Icelandic jörð”) and hús (“house”).
    The number of -ас words is considerably smaller.

  330. PlasticPaddy says:

    @Xerib, juha
    https://ru.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%BF%D0%B8%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%BA_%D0%BC%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BF%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%8E%D1%89%D0%B8%D1%85_%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B8
    Native animal names you see here do not have -as or -us, although you might make a case for a rare suffix/ending -ysh or -ush.
    The fact that you have both kitas and kitus is something that might indicate a Uralic borrowing, compare kamas and kamus, for which Vasmer has “Из саам. патс. kāmɔs, кильд. kāmas”.

  331. David Marjanović says:

    ярус

    That’s a technical term in geology, complete with подъярус!

    Good to know it’s stressed on the first syllable. It sort of looked like it wasn’t…

  332. Uralic might indeed have something here, but instead of the ‘weasel’ and ‘sibling-in-law’ words I’d suggest a different starting point: Samoyedic *ki ‘sable’ (> Enets /sini/, Selkup *šī, Kamassian /šili ~ šile/, Mator /ki/), which is probably an old loan to or from Turkic *kīš <> *kīl₂ via a pre-Samoyedic *kiľ. (There have been some attempts to derive these from *käďwä, but this would be very much not regular at all.)

    Perhaps дас ~ тас is then not a suffix but instead a 2nd part of a compound. I don’t have any good candidate to offer for that though, Samoyedic offers no good options that I can see, and the closest in Turkic might be *tōz ‘birch bark’ (not a zillion semantic shifts away from something like ‘pelt’; still a bad fit though).

  333. Thank you for all your help, J Pystenen and Plastic Paddy!

    For a brief Forschungsgeschichte of the question of Turkic *kīl₂ “sable” seen from one side of the debate, Language Hat readers might be able to read the text available on Google books here (from E. Helimski (1995) “Samoyedic loans in Turkic: Checklist of etymologies” in Laut- und Wortgeschichte der Türksprachen, ed. B. Kellner-Heinkele and M. Stachowski (Turcologica 26), p. 75-95).

    Also interesting for the etymology of Russian кидас is the following entry in Elizaveta Kotorova and Andrey Nefedov, eds. (2015) Comprehensive Dictionary of Ket, p. 248:

    kə̄d m kədaŋ; колонок куница//sibirischer Nerz, Marder//Siberian polecat, marten

    The m here is for masculine and the kədaŋ shows the nominative plural, I believe. Ket apparently has final devoicing, so the pronunciation of the nominative form would be [kɨ̄t] as far as I can gather. Can it be shown that Ket kə̄d is a loanword into Yeniseian (as from Samoyedic)? The Ket word for “sable” is apparently ed.

    A form kədas would be the regular instrumental singular of kə̄d, I believe, but why should an instrumental be involved in the genesis of Russian кидас? As with the other possibilities offered above, this possible Yeniseian etymon leaves the question of the final element -ас/-ус in the Russian word open. Can a Yeniseian origin for this -ас/-ус be found as well?

  334. thanks, Andrej! (just what i needed! more to read… /sigh/)

    and DM: the similar pattern of very different quantities of available material between different locations and time periods (and the many different reasons why that can be true) are part of what seems to me to make the analogy between speciation and lectogenesis (i hope no one else has coined this monstrosity before; it’s late and i can’t do better) attractive. but also what makes taking the basic insight behind punk eek (now, that i like!) – accepting the validity of the existing record as it stands, whether that shows stasis or change – worth testing anywhere that gradualist evolution has been posited…

  335. For comparison purposes, here’s a list of animal names in Mansi (кунас looks suspiciously like куница):

    https://incubator.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Wp/mns

    Some Mansi materials:

    https://vk.com/topic-62252885_29507917?offset=0

  336. Thank you for this, juha.

    Presumably Mansi кунас is a loanword from a Russian dialectal survival of Old East Slavic куна “marten, marten pelt used as currency”? Or am I mistaken? What would the final Mansi be then?

  337. Given that нёхыс ‘sable’ also ends in an -c, it seems a regular ending.

  338. The somewhat limited Mansi materials I have at hand don’t mention anything like кунас, but if real (I have some reservations about the reliability of Wikipedia incubators as language sources), an alternative wild guess could be that this is based on Komi гӧн ‘hair, fur’; borrowed at least to Khanty as Eastern /kʏn/, Northern /kun/. /-(a)s/ is known as a rare noun suffix.

    нёхыс /ńoχs/ is straight from Proto-Uralic *ńuk(ə)śə though and does not seem to be analyzable.

  339. I have some reservations about the reliability of Wikipedia incubators as language sources

    As it happens, Rombandeyeva’s Russian-Mansi Dictionary has куница: куница [аквсыр у:й наме], so it seems your reservations are well founded.

  340. Thanks, J Pystynen!

    Do Komi гӧн “fur, hair, feather” and Udmurt гон have any cognates elsewhere in Uralic (leaving aside the loanwords you mention in Khanty)?

  341. Komi гӧн “fur, hair, feather” and Udmurt гон

    One dictionary says that ‘some are inclined to treat is as an Iranian loan (cf. Ossetian qun or Pashto γūna)’, and another gives kynä as a cognate.

  342. John Cowan says:

    Latin fēlēs was sometimes used for “marten, ferret”; similarly Greek αἴλουρος, “cat”, but sometimes also “weasel”

    I think that’s mostly functional equivalence. Domestic cats were unknown in Europe until introduced from Egypt in Alexander’s day; before that, rodent pest control was in the hands of mustelids small enough to go down a rathole and powerful enough to emerge victorious. Snakes, too, which were also common household (as opposed to farmhold) pets.

  343. ‘some are inclined to treat is as an Iranian loan (cf. Ossetian qun or Pashto γūna)’, and another gives kynä as a cognate.

    Thanks, juha!

    Are these two possibilities mutually exclusive? For example, if an Indo-Iranian *gauna- “color, coat” was borrowed early enough to appear in Finnic, would we also expect an initial *k- in Permic? Is initial g- in Permic usual only in later layers of loanwords, such as those of early Iranian or differentiated Iranian (as Sarmatian) origin?

  344. Are these two possibilities mutually exclusive?

    I was wondering the same thing.

  345. David Marjanović says:

    initial g- in Permic

    does show up in words of Uralic origin. The traditional explanation is that initial *k became *g in a semi-regular process, because Uralists only began to become Neogrammarians in 1980. The possibility suggests itself that this *g actually has to be reconstructed for Proto-Uralic, but the closest thing to a publication is this subthread.

  346. As it happens, just one week ago about a dozen more Permic words with initial voiced stops have been given various Indo-Iranian loan etymologies in the PhD thesis of colleague Niklas Metsäranta. He also argues that these start to be retained already in quite early loanwords going back to earliest Iranian, including some that may turn up also in different Uralic branches, thus incidating that they were adopted in parallel rather than into a common Proto-Finno-Permic or the like; whose existence I’m already skeptical about anyway. I’ve yet to look over how much this changes the overall picture in putatively native vocabulary though.

    While Indo-Iranian loanwords in general could well have made it to Finnic too, in this case this isn’t viable. Udmurt гон ~ Komi гӧн reconstructs to Proto-Permic *ȯ / *ɛ / *ä (depending on the reconstruction scheme), whose regular Finnic counterpart would be *ä or *a, not *ü as in kynä.

    The old 1st wave of Neogrammarian Uralicists (or NG-adjacent anyway; most seemingly had only a second-hand understanding of the concept) did involve one proposal to reconstruct also *b- *d- *g-, but this fell into oblivion fast, partly due to the etymological source material being too unreliable, and I think partly also thru structuralist considerations, i.e. lack of evidence of similar contrasts in other positions.

  347. David Marjanović says:

    Awesome! Judging from the title, I assume the thesis is all in Finnish?

  348. Awesome!

    I second this. Thank you J Pystynen and D Marjanović for your replies! It was exactly what I was hoping for! And I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea that so many unresolved problems remained even in the reconstruction of the Proto-Uralic consonant system and its development in well-documented branches of the family.

  349. I had no idea that so many unresolved problems remained even in the reconstruction of the Proto-Uralic consonant system and its development in well-documented branches of the family.

    The current rough consensus of what consonant contrasts actually go back to PU has been indeed siloizing problems into the development of several individual branches, but from what I see this really has been mostly the correct call. My queue of works to be published includes new explanations for the secondary rise of *š in Mansi (does not require a PU palatalized postalveolar **š́) and some instances of *j in Finnic (does not require a PU palatovelar nasal **ŋ́ even as an allophone). Other similar recent progress includes e.g. Mikhail Zhivlov treating in 2016 the rise of *ṇ (retroflex /ɳ/) in Khanty, reconstructed all the way to Proto-Uralic earlier, treated as secondary in most recent works but with very handwavey reasons.

    If you want a sense of what the earlier approach would look elsewhere, imagine setting up for PIE e.g. an *s | *sʰ contrast that was based only on Armenian and maybe 2–3 words from Greek, or a word-initial *j | *dž contrast that was based only on Greek and maybe 2–3 words from Persian (that we today explain as loans from Parthian where *j > ).

  350. My queue of works to be published… Other similar recent progress includes e.g. Mikhail Zhivlov treating in 2016 the rise of *ṇ (retroflex /ɳ/) in Khanty

    Thank you for suggesting Zhivlov’s paper, J Pystynen! Very satisfying. I look forward to reading your publications on these topics.

  351. Just to make sure everyone realizes that the Komi ӧ is not the same as the German/Swedish/Finnish ö:

    Тренинг. Гласный звук Ӧ.

  352. David Marjanović says:

    Basically the unstressed value of Russian o, with plenty of leeway in all directions.

  353. I haven’t listened to all the examples but the ones I heard sound backed, like ɤ or ɯ, whereas the unstressed Russian o is central, ǝ-ish.

  354. Also interesting that these samples seem to show diphthongization to [ɨɤ] after velars (particularly clear in гӧль and гӧн).

  355. Thank you for the link to the Komi sound files, juha!

    Also interesting that these samples seem to show diphthongization to [ɨɤ] after velars (particularly clear in гӧль and гӧн).

    I was very pleased to hear this diphthongization so prominent after velars, too, because something similar occurs in Kurmanji dialects. From the description in Wheeler Thackston’s Kurmanji Kurdish: A Reference Grammar with Selected Readings:

    the sequences gu and ku are pronounced by some as [gɯɛ] and [kɯɛ], particularly in closed syllables like gur ‘wolf,’ pronounced either [gɯɛɾ] or [gʊɾ]

    I hear a very diphthongal variety of Kurmanji every day from my housemate, whose family is from the country around Şemrex‎ (Mazıdağı, in Mardin Province in Turkey) but who grew up in Amed (Diyarbakır). I am happy to find the Komi typological parallel to this phenomenon in Kurmanji. I wonder, are there yet other parallels in other languages?

  356. Certainly. A classic parallel might be Irish, claimed to have [ɰ] as a transitional glide between velarized consonants and front vowels. Though I assume these combinations mostly represent some kind of historically secondarily fronted vowels and so this glide might not be really an innovation. Considering e.g. coiléan ‘whelp’, apparently cuilén in Old Irish: if earlier *kuileːn yields /kˠɪlʲaːnˠ/ realized as [kɰɪlʲaːn̪ˠ], then this rather looks like *kui (? [kɯɪ]) being directly rephonologized as /k[ɰ]ɪ/, not *ui first smoothing all the way to [ɪ] and then re-breaking to [ɰɪ].

    (Something to this effect goes on also in Marshallese and its famous vertical vowel system, where e.g. the putative single high vowel has the allophones [i ɯ u iɯ iu ɯi ɯu uɯ ui] depending on the consonant environment. I’m skeptical on how real this kind of very deep phonological analyses are, though…)

    On diphthongization triggered by velar consonants specifically, the history of Permic has a few further examples too for what it’s worth, no longer really obvious but decently reconstructible. For one, Komi’s sister language Udmurt has a small group of words with breaking of earlier *o to /ua/ after *k and word-initially, e.g. Komi комын ~ Udm. куамын ‘thirty’. The traditional reconstruction assumes *kwo- for Proto-Permic already (and later loss of this *w in Komi; I would slightly adjust this to *kʷo-), since there is also secondary Proto-Permic *o from e.g. Proto-Uralic *e and various loanwords which is never affected. For two, earlier in the history of ӧ in Komi, cases that come from a Proto-Uralic back rounded vowel are similarly first reflected as something like *wȯ after *k and word-initially, and then develop to /ko-/, /vo-/ across most of the dialects of the Komi Republic. This yields correspondences like standard Komi-Zyrian коз ‘spruce’, вон ‘bed curtain’ versus Komi-Permyak кӧз, ӧн (~ Finnish kuusi, uudin: by current reconstructions from Proto-Uralic *kowsə, *owdəm).

    This phenomenon is of course also often related to cheshirization of labialization, as in e.g. Ethiopian Semitic, where Proto-Semitic *u (and *i) generally reduce to /ɨ/, but *ku, *gu, *kʼu instead result in labialized /kʷɨ/, /gʷɨ/, /kʷʼɨ/. Suppose further breaking of the secondary articulation to *kw etc., and this would result in apparent “diphthongization after velars”, as I think is indeed the case in the Udmurt example above.

  357. David Marjanović says:

    I haven’t listened to all the examples but the ones I heard sound backed, like ɤ or ɯ, whereas the unstressed Russian o is central, ǝ-ish.

    I just listened to all the examples again and… we’re both wrong 🙂 There aren’t any more open values like [ʌ] or [ɐ] in there; the range extends from [ǝ] almost to the mid vowel between [ɔ] and [o].

    I have found [ɤ] only in сӧр & шӧр. [ɯ] does not occur. I learned Mandarin for (not much more than) long enough to distinguish these two.

    […] Irish, claimed to have [ɰ] as a transitional glide between velarized consonants and front vowels.

    Is that limited to front vowels? I thought it was like in Russian: the non-palatalized consonants are velarized to enhance the distinction, and the attempt to velarize velars generates [ɰ]. Saying кот slowly enough can produce a diphthong [uo].

    (But that’s clearly not how it works in Komi, where the velar offglide only appears after velars, and even then in less than half of the examples at the link.)

  358. “the mid vowel between [ɔ] and [o]”: I don’t hear any rounding in any of them.

  359. David Marjanović says:

    I hear so much in many of them that I’m sure I’d mistranscribe the spoken words. A proper unrounded Chinese or Vietnamese [ɤ] is just not the same, except in сӧр & шӧр.

  360. For comparison purposes, here’s the Komi Ы pronounced.

  361. per incuriam says:

    @Trond Engen
    the glotto’s, of whom he was such a phobe

    To get back to glottophobia, you are perhaps familiar with former Green MEP Eva Joly, née Gro Eva Farseth, who arrived in France as an au pair and ended up running for Head of State (a position apparently not open to her in the land of her birth).

    Unlike other great nations, France lacks constitutional safeguards against foreign takeover. Thus was it left to concerned political opponents to alert voters to a potential misalignment, arising from Mme Joly’s exotic origins, as between her perspectives and theirs. This essentially involved mocking her accent.

    The Greens riposted with this short celebration of accent diversity (featuring among others an impressively irony-proof Karl Lagerfeld).

  362. Trond Engen says:

    per incuriam: you are perhaps familiar with former Green MEP Eva Joly, née Gro Eva Farseth[?]

    Of course. She was actually mentioned tonight in this house by my mother-in-law, in a discussion of a recent urban development scandal in Trondheim.

    Also, another reminder that Norway is a small country: Eva Joly was born in the same year as my mother, and they grew up in neighbouring school districts in central Oslo. They knew each other in some way in their youth, but its 23 years since my mother died and I don’t remember how. Maybe she didn’t tell more than that.

  363. Again, Komi ӧ.
    I found a few video examples: especially here (0:45, 2:09–2:31), but also here (0:52), and any number of videos found under “урок Коми язык”.
    ӧ in all the instances I saw is pronounced with no lip rounding, but sometimes with lip spreading in careful enunciation, or slight lip protrusion.
    I don’t know if the speakers are of the same dialect as in the examples Juho linked to, and whether any of them are influenced by Russian.

    I will measure some formants, but for now I’m starting to think that DM and myself were each half-right, and that the vowel lay at the IPA no-man’s land between ɤ and ə.

  364. Close back compressed vowel?

    Some languages, such as Japanese and Swedish, have a close back vowel that has a distinct type of rounding, called compressed or exolabial. Only Shanghainese is known to contrast it with the more typical protruded (endolabial) close back vowel, but the height of both vowels varies from close to close-mid.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close_back_rounded_vowel#Close_back_compressed_vowel

  365. If I understand it correctly, the “compressed” vowel has a small mouth aperture, with no protrusion. What I saw in the video looks like the opposite, spread lips but with slight protrusion. It could be just a side effect of exaggerated careful pronunciation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the protrusion I see has a negligible acoustic effect.

  366. David Marjanović says:

    For comparison purposes, here’s the Komi Ы pronounced.

    I listened, and then lost this thread until now! 🙂 Right now I can’t listen again, but from what I remember this ы is a straight-up [ɯ], and there’s a word with ӧ and ы that sounds perfectly Mandarin, with [ɤ] and [ɯ], while ӧ in other sample words covers the same range as it does on its own example page.

    Compressed vowels are a good idea. I don’t think I’d recognize those easily.

  367. A sketch of Komi grammar (in Russian):

    https://postnauka.ru/longreads/155705

  368. There is a ТЕЗАУРУС Лексика природного окружения в уральских языках by Ю. В. Норманская, А. В. Дыбо (in Russian, obviously):

    https://iling-ran.ru/library/ural-altaic/thesaurus.pdf

  369. Thank you for these links, juha. The thesaurus will be interesting to look through.

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