Icelandic Continues to Battle Extinction.

Last year we discussed an overheated article about the imminent death of the Icelandic language; now Caitlin Hu has a Quartz piece (with linked video) on the same topic:

For centuries, the Icelandic language has held off influences from foreign lingua franca [sic; should be “lingua francas,” no italics — LH] like Danish and English. But today, there is a new threat: technologies that can only be operated in foreign languages, even at home. Apple’s voice assistant, Siri, for example, does not understand Icelandic (although Google Translate does, thanks to an Icelandic engineer who worked at the California-based company, according to legend). […]

The tiny country has a three-prong plan to save its language. By law, Icelandic must be taught in schools, and new citizens must pass a fluency test. The country’s Language Planning Department creates Icelandic words for new and foreign terms, with the aim of rendering borrowed words unnecessary. And the state plans to spend the equivalent of $20 million (link in Icelandic) over the next five years to support public and private initiatives to build Icelandic-language technologies.

The threat is real, and two of the three steps make sense, but the second one is stupid: borrowed words do not threaten the existence of a language. Obvious case in point: English, which is so full of loans you have to work to compose a sentence that’s free of them. If anything, trying to force people not to use the words that come naturally to them will decrease the likelihood the language will survive. Why is this crackpot idea so irresistible to politicians and other ignoramuses? Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, the linked video is interesting and only five minutes long; thanks, Bathrobe!

One of the people quoted in the video is Ross Perlin, a linguist who is Co-Director of the Endangered Language Alliance and who has featured at LH more than once (e.g., 2014, 2016); the Alliance has published a map of 637 languages of New York City. It’s got some odd entries (nobody speaks Old Church Slavonic or Koine Greek, even in NYC), but it’s fun to explore (use the + button). (Via MetaFilter.)

Comments

  1. Icelandic dying now?

    Checked ethnic groups info for Iceland.

    89% Icelandic; 5% Polish; 1% Lithuanian; 5% other.

    OK, so the Poles and Lithuanians are taking over both Ireland and Iceland…

  2. I am always shocked to discover people actually use Siri. To think that Siri could threaten the existence of a language blows my mind, but also seems incredibly unlikely.

    What is more likely to kill Icelandic (and probably even threaten fairly strong languages like German over the longer term) is the global reach of media like YouTube and Netflix and the amount of English language “content” that young people are exposed to, and want to consume. People won’t stop speaking Icelandic (or Dutch or Swedish) at home, but increasingly they do business in English, interact with people on line in English and want to express themselves creatively in English, which is the “language of culture”. In that world there is limited returns to immigrants to Iceland, Sweden, Netherlands in learning the “native” language.

  3. the second one is stupid: borrowed words do not threaten the existence of a language. Obvious case in point: English, which is so full of loans you have to work to compose a sentence that’s free of them.

    Apples and oranges. English absorbed the bulk of its loans in very different times and very different conditions from Iceland in the 21st century. For example, 99% of Icelanders today are taught English, whereas in late-medieval England, when English was acquiring much of its Latin vocabulary, 90-99% of English speakers were illiterate even in English, let alone Latin. Latin, French, etc. never penetrated into the home and daily life of Anglophones the way English does today in Iceland (among other places) thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet, smartphones, etc. As English absorbed most of its foreign loans, it did so under conditions where the tiny literate bilingual minority introduced loanwords that made their way to those who did not speak the prestige language–an absolute majority of the population–and therefore were at no risk of abandoning their own language for the prestige language.

    If anything, trying to force people not to use the words that come naturally to them will decrease the likelihood the language will survive.

    The language planners in the video (who, by the way, say nothing about forcing people to do one thing or another) suggest that if people feel they have to rely on English to discuss important topics, they “start to look at the language as not complete.” Would you disagree that such an attitude (that is, that Icelandic is only good for discussing sheep and rocks and if you want to talk about technology or finance, you might as well switch to English entirely) contributes to language death?

    I’m not some purist ideologically opposed to loanwords, but the argument that languages have always borrowed words and therefore “borrowed words do not threaten the existence of a language” strikes me as awfully similar to the argument that the climate has always been changing and therefore climate change does not threaten human existence. In both cases, the arguments are predicated upon ignoring the differences in historical conditions between the past and the present.

  4. Stu Clayton says:

    The “similarity in argument” suggests further arguments:

    1. Word changes do not change climate, so they do not threaten human existence by means of climate change.

    2. Climate change does not change words, so it does not threaten the existence of a language due to word change.

  5. {thinking} a case could be made that Greenlandic Norse went extinct due to climate change.

  6. The language planners in the video (who, by the way, say nothing about forcing people to do one thing or another) suggest that if people feel they have to rely on English to discuss important topics, they “start to look at the language as not complete.” Would you disagree that such an attitude (that is, that Icelandic is only good for discussing sheep and rocks and if you want to talk about technology or finance, you might as well switch to English entirely) contributes to language death?

    Apples and oranges. Using words borrowed from English in the context of an Icelandic sentence is not equivalent to using English to discuss things. I can’t believe that’s such a difficult distinction to make. So much of the Albanian vocabulary is borrowed it wasn’t recognized as Indo-European for a long time, and yet it’s still Albanian and still thriving.

  7. Stu Clayton says:

    a case could be made that Greenlandic Norse went extinct due to climate change.

    But not because the climate changed Norse, but because it drove the Norse-speaking Greenlandic population away, lest their asses freeze up. The substrate of people went extinct, the language went with them as a secondary effect.

  8. I got it now.

    In this view, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish all died out in the Middle Ages swamped by thousands of Low German loanwords (and later Dutch, Latin, French, English, etc).

    Only Icelandic and Faroese survived, the only remnants of Old Norse.

    What they speak in Scandinavia nowadays is just, I don’t know, Pidgin Low German mixed with English.

    Or something.

  9. Language issues (including language extinction) contribute to the climate change by producing a lot of hot air.

    Actually, there are lots of extinct languages and a lot of languages on the brink of extinction. How many of them went (or a going) dodo because of the loanwords?

    On the fifth hand, maybe language is like wine. Objective facts are just distraction and it is personal feel that matters. New words is the easiest thing to notice and people of conservative disposition rail against them. It doesn’t matter how illegal immigration happens, just build that wall (and get Brexit done while you are at it).

  10. Vanya [Icelanders, Danes, Swedes] interact with people on line in English
    In my limited experience the same people interact online in their own language too. Perhaps more than they do in English unless the subject is especially tied to English.

    want to express themselves creatively in English, which is the “language of culture”
    Probably I’m not understanding what you mean. English is the language of science (esp. medical science) because international verbal communication is really essential, but I’m amazed if you’re including arts (humanities), esp. when you live in a German-speaking country. Apart from the Swedish film title Fucking Åmål, about a boring provincial town – and now I find it was released in English as “Show Me Love” which is pitiful) – I find that verbal refs to English-language pop culture in Scandinavian art seem imitative of Eng-lang art and so end up appearing slightly behind the times. As for the German-lang arts (visual, film, stage & music, anyway) German owes nothing to English; quite the reverse. I’m guessing that if you suggested to any European that Shakespeare & Walt Disney make English the language of culture… well, my God, just claim that to an Italian.

  11. John Cowan says:

    It’s true that surrendering certain domains completely to another language can lead to language death (though I think loanwords are irrelevant to this, and actually work against it). But it can also lead to stable di- or multiglossia (and see the links to Lameen’s). An Algerian can’t talk about, much less write about, car repair in Darja because it lacks the terminology, nor in Standard Arabic because nobody knows those words even though they exist. But they can do it in French.

  12. It’s the attitude thing. When language absorbed too many loanwords, purists will declare it’s dead.

    It’s not actually dead and might be still spoken, but it has diverged enough, so it could be dismissed as new language or something (and old version of the language can be considered extinct).

    I mean, surely a language where you can say phrases like “Ġeografikament, l-Ewropa hi parti tas-superkontinent ta’ l-Ewrasja” can’t be called Arabic anymore.

  13. I’m not sure the purpose of language project such as the I Icelandic one is to force anyone to anything, rather it has several other purposes.
    1. To give legitimacy to the standard language. English has other types of language standardisation projects, such as the OED and various style guides. Iceland has this project.
    2. Create media interest. Making up new words and send press releases is a common method to gather media interest in the standard languange. A similar example would be the Nyordslista in Sweden. (The words in that list often are short-lived too.)
    3. It’s true that the internet is dominated by the English language. Many services require English, to the annoyance of non-English speakers. However, I think that this annoyance is more common among speakers of strong standard languages, such as Swedish. When you’re used to all information being in the standard language, it’s annoying when suddenly there are things you can’t access without English.

  14. John Cowan says:

    I mean, surely a language where you can say phrases like “Ġeografikament, l-Ewropa hi parti tas-superkontinent ta’ l-Ewrasja” can’t be called Arabic anymore.

    Of course it can, although for political and social reasons Maltese deny their language is an Arabic vernacular. “Geographically, Europe is part of the supercontinent of Eurasia” is totes English, even though the only native words are is, of, the.

  15. Apples and oranges. Using words borrowed from English in the context of an Icelandic sentence is not equivalent to using English to discuss things. I can’t believe that’s such a difficult distinction to make.

    I agree with you. But I also think lots of ordinary people find it a difficult distinction to make–hence all of these articles about language death, written by laypeople who don’t understand that distinction. Lacking words that feel native (however unscientific that might be) for modern terms contributes to the feeling that one’s language is backwards, not modern, or otherwise not useful. I don’t think loanwords alone causes language death, but they can contribute to attitudes L1 speakers have about their language (as others have pointed out) which do impact language death.

  16. John Cowan says:

    So much of the Albanian vocabulary is borrowed it wasn’t recognized as Indo-European for a long time

    Bopp nailed Albanian as IE (and in its own branch) in 1854, after his Comparative Grammar (1833) but before Schleicher’s Compendium (1861). It’s pretty hard to argue with një, dy, tre, katër, pesë, gjashtë, tetë, nëntë, dhjetë (although see Chamorro, which has abandoned its native numbers for Spanish ones).

    Perhaps you are thinking of Armenian? Heinrich Hübschmann in 1875 was the first to show it wasn’t an Indo-Iranian language. (I have made this error in the past.)

  17. Ah, that may be. It’s been a long time.

  18. January First-of-May says:

    Actually, there are lots of extinct languages and a lot of languages on the brink of extinction. How many of them went (or a going) dodo because of the loanwords?

    I vaguely recall an anecdote (which I originally encountered on LH) about how an Aleutian language in far eastern Russia acquired so many Russian loans over time that eventually the locals were just speaking Russian with a weird accent and slightly weird grammar, while insisting that they were actually talking in Aleut.

    (I wonder whether a similar thing happened with some lexifier creoles.)

  19. Are all the languages that use words similar to television, telephone, and computer on their way to death (though it’s not clear what language they’re surrendering to)? Creating sjónvarp, sími, and tölvu might be fun, but does it really help anything?

  20. It’s because Albanian is clearly an Armenian surname (“son of Alban”).

  21. And Icelandic is a Serbo-Croatian surname.

  22. David Eddyshaw says:

    @January:

    You’re thinking of Copper Island Aleut:

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

    It’s a rare example of a genuinely mixed language; Michif is another:

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

    These languages are quite different from creoles, and seem to arise only under very unusual circumstances. They seem to result from a deliberate choice by the children to create their own language distinct from that of either parent, in order to establish their own unique ethnic identity.

  23. is clearly an Armenian surname

    Try the list of Roman emperors.

    They were all Armenians, I tell you.

    Octavian, Valerian, Domitian, Gordian, Numerian, Diocletian, Justinian, Kardashian….

  24. January First-of-May says:

    Supposedly from an exam on Roman law:

    Устинян, Ульпиян, Папинян, Трибунян… Почему у них у всех армянские фамилии?

    (Very approximately: “Justinian, Ulpian, Papinian, Tribonian… why do all of them have Armenian surnames?”)

  25. David Eddyshaw says:

    The thing about Icelandic is that the use of calquing rather than loanwords for new vocabulary has long been a matter of deliberate language policy. There is nothing new about this policy, and the “language death” thing is a complete red herring; this is more analogous to things like Atatürk’s policy of replacing Arabic and Persian loans in Turkish.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Scots name “Ian” is also Armenian. (“Son of NULL.”)

  27. John Cowan says:

    eventually the locals were just speaking Russian with a weird accent and slightly weird grammar, while insisting that they were actually talking in Aleut.

    Delhi Punjabi is like this: speakers are talking Hindi except for a few characteristic Punjabi grammatical particles. This is not like Yinglish or Angloromani, which are mostly about content words.

  28. Different languages borrow differently. English is very lucky in this regard, with most declensions long dead, and few really productive morphological features. I don’t know Icelandic, but some words which were naturally and completely assimilated into English would feel very awkward in e.g. Hebrew.

  29. John Cowan says:

    It’s true that it’s easier to borrow into English than most languages, but light verbs analogous to English do allow verbs to be borrowed as nouns, which is usually easier (indeclinable nouns are common, unconjugatable verbs are not). In any case, nothing linguistic can account for the acceptance of loanwords in Standard Serbian and their rejection from Standard Croatian.

  30. The thing about Icelandic is that the use of calquing rather than loanwords for new vocabulary has long been a matter of deliberate language policy.

    To me the interesting thing is not so much that they tried but how successful they’ve been. Ever since independence, Croatian linguists have been fighting a losing battle against “foreign” words but even the coercive machinery of the state has not been able to make their prescriptivist approach work. The typical scenario is a new thing or concept appears; lacking a word for it, people adopt the English one (with Croatian spelling , pronunciation, suffixes etc); in a mad panic, the language institute invents a native equivalent (this part at least is often unintentionally hilarious); state media, large newspapers, govt officials and the like assiduously employ the new coinage while the rest of the language community blissfuly ignores them.

    Obviously Iceland being more or less completely bilingual with English makes this a more viable strategy, since English is not seen as an invading threat. But even more importantly it seems like this has been going on for so long that it’s really a bottom-up rather than a top-down strategy; with full buy-in from the populace, it’s not that surprising they can make the new coinages stick since that’s the normal process for forming words anyway.

  31. Different languages borrow differently. English is very unlucky in this regard, with most declensions long dead, and few really productive morphological features.

    (Just wanted to introduce some balance.)

  32. John Cowan says:

    Icelandic neologism has been going on for a long time: see the WP article. There are similar articles or parts of articles for English, Korean, Hindi, Croatian, Katharevousa, Tamil; but not German or Italian.

  33. In any case, nothing linguistic can account for the acceptance of loanwords in Standard Serbian and their rejection from Standard Croatian.

    Nothing linguistic can account for Standard Serbian and Standards Croatian. 🙂

    In any case, I wouldn’t let the Serbs off the hook that easily. For one, they’re extremely allergic to Bosnian (Turkish, they would say, as if the words haven’t been thorougly Slavicized) and/or Montenegrin words or forms. And they regard Croatian Slavicized neologisms as inherently ridiculous despite having adopted a good number of them (časopis, vodopod, etc). Plus Serbian officialdom keeps insisting on Cyrillic for reasons that can only be explained in terms of purism.

    Slovenian is an interesting case – the standard language is nearly free of foreign loanwords, while the everyday vernacular is so thoroughly Germanized that it’s almost a southern Yiddish. Of course it’s still replete with Serbo-Croatian borrowings but those are basically impossible to identify and even if you could what would you replace them with? It’s like BCSM is the Scylla and German is the Charybdis.

  34. I did not know that about Slovenian! The world of language is so complex and fascinating, and people keep trying to simplify it…

  35. Stu Clayton says:

    In each language at any time, some speakers can be observed simplifying it, each in their own way, whether deliberately or otherwise. This surely is one of the main driving forces behind the complexity and fascination of languages. That’s because there is a counter driving force, the people who resist the simplifiers.

    Similar phenomena may exist in other vocalizing species such as dogs and birds. Recording technology has not been around long enough to provide reliable data for analysis. Of course the productions of Mr. Ed The Talking Horse over the years may have already been phonemically analyzed.

  36. In each language at any time, some speakers can be observed simplifying it, each in their own way, whether deliberately or otherwise.

    I don’t mean the people who speak it — they can do what they like, it’s their language — but the people who talk about language(s).

  37. Stu Clayton says:

    There too we have the countervailing forces of you-must-do-this (academies, copyeditors, pundits, language teachers) and you-may-do-pretty-much-as-you-please (everybody else). The conflict itself contributes to complexity. If it had no effect on anything, why bring it up ?

  38. David Marjanović says:

    As English absorbed most of its foreign loans, it did so under conditions where the tiny literate bilingual minority introduced loanwords that made their way to those who did not speak the prestige language–an absolute majority of the population–and therefore were at no risk of abandoning their own language for the prestige language.

    They get trust until they hit Eric.

    ↑ English sentence composed entirely of Norse loanwords, all borrowed under very different conditions than most of the French, Occitan and Latin ones.

    if you suggested to any European that Shakespeare & Walt Disney make English the language of culture…

    Shakespeare has been a German classic since Schlegel & Tieck translated him. All the Disney output is likewise translated.

    I mean, surely a language where you can say phrases like “Ġeografikament, l-Ewropa hi parti tas-superkontinent ta’ l-Ewrasja” can’t be called Arabic anymore.

    That’s a particularly bad example: Geographisch ist Europa ein Teil des Superkontinents EurasienTeil is native, but they still get trust until they hit Eric.

    Plus Serbian officialdom keeps insisting on Cyrillic for reasons that can only be explained in terms of purism.

    Cyrillic is in actual spontaneous use, too, though. Basically, the alphabets are just different fonts, and the (ultra-(ultra-(ultra-…)))nationalists prefer blackletter.

    …and I see that the “Serbianize your desktop” snark site still exists! (Its name mercilessly exploits the few points in which the alphabets aren’t just fonts.)

    so thoroughly Germanized

    I’m sure there are degrees. Phonetically, people from Ljubljana at least sound Slavic, while people from the very north, with /r/ as [ʀ] and with /ɫ/ and /lʲ/ merged as a flat-tongued [l], don’t.

  39. @David: 1. Cyrillic is definitely in spontaneous use but I believe that the official documents of the Government of Serbia are published in Cyrillic only which…come on. For my generation anyway Cyrillic was always a kind of as joke, an inexplicable but benign archaism. Writing English in Cyrillic was a popular gag even when I was a kid – I can’t explain why but there’s just something inherently hilarious about it.

    2. Well I should specify I learned it na Štajerskem, in Maribor to be precise. It’s distant enough from standard speech that it’s a bit like learning English as a second language in, like, Jamaica. The Štajerski (ie Styrian) is a world unto itself within Slovenian with phrases like “Si že auf” (Are you up yet?). There’s a fantastic instagram page called “stajerskiargo” that mines the local dialect for comic gold.

  40. The supposed threat of a Loanword Menace I think relies on slippery-slope thinking: if we don’t stop the influx of English financial terminology, next they’ll come for our pre-existing nautical terminology, after that for our color adjectives, after that for our motion verbs, soon our entire language will turn out to have been relexified, and at that point if everyone remains bilingual they’re just going to finally declare old native grammar useless too. Of course, this isn’t how anything works.

    Slang registers that seem to be “further on the slope” are often further invoked as an ill portent, but then the fact that they remain slang registers really proves the fear is unfounded.

  41. John Cowan says:

    Irish and Scots Gaelic on the other hand work much better in Cyrillic. The current system requires that soft consonants have front vowels on both sides (or on the only side if initial or final) and hard consonants have back vowels adjacent in the same way. This means that you simply have to know (or sometimes guess) how a vowel digraph is pronounced. For example, in the standard language ao is pronounced /eː/, but it has hard consonants on both sides. The Cyrillic system of two sets of vowels that affect only the preceding consonant, plus a soft sign, is far easier to understand.

    As an example, spelling Gaelach ‘Gaelic (adj.)’ as Гэ́лах and Gaeilge ‘Irish language’ as Гэ́лге is a lot clearer. (You don’t need a soft sign after л, because clusters are either all-hard or all-soft.) The accent is for vowel length and is required.

  42. The Icelandic aversion to loanwords may be extreme, but standardization of new terminology is something that does benefit smaller languages by making it easier to discuss certain topics in them. Specialist vocabulary taken wholesale from another language are more opaque and often do not fit the phonology of the target language, so they can be cumbersome.

    Korean does have a language regulator with a puristic bent, but in terms of actual usage there is a more sensible mix of loanwords and replacement terms. So an executable file would be called 실행 파일 silhaeng pail in Korean, where 실행 silhaeng is the Sino-Korean word 實行 “implementation, carrying out” and 파일 pail is a straight borrowing of “file”. Saying 엑시큐터블 파일 eksikyuteobeul pail would be too unwieldy (it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue for Korean speakers), and moreover it isn’t trivial to agree on how to render “executable” in Korean.

    In many cases, loanwords are used as a fallback not because there is no clear way to express the concept in the language, but because there are too many possibilities and it isn’t easy to agree upon one. If I didn’t know the usual translation of “executable file”, I might consider several possible ways to express the concept in Korean, and maybe even just give up and leave it in transcribed English. If an agreed term did exist for a concept, people would choose it instead of introducing a new loanword in many cases not because of ideological linguistic purism but because of practicality.

    Not all loanwords are bad of course, but there are legitimate reasons to replace unnecessarily complicated ones, and the big step is to agree on the right replacement. I don’t know enough about which terms the Icelandic body actually works on (“mansplaining” might not be the term most crying out loud for a replacement), but I think in theory that such a body could be beneficial for a smaller language that can’t match the linguistic production and standard-setting of the major languages.

  43. “nothing linguistic can account for the acceptance of loanwords in Standard Serbian and their rejection from Standard Croatian”

    Depends on your definition of “linguistic”.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    Writing English in Cyrillic was a popular gag even when I was a kid – I can’t explain why but there’s just something inherently hilarious about it.

    There’s something inherently hilarious in any respelling of anything familiar. 😐

    “Si že auf” (Are you up yet?)

    They seem to have reinterpreted the native že as German schon (the -n is already missing in the relevant dialects)…

    Irish and Scots Gaelic on the other hand work much better in Cyrillic.

    That’s Russian-style Cyrillic, though. Serbian-style Cyrillic has just one set of vowel letters, and all palatalization is left to the letters љ and њ for the two palatalized consonants the languages in question have.

  45. “Croatian linguists have been fighting a losing battle against “foreign” words but even the coercive machinery of the state has not been able to make their prescriptivist approach work. ”

    I can’t think of one example where this has happened. The last time I checked Croatia is a democracy, and the government has other issues on its plate, rather than setting up a ‘coercive machinery’ to govern words.

    There is a language institute, with functions similar to the Academy in France and in other European countries. Certainly Bosnia & Hercegovina, Montenegro and Serbia all have similar institutions. This institute publishes lists recommending Croatian equivalents for foreign loanwords. Sometimes these gain traction and sometimes they don’t.

    Here are some examples of recommendations from the bolje.hr website:

    – “vrhunski, najbolji, najtraženiji, najaktualniji” rather than English “top”. “Top” also means “cannon” in Croatian. The suggested equivalents mean “supreme, best, most wanted, most current”. I don’t think that this one will go far because top has been used in its English sense for a few decades and there is no one word equivalent for it.

    – “dizajnerski hotel” rather than the English “design hotel”. This one has merit because the sequence “gn” does not occur at the end of Croatian words, so it sticks out like a sore thumb. |The spelling pronunciation of |design| is unpronouncable in Croatian, while the Croatian “dizajn” pron. |dizajn| has almost no resemblance to the English spelling. The Germanic collocation of two nouns also has been colloquially adopted in Croatia, especially by w*nkers and marketers who want to sound cool. But I like the grammatically correct adjective+noun combination that has been proposed. I’d adopt this recommendation.

    – “(dokumentarni) film o snimanju” rather than the English “making of”. The Croatian equivalent literally means “film about the filming of”. “Making of” would be pronounced as |making of| or |mejking ov| in Croatian. I would use this unless I am talking about a film that is actually called “Making of something”.

    Hardly fundamentalist purism. in any event most people translate in conversation.

  46. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jc
    Re Irish in Cyrillic: the shch character would be useful for the normal (i.e., non-careful) pronunciation of isteach, éisteacht, etc. Russian itself uses unnecessary soft signs (final t after a palatalising vowel is always soft, as in Irish). However initial mutations are not addressed; the old spelling just put a dot above the mutated consonant for séimhú, which is clearer for reading and does not favour one dialect over another, as you would have to do if you used different Cyrillic consonants.

  47. final t after a palatalising vowel is always soft

    It’s not in eg ряд.

  48. PlasticPaddy says:

    @juha
    I was thinking more of pet’, pit’, sprosit’ etc. But there is sprosit (so I was wrong, but sprosit’ and sprosit in Russian are not a minimal pair, because udarenije and o sound are different). In Irish you would need the soft sign to distinguish art from airt. Strangely when speaking English, the Irish (and Welsh, I think) use a soft final two regardless of the preceding vowel.

  49. standardization of new terminology is something that does benefit smaller languages by making it easier to discuss certain topics in them. Specialist vocabulary taken wholesale from another language are more opaque and often do not fit the phonology of the target language, so they can be cumbersome.

    But people are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves which words to borrow as is and which to calque or replace in some other way; they have, after all, been borrowing words for millennia without benefit of learned bodies. As far as I can see, the only thing such bodies do (besides provide employment for learned people) is to solemnly ratify words the people have already started using and to shake their fists impotently at words they deprecate but which people insist on using anyway.

  50. Tomás de Bhaldraithe English-Irish Dictionary (1959) Preface, footnote 3

    Suppose your word for ‘computer’ contains the word “prophetess”, and you are reading a medieval text which mentions a “prophetess”. Is your ‘computer’ word going to help or hinder your understanding of the medieval text? I think it could go either way. Or both.

  51. Christopher Culver says:

    “They regard Croatian Slavicized neologisms as inherently ridiculous despite having adopted a good number of them (časopis, vodopod, etc).”

    časopis was originally coined in Czech (as a transparent calque of German Zeitschrift). I assume that it was borrowed directly from Czech by Serbian intellectuals during the 19th-century Pan-Slavism vogue. Interesting that Serbians today would think it a specifically Croatian thing.

  52. Not Icelandic, but the kanji of the year, as of December 12, 2019, is 令 (rei, ryou):

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

  53. Hey, my posting is back! Thanks much, Your Hatness.

    I think restoring the dot but placing it below works best for Gaelics-in-Cyrillic. I’m also switching to doubled letters a la Mongolian for vowel length, because of its critical importance; in addition, no diacritic above looks very good with Cyrillic capitals. So I now write Гээлак̣ ‘Gaelic (adj.)’. That reduces the alphabet to “а аа б б̣ г г̣ д д̣ е ее ё ёё и ии к к̣ л м м̣ н о оо п п̣ р с с̣ т т̣ у уу ф ф̣ х ь ы ыы э ээ ю юю я яя”, though whether the long vowels count as separate letters (they don’t in Irish Latin spelling) is a separate issue.

    Note that х is used for the marginal consonant /h/, and the soft sign is used only finally. Typographically ф̣ looks bad but raising the dot doesn’t help either: reviving the pre-1917 ѳ is probably the best thing despite its irregularity. Just adopting random Cyrillic letters breaks the morphophonemic spelling pattern and falls down on dh, gh which are pronounced the same but are related to d, g respectively; likewise sh, th, h have the same sound (only in the standard language) but pattern very differently. For the same reasons, vowel reduction is not noted and is very different from Russian vowel reduction: pretty much everything becomes schwa when unstressed, including even ё.

    And blah, and blah, and lorem ipsum, and let’s hope there’s enough Latin text to keep the bot happy.

  54. Top is a Turkish word but go off I guess.

  55. But people are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves which words to borrow as is and which to calque or replace in some other way; they have, after all, been borrowing words for millennia without benefit of learned bodies.

    What ‘people’? Most people passively accept what others (early adopters, pioneers, authoritative figures, authors, etc.) have decided. What choice do people have in naming the elements of the periodic table? What choice do people have in deciding scientific terminology? What choice do people have in deciding legal technology? It’s nonsense to say that “people are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves which words to borrow as is, which to calque,” etc. This notion of some kind of “democratic process” doesn’t take into account the complex realities of vocabulary formation and adoption.

    Why did English borrow an inordinate amount of Latinate and Hellenistic vocabulary? You can be assured it wasn’t some natural, organic process that “just happened”. It was decided by “fashion” at the time, especially among the writing classes. Nobody has a choice. It’s forced on them by their culture — or one part of their culture. Resistance to inkhorn terms continues today as a sociological phenomenon in the form of disdain for “big words” among a segment of the population.

    If the Icelanders have a culture of purism and accepting decision-making by a learned elite, that is one of the multifarious ways that new vocabulary comes about. It’s not some abnormality or enormity. It’s just a more regular, disciplined process adopted by a small community for deciding what vocabulary it will use to describe the bewildering variety of new phenomena that are being thrown at it. It’s time to stop castigating Icelandic as some kind of aberration and see it as just one more example of the many ways that vocabulary is created and/or adopted by different languages. Extolling the English way is just another kind of prescriptivism.

    Fulminating against efforts to bring about regular vocabulary formation is ridiculous. As a first step towards eliminating the artificial development and propagation of vocabulary, we should be eliminating universal education. That would really return us to the decentred process that you seem to prefer.

    I am also mystified by the attitude that the wholesale adoption of foreign vocabulary is somehow superior to the use of native elements to form new vocabulary. There is no doubt a great deal of romance in tracing the origins of words (etymologists love this sort of thing), but there is also a great deal of satisfaction in seeing how vocabulary can be built as opposed to borrowing it indiscriminately.

  56. It was decided by “fashion” at the time, especially among the writing classes.

    In other words, the relevant people decided. Not a government bureaucracy.

  57. Stu Clayton says:

    You’re claiming that a government bureaucracy is not a group of “relevant” people ? The “relevance” in all the cases mentioned is self-attributed or arrogated. That includes “people … perfectly capable of deciding for themselves”. This is the pretension of unpretentiousness with an agenda.

    I agree with Bademantel: This notion of some kind of “democratic process” doesn’t take into account the complex realities of vocabulary formation and adoption.

  58. You’re claiming that a government bureaucracy is not a group of “relevant” people ?

    In a word, yes.

  59. January First-of-May: I vaguely recall an anecdote (which I originally encountered on LH) about how an Aleutian language in far eastern Russia acquired so many Russian loans over time that eventually the locals were just speaking Russian with a weird accent and slightly weird grammar, while insisting that they were actually talking in Aleut.

    I think this is not Copper Island Aleut but some comments from SFReader on Siberian languages, here and also here:

    Vakhtin described the end result – a conversation between two speakers of Siberian Eskimo language which he believed was in Russian (all words being Russian with a few Eskimo inflections inserted).

    But the speakers – mother and daughter – insisted that it was in Siberian Eskimo.

  60. J.W. Brewer says:

    You say “eliminating universal education” like that’s a bad thing? (Sorry, have been reading the work of James C. Scott who views literacy, like most of so-called “civilization,” as a net negative for overall human flourishing since from ancient Mesopotamia through the present it mostly just enabled the feasibility of tax-collecting, military conscription, and similar unhappy phenomena.)

  61. Is the objection only to government bureaucracies? What about academic associations?

    In 1998, the Korean Chemical Society came up with new Korean renderings of a host of chemical terms, including basic ones such as the names of elements, and in the 2000s they successfully lobbied the National Institute of the Korean Language to accept these as standard despite controversy. Now they are used in textbooks, and a whole generation of Koreans is growing up learning these names.

    They changed these terms without consulting the general public, disrupting a system that had broadly been in place a century. Terms that had been previously rendered based on German pronunciation (intermediated by Japanese) are now rendered in partial imitation of English pronunciation. Manganese, which used to be 망간 manggan (cf. German Mangan is now 망가니즈 mangganijeu (applying the full guidelines for transcribing the English pronunciation would have given 맹거니즈 maenggeonijeu). For now, the language authorities are accepting both forms as standard, but the Korean Chemical Society will likely keep pushing to abolish the older forms as they have already done internally.

    As you might expect, many people who are used to the old names see the whole enterprise as unnecessary and misguided. It has met opposition from other scientists as well, such as biologists. The renaming may make code-switching easier for Korean chemists talking at international conferences in English, but offers little benefit for the general public.

    Yet the public doesn’t get much choice in these decisions. People may rail against the renaming, but students today are already growing up learning these new names. One could argue that the role of the language authorities should be to rein in specialist groups like the Korean Chemical Society when they decide to get in on some language planning of their own, but in this case the National Institute of the Korean Language proved to be a pushover.

  62. dizajnerski hotel

    It’s Russian, by the way. (dizainerskiy)

    and ‘dokumentarni’ is Russian too. (dokumental’nyy)

    very curious.

    South Slavic languages have been borrowing Russian versions of international terms for the last two centuries, but I thought it long ended due to politics and nationalism.

    apparently not.

  63. @J W Brewer

    I wasn’t maintaining that universal education is a good thing. Merely pointing out that if you don’t like government interference in language, you should be opposed to universal education, too. It is an official outside force that has had a huge impact on language.

    @ Jongseong Park

    Is the objection only to government bureaucracies? What about academic associations?

    I suspect that our amiable host hasn’t thought this through very deeply. He is merely giving voice to a peeve that he appears to have held for many decades: that setting up academies to regulate language is a “bad thing”.

    In the case of Iceland, if (1) there is an established tradition of linguistic purism, (2) the people agree with this tradition, (3) both the government and the learned establishment feel they have a mission to uphold it in practice, and (4) the people of the community support them in their efforts, the opinions of an outsider who believes that this approach to language is wrong “in principle” can be freely ignored.

  64. I suspect that our amiable host hasn’t thought this through very deeply.

    Yes, because anyone who disagrees with you must either be stupid or not have thought it through. A common attitude among people who are sure they’re right all the time.

  65. David Eddyshaw says:

    On the other hand, Bathrobe surely is right on this occasion.

    Myself, I often don’t think things through at all, let alone deeply. Perfectly nice dogma-free people point this out to me on occasion, not all of them close relatives.

  66. setting up academies to regulate language

    For Mongolian, this tradition goes a way back.

    Khubilai Khan set up academy to regulate Mongolian language (Meng-ku Han-lin yüan) in 1275.

    Modeled on the famous Chinese Hanlin Academy which existed since the Tang dynasty.

  67. Yes, bureaucracy is of ancient origin, like slavery and war.

  68. My point is not that academies to police languages are a good thing, but that each case should be judged on its merits rather than dismissed out of hand. Jongseong Park gives a rather egregious example of “relevant people” making and enforcing a high-handed decision worthy of any official academy.

    @SFR

    Mongolian actually provides a very interesting and (for me) infuriating example of linguistic purism. In Mongolia, Russian vocabulary is deeply ensconced in everyday usage. The linguistic authorities — not just the government but also scholars and linguists — are in a state of denial about the existence of such vocabulary. One example is the word for ‘cucumber’, which is theoretically өргөст хэмх örgöst khemkh in Mongolian. The word in almost universal use is огурцы ogurtsi, from Russian огурец oguryets. But ogurtsi is missing from most Mongolian dictionaries because it is “not a Mongolian word”. Cucumbers are almost universally labelled örgöst khemkh in shops, even though people don’t actually call them that. There are many other words that are in a similar situation. The motivation appears to be a desire to restore the purity of the Mongolian language by ignoring ordinary usage and attempting to impose the correct terminology. Mongolians are all aware of the existence of two terms for the same item.

    There are also attempts to make up terminology to replace Russian words, such as шар айраг shar airag ‘yellow kumiss’ to replace пиво piiv (or pyav). Despite the widespread use of the Russian term in ordinary usage, promotional signage is now heavily weighted to shar airag. This campaign to enforce Mongolian terminology appears to be bearing some fruit. Зурагт zuragt seems to be replacing телевиз televiz for ‘TV’ and алим alim long ago replaced яблоко yavlak for ‘apple’. But much of the old vocabulary clings on stubbornly.

    The attitude of the linguistic authorities is infuriating because it makes it very hard to find the everyday Russian-derived term in any dictionary. There is a conspiracy of silence designed to keep them out as “non-Mongolian”. I recently attended a conference of linguists where one lady gave a talk on compiling dictionaries (how to define words correctly — don’t just use synonyms — etc.). Later I asked the presenter what the Mongolian word for ‘carpet’ was. I got the standard хивс khivs along with another general word for ‘floor covering’. When I suggested the relatively common term дроож or дороож drooj or dorooj I was told it wasn’t Mongolian. (I have yet to find a Russian source for дороож, although I have been routinely told it is Russian.)

    Similar tendencies appear to exist in Inner Mongolia, where Chinese words are largely kept out of Mongolian-language dictionaries unless they have been completely naturalised (old borrowings).

    Another annoying phenomenon is the tendency of the linguistic authorities to make arbitrary decisions about correct usagee. The word for ‘(anatomical) chest’ was taught as цээж tseej for many years, but has recently been officially changed to чээж cheej. Most people still use tseej, but as the younger generation goes through school this can be expected to change to cheej over time. One online bilingual dictionary actually gives results for cheej, even when you type in tseej. It doesn’t impact the results (you will still get ‘chest’ as the equivalent), but your incorrect Mongolian is quietly corrected to the correct form.

    This phenomenon is not the result of an official academy but of a linguistic and academic establishment that is intent on preserving and enforcing ‘correct Mongolian’.

    Mongolian is a case where a focus on the evil of “official academies” misses the wider picture. Mongolia doesn’t have a specific “Académie Mongolaise” but tries to enforce usage both through government policy and the academic establishment, resulting in a head-in-the-sand attitude to actual linguistic usage. In Korea it’s a private body that is guilty of enforcing a new orthodoxy. And in Iceland it would appear that a government body is largely successful in its aims because it is in line with the ideas of the wider population. Simply opposing “official academies” misses the wider, and much more diverse, picture. It’s not one size fits all.

  69. I don’t just oppose “official academies,” I oppose anyone trying to impose particular linguistic usage on people, whether from an official position or simply one of elitist snottiness.

  70. “By law, Icelandic must be taught in schools”.

    An odd statement. Are there countries where they don’t teach their language in schools? Like reading, writing, grammar and stuff like that?

    Or are we to understand that people don’t really know how to speak Icelandic anymore and that the authorities are trying to reintroduce it? By requireing children to learn it in school like a foreign language?

  71. January First-of-May says:

    I have yet to find a Russian source for дороож, although I have been routinely told it is Russian.

    Presuming that it is definitely Russian, I would guess дорожка, as in ковровая дорожка “carpet strip”, though if so, I’m surprised that the “strip” word was borrowed instead of the actual “carpet” word.

    That said, with no further information, I would consider it far more plausible that the word is not actually of (recent) Russian origin.

    That’s very odd statement. Are there countries where they don’t teach their language in schools?

    IIRC, in some countries it is permissible to have schools for minority language speakers (especially in areas dominated by such) that do not technically actually teach the main official language; e.g., if the UK was such a country (I’m not sure if it is), there could have been a school in Wales that taught Welsh but not English.
    (It helps if there are multiple official languages, but, IIRC, exceptions exist even outside that case.)

    Alternately, they’re trying to say that the language of education has to be Icelandic; I’m not sure if that’s true, but it certainly seems plausible.

  72. @ January First-of-May

    That makes sense. Дороож seems to be used specifically in the sense of a fitted carpet, as opposed to a loose carpet or oversized mat (хивс). At least, that’s what I think the distinction is.

    @ Hat

    I oppose anyone trying to impose particular linguistic usage on people

    With Icelandic, something tells me you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.

    With regard to most languages, I think there’s an awful lot going on that your approach would seem to miss. Even standardised spelling is ‘imposed’ on people, not to mention many other aspects of vocabulary.

    At any rate, that’s all I have to say on the matter.

  73. There is a difference between (various kinds of) standardization and creating new vocab ex nihilo.

  74. In technical vocabulary, especially in areas like car repair, there is a lot Russian vocabulary in Mongolian, but it is spoken in Mongolian pronunciation by people who don’t know Russian (or any foreign languages), so it is generally unrecognizable.

    Older engineers with better education who actually studied Russian tend to insist on proper Russian spelling and pronunciation of such terms regarding Mongolized terms with disdain.

    Thus, eg, Mongolian terminology has both amortizator (shock absorber) and amarjin.

    I am willing to bet no one in Russia will recognize the latter until pointed out (and will have trouble believing it for some time afterwards).

    Some terms I’ve heard have three variants – Mongolian translation from native words, Russian borrowing in Russian spelling and Mongolized Russian borrowing.

    For example, gearbox is known as khurdny khairtsag (translated term), koropka (Russian term, shortening of koropka peredach) and khrop (Mongolized koropka). All three are in actual use.

    I think resistance to Mongolized terms will continue until they are so nativized that they don’t feel foreign anymore.

    Some of these terms are on the way there.

    I recently encountered ‘barvaany salnik’ which looks and sounds very Mongolian. Only Russian ending in the latter will give away Russian origin, but barvaany has utterly Mongolian feel to it.

    But it’s actually Russian – barabana salnik (drum break seal)

  75. Though it is also likely they will become obsolete before they make it into dictionaries.

    There is, or I think, was, a Mongolian term “maniul” which means “handcrank”.

    Obviously it is not used anymore since cars which required it are no longer on the road.

    It’s origin remained mystery since there is nothing even remotely similar in Russian and it is clearly not Mongolian.

    After some contemplation, I decided it belongs to the oldest layer of Mongolian car terminology and as such was borrowed not from Russian, but from English directly (first car in Mongolia was American Ford-T, bought by Mongolian ruler Bogdo-Gegen in 1914)

    So I have strong suspicion that “maniul” comes from English word “manual”.

    Perhaps before American usage settled on hand-crank there were other variants.

    “Manual start” for example.

  76. @SFReader: I think “manual crank” was the English term.

    Practical electric starters were developed when people realized they could essentially take off-the-shelf electric motors and just run them at really high voltages. The motors could not handle those power levels in continuous operation, but a starter motor only needs to run for a second or less.

  77. This Mongolized Russian reminds me of Japanified English.

  78. @ DO

    Not such a huge difference. Somebody has to create them, borrow them, or repurpose old terms, and if there are alternatives choosing a standard form becomes an issue — unless all the alternatives are kept and differentiated. (For example, when ‘mercury’ was chosen as standard, ‘quicksilver’s days were numbered. Yes, English still has both, but ‘quicksilver’ is now almost archaic. Japanese uses 水銀 suigin ‘liquid silver’. Chinese has that, too, but Chinese chemists chose single-syllable names as a matter of linguistic policy. The current word for ‘mercury’ is 汞 gǒng).

  79. Are there countries where they don’t teach their language in schools? Like reading, writing, grammar and stuff like that?

    Sure, as long as you are counting private schools. It is perfectly feasible to educate a child in Vienna in English with only marginal exposure to German. In fact the American International School here just dropped compulsory German instruction in middle school because parents complained it was a waste of time.

    Icelandic anxiety is presumably mostly about immigrants similarly deciding that there is no economic value in having their kids learn Icelandic when they could be improving their English, math skills, etc.

  80. Bathrobe, yes. But normally it’s the people who are interested in using these specialized words who decide what they want to use. Not some linguistic authorities impaneled to enrich a language for enrichment’s sake.

  81. people who are interested in using these specialized words who decide what they want to use

    The fact that they are “interested” does not automatically confer on them a right to determine “correct vocabulary”. I’m afraid I’m rather cynical about the process. Ornithologists are a case in point. There is interminable wrangling over the “common names” of species in English, with different authorities coming up with different names.

    In Mongolia I have met the man who effectively has the power to set the Mongolian “common names” of bird species, which are then set in stone with government approval. He told me that since names in common usage aren’t clear as to genus or species, he can assign existing names to genera as he sees fit. This has resulted in musical chairs among existing generic names (e.g., among the owls) and the creation of slightly (and artificially) differentiated names for different genera of crane. I’ve also watched him in action conjuring closely related names for certain American genera out of thin air.

    Perhaps this is peculiar to small countries / languages like Mongolia(n), but it’s not really that different from the wrangling that goes on over English-language names.

    If we’re talking about terms for more modern concepts like ‘troll’, ‘hacker’ or ‘cyberbullying’, these are less contentious since they are totally new concepts and arise out of communities that are involved in these fields. This is perhaps more in the vein of what Hat was discussing.

  82. This is perhaps more in the vein of what Hat was discussing.

    No, not at all, but there’s no point in my trying to talk about it with you because we apparently start from such different worldviews that you can’t even grasp what I’m saying. Not saying you’re ignorant, or even wrong (I never assume I’m right), just that you can’t see my ballpark from where you stand.

  83. David Marjanović says:

    水銀 suigin ‘liquid silver’

    Hg stands for an apparently barely attested hydrargyrum.

  84. “Mercury” originated in an alchemical correspondence. I suppose scientists adopted it because “quicksilver” suggested a kind of silver, which of course Hg isn’t. It’s as if “iron” or “lead” were perceived to be misleading and replaced with “mars” and “saturn.”

  85. @Bathrobe: I have probably mentioned before that at MIT (where the term originated), using “hacker” to refer to a programmer is considered a solecism, a clear marker of an outsider to Institute culture.

  86. David Eddyshaw says:

    So this has changed since the Heroic Age of the Jargon File?

    http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/H/hacker.html

  87. Well, we will have to agree to disagree. I don’t think that borrowing words from other languages results in “language death”. That is ridiculous. But the insistence that any influence on a language is acceptable as long as it is not conscious, officially backed language planning strikes me as overly rigid. That appears to be the only difference between us.

    My position is that there is language planning and language planning, and not all of it is inherently bad. Nor are “unplanned” situations as free from control and manipulation as you seem to be suggesting.

    But I guess this is akin to arguing about “democracy” as an ideology, which is probably an inherently futile exercise.

  88. Stu Clayton says:

    The fact that they are “interested” does not automatically confer on them a right to determine “correct vocabulary”.

    The use of English technical terms in the German IT world has gotten out of hand – but I don’t know that there is any way to “correct” this. The problem is that a great number of English words and phrases are taken on by Germans that these do not understand very well. I don’t suppose that the English terms are always used in the same way by native English speakers, which makes the situation even more frustrating.

    These IT English words and phrases occur often in English speech and writing, and pretty much just as often in German now. They are part of the language machine that generates sentences for speech participants, without the latter having to think much. But that’s what communication is, as Luhmann discusses in great detail – a system that operates, maintains and reproduces itself. Human beings attach themselves to it occasionally, and are otherwise detached.

    I find this a reassuringly neutral way to think about language. It helps to mitigate my frustration at having to figure out what (especially young) Germans in IT are trying to say when they pad their sentences with Englishisms. They’re merely going with the flow, the poor dears.

  89. I remember reading that in Tahiti, a ruler once died and according to ancient custom, all words which were part of the name of the deceased ruler became taboo and had to be avoided in speech.

    Unfortunately, the long name of the ruler in question included very widespread verb meaning “to stand”.

    It must have been hard to replace such a common word, but the Tahitians managed.

    Taboo is taboo.

    No exceptions.

    And now you can complain about language academies.

  90. @David Eddyshaw: Yes, although I do not know the full history. My understanding is that the computing usage was developed at MIT (an outgrowth of MIT-specific meanings relating to elaborate pranks and other activities) and spread rapidly. At some point, probably in the 1970s to 1980s, Institute culture re-narrowed the word to it’s older meanings. Breaking into computer systems is an acceptable use of “hacking” at MIT; it is a digital version of the classic MIT “roof and tunnel hacking.” However, sneering at using “hacking” to refer to mere programming is a common form of in-group signaling, distinguishing MIT culture from broader gnurd culture. (That spelling is another MIT in-group signifier.)

  91. Vanya:

    There’s been an International School in Iceland for 60 years but it’s primarily for children whose parents are on temporary assignment in Iceland. Non-Icelandic citizens, that is to say. I´m sure this holds true for most International Schools. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_School_of_Iceland.

    There’s a “Polish School “in Iceland but classes are only held on Saturdays when kids don’t attend regular school. The Grand Mosque of Iceland similarly holds classes in Arabic for kids on Saturdays.

    I’m sure Poles in Iceland who are still Polish citizens (the majority of them are) could found a real school where the language of education is Polish. But I think Poles who have acquired Icelandic citizenship are required to send their kids to regular school.

    “Icelandic anxiety is presumably mostly about immigrants similarly deciding that there is no economic value in having their kids learn Icelandic when they could be improving their English, math skills, etc.”

    Children of immigrants do poorly in school in Iceland. This is really anxiety inducing for the educational authorities for sure but I think ordinary Icelanders worry more about their own kids. Especially kids who spend practically every waking hour online. Like, gaming. Kids whose social lives revolve around interactive games, say, where English is the lingua franca. Eventually they come to believe that they are more proficient in English than Icelandic simply because they communicate with such ease with their online buddies (many of whom aren’t even native English speakers). In reality their command of English is pretty limited because the English language world they inhabit is so small.

    I think parents in Iceland worry about bilingualism if it simply means kids become bad at two languages.

  92. časopis was originally coined in Czech (as a transparent calque of German Zeitschrift). I assume that it was borrowed directly from Czech by Serbian intellectuals during the 19th-century Pan-Slavism vogue. Interesting that Serbians today would think it a specifically Croatian thing.

    Croatian borrowed lots of Czech words in the 19th century in the purist attempt to slavicize the language (many of those thanks to Bogoslav/Bohuslav Šulek). Serbian, with its far less purist minded approach went through far less slavicizing and borrowed some of those, but not all.

    Also, agree with zyxt on the extent of modern Croatian purism. It was kind of a thing in the early 90s (though even then very far from the exaggerated myths about it), but it’s basically a non-factor today.

  93. Slovenian is an interesting case – the standard language is nearly free of foreign loanwords, while the everyday vernacular is so thoroughly Germanized that it’s almost a southern Yiddish.

    Forgot to add… I get what you mean, but this description is a bit misleading. As with any variety with considerable foreign vocab, people tend to overestimate the actual amount of it in Slovenian dialects (other examples that immediately come to my mind are people commonly describing Chakavian as mostly using Italian words, or Chiac being thought of as a 50:50 mix).

  94. I’m not “overestimating” anything, I speak Slovenian fluently, and I lived in Slovenia for a number of a years so I’m very familiar with colloquial speech. I’m not sure how you even decided my description was misleading? I mean, without speaking the language how can you tell?

    And since you brought it up – chakavian feels way less italianized than Slovenian feels germanized, judging from my maternal father’s side of the family which comes from Korčula.

  95. Also, agree with zyxt on the extent of modern Croatian purism. It was kind of a thing in the early 90s (though even then very far from the exaggerated myths about it), but it’s basically a non-factor today.

    It’s very much a factor today – just a few weeks ago, three young linguists published the book “Jeziku je svejedno” (“It’s all the same to language”) – a kind of manifesto against the omnipresent purism choking the Croatian language. The authors rely on modern linguistic science to inform their views on language use and policy, and that this approach is considered unusual (even radical) tells you that the purism issue is very much an ongoing and unresolved one in Croatia. Of course, the root causes of this phenomenon are not entirely linguistic, which is also why it’s such a sensitive subject.

  96. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    That’s Russian-style Cyrillic, though. Serbian-style Cyrillic has just one set of vowel letters, and all palatalization is left to the letters љ and њ for the two palatalized consonants the languages in question have.

    I’ve always have soft spot for Serbian Cyrillic because it seems to be the only European language that eschews diacritics completely. What about English and Dutch? you’ll say. English manages most of the time without diacritics, but has at least one common word (café) that needs one if you don’t want to appear illiterate, and lots of uncommon words (née is perhaps common enough to be called common). Dutch manages almost all of the time, but blots its copybook with two very common words, één and óón. Anyway, I don’t think Serbian has any, but someone who knows Serbian may know better. Croatian, on the other hand, makes up for it — not to the same extent as Vietnamese, to be sure, but still. I don’t know if a Turk would say that the dot on an English i is a diacritic.

  97. @Athel Cornish-Bowden: American English can be written entirely without diacritical marks. I know, because I do it all the time. Both of the examples you mention can be written without accent marks, although the marks are sometimes used. “Cafe,” in particular, is totally fine without it, which is probably partially enabled by the fact that there is no tradition in America of pronouncing the word with only one syllable.

    At a conference a few years ago, I told some colleagues that my personal preference would be to write everything without diacritics. My former boss (who I still collaborate with) asked, in mock indignation, whether I was saying that he, who writes his name with a “ý,” did not know how to spell his own name. I told him, no, you are just writing it in a different alphabet than I prefer to use.

  98. It’s true that Serbian Cyrillic has no diacritics but then again Croatian doesn’t either – č, ć, dž, đ, š, and ž are all members of the alphabet in their own right. A native speaker does not perceive ć as a “modified c” the way English speakers do with é. And anyway, there’s no real use for diacritics since BCSM (in either alphabet) has basically a 1:1 correspondence between letters and phonemes. There IS a pitch accent for vowels but it isn’t notated – eg pȃs and pȁs are different words but you’d rarely see the diacritics outside of textbooks and the like.

  99. American English can be written entirely without diacritical marks

    Yes and it is my preference as well. But there is a big difference between can and is.
    This is especially true for English which doesn’t have a single prescriptive body and leaves by grown order. Even a cursory search for “jalapeño” shows that English writers like to use the diacritics.

  100. David Eddyshaw says:

    Diacritics are sophisticated! Where would we be without the Metal Umlaut?

    Moreover, English has apostrophes! They’re completely unnecessary, historically unjustified and still a shibboleth! How cool is that? Beats fiddly little signs that actually mean something any day.

  101. January First-of-May says:

    It’s true that Serbian Cyrillic has no diacritics but then again Croatian doesn’t either – č, ć, dž, đ, š, and ž are all members of the alphabet in their own right. A native speaker does not perceive ć as a “modified c” the way English speakers do with é.

    This is, of course, also true for Russian Cyrillic – letter names nonwithstanding, native Russian speakers don’t really perceive й as a modified и, and usually don’t perceive ё as a modified е either.
    (The latter had actually slipped down a bit with the common replacement of ё by е, but I think they’re still perceived as different letters rather than variants of the same one.)

  102. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    It’s very much a factor today – just a few weeks ago, three young linguists published the book “Jeziku je svejedno” (“It’s all the same to language”) – a kind of manifesto against the omnipresent purism choking the Croatian language.

    It’s mostly against prescriptivism in general, purism being only one part of it. Since a kind of institutional prescriptivism is what BCSM-speaking countries have in common, I’ve started recommending this book to people over here in Serbia*. Simply, mutatis mutandis, everything they say applies to Serbian too.

    *At least until somebody writes a Serbian equivalent.

  103. J.W. Brewer says:

    “TECHNICIÄNS ÖF SPÅCE SHIP EÅRTH THIS IS YÖÜR CÄPTÅIN SPEÄKING YÖÜR ØÅPTÅIN IS DEA̋D.” Of course that’s an eccentric variety of BrEng (with possible SAfEng interference) rather than any sort of AmEng.

  104. Which reminds me of the end of an indignant letter about a review by Julian Barnes of Degas and His Model, from the TLS letter section of 8 February 2018:

    […]
    A much less significant quibble, but one that is particularly irksome for a translator: Barnes takes issue with my decision to translate this text into American English, implying that so doing somehow troubles its potential value or meaning. I am an American translator translating for an American audience, and the book reflects that, as it does the fact that the original is anything but prim. Perhaps he would have preferred a version in nautical semaphore, Old Church Slavonic or, more probably, the British English spoken at Oxford circa 1965. Perhaps only an exact transcription of the French original would have skirted interpretative difficulties? Fortunately, the text is digitised and freely available on Gallica, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France’s online repository. Mr Barnes, be the Pierre Menard you want to see in the world!

              Jeff Nagy
              Berkeley, California

  105. John Cowan says:

    It’s their editors who like to use them, belike.

    In any case, there is a difference between French é, which is not a separate letter of the alphabet, and Icelandic é, which is. A French person will say the alphabet has 26 letters, two of which (K, W) are not used in French; an Icelander will say there are 32 letters (26 minus C, Q, W, Z plus six vowels with acute plus Ð, Þ, Æ, Ö), all of which are used in Icelandic. Unicode of course doesn’t give a hoot.

    Naturally, unassimilated loanwords and proper names break these rules, but most languages do that, Serbian being the big exception. Here’s a nice illustration from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, anno MMIX Geolmonað xxx d. (the latest entry available to me): “Her ond in æfterdagum aswulton .lxxvi. oððe maran þurh horhslidunga in Brazile”, enve though there was no Z in Old English.

  106. Andrej, fully agreed of course, prescriptivism rules the roost in all of the former Yugoslav lands, and so the book is a useful corrective in all cases (similar to Snjezana Kordic’s book, but that was anyway pitched a little more explicitly at the entire region).

    Still, Croatian is special – like when the purist establishment flipped out over the incoming Minister of Sport called it sport rather than šport (which the purists maintained was correct since the word was originally borrowed from German, never mind how actual people talk). It creates a paralyzing anxiety over what should be a non-issue.

  107. I would like to abolish apostrophes because they’re a constant irritation in mobile telephone messaging (‘Will it remember to add one this time?’) as well as being a time-waster. But I’m not going to be the first person to stop using them.

    The fear that Icelanders might stop speaking Icelandic and switch to American is just worrying about nothing. It’s a rich country, it ain’t gonna happen, there are plenty of more important linguistic things for them to think about. For example, the chain of cheapo frozen-food supermarkets in Britain called Iceland. How would Britons like it if Iceland started a chain of shoddy shops selling cold rain and called it The United Kingdom? One peculiar thing about the teenagers who claim to have learnt English from watching Friends (why are children watching a 1990s tv show about 20-somethings?) and playing video games is why don’t they acquire the slightest bit of an American accent?

  108. What is interesting with halapeñ(n)o and café(e) is that the fraction of spellings with diacritics is increasing according to Google ngrams. It is definitely a Starbucks e(a)ffect.

  109. Trond Engen says:

    I love the diversity of South Slavic viewpoints. I also love that you (pl.) are willing to go out on a limb and overstate a case. It brings the issue to attention, and the following discussion is usually very enlightening. Keep it up, all of you.

  110. Amen!

  111. January First-of-May says:

    e[ven] though there was no Z in Old English

    Though of course even the contemporary Anglo-Saxons used the Z when they had to deal with foreign names that required it, such as ða burh Ȝaza (the city of Gaza) in Genesis 10:19 (as given in Wikisource).
    [EDIT: I think they would still have been fine with in Brasile, though, especially since the Brasilians spell it with an S anyway.]

    …And as far as jalapeñ(n)o is concerned, perhaps the really interesting question is the frequency of habañero (which should of course be habanero even in Spanish).

  112. As discussed here in 2006.

  113. habañero

    And its relative the Scotch boññet pepper.

  114. One peculiar thing about the teenagers who claim to have learnt English from watching Friends (why are children watching a 1990s tv show about 20-somethings?) and playing video games is why don’t they acquire the slightest bit of an American accent?

    At least in Austria, Netherlands and Germany teenagers certainly do acquire American accents. In fact, most young Europeans I meet seem to speak American English unless they actually worked in the UK.

  115. nemanja says: A native speaker does not perceive ć as a “modified c”

    This is an interesting statement. Has any research been done on this?
    For my part, I definitely see the connection between c č and ć; n and nj etc.

    Agree with Andrej Bjelaković that what we are discussing here is prescriptivism rather than purism.
    Example 1: Both sport and šport are words of non-Slavic origin. Surely if it was question of purism rather than prescriptivism, then Croatian would have used a Croatian alternative. These are two pronunciations of the same word. The situation is akin to the two pronunciations of “schedule” or of the word “either” in English.

    “šport” was the normal Croatian word until the middle of the 20th century and it had an alternative pronunciation “sport”. There are a number of words with the “s” / “š” alternation in the same bucket: študent, škandal, špekulacija etc. Because the Serbian language preferred the “s” variant, in the interests of “brotherhood and unity” or Serbian hegemony, the “š” variant became marked as undesirable. It continued in the spoken language of the older generation though until after the fall of Yugoslavia.

    Example 2: Croatian seems to be held up us a poster child for linguistic purism here. But is this more of a gut feeling or has anyone actually sifted through the evidence?

    Here is evidence of Croatian happily accepting the “international” terminology:
    Croatian: film; Spanish: pelicula
    Croatian: televizor; German: Fernseher
    Croatian: kino; Hungarian: mozi
    Why aren’t Spanish, German, Hungarian etc. condemned for their purism as well? And why is there a need to condemn anyone for purism anyway? If the speakers of another language want to invent a word for something, let them do it – who cares.

  116. It’s very much a factor today – just a few weeks ago, three young linguists published the book “Jeziku je svejedno” (“It’s all the same to language”) – a kind of manifesto against the omnipresent purism choking the Croatian language. The authors rely on modern linguistic science to inform their views on language use and policy, and that this approach is considered unusual (even radical) tells you that the purism issue is very much an ongoing and unresolved one in Croatia. Of course, the root causes of this phenomenon are not entirely linguistic, which is also why it’s such a sensitive subject.

    Still, Croatian is special – like when the purist establishment flipped out over the incoming Minister of Sport called it sport rather than šport (which the purists maintained was correct since the word was originally borrowed from German, never mind how actual people talk). It creates a paralyzing anxiety over what should be a non-issue.

    I didn’t say it doesn’t exist, I said it’s basically a non-factor today, which it is. There is no paralyzing anxiety or anything close to that. Virtually nobody’s heard of that new book, just as virtually nobody hears about the purist recommendations. It’s just not enough of a thing for most people to care about any more. There was little outcry about the ministry names. I can’t remember anything at the time about the šport vs. sport issue outside of a couple of comments between politicians trying to score some cheap points. I imagine there would’ve been some snide or outraged columns in the more right wing press, but it barely registered among the people. Now, changing the ministry of health from ministarstvo zdravstva to ministarstvo zdravlja did spark some discussion, but mostly because it seemed like a bit of a bizarre and random thing to do. Changing ministarstvo športa to sporta reflected the actual spoken language, whereas there didn’t seem to be any actual reason for changing ministarstvo zdravstva to ministarstvo zdravlja. So that decision registered a bit more, but it wasn’t really a purism issue the way the former was. Of course, I’m sure there would’ve been a couple of right wing columns outraged by it because apparently that’s the name used by the Serbian ministry of health, but I can’t really speak to that.

    The only remotely recent language issue that was well and truly controversial in wider Croatian society was the ludicrous attempt to replace neću with ne ću some 15 years ago. After it was terribly received, and ridiculed by most of the press, it was resolved by allowing both forms. Around that time you could see ne ću in some official publications, but after a while it just went away.

    I’m not “overestimating” anything, I speak Slovenian fluently, and I lived in Slovenia for a number of a years so I’m very familiar with colloquial speech. I’m not sure how you even decided my description was misleading? I mean, without speaking the language how can you tell?

    From exposure to vernacular Slovenian. Of course you’re much more familiar with the language than I am, I just don’t think you have to be a speaker to be able to have an opinion on calling it almost a southern Yiddish. In my personal opinion, it is an exaggeration. Nobody’s calling into question your knowledge of Slovenian or your experience with it. But being a speaker doesn’t prevent people from overestimating the amount of foreign vocab used. Sticking with the chiac example I brought up in my last comment, I remember a paper describing how with chiac speakers asked to estimate how many English words they’d used in the conversation they’d just had, the estimates were between 25 and 50%, when in reality it was 3-10%. I’ll try to find the paper, but there’s probaby better known reasearch on the phenomenon.

    And since you brought it up – chakavian feels way less italianized than Slovenian feels germanized, judging from my maternal father’s side of the family which comes from Korčula.

    I’d say Istrian Chakavian is about as italianized as vernacular Slovenian is germanized.

  117. Maybe it’s the choice of words you choose to submit to purism.

    Spanish – fútbol
    German – Fußball
    Hungarian – futball
    Russian – futbol
    Croatian – nogomet

    That’s more than enough to ridicule Croatian forever

  118. Ah, but what about rukomet?

  119. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    But that’s what communication is, as Luhmann discusses in great detail – a system that operates, maintains and reproduces itself.

    “Society is an autopoietic system based on meaningful communication. It consists of communications, it consists only of communications, it consists of all communications. It reproduces communication through communication…. Society is therefore a closed and an open system at the same time, and communication is the form of the elementary operation that constantly makes this combination and reproduces it.”

    (My translation of Luhmann (1998), or at least, 10% me and 90% Google Translate, but checked by a German colleague.)

    For some reason Niklas Luhmann is regarded a great thinker by some sociologists, but his whole book is little more than a waffling expansion of the bit I quoted (“great detail” is le mot juste). The claim that he applied autopoiesis to sociology is not accepted by Humberto Maturana (2002), who originated it:

    “We living systems are molecular systems that exist in the molecular domain spontaneously without external processes driving them. As I say this I also claim that autopoiesis occurs only in the molecular domain.”

    That doesn’t make Maturana right, of course: the inventor of a theory is not its owner. Nonetheless, in this case I think he’s right. Most attempts to broaden autopoiesis (such as Dollens, D., 2014. Alan Turing’s drawings, autopoiesis and can buildings think? Leonardo, 47(3), 249–253. doi: 10.1162/leon a 00766) would be candidates for discussion in a future edition of Impostures Intellectuelles.

  120. Stu Clayton says:

    For some reason Niklas Luhmann is regarded a great thinker by some sociologists

    So ?

    but his whole book is little more than a waffling expansion of the bit I quoted

    Which of the many ? Soziale Systeme [1983-4] ? Have you read it, or merely skimmed it for crispy quotable quotes ? Don’t you like waffles ? If they don’t float your boat, you’re free to stay in drydock.

    The claim that he applied autopoiesis to sociology is not accepted by Humberto Maturana (2002), who originated it

    Whose claim ? Not Luhmann’s, not as crass as that. In a hundred places over all his books, he credits Maturana with the idea in biology, and discusses similarities and differences to his use of it in sociology.

    I am content to read Luhmann for what I get from him in the way of ideas and references to other writers. Nowadays I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about Luhmann. I’ve already started reading everything of his for the third time. Almost every sentence is fabulously instructive and suggestive, so much so that I don’t read much at a stretch, but stop to think about it. Many other people are put off by Luhmann, so what ?

  121. Stu Clayton says:

    One medium-sized waffle by him is Zweckbegriff und Systemrationalität [1968], about the differences between function and purpose. It hasn’t been translated into English, so far as I know. But here it is in Spanish, which I know you can deal with: Fin y racionalidad en los sistemas

  122. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It’s true that Serbian Cyrillic has no diacritics but then again Croatian doesn’t either – č, ć, dž, đ, š, and ž are all members of the alphabet in their own right.

    I have no difficulty in believing that that’s how Croatian speakers perceive them, just as Spanish speakers (and dictionary makers) regard ñ as a letter in its own right rather than n with a diacritic, but I was thinking more of how foreigners perceive them.

    As for café, I wonder if the difference between British and American usage has to do with the fact that many Americans grow up with some familiarity with Spanish, in which one doesn’t expect a final e to be silent, whereas British people of my generation had no more knowledge of Spanish than we had of Mongolian or Mapudungún. For us the é was necessary to ensure that we didn’t say [kɛɪ̯f] or [kæf]].

  123. Stu Clayton says:

    @Athel:

    This year I have been very struck by the differences in register (vocabulary, syntax) between the kinds of Spanish coming from different souces: Spanish newspapers and podcasts (cienciaes com) or the online RAE, Mexican newspapers and radio, Texmex in Austin. Although my Spanish is pretty good, every time I read a definition in the RAE I feel transported to Andromeda – so superior Spanish, my dears, that it might be a different language. If I wore a hat I would doff it.

    Luhmann’s prose (and that of many high-end German Denker) is comparable to that of RAE definitions. Either you get into the flow, or not. It takes a while.

    I reluctantly admit that the same might be true of high-end French Denker. Trouble is, I always feel they’re not trying very hard (which can’t be said of Luhmann). They swish around in furs and bling, something even a low-end drag queen can do without thinking.

  124. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Soziale Systeme [1983-4] ? Have you read it, or merely skimmed it for crispy quotable quotes?

    My quotation was not from Soziale Systeme, which, as you surmise, I have not read, but from Die Wirtschaft der Gesellschaft, which I have (with great difficulty, as my German is not of the best), from beginning to end..

  125. Stu Clayton says:

    OMG. That’s one of the very few I haven’t read, along with Die Kunst der Gesellschaft (I ain’t particularly innarested in art, nor in economics). I admire your courage, but maybe you should try a Spanish translation of something else with a less narrow focus, in particular Fin y racionalidad. If it hasn’t all been spoiled for you by now. Or indeed Sistemas Sociales.

  126. with great difficulty, as my German is not of the best

    i imagine it went like the first chapter of Last Samurai

    The first sentence of this little-known work runs as follows:

    Es ist wirklich Brach- und Neufeld, welches der Verfasser mit der Bearbeitung dieses Themas betreten und durchpflügt hat, so sonderbar auch diese Behauptung im ersten Augenblick klingen mag.

    I had taught myself German out of Teach Yourself German, and I recognised several words in this sentence at once:

    It is truly something and something which the something with the something of this something has something and something, so something also this something might something at first something.

    I deciphered the rest of the sentence by looking up the words Brachfeld, Neufeld, Verfasser, Bearbeitung, Themas, betreten, durchpflügt, sonderbar, Behauptung, Augenblick and klingen in Langenscheidt’s German-English dictionary.

  127. Of course the diacritical letters are ‘perceived’ as separate letters. That is what you learn at school. For the purposes of dictionaries and alphabetisation they are treated as separate letters. They stand for different sounds.

    The assertion, however, was that they are perceived as somehow not having diacritics. Is there any evidence for this assertion?

    To continue with football example (from the national FA names):
    Denmark: boldspil
    Finland: palloliito
    Italy: calcio
    Poland: pilki nożny
    Hungary: labdarúgo
    Cyprus: podosferu
    Estonia: jalgpalli
    USA: soccer

  128. Can buildings think? became a popular topic about when Mr & Mrs Gates installed one of those systems in their super-house where the lights switch on & off as people walk past. I don’t know nothing about biological autopoiesis but regarding future architecture, the geometry of self-regeneration is as reasonable to speculate on as anything else – eg robots. My guess is that it will get stuck and then be looked back on with nostalgia and for inspiration in 50 years’ time, something like what’s happened to Ron Herron and Archigram.

  129. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Which reminds me of the end of an indignant letter about a review by Julian Barnes of Degas and His Model, from the TLS letter section of 8 February 2018

    The beginning of the letter is also interesting to read (though not from the point of view of language in general or translation in particular).

    In 2009 there was an exhibition of paintings at the Musée Cantini in Marseilles. When we visited it my wife and I agreed that Degas’s Les Choristes was the only one we would like to have hanging in our apartment. That night the gallery was broken into and Les Choristes was the only painting stolen (not by us!). Evidently the thieves had the same judgement as we did about which had the highest value (though they probably had resale value in mind rather than artistic value). abcNews (found with Wikipedia) informs me that it was found last year in a bus in “Marne-la-Vallee, a French town located about 15 miles east of Paris”. I’m surprised that they refer to Marne-la-Vallée rather than to Disneyland, which must surely be the best known thing in Marne-la-Vallée for people who don’t live in Marne-la-Vallée.

  130. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The assertion, however, was that they are perceived as somehow not having diacritics. Is there any evidence for this assertion?

    Who asserted this? I can’t find any such assertion.

  131. It’s OK Cornish-Bowden, you aren’t doing the asserting.

    Now regarding the assertion itself: For example, a counterfactual could be to examine what occurred in the days of ascii mobile phone texting and emails. The substitutes for eg. ž and dž respectively were zz and dz. If ž and dž were truly perceived as not having diacritics then you would expect other substitutes to be used, rather than relying on the base letter Z.

  132. Poland: pilki nożny
    It’s piłka nożna, what you have looks like the genitive or the plural gone wrong.

  133. Thanks Hans. The words are straight out of the name of the relevant FA. I’d expect the others to be in cases other than the nominative too, or to be adjectives not nouns.

  134. Spanish – fútbol
    German – Fußball
    Hungarian – futball
    Russian – futbol
    Croatian – nogomet

    I am, unfortunately, discovering I can no longer read a list like this without mentally appending a series of rage comic faces.

    — Fi. palloliitto translates as just ‘(The) Ball Union’, specifying football specifically would be jalkapallo.

  135. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hans
    https://www.schoenes-polen.de/romane-und-geschichten/von-dem-gluck-hrdlak-gekannt-zu-haben-janosch
    This book has a rather nasty “German” character Herr Pelka. So in English he would be Mr. Ball?

  136. January First-of-May says:

    what you have looks like the genitive or the plural gone wrong

    As far as I can tell, they were copying from “National Association of [Football]”, which of course would have the word for “Football” in the genitive, or perhaps occasionally in some other non-nominative case, in the languages that mark cases on nouns.

    (The same thing seems to have happened with whatever language they used in Cyprus. Italian and Danish don’t appear to mark cases on nouns. No comment on the three Uralic languages in the sample.)

     
    …Come to think of it, football might not really be the right word for this in the first place – the languages that don’t borrow the word outright almost always just make their own compound “foot-ball” instead, which is of course a similarly natural (though obviously much more puristic) approach.
    (This, incidentally, includes German Fußball – it just looks a bit like a borrowing because German is so closely related to English.)

    It might be more interesting to see what happens with sport names that aren’t obvious compounds…

  137. It might be more interesting to see what happens with sport names that aren’t obvious compounds…

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pujottelu

    The verb it’s formed on:

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pujotella
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/pujottaa

  138. Stu Clayton says:

    German Fußball – it just looks a bit like a borrowing because German is so closely related to English.

    Fußball is a game (or the ball used in it) in which foot is applied to ball. This is also true, to some extent, of football in America. The Fußball game is there called soccer, of course.

    A kind of low-fat convergent evolution is a satisfactory explanation for the word resemblances. “Convergent evolution is when different organisms independently evolve similar traits.” Here the trait is the name of the game.

  139. This book has a rather nasty “German” character Herr Pelka. So in English he would be Mr. Ball?
    Possible. But I don’t know much about the Upper Silesian dialect of Polish.

  140. January First-of-May says:

    Fi. palloliitto translates as just ‘(The) Ball Union’, specifying football specifically would be jalkapallo.

    …Come to think of it, Danish boldspil probably means “ball game” or similar; IIRC, football as such is fodbold – yet another obviously-cognate compound (of the kind that might make naive linguists trace the word to Proto-Germanic).

    That said, I don’t think we need to invoke convergent evolution to explain why so many languages name their football equivalents with “foot-ball” compounds – just calquing, which is of course also a common thing (especially in puristic contexts that discourage straight borrowing).

     
    …For what it’s worth, the divergence between British, American, and Australian football is in fact one of divergent evolution – they used to be (approximately) the same game 200 years ago, but drifted in different directions. (More than just those three – rugby was also called football at some point.)
    As for “soccer”, that’s just short for “association [football]”, as opposed to all the other variants, such as rugby; the term appears to actually be of British origin, and presumably spread to the USA together with the game (while becoming obsolete in Britain when people stopped considering rugby a variety of football).

    I’m not sure if the theory that football got its name from being played on foot (as opposed to, e.g., horseback polo) has any truth to it, though. (Wouldn’t that include basically all the non-polo games?)
    But at least it certainly makes more sense than the modern “only touch the ball with feet” explanation, given that 1) this is only a thing in the now-dominant British variant (and even there only from the second half of the 19th century), and 2) it’s technically not even true in the British version, because head passes are a major part of the game.
    (Obviously, this doesn’t mean that it’s not reinterpreted in the “foot applied to ball” way, which is how handball got to be called handball. But it’s clearly not how football got that name originally.)

  141. This topic is discussed somewhere else here at the Hattery in quite a lot of detail…

  142. Stu Clayton says:

    My reference to “convergent evolution” was a joke. More seriously, I think the word “convergent” should have been avoided in this context, because it suggests a teleological process. The gradual accumulation of sloppy terminology of this kind is grist to the mill of creationists.

    The word may well have been smuggled in by an unregenerate biologist.

    Edit:

    # It is also, of course, alluded to in The Origin of Species [39]. #

  143. This topic is discussed somewhere else here at the Hattery in quite a lot of detail…

    Football vs. Soccer.

    Football vs. Soccer II.

  144. Isn’t fußball one American name for what was known in France when I was young as Babyfoot, the table game played in bars around the world and which afaIk has no name in England?

    Soccer was as common a usage in England when I was younger as football was for the Association game. So it’s weird that people get cross with Americans for using it now. Football is a name still used for Rugby Union in English schools that don’t play soccer as is ‘rugby football’ and RFC (Rugby Football Club). Rugby was meant as the adjective for football (see also Rugby fives vs Eton fives – it’s all from the 19C educational reformer and Rugby School headmaster Dr Arnold). Apparently the story that William Webb Ellis invented Rugby by picking up the ball during a slow game of soccer at Rugby School is a load of er, balls.

    This topic is discussed somewhere else
    Dammit. Too late!

  145. I was about to say that sure Icelandic has a Z, but it turns out to have been abolished in 1973. God I’m old.

  146. @AJP Crown: Table soccer in America is called “foosball,” derived from (and pronounced basically the same as) German “Fussball,” but obviously spelled differently.

  147. Thanks, Brett. I wonder how the name came about. From US servicemen in playing it Germany, maybe?

  148. @AJP Crown: I always assumed the name was picked up by G. I.’s in Germany, yes.

  149. OED, s.v. Foosball (note capital F — why??):

    Etymology: < German Fußball football ( < Fuß foot n. and int. + Ball ball n.1).
    North American.

    A table football game in which players rotate rods attached to opposing ranks of miniature representations of footballers in order to direct a ball into their opponent’s goal. Also: the ball used in this game.

    [1963 Billboard 7 Sept. 60/5 (advt.) ‘Foosball Match’. See Us At MOA Show Booth No. 48, L. T. Patterson Dist., Cincinnati 2, Ohio.]
    1966 Official Gaz. (U.S. Patent Office) 18 Oct. tm146/2 Foosball… Filed 5-6-65.
    1969 Washington Post 6 Apr. d 44 (advt.) We show you step by step how to place this great game in fun spots and make hundreds of dollars per week… Write to: Foosball Competitive Sportsystem.
    1986 New Yorker 15 Sept. 110/2 As the tournaments proliferated, there came to be people identified in the press as professional foosball players.
    1993 Foosball Supplies in alt.sport.foosball (Usenet newsgroup) 20 Feb. Anyone know of good places to buy foosballs, bar handles, replacement men, etc.?
    2003 Contact Nov. 12 Granted, the days of the in-house basketball court and foosball table are gone, but the workplace continues to be more humanized with increased amenities intended to energize, inspire, and refresh.

    That New Yorker quote is by the wonderful Calvin Trillin; why doesn’t he get credit?

  150. I didn’t notice the capitalization when I glanced at the OED entry; I did look that closely, since there was nothing unexpected in the definition or derivation. According to various sites on the Web, the (British) inventor of the game, Harold Searles Thorton, called it “Foosball,” intending that as a trade name. He filed for a patent on his invention in 1921, apparently, although it is not clear whether the name he chose actually dates back that far.

  151. John Cowan says:

    OED, s.v. Foosball (note capital F — why??):

    It’s a genericized trademark, presumably applied by the original U.S. manufacturer. Checking, it has now been abandoned, so anyone can use it for anything.

    The Cyprus FA is called Κυπριακή Ομοσπονδία Ποδοσφαίρου in Greek (calque) and Kıbrıs Futbol Federasyonu in Turkish (borrowing, which fortunately already has vowel harmony).

  152. It’s a genericized trademark

    I figured, but dictionaries are not in the business of enforcing trademarks (or shouldn’t be, at any rate) — they’re in the business of describing usage, and no one spells foosball with a capital F. (Although now I see that the spellchecker wants me to!)

  153. John Cowan says:

    One of the complaints against Webster’s Third was that “the only word capitalized [was] God“. Earlier dictionaries scrupulously capitalized trademarks, not just because of the preference of the trademark holders, but (I think) because they were accounted proper names. Aspirin wasn’t just any old acetylsalicylic acid tablets, it was Bayer’s specifically, in the same way that the White House isn’t just any old white house. It’s only genericized in the U.S. now because the trademark was seized during WWII by the Alien Property Custodian as valuable property owned by an enemy alien corporation, and by the time BASF was able to try to reassert the trademark, it was widely used generically. (Capitalization has no legal bearing on a trademark’s status.)

    Your spellchecker is probably founded on pre-1923 word lists out of an abundance of caution.

    As for foosball tables as-we-know-them, they were invented, as far as is known, in the U.K. in 1921; the name foosball was intended to mimic the uses of similar words in other Germanic languages, but a direct connection to German cannot be proved. It was reinvented in France in the 1930s (babyfoot) and in Spain in 1937 (futbolín); they were first sold in the U.S. in the 1950s and caught on in the 1970s it is the Spanish version of the tables that is used today.

    The international federation, the ITSF calls it table soccer; despite the English name and acronym, they are a French company and so must have a French name, but their website has no French option I can find and WP.en knows of none. The French NB is called “Fédération française de football de table”, as you’d expect; the British and U.S. NBs use foosball in their names. The ITSF is recognized as the governing body and has observer status at the IOC, but table soccer is not yet an Olympic sport. (FIDE, after all, has bid to make chess official in 2024 after an exhibition at the 2000 games.)

  154. Trademark and other intellectual property rights for aspirin and heroin were seized from Bayer in the First World War. This is often stated to be part of the Versailles reparations, but that is not accurate.

    Strange autocorrect suggestion of the day: “prostitution” for “that is.”

  155. Earlier dictionaries scrupulously capitalized trademarks, not just because of the preference of the trademark holders, but (I think) because they were accounted proper names.

    I’m pretty sure it was basically fear of legal action; I remember reading something about that and will link it if I find it. Meanwhile, here‘s a brief discussion by Steve Rivkin. I personally think it’s stupid to capitalize any noun that has entered the common vocabulary, and the hell with the preferences of trademark holders. But then I think it’s stupid to capitalize “internet” as well.

  156. My great-uncle, an upright but modest, serious and straightforward man moved to a house in the country, had it painted white and named it The White House, which became part of the address. He poo-pooed the American reference but from then on, he couldn’t paint it any other colour without it seeming to be a little joke.

  157. John Cowan says:

    I think it’s stupid to capitalize “internet” as well.

    That’s because you don’t go back to the time when the Internet was just one of many (unlinked or minimally linked) internets, though even then the largest and most prominent.

    You may note from time to time that I capitalize Hell (and Heaven): to quote Bill Safire, “It’s a place, like Scarsdale.” But not in “run like hell” (or “my blue heaven”).

  158. That’s because you don’t go back to the time when the Internet was just one of many (unlinked or minimally linked) internets

    I go back way before that. I just don’t believe in that kind of logic as applied to language.

  159. Oh, I know you were around personally in 1974, but were you familiar with the uses of internet/Internet then?

  160. No, but I would have felt the same way had I been.

  161. Hat: I personally think it’s stupid to capitalize any noun that has entered the common vocabulary, and the hell with the preferences of trademark holders.

    And even more so with their hyphenation and mid-caps! This bugs me in “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr., in the collection Her Smoke Rose Up Forever (Arkham House, 1990):

    As we clamber into the Bonanza, I see the girl has what could be an attractive body if there was any spark at all. There isn’t. Captain Estéban folds a serape to sit on so he can see over the cowling and runs a meticulous check-down. And then we’re up and trundling over the turquoise Jell-O of the Caribbean into a stiff south wind.

    It was “Jello” in Warm Worlds and Otherwise (Ballantine, 1975), so I wonder if somebody at Arkham House was excessively deferential to a trademark. Would the story’s narrator be so meticulous? Certainly not, and it’s a famous and influential story because of how brilliantly it uses the narrator’s voice. This is a character who conceals everything about himself, but his voice says it all, the voice of a past-middle-age manly man who would never have bought a package of Jell-O himself.

    And it’s so close in the story to a capitalization choice of utter genius:

    Estéban yells some more into his set, flying a falling plane. He is doing one jesus job, too—as the water rushes up at us he dives into a hair-raising turn and hangs us into the wind—with a long pale ridge of sandbar in front of our nose.

    Lowercase jesus! As an attributive! Perfect, and I can’t think of any other writer who could come up with that.

    Arkham House did a beautiful job of typography and design, of course; I just disagree with this one copyedit. Tiptree must have been a challenge to edit, what with Spanish words and places, sf words, real and made-up slang, lots of small-caps SHOUTING and so on.

  162. I totally agree, on all counts.

  163. Well, c’mon, you’re not meeting my point. Proper names are capitalized as a rule, and Internet is a proper name in my book (it has never been a trademark, so that’s irrelephant). “Did you read that in the New York Times?” “No, I saw it on the Internet.” Both with caps and for the same reason.

    (Of course, nowadays you can do both at the same time.)

  164. I saw an article about trump in the internet edition of the new york times titled: “Impeachment Results: How Democrats and Republicans Voted”.

    someone uses too many capital letters

  165. Internet is a proper name in my book

    But not in mine.

    someone uses too many capital letters

    Headline Capitalization.

  166. Headline Capitalization

    must be followed by body decapitalization

  167. “soccer”, (…) short for “association [football]”

    Huh. Why the /k/ then…? It’s even spelled as if to still suggest /s/.

  168. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jp
    The abbreviation soc (e.g., dramsoc soccer would be my guess.

  169. PlasticPaddy says:

    Trying to edit garbled comment. Giving up now.

  170. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Since it was mentioned: Dansk Boldspilsunion was started in 1889 to organize ball games, specifically cricket and football, as a member organisation of Dansk Idrætsforbund (Danish Sports Association). DBU also organized tennis from 1903 — but that was split off into its own association soon after, and cricket more or less vanished, so DBU was left as a pure soccer association. (Other ball sports like handball, volleyball, basketball weren’t big enough to be organized nationally before that happened, and were later organized in their own associations).

    So that explains why its name contains boldspil instead of fodbold.

  171. David Marjanović says:

    Who put the d in bold?

    irrelephant

    I beg to differ: there are plenty of elephants on the Internet.

    Huh. Why the /k/ then…? It’s even spelled as if to still suggest /s/.

    From an Oxford-or-something tradition of turning abbreviations (Assoc.) into nicknames by reading them aloud and adding -er or -ers, with adjustments to the spelling to preserve vowel shortness but not anything else. It’s all in a thread here somewhere.

  172. David Eddyshaw says:

    The formation is not isolated – it’s characteristic of a very dated (but not quite dead) upper class slang construction which has been productive even in nonce-formations. “Rugger” for Rugby football is a product of the same process, as for example is the nickname “Blowers” bestowed on the Old Etonian cricket commentator Henry Blofeld.

  173. David Eddyshaw says:

    As in “I was simply aghast to see the New Staggers falling for the Tory line on Jeremy.”

  174. I feel like this has previously been discussed, either here or elsewhere, but if so, I don’t recall the ultimate conclusion: What was the intended pronunciation of “Ingdoc” from Nineteen Eighty-Four?

  175. Stu Clayton says:

    Ingsoc I remember, ingdoc I don’t. Interesting question. I mentally pronounced it as in soccer, but maybe “ingsosh” (as in soshialism) was intended.

  176. Sociology as a college subject is generally abbreviated Soc. in the U.S., but some make it “soshe” and some make it “sock”.

  177. John Cowan says:

    Who put the d in bold?

    Proto-Germanic, generally speaking, but it’s complicated. PIE *bʰel- ‘blow, swell up’ (one of several apparently unrelated ones) gave a doublet in Proto-Germanic: *balþaz ‘strong, bold’ and balluz ‘ball’. To be bold is to be a blowhard, and a ball is something that’s been blown up. (Strangely, they merged again in Gothic as balþs.)

    With uncommon uniformity, the first one became bold, bald in North and West Germanic That includes English: why was it beald in OE and not bealþ > bolth? I have no idea. In Old East Norse, however, it was replaced by móðugr > Da No modig (Icelandic has several words, none of which look related). This happened much later further south, giving Du moedig, G mutig. (G bald ‘almost; soon is said to be from OHG id. ‘bold’, but if so, what happened to the Second Sound Shift?) But with bald completely gone from North Germanic, there was room for ….

    Anyway, what about balluz? No reason that shouldn’t be bal(l)- everywhere, and so it is. Except Danish, where there’s not only bold ‘ball’ but also balde ‘buttock; ball (of the foot or hand)’. Perhaps because there was room for it, an l could pop up here and here only. (But what do I know?)

    Ball got into Finnic, but also into Mediaeval Latin > French > Spanish and Italian; in the latter it picked up an augmentative and went > French > English balloon, the thing that’s so swelled up, it rises. Which reminds me that the non-Germanic cognate of these words is phallos.

  178. And I thought balls as in “he’s got balls” metaphorically refer to testicles and imagined that it was derived by something like balls <- testicles <- masculinity <- courage.

    But apparently the "courage" meaning in "balls" is much more direct and straighforward.

  179. “Soc” as a clipping of “Society” [in names] or “Sociology” [in university course codes*] is invariably /k/ in IrE and I assume BrE. cf. also “bicycle”>”bike”.

    I had friends studying sociology; dunno if they clipped the name of the subject among themselves, but they didn’t when talking to me. Hypothesis: US highschool/college students shorten class&activity names more than cispondians. Evidence: soc, trig, track, crew, …hmm, maybe just those.

  180. My class name was M.Soc in my final year at school in England in 1970ish. M for Middle, nobody knew what Soc meant.

    “I was simply aghast to see the New Staggers falling for the Tory line on Jeremy.”
    Or “Perhaps it wasn’t only the Staggers and Tories who felt that way about Jeremy, hence the election result.”
    Or “Emily Thornberry was aghast to see Corbbers fall for the Tory line on when to hold it.”

  181. David Marjanović says:

    G bald ‘almost; soon is said to be from OHG id. ‘bold’, but if so, what happened to the Second Sound Shift?

    The simplest explanation is that this is the *þ form.

    But apparently the “courage” meaning in “balls” is much more direct and straighforward.

    You still need the metaphor at least to explain the plural; but I suppose the direct meaning could have helped in the creation of the metaphor (which is, for instance, much rarer in German).

  182. >> I have yet to find a Russian source for дороож, although I have been routinely told it is Russian.

    > Presuming that it is definitely Russian, I would guess дорожка, as in ковровая дорожка “carpet strip”, though if so, I’m surprised that the “strip” word was borrowed instead of the actual “carpet” word.

    I’m pretty certain it’s from “[ковровая] дорожка”, a very long and narrow carpet strip as opposed to “ковёр”, which has small “aspect ratio”. Think Tibetan pothi page vs. A4.

    Russian for “red carpet” is “красная дорожка”: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Красная_дорожка

  183. “Emily Thornberry was aghast to see Corbbers fall for the Tory line on when to hold it.”

    What, she expected him to wet himself? (Cf. Tycho, who died of uremia after he had refused to leave the King’s banquet on the grounds that it would be a breach of etiquette.)

    And I thought balls as in “he’s got balls” metaphorically refer to testicles

    Just so, and although women can be said to have balls, and ballsy is actually female by default, men often look like they feel a little funny saying “She’s got balls.” (It’s not a metaphor I myself use.)

    The simplest explanation is that [ModG bald] is the *þ form.

    That’s workable. Now the next thing to wonder is how the semantic shift happened. It seems singularly unmotivated to me.

  184. David Marjanović says:

    There may not have been a meaning shift, just confusion between the Verner form and the Grimm form.

  185. Owlmirror says:

    One of the people quoted in the video is Ross Perlin, a linguist who is Co-Director of the Endangered Language Alliance and who has featured at LH more than once (e.g., 2014, 2016); the Alliance has published a map of 637 languages of New York City. It’s got some odd entries (nobody speaks Old Church Slavonic or Koine Greek, even in NYC)

    If you look closely (even enlarged, some of the characters are still small), there are asterisks by some of those odd entries, and a legend near the top right:

    *=Historical
    **=Reviving
    †=Liturgical
    ‡=Taught

    OCS and Koine are used liturgically, as are other languages. Ancient Egyptian(!), Manchu (!!), and Akkadian (!!!) are taught.

  186. Ah, thanks for clearing that up.

  187. OCS and Koine are used liturgically,
    I’d be interested to know who uses OCS liturgically; what you normally find in liturgical use is Church Slavic in its national (Russian, Bulgarian, Serbian) variants. As mentioned here at LH before, OCS is only the language of the oldest documents from the 9th – early 11th century.
    But it’s possible that OCS is among the languages taught at NYC universities.

  188. I’m sure it is.

  189. Since the map shows the OCS used on the Upper East Side section of Manhattan, I searched for [“upper east side” slavonic] and found:

    https://www.joinmychurch.org/churches/Christ-the-Saviour-Church-New-York-New-York-United-States/70611

    The history of the Church suggests why they differ from other Orthodox Churches.

    Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Manhattan was founded in 1924, the same year the Russian Metropolia in North America proclaimed its canonical independence at the Council in Detroit.
    Both events constituted the response of the Orthodox faithful in America to the violent advances of the so-called “Living Church” in Russia, which was inspired and backed by the Bolshevik Regime. The “Living Church” claimed, rather successfully, the properties of the American Metropolia. Thus in New York City, by a court trial, the “Living Church” gained St. Nicholas’ church, the pontifical cathedral of the Metropolia. It is to replace this loss that a group of Russian immigrants led by Metropolitan Platon, the head of the American Metropolia, founded the parish of Christ the Savior. From 1924 to 1970, the church was located in Harlem, where, in the 1930s-40s, it became the biggest Russian church in the city, providing various community services and activities and even lending space for the classes of St. Vladimir Theological Seminary founded in NYC in 1938. In 1948, Metropolitan Theophilus and the Synod of bishops elevated Christ the Savior Church to the status of cathedral.
    [. . .]
    Today the church celebrates liturgy in Slavonic and English

    The mappers might have been mistaken in specifically writing Old Church Slavonic.

    I also found a creepy account of a modern, cheerful, well-to-do Stalin apologist.

  190. Stu Clayton says:

    Why do you find the account creepy ? Is it merely the appearance of Stalin apologetics “in this day and age in New York of all places” ? Or do you expect that affluence should extinguish outrageous opinions ? That’s not an effect of money I am familiar with. Rather the opposite.

  191. Engels was a millionaire and his views were extremely radical. Likely he would have been as bad as Stalin if he ever managed to become German dictator.

  192. David Marjanović says:

    I find Stalin apologetics inherently creepy. I find defense of murders inherently creepy. And the argument that Vlasov shows Stalin wasn’t ruthless enough is scarily short-sighted – isn’t it more likely that Stalin’s atrocities were counterproductive and drove people away?

  193. I find Stalin apologetics inherently creepy. I find defense of murders inherently creepy.

    Same here, which is why I intensely dislike the “revisionist” school of historians who claimed Stalin wasn’t so bad after all (though most of them have backed away from those views since they got tenure).

    And the argument that Vlasov shows Stalin wasn’t ruthless enough is scarily short-sighted – isn’t it more likely that Stalin’s atrocities were counterproductive and drove people away?

    It’s a waste of time nitpicking the details; once you commit to apologizing for blatant criminality you’re going to accept a lot of stupid ideas to prop up your central idiocy. See the front pages.

  194. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Crossover — it is claimed that Swedish kul for ‘fun’ is a shortening of (det är) kulan = ‘it’s the ball’. I’m not sure what kind of ball, though.

  195. David Marjanović says:

    There’s a German expression das ist der Hammer meaning “this is so very astounding” (usually in a good way). Hammer? What hammer?

  196. Describing something as “the shit” or “the bomb” is very positive in colloquial American English. (Both expressions are somewhat associated with African-American usage, although I don’t know if that’s where they originated.) Compare older “a bomb,” which has a very negative valance. I think the metaphor in the older expression is a bomb rapidly descending, to crash in ruin. However, “the bomb” is stationary and explodes in a blast of excitement. (That doesn’t explain “the shit” though.)

  197. Pretty sure “the shit” is drug culture slang. “Good shit” => “good drugs” => “the good time had at a party with good drugs” => “good time” (generally).

    Come to think of it, “[the] bomb” (in the positive sense) is probably from drug culture slang as well; “sudden rapid drug high”.

    I’m guessing, though. All I actually know of drug culture is depictions in media.

  198. Interesting that Green doesn’t have this (positive) sense, unless I’ve missed it in his very long entry.

  199. I wonder how drug theory would explain “sex bomb”.

  200. I think Owlmirror is probably right about the positive meaning of “the shit” having originated through drug lingo. However, I have never seen that actually documented. On the other hand, “sex bomb” seems to follow the model of “bombshell.”

  201. once you commit to apologizing for blatant criminality you’re going to accept a lot of stupid ideas to prop up your central idiocy.

    Well said.

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