Interslavic.

A three-minute video describes (and illustrates) a made-up language that turned out useful for a film; in their summary:

Klingon, Elvish, Dothraki, and Nadsat: there are plenty of invented languages used in movies. But one of them, Interslavic, has the potential to be useful to hundreds of millions of people. The language just made its movie debut in a wartime drama, The Painted Bird, and its creator says it could be used by Slavic speakers from Siberia to Slovenia.

Via Trevor Joyce, who also sent this short and hilarious video, “When Irish People Cant Speak Irish,” which shows that it doesn’t pay to exaggerate your linguistic attainments. Thanks, Trevor!

Comments

  1. Ha! That was me trying to speak French in Quebec last summer! (The Oirish vid, I mean)

  2. It was also me trying to speak Russian in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1971 (and getting yelled at by my fellow tour-group members for not extracting the needed information quickly enough, when they couldn’t speak a word of Russian, grr).

  3. David Eddyshaw says:

    Personally, I think it would be much simpler if everybody just agreed to speak Hausa.

  4. Daidai!

  5. January First-of-May says:

    Personally, I think it would be much simpler if everybody just agreed to speak Hausa.

    …I’m actually mildly surprised that you said Hausa and not Kusaal.

    (The obvious choice, of course, is Esperanto, though apparently some natural languages are even more regular.)

  6. David Eddyshaw says:

    Dai(dai) is ainm dom!

  7. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’m actually mildly surprised that you said Hausa and not Kusaal.

    But Hausa is so simple! In Nigeria, even little children can speak it.

  8. Ⰿⰻⱄⰾⰻⰿ ⰴⰰ ⰱⰻ Ⰻⱀⱅⰵⱃⱄⰾⰰⰲⰻⱌ ⱅⱃⰵⰱⰰⱁ ⰱⰻⱅⰻ ⱀⰰⱂⰻⱄⰰⱀ ⰳⰾⰰⰳⱁⰾⰻⱌⱁⰿ.

  9. January First-of-May says:

    …does Hausa actually have a palatalized glottal stop of all things, and if so, how the triangular heck do they pronounce one?

    I can hardly figure out what to do with a regular glottal stop (at least, when it’s not between two vowels).

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    Ⰿⰻⱄⰾⰻⰿ ⰴⰰ ⰱⰻ Ⰻⱀⱅⰵⱃⱄⰾⰰⰲⰻⱌ ⱅⱃⰵⰱⰰⱁ ⰱⰻⱅⰻ ⱀⰰⱂⰻⱄⰰⱀ ⰳⰾⰰⰳⱁⰾⰻⱌⱁⰿ.

    There’s always one. Latin and Cyrillic are just not good enough for some people …

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    does Hausa actually have a palatalized glottal stop

    Of course not. That would be silly. It is a glottalised approximant. Easy. You can glottalise anything if you try.

  12. As one might expect, the fluent speaker’s Irish is little better than the chancer’s, whose errors are not fully expressed in the subtitles. Of course, in a skit that’s forgivable or even intentional.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    But Hausa is so simple! In Nigeria, even little children can speak it.

    I can believe that. After all, the child soldiers in the Congo speak French.

    (Seriously. I heard one on TV. As if they weren’t scary enough already.)

    apparently some natural languages are even more regular

    Yeah. What is this nonsense about having unrelated singular and plural forms for personal pronouns? They don’t do that in China.

    I can hardly figure out what to do with a regular glottal stop (at least, when it’s not between two vowels).

    Glottal stops are very widespread as postpausal voice onsets. Once you learn to parse [ʔɪˈʔɪz] not as *|ɪ ɪz| or *|ʔɪ ʔɪz| but as |ɪt ɪz|, you’ve got it made.

  14. David Eddyshaw says:

    I’m impressed that the font I’m using can do Italic Glagolitic. Glagolitic Italic. Whatever.

  15. I liked how the non-Irish detective asks about ‘speaking Gaelic’ and the Irish one replies ‘speaking Irish’. I only just learned about that here at Hat. Dead subtle, millions will miss that.

  16. I usually start speaking in Interslavic after having a couple of pints with a few Czechs, Poles or Serbs.

  17. SFReader: I’m very curious about the kind of Interslavic people actually speak with each other! What do you do about mobile stress and akanye, for example? Do you speak like, say, a Polish priest, in order for non-Russian speakers to better get where the word boundary is and what the words actually are?

  18. There’s always one.

    It’s really more about whether our resident Slavs can read it. I used an online Glagolitic transliterator, though unfortunately it can’t handle Cyrl, only Latn and Glag. (These are official ISO codes for scripts, not some dubious ad hoc abbrevs I made up.)

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    I usually start speaking in Interslavic after having a couple of pints

    Me, I start glottalising approximants (it clears a space at the bar, anyway.)

  20. David Marjanović says:

    I’m impressed that the font I’m using can do Italic Glagolitic.

    I think it’s the WordPress software that just takes everything and slants it if a specified italic version of a glyph is not available. Any glyph, including emoji. We’ve italicized smileys here, including flags – and we’ve bolded them, too.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    I’m very curious about the kind of Interslavic people actually speak with each other!

    I’ve only witnessed West Slavs. They just keep speaking their own languages, more slowly; after a few days they understand each other quite well.

  22. Lars (the original one) says:

    the WordPress software — the browser and font rendering engine, more like, WordPress just says “Make it italic”. On my machine (Windows 10 default) the slanted Glacolitic is rendered from the Segoe UI Historic font which does not have an italic counterpart, so “font-style: italic” gets fallback-mapped to “font-style: oblique” and implemented as a skew transformation of the outlines before they are filled and anti-aliased. (I’m guessing the details here).

  23. David Eddyshaw says:

    Testing, testing …

    𒀭𒂗𒆤 𒈗 𒆳𒆳𒊏 𒀊𒁀 𒀭𒀭𒌷𒉈𒆤𒈨𒁲 𒈗𒆧𒆠𒆤 𒅗 𒀭𒅗𒁲𒈾𒋫 𒂠 𒃷 𒁉𒊏 𒆠𒁀 𒈾 𒉈𒆕𒍑 𒉺𒋼𒋛 𒄑𒆵𒆠𒆤 𒉆 𒅗𒈠 𒋛𒀀𒋛𒀀𒂠 𒂊𒀝𒈾𒆕𒀀𒁉 𒉌𒉻 𒂔 𒉢𒁓𒆷𒆠𒂠 𒉌𒁺𒀭𒊩𒌆𒄈𒋢 𒌨𒊕 𒀭𒂗𒆤𒇲𒆤 𒅗 𒋛𒁲𒉌𒋫 𒄑𒆵𒆠𒁕 𒁮𒄩𒊏 𒂊𒁕𒀝𒅗 𒀭𒂗𒆤𒇲𒋫 𒊓 𒌋 𒃲 𒉈𒌋 𒅖𒇯𒋺𒁉 𒂔𒈾𒆠 𒁀𒉌𒍑𒍑𒂍𒀭𒈾𒁺 𒉺𒋼𒋛 𒉢𒁓𒆷𒆠 𒉺𒄑𒉋𒂵 𒂗𒋼𒈨𒈾 𒉺𒋼𒋛 𒉢𒁓𒆷𒆠𒅗𒆤𒂗𒀉𒆗𒇷 𒉺𒋼𒋛 𒄑𒆵𒆠𒁕 𒆠 𒂊𒁕𒋩

    Yup.

  24. Stu Clayton says:

    Nope. I see only crossed-out rectangles. Samsung S5 mini (or something like that), Chrome.

  25. January First-of-May says:

    I see regular upright rectangles on my Chrome under Windows 7 (incognito mode, as it happens, though I doubt that this matters).

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    Well, naturally I have cuneiform fonts installed …

    The more recent Android incarnations have cuneiform fonts out of the box, presumably in a bid to entice the Babylonian market away from their beloved iPhones.

    I see italic cuneiform. Who wouldn’t want that?

  27. I see slanted cuneiform (Firefox, Windows 10).

  28. I see dead letters.

  29. Well, report them to the Dead Letter Office.

    I too see slanted cuneiform. Unfortunately, Google Translate is no help at all. Google Search, on the other hand, nailed the source and the translation quickly.

    TIL what a physical feat the copying of the Behistun Inscription (Old Persian, Elamite, Akkadian) was. Crossing abysses on planks, scrambling up cliffs using cracks.

  30. David Eddyshaw says:

    Google Search, on the other hand, nailed the source and the translation quickly

    Yes, it is comforting in these degenerate days to know that it is still possible to perform internet searches in Sumerian. The IME leaves much to be desired, however, and the dedicated keyboard does not fit in my living room.

  31. Trond Engen says:

    No need to google. I immediately knew it was the Babylonian version of the old tale of the quick fox and the lazy dog.

  32. David Eddyshaw says:

    Found throughout the Old World, and now known to derive from a Buddhist Jātaka story, relating to a previous incarnation of the Enlightened One as a virtuous typesetter. The Babylonian version is thought to be prophetic.

  33. 𒍑 𒉺𒋼𒋛 𒄑𒆵𒆠𒆤 𒉆 𒅗𒈠 𒋛𒀀𒋛𒀀𒂠 𒂊𒀝

    I personally think that’s being a little mean to Ush.

  34. David Eddyshaw says:

    I don’t know about that.

    After all, 𒈾𒆕𒀀𒁉 𒉌𒉻 𒂔 𒉢𒁓𒆷𒆠𒂠 𒉌𒁺. That’s pretty unspeakable when you get down to it.

  35. ATHEL CORNISH-BOWDEN says:

    All this reminds me of Portuñol, which Portuguese speakers can speak and Spanish speakers can understand. I expect Galician speakers can also speak it and that it wouldn’t need much modification to be intelligible to Catalan, Provençal and Italian speakers as well.

    (For some reason your server, or maybe my operating system, now insists that I write my name in capital letters and makes it as difficult as possible to use my gmail address.)

  36. Sorry about that; Akismet (if that’s the culprit) seems to be getting crankier and crankier.

  37. Certainly my personal experience is that native speakers of Slavic (and especially those of us who read and post on linguistic blogs) tend to grossly overestimate our abilities in the other Slavic languages, no matter how closely or distantly related. I don’t get the impression that this happens in the other language families nearly as much.

    Growing up speaking Serbo-Croatian, I added Slovenian to my repertoire while resident there as a teenager. It’s certainly the closest one to BCS and should have been a piece of cake – but for a small language it’s incredibly regionalized and so my dutiful school efforts which resulted in As in the subject also meant I was often speaking in an overly stilted register in everyday settings (in my specific case this was due to my ignorance of the German loans that dominate colloquial speech even for basic terms like “to run” or “father”. And that’s after 2 entire years -took me less time to master English.

    So the tempting and kind of self-flattering idea that speaking one Slavic language makes you able to speak or at least understand them all is completely wrong. The three main issues are ones of 1) pronunciation, which causes even identical words to sound different than you’re used to; and 2) semantic drift which means the same word often has radically different meanings (eg. zhivot in BCS (life) vs. RUS (stomach) and 3) borrowings came from completely different languages depending on the political situation (and also changed over time). So BCS is replete with Turkish loans (often so integrated they’re barely recognizable as loanwords), French for furniture, German for mechanical and auto parts, and English for information technology. Some of the others have this, others don’t. It never fails to amuse me that the Russians use a French word for newspaper, but predominantly Slavic words for nuclear technology. Consequently, to us an ordinary Russian newspaper article can appear simultaneously pretentious (using too many foreign words for everyday objects, as if to show off) and colloquial (using Slavic words when actual speakers would just use the English word). Or else the grammar differences make the other language sound replete with errors (as opposed to having different rules ) – eg Russian lack of copula make for caveman-like sentences in BCS and is never not funny to me.

    I suppose it’s trivially true that I can understand more of a text in some random Slavic language than a native English speaker. But the task is exponentially more difficult for spoken language where I can’t even determine the word bounderies. Even so, I found that simply speaking BCS to store clerks in Prague and St. Petersburg tended to be more successful than relying on English, to say nothing of the instant goodwill it generated, in Russia in particular. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a “Slavic culture” anymore, but maybe there are some traces here and there that, if nothing else, make for a dellightful experience.

  38. PlasticPaddy says:

    @nemanja
    Clearly friends speaking together with local accent and slang in another Slavic language on an unknown topic are hard to understand. But even in your own language this can be true. In cases where you wish to communicate with those people (1) only one speaks at a time; (2) your interlocutor makes an effort to speak slowly and clearly and a bit like a schoolteacher (or relative talking to a child); and (3) the context is clear and rather concrete. I agree that to have deeper discussions you would have to spend time learning their language (and unlearning yours, where speech habits are wrong in their language).

  39. January First-of-May says:

    I suppose it’s trivially true that I can understand more of a text in some random Slavic language than a native English speaker. But the task is exponentially more difficult for spoken language where I can’t even determine the word bounderies.

    …or when major sound changes are masked by the somewhat conservative orthography, as in Polish and Ukrainian (and probably elsewhere as well).

    My mother’s impression of Czech (from her visit to Prague) was the same: obvious-ish when written, essentially unintelligible when spoken.
    One common phrase that she remembered was “vyshtup na pzheshtup” – she only understood it after she saw it written down: výstup na přestup, “exit to transfer” (note: I’m not actually sure whether this is correct Czech), and even then it wasn’t immediately obvious (the Russian is выход на переход).

    This didn’t work quite the same way for Bulgarian, however – probably because, from a Russian perspective, the orthography masked many cognates (the common vowel ъ usually corresponded to a similar-sounding vowel in Russian cognates, but this was hard to recognize because the same letter in Russian was very much not a vowel).

  40. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    I suppose in BCS that would be “izlaz za pres(j)edanje”, but “istup na prestup” is wonderfully transparent. (Normally istup is either a public address or a blunder/outburst (it’s rarely used I think), and prestup is a misdemeanor).

  41. The worst is the Bulgarian “bulka”.

    Countless Russian soldiers got into trouble for innocently asking for a loaf of bread…

  42. Heh. Bulg. булка (apparently from Turkish) means ‘bride, wife.’

  43. Wiktionary says “From Ottoman Turkish بولا‎ (bola, bula, “wife of one’s paternal uncle; lady, miss”).” and “Unknown, only Ottoman. Attested from the 15th century and deemed obsolete in the 19th.”

    Looked Mongolian to me. And indeed, it is from Mongolian.

    Proto-Mongolian: *büli
    Meaning: cousin, niece (son or daughter of mother’s relative); family
    Written Mongolian: bülü, büli, böle (L 147)
    Khalkha: bül
    Buriat: büle
    Kalmuck: bülǝ, bölǝ
    Comments: KW 55, 66, MGCD 175. Mong. > Turk. bula, Kaz. bölö, Yak. bile etc.

    Damn, I never would have guessed that Bulgarian word for wife comes ultimately from Mongolian (of all languages!)

  44. I wouldn’t either — thanks for that fascinating etymology!

  45. Drill yourself in the relevant sound changes, as David M has done, and these problems will fall over to the left and the right. “You are linguist, no? Listen, and try to understand.” —Roman Jakobsen just before he began a lecture in heavily Russianized Bulgarian for an American audience

  46. Drill yourself in the relevant sound changes, as David M has done, and these problems will fall over to the left and the right.

    Wouldn’t help with булка.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    Also doesn’t help if you drown in splits & mergers, as you do a lot between Polish, Czech & Slovak, East and South Slavic.

    I forgot I’ve heard a full bilingual conversation between employees of an international bus station in Prague and FYLOSC-speaking bus drivers. But I’m sure they weren’t doing that the first time, but had had plenty of exposure to each other’s languages, and the topic wasn’t too wide-ranging either (a delay caused by an accident elsewhere, IIRC).

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