LEARN LANGUAGES, PEOPLE!

A cautionary Aboriginal tale from Anggargoon:

Two guys meet by chance across a chasm. One of the guys shouts a question in Oowini across the gap. The other doesn’t answer, because he doesn’t speak that language. He yells back something in a different language, which the Oowini guy doesn’t know. Then they both turn into stone.

Your teachers warned you this would happen if you didn’t study…

Comments

  1. Considering how abrupt the ending is, I can only assume the guy who told that story was late for lunch.

  2. “Pardon me, do you by chance speak Oowini?”
    “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of the gorgon!”

  3. My assumption about the abruptness was that either the turning to stone happens *really* quickly (on which point I have no information) or that there’s magic stuff going on that the original teller didn’t want Laves to know about.

  4. I hate it when that happens.

  5. Another reason for the abruptness might be that the storyteller has told the story to (some of) the listeners before, and is giving the abbreviated version with the assumption that they remember the rest. This seems to happen fairly frequently in my experience.

  6. i like the gorgon idea. that’s more or less what i was thinking, a warning, though sans gorgon. alternatively perhaps they speak oowini in mirkwood.

  7. SnowLeopard says:

    I believe Aikhenvald noted in the introduction to her Grammar of Tariana that among some peoples of the Northwest Amazon, you’re expected to marry one whose native language is different from your own. That apparently does motivate people to become polyglots.

  8. John Emerson says:

    In Wixman’s book on Soviet language policy in the Caucasus (recommended) he reports that a mixed marriage there is one between different religions. No attempt is made to marry within a language group. IIRC he also reported that trilingualism or more is prevalent.

  9. John Emerson says:

    In Wixman’s book on Soviet language policy in the Caucasus (recommended) he reports that a mixed marriage there is one between different religions. No attempt is made to marry within a language group. IIRC he also reported that trilingualism or more is prevalent.

  10. SnowLeopard says:

    Ah yes. Aikhenvald, pp. 7-8, says that in the Northwest Amazon it’s considered taboo to marry someone who speaks the same language as your father (but not your mother), that everyone who speaks the same language is regarded as your brother or sister, and that individuals generally speak between three and ten languages of the region, as well as Spanish and/or Portuguese. You’re expected to speak your father’s language to his relatives and your siblings, your mother’s language to her relatives, and otherwise to speak the interlocutor’s own (patrilineal) language as a matter of basic etiquette. In the book on Soviet language policy, does “no attempt is made to marry within a language group” reflect a bureaucrat’s desire to eliminate those troublesome local languages, or indifference among the locals?

  11. John Emerson says:

    I believe that it was just pervasive multilingualism and a general realization that forming external alliances is a good thing. The Caucasus has unbelievable language diversity — many more languages than Europe does.

  12. John Emerson says:

    I believe that it was just pervasive multilingualism and a general realization that forming external alliances is a good thing. The Caucasus has unbelievable language diversity — many more languages than Europe does.

  13. vivaCubaCarajo says:

    Whatever moron wrote about “habanero” and the way the letter “b” sounds in Spanish compared to the letter “v” is, well, a moron.
    Leave it to the others who commented on it to stick some crap in about hezbollah.
    The word habanero simply means something or someone who comes from La Habana, pronounced with a letter “b,” not like a letter “v.” If for some reason you doubt the difference in Spanish, try pronouncing “vaca” (cow) and tell me if there’s a difference between the sound you think you hear in “habanero” as a yanqui and the sound of the first letter in “vaca.”
    The word “Habana,” though I haven’t looked it up, is probably originally tribal in origin, from the pseudo-Chukchi people who took up residence there prior to the Spaniards and other Europeans taking over Cuba. Cuba comes from “cua” and “bana” neither which are Spanish words; they’re what you guys think of as “Indian.” I don’t think any of those indigenous people are left on the island, whether they got killed off by smallpox, Spaniards, or from being overworked. Cuba is populated mostly by Spaniards, Blacks, and a few Chinese.
    I should know – I’m from Cuba (pronounced with a “b” like in English.)
    Having said that, one could make the case that many letters have been confused for, or used in place of, other letters by the various European peoples:
    c and g
    h, i, j, and y
    p, b and v
    u, w (pronounced “gua” in Spanish)
    d, t
    e, i

  14. Nomen Nescio says:

    Sorry for OT comment. Please change the URL to Language Log in your sidebar to have a final slash (/). As you can see from your browser when you open it, it does have one. It’s preferred to include the final slash.
    Why? http://webtips.dan.info/subdir.html

  15. michael farris says:

    Well! (…. embarrassed silence till I figure out that this was probably intended for a closed thread)
    VivaCubaCarajo,
    Dozens if not hundreds of trained scientists (including native speakers of various kinds of Spanish) have examined this particular issue in detail and all have come to same conclusion: in modern Spanish there is a single voiced bilabial phoneme /b/ written b or v that’s realized as [b]* in utterance initial position and after [m] and as [B]* otherwise.
    In some Spanish speaking countries, some authorities (qualifications may vary) try to cultivate a distinction but are typically unable to do so themselves in continuous speech. The spelling b or v is fixed by convention and is not reflected in normal pronunciation.
    So, I can assure you that if you can find any variety of Spanish in which speakers consistently distinguish b and v then linguistic fame (if not fortune) awaits you.
    But you have to be able to back up the claim. That means (among other things) recording native speakers in a variety of settings talking about a variety of topics and transcribing each b and v and analysing how they are distributed.
    *
    [b] biliabial voiced stop
    [B] (bilabial voiced fricative

  16. O nameless one: Done!
    VivaCubaCarajo: In future, try 1) to give some idea of the context of your comment (like linking to the closed thread you’re talking about), and 2) not being so abusive. We try to discuss things in a friendly fashion here.
    Also, as michael farris says, you’re wrong, but I don’t expect to be able to convince you of that.

  17. Random question, inspired by Mr. Hat’s last comment: is syllepsis (the grammatical kind, I mean: a compound construction wherein each part fits syntactically, but is not parallel to its mates) more frequent, less frequent, or equally frequent when the parts are numbered (or otherwise explicitly marked)?

  18. The problem is, it is pretty much hopeless. With 6,000+ languages in the world and the ability to handle at most a few dozen languages, what is one to do?

  19. michael farris says:

    Avoid chasms!!!!!!

  20. Or gorgons, at least.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    IIRC Wikipedia says there are some dialects left somewhere in northern Spain that retain the /b/-/v/ distinction.
    Funny, though, because Basque is also in the north, and shares the single phoneme with the [b]-[β] allophony.

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