Two Links from Bulbul.

Just got an e-mail from the esteemed bulbul offering “two things you and your readership might enjoy”:

1. This is a website of a project investigating the mutual intelligibility of Romance, Germanic and Slavic languages and one of the methods of data collection they use is this nifty little language game. Folks at work had a lot of fun with it, so I thought hatters might too. Plus, it’s all for science!

2. This is the blog of Adam McCollum, the Lead Cataloger of Eastern
Christian Manuscripts a Hill Museum & Manuscript Library where [he] posts the most interesting bits and pieces of Syriac, Arabic, Georgian and other manuscripts he comes across, along with notes on paleography, history (especially of the ecclesiastical bend) and linguistics. All insanely cool stuff.

Cool indeed, so there it is. (I clicked on the blog link, saw “Old Georgian phrases and sentences 19,” and immediately added it to my RSS feed.)


  1. I had a look at that Micrela game, but when on page 1 it said something about studying communication in Europe, I nearly closed it, having spent all of 6 weeks of my life in Europe. But I persisted. The little survey before the game proper starts, though, was just too silly. What’s your home country? New Zealand. In which country have you spent most of your life? Well, I’m 37 and I’ve lived in China 14 years, so I guess I answer New Zealand. How long have you lived there? But I don’t! And no question on where I currently live, let alone how long I’ve been here. How long have you been studying English? But I just told you that it’s my native language and how old I am, so why are you even asking? Too silly. Closed it. I’ll just have to take your and Bulbul’s word that it was fun.

  2. I will repeat my comment to Mircela here.
    Asking me about Swedish, a language about which I claimed to have no knowledge, was a complete waste of electrons. You’d better asked me about a language for which I claimed at least some knowledge.

  3. D.O., I didn’t play the game, but if they’re investigating mutual intelligibility, aren’t questions about languages of which you claim no knowledge exactly what they should be asking?

  4. D.O.,
    like Matt said, the purpose of the game (and the whole project) is to find out how well native speakers of the three branches of Indo-European can understand other languages from their branch, out-of-the-box, so to speak, i.e. without having studied it.

  5. I’ll just have to take your and Bulbul’s word that it was fun.

    I didn’t say it was fun, I just quoted bulbul. I had the same reaction to the preliminary questions as you did; I think they’re ill conceived and offputting (but then I’m American; maybe Europeans think they’re fine). I answered as best I could and did the best I could with the test (I aced the written German part!); I wasn’t traumatized by the experience, but I feel no temptation to repeat it.

  6. John Cowan says:

    I did good at the language identification part, except for mistaking Norwegian for Swedish (excusable, I think). The written German fill-in-the-blanks test I didn’t even attempt.

  7. Trond Engen says:

    I got all five languages right, but with no Yiddish, Frisian or Afrikaans, that was easy. I didn’t do a fill-in-the-blanks test, only a German choose-the-correct-drawing reading comprehension test.

    I ended up giving middle scores for “beautiful” to all. I tried, but then I thought, I’ve heard all the languages before, so thiis is probably me finding this particular voice more or less beautiful than expected.

  8. I got 3 of the 5 languages right (I didn’t try to guess the Swedish or Danish) and 13 out of 50 What-does-this-spoken-Dutch-word-mean-even-though-you-already-said-you-don’t-understand-a-word-of-Dutch questions. A few of those were latin-derived and easy, and some seemed similar to something in English or German, but I don’t think there were 13 words I thought I recognized, so some of my wild guesses must have been correct. I didn’t get any questions on German.

  9. John Cowan says:

    Oh yes, I rated German, Dutch, and English as neutral on the beauty scale, and Danish and Norwegian-cum-Swedish as somewhat beautiful.

    So how do you tell Norwegian from Swedish by the sound alone, when you understand nothing, anybody know? Danish is obvious: it ain’t got no phonemes.

  10. Trond Engen says:
  11. John Cowan says:

    But there are a lot of ways to sing that tune in Swedish, it seems.

  12. Tom Vinson says:

    I’ve been trying to connect to the game off and on since yesterday morning (about 24 hours now) and having absolutely no luck. The server seems to be down. Just have to try back in a few days I guess.

  13. des von bladet says:

    So how do you tell Norwegian from Swedish by the sound alone, when you understand nothing, anybody know?

    Norwegish is the one with all the diphthongs.

  14. J.W. Brewer says:

    None of the comments above are making me want to try my hand at the “game,” but i thought I should note that I appreciated the link to the interesting-looking McCollum blog, which was the other 50% of bulbul’s contribution but had not been mentioned in the thread thus far.

  15. It requires sound. I refuse to use sound. I have hyperacusis, and I do not need to deal with sound while I’m doing anything. I am sick of the pain and I am sick of being insulted or mistreated for my disabilities. I am sick of people expecting me to use sound.

  16. John Cowan says:

    Marja Erwin: I keep the sound turned off on my computer at all times except when I’m watching a video (very rarely) or playing a spoken-word sample (very, very rarely). If you can’t handle a spoken-word sample at an appropriate volume level, how do you communicate face to face with people? (This is not sarcasm, I’m genuinely curious about hyperacusis.) Or do you use sign language only?

  17. Well computers themselves tend to make a lot of noise, between the fan, the processor noise, etc. I don’t know how hyperacusis varies from person to person, but one of my problems is sensitivity to high-pitched sounds, and another is inability to separate one sound from other sounds, which would be important to this sort of thing.

  18. Also, I don’t usually have trouble with spoken language. Even if I did, using signs wouldn’t protect me from sounds.

  19. Thanks for explaining, Marja. That’s a condition I knew nothing about.

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