Sara’s Family.

From John Cowan:

1. La famille de Sara est d’origine italienne.
2. La famiglia di Sara è di origine italiana.
3. La familia de Sara es de origen italiano.
4. A família de Sara é de origem italiana.
5. La famiya de Sara es de orijin italyana.
6. A familia de Sara é de orixe italiana.
7. A familia de Sara ye d’orixen italiano.
8. La família de Sara és d’origen italià.
9. La familha de Sara es d’origina italiana.
10. A famiglia di Sara hè di origine italiana.
11. Sa famìlia de Sara est de orìgine italiana.
12. Familia Sarei este de origine italiană.
13. Familia Sarae originis italicae est.

JC adds: “Some are easy, some quite tough, at least for me.” I got 1-4, 8, and 12-13 at first glance; the rest are tougher.

Added later:

14. La familio de Sara estas de itala origino.
15. La famiglia da Sara è d’origin talian.
16. Familia de Sara esse origine de Italia.

Addendum. It’s probably best to assume there will be spoilers in the comments, if you don’t want any help figuring it out.


  1. Why is origin feminine in most languages above but masculine in Spanish and whatever no. 7 is? I don’t know any Latin but presumably ‘origin’ is feminine.

    Very grateful for your elucidations.

  2. Good question. I’m going to assume plain old analogy — if it ends in a consonant, it looks like it might be masculine — but maybe somebody knows more. (It’s also masculine in 8.)

  3. I’m going to give it a try:

    1. French
    2. Italian
    3. Spanish
    4. Portuguese
    5. Ladino?
    6. Galician
    7. Asturian
    8. Catalan
    9. Occitan?
    10. ??
    11. Sardinian?
    12. Romanian?
    13. Latin

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    1-4 as above (the easy ones); I agree 8 is Catalan; 12 is indeed Romanian, 13 Latin. Galician is said to be like Portuguese (according to the only speaker I know) so I expect J is right about 6 too.

    11 has to be Sard because of the article. No idea about the others.

  5. Trond Engen says

    I immediately took 1-3 and 13. Then I put Romanian on 12 for being different and Portuguese on 4 for the -m. Galician followed on 6 for the same reason as David and Occitan on 9 for the sequence -lh-. Then I guessed Catalan on 8 for the -à, 7 is obviously close to Galician/Portuguese on the Spanish side, but I couldn’t guess which intermediate dialect or colonial variety it might be. 10 is somewhere in the Italian sub-continuum, and not far from the Toscan center. Corsican? I had no idea what to make out of 5 or 11.

  6. David Marjanović says

    I’m pretty sure origo is masculine, but that’s highly irregular in Latin, where almost all other n-stems were feminine: the masculine ones are ordo, sermo, personal names like Cato and Nero, and that’s pretty much it.

    5 has to be Ladino because of the spelling (i.e. Atatürk orthography, like YPG Kurdish) – which incidentally allows us to see the yeísmo.

    I agree that 6 looks more Galician than 7; 7 could well be Asturian.

    10 is some “Italian” “dialect”, not too far north.

    11 is obviously Sardinian: article sa, unreduced est.

  7. Roberto Batisti says

    Ok, without looking at the comments…:

    1 – French, 2 – Italian, 3 – Spanish, 4 – Portuguese, 5 -Judeo-Spanish (?), 6 – Galician, 7 – ?? (some Ibero-Romance variety I guess), 8 – Catalan, 9 – Occitan, 10 -Corsican??, 11 – Sardinian, 12 – Rumanian, 13 – Latin

  8. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    Aren’t some of these missing a definite article? Not sure if it’s a rule, but I’m definitely used to hearing that from native speakers of Portuguese (4. A família da Sara) and Catalan (8. La família de la Sara).

    @David: Italian is rather conservative with its genders (un ordine, un sermone) and this seems to work for origin (un’origine) as well: principii autem nulla est origo.

    I have full confidence in the collective reconstruction above (which I wouldn’t have been capable of), but I find the systematic absence of peninsular “Italian dialects” vaguely disturbing.

  9. Well, not surprisingly to anyone who knows the Hattics, everyone’s assertions, conjectures, and approximate conjectures are correct, with the exception of the very difficult #7. In fact it is (mountain) Aragonese, not Asturian, but they are quite similar.

    Some features of Aragonese not shown here include the preservation of Latin /ll/ and (some) intervocalic voiceless stops unchanged. An example of the latter is cleta ‘trellis, hurdle’; cf. Spanish cleda, French claie. I suppose this means this and similar words had irregular gemination at some point. The articles are also curious: they are o/a/os/as as in Portuguese when the preceding word ends in a consonant, but ro/ra/ros/ras when it ends in a vowel (clearcut l/r interchange here).

    Asturian, on the other hand, is the only Western Romance language that has retained three genders in the adjective, ending in -u, -a, -o respectively. However, some neuter nouns take the masculine article, some the feminine: el fierro vieyo/*vieyu, la lleche frío/*fría: semantically they are mass, collective, or abstract nouns. Deadjectival abstracts also have neuter adjective agreement, but take the special article lo, as in Spanish.

    I’m pretty sure origo is masculine

    Wikt, Lewis & Short, and Gaffiot’s Latin/French dictionary all agree that it is feminine, and L & S quote Cicero’s De Re Publica: principii nulla est origo ‘there is no beginning to the beginning’.

    Update: Huh. Giacomo and I quoted the same Latin tag but seemingly drew opposite conclusions from it! Or perhaps I am simply confused.

    Update 2: It would be cool to get 12-13 speakers together, synchronize them with a click track, and get them to pronounce the sentence and then overlay them. (The Latin would have to be rearranged to SVO order, but that would be perfectly grammatical: Caesar is big on SOV, but about 90% of Livy’s sentences are SVO.

  10. As i understand it, Sara is from Slovenia. Or Slovakia

  11. Or Slobbovia.

  12. Finländare says

    Pff. How good is your ability to recognize Finnic languages?

    1. Sara ema ja isa tulevad Itaaliast.
    2. Saran mutsi ja faija tulee Italiast.
    3. Saran äiti ja isä tulevat Italiasta.
    4. Saran muamo da tuatto tullah Italiaspäi.

  13. David Marjanović says

    Nullam novi originem!

    1 seems Estonian: lack of vowel harmony, -d.

    2 I have no idea.

    3 is probably (Standard) Finnish.

    4… with ua and -h, is it Karelian?

  14. Lars (not the original one) says

    @Finländare: I’d say 1 is Estonian, 3 is Finnish, 4 looks like Veps (the one with even more cases). In (2), mutsi and faija look like Germanic loans… and it also seems to have lost subject/verb agreement. Interesting, but I’ve no idea what it could be.

  15. Roberto Batisti says

    @ Giacomo Ponzetto: you’re right, let’s do one with Italian ‘dialects’! It’s going to be fun (and not much harder for non-experts in Italian dialectology than the Finnic one is for non-Finnologists, I think…).

  16. PlasticPaddy says

    Re Finnish 2 the phrase mutsi ja faija is used in a song by an artist from what is now kouvala. Alternatively 2 might be Helsinki slang, which substitutes Swedish for familiar terms, according to Wikipedia.

  17. 2. Informal spoken Finnish. I can explain why (if anybody’s interested) but I must admit to cheating.

  18. Alex K. (if anybody’s interested)

    In this environment it’s usually safe to assume a yes to that. No matter what came before the parenthesis.

  19. Yes, do tell.

  20. De familie van Sara is van Italiaanse afkomst.

  21. about 90% of Livy’s sentences are SVO

    Are you sure about that? I just took a quick look at ab urbe condita and at least the first book is heavily SOV.

  22. I first thought (2) could be Livonian, for purely geographical reasons, but Livonian diacritics is similar to Latvian, not Estonian or Finnish. Bad guess.

    I googled “mutsi ja faija” and – as PlasticPaddy said – there’s this song by a Finnish pop artist. According to Suomen slangisanakirjaa (accessible via, mutsi is äiti and faija is isä.

    Now on to the verb. As Lars noted, the subject-verb agreement seems broken: in Finnish, tulee is the third-person singular indicative present form of tulla (“to come”). Now, it’s possible to say mat’ s otsom edet domoy in Russian so perhaps this trick can also work in colloquial Finnish. Also, can the essive Italiasta (from Italy) lose its final -a in fluent speech?

    The answer seems to be yes in both cases. I should have turned to Wikipedia from the start, “Colloquial Finnish” aka Puhekieli. Here are the relevant bits:

    …the third person plural suffix -vat or -vät is not used in the spoken language; instead, the third person singular form is used…


    Particularly in Helsinki, the deletion of some, but not all word-final vowels even beyond /i/ occurs sometimes…

    -sta — -st elative case, “away from the inside of”

    Which, I think, takes care of it all.

  23. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    @Roberto: I’m afraid I don’t speak any “Italian dialect,” so I cannot help give the peninsula more representation.

    @John: sorry for being opaque. I also meant that origo is feminine in Latin, just like origine is in Italian. It’s an unserious way of recalling Latin genders, but it’s awfully tempting because it succeeds so often … Sure enough, the irregular masculines in Latin also include cardo (un cardine) and margo (un margine).

  24. David Eddyshaw says

    De familie van Sara is van Italiaanse afkomst.

    Or to put it in a more familiar language:

    Asaaratu yaanam la da yi nɛ Italiya teŋin na.

  25. David Marjanović says

    mat’ s otsom

    That’s also an option in Basque. (Using the comitative case in -ekin; there’s no word for “with”.)

  26. After getting the same ones as Hat at first glance and then identifying Ladino, Galician, and a couple more Iberian tongues, I was also struck by the relative neglect of Italian “dialects” as well. I also thought Romansh would be a good candidate for such an exercise, but didn’t see anything that looked like it.

    I think a similar exercise with Turkic languages will be much easier than it otherwise would be due to the different spelling conventions adopted by each of them.

  27. 14. La familio de Sarah estas de itala origino.

  28. @John Cowan: Good one! Any reason that it’s Sarah, not Sara?

  29. 15. La famiglia da Sara è d’origin talian.

  30. Roberto Batisti says

    Actually, a problem with translating this phrase in regional languages is that ‘origin’ wouldn’t really sound right. Such abstract Latinisms are well integrated in the lexicon of the big, standardized national languages, but quite alien to regional varieties. Dialect speakers nowadays would probably produce a superficial adaptation, but that would be an Italianism (in an dialect of Italy; the same may apply mutatis mutandis to other countries/languages), and as such less interesting as an example of the lexical and structural peculiarities of each dialect. In the actual regional varieties it would generally be more natural to say something like “Sara’s family *comes from* Italy”.

    That said, I’ll try to provide a couple of version later…

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    Quite so: my rendition above is actually “Sara’s forebears came hither from Italy-land.” A more literal rendering would be hopelessly unnatural. As a matter of fact, the Latin version is not at all idiomatic either (and familia does not mean “family”, as JC will of course know very well.)

    The actual concept “family” is more culture-bound than is apparent from a modern Standard Average European perspective.

    [Presumably the real reason that there are no Italian dialect versions is that Sara’s people left all that behind them in the Old Country, and it would not be tactful to remind them of it all.]

  32. David Marjanović says

    Any reason that it’s Sarah, not Sara?

    It’s actually either Saro or, Zamenhof forbid, Saraho.

  33. Trond Engen says

    This is essentially a word-by-word comparison. Comparing idiomatic sentences, as in the Finnic examples, is interesting too, but it runs into all sorts of problems of taste, register and nuances of meaning in context — if that’s not the point, as in the Finnic examples.

    I made a similar (but much shorter) list once to show the systematic correspondence of wh-words and some endings of nouns and verbs between the Scandinavian languages, and I had to cheat with both default syntax, idiomatic constructions and lexical meanings to keep the word by word structure.

  34. familia does not mean “family”, as JC will of course know very well

    I think it must have. Classically it meant the slaves of a household (domus, lit. ‘house, mansion’) to the exclusion of the free persons, but to those who did not own slaves, the vast majority, it must have meant ‘household, (extended) family’, just like its Romance descendants.

    It’s actually either Saro or, Zamenhof forbid, Saraho.

    It’s actually quite common to leave proper names alone in both formal and informal Esperanto, unless they are already names with extensive multilingual variation: the 26th U.S. President is not *Teodoro Rozevelto, though the Pope is Fransisko (Unua/1a). A José may be any of Josefo, Jose, Ĥose, José.

    In particular, names in -a are very unlikely to be replaced with -o. Not only is this perceived as misgendering and blurring essential distinctions (what do you do if your family contains both a Mario and a Maria?), but it sounds okay to add the accusative -n to Maria and/or plural -j to -a names, assimilating them morphologically to adjectives, all of which end in -a. Foreign names like those above are treated as indeclinable. (There are, however, gendered diminutive suffixes -ĉjo, njo.)

    Tl;dr: I should have used Sara rather than Sarah above (chalk it up to anglophone habits, though my own sister is Sara), but not Saro, Saraho.

    (By the way, the letter ĥ [x ~ χ] is very rare in E-o and is almost always replaced, even in writing, by something else, usually k; thus Zamenhof’s ĥemio, teĥniko, ĥino became kemio, tekniko, ĉino early on, though ĥaoso is still preferred to kaoso. Only the minimal pairs eĥo/eko ‘echo/beginning’, ĉeĥo/ĉeko ‘Czech/cheque’, and ĥoro/koro/horo ‘chorus/heart/hour’ are universally preserved, though the alternative koroso is not unknown.)

  35. Allan from Iowa says

    Earlier today I congratulated myself on identifying a person named Firdavs Something-something-ov as being from Tajikistan.

    Then this quiz brought me back down to earth.

  36. By the way, the letter ĥ [x ~ χ] is very rare in E-o and is almost always replaced, even in writing, by something else

    This is the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes about people who think Esperanto is some kind of ideal/rational language.

  37. 16. Familia de Sara esse origine de Italia.

    I suppose 15 is Venetian; the Brazilian dialect of Venetian (with some koine effects plus of course the Portugese superstrate) spoken in parts of the state of Rio Grande do Sul by those d’ origin talian is called Talian.

  38. 4. Saran muamo da tuatto tullah Italiaspäi.

  39. 17. La ffefil di Sara es di *origin di Italia (best guess).

  40. David Marjanović says

    16. Latino sine flexione.

  41. January First-of-May says

    By the way, the letter ĥ [x ~ χ] is very rare in E-o and is almost always replaced, even in writing, by something else

    It had been noted that the distinction between /x/ and /h/ is actually fairly rare cross-linguistically, and that Eastern Polish (supposedly including the dialect of Zamenhof’s native area) has both, but Standard Polish had merged them (to /x/, ironically enough).

  42. David Marjanović says

    No, Vaguely Eastern Polish uses [ɦ] for /g/, just like Ukrainian.

    Loans that have [ɦ] or [h] in the original are spelled with h in Standard Polish, but pronounced with /x/, which is otherwise spelled ch.

  43. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    @Roberto: I don’t think it’s just origin. Surely John Cowan purposefully picked a sentence composed entirely of abstract words that show minimal variation across Romance languages.

    Try instead something practical and farm-like such as: “His wife left the mushrooms on the windowsill.” I’m immediately in trouble even with the languages I allegedly know. With some hesitation I’d try the following.

    1. Sa femme a laissé les champignons sur le rebord de la fenêtre.
    2. Sua moglie lasciò i funghi sul davanzale.
    3. Su mujer dejó las setas en el alféizar.
    4. A mulher dele deixou os cogumelos no peitoril da janela.
    8. La seva dona va deixar els bolets a l’ampit.
    13. Uxor eius super limen fenestrae fungos liquit.

  44. To be clear, “from John Cowan” means I sent them to the Hat, not that I composed them. I saw them on Quora, but there are several other pre-LH hits. (It also shows up on various blogs that display the current LH post in their sidebars.) So I didn’t choose the words, but I agree they were probably chosen for their Latinate nature.

  45. And

    12. Soția sa a lăsat ciupercile pe pervazul

    I think. I agree – that is a more interesting sentence.

  46. Interestingly, Romanian ciupercă is from Serbo-Croatian печурка (pečurka).

  47. At the end of Volume One of Основы финно-угорского языкознания (Fundamentals of Finno-Ugric Studies) there is an appendix containing short texts in many languages; short exerpts (not error-free) can be seen here:

    All three volumes are available here:

  48. Nice!

  49. A surprising fact related to the text:

  50. Randall Cooper says

    Is there a way to get the definitive answer?

  51. 15 isn’t Venetian, but it is a language that has already been mentioned (although I don’t know how idiomatic it is in that language).

  52. John Cowan says

    Hat: Could you pull up my #14 and #16 and Jongseong’s #15 to the original post? Thanks.

    What is #15 anyway?

  53. Done (I changed Sarah to Sara per your comment here).

  54. Finnic identification, bonus varieties:
    5. Saran äiree ja isä tulloo Itaaliasta.
    6. Saram muar ja faar tule Italiast.
    (This example is so simple that admittedly it has to rely a fair bit on vocabulary differences on ‘mother’ and ‘father’ rather than more widely recognizable isoglosses.)

  55. Two dialects of Finnish. First is some northern dialect, the second is very Swedish-influenced. Somewhere around Turku/Åbo probably.

  56. John Cowan says

    Here’s another and much easier list of contrasting sentences from Quora, this time Germanic, and all from one person, Thomas Musselman:

    1) I am the son of my father and my mother.
    2) A am the son o ma faither an ma mither.
    3) Ik bin de soan fan myn heit en myn mem.
    4) Ik ben de zoon van mijn vader en mijn moeder.
    5) Ek is die seun van my pa en my ma.
    6) Ich bin der Sohn meines Vaters und meiner Mutter.
    7) Ikh bin der zun fun mayn foter un mayn muter
    8) Ik bün de Söhn van mien Vader un mien Moder.
    9) I bin da Sohn vo meim Voda und meina Muada.
    10) Ech sinn de Jong vu mengem Papp a menger Mamm.
    11) Jeg er søn af min far og min mor.
    12) Æ er søn af mi fåer og mi muer.
    13) Jeg er sønnen til faren min og moren min.
    14) Jag är son till min far och min mor.
    15) Ég er sonur föður míns og móður minnar.
    16) Eg eri sonur pápa og mammu.

    There was some debate over whether the words for parents in various sentences have the same register as father and mother. In any case, none of the words are borrowed, unlike the “Sara’s family” examples.

  57. I was puzzled by 12 (some Norwegian dialect probably), so I copied to Google Translate hoping for a clue.

    GT identified the language as Danish and translated it as

    “12) I am the son of my sheep and my mice.”

  58. Trond Engen says

    13) Jeg er sønn av faren min og mora mi.

    17) Eg er son av far min og mor mi.

    Register is definitely an additional issue here. We can also discuss nuances in meaning between ‘sønnen/sonen til’ and ‘sønn/son av’.

    @SFR: 12 does look quite similar to Norwegian dialects, but it’s not.

  59. David Marjanović says

    The spellings do make it easier…

    2) Scots
    3) West Frisian
    4) Standard Dutch
    5) Afrikaans
    6) Standard German
    7) Yiddish
    8) Generic Low German
    9) Generic Bavarian
    10) Something up Stu’s alley
    11) Standard Danish
    12) One of the more extremely consonant-dropping Danishes
    13) One of the standard Norwegians
    14) Swedish
    15) Icelandic
    16) Faroese

    17) Nynorsk?

  60. Lars Mathiesen says

    GT identified the language as Danish — un point.

    Some South Jutish (Slesvig) dialect (Æ for jeg is diagnostic) or possibly North-West Jutish (Thy), but it looks inconsistent. By which I mean that words like er, af and og are not pronounced as written in any dialect or standard of Danish, and it would be easier to pinpoint the exact dialect if we had the IPA.

    Also the dialect maps I have don’t show any areas in Denmark that has both of the diphthongizations.

    A æ søn a mi far å min muer might be possible in a small area south of Horsens, and Ja e søn a mi få å min mue in some parts of Funen/Sealand. I think. If the places in question aren’t using til instead of af, and haven’t dropped the three-gender system.

  61. Lars Mathiesen says

    extremely consonant-dropping Danishes — bog standard loss of suffixed definite article and weakening of second syllables, nothing to see here, don’t block traffic please.

    Third syllables, you ask? Do we look like Greeks or something?

    (A æ å æ ø i æ å).

  62. Trond Engen says

    13) One of the standard Norwegians


    17) Nynorsk?


    Also, with great precaution:

    18) Ig ir son’n åv fåður mien og moður mię.

    19) Iich biin dr Soon va miim Vattr und miine Muättr

  63. David Marjanović says

    Map of Danish gender and article systems.

    18) Elfdalian.
    19) Swiss(-adjacent) German with particularly consistent monosyllabic vowel lengthening.

    (A æ å æ ø i æ å).

    To 9):
    [aˈɛɪ] “oh, so it is me, after all, conforming to my hopes or cynical expectations”
    [ɪˈɛa] “me too, conforming to your …”
    [aˈɛɪa] “oh, so me, too, after all, conforming to my …”
    [aˈɛɛɐ̯a] “oh, so him, too, after all, conforming to my …”

  64. 20) Iċ béo se sunu fæder mínes and módor mínre.

    (Note the “gnomic present” copula and the zero genitives.)

    A æ å æ ø i æ å

    “Oo?” “Ay, oo.” “Aw oo?” “Ay, aw oo”. “Aw a oo?” “Ay, ay, aw a oo!”

  65. There is an album called A æ U å æ ø I æ å, æ I å U å æ ø I æ å? (link to Amazon Music). Here are the individual tracks:

    Strč Prst Skrz Krk
    Khronokrator – Xρονοκράτωρ
    Kroki Na Brzegu
    Lo Berde
    My Safe Town
    Baiduska – Μπαϊντούσκα
    Reis Glorios
    Uşşak Saz Semâisi
    No Me Comas El Celebro
    Mer Tan Itev – Մեր տան իտև
    Hortus Deliciarum 2.0
    Światło Electronic Seeds
    Kara Bahtım Kem Talihim
    Bourrées De La Carrasca De La Vaca 2.0

    I have heard none of it, but it is obviously Hattic.

  66. Strč Prst Skrz Krk

    Try “Prd krt skrz drn, zprv zhlt hrst zrn”

  67. Or

    Chrt zdrhl z Brd. Vtrhl skrz strž v tvrz srn, v čtvrť Krč. Blb! Prskl, zvrhl smrk, strhl drn, mrskl drn v trs chrp. Zhltl čtvrthrst zrn skrz krk, pln zrn vsrkl hlt z vln. Chrt brkl, mrkl, zmlkl. Zvlhls?

  68. Stu Clayton says

    No Me Comas El Celebro

    Don’t eat my VIP ?

  69. Lars Mathiesen says

    A æ u å æ ø i æ å, æ I å u å æ ø i æ å? — in mangled ON (preposing determiners) it would have been something like Ek em úti á inni eyju í inni á, erum it ok úti á inni eyju í inni á?

    So most of the simplification from PG happened more than 1000 years ago. But of course the loss of endings since then also meant that case in nouns, gender in determiners and number and person in verbs had to go — the citation forms of most of the ON words are in fact monosyllabic already.

    (Inn is cognate to E yon, G jener and last I heard, it was considered to be the source of the modern North Germanic definite suffix).

  70. Trond Engen says

    18) Elfdalian.

    An attempt anyway. I couldn’t find the construction in any of my limited material.

    19) Swiss(-adjacent) German with particularly consistent monosyllabic vowel lengthening.

    Wallissertitsch, picking Lötschertal forms where available, but now that you say it, I probably have too many long vowels. The shortened forms didn’t strike me as anything more than inconsistent spelling in my book of Heitrs und Ärnsts usm Leetschtal.

  71. Trond Engen says

    (Forgot to italicize the second quote. Sorry.)

    Lars: A æ u å æ ø i æ å, æ I å u å æ ø i æ å? — in mangled ON (preposing determiners) it would have been something like Ek em úti á inni eyju í inni á, erum it ok úti á inni eyju í inni á?

    … but eru yðr “are you (pl./polite)” rather than it “it, that”, I think. Ek em úti á inni eyju í inni á, eru yðr ok úti á inni eyju í inni á?

    And perhaps a closer proto-form would come without case endings. Ek em úti á in ey í in á, eru yð ok úti á in ey í in á?

    Danish weakened unstressed vowels very early. Ek em úte á in ey í in á, ere yð ok úte á in ey í in á?

    … and lenited consonants. Eg em úde á in ey í in á, ere yð og úde á in ey í in á?

    … and monophtongized. Eg em úde å in ø í in å, ere yð og úde å in ø í in å?

    Jutlandic nasalized and denasalized. Eg æ úde å æ ø í æ å, ere yð og úde å æ ø í æ å?

    … apocopized. Eg æ úd å æ ø í æ å, er yð og úd å æ ø í æ å?

    … and lenited some more. A æ ú å æ ø í æ å, er I å ú å æ ø í æ å?

  72. David Marjanović says

    Chrt zdrhl z Brd.



  73. Don’t Eat My Blain?

  74. John Cowan says

    GT is helpless with Prskl, zvrhl smrk, strhl drn, mrskl drn v trs chrp, except that it thinks the second phrase means “whistling smurf”.

    No comments on the business negotiation all in vowels? I assume the first speaker eventually bought the product, since it seemed to be what he wanted; the seller’s obvious annoyance would be alleviated by the money.

  75. Lars Mathiesen says

    Trond: eru yðreruð ér I think, yðr is oblique. But yes, I picked two wrong forms initially, 2du nom pronoun and 1pl verb.

    (Danish had I / Eder as polite nom/obl 2pl and later 2sg until we changed to De / Dem, now it’s I / jer — uppercase ostensibly for distinction against the preposition, but I’m sure some people are happy it looks a bit more polite too. Swedish has ni / er).

    And actually the case system was fighting a rear-guard action long after most of the non-initial vowels had fallen, so I’m not sure your order is historically correct (as opposed to pedagogically). Da til hånde, Sw till handa with old plural genetives are fossilized but still current.

  76. Trond Engen says

    Yoy’re right that I meant it pedagogically, starting from common Norse changes before honing in on Jutlandic, and also treating processes that probably overlapped as independent, so it’s not historically correct, and I regretted that after posting. I also didn’t check my facts thoroughly. You can do only so much when you are in a meeting pretending to respond to an urgent e-mail.

  77. David Eddyshaw says

    I’d do a Western Oti-Volta one (similar levels of interrelatedness to Romance and Germanic), but it would be a bit like Bilbo’s “What have I got in my pocket?” And it would involve too many goats.

  78. John Cowan says
  79. David Eddyshaw says

    Hah! The catch there is “no offence to the men of Erin.” Otherwise it would have been a piece of cake.

    But a thousand blessings for invoking the learned and saintly Miles.
    Not many novels begin with Pookas. Or feature Suibne Geilt bidding at poker in Irish quatrains. Or …

  80. David Marjanović says

    I’d do a Western Oti-Volta one

    Do it, with the solution included, and let us gaze in wonderment 🙂

  81. David Eddyshaw says

    As I am only capable of composing with assured grammatical correctness in Kusaal, I’ve cheated by giving various translations of the end of Mark 5:39 “the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” Some of the versions say “the girl”, others “the child”, and they vary in whether they use the Hausa loanword amaa “but”; otherwise they’re pretty much exactly parallel.

    A bie ba kpi. O gbire la.
    Biigã ka ki ye, a gõeeme.
    Bipuŋ la pʋ kpii, amaa o gbisidnɛ.
    Bii wa bu kpi, amaa u gbisiri ni.
    Bipuɣiŋga maa bi kpi, amaa o gbihirimi.
    Bʋpũŋa bʋ kpii, õ gbɩ̃sɩtẽ.
    Bia la ka ki’, amaa ka ginhɛ mɛ.

    The languages are Agolle and Toende Kusaal, Mampruli, Dagbani, Dagaare, Farefare/Gurenne, and Mooré. But not in that order …
    I am sorry for the absence of goats.

  82. John Cowan says

    Two more Sarah sentences from the Quora page:

    18. A famigghia di Sara àvi urìggini taliani.
    19. Familja e Sarës është me origjinë italiane.

    19 was a stunner: I wouldn’t have expected anything so Latinate.

    Nobody has identified 15, “La famiglia da Sara è d’origin talian” by Jongseong “Final Consonant” Park, except that it’s not Venetian and it is mentioned somewhere on this page. (No, that’s not really what his name means; it’s accidental homonymy.)

    GT is helpless with Prskl, zvrhl smrk, strhl drn, mrskl drn v trs chrp

    I see the trouble now: in isolation, GT thinks the sentence is Slovenian, and epically fails with “Prskl, whistling smurf, strhl drn, mrskl drn in cane chrp.” Given the whole passage, it correctly identifies the language as Czech and translates it sensibly except for the final “Zvlhls?”.

  83. David Eddyshaw says

    Repeated with the numbers I forgot to put in before, all the girls turned into generic children, and the hifalutin Islamic loanword omitted:

    1. A bie ba kpi, o gbire la.
    2. Biigã ka ki ye, a gõeeme.
    3. Biig la pʋ kpii, o gbisidnɛ.
    4. Bii wa bu kpi, u gbisiri ni.
    5. Bii maa bi kpi, o gbihirimi.
    6. Bii la bʋ kpii, õ gbɩ̃sɩtẽ.
    7. Bia la ka ki’, ka ginhɛ mɛ.

    You could probably make a good guess at the usually accepted subclassification of the languages within Western Oti-Volta even from this scanty material (though the group is a mass of criss-crossing isoglosses, so the accepted classification may not actually be correct, at that.)

  84. January First-of-May says

    Should I post my guess? I know essentially nothing of Western Oti-Volta except what I’ve seen here on LH, but I did cross-check with the Wikipedia classification (which actually didn’t help that much, because it wanted a 3/4 primary grouping and I got a 2/5 one).

    …Incidentally, are there any Western Oti-Volta loanwords in English or Russian?

  85. Not sure if it’s a loanword, but the most well-known word in any Western Oti-Volta is Burkina (“upright”), from Mossi language.

    President Sankara renamed Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which is supposed to mean “land of honest people”.

  86. David Eddyshaw says

    Interestingly enough, the Mooré burkĩna (= Kusaal burɩkɩn) “honest, honourable, non-slave” is itself a loanword from Songhay, cf Kikara Songhay bòrkǐn “noble” (caste.) Mind you, it’s old enough as a loan that it antedates the loss of /r/ as an independent phoneme in all of Western Oti-Volta except for Mooré and Agolle Kusaal (cf Dagbani bilchina id.)

    The Songhay word turns up even in Yoruba bọrọkinni “gentleman.”

    The “Faso” part of the name of the country is Djula (“father’s house.”)

    @January: Post away! (the classifications assumed by Wikipedia leave much to be desired anyway.)

    As a hint, the seven do divide up as 4/3, but of the three, two are clearly close to one another, with a number of clear common innovations, and the third is an outlier (which is also as it were the “French” of Western Oti-Volta in terms of radical sound changes. The “Romanian” is Boulba, which is too scantily documented from me to have been able to include it, alas.)

    I suppose, stretching a point (to breaking), “Gur” has some title to be considered a loan from Western Oti-Volta, as the name is partly based on Gurense, which is what the Frafra people actually call themselves (but also on “Gurma”, which is Oti-Volta, but not Western Oti-Volta.) Can’t think of any at all that aren’t proper names of some kind, though.

  87. January First-of-May says

    OK, here’s my guess:

    1. Dagaare
    2. Mooré
    3. Agolle Kusaal
    4. Mampruli
    5. Dagbani
    6. Toende Kusaal
    7. Farefare

    I’d be surprised if I got all of them right. Some of those are listed on much shakier evidence than the others (and I can no longer recall or find what little evidence I had for the placement of Dagaare in particular), though even the firmest here is rather shaky (since, as I’ve mentioned, I know almost nothing about Western Oti-Volta languages except what I’ve seen on LH).

    The classification I got from the snips (and based this on) is (2,7),(1,((4,5),(3,6))), with some uncertainty in the last nodes; your description makes me suspect ((2,7),1),((4,5),(3,6)), which is indeed what I went with in the assignment, but, again, I no longer recall why I thought the (2,7) node was where I put it.

  88. David Marjanović says

    19 is Albanian; it doesn’t strike me as more Latinate than English (family, origin). 18 I have no idea, but famigghia is an amazing sound shift.

    Moving on, 3 looks like Kusaal; 2 looks conservative, so I suppose that’s Mõõré?

  89. January First-of-May says

    Moving on, 3 looks like Kusaal

    That’s where I started; I then assumed that the nearly identical 6 was the other Kusaal, and that 4 and 5 were Mampruli and Dagbani, slightly more likely than not in that order.

    I assigned 2 to Mõõré because of the õ, and I honestly forgot why I put 1 and 7 where I did.

  90. David Eddyshaw says


    Your identifications are absolutely correct in every case. I am deeply impressed.
    Your ((2,7),1),((4,5),(3,6)) classification is spot on, too.

    Mamprul and Dagbani are close enough for there to be a fair bit of mutual comprehension: the major difference is that Dagbani has shortened long vowels except in originally closed syllables. They share (along with some smaller languages) a major simplification of the inherited vowel system.

    Agolle and Toende Kusaal are regarded as dialects of a single language by the speakers, but comprehension is asymmetrical, with Toende speakers who have not previously been exposed to Agolle having quite low comprehension of it.

    Farefare and Mooré share the simplification of labiovelars to velars and the replacement of the inherited three-way distinction of preverbal negative particles by mood with a single ka.

    The languages have independently innovated definite articles from various different deictics. Dagaare has uniquely adopted one that precedes the noun.

    Cross-cutting the accepted classification: Mooré and Kusaal have clause-final negative particles correlating with the preverbal negatives. (In Kusaal, the clause final particles have no segmental form, but affect the shape of the preceding word.)

    The focus/aspect particle is ni or mi, the form taken not correlating at all with other signs of close-relatedness. The Dagaare form la appears in Mampruli and Dagbani as the non-clause-final allomorph of ni/mi.

    The Mooré verb for “sleep” is not directly cognate to the verb used in the other languages, corresponding instead to the Kusaal noun gbɛɛm.. The Frafra and Dagaare forms lack the imperfective ending seen in the other languages: this reflects the fact that the verb originally belonged to a distinct imperfective-only conjugation, preserved intact only in Kusaal (where this particular verb has actually been transferred to the majority conjugation, however.)

  91. Your identifications are absolutely correct in every case.

    Wow. Jan 1 May gets the coveted LH Headgear of Excellence award.

  92. John Cowan says

    19 is Albanian; it doesn’t strike me as more Latinate than English

    It’s the është, which looks quite Romance even though it turns out to be native. For a language to borrow its copula would be very very unusual, though I’m sure the Hattics in congress assembled can find a genuine example.

  93. Not an example, but a related astonishment: I just discovered that Russian есть ‘all right, okay; (military) yessir! aye-aye!’ is not (as I had naturally assumed) simply a specialized usage of есть ‘is’ but is borrowed from English yes, influenced in form by the native verb!

  94. Рассказал мой коллега, который когда-то был на военных сборах (еще в институте).
    Приехала целая рота потенциальных новобранцев, пока еще, впрочем, студентов. Среди них были два брата Ивановых – Александр Юрьевич и Василий Юрьевич. В списке, соответственно, они шли по порядку.
    Первая перекличка. Седовласый майор внимательно вглядывается в список, называет фамилии по алфавиту, доходит до братьев.
    – Иванов!
    – Здесь!
    …Майор всматривается в инициалы.
    – А.Ю.?
    – Yes, I am.
    Все полегли. Майор не понял.

  95. Thanks, that gave me a good laugh!

  96. David Eddyshaw says

    Ooh, and the peculiar 3sg pronoun ka in #7 is because Farefare still has gender agreement based on noun classes. (No doubt everybody has been wondering about that.)

  97. Trond Engen says

    Me: it’s not historically correct, and I regretted that after posting

    I don’t regret that now. It makes it easier to follow from ignorance — as I do almost a year later.

    You can do only so much when you are in a meeting pretending to respond to an urgent e-mail.

    This situation has improved a lot with virtual meetings, but OTOH there’s a lower bar for becoming involved in projects out of the local office, so much less time overall. I now spend the disengaged part of meetings trying to catch up elsewhere. This is good for work productivity but bad for LH comments.

  98. Man, some people’s priorities are all messed up.

  99. David Marjanović says

    We were never told what Romance number 18 is. 🙁

  100. Trond said it was “an attempt [at Elfdalian].”

  101. Trond Engen says

    Elfdaliian is Germanic no, 18. Romance no. 18 is:

    18. A famigghia di Sara àvi urìggini taliani.

    Not that I have any idea what it is. The loss of the initial i could be widespread in “true” dialects. But I seem to remember that some of the minor languages slash divergent dialects of Corsica or Sardinia harden j to [gj].

  102. Elfdaliian is Germanic no, 18.

    Woops! I just searched on “18” and forgot the qualifier.

  103. “Romance no. 18” is a dumb-but-thinks-it’s-clever pop song.

    Nah, it’s Sicilian.

  104. есть

    Modern Hebrew possessive sentences use the existential (pseudo-verb?) yesh יֵשׁ ‘exists’, plus dative, e.g. yesh lo kova ‘He has a hat’, ‘exists to.him hat’. yesh is a perfectly good Biblical Hebrew word. It’s a nice coincidence with Russian есть. However, yesh is also used as an exclamation, especially when you just got something or won something, including soccer goals by your team. That usage no doubt was inspired by English yes.

  105. Romance 15 can’t be Venetian because it preserves /ʎ/ instead of /j~d͡ʒ/. My guess would be one of the Romansh varieties, though I couldn’t say which.

    Number 7 in the original lot was a tough one, only given away by the fact that Astur-Leonese would have orixe (having dropped the nasals from word-final unstressed syllables like Galician).

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