THE MEANING OF RUS.

I’m almost finished with the Oksana Zabuzhko novel I mentioned here, and it not only makes me want to study Ukrainian, it got me interested enough in Ukrainian history to buy Paul Robert Magocsi’s A History of Ukraine. I remember when the first edition came out and I saw it in a bookstore near Rockefeller Center, where I worked; I was tremendously impressed, but $35 was way out of my price range, so I just paged through it admiringly. Fortunately, Amherst Books had a used (but unmarked) copy for $10, which happens to be exactly my limit, so I grabbed it. (There is a new edition from 2010, but at $54.95—used copies from $42.72—I’m not even going to waste time thinking about it.) Not only is it comprehensive (784 pages) and well written, it has a wide scope (“While this book also traces the evolution of ethnic Ukrainians, it tries as well to give judicious treatment to the many other peoples who developed within the borders of Ukraine, including the Greeks, the Crimean Tatars, the Poles, the Russians, the Jews, the Germans, and the Romanians”). The Amazon page has a quote from Nicholas Riasanovsky’s review that so succinctly sums up some of the book’s virtues that I’ll just reproduce it:

Professor Magocsi overcame these [problems associated with writing history texts] and still other difficulties extremely well, indeed at times brilliantly. His forty-two unobtrusive, usually page-long maps establish a better graphic setting for history than any other textbook I am acquainted with, thus confirming the distinction the author had already earned with his historical atlases. A remarkable, quite unusual, and very successful aspect of the book is the daring inclusion right in the text (although on a distinctive light grey rather than white background) of numerous documents, eyewitness accounts, and other primary sources as well as occasionally some more specialized explanatory material. The marvel is how well these insertions blend with the basic narrative and support it.

One of those light-gray insertions is an essay on “The Meaning of Rus'” that I’ll quote here to give an idea of the magisterial thoroughness and impartiality with which he discusses contested topics:

Whereas controversy continues to rage over the origin of the term Rus’, there is some consensus as to how the term came to be applied to the territory and inhabitants of the Kievan realm. Initially, the term Rus’ was associated with the ruling Varangian princes and the lands under their control. This meant, in particular, the cities of Kiev, Chernihiv, and Pereiaslav together with the surrounding countryside. The lands within this larger Kiev-Chernihiv-Pereiaslav triangle become the Rus’ land par excellence.

Beginning with Volodymyr the Great in the late tenth century and, especially, Iaroslav the Wise in the eleventh century, there was a conscious effort to associate the term with all the lands under the hegemony of Kiev’s grand princes. To the concept of Rus’ as the territory of Kievan Rus’ was added another dimension by the Christian inhabitants’ description of themselves collectively as Rus’ (the singular of which term was rusyn, sometimes rusych). Nevertheless, while political and cultural leaders from the various principalities (Galicia-Volhynia, Novgorod, Suzdal’, etc.) may have spoken of their patrimonies as part of the land of Rus’, they often referred to Rus’ as simply a roughly triangular area east of the middle Dnieper River surrounding the cities of Chernihiv, Kiev, and Pereiaslav.

Following the end of Kievan Rus’ in the second half of the fourteenth century, the successor states which fought for control of the former realm often used the term Rus’ to describe all the lands that had once been under Kiev’s hegemony. The Lithuanians claimed for themselves and conquered what they described as the Rus’ lands from Polatsk and Smolensk in the north, to Volhynia and Turaû-Pinsk in the center, to Kiev, Chernihiv, Pereiaslav, and beyond in the south. Analogously, the Poles designated Galicia, their mid-fourteenth-century acquisition, as the Rus’ land or Rus’ palatinate (Ziemia Ruska or Województwo Ruskie). By the late sixteenth century, Rus’ had come to mean all the Orthodox faithful and the lands they inhabited in the Belarusan and Ukrainian palatinates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Finally, the rulers of the principality of Vladimir-Suzdal’ and then Muscovy fused the concept of the Rus’ land with the idea of their own Riuryk dynasty (ostensibly descended from the ninth-century Varangian leader Riuryk). For them, Rus’ meant not only all the lands under Muscovy’s control, but also other parts of the Kievan heritage that awaited acquisition in the future. In short, by the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the idea that Rus’ coincided with all the lands of the former Kievan realm of Iaroslav the Wise and his descendants had become firmly entrenched in the political mind-set of eastern Europe.

Another perspective was that of the Orthodox church and the Byzantine world, of which Kievan Rus’ was a part. From the time of the first appearance of Christianity among the Rus’, the Byzantine Orthodox Church recognized the office of the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’, by which title was meant all the lands of Kievan Rus’. When, in the fourteenth century, Byzantium agreed to the establishment of a second Rus’ metropolitanate, the Metropolitanate of Halych, in Galicia, to complement that of the Kiev metropolitan, by then resident in Moscow, terms were needed to distinguish the two jurisdictions. The region closest to Constantinople, the Galician metropolitanate, with its six eparchies on the southern Rus’ or Ukrainian lands, was called in Byzantine Greek Mikrā Rosiia – inner or Little Rus’; the more distant Muscovite jurisdiction, with its twelve eparchies, became Megalē Rosiia – outer or Great Rus’.

These distinctions were maintained during the political expansion of Muscovy. Beginning in the early fourteenth century, Muscovite rulers styled themselves grand princes, then tsars, of all Rus’ (vseia Rusii), and after the mid-seventeenth century their title was reformulated as tsar of all Great, Little, and White Rus’ (vseia Velikiia i Malyia i Belyia Rusii). During the first half of the eighteenth century, the old term Rus’ was transformed into Russia (Rossiia), when Tsar Peter I transformed the tsardom of Muscovy into the Russian Empire. Henceforth, the terms Little Russia (Malorossiia) and Little Russians were used to describe Ukraine and its inhabitants under Russian imperial rule.

As for the original term Rus’, it was really maintained only in Ukraine’s western lands, Galicia, Bukovina, and Transcarpathia, all of which after 1772 were under Austrian rule. The Greek Catholic church used the term in the title of the restored Metropolitanate of Halych and Rus’ (1808). Even more widespread was the use of the term by the East Slavic inhabitants of Galicia, Bukovina, and Transcarpathia, who until well into the twentieth century continued to call themselves the people of Rus’, or of the Rus’ faith, that is, Rusyns (rusyny, rusnatsi).

Besides the Greco-Byzantine term Rosia to describe Rus’, Latin documents used several related terms – Ruscia, Russia, Ruzzia – for Kievan Rus’ as a whole. Subsequently, the terms Ruteni and Rutheni were used to describe Ukrainian and Belarusan Eastern Christians (especially members of the Uniate, later Greek Catholic, church) residing in the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The German, French, and English versions of those terms – Ruthenen, ruthène, Ruthenian – generally were applied only to the inhabitants of Austrian Galicia and Bukovina and of Hungarian Transcarpathia. For the longest time, English-language writings did not distinguish the name Rus’ from Russia, with the result that in descriptions of the pre-fourteenth-century Kievan realm the conceptually distorted formulation Kievan Russia was used. In recent years, however, the correct terms Rus’ and Kievan Rus’ have appeared more frequently in English-language scholarly publications, although the corresponding adjective Rus’/Rusyn has been avoided in favor of either the incorrect term Russian or the correct but visually confusing Rus’ian/Rusian.

(See this recent post for Tomasz Kamusella’s ideas on “The Change of the Name of the Russian Language in Russian from Rossiiskii to Russkii,” and this old one for more on the Rusyn/Ruthenian language.)

Comments

  1. about the meaning of Rus’, i always thought it’s kinda curious that Russians in the ancient Rus’ called themselves literarily “whites”, from rusye, rusichi – blondes, or does it have some other meaning, and it came afterwards to mean blonde after them, how they chose a self-identifying name
    ancient greeks and romans called themselves after their cities names
    hunnu for example called themselves hun – human

  2. read, русый as a hair color partly overlaps with the blond spectrum, but is generally a shade darker, and never conflated with “white” (if anything, its origins imply non-whiteness, and it ultimately stems from the same PIE root as English “red”).
    Of course folk etymologies often link русый with Rus’, and as always, without a reason.
    Language – isn’t it cute how even a very low-key and quite objective discourse on Ukraine can’t resist a few swipes at Russia’s being peripheral, unoriginal, and not authentic 🙂 ?

  3. “folk etymologies often link русый with Rus’, and as always, without a reason.”
    yes, if Rus’ doesn’t mean rusyi, then what it meant in the very beginning, i wonder
    yes, rysui means maybe more like shaten than blonde, but then it would have been sounding even more like strange why to call themselves by their hair color first, not by something else like goluboglazye for example, right?

  4. J.W. Brewer says

    To what extent is Rossiia really a different word than Rus’ as opposed to a respelling of a word whose pronunciation had evolved somewhat over the centuries between St. Vladimir and not-so-saintly Peter (and as to which the evolution of pronunciation had not been the same in all the East Slavic languages as they separated from each other over time)? Or was it a redomestication of the Graecized/Latinized Rosia/Ruscia etc., which apparently just meant “Rus'”?
    (FWIW many “Russian Orthodox” in the US are not of Muscovite/Great-Russian ancestry but descend from Rusyn/Ruthenian immigrants from the Habsburg lands who switched from the Uniate/Greek-Catholic church to the Orthodox church at various points in the late 19th and early 20th century when they found themselves living in Pennsylvania or someplace like that where neither Hapsburgs nor Romanovs were in charge, although you can also find Orthodox parishes which self-describe as “Carpatho-Russian” to maintain their non-Muscovite ethnic distinctiveness.)

  5. If I recall correctly, русый is red, ginger (cf. Czech “rusovlasý” = “redheaded”).

  6. ryjii is red in russian, rusyi is then greenish, like in mermaid-rusalka, if not blonde, shaten seems also like a bit on the more brownish looking side
    see, rusye doesn’t look anything like red
    русыe

  7. i don’t read the forum from which the image is, just took the first image that came up on google, they seem talk about phenotypes, so must be something not very that, endorsable

  8. literally i meant,not literary, i wonder whether people don’t mention this kind of mistakes, or whether it just doesn’t stand out that much as it surely doesn’t for me for example, that would be lucky for me, if in my language, it would stand out too like obviously and i would say something to correct the mistaken word, not just let it go
    but politeness seems interpreted differently by other people and what is polite for me would look rude for others and vice versa

  9. well, what english means itself is also obscure i guess, so maybe rus’ is really not about the hair color

  10. It has nothing to do with hair color. Here’s the OED etymology:

    Old Russian Rus′ is usually taken to be < a stem ultimately of early Scandinavian origin + Old Russian -′, suffix forming collective nouns (originally a reduced front vowel, subsequently replaced by the palatalized quality of the preceding consonant; compare čud′ Finns, perm′ Permians, lib′ Livonians, prus′ Prussians, serb′ Serbs): compare Old Swedish roþer rowing, roþrin, roþin ‘administrative subdivision in coastal Eastern Sweden’, and the first element in Old Swedish rodskarl (Swedish roskarl) inhabitant of Roslagen, all < the same Germanic base as row v.1; perhaps via a Finnic language, compare Finnish Ruotsi Sweden, Ruotsalainen Swede. Compare Arabic †Rūs, (collective noun, 9th cent.), Byzantine Greek οἱ Ῥῶς (plural, 9th cent.), post-classical Latin Rhos (11th cent., in an annal for the year 839), all with reference to the ethnic or social group from either Eastern Europe or Scandinavia.

    In short, it’s related to the English verb row.

  11. really? just all the citations are from not slavic languages, and row is like in rowing, meaning as if like vikings’ rowing their way?
    i don’t know, the folk etymology seems than more like convincing, just to me perhaps, of course

  12. read, the business of Varangians in this part of the world has indeed been, to travel in rowing boats on rivers and sea-bays; and in the early Bysant’s treaties with the Rus’, their personal names aren’t Slavic (but typically Germanic)
    There was no roads in those days, and any self-respecting Varangian should have gone on tours of duty in the Eastern Roman Empire, as their runestones back home abundantly demonstrate. How did they get from here to there? Yes, you know the answer.

  13. varangians equal slavic rusichi? i thought they were varyags/vikings from what is scandinavia now, and they were those, occupants, not natives, what’s with ryuriki and olgerds in the ruling dynasty, just was curious about self-naming of Rus, or is it that common just to accept whoever calls you whatever, i wouldn’t think so, though surely what do i know

  14. English comes from Angles, the ancient Germanic tribe which used to inhabit Angeln peninsula in northern Germany (Angeln means literally – an angle) before conquering Britain in 5th century AD.
    Supposedly, the name arose from angular shape of this peninsula.
    Etymology goes all way back to Proto-Indo-European *ank – “bend”
    A few months ago, I suggested that the etymology might be connected via Nostratic and Altaic to Mongolian word “ontsog” which means exactly that – an “angle”
    ;-)))

  15. The Varangian hypothesis must have been a ruse.
    According to Pushkin, Rus’ comes from Latin ‘rus’

  16. Pushkin’s line is an obvious pun.

  17. It has nothing to do with hair color.
    yes, this etymology doesn’t have anything to do with colour, but it also doesn’t explain the etymology of the word rus itself, just its usage.
    Vasmer’s etymology of русый is all about colour. Don’t you think there might be a link? The Arc of Vikings linked all of Europe at the time, from England and Normandy to Sicily to Byzantium and to Kiev. But only in Kievan lands did they get to be called rus’. There is another famous Norseman who got his name from the colour of his hair – Eric the Red.

  18. The post reminded me of the song my grandmother used to sing while working around the house – реве та стогне Днiпр широкий – the wide Dnieper howls and groans.

  19. it also doesn’t explain the etymology of the word rus itself, just its usage.
    Did you see the OED quote?
    Don’t you think there might be a link?
    No no no no no! For pete’s sake, it’s a folk etymology; read thinks the folk etymology seems more convincing, but folk etymologies always do—that’s why they’re created! “Sparrow grass” looks much more convincing than “asparagus”; that’s why some people call it that. It’s much more convincing to think the sun goes around the earth: you can see it! Science may be more boring than magic and religion, but it has the advantage of being focused purely on truth; of course it doesn’t always know the truth, but it’s always trying to find it.
    I must say, this is a depressing thread. It was a lot of work typing in that long quote, which to my mind is full of interesting stuff, and read immediately got everyone focused on a fake etymology that has nothing to do with the quote. Ah well, so it goes.

  20. “read immediately got everyone focused”
    ura! i am that influential, haha, but surely no.
    and yes, the sun analogy is very funny, just the scientific etymology seems like too, you know, that, foreign words based and biased, so i say if russians themselves find it doubtful why not to question that hypothesis too, it’s not like it’s written in that, stone, fair is fair
    i therefore abandon the hair theory and adopt latin rus-country, if Pushkin himself proposed it

  21. Magocsi has an even longer (three-page) essay on the origin of the word Rus’ itself, presenting all the candidates advanced by both “Normanists” and “anti-Normanists,” from Finnish Ruotsi to Swedish roþsmenn to a tribe called Ros (rosy/rodi) living in the valley of the Ros’ river south of Kiev to Middle French Rusi from Rutenicis, the region of the town Rodez. None of them involve hair color. And, as Sashura says, Pushkin was simply making a joke.
    Aren’t you a scientist yourself, read? How can you be so indifferent to the science of language? You presumably would think people who ignored physicists and made up their own theories of how the universe works were pretty silly.

  22. Pushkin’s line is an obvious pun.
    So is mine, making a connection to “ruse”? And I did attempt to rhyme the two lines, too (no Pushkin here)
    Since these comments didn’t go in any serious direction right off the start, I think we may as well compete at offering more preposterous etymologies instead 🙂

  23. what, maybe i am enjoying the silliness most of all, that’s the most fun of reading blogs besides learning something new and getting to know people, will it the science break apart from ‘my” jokes?
    see, people still argue in factions even, normanists-anti-normanists, so maybe i want to join the anti-varangian party, can’t i?
    the tribe called ros after a river name sounds as if like maybe that was the very very first rus name, but you are right obscure things are obscure

  24. Yes, I read the quote.
    I am talking about something else. If folk etymology goes back to 19th or beginning of 20th it’s one thing. If it goes back a thousand years or more, it’s another.
    If in 882 AD a party of vikings arrives in Novgorod or Kiev, and to the question of ‘who are you? where are you from?’, says ‘we are the rowing people – rus’ – from Roslagen,’ then locals, krivichi, polyane or drevlyane, start calling them ‘the rus’ who row from Roslagen.’
    Then, by about 982, Roslagen is forgotten, they are only known as the rus who rows. Then, by 1082, rowing is only part of what they do, because they also trade, craft, rule and fight, but rus’ the name stays.
    Now, because at that time slavs haven’t started migrating North en masse and mixing with chud’ and perm’, one might assume that many of them had darker hair, skin and eyes than rus’. And the row, trade, craft and fight too. And they already have the word for red/ginger/blond – rusy/rusaya. They start using the word rus’ for red-haired settlers and explaining the meaning of the ethnonym in folk etymology terms.
    Rus’, who rowed from Roslagen, are now the red and blond-haired ones.
    Slavs and rus’ mix, Rus’ the land becomes fairer and blonder and by 1282 her people start calling themselves rusichi.
    Shouldn’t this etymology be considered as valid? A thousand years later?

  25. the sun goes around the earth
    In strictly scientific terms, it does.
    Both claims are correct. If you take the Sun as a point of reference, the Earth goes around it. If the Earth is the reference point, the Sun goes around it. It’s pure mathematics. The Sun as reference point has the advantage of providing a simpler mathematical model for descriptive purposes. That is why it is accepted as ‘the truth.’

  26. The idea that God makes everything happen as it does is simpler, for descriptive purposes, than is a simple mathematical model – because that idea eliminates the mathematics.
    However, simplicity has nothing to do with truth. For many purposes, the notion of “truth” is irrelevant and useless. And in any case, simplicity is a matter of taste, not of ontology. Nouvelle cuisine is neither true nor false.

  27. LanguageHat – thank you for typing out that whole long quote. I feel like a spam auto-comment for saying so, but you’ve answered a question i’ve had for a while. The textbooks and histories i’ve read on that part of the world have only ever said the Muscovite Russians were not the Kievian Rus and left it at that. The ruthenians were utterly unexplained. I got the impression of innumerate northern slavic ethnic groups. (I’m still not sure this was wrong, though.)

  28. Shouldn’t this etymology be considered as valid? A thousand years later?
    No no no no no! It’s an interesting fact in itself, of course, and useful in illuminating the self-image of the people involved, but etymology is strictly the actual historical derivation of the word, not what people dreamed up after the fact.
    For many purposes, the notion of “truth” is irrelevant and useless.
    Somehow I knew you’d be along to point that out.
    thank you for typing out that whole long quote. … you’ve answered a question i’ve had for a while.
    And thank you for saying that! Now I feel it was worth it.

  29. maybe i am enjoying the silliness most of all
    Oh, OK, in that case I withdraw my irritation—I’m all in favor of silliness!

  30. sorry for pulling your leg, but the quote itself points in that direction – ‘controversy continues to rage over the origin of the term Rus’.’

  31. I don’t know if this has been mentioned before, but I remember reading this in Robin Milner-Gulland’s The Russians (footnote to page 1). It explains why the vowel in Rossiya is ‘o’ rather than the ‘u’ of Rus:
    Rossiya was probably perceived as a Latinate form by the early eighteenth century (when things Roman carried prestige); however it originated as a transcription of the Greek Rhōsia, which in turn derives from the indeclinable word Rhōs that Greeks used from an early stage for the people of Rus. It has been convincingly shown that the eschatologically minded Byzantines equated the Rus (whom they first encountered as raiders) with ‘Rhōs’ (Hebrew ‘Rosh’), a supposed leader of barbarous people cited in the prophecy of Ezekiel, as a result of a misreading by Greek translators of the Septuagint (see F. Dvornik The Making of Central and Eastern Europe, London, 1949, pp. 305-14); hence the otherwise unexplained vowel change from ‘u’ to ‘o’.”

  32. J.W. Brewer says

    Who dares question the providential accuracy of the Septuagint translators? There’s also in that part of the world the o/u alternation in Romania/Rumania, and the way the byzantine self-identification as Romans/Rhomaioi got transformed along the way (via Turkish? I dunno) into e.g. Rumelia, so maybe something phonological was going on around the Black Sea as toponyms got passed from language to language separate and apart from eschatology.

  33. Googling around, I find the verse in question is Ezekiel 39.1: “Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (KJV).
    Here’s a link to the Hebrew. Transliteration: “Ve’atah ven-adam hinave al-Gog ve’amarta koh amar Adonay Elohim hineni eleycha Gog nesi rosh Meshech veTuval.”
    Here’s the Septuagint version: καὶ σύ υἱὲ ἀνθρώπου προφήτευσον ἐπὶ Γωγ καὶ εἰπόν τάδε λέγει κύριος ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἐπὶ σὲ Γωγ ἄρχοντα Ρως Μοσοχ καὶ Θοβελ
    Rhos has definitely crept in there.

  34. Also Ezekiel 38.2 FWIW. There’s a lot about this Rosh=Russia idea on the Net, much of it from (shall we say?) less than scholarly Biblical exegetical sources. But I’m off to bed now…

  35. J.W. Brewer says

    Well, for he, its, or their part, Meshech/Mosoch apparently turns up in etymological speculation about the name Moscow/Muscovy/MOCKBA going back four or five centuries. Or at least so saith Wikipedia.

  36. J.W. Brewer says

    And Moscow/Muscovy is another instance of that darn o/u alternation. See also Moslem v. Muslim?

  37. John Emerson says

    In my Romanian-English dictionary “Romanian” means Romanian, and “rumanian” means “peasant”.

  38. See also Moslem v. Muslim?
    No, that’s just Persian (where short u/i became o/e) versus Arabic.

  39. Meshech/Mosoch apparently turns up in etymological speculation about the name Moscow/Muscovy/MOCKBA going back four or five centuries
    There’s some even crazier modern stuff out there about Tubal being either Tobolsk or Tbilisi.
    Francis Dvornik was a Byzantinist, so his speculations about “Rus” becoming “Rhos” in Greek have some substance. Unfortunately, Google Books won’t let me read them.

  40. In my Romanian-English dictionary “Romanian” means Romanian, and “rumanian” means “peasant”.
    It was originally rumân, but changed to român to stress the link with Rome. Rumân was also the term for a peasant in Wallachia. I think there’s a theory that because the name for a noble in Romanian is boier (obviously related to Russian “boyar”), this suggests that there was a Romance-speaking peasant class ruled by a Slavic-speaking elite. (Can’t remember where I read, that but I’ll try to dig it up). Obviously, because of modern politics, Romanians now tend to downplay the Slavic element in their history.

  41. Ddraig Werdd says

    The theory that the ruling class had a different ethnic origin from the peasants was quit common in the region (see the Polish and the Sarmatian theory). The Moldavian ruler (who lived for a while in Constantinopole) Dimitrie Cantemir was claiming he was of Tatar descent (Khan Timur). There is also a more modern theory that at least part of the ruling class in Wallachia was of Cuman origin (Basar Aba).
    A more likely reason for why the name of the people (Wallachia was always called in Romanian Ţara Românească- The land of Romanians) came to mean peasant is probably something similar with why Turk was in the Ottoman Empire just the name of peasents or nomads. The name used the describe themselves by common people becomes the name of the common people, of the commoners

  42. marie-lucie says

    The theory that the ruling class had a different ethnic origin from the peasants was quit common
    This attitude was also common in France at a time, at least among the nobility, who viewed themselves as the descendants of the Francs, while the common people were descendants of the Gauls (in this case, it was the name of the dominant class which became that of the country, but in fact Frankish ancestry was not limited to the nobility). With the advent of universal, publicly-funded primary education at the end of the 19th century, every child (at least in public schools) was inculcated with nos ancêtres les Gaulois and their hero Vercingétorix. (Hence the modern success of the Astérix series).

  43. Vercingetorix & the Gallic tribes got a mention in my British school too. There were two different pronunciations of his name: one emphasised GET and the other TOR. I expect the French avoid this trap by not emphasising anything.

  44. Romanians now tend to downplay the Slavic element in their history.
    Are not Romanians the only group belonging to the Orthodox Church that uses the Latin alphabet?

  45. Are not Romanians the only group belonging to the Orthodox Church that uses the Latin alphabet?
    They used the Cyrillic alphabet until the 1860s, then they switched to a Roman one to emphasise their Latinity. They also purged a lot of Slavic vocabulary and replaced it with loans from other Romance languages, especially French. (Although independent Romania knew it couldn’t aspire to emulate France; it chose Belgium as its role model).

  46. This attitude was also common in France at a time, at least among the nobility, who viewed themselves as the descendants of the Francs, while the common people were descendants of the Gauls
    Yeah. It was reversed at the time of the French Revolution and used against the nobility. For instance, Abbé Sieyès saw the revolution as the Gaulish Third Estate throwing off the yoke of the Franks.
    This Celtic/Germanic dichotomy also got a lot of traction in the conflict between France and Germany in the late 19th century.

  47. J.W. Brewer says

    Well, w/r/t Paul Ogden’s question, many Americans (and Canadians and Australians and so on and so forth) belonging to the Orthodox Church go to services (as I did this morning) where the clergy and choir refer to Latin-alphabet texts while chanting in English. But as to the Old Country/ies, I believe Sir JCass is right that Romanian got de-cyrillicized along the way fairly late in the game, and I believe it may also have been a 19th C. innovation to use the vernacular rather than Church Slavonic in services. The very ancient Orthodox community in Albania (a minority as a result of the Ottoman period) now uses Latin-alphabet texts, I believe, but only switched out of Greek-language services early in the 20th century under the influence of nationalist emigres based in the U.S. (one of whom returned from Boston or some place like that to become chief hierarch in the days of King Zog). The Finnish and Estonian churches (while representing minorities in their respective historical-Lutheran-majority speech communities) have I believe always used the Latin alphabet for their non-Slavonic services, the general Russian policy of cyrillization not having been applied there during the days of Romanov rule (not sure if there are currently Latvian-language Orthodox services going on in any number, but ditto if so). The Orthodox churches in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia all have Latin-alphabet official websites, but I’m not sure how much they use the modern vernaculars versus Church Slavonic in services. (Before the WW2 adjustment of borders in Stalin’s favor those churches tended to be mostly ethnically based in those countries’ Byelorussian/Ruthenian/Ukranian minorities, who might have been more cyrilically-oriented, but I think the descendants of those populations that stayed out of the USSR often got linguistically assimilated to the local majorities.)
    To the extent the largely Orthodox indigenous communities in Alaska use their ancestral languages (variously Aleut, Tlingit, and Yupik) in services, they I believe now mostly use Latin-alphabet texts rather than the Cyrillic ones the Russian missionaries originally produced for them.

  48. J.W. Brewer says

    On another terminological point, from the block quote hat originally posted from the book I see that Professor Magosci spells the name of the 10th century Great Prince as Volodymyr rather than Vladimir, but the name of the city as Kiev rather than Kyiv. Eclectic inconsistency or “magisterial thoroughness and impartiality”?

  49. He says in the preface: “Since the writing of this book, the government of Ukraine has adopted the form Kyiv as its official transliteration for the country’s capital city. The more traditional English form, Kiev, is used here.”

  50. Volodymyr sounds more East Slavic anyway.
    @read: The thing to me is that social “sciences” and philosophy is intrinsically path-dependent, that is, concepts lose their motivation when taken out of historical context, much unlike hard science which IS usually treated in an oracular way.

  51. Ddraig Werdd says

    Not to change completely the discussion but I wanted to add something about the “re latinization” of Romanian. First there are two levels of Slavic elements in the Romanian language. The first one is very old, almost from the beginning of the language. It had a huge influence in the language (it’s probably the reason why Romanian still has cases and the sound “h” and provided a lot of words (rangeing from basic feelings to common household stuff etc). The second level was made by the language of the church and state . Excluding some basic words like God, church, cross Easter (Dumznezeu, biserica, cruce and Paste from Latin) and a few word related to the state (jude similar with Sardinian giudicati, and domnitor – ruler) the other words where from Church Slavonic (the only language of the state until the 17th century and the language of the church until the 19th century). This words (many translations from Greek) remained more isolated and still sound foreign for a Romanian speaker ( “bogat” sounds perfectly native in a way that “blagoslovire” doesn’t). Except with the church this second layer of Slavic was almost completely eliminated from the language in the 19th century ,although by then it was already beeing replaced by Greek and Turkish). Actually the biggest “losers” of the 19th century changes have been the Greek and Turkis words. There was a movement (The Latin School ) that tried to eliminate also the the first layer but there more radical ideas were mocked even by there contemporaries ( there is a word made up by them that survived, “moravuri” which is made from the existing word “năravuri” (slavic) and with the first part of the Latin “mores”). But no mater how many 19th century poets wrote about “amor” the most common words for love are still “dragoste” and “iubire” (both slavic).
    The massive adoption of words from French (and sometimes Italian) did have an effect on the first layer of Slavic words, but it was more indirect and it had the same effect also on Turkish and even native Romanian words. A lot of word where relegated to specific, lesser meanings. So uliță (slavic) became a villige unpaved road (replaced by strada as the normal word for street), maidan (Turkish) is now just an unkept urban space (instead of a public square), mahala means a bad neighbourhood (replaced by cartier), vână (native word from Latin) was replaced in almost all context by the word venă (from Latin but through French) and so on

  52. what’s oracular way? something absed on prophesies and dogmas? i don’t think so, about the natural sciences

  53. absed should be based, how i type

  54. and prophecies

  55. No, just the opposite. “Oracular” in this context means that the content of the natural sciences is independent of how we came to discover them. Optics would be the same if Isaac Newton had never lived. Psychology would hardly be the same if Sigmund Freud had never lived.

  56. interesting, how come the word started to get used in that meaning, an oracle i’d imagine someone an ancient greek or gypsy fortuneteller or nostradamus, thanks, but maybe it’s from a completely different word
    well, maybe, but einstein or freud, doesn’t seem to be that different, their influence in their respective fields, people make sciences, they can be wrong or correct, and maybe it doesn’t matter who, for example, discovers the laws of the thermodynamics, but the whole further development of physics, technology etc. since their discovery would depend on exactly who, where, when discovered those, no? exactly the same with the social sciences, it’s not like because those are universal laws of nature, they are just out there by themselves, studied or not by whoever, if we are talking about sciences

  57. Thanks for the info, Ddraig Werdd. I’ve read about this but my books on this subject are buried in boxes somewhere at the moment.
    The smattering of Romanian I learned (badly) a couple of decades ago has been rendered partially obsolete by yet another change to the spelling system (again, to make the Latin roots more obvious).

  58. this is great, includes an explanation of “an oracular persona” too, nice
    http://www.waggish.org/2012/obscurity-against-science-fludd-hamann-heidegger/

  59. ‘Amber was carried down from the Baltic along the Russian rivers by red-haired giants (“the most disgusting savages the world has ever seen,” thought Persian middlemen [trading through to the Chinese])’.
    So says Colin Thubron in Shadow of the Silk Road.

  60. Trond Engen says

    Securing the trade routes may well have been the reason for the Gothic expansion, first from “an island in Scandinavia” to the European mainland and later to the black sea coast. I recently watched parts of an interview with a patriotic local historian from Gotland who saw the huge deposits of (mainly) Oriental coins as evidence for the island as the original home of the Goths. The coins are mostly from the Viking age, though. (I should add that also late Roman age/early Medieval gold coins and a fourth century Runic alphabet, the oldest known, have been found in Gotland, so the hypothesis may be that the trade routes were kept for centuries after the Gothic migrations.)

  61. The meaning of Rus, can still be seen reflected in the word ‘Rush’. So I don’t think it is the rowing aspect that gave their name.

    The Rus rushed hence and forth from their native countries initially in the North Sea, via the Baltic, to the Black Sea. This happened over sea and land, where they could dismantle their boats and use it as ‘cars’ also, to bridge the areas where the rivers had no continuum to their destination. Predominantly to do commerce and ‘en cours de route’ to settle where they thaught it was good to live.

    By this ability to stretch vast distances, overcome local resistance and being independent from local strive, they had the right mentality and skills for local rulers to be used as shock troops or personal guard.

  62. If we are going into folk etymology, I’d suggest derivation from verb

    ру́шить • (rúšitʹ) impf. to raze, to tear down.

    Compare German
    reißen • to tear (something); to pull (something) apart
    to break; to become torn apart
    to snatch; to wrench; to yank; to drag; to tug; to pull on (something)

    Cognate with English rat (“to rip up, tear, rend”), Dutch rijten (“to rip up, tear, rend”), Low German riten (“to rip, tear, rend”), Luxembourgish räissen (“to scratch, tear, rip apart”), Frisian riete (“to rip, tear”).

  63. Ha! Now if we can only connect that and “rush”…

  64. PlasticPaddy says

    Hat, you scoff but vasmer has rushit’ connected (see rukh) to Latin ruo for which wiktionary evinces a PIE root *HrewH and a cognate in Ancient Greek ὀρούω (oroúō, “hurry”).

  65. January First-of-May says

    a tribe called Ros living in the valley of the Ros’ river south of Kiev

    I think this was the theory given in my school textbooks when I was in middle school (early 2000s).

    Volodymyr sounds more East Slavic anyway.

    No, that would be Volodimer [sic].

  66. First Russian literature work The Sermon on Law and Grace (1051 AD) uses the following forms:

    praise to our kagan Vlodimer
    the great kagan of our land Volodimer
    our kagan Vlodimer
    benevolent kagan Yaroslav, son of Vladimir

    Take your pick.

  67. Well, very interesting comments idd.

    About the possible link between Rush and Reißen (Rijten, Riten, Riete);
    we don’t have to look too far imo.

    I would say, let’s just do it with the given words and we are spot on: Rush = Riet = Reed.

    To use the reed, you have to yank (also ‘ruk’ in Dutch) the leafs from the stem.

    Note: ‘Reizen’ is also used to travel or going to war.

    In that sense Rusland, is it the land of the ones who rush hence and forth or could it be the Reed-land (land full of reed)?

  68. Now we need to tie in these guys.

  69. lol

    Uhm uhm …
    I don’t know them so well, are they jerks or not?
    For sure they are a rock band.

    https://www.etymonline.com/word/rock

    rock (v.1)

    “to sway,” late Old English roccian “move a child gently to and fro,” related to Old Norse rykkja “to pull, tear, move,” Swedish rycka “to pull, pluck,” Middle Dutch rucken, Old High German rucchan, German rücken “to move jerkily.”

    Meaning “cause to sway back and forth” is from late 13c. Intransitive sense from late 14c. For popular music senses, see rock (v.2). Related: Rocked; rocking. To rock the boat in the figurative sense “stir up trouble” is from 1914. Rock-a-bye first recorded 1805 in nursery rhyme.

  70. David Marjanović says

    Cognate with English rat (“to rip up, tear, rend”), Dutch rijten (“to rip up, tear, rend”), Low German riten (“to rip, tear, rend”), Luxembourgish räissen (“to scratch, tear, rip apart”), Frisian riete (“to rip, tear”).

    The actual English cognate of reißen is write, though. Semantically, you’d expect that to be the cognate of ritzen “to scratch lines”, but it isn’t, that’s just a root cognate.

    But then, I don’t know how shit happened either. (Shite is regular.)

  71. John Cowan says

    Easy-peasy. Shit is the old preterite of shite, which somehow took over the present tense as well, one of those weird things like rin > run (not true in Scots). Once that happened, the noun followed.

  72. I just realized that shit should be written in Cyrillic with letter Щ (Shcha).

    Щэт

  73. Reißen, rijten and write: the act of carving (like in stone)

    Making a ‘reet’ lol (as we still say for ass in Dietsch, Dutch or whatever).

    http://www.etymologiebank.nl/trefwoord/reet1

    As we all know what we exc-reet. Gescheit!

  74. David Marjanović says

    Smart indeed.

  75. >Now we need to tie in these guys.

    I stand atop a spiral stair,
    John’s oracle confronts me there …

    You managed to bring it all back round to the Temples of Syrinx! I now feel fully a part of the community.

  76. David Marjanović says

    But then, I don’t know how shit happened either. (Shite is regular.)

    I had managed to forget about geographically intermediate forms like Dünnschiss “diarrhea” and Fliegenschiss “flyspeck”, both masculine (Scheiße is feminine); I’d guess they’re formed from the past participle geschissen somehow.

  77. I must say, this is a depressing thread.

    I continue to feel that way after all these years. It’s hard for me to read these threads that read shat on and kept spreading shit in.

  78. David Eddyshaw says

    The actual English cognate of reißen is write, though.

    It’s interesting to see which words get pressed into service for “read” and “write” cross-linguistically.

    Western Oti-Volta everywhere uses “blacken” (Kusaal sɔb) for “write” and forms like Kusaal karim for “read”; the latter must be generalised in meaning from an original sense “read the Qur’aan”, both words ultimately reflecting the introduction of literacy in the region via Arabic (and writing in ink, unlike the primitive English with their pathetic scrapings.)

    All the Western Oti-Volta languages have kar(V)m- “read”, but the form cannot go back even to the relatively recent time before the very closely related Mampruli and Dagbani became distinct languages, because the reflex in Dagbani would then have been *kalim (cf Mooré burkĩna = Mampruli birikyina = Dagbani bilichina); it must instead have been borrowed from one language to another some time after the rise of the Songhay empire.

    It’s an interesting thought that a purely mechanical comparison would lead entirely rigorously to the completely erroneous conclusion that there was a Proto-Western-Oti-Volta *sab- “write”, thus proving pretty conclusively that literacy in the region antedated Islam. (Similarly, one on-the-whole carefully done comparative study of Eastern Oti-Volta [much more diverse than WOV, and IMHO probably not a real unity at all] reconstructs the Hausa loanword amaa “but” to Proto-EOV. No accepted sound laws were harmed in the course of this reconstruction.)

  79. Fascinating. And we had a thread where a similar point about misleading resemblances was made about Native American languages.

  80. Re write

    書く(kaku): to write
    Etymology
    Ultimately from Proto-Japonic *kak- (“to scratch”). Cognate with 掻く (kaku, “scratch”). Letters were originally scratched or carved in to wood in order to write.

    Pronunciation
    Kun’yomi
    (Tokyo) か​く [káꜜkù] (Atamadaka – [1])[1]
    IPA(key): [ka̠kɯ̟ᵝ]
    Tokyo pitch accent of conjugated forms of “書く”
    Verb
    書かく • (kaku) transitive godan (stem 書かき (kaki), past 書かいた (kaita))

    1) write; record (words, figures) on the surface of (something)
    昨日きのうチェンさんは図書館としょかんでレポートを書かいていました。
    Kinō Chen-san wa toshokan de repōto o kaite imashita.
    Mr. Chen was writing a report at the library yesterday.

    2) compose; put (an idea, etc) into words

    書く

  81. a purely mechanical comparison would lead entirely rigorously to the completely erroneous conclusion that there was a Proto-Western-Oti-Volta *sab- “write”, thus proving pretty conclusively that literacy in the region antedated Islam.

    Purely mechanically it is similarly possible to reconstruct some Christianity-related terminology for Proto-Finnic, dated to the mid 1st millennium BCE: *pappi ‘priest’, *risti ‘cross’, *pakana ‘heathen’. They’re actually mid 1st M CE Slavic loanwords that happen to have both a wide distribution and a shape that lets them skip every nontrivial phonological innovation during the one-millennium period of initial divergence.

    ‘Read’ (*lukë-) and ‘write’ (*kirjoitta-) would be mechanically reconstructible as well, coming from earlier ‘to count’ and ‘to decorate’ (the latter is a derivative of *kirja ‘book’ < ‘decoration, marking’).

    Even much newer loanwords can occasionally slip thru the cracks: e.g. Estonian and Finnish kino ‘cinema’ could be nominally reconstructed as such for Proto-Core Finnic (ca. 0 CE).

  82. David Marjanović says

    And we had a thread where a similar point about misleading resemblances was made about Native American languages.

    The canonical example is Algonquian “firewater”: the compound would effortlessly be reconstructed for the protolanguage, but must have been calqued from sea to shining mountains, always using the inherited “fire” and “water” words.

    Wanderlehnübersetzung

  83. Ah yes, and with that help I found the thread I was thinking of. Etienne wrote:

    The problem with determining what the culture of Indo-European speakers was lies in the fact that, whereas historical linguists can distinguish inherited words from borrowed words, they cannot distinguish borrowed from inherited MEANING. Bloomfield gave a nice example of this: for Proto-Algonquian we can reconstruct roots for “water” and “fire”, and in all Algonquian languages a compound of these two words has the meaning “whiskey”. Were it not for the fact that the introduction of whiskey is well-known to postdate the break-up of proto-Algonquian, there would be no way for historical linguists to know whether or not this meaning (“fire” + “water” = “whiskey”) goes back to Proto-Algonquian.

    And there was considerable discussion thereafter.

  84. David Eddyshaw says

    I wonder what the West Semitic *√ktb meant originally? (Admittedly, you’re there talking about people who were writing rather earlier than most of us, but still …) Brown-Driver-Briggs mutters something about an Arabic form meaning “join together”, which looks pretty unhelpful.

    I see there is a comment from Claire Bowen, no less, in that thread in re Australian. (Nods respectfully, removes hat.)

  85. AJP Crown says

    removes hat?

  86. Removes hat, not Hat. It’s not easy to remove me.

  87. David Eddyshaw says

    @AJP:

    My commenting hat. Don’t you wear one? I thought everybody did.

  88. PlasticPaddy says

    @de
    Genealogical Classification of Semitic: The Lexical Isoglosses
    By Leonid Kogan
    If you search within this book on Google books for ktb you will see text I cannot paste here. Or you could buy the book☺

  89. David Eddyshaw says

    https://www.historicalemporium.com/blog/2015/12/velvet-smoking-lounging-caps

    I do not endorse this specific product, however the retailers might plead for me to do so. Mine are individually crafted by slave workers in Llanelli.

  90. My commenting hat.

    That’s fine. I was concerned a coup d’état was in progress.

  91. David Eddyshaw says

    @Plastic

    Many thanks. Seems a bit ouroboran: in one place it cites the Arabic “sew” sense as primitive, in another cites John Huehnergard as suggesting that the Arabic borrowed the meaning “write ” from Aramaic (which is highly plausible.) I suppose there’s no actual incompatibility in that. Interesting that the “write” sense is there way back in Ugaritic already.

    “Sew” -> “write” looks very implausible except as a Wanderlehnübersetzung (what a useful word!) as it seems to imply book-as-codex, a pretty late development. I see that elsewhere Kogan compares Syriac and Ethiopic forms meaning “scratch, prick” though. “Scratch” goes well enough with the boring English and Japanese type, and I suppose “prick” -> ‘”sew” is perfectly plausible. So independent developments from the same root meaning. Much more helpful than BDB.

  92. Next Christmas, go as Toulouse-Lautrec: https://www.historicalemporium.com/store/outfit_029.php

    People from Llanelli are sometimes nicknamed “Turks”. The origin of this name is uncertain. In the mid-20th century, Llanelli was the largest town in the world where more than half the population spoke a Celtic language. During the 1950s, Trefor and Eileen Beasley campaigned to get Llanelli Rural Council to distribute tax papers in Welsh by refusing to pay taxes until their demand was met. The council reacted by sending in the bailiffs and selling their furniture to recover the money owed. The Beasleys’ neighbours bought the furniture and returned it to them.

  93. I was concerned a coup d’état was in progress

    You mean, coup de chapeau (or even maybe coup de beret)

  94. PlasticPaddy says

    @de
    I am glad you found that to be useful. He seems to like lexical comparisons for grouping semitic languages where comparisons on morphology alone are contradictory or inconclusive. So he probably spends time researching this sort of cognate.

  95. David Eddyshaw says

    Coup des caps.

  96. David Marjanović says

    it seems to imply book-as-codex

    Not necessarily. It can also be a metaphor for the appearance of text: compare text and texture, and textor “weaver” – and IIRC, 文 “text, written language, culture” also means “woven pattern” or something.

  97. “Sew” → “write” looks very implausible (…) though (…) I suppose “prick” → ‘”sew” is perfectly plausible

    I’m also immediately reminded of Finnic *kirjo- ‘to embroider’ (< ‘to decorate’), so another option might be semantic neutralization from something of this sort. I would presume there are other, more central Semitic verb roots already with the meaning ‘to sew’. (A quick lookaround turns up a root √xwṭ-, distributed in Aramean, Arabic and MSA.)

  98. I am very grateful that I stumbled upon the opportunity to read this discussion. It is astonishing that so many people are informed on a subjects-bundle that is so far off the ‘common knowledge’ track. I am really impressed. I cannot prevent myself from making two remarks:

    1. When one approaches a work with the title ‘History of Ukraine’, one will get to read either a scholarly account of that history, or a propagandist one. This excellent article by languagehat hits on the work of Professor Paul Robert Magocsi ( a deft hit indeed!) But something made me grin: The author is of Hungarian extraction, as his surname reveals. So one can be confident that he, a scholar and without a Rumanian nationalistic axe to grind, will not be propagandising the reader. Thank you, languagehat. I shall seek out a copy of this work immediately.

    2. Sir JClass says ‘…a Romance-speaking peasant class ruled by a Slavic-speaking elite.’ So I grinned again: Aha … You have picked up the Rumanian nationalistic push that reaches the dizzy heights of the claim that they are a Latin people, the descendants of the Romans who had briefly colonised that part of the world. They are still looking for archaeological substantiation of this. More grin when I read your: ‘yet another change to the spelling system (again, to make the Latin roots more obvious).’ They get full marks for persistence. The Latin roots are imported, not indigenous. So they have difficulty clobbering them into place, I suppose.

    Nothing about the Rumanians is Latin. They are Vlachs, a semi-nomadic pastoral people famous for their goat cheese. I was in Rumania in 1990. I listened hard to people talking in groups. I could easily pick out Serbian and Hungarian words. I could not place the majority of their words. And I heard nothing in their intonation that would suggest a Romance language. (I have never seen the written language, but for the single words that label signs and places. Those words are corruptions of various European languages, e.g.: ‘spital’ for ‘hospital’; ‘stradă’for ’street’; toalete’ for toilets’.)

  99. David Marjanović says

    The author is of Hungarian extraction, as his surname reveals. So one can be confident that he, a scholar and without a Rumanian nationalistic axe to grind, will not be propagandising the reader.

    Ooh. He’s not likely to have a Russian or a Rumanian nationalistic axe to grind. But that leaves a long list of other possibilities, including but not limited to a Hungarian nationalistic axe to grind!

    Nothing about the Rumanians is Latin. They are

    Do not confuse people with the languages they speak. Rumanian is a Romance language, descended straight from Latin. Yes, it contains layer upon layer of Slavic, Hungarian, Greek and Modern French words, plus a layer that is shared with Albanian, and its sound system (never mind intonation & stuff) has greatly approached Slavic, but these are all imported additions to a Latin base. You can tell that from the fact that the most basic words and all the more basic parts of the grammar are inherited from Latin. This is all quite similar to English, a West Germanic language with Norse, Norman French and Central French layers plus bits & pieces from everywhere else.

    Vlachs

    That’s the same word as “Wales”. It is an ancient Germanic word for the Romans.

    a semi-nomadic pastoral people

    Not only do languages change, so do lifestyles. What do you do if the cities don’t work anymore and are routinely plundered by barbarians? One option is to… retreat into the mountains, raise sheep, and flee with them to the next mountain if the barbarians bother coming after you.

    The northern Albanian word for “shepherd” is… remen, straight from romanus. Transit enim gloria mundi.

  100. rëmen.

  101. David Eddyshaw says

    raise sheep

    Indeed. That’s where it’s at, for us VlachsRomans. Sheep (or defaid, as we call them in Roman.)

  102. David Marjanović says

    rëmen

    Oops! I see the original stress was preserved.

    an ancient Germanic word for the Romans

    …and a nice self-demonstrating example, because it first referred to the Volcae, a Celtic tribe, before, during and after they changed their language to Latin.

    The change from -al- to -la- is a southern Slavic thing, while I’m at it.

  103. And i thought it was the ancient Germanic word for the Welsh, with Walloons, Wallachians, Vlachs, etc. all being mistaken for Welsh by Teutons unclear on the finer nuances of ethnography.

  104. Doesn’t Albanian ë usually reflect *ǝ and unstressed *a?

  105. ” He’s not likely to have a Russian or a Rumanian nationalistic axe to grind.”

    He does have a Russian axe to grind, if by “Russian” we mean Rusyn.

  106. One of Rusyn axes. There are many of them.

  107. Western Oti-Volta everywhere uses “blacken” (Kusaal sɔb) for “write”

    So does Korandje, at least as an argot substitute for the Arabic loanword: bibǝy “black; (argot) write”.

    Siwi, on the other hand, opted for “put down” (sugǝz).

  108. English and Gothic are unique among the Germanic languages for having native words for ”write’ (etymologically ‘scratch’ and ‘mark’, cf. German malen). All the other languages use loanwords based on scribere.

  109. ‘Rumanian is a Romance language, descended straight from Latin.’

    Can you reference something that might corroborate this: a tablet, a scroll… anything? If you can, then do acquaint the Rumanians with it.

    ‘He does have a Russian axe to grind, if by “Russian” we mean Rusyn.’

    Prof. Magocsi does not think that ‘Russian’ and ‘Rusyn’ are equi-meaning; His argument is that the Rusyn are a distinct and separate nation. (I have yet to read his dissertation on this theme. I shall, as soon as I can pursuade myself that I can shell out GBP£40+ for a copy of a pertinet second-hand book of his.)

    BTW: The prof. is only part Hungarian; his other part is Rusyn. I found this out only today.

  110. David Marjanović says

    Can you reference something that might corroborate this: a tablet, a scroll… anything? If you can, then do acquaint the Rumanians with it.

    Here is the Rumanian Wikipedia article on the Romance languages.

    The English one is longer and contains more references.

  111. Sophie: If you want evidence that Romanian is a Romance language which descends directly from Latin, I would suggest any good introductory textbook on historical Romance linguistics. All of which will present at least some of the many sound changes which transformed Late Latin into Romanian, as well as (at least some of) the various transformations in vocabulary and grammar.

    Now, by virtue of being Orthodox Christians and having been heavily influenced by neighboring languages, Romanian does contain a large number of non-Latin words unknown to other Romance languages, and conversely, the discovery that Romanian is Romance did lead to the enthusiastic borrowing of French and (to a lesser degree) Italian words into the language: there indeed are words of foreign origin in Romanian, coming from Romance as well as non-Romance languages, but the “native core” of Romanian is undeniably Romance. The subject pronouns (eu, tu, el/ea, noi, voi, ei/ele) go straight back to Late Latin (ego, tu, illum/illam, nos, vos, illos/illas), for instance: so do the most common and basic nouns and verbs, and -crucially- the endings used in noun plurals and verb conjugation (almost) all go back to Late Latin too: such irregularities as “zi”, the imperative singular of “a zice” (to say), go straight back to Late Latin irregularities (“dic” instead of expected *”dice” as the imperative of “dicere”: if Latin had had a regular imperative *”dice” it would have yielded a non-existent Romanian imperative form *”zice”).

    The fact that Romanian nationalism has pushed this historical linguistic reality beyond any reasonableness is to my mind undeniable (for instance, the claim that Romanian descends directly from the Latin spoken in Dacia, brought by Trajan’s legions, is to my mind probably false, whatever the Romanian national anthem says), but at its core there is a linguistic reality to it: Romanian is definitely a Romance language, and thus is a later, changed form of Latin. Period.

  112. Western Oti-Volta everywhere uses “blacken” (Kusaal sɔb) for “write”
    So does Korandje

    In later Arabic as well, form II of the root swd, sawwada, with verbal noun taswīd, is both ‘to blacken’ and ‘to write (as a rough draught), draught’ as well. This meaning is also carried over in Persian (and also Urdu) tasvīd ‘rough draught’ and Ottoman tesvîd ‘rough draught’. Republican Turkish seems to have Turkified it as karalamak ‘to blacken, draught, write hastily, dash off, scribble’ (kara ‘black’ + -la-, denominative verb suffix + -mak, infinitive suffix).

    Is “blacken” used for “write” in other languages besides Western Oti-Volta group and Korandje? I am wondering whether this usage in Africa stems from Arabic (spreading in bureaucratic or educational contexts?) or arose independently. Cela se réinvente.

  113. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Danish blæk = ‘ink’ (loaned from OE to ON) is obviously the same idea, but it’s not carried through to a verb. (Which would have to be blække, but that means for a pen to leak ink on the writer’s fingers. Though draughtsmen could opblække a line on a drawing, before AutoCAD).

  114. Trond Engen says

    Norw, kladd “lump of semi-liquid, blot; (rough) draught”, kladde v. “make/form a lump or blot; draught”

  115. David Eddyshaw says

    @Xerîb:

    Given that writing itself must surely have come to WOV speakers via Islam, it wouldn’t be a stretch if they loan-translated the word for the practice too.

    Oti-Volta other than Western:

    Nawdm has ɦoor-, which also means “tattoo, scar”; Buli ngmarisi likewise; Waama wari means both “write” and “cut facial scars.” Along with with Mooré wĩifu “tribal scar”, and Farefare wese “make tribal facial scars” these all derive from a Proto-Oti-Volta root *ŋ͡maʎ-. Waama has sabare for “piece of writing, letter”, which really must be a loan from WOV.

    Moba has diɛn with an obviously cognate form in Gurmanche; in neither language is it clear to me what any prior meaning would have been, but at any rate there is no connection with “black” (bɔn “be black.”)

    Mbelime has diɛta, where the ta part is probably a derivational suffix; the root might be cognate with the Gurma, but again there is no real clue as to any other meaning. Again, it’s not connected with “black”, though (sua “be black”, probably cognate with the WOV forms.)

    Others:

    Twi has twerɛ, another “scrape, scratch” one.
    Hausa has rubuta, which is from Arabic via Kanuri, apparently.

  116. Thanks for these, DE!

    What is the proposed Arabic etymon of Kanuri ruwotə́? The Wiktionary, here, invokes a Berber origin for the Kanuri word (cf. Ghadames orəḇ, Awjila arəv, urəv, ‘write’, and further afield Kabyle aru, Tashelhiyt ara, Iznasen ari) , seemingly following a treatment of the Hausa word by Kossmann (2005) Berber Loanwords in Hausa, which I am too far from the library to consult now.

    (Greenberg has Kanuri ruwotə́ as being echt Saharan here, near the top of page 424.)

  117. David Eddyshaw says

    The source I looked at cited an Arabic rubuʕ but derives that from “P.Tuareg” *h₁rb.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/278780073_Loanwords_in_South-Bauchi-West_Chadic_Languages

    So it’s compatible with what Wiktionary says, more or less.

    I’m not sold on Greenberg’s Saharan idea. The relationship between the various Saharan languages, though real, is actually very remote. But Lameen known a lot more about that than me.

    On first principles, Berber is generally a good bet for such things, I think. Even Kusaal has a fair number of loanwords which seem to go back to Berber: certainly “camel” and “silver”, and possibly even “even.” “Camel” is ancient enough to antedate the Proto-Western-Oti-Volta change of initial *ʎ -> y (I write ʎ out of inertia: the actual Proto-Oti-Volta segment was probably [l], but there are a number of details I still need to work out regarding the origin of current WOV/Buli-Konni/Yom-Nawdm /l/ before I can clear it out of the way of my *ʎ.)

  118. @Sophie, yes, that’s what I meant. I think I read one of his books about Rusyns in Slovakia (I don’t know much about other groups: I specifically wanted to know what languages they studied in schools in 30s).

  119. January First-of-May says

    I’m not sure if I’d be particularly sure of the “blacken” interpretation of the “rough draft” words [that’s what “draught” means, right? it seems to fit in context], in light (no pun intended) of Russian черновик “rough draft”, with an obvious “black” root – which contrasts with чистовик “final draft, version to be submitted”, where the root means “clean”.

    I suspect that the analogy for “black” rough drafts is “uncleaned, dirty”, which might happen to be associated with black. Of course English rough implies that it’s not the only possible analogy…

  120. Danish blæk = ‘ink’ (loaned from OE to ON) is obviously the same idea, but it’s not carried through to a verb

    No uncommon, see tranalations here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ink

    E.g. Greek: μελάνι (el) n (meláni) Ancient: μέλαν n (mélan), μελάνιον n (melánion)
    Various Turkic and Indic languages have siyah (Persian “black”).
    Romanian cerneală From Slavic *čьrnilo, using the Romanian suffix -eală
    *čьrnilo is “blakener”.

    tinta in various Romance languages, tinte in Latvian (‘Borrowed from German Tinte, itself a borrowing from Latin tincta (aqua) (“colored water, liquid”). This word is first mentioned in the early 19th century. It replaced an earlier borrowing blaka, from Middle Low German blak, black (“black ink”). An attempt to introduce a neologism melne (from melns (“black”); compare Russian черни́ла (černíla, “ink”), from чёрный (čórnyj, “black”)) also failed’)

  121. David Eddyshaw says

    The recruitment of a word meaning “cut tribal facial scars” for “write”, which seems to be the commonest Oti-Volta strategy after the Western Oti-Volta “blacken”, seems – unobvious, on the face of it (sorry.)

    But thinking about it, I suppose it would have been a culturally obvious metaphor for “make intrinsically arbitrary yet conventionally meaningful visual markings”, and in fact, I can’t readily think of one that would have been more likely to come to mind in local preliterate societies. They really are complex: Mossi ones mark district of origin and social rank as well as ethnicity. A great many people of my age still had them when I lived in Ghana.

    I still haven’t come up with any ideas for the original meaning of Moba diɛn, though the Mooré noun rẽenem “trace, mark” seems very likely to be cognate (the formal match of the stems is perfect.) Unfortunately it seems to be an isolated formation within Mooré, with no related verb.

  122. David Eddyshaw says

    There is a completely homophonous Moba verb meaning “trap, ensnare”; the verb is also inflected identically, which is significant because Moba is one of those languages in which all the verbs are irregular (in the sense that you just have to learn the different aspect forms individually for each verb: worse than Russian.)

    Conceivably the “trap” meaning is a development of an earlier “track (e.g. an animal)”; that would go with the Mooré “trace.” So maybe the Gurma peoples decided that writing was making tracks/traces. I don’t have any evidence from Moba or Gurmanche themselves for such a shift, though.

  123. ‘the “native core” of Romanian is undeniably Romance.’

    Hello, Etienne! Thank you for your painstaking post. I know I benefit from it in several ways. But I find your above statement seriously problematic. This is why:

    If one could identify ‘ the “native core” of Romanian’, then the issue of whether Rumanian is a Romance language would instantly be resolved. But to simply assert that it is cuts no ice at all. This tenet has to be substantiated, at least in some part, by primary evidence, archaeological or documentary. Yet none is available.

    Another problem is that, right up until 1918, present-day Rumanian territory was Hungary almost to present-day Bucharest. So where might the ‘native core’ of Rumanian have developed? Or had none developed?

    Unlike the notional Rumanian native core, there was an actual Hungarian native core that the Hungarian language reformers made the basis of the syntax and vocabulary of modern Hungarian. This is how, and why, language reform became obligatory in Hungary:

    Until the mid-18th Century, the official language in Hungary was Latin. This is amply corroborated by the chroniclers, notably by the 12th century chronicler Anonymous [sic : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymus_(notary_of_B%C3%A9la_III) and the later chroniclers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronica_Hungarorum. Can the Rumanians offer any chronicler evidence to support their Latin language claims?

    But the peasants (the salt of the earth!) had retained the old Hungarian language. So when Franz Joseph II, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, made the pragmatic suggestion that, since most of Europe had turned to the vernacular and abandoned Latin, Hungary should too. And he suggested that Hungary adopt German as its vernacular, since many Hungarians speak German, and their native language had become obsolete. That sent the Hungarian language reformers into overdrive in the task of updating the old Hungarian language . Their fear was that a German vernacular will quickly obliterate the Hungarian identity. Their basic strategy was this:

    They collected the peasants’ Old Hungarian vocabulary, and supplemented it with new vocabulary that met the needs of the current times. E.g. The word constructed to mean ‘material’ took the Latin ‘mater’ (mother) and substituted the old Hungarian word for ‘mother’: ‘anya’. And, because short old Hungarian words often end in ‘g’, ‘anyag’ became the modern Hungarian word for ‘material’. And they decided to retain the agglutinative syntax of Old Hungarian.

    I wrote at length here to cursorily summarise the why-and-how of Hungarian language reform. Does the Rumanian language reform have a why-and-how element? I should like to know what it is if it does. But as it looks to me now, they are in reverse drive, frantically eliminating their ‘native core’ vocabulary (if they ever had one), and stuffing the hole that leaves with whichever Romance language word comes to mind. In short, they are faking a Romance language, and doing it pretty crudely. But why are they doing it at all?
    .

  124. If one could identify ‘ the “native core” of Romanian’, then the issue of whether Rumanian is a Romance language would instantly be resolved. But to simply assert that it is cuts no ice at all.

    It was resolved long ago. What you need is some understanding of how historical linguistics works; the development from Latin is perfectly clear once you grasp the principles of language change. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a course in the subject in the space of the comment box, but this paragraph (from an article by Clara Miller-Broomfield) will give you some idea (I’ve bolded the most important part):

    Despite its many unique aspects, Romanian is still a Romance language at its core. Although borrowings from Hungarian and Slavic languages are relatively common in its lexicon (for example, the Romanian word da meaning “yes”, the verb a iubi meaning “to love”, the noun dragoste meaning “love”, and the noun nevastă meaning “wife”), the majority of its vocabulary is still Latin-derived. Many basic vocabulary items and phrases such as bine (“well”), bun (“good”), cu plăcere (“you’re welcome”—literally, “with pleasure”), nu (“no”), […] fit in very well with their counterparts in the other Romance languages. Pronouns, numbers, verb tenses, and verb conjugations are also very clearly Latin-derived.

    There’s a lot of detail, not all of it relevant, at Wikipedia’s History of the Romanian language article. Trust me, the Romance nature of Latin is as well established as the earth going around the sun; it is not a matter of “simple assertion.” But you have to know how these things work.

  125. David Marjanović says

    Yet none is available.

    What a bizarre statement.

    Maybe you’d like to start your education with the Wikipedia article History of the Romanian language?

    archaeological

    If archaeological items without writing on them could tell us what languages people spoke, we’d know a lot more than we do…

    right up until 1918

    Since when? Since around the year 1000. That leaves centuries for a medieval stage of Romanian to develop out of Latin.

    present-day Rumanian territory was Hungary almost to present-day Bucharest

    First, that’s less than a third of present-day Rumanian + Moldovan territory. The rest has been speaking Rumanian the whole time. Second, it has never been the case that all of Hungarian territory spoke Hungarian and only Hungarian. The part that now belongs to Romania has been trilingual since the Middle Ages: Rumanian, Hungarian and German. The oldest known datable document written in Rumanian (it’s from 1521) is from that area, and it’s addressed to someone with a completely German name.

    the official language in Hungary was Latin

    “Official language” means that the bureaucracy was written in Latin. Nothing more.

    And he suggested that Hungary adopt German as its vernacular, since many Hungarians speak German, and their native language had become obsolete.

    Nope. He ordered his entire empire, including Hungary, to write its bureaucracy in German simply because German was already the biggest language for bureaucracy in the empire. Joseph II was an extreme pragmatist who proposed lots of things that were so unpopular he actually had to take them back later.

    People didn’t speak Latin in Hungary as a native language or anything like that. Is that what you imagined? Hungarian was never “obsolete”.

    And they decided to retain the agglutinative syntax of Old Hungarian.

    You act as if they could have given their native language a whole new grammar just by decree.

    Does the Rumanian language reform have a why-and-how element?

    …Oh, you’ve changed the topic from where the Rumanian language comes from to what exactly Rumanian language reform was about. Sorry, I didn’t notice. You confused me there.

    In short, they are faking a Romance language, and doing it pretty crudely. But why are they doing it at all?

    Why do colorless green ideas sleep furiously?

  126. Stu Clayton says

    Why do colorless green ideas sleep furiously?

    In order to make a point by confusing everybody.

  127. “Those words are corruptions of […].”

    In objective discourse we do not expect to find the word “corruption” (or “corrupt”).

  128. Sophie: I have re-read your reply, several times as a matter of fact, and I think it is clear that you are laboring under certain false beliefs.

    First, the “native core” of a language is wholly unrelated to matters related to the standardization of said language, the beliefs of its speakers regarding their origins, the ideological orientation of the literati and/or ruling class(es), and the like: if in some alternate universe Romanian had been standardized without receiving loanwords from other Romance languages, and if conversely Hungarian had been standardized with a massive inflow of words from French and Italian, Romanian and Hungarian would remain Romance and Uralic languages, respectively, no matter how much vocabulary from other languages might have become part of the accepted standards.

    Second, the native core of a language can be readily identified on purely linguistic grounds: written documentation from the relevant period and place is a nice extra, as indeed is archeological evidence, but no more than that: and if the documentary and the archeological evidence runs counter to what can be established on sound linguistic grounds, then, well, if I may misquote a certain Time Lord, “I’m a historical linguist. I point and laugh at archeologists”.

    Thirdly, I must echo M: referring to loanwords as “corruptions” is not something linguists find acceptable today. I am uncertain as to what you object to: the loanwords themselves or the fact that they follow Romanian spelling rules (as opposed to the spelling rules of the donor languages)? If the former, well, I wish you the best of luck in writing any language “purely”, i.e. without loanwords. If the latter is what you object to, I think there is nothing whatsoever to object to: by virtue of having a spelling system which is quite faithful to pronunciation, including that of foreign words, Romanian children have a much, M-U-C-H easier time learning to read and write than speakers of other languages with more historically-oriented orthographies: this is especially egregious in the case of a certain standardized Germanic language which we both know rather well…

    Fourth, there seems to be a certain anti-Romanian bias in your remarks/questions (just to be maximally clear, I have no special personal relationship with Romania): may I gently point out that if massive use of Romance loanwords is indicative of some kind of conspiracy aiming at “faking” being Romance speakers, well, again, I could name a language which makes massive use of Romance loanwords, greatly modifying them phonologically (=corrupting them), whose speakers could more justly be accused of “faking” being Romance speakers, since the native core of said language (unlike Romanian!) is definitely NOT Romance.

  129. I was in Rumania in 1990. I listened hard to people talking in groups.

    If Sophie has ever actually looked at a page of Romanian, I missed this assertion. As for me, I’ve studied Latin and three Romance languages, and I can easily tell that Romanian is Romance by doing just that.

  130. David Eddyshaw says

    On the basis of the “listening hard to people talking in groups” test, I have long since concluded that Portuguese is Slavonic.

  131. David Marjanović says

    Things I missed:

    I was in Rumania in 1990. I listened hard to people talking in groups. I could easily pick out Serbian and Hungarian words. I could not place the majority of their words.

    It is ridiculously easy to get thrown off track in such matters. I speak German natively. Once, at the German-speaking university where I was studying, I overheard two professors talking in perfectly standard German. One of them was from Frankfurt. They have an extra vowel there compared to more easterly or northerly accents of Standard German (again, I’m not talking about different dialects here). When that sound came up, I was so surprised I understood nothing for the next half of a minute.

    As it happens, Rumanian has two extra vowels compared to most other Romance languages, and one extra compared to almost all…

    And I heard nothing in their intonation that would suggest a Romance language.

    Swiss German has a dramatically different intonation from all the rest. Or two – I’m told within Switzerland it’s drastically different again in the Wallis and upwards.

  132. Let’s not be too hard on Sophie; like the vast majority of people who haven’t studied linguistics, she has no idea how it works and how languages are related. I hope she takes our corrections on board and learns something instead of just digging in.

  133. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s actually quite interesting, this question of identifying languages on the basis of the overall impression you get when you aren’t close enough to actually make out any words. I suspect that it would be hard to establish any firm principles behind it though, as it’s going to be so subject to the effect of languages that you speak or already know well yourself.

    I do recall, however, someone (I think on LH, though I’m not sure) asserting that they couldn’t tell Welsh from English under such circumstances, which struck me as bizarre (but then it would …)

    I have a feeling that Otto Jespersen (no less) says something about this somewhere.

  134. the languages i most frequently mistake for each other in that way are german and ivrit (despite my yiddish, which you’d think would help).

  135. After a week or more of involuntary absence from LH (access kept timing out because of my VPN), I am astounded to return and find comments from not only SFReader and minus273, but from the long-absent read! Wonders never cease.

    Whatever the etymology, of course, the use of the term ‘Rus’ has long been politicised, and is still being politicised by the scholarly Vladimir Putin.

    I will probably not be commenting much here for a while because I am preparing to leave Mongolia forever, 48 years after leaving my native land to live in various parts of East Asia.

  136. Yikes! I hope leaving Mongolia is something you want, and not something that’s been forced on you. I hope you have the opportunity to return to commenting here sooner rather than later!

  137. When I get settled in back in Oz.

    Can’t stay overseas forever….

  138. Sophie Johnson says

    ‘… the development from Latin is perfectly clear once you grasp the principles of language change.’

    Hello, languagehat: I am surprised by your ‘principles’ of language change. I would have thought that ‘practices’ or ‘procedures’ would be the germane word in this context. Principles are the guiding rules of a discipline, e.g., statutory law. But then, I am not a linguist. My field is Philosophical Logic. Still, I have an active interest in linguistics, having met my first foreign language at age four years, when my Hungarian parents’ emigration process took us from Hungarian-speaking Bacska (Bačka) on a long trek around Serbia and Croatia. Then there was Italian in Trieste, followed by Schweizerdeutsch in Solothurn, then English in Australia. So by age 10, I was fluent in five languages … quite the little genius. (Unfortunately, it has been a backward development ever since.) I hope you will concede that I have considerable experience of ‘language change’, and really do not need a primer.

    ‘Trust me, the Romance nature of Latin is as well established as the earth going around the sun.’

    I certainly do not trust you here! Latin is Latin; it is not one language of a kind. It is the influencer, even the progenitor, of the Romance languages. Perhaps this discussion will interest you: https://www.wondriumdaily.com/differences-between-latin-and-the-romance-languages/

    ‘Let’s not be too hard on Sophie; like the vast majority of people who haven’t studied linguistics, she has no idea how it works and how languages are related. I hope she takes our corrections on board and learns something instead of just digging in.’

    I now regret not having revealed my academic background in my first post, nor my stake in languages. I have always enjoyed inter-disciplinary discussions of language-related matters. My own discipline is rigorously language based. So I am a little surprised by your having talked down to me. But more constructively: I am bemused by the comfort with which people assert that Rumanian is a Romance language, yet they are not able to substantiate that assertion, nor are they bothered by this inability. Etienne came up with a concept that interested me hugely: ‘the native core’ of Rumanian. I pursued that with a will. Is that what you saw as my ‘just digging in’? Actually, it is the usual process of scholarly discourse.

    ‘People didn’t speak Latin in Hungary as a native language or anything like that. Is that what you imagined? Hungarian was never “obsolete”.

    @ David Marjanović You are completely wrong in the above, I’m happy to say. Latin was the spoken language of ‘upper-crust’ Hungarians, i.e. everyone with a viable social standing. I do not have a date for when this came into being. But it is on clear record that by a certain time, only the peasantry spoke Hungarian, right up to the language-reform frenzy, from the mid-18th century onwards. The Gentry spoke Latin, and, because of Hungary’s Austria connection, German was also spoken, but only with Germans.

    (It is a reasonable presumption that the ‘uppers’ had to speak to and understand their servants, inevitably peasant. So the Latin-speaking Hungarians must have known some old Hungarian. Or they got their estate managers to do that. )

    And “ ‘Hungarian was never “obsolete”.’ I laid out in my previous post the sense in which I am using this concept. But I shall try to improve on this now: A language becomes obsolete when its users are too few, or the political authority bans it and it is forgotten, or when a language ceases to have the vocabulary capacity to serve as the communication medium of its time.

    ‘… Romanian and Hungarian would remain Romance and Uralic languages, respectively, no matter how much vocabulary from other languages might have become part of the accepted standards.’

    @Etienne: Of course. Incoming vocabularies attach to the ‘native core’ of the language that hosts them. I thought my previous post made that clear. What I wanted, and still want, is to find out is what the native core of Rumanian is.

    ‘Thirdly, I must echo M: referring to loanwords as “corruptions” is not something linguists find acceptable today.’

    I did not refer to loan words as ‘corruptions’. A ‘corruption’ happens then the loan word is deformed, or corrupted, e.g. the French ‘toilette’ to the Rumanian ‘toaletă’. There is nothing pejorative in this use of ‘corruption’. And, BTW, I objected to nothing in this context.

    ‘Fourth, there seems to be a certain anti-Romanian bias in your remarks/questions .’

    If there is, there is.

    ‘… may I gently point out that if massive use of Romance loanwords is indicative of some kind of conspiracy aiming at “faking” being Romance speakers, well, again, I could name a language which makes massive use of Romance loanwords …’

    No doubt you can. But that neither endorses nor invalidates my suspicion that a good bit of faking is happening in the ‘Rumanian is Latin-derived’ because we are a Latin people’ proposition.

  139. Alas, you are fatally comfortable in your ignorance and refuse to learn from those who know more. Such is the way of the world!

  140. Ms. Johnson, as a non-linguist to a non-linguist I want to tell you that studing a new area brings insights you never imagined to have. In linguistics, one of them is a discovery that speaking a language doesn’t provide one with automatic knowledge of how it works. The fact that you speak many languages is no more relevant to your understanding of how they function as of someone having a lot of cars to the understanding of how they run.

    I am pretty sure that if you are genuinly interested in the core of Romanian/Rumanian language you can pick up almost any book on it’s history and have a good description of grammar and vocabulary that Romanian inherited from Latin.

    A few specific points. Unu, different languages have different histories. Whatever happened to Hungarian not necessarily happened to Romanian, though of course there might be some similarities. Doi, elites sometimes speak languages different from the common folk. Russian nobility at some point have spoken French. Eastern Europe is a place where often times even common townsfolk had spoken languages different from peasants of the area. Trei, historical linguistics looks at genetic similarities. Imagine two brothers. One is an athlete another one is couch potato. The athletic brother can be similar to other athletes in many ways and resemble them more than his own brother. And the slouch can be in many ways more like other slouches. But genetically they will remain brothers. Partu, it is possible that when searching for new vocabulary Romanian speakers prefer to borrow from Romance languages (realistically French) rather than from German, Hungarian, Slavic languages etc. or that when several synonyms exist the language standardizers prefer to choose a word with Romance roots. They might even be motivated by some form of linguistic nationalism. I really don’t know whether something like that is happening or not. But because basic vocabulary and grammar have been inherited from Latin more than a thousand years ago, it cannot be changed one way or another.

  141. Latin was the spoken language of ‘upper-crust’ Hungarians, i.e. everyone with a viable social standing.

    French seems to have played a similar role in Russia at one time. Russian managed to survive.

    “Principles of sound change” appears to be widely used in linguistics. Google it. Unreflecting application of the language of Philosophical Logic to Linguistics appears to be what led to that somewhat misguided riposte. (Incidentally, ‘practices’ or ‘procedures’ sound completely wrong. Have you read much in the field?)

    The interplay of ordinary spoken language, as spoken by different social classes, the language of the elite and bureaucracy, and the emergence of modern “standard languages” is a topic of considerable interest. It is not, however, a good idea to be too simplistic, whether in believing that the language of the peasants is a conservatory of the soul of the Volk, or in believing that modern languages were “created” by administrative fiat or the labourings of the native intellectuals. These things do have an influence on the nature of the standard that emerges, but that doesn’t mean that it is all fake.

    I, too, find an anti-Romanian element in your writings. I would not be surprised if the Romanians had gone overboard in claiming a Latin patrimony — that is the sort of thing that most nationalisms are guilty of — but that does not mean that the entire story line is fake. Taking either extreme (we are all true Latins; you are all fake Latins) is equally misguided.

    A ‘corruption’ happens then the loan word is deformed, or corrupted, e.g. the French ‘toilette’ to the Rumanian ‘toaletă’.

    Why is this a corruption? Should they have kept the French spelling?

  142. Stu Clayton says

    Sez WiPe:

    Philosophy of logic is the area of philosophy that studies the scope and nature of logic. It investigates the philosophical problems raised by logic, such as the presuppositions often implicitly at work in theories of logic and in their application.

    In this comment thread, we see presuppositions at work in philosophical logic applied to the history of Romanian. Or perhaps only suppositions. Even so, suppository arguments of all kinds are hard to dislodge.

  143. “Whatever the etymology, of course, the use of the term ‘Rus’ has long been politicised, and is still being politicised by the scholarly Vladimir Putin.”

    I don’t think his usage is different from that in our textbooks. Early Russian polities are usually referred to as “Rus” and you need to refer to them somehow. Centralisation is a different matter. Yes, it is politicised but so is “Chinese”, “Arab”, “Tunisian”. Also VVP politicises the conjunction “and”:)

  144. “Second, the native core of a language can be readily identified on purely linguistic grounds:”

    As if there were a definition of ‘native’:-/

  145. January First-of-May says

    “Whatever the etymology, of course, the use of the term ‘Rus’ has long been politicised, and is still being politicised by the scholarly Vladimir Putin.”

    AFAIK the idea that the state (now) conventionally known as Russia is a successor to the ancient Rus had been fairly continuous since the Muscovite princes started calling themselves Grand Princes of all Rus back in the 15th 14th century, nonwithstanding that Muscowy/Russia had not actually controlled Kiev for much (most?) of that period.

    Perhaps if the Kingdom of Russia had not descended into relative irrelevance during the 14th century, we’d now be talking about a “Russia” in the Carpathians and a “Moskovia” out east (like on this map from 1570).

     
    EDIT:

    “Second, the native core of a language can be readily identified on purely linguistic grounds:”

    As if there were a definition of ‘native’:-/

    IIRC there are a few South Asian languages where it’s been a giant problem to figure out what’s hiding behind all the loan layers (often mostly from the same source, which doesn’t help).

    Albanian is a little bit like this as well, I think, though IIRC it’s not quite that bad and the position of Albanian as a separate IE branch had been established for a long time.

  146. “AFAIK the idea that the state (now) conventionally known as Russia is a successor to the ancient Rus ”

    Just in case: what I mean, is that the reference to the ancient Rus is not some sort of ideology per se. There was something here 1000 years ago. This something is called so. To which extent people of Russia should think of themselves as “descendants” of peoples recognised as a part of that Rus is a matter of creativity. I can also claim intellectual descent from say, Newton. or genetical descent from some other people (who did not speak Slavic back then) or cultural affinity to any modern people I like.

    On the other hand, the idea that Russia is the successor of Rus is, of course, an ideology.

  147. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    purely — as far as I can tell, a lot of the MLG loans into Danish and Swedish might as well have been inherited directly from PG to ON. The time depth of the split was what, 1000-1200 years? As I understand it, when a word is attested in MLG and not in ON we call it a loan, but unless its form shows clear evidence of specific sound laws that only applied on one of the sides, it’s basically a guess.

    IOW, absence of evidence (attestation in ON) is not evidence of absence (no inheritance into North Germanic, not even in dialects distinct from the ones that the mediaeval written standards were based on).

    (I would be surprised if there aren’t similar cases in Romanian where you can’t tell if the word was transmitted “unbrokenly” from Latin or if it was borrowed from a Venetian sailor in the 11th. There is geographical separation, true, but so there was between Lübeck and Visby / Birka. Money trumps distance).

  148. David Eddyshaw says

    Armenian was thought to be a peculiar branch of Iranian for quite a long time, on account of the very large amount of Iranian loanwords.

  149. David Eddyshaw says

    a lot of the MLG loans into Danish and Swedish might as well have been inherited directly from PG to ON

    This problem turns up a lot with intra-Western-Oti-Volta loans. The whole family is (only) about as diverse as Romance, with the result that loans can look identical to inherited shared vocabulary. To make matters even more complicated, loans can be adapted in such a way that they end up losing any markers of an original foreign origin.

    There are some loans which are clearly identifiable because they have undergone (or not undergone) some language-specific development: a particularly clearcut one in Kusaal is kiibu “soap”, which for some speakers has replaced the “proper” Kusaal ki’ib /kɪ̰:b/; this is quite definitely from Mampruli kyiibu. It has to be a loan, because it hasn’t undergone the Kusaal final-vowel apocope; and the change of *ɪ -> i without loss of vowel length points uniquely to Mampruli as the source (cf Farefare kɩ’ɩbɔ, Dagbani chibo.)

    On the other hand, Kusaal Mɔr “Muslim”, which is borrowed from the Mooré More, has dropped its final vowel and looks exactly as if it were a cognate of the Mooré word instead of a borrowing, as if both were from Proto-WOV *morrɪ. And English “lorry”, borrowed as Mooré lore, in Kusaal has adopted the perfectly indigenous-looking form lɔr (so, Proto-WOV *lorrɪ …)

  150. ” we’d now be talking about a “Russia” in the Carpathians and a “Moskovia” out east (like on this map from 1570).”

    Personally, I would really prefer to have a word for East Slavs distinct from the word for citisens of Russian Federation (and sometimes USSR). And from “East Slavs”:-)

    As with “Slavs”. We don’t confuse it with “Slovakia” or “Slovenia” (or “Slovincian” or “Slavinia” or “Slovinia” in Croatia). We do use “Slavonic” and “Slavic” itnerchangeably sometimes, but it is not a problem.

    Neither it is a problme for Slavs themselves, even though words for these entities in different Slavic languages differ (slav/slov, -en/-in/… this way different) and it happens that the word for one of them in one language refers to another one in another langauge.

    The traditional use of “Russian” (by which I mean the Slavic word, русский etc.) is similar. Traditionally it also has religious connotations (and there are Yugoslavian Rusyns who don’t even speak East Slavic).

  151. “IIRC there are a few South Asian languages where it’s been a giant problem to figure out what’s hiding behind all the loan layers (often mostly from the same source, which doesn’t help).” – Like this, or some better known languages?

  152. I like the section heading “10. Chaos over ‘Monpa’.”

  153. David Eddyshaw says

    There seems to be no real doubt that Mbugu

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

    is a Bantu language, but the speakers seem to have made a valiant effort to conceal the fact. The “Ma’a” variant/register/dialect/whatever is quite often referenced in accounts of language mixture.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/28640030_Ma'a_or_Mbugu

  154. @David Eddyshaw: the phenomenon whereby normal speakers of a language (=non-linguists) perceive and, to a degree, apply phonological correspondences they observe between their L1 and elements borrowed from a genetically closely related L2 has been studied by some Romance scholars: cf. this monograph-

    https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Die-Sprecher-Als-Linguisten-by-Johannes-Kabatek/9783484522763

    -for example. It obviously means that issues relating to loanword identification involving intra-family lexical borrowing in most shallow language families (where, unlike Romance, we do not have a detailed written record of the proto-language) is even more fraught with dangers than what is found in the standard textbooks.

    @Sophie Johnson: Happily, in some cases things are clear-cut. Romanian is a Romance language which was sharply unlike Italian or French long, long before Romanian nationalistic ideology drove Romanians to borrowing massive amounts of vocabulary from both languages (especially the latter): as a result we can tell whether a given word with a Latin origin is part of the native core of Romanian or a loanword. For example, let us take the Romanian words “sigur”, “piață” and “(a) place” (“certain”, “(market)place”, “to please”): all three have Latin etyma (“securum”, “platea”, “placere” respectively), but we can tell that the first two are NOT indigenous Romanian words.

    Why? I was hoping you would ask 🙂 Because a core discovery of historical linguistics is the regularity of sound changes: sounds do not change randomly over time in a language, but follow certain clear-cut rules: thus, the “r” sound of seventeenth-century English was lost in the transition to modern London English, IF AND ONLY IF this “r” is either 1-At the end of a word, or 2-Before a consonant. This rule did not apply to (most) North American varieties of English, which is why in this respect North American English pronunciation (whether an “r” is present or not) fits the spelling better than a London pronunciation.

    In like fashion we know that in the transition from Latin to Romanian stop consonants (/p/, /t/, /k/) between vowels remained unchanged, and thus “sigur”, from “securum”, cannot be a native Romanian word (in fact it comes from Venetian, via Greek: unlike Tuscan Italian or Romanian, Venetian consistently turns /k/ into /g/ between vowels). Likewise, “pl” at the start of a word remains unchanged in the transition from Latin to Romanian, and thus “piață”, from “platea”, cannot be an indigenous Romanian word either: in fact it is an Italianism: Tuscan consistently turns initial “pl” into “pi” (cf. Italian “piacere”, from Latin “placere”). Finally, “(a) place” IS an indigenous Romanian word, as initial Latin “pl” remains intact (see previous word), and the other vowels and consonants match the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries during which Latin became Romanian.

    I hope the above clarifies matters ever-so slightly.

  155. Sophie: Please do pay attention to what Etienne wrote; it’s a very clear explanation of how these things work.

  156. ‘Sophie: Please do pay attention to what Etienne wrote; it’s a very clear explanation of how these things work.’

    Gladly, languagehat. But you will have to unblock my ability to post. I would have responeded to Etienne, and all her addressed me, early this morning, GMT.

  157. ‘Alas, you are fatally comfortable in your ignorance and refuse to learn from those who know more. Such is the way of the world!’

    @langenhat: May I remind you that you asserted most adamantly that Latin is a Romance language? I hope you benefitted from my correction of this logical absurdity.

    ‘Ms Johnson, as a non-linguist to a non-linguist I want to tell you that studing a new area brings insights you never imagined to have. In linguistics, one of them is a discovery that speaking a language doesn’t provide one with automatic knowledge of how it works. The fact that you speak many languages is no more relevant to your understanding of how they function as of someone having a lot of cars to the understanding of how they run.’

    @ D.O.: Telling a Philosophy trained person that ‘speaking a language does not provide one with automatic knowledge of how it works’ is a ‘coals to Newcastle’ sort of act. Every branch of Philosophy, be that Ethics or Political Philosophy or Formal Logic or Metaphysics, engages the practitioner in close analysis of natural language. So I do have a pretty good idea of the difference between speaking a language and analysing it.

    Also: ‘The fact that you speak many languages …’: ‘used to speak’, I’m afraid, at a 10-year-old’s level. I now speak only two with ease and another haltingly, and I write in only one. Sad but true.

    ‘I am pretty sure that if you are genuinly interested in the core of Romanian/Rumanian language you can pick up almost any book on it’s history…’

    I took up a concept that Etienne raised: ‘the native core’ of Rumanian. My thinking was that if such a core can be identified, then any doubts about the base of Rumanian in Latin must be abandoned. Etienne is a clever gent. But he is not interested in going down this track.

    I do not hold out much hope of satisfaction from histories of the emergence of a language. Such works tend to be light-weight primers, and most unlikely to wrestle with ‘the core native language’ sorts of propositions.

    ‘A ‘corruption’ happens then the loan word is deformed, or corrupted, e.g. the French ‘toilette’ to the Rumanian ‘toaletă’.
    ‘Why is this a corruption? Should they have kept the French spelling?’

    @ Bathrobe: In any discourse in linguistics, the ‘corruption’ of a word form is an alteration of it. In this context, ‘corruption’ has no moral, ethical, or aesthetic connotations. Please see this very lucid definition:
    http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Corruption_%28linguistics%29

  158. But you will have to unblock my ability to post.

    Nobody has blocked you. A comment got caught in moderation, but as far as I can see it was made later than this one. Maybe Akismet put one into spam for some reason — I’ll check. But so far you seem more interested in patting yourself on the back than in learning anything.

  159. Ah, it looks like an identical version of the one I rescued from moderation was in spam. Sorry about that — Akismet is a cruel and capricious guardian.

  160. In any discourse in linguistics, the ‘corruption’ of a word form is an alteration of it.

    The link you provided directly contradicts your point that this term is 1. current in linguistics and 2. neutral in connotations.

    To quote:

    Corruption or bastardisation are terms popularly used to refer to certain changes in language which originate from human error or alleged prescriptively incorrect usage. Descriptive linguistics typically avoids using these negative terms, since from a scientific point of view such changes are neither good nor bad. (My bolding).

    I don’t think it could be put any more lucidly.

    By your lights, just about every word that has been borrowed from English into Japanese is a “corruption”. Like konpyūtā, for instance. Or Rondon. Just about any borrowing you could name is a “corruption”. No linguist writes or speaks like that. In fact, altering the pronunciation of borrowings to fit the phonology of the borrowing language is not a result of “human error or alleged prescriptively incorrect usage”. It is a very normal process.

    “Corruption” could only conceivably be used if the borrowing did NOT follow the rules of phonological accommodation. For example, the pronunciation of the word lingerie as “lonjeray” by English speakers, which imposes a pseudo-French pronunciation out of ignorance of French. If speakers knew a modicum of French they would pronounce it “lanjery” — still a “corruption” by your definition because it’s actually different from how a French speaker would pronounce it, but not wilfully so.

  161. ‘Finally, “(a) place” IS an indigenous Romanian word, as initial Latin “pl” remains intact (see previous word), and the other vowels and consonants match the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries during which Latin became Romanian.’

    @Etienne: If I understand correctly, then your above-quoted text illustrates at least one aspect of what it is that might make the ‘native core’ of the Rumanian language. Thank you.

    But I baulk at this: ‘the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries during which Latin became Romanian’. How is it possible for us to know what took place as sound changes (I assume representd by letters) over centuries in the Rumanian language? Surely it is possible to know this only if we have centuries of Rumanian-language documents to study. But we do not:

    Throughout the 18th century, ‘Rumanian’ literature was in the Church Slavonic written by Moldovian clergy. In the early 19th Century, the movement led by Ion Eliade (Radulescu) produced a dictionary of Rumanian words that excluded all Slavic words.

    So I’m sorry, Etienne, but I cannot think where in this history we might find the centuries during which the ‘vowels and consonants match the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries’.

  162. Sophie, can you really not accept that there is an entire branch of study that deals with these things, and that you know nothing about it? There’s no shame in that; all of us are almost entirely ignorant about almost everything. But when I discover people who know a lot about stuff I’m ignorant about, I try to learn from them, I don’t tell them they’re wrong because they don’t agree with my ignorant views.

  163. J1M: I love that 1570 map. Can a map win a thread?

  164. Sophie, obviously having documents written in the early stages of Romanian would have helped. But I think you’ve missed a crucial point in Etienne’s examples. “(a) place” couldn’t have been adopted into Romanian from other modern or relatively modern Romance languages because they have no such word. They all changed Latin “placere” according to their particular ways. Unless you posit that Romanian nationalists read Latin textbooks and decided to borrow some words directly from Latin. And nobody noticed.

  165. Sophie: Because of the regularity of sound change we need not have written documentation retracing all the steps. Between (Late) Latin and (the earliest texts in) Romanian we have something like a thousand-year gap, but by comparing the two we can know which changes took place. And generations of Romance scholars have pieced it all together, in such detail that there is no possibility that this Romance lexical element might have been borrowed. Back in the nineteenth century this was a problem for the scholars who first investigated the history of Romanian and Albanian: the latter language had so many Romance/Latin loanwords that it was for a time mistaken for a Romance language. So, you might ask, how do we know that the native core of Albanian is non-Romance and that the native core of Romanian is Romance?

    Allow me to illustrate:

    I gave above (November 29 3:27 comment) the example of the Romanian subject pronouns (eu, tu, el/ea, noi, voi, ei/ele) and their Latin etyma (ego, tu, illum/illam, nos, vos, illos/illas). Now, these exemplify a sound change which Romanian and Italian have in common: a Latin /s/, at the end of a word, becomes an /i/ sound, which furthermore combines with a preceding /a/ sound to become /e/, but NOT -for example- with a preceding stressed /o/ sound. So there is a regular correspondence among the pronouns: Latin “nos, vos, illos, illas” correspond to Romanian “noi, voi, ei/ele”. And these sound correspondences apply to other Romanian words and endings. Romanian has “capră”, plural “capre” (“goat/goats”), from Latin “capra(m)/capras”: do you notice that in the plural we have the very same correspondence (final unstressed /as/ in Latin becomes /e/ in Romanian) in the noun and in the pronoun? As for the singular, we have a final /a/ in Latin becoming an “ă” in Romanian. Since in Latin a final “a” is used to form feminine singular adjectives whose masculine ends in “u(m)”, we would expect (if Romanian is a later, changed form of Latin which underwent the regular sound changes under discussion) this feminine ending to be found in Romanian as “ă”…and indeed we do!

    Now, what about the masculine singular ending in “u(m)”, I hear you asking: Romanian has no masculine singular ending, where did it go? Well, I refer you to the personal pronouns again: if “illu(m)” is the ancestral form of “el”, then it would seem Romanian regularly lost final “u(m)”.

    The clincher is this: these and various other sound changes apply to so much Romanian vocabulary (including those words which we know, from our knowledge of other instances of language contact, are impossible to borrow from another language, or at least very unlikely to be borrowed) and to most grammatical endings that, if you ignore them, you are left with something that is simply not a language. These rules apply to basic vocabulary, including the personal pronouns, and to the verb endings, the noun and adjective endings, and most crucially, to the irregularities. One last example: Romanian “tu vezi” “you see” (singular) versus “el/ea vede” “he/she sees”: whence this odd d/z alternation, you might wonder? Especially since Latin had regular “vide-s” versus “vide-t”

    Well, I have already given you the elements of the answer (As I like telling my students, I play fair), so, to the blackboard!. The answer: if we assume final Latin /e/ + /s/ yield /i/ (for instance, going back to Romanian “place”, which I wrote was indigenous: since “you please” (singular) in Latin was “places”, we would expect to find Romanian “placi” as its later, changed form…oh, and we do!), whereas /e/ + /t/ yields “e” (so Romanian for “he/she pleases”, from Latin “placet”, must be “place”…and, again, it is!), then the shift from Latin “vides” and “videt” to “vedi” and “vede” is expected.

    (Oh, and the shift from /i/ to /e/ in the first syllable of the verb? Well, the Latin /i/ in this word was short, just like the “i” in the pronouns “illum/illam/illos/illas”…where we also find “e” as its descendant form (AKA “reflex”, in our own specialized lingo) in Romanian)).

    Now, remember Romanian “zi”, from “dic”? Yes, another regular sound change: /d/ becomes /z/ if followed by an /i/, BUT NOT BY AN “e”. So the shift of “vedi” to “vezi” is, again, wholly regular and expected, as is the persistence of “vede”. And do please notice that, despite the lack of written records, the attested forms in Romanian can only be explained if we assume the rules to have applied in a given order: “vides” must have yielded “vedi” before the rule changing /d/ to /z/ before /i/ came into effect.

    Long story short, by comparing the Latin and Romanian forms we have an internally-consistent set of interlocking rules which account for so much of Romanian vocabulary, the bulk of the grammatical endings, including irregularities, that we assume Latin to indeed be the indigenous core of Romanian.

    Albanian, by contrast, has a huge number of Romance words, including some basic vocabulary, and regular sound correspondences between these Albanian forms and their Latin etyma can be established…but these sound correspondences between Latin and (the Latin element in) Albanian will be of no help/use whatsoever when it comes to most of the basic vocabulary and the grammatical endings of Albanian. Hence the conclusion that Albanian is a non-Romance language (with a huge borrowed Romance element, granted) and Romanian a Romance one.

    In like fashion, if knowledge of older English texts were lost in the future (but knowledge of Latin persisted) and the Romance vocabulary of English caused some future linguists to hypothesize that English is a later, changed form of Latin, the fact that so much of English basic vocabulary and most English irregularities remain wholly obscure/inexplicable even if one attempts to apply the sound correspondences between Latin and (the Latin element in) English would suffice to prove to future linguists that English has a non-Romance indigenous core, i.e. that English is therefore not a Romance language.

    I hope the above clarifies things a little.

  166. “Between (Late) Latin and (the earliest texts in) Romanian we have something like a thousand-year gap, but by comparing the two we can know which changes took place.”

    Etienne is referring here to internal reconstruction and the comparative method, with which Sophie would do well to become acquainted.

  167. I notice that I gave a bad example of borrowing into Japanese above. Rondon is not a result of adapting the word “London” to Japanese phonology. It seems likely that was borrowed based on the spelling. But this does not invalidate my point. It is not a “corruption” of the word “London”.

    (The Japanese have actually borrowed the word “toilet”, not from French but from English. It’s written トイレット toiretto. This is not a corruption but a borrowing following normal rules for adapting English words to Japanese phonology.)

  168. David Marjanović says

    One more thing on “the native core of a language”: two centuries of historical linguistics have shown that
    – words that refer to culture are more easily borrowed than “basic vocabulary”, the words that refer to basic realities of human life;
    – nouns are generally more easily borrowed than verbs, in part because they’re more likely to be “cultural vocabulary”;
    – elements of grammar are harder to borrow than most words;
    – the most basic words are harder to borrow than elements of grammar;
    – whole systems of grammar are practically impossible to borrow.

    It is not quite trivial to figure out which words exactly are the hardest to borrow, but check out the current state of research.

    When nationalism spread across Europe in the 19th century, Romanian nationalists tried to derive national pride from “being Romans”. They changed the u in the nation’s name to o, even though u is the regular outcome of Latin long o in Romanian; and they imported heaps of Italian and especially French cultural words, as Étienne has said. But you can’t change the basics of an actually spoken language like that. It’s actually easier to get people to speak an entirely different language for ideological reasons (Hebrew comes to mind) than to get them to modify the language they’re already speaking! And so, the nationalists managed to import stradă (from Italian*) for one particular kind of road, but not even to eliminate the previous word for “road”, the old Slavic loan uliță, which now survives for unpaved village roads as Ddraig Werdd explained in this thread back in 2012.

    * You can tell it’s not native because the second t isn’t preserved. Actually, for that same reason you can tell that within Italian, it’s a loan from northern Italian into Tuscan.

    But I baulk at this: ‘the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries during which Latin became Romanian’. How is it possible for us to know what took place as sound changes (I assume representd by letters) over centuries in the Rumanian language? Surely it is possible to know this only if we have centuries of Rumanian-language documents to study. But we do not:

    Old documents help*, but they’re not necessary. Historical linguistics has been successfully done with completely unwritten languages. To study sound changes, you need to know sounds, not letters.

    *…if they’re written phonetically enough. If they’re written in Chinese characters or Tangut ones, it gets very, very tricky.

    “IIRC there are a few South Asian languages where it’s been a giant problem to figure out what’s hiding behind all the loan layers (often mostly from the same source, which doesn’t help).” – Like this, or some better known languages?

    Bái.

    and there are Yugoslavian Rusyns who don’t even speak East Slavic

    Yup – it’s West Slavic. The different people who wrote the article contradicted each other on that, leaving the article a mess in that respect, but look at the listed sound changes.

  169. @ read

    hunnu for example called themselves hun – human

    I’m just a little sceptical of this example. In the old script ‘hun’ (хүн) was written ᠬᠦᠮᠦᠨ (kümün), and is still so pronounced in some dialects. Are you sure that the form ‘hun’ goes back to the time of the Hunnu, and that it is actually the basis of the name the Hunnu used for themselves? (I’m willing to be enlightened on this, but I’m sceptical because this looks like it could be a folk etymology, one that appears to have been put around by the Mongolian rock group ‘the Hu’.)

  170. “But I baulk at this: ‘the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries during which Latin became Romanian’. How is it possible for us to know what took place as sound changes (I assume representd by letters) over centuries in the Rumanian language? Surely it is possible to know this only if we have centuries of Rumanian-language documents to study. But we do not:”

    Take a course called “Introduction to Linguistics” and then a course called “Introduction to HistoricalLinguistics” or “Introduction to Diachronic Linguistics,”

  171. David Eddyshaw says

    But then she’ll be brainwashed and become One of Us …

    (But I have said too much.)

  172. I feel like I am listening to an experienced chef very patiently trying to explain making an omelette, to someone who very confidently believes an omelette is a kind of cocktail.

  173. Stu Clayton says

    Like patience on a monument, smiling at grief.

    Cocktail omelette

  174. “How is it possible for us to know what took place as sound changes…?”

    Acquaint yourself with internal reconstruction and the comparative method.

    Acquaint yourself with regular and irregular sound changes and the need to explain the latter but not the former.

    Acquaint yourself with the history of the reconstruction of, say, Proto-Indo-European.

  175. Trond Engen says

    @Sophie: If you really want to understand the history of languages, you take the advice you got here and start reading the basics of historical linguistics. You don’t need to learn how to do it yourself, but you have to understand how it’s done. How it’s a careful, methodic study of the systems of languages — sound system, morphology, lexicon, syntax — and how these systems are compared to eachother. This allows us to understand if and how they developed from a common source, or how and when they were influenced by other languages with their own histories. You can learn how internal variation — dialects, social stratification, registers — can be explored to understand ongoing processes of change or to identify historical substrates or adstrates (“bulks of language” imported from another language, either by language change or massive cultural influence). You can also just sit down and listen to the discussions here and absorb the knowledge and the attitude. Many of us here are amateurs like you, some are academic linguists, and some are amateurs who do professional level linguistics. If you’re willing to add what you know (rather than what you want to be) and prepared to learn what you didn’t know, the patience and generosity is endless.

    If, OTOH, you are out to score some ethno-political point, you’re simply in the wrong place.

  176. I think DM’s post directly answers Sophie’s question. At least I was goping to write a post to the same effect.

    @Sophie, the idea is that words like “trousers” are borrowed very often, while words for body parts are borrowed less often.

    Now if you have a language whose vocabulary is 50% Romance and 50% Germanic and you notice that the Romance part is mostly names of abstract concepts and things like trousers, while more basic words are mostly Germanic, you call it a Germanic language influenced by Romance.

    It is basically the definition, it does not mean that this language is “more Germanic that Romance”. You can say that it is just a convention.

    Say, if certain group of people speaks French, then it becomes bilingual in English and French, and then they abandon their French, but retain many French words in their English (and moreover, maybe their English have always been “funny” and different from the English of monolingual English speakers) we say that they now speak a Germanic language.

    What I just wrote is not exactly science – it is just some common sense and intuition behind the science.

    Historical linguistics strives to refine these points, but mostly it is concerned with a somewhat different question. Namely, can we learn something about history of languages, if we only know their modern state?

  177. Stu Clayton says

    Now if you have a language whose vocabulary is 50% Romance and 50% Germanic and you notice that the Romance part is mostly names of abstract concepts and things like trousers, while more basic words are mostly Germanic, you call it a Germanic language influenced by Romance.

    But trousers are not Germanic, nor very romantic. Back to basics.

  178. Trousers are a bit awkward. Both words for them and trousers as such.

    And yes, real men and women wear kilts and skirts.
    P.S. Or better: kilts and skirts are romantic. I am not ready to question reality of men and women in pants.

  179. ‘ But when I discover people who know a lot about stuff I’m ignorant about, I try to learn from them, I don’t tell them they’re wrong because they don’t agree with my ignorant views.’

    @languagehat: I hope, therefore, that you managed to learn from me that Latin is not a Romance langaage. (Do you engage with Linguistics, or is your forte fish-wifely rudeness? )

    ‘I hope the above clarifies things a little.’

    @Etienne: Clarifies what?

    I pointed out to you (in my post of 2 Dec.) that the available Rumanian literary-history-making texts (i.e. from the Church Slavionic religious texts of the 1500s to the first Romanian Dictionary of the early 1900s that eschewed all Slavic words) simply do not allow a time-space for the development of a language to which the analytical method you describe can apply. To my surprise, your response was to describe that analytical method again. To what avail?

    In other words, you simply did not understand my point that the method you outline is not applicable to the context of the known Rumanian literature. And I now add: Apart from that, what do you think is the Rumainian language terrain on which the method you describe can be applied? (As I see it, there is no such available terrain.)

    ‘The link you provided directly contradicts your point that this term is 1. current in linguistics and 2. neutral in connotations.’

    @Bathrobe: It is ‘typically’ Descriptive Linguistics that iis squeamish here, according to the text to which I posted. But there are many othe approaches in the discipline of Linguistics. My preferred one is Analytical Linquistics. Its concerns are syntax, morphology, etimology __ both mon- and multi-lingually. That approach does not suffer from squeaishness. ‘Corruption/corrpted’ is freely used there. In fact, it is indispensible. And BTW: ‘borrowed word’ is not even close to being a synonim of it.

    The neutral use of ‘corruption’ is actually amply illustrated in the very first paragraph of the text I posted a link to:

    ‘Words are commonly said to be “corrupted” or “bastardized” if they undergo a change in spelling or pronunciation when borrowed from one language to another (e.g. “Cajun” [from “Acadian”] ). This example illustrates that normal phonological developments (in this case, palatalization of /dj/ to /dʒ/) can be labeled by some as “corruption”, a position which demands that any language change from a previous state be thus labeled. In this view, English would be a “corruption” of Proto-Germanic, the Romance languages would be “corruptions” of Latin, and Latin would ultimately be a “corruption” of Proto-Indo-European.’
    http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Corruption_%28linguistics%29

    PS: A linguist, actual or aspirant, must read a text attentively to correctly grasp the meaning it makes.

    not applicable in the Rumanian literary-history context.

  180. David Eddyshaw says

    What is the logical form of “La, la, la, I can’t hear you”?

  181. January First-of-May says

    What is the logical form of “La, la, la, I can’t hear you”?

    Invincible ignorance, AFAICT.

  182. PlasticPaddy says

    @Sophie
    Since this discussion heated up, I have stayed out, following the maxim “is binn béal ina thost” (where tost is NOT a corruption of Latin tacere). I would suggest that an expert like Étienne is trying to have a dialogue and address your points, but he has some implicit knowledge which he is leaving out. So maybe you have to do a bit more work before expressing irritation at not being listened to.

  183. @PP, you need years to assess reliabitlity of linguistic reconstructions:-(

    Meawhile it is an entirely different question from whether Romanian is Romance or not…

  184. Imagine you were able to observe this population that shifted from French to funny English. You don’t need historical linguistics, because you know what they speak and spoke.

    Based on what you call their new language “Germanic”? Based on their core vocabulary – and a belief that there is some continuity with English, that in the mind of a bilingual speaker these two languages are distinct, that she herself thinks that she speaks two languages, one “English” and one “French”.

    You have an example before your eyes – I write broken English, and still you call it “broken English”, not “broken Russian”.

  185. @languagehat: I hope, therefore, that you managed to learn from me that Latin is not a Romance langaage. (Do you engage with Linguistics, or is your forte fish-wifely rudeness? )

    If you think what I’ve been saying constitutes “fish-wifely rudeness,” you must spend all your time at the very nicest kind of tea parties. You do not seem capable of taking on board that you have wandered into a venue where everyone else knows far more than you do about this stuff. I, for example, have an MPhil from Yale in historical linguistics (Indo-European variety); do you really think you have anything to teach me about Latin? I try not to be unnecessarily rude, but I also (unlike many of the folks here, who are much nicer people than I and who have expended a great deal of time and effort in trying to explain things to you that you have no desire to learn) do not suffer fools gladly, and with every comment you make you are cementing my growing feeling that you are a fool. Try not to take it too hard — I am, after all, just some guy on the internet, and a guy with no manners at that. If you return to your tea parties, you will doubtless be happier. But I still retain a shred of hope that you might wake up and realize you have things to learn if you just listen to people instead of bristling and parading what you suppose to be your superior knowledge.

    (N.b.: If I treated you the way you treat others, I would say that because you wrote “langaage” you don’t know how to spell language.)

  186. Well, “Sophie” has revealed her true colours. You have all been thinking she is a poor misguided soul who just needs a bit of instruction from experts to mend her mistaken beliefs. She has been taking you for a ride. Sophie has revealed herself as an adherent of “Analytical Linguistics”, and she is quite happy to declare that “the available Rumanian literary-history texts … simply do not make a time-space for the development of a language to which the analytical method you describe can apply”. Etienne is wrong and she is right.

    My pointing out that her proffered link about “corruption” had the opposite import of what she was saying resulted in an accusation that I was not reading the text attentively to correctly grasp the meaning it made.

    No, Sophie, your reading is simply perverse. The section you quote, to presumably prove that I was not reading the entry correctly, is an illustration of the “popular” usage of the word “corrupted” referred at the start of the entry. But instead of reading it that way, you use it as a springboard to voice your rejection of “Descriptive Linguistics”.

    So you have come among a group of people, some of whom would be regarded as serious linguists, in order to draw them out with their misguided, doctrinaire explanations, just so you can reveal yourself as a non-believer in descriptive linguistics and declare them wrong according to the lights of “Analytical Linguistics”. Would you mind expounding the principles and practice of this “Analytical Linguistics” so that we can know, er, exactly where you are coming from?

    You certainly seem to have a thing about Rumanian. I must say, your statements about Hungarian had me scratching my head. Especially “They (Hungarian language reformers) collected the peasants’ Old Hungarian vocabulary, and supplemented it with new vocabulary that met the needs of the current times” and “decided to retain the agglutinative syntax of Old Hungarian”. What you seem to be saying is that the language reformers collected Hungarian vocabulary from the peasants, developed new vocabulary on that basis, fitted it all into a bygone agglutinative framework, and managed to get the entire Hungarian population to just follow along and adopt this new cobbled-together language in their daily life.

    Well, we already know you reject Descriptive Linguistics, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that you should have embraced such ideas…. although I think it a little rich that you scorn the Rumanians for their “fake language” that doesn’t even have a territorial basis.

    At any rate, the joke is on the denizens of this blog. Very nice, Sophie.

  187. To sum up my previous comment:

    It’s as though a “flat-earther” has suddenly appeared in our midst.

  188. @Sophie: no serious linguist talks about “corruption” of language since at least the early 20th century. You should really choose the sources of your opinions better.

  189. @Sophie. Where can we see the tenets of Analytical Linguistics, who are its outstanding expounders, and where can we read their best publications?

  190. @Hans, it was corruption of words.

    I think I occasionally meet this word in modern works, I also won’t be surprised if someone describes [one of possible etymologies of] шаромыжничать as corrupted cher ami.
    Same with algorithm.

  191. шаромыга
    Wow. They used it! (one of its Russian translations).

    P.S. Wow-2.

  192. Trond Engen says

    Drasvi: Now if you have a language whose vocabulary is 50% Romance and 50% Germanic and you notice
    that the Romance part is mostly names of abstract concepts and things like trousers, while more basic words are mostly Germanic, you call it a Germanic language influenced by Romance.

    It is basically the definition, it does not mean that this language is “more Germanic that Romance”. You can say that it is just a convention.

    Crudely, yes. But even vocabulary is superficial. Behind that is its grammar. In language families with a lot of morphology (e.g. Indo-European, Volta-Congo, Na-Dene), genetic relationship can be determined by identifying cognate morphologies. Famously, Hittite was deciphered after recognizing Indo-European word endings and stem alterations — archaic and different in interesting ways, but Indo-European. A century later, there’s still argument over the pronunciation and meaning of many words, since the writing system doesn’t give much information about that, but the Indo-European-ness is not in doubt.

    Hans: no serious linguist talks about “corruption” of language since at least the early 20th century

    Drasvi: @Hans, it was corruption of words.

    I think I occasionally meet this word in modern works

    So do I. In philology and lexicography, not about language change or adaptation of loans but about irregular or incomplete transmission of a written text. I’ve also seen it in discussions of oral traditions, not about single words but the whole (or elements of the) story. In neither case it’s a judgment on the language itself but a description of the transmission quality of something that happens to be expressed in language.

    Historical linguists do, however, use “contaminated” — a word with very similar negative connotations outside theit field. Even this is used without judgment to describe irregular development, change in sound or meaning of a word by association with another word.

    But Sophie is beyond reach. This is just for the imagined uninitiated audience.

  193. David Marjanović says

    I hope, therefore, that you managed to learn from me that Latin is not a Romance langaage.

    This refers to the following quote from our esteemed host:

    Trust me, the Romance nature of Latin is as well established as the earth going around the sun; it is not a matter of “simple assertion.”

    From context, it is obvious that when he said “Latin” here, he simply misspoke without noticing it and meant “Romanian”. Obvious to everyone except you, Sophie; so obvious that I dare say several of us read straight through this passage and didn’t notice the mistake.

    And you pounce on it as some kind of bizarre victory – as if you had just conquered Bakhmut. What a strange person you are!

    I pointed out to you (in my post of 2 Dec.) that the available Rumanian literary-history-making texts (i.e. from the Church Slavionic religious texts of the 1500s to the first Romanian Dictionary of the early 1900s that eschewed all Slavic words) simply do not allow a time-space for the development of a language to which the analytical method you describe can apply. To my surprise, your response was to describe that analytical method again. To what avail?

    Whu… what? Did you believe the Romanian language did not exist before it was written down, or something?

    I’m lost here. I can only guess at your presuppositions. Please explain them.

    In other words, you simply did not understand my point that the method you outline is not applicable to the context of the known Rumanian literature.

    We’re not talking about literature, we’re talking about language.

    And I now add: Apart from that, what do you think is the Rumainian language terrain on which the method you describe can be applied? (As I see it, there is no such available terrain.)

    What do you mean by “terrain” here?

    It is ‘typically’ Descriptive Linguistics that iis squeamish here, according to the text to which I posted. But there are many othe approaches in the discipline of Linguistics.

    Thank you for showing us you don’t understand the terms you use. Read what “descriptive linguistics” means before you talk about it again, or before you link to something as obviously irrelevant to the science of linguistics as a website called “art and popular culture”.

    My preferred one is Analytical Linquistics. Its concerns are syntax, morphology, etimology __ both mon- and multi-lingually.

    It’s one thing to not understand what you’re retyping by hand, but can’t you at least copy and paste?

    And “linquistics” – do you listen to yourself? We’re after all talking about language, not about literature.

  194. @drasvi: I was referring to this:
    In this view, English would be a “corruption” of Proto-Germanic, the Romance languages would be “corruptions” of Latin, and Latin would ultimately be a “corruption” of Proto-Indo-European.’
    These are views which no serious linguist holds for about a century. One can find uses of “bastardisation” and “corruption” wrt words in newer texts, but in my experience those are mostly popularising texts that haven’t kept up with the scientific development, or cases of inertia, when terminology is not updated while referring to older explanations or sources, or used by mid-20th century scholars using outdated terminology they learnt in their formative years.

  195. @drasvi: I was referring to this:
    In this view, English would be a “corruption” of Proto-Germanic, the Romance languages would be “corruptions” of Latin, and Latin would ultimately be a “corruption” of Proto-Indo-European.’
    These are views which no serious linguist holds for about a century. One can find uses of “bastardisation” and “corruption” wrt words in newer texts, but in my experience those are mostly popularising texts that haven’t kept up with the scientific development, or cases of inertia, when terminology is not updated while referring to older explanations or sources, or used by mid-20th century scholars using outdated terminology they learnt in their formative years.
    EDIT: @Trond: Yes, “corruption” is still regularly used when talking about transmission of texts, but that is a separate issue.

  196. From context, it is obvious that when he said “Latin” here, he simply misspoke without noticing it and meant “Romanian”.

    Quite. I didn’t even bother to scroll up and figure out what the hell she was talking about, because it didn’t make any difference; it would obviously be as trivial as her misspelling of “language.”

  197. All: I think several of you are being much too harsh on Sophie. I have dealt with scholars in the humanities before and I think I see what the unspoken assumption she has trouble getting rid of is: she literally does not understand that the existence of a given language is wholly unrelated as to whether the language is written or not, whether it is standardized or not.

    Consider: when she asked (December 2: And may I stress that in actually asking she exhibited an open-mindedness and frank curiosity which make it very unlikely to my mind that she is attempting to troll anyone here)-

    “But I baulk at this: ‘the sound changes which we know took place over the centuries during which Latin became Romanian’. How is it possible for us to know what took place as sound changes (I assume representd by letters) over centuries in the Rumanian language? Surely it is possible to know this only if we have centuries of Rumanian-language documents to study. But we do not:”

    -then followed by observations on the emergence of Romanian as a written language. To which I replied (same date):

    “Because of the regularity of sound change we need not have written documentation retracing all the steps. Between (Late) Latin and (the earliest texts in) Romanian we have something like a thousand-year gap, but by comparing the two we can know which changes took place. And generations of Romance scholars have pieced it all together, in such detail that there is no possibility that this Romance lexical element might have been borrowed.”

    And her answer today:

    “I pointed out to you (in my post of 2 Dec.) that the available Rumanian literary-history-making texts (i.e. from the Church Slavionic religious texts of the 1500s to the first Romanian Dictionary of the early 1900s that eschewed all Slavic words) simply do not allow a time-space for the development of a language to which the analytical method you describe can apply. To my surprise, your response was to describe that analytical method again. To what avail?

    In other words, you simply did not understand my point that the method you outline is not applicable to the context of the known Rumanian literature. And I now add: Apart from that, what do you think is the Rumainian language terrain on which the method you describe can be applied? (As I see it, there is no such available terrain.)”

    David Marjanović may or may not have been sarcastic when he asked today whether she believes that Romanian did not exist before it was written down, but based on her comments above the answer is yes. She really believes it. And this does not make her stupid, malicious or the like: it is an indictment of the educational system which she, and countless others, went through: it taught her a great many things all the while leaving her utterly ignorant of the most basic findings of linguistics.

    That she is willing to ask us about these matters marks her as being quite exceptional (assuming my experience with humanities scholars -whose intellectual curiosity I would place somewhere between a rock’s and a bureaucrat’s-is in any way typical), and I think we should do our level best to answer her questions: thus, I must gently but firmly disassociate myself from some of my fellow hatters’ comments above: I see no evidence of bad faith on her part, only evidence of poor communication on mine.

    So: Sophie, I must apologize, I failed to adequately explain a core finding of linguistics which most non-linguists are unaware of. I stress the word: “finding”, not “principle” or “dogma”: this finding is the PRIMACY OF SPOKEN OVER WRITTEN LANGUAGE. That is to say, ALL living human languages are learned as spoken languages by children (as a rule from parents and the extended community said children are raised in). Only a small minority of languages have ever been written down: only a smaller minority of languages have been written down and standardized: and very, very few such standardized written language are learned and used as written languages by most of their native speakers.

    So, if this is a finding, what is the evidence, I hear you ask. Well: there exist Romanian-speaking communities located outside Romania, and which, crucially, have never been part of Romania and which, therefore, have never been taught standard Romanian in a school setting (or anywhere, actually). And the reason we call them “Romanian” is because what they speak is indeed a form of Romanian: distinct from the standard in some ways, certainly, but a form of Romanian none the less: with Romanian vocabulary, nominal plurals and declensions, verb conjugations, subject and object pronouns, rules of syntax, and the many accompanying quirks and irregularities.

    In an alternate universe where Romanian had remained a strictly spoken language and had never been written or standardized (with some other prestige language(s) -Hungarian, German, Old Church Slavonic, Kusaal, or indeed all of the above-used as (a) written language(s)), where indeed the very name “Romanian” might never been bestowed upon the speakers of the language (who might well have remained utterly indifferent as to the historical origin of their language), it would nevertheless be a Romance language. In my examples of sound correspondences between Latin and Romanian yesterday I used standard Romanian forms: if I had made use of data from a non-standard variety of spoken Romanian spoken outside Romania, whose speakers are not AND NEVER HAVE BEEN LITERATE IN STANDARD ROMANIAN, this would have changed nothing as to the conclusions reached, because the set of changes which over the centuries turned Latin into Romanian took place when the language was wholly unwritten: they took place generation by generation, as the language was transmitted from one generation to the next. And these changes would be just as identifiable by competent linguists in an alternate universe where Romanian had remained a purely spoken and unwritten language as they are in this universe, where Romanian indeed is a standardized written language. In this universe, again, the conclusions reached about the Romance affiliation of Romanian would be the same whether a spoken variety of non-standard Romanian from outside Romania or the standard was taken as the point of comparison.

    Now, I suspect, Sophie, that you will find the above VERY hard to believe. I understand your incredulity: linguistics is not rocket science, but its core findings are QUITE counter-intuitive. I also suspect you will not take my word for it (If so, good! As the saying goes, one should not have so open a mind that one’s brains fall out). You may be wondering: Could this be true? How could I find out?

    Well. I would like to make a suggestion: try finding a grammar (penned by a linguist or anthropologist) of a non-written language (by which I mean a language which is not and never has been written by native speakers or outsiders), preferably one unrelated to any language you are or were fluent in. Read through it with an open mind, and ask yourself this: if illiterates can speak something of this complexity, transmitting it unconsciously from generation to generation, then what grounds are there to disbelieve that the world’s standardized written languages, before their standardization and use in writing, not only existed, but in fact were fundamentally the same as they are today?

  198. All: I think several of you are being much too harsh on Sophie. I have dealt with scholars in the humanities before and I think I see what the unspoken assumption she has trouble getting rid of is: she literally does not understand that the existence of a given language is wholly unrelated as to whether the language is written or not, whether it is standardized or not.

    I can only speak for myself, but I was not originally harsh to her; in fact, I said:

    Let’s not be too hard on Sophie; like the vast majority of people who haven’t studied linguistics, she has no idea how it works and how languages are related.

    I have great sympathy for the ignorant; as I also said somewhere up there, we are all almost entirely ignorant. But I have no sympathy for those who refuse to accept their ignorance, assume that those who don’t agree with them are themselves ignorant, and deals with those people insultingly, and Sophie checks all those boxes. I have seen these people many times, at LH and elsewhere, and I have lost interest in trying to educate them after the first attempt is rejected. Others are much more patient and have tried valiantly to explain things to her; I admire the effort but feel sure it is wasted. I could be wrong! She might come back and say “Hey, I’ve slept on it and I realize I was being a jerk, and now I’m going to read your explanations more carefully and try to learn something.” In that case I will apologize to her in a heartfelt manner and give thanks for the unpredictability of the universe. But I’m not holding my breath.

  199. David Marjanović says

    I was not sarcastic. I considered the possibility and asked, because fundamentals like these are not things I want to make assumptions about in a discussion.

    humanities scholars -whose intellectual curiosity I would place somewhere between a rock’s and a bureaucrat’s-

    That is harsh. 🙂

  200. Does bureaucrat represent the upper or the lower limit of the range?

  201. Trond Engen says

    Analytical Linguistics

    You have all fucking googled it, but for the record, I find exactly two references to Analytical Linguistics in a scholarly setting.

    1. An old webpage from Rice University, where it seems to be used as a cover term (or even a neat little strawman) for everything linguistic except what they dub “Neurocognitve Linguistics”.

    2. A Russian textbook in English translation. I think it’s somewhere on the generative side, but maybe it’s just me thinking the table of contents looks excruciatingly boring. Anyway, I learn that its chief editor, V.A. Livshits, was a great Iranianist. In that capacity, he seems to have been more interested in written records than unwritten languages, but there’s no reason to suspect him of sharing Sophie’s contempt for historical/comparative linguistics.

  202. On Etienne’s assumption that Sophie is debating in good faith and is willing to learn, let me add a couple of points.

    Sophie, the proposition you’re skeptical about is one that you worded thus: ‘Rumanian is Latin-derived because we are a Latin people’ . As stated this is not a linguistic proposition at all, since if the premise “we are a Latin people” makes sense in any terms, they are not linguistic ones. But the proposition “Romanian is Latin-derived” by itself is a linguistic one: it means that Romanian descends from Latin through a continuous chain of linguistic change. This is either true or false, and in fact the universal consensus of Romance and Indo-European linguists is that it is true — not possibly or tentatively true, but true beyond a doubt.

    You reject this consensus on the grounds that it is possible to know this only if we have centuries of Rumanian-language documents to study. If a continuous documentary record were in fact required, we would not know that any of the Romance languages descend from Latin, since for none of them do we have such a record; some (like French) are first attested some centuries earlier than Romanian, others (like Sardinian) around the same time. The conclusion that these languages descend from Latin does not depend on documentation (though of course it is helpful), but on the kind of logic that Etienne has described, which can be applied to languages that have never been written down at all.

    The field that develops and applies such methods, and the only field that can answer such questions, is historical linguistics. This is one of the most technical subfields of linguistics and among the least familiar to laypersons. That it is unfamiliar to you is suggested by several things you’ve written, for example I hope you will concede that I have considerable experience of ‘language change’, and really do not need a primer. The type of language change we’re discussing takes place over centuries or millennia, so no one since the days of Methuselah can have had considerable experience of it. You say that as a philosopher you have necessarily engaged in analysis of language, but the kind of analysis that historical linguistics demands has very little overlap with analytic philosophy. Have you studied phonetics, phonology, morphology, or semantic change? If not, I respectfully suggest that you lack the fundamental concepts necessary to address the question under debate. If you’d like to learn more there are many possible starting points; you could do worse than start by reading about the comparative method.

  203. Etienne, I admire your patience and open-mindness (I am sure without any danger to your brain), but if your explanations are lost on Sophie, not all is in vain. I enjoyed them greatly (if the goal of your labors is to increase the awareness of linguistics in fellow-humanitarians, alas). Sophie is knowledgable of the independent existence of spoken languages. According to her, at some moment in time Hungarian linguists went around the country and recorded the spoken language, which they wouldn’t have need to be doing if such a thing didn’t exist outside the books. (I feel a bit ridiculous writing this. There was the whole movement all across Central and Easern Europe of educated people going around the countryside and recording folklore and folk music). For one reason or another, she doesn’t accord the same to Romanians. There might be a political moment. If Romanian nationalists purged the spoken language from too many Slavic words and imported Romance words for the purpose of Romanian looking more like a Romance language to the outsiders, it does create an urge to push back. Still it is not a good idea to reject the basic facts.

  204. I think there is another subtext here, outside that of confusing lack of documentary evidence with the non-existence of a language: that is the subtext of nationalism. Hungarians are authentic (although it was a gargantuan effort to rescue their language from oblivion); Romanians are fake. It’s telling that the two languages are neighbours.

    As others have suggested, however, linguistics (perhaps even more so historical linguistics) also has a historical pedigree closely related to nationalism and race. It shows in various ways. For example, the effort to shake “genetics” free from “language” — I saw a paper very recently that pointed out (again) that genetics and language are not necessarily related. “Contamination” may not have a pejorative meaning in linguistics, but I suspect it still betrays very old assumptions about race and language, which sees outside influences as corruption of the pure line that would otherwise have resulted in one Volk speaking an unadulterated descendant of the Ur-language. Not that I think anyone here adheres to such thinking, but 19th-century notions are sometimes closer than you think. Sophie’s narrative certainly seems to have something in common with them.

    I do wish she would give us some sources for “Analytical Linguistics”. It would give us some insight into her thinking. “Syntax, morphology, etymology, both mono- and multi-lingually” doesn’t give us much to go on. Any linguist worth their salt is interested in these. Like Trond, I googled “Analytical Linguistics” and didn’t find much.

  205. BTW, this is one would-be “humanities scholar” whose intellectual curiosity was severely wilted by the harsh blasts of Chomskyan thought.

  206. David Eddyshaw says

    I don’t think she actually means what we do by “linguistics”; I suspect that by “analytical linguistics” she means the close analysis of written texts in one or more individual languages, not some subfield of “Linguistics” that we haven’t heard of.

    It’s not at all unusual for highly educated and intelligent people to be altogether unaware that an autonomous scientific discipline of “Linguistics” actually exists at all. Letters to the newspapers on points of grammar abundantly confirm this point, not to mention articles in newspapers on language matters. Spectacular ignorance of the basics is the norm in such cases, not the exception; and this among people who make a living out of their often expert use of language.

    How many academic linguists have tales that when they say what they do for a living, they immediately get asked “So, how many languages do you speak?”

  207. the close analysis of written texts in one or more individual languages

    That sounds a little like philology.

    “So, how many languages do you speak?”

    Well, that is one meaning of the word “linguist”. “Linguistics” has appropriated the term “linguist”, but the old meaning still lingers on in ordinary usage.

  208. @DE, it does not harm to be able speak several languages… but yes, many linguists don’t speak anything but their native language. I think people expect a linguist to be a polyglot, and for them multilingualism is impressive (at least for people in my country).
    If entomologists were know to be able to read minds, people would also ask about this second property.

  209. David Eddyshaw says

    I’d gladly be an ontologist if it meant I could actually manipulate reality.

    that is one meaning of the word “linguist”

    The best meaning is “hereditary noble who speaks to the people on public occasions on behalf of a Ghanaian chief or king.”

  210. David L. Gold says

    “How many academic linguists have tales that when they say what they do for a living, they immediately get asked ‘So, how many languages do you speak?’”

    My response is always “None well.”

  211. As opposed to, “Well, none”.

  212. @Etienne:

    That is to say, ALL living human languages are learned as spoken languages by children (as a rule from parents and the extended community said children are raised in).

    There is a very tiny exception to this rule, though: conlangs.

    Which makes me wonder: Does Sophie imagine that Romanian is a conlang, created by the nobility and imposed upon Slavic-speaking peasants by threat of violence?

  213. @ Owlmirror

    Very apt observation. She seems to have very quaint ideas about how languages develop and are adopted. She does seem to think Romanian is a conlang. And the way she talks about Hungarian, it is also close to a conlang. She even seems to think that 19th century peasants spoke Old Hungarian. I can’t fathom it.

  214. @Stu In this comment thread, we see presuppositions at work in philosophical logic applied to the history of Romanian. Or perhaps only suppositions.

    As I quondam student of Philosophical Logic, I’d like to defend my peers (excluding, apparently, Sophie): we are acutely aware of the presuppositions smuggled in by that devil ‘natural language’. My undergrad course went to great lengths to warn of the snares.

    It naturally lead to an interest in how other languages and languages-in-general work; and indeed I took a course in ‘Philosophy of Language’ [**] jointly taught between the Philosophy and Linguistics Departments. I’m astonished that someone claiming their field is Philosophical Logic seems unaware there’s disciplines ‘Linguistics’ and ‘Historical Linguistics’ or of ‘the Comparative Method’. It’s crucial when studying older texts to be aware how words have shifted meaning over time. (And it’s crucial when studying Syllogistic Logic to be aware how different Medieval Latin is from Classical.)

    We are, as a tribe, very willing to learn from people who know stuff about actual languages-in-general.

    [**] Not ‘Linguistic Philosophy’.

  215. Which makes me wonder: Does Sophie imagine that Romanian is a conlang, …?

    Mmm interesting speculation. Philosophical Logic studies systems of logic that are expressed in constructed languages. And there’s ‘evolution’ of those constructed languages — in the sense Leibniz’s algebra lead on to Boolean Logic lead on to Frege’s Begriffschrift “A Formal Language for Pure Thought Modeled on that of Arithmetic” [wp] lead on to Russell & Whitehead’s notation for Symbolic Logic …

    That’s not the sort of ‘evolution’ that applies with (natural) language change.

  216. i think a basic premise of chomskyite linguistics is that all languages are conlangs – system preceding practice.

    so perhaps Sophie is just a very particular flavor of that school: the posadists of chomskyism, if you will.

  217. Well, we appear to have scared Sophie away.

    Perhaps, as Etienne said, we were too hard on her. Her weird comments about the lack of a written record just seemed completely beside the point, until people started pointing out that she was suffering under the illusion that the written language is language, and that in its absence language does not exist (which also helps explain her peculiar statements about the revival of Hungarian).

    I don’t particularly mind her ignorance; what put me off was her cocksure attitude and dissing of anyone who disagreed with her — possibly a result of her own insecurity and a combative attitude towards ‘authority’. A bit more humility might have been helpful, though.

  218. While I admire Étienne’s faith in humanity, it seems obvious to me that Sophie is not just asking questions, but is armed with a Hungarian nationalist agenda and is only interested in linguistic evidence that will support the contention that Trianon was a disaster and the traditional Hungarian lands should be gathered up again. If she does return, I will ask her what she thinks about Slovak.

  219. Trond, it is a monograph from 1970. The author is Lyubov Sova. (The name means “Love”, the surname means “Owl”). No, I think she mostly disagrees with Chomsky. Despite this I’m not sure if DE would like her work on Bantu.

    This is cute: “Already as a Ph. D. in linguistics, she got a degree in mathematics and came to the conclusion that few of her colleagues would dare utter in public, namely, that from a methodological point of view mathematics is far behind linguistics. She is one of the very few scholars in the humanities who has no inferiority complex…”

  220. David Eddyshaw says

    Sadly, all her relevant publications seem to be in Russian, so I am unable to dislike her work on Bantu as I should. (It seems to be all about Zulu.)

  221. Was this an attempt to hoax us?

    On one hand, she expressed eagerness to learn from us (“I am very grateful that I stumbled upon the opportunity to read this discussion. It is astonishing that so many people are informed on a subjects-bundle that is so far off the ‘common knowledge’ track.”); on the other, she accepted nothing we said.

  222. Trond Engen says

    Ah, thanks. The 2012 version I linked to must be an English reedition. Says Wiki:

    She received her D. Habilitatus and D.Phil. from the Higher Attestation Commission of the USSR (1977) with a thesis entitled Analytical Linguistics.

    and:

    Sova’s main areas of experience and expertise include analytical linguistics, African philology, Russian language and literature, Slavic languages, semiotics, general, historical, typologic and computational linguistics, syntax, semantics, philosophy and journalism. Sova was among the first researchers to apply computer analysis to the area of philology, and in her D. Habil. thesis, created a theory that she termed “Analytical Linguistics” to apply techniques of constructive mathematics to linguistic materials. Her work has been described as “extending the aims of the generative grammars, [to] set its aim to describe the apparatus of extracted axioms” and was a key factor in the reconstruction of the Proto-Bantu language and the description of the evolution of the Bantu languages.

  223. David Eddyshaw says

    I was under the impression that Meinhof, Guthrie and Meeussen had made a little progress with Proto-Bantu, but it seems that Dr Sova was actually responsible. Fair enough. (But this is what comes of publishing your work only in obscure Oriental languages.)

    from a methodological point of view mathematics is far behind linguistics

    Similarly, Astrophysics lags far behind ballet.

  224. Well, I think she likes mathematics. So she has the right to say things.

  225. David Marjanović says

    Well, we appear to have scared Sophie away.

    Or she regards the computer as “work” and doesn’t touch it on weekends. Stranger attitudes exist.

    On one hand, she expressed eagerness to learn from us (“I am very grateful that I stumbled upon the opportunity to read this discussion. It is astonishing that so many people are informed on a subjects-bundle that is so far off the ‘common knowledge’ track.”); on the other, she accepted nothing we said.

    “Oh, finally people able to appreciate my great insights”…?

  226. @Bathrobe, it is convenient to insult people when you are on the home ground and are a larger group – and be humble otherwise.

  227. @DE, Zulu is “Sanskrit of Bantu”.

  228. @Bathrobe, about being humble and authority.

    in my culture (by which I simply mean the culture I grew up in) it is inappropriate, of course, to come in your house and insult you (which Sophie did not do) but it is entirely appropriate to start a debate about some abstract matter. It is somewhat different in some other cultures I know.

    I must admit that arguments are not the most efficient way to find truth. Collaborative discussions are much more productive. But they are considered normal and overconfidence is acceptable.

    So, if you write something that seems illogical to me, I may say : “but it is illogical, because ….”. And it does NOT mean, that I think that I am right. Maybe you are right, but used a wrong argument. Or maybe your point is different. Or maybe your argument is very logical, I just misunderstood it. Even when I believe that it is me who is wrong or confused, I can still argue with you. It is an indirect request to explain where I am wrong.

    It has to do with the practice of teaching mathematics: students trust their professors, but students are expected to present their reasoning. The idea is that if a student is right than the professor will see it (it happens, and the professor says “I am an idiot”) and if a student is wrong it will be easier to see where she makes a mistake.
    And no authorities, sorry.

    I am not saying that Sophie is willing to admit that she is wrong. Many of my friends who engage in arguments aren’t, especially those who did not study mathematics (mathematics is where your mistakes are obvious).

    Just that her behaviour seems acceptable to me.
    —–
    Romanians are a different matter: if you feel the need to confront Sophie, it is the right thing to do.

  229. Once somene boasted that his students (then 8th grade) trust him so much that they will call him мудак when he deserves. I asked, what, even girls? (the girls I knew back then did not use such words:)). He said yes. I offered a wager, so we went to school and met a happy red-hired little girl on the stairs.
    “Am I мудак?” “No” “The answer is incorrect…”, “А, тогда мудак!” said she.

    Now she’s one of my best freinds and I tend to tell everyone that the first word I ever heard from her is “мудак!”.

    I was spoiled. I know that CHinese education is more progressive….

  230. David Eddyshaw says

    Zulu is “Sanskrit of Bantu”

    Dear me, no, drasvi!

    You mean “Sanskrit is the Zulu of Indo-European” (and the retroflex consonants are its clicks …)

    мудак

    The site does wonders for my Russian vocabulary.

  231. From a little girl with happy/cheerful intonation sounds good.

  232. Just that her behaviour seems acceptable to me.

    I thought she came in with a rather stupid attitude, spruiking her credentials, acting as if she were an expert. The “combative attitude towards ‘authority’” I referred to was an apparent belief that she knew better than all the “linguists”. Her attitude to Etienne was ridiculous — it was clear that he had a lot of knowledge and experience — and only broke down once when, after dismissing him contemptuously, she came back and admitted that he might actually have a point. It was the cocksure attitude and the belief that she knew better than everyone else that irked me.

    At any rate, I was the first one to let off a fully-primed salvo against her, after she dismissed my reading of that popular website. I did go as far as to say she was a “flat-earther”, which was unkind. But she brought it on herself. When you walk into a community which includes competent linguists, it’s advisable not to be so aggressive and dismissive of other people. A less abrasive, more outwardly humble attitude would have gone a long way. (And yes, her nationalist contempt of Romanians really did irk me.)

    Maybe she’ll come back again, all guns blazing, but frankly I don’t think it’s worth engaging with her any further.

  233. Strangely, I agree with both drasvi and Bathrobe. I would be perfectly happy to engage in a friendly fashion with Sophie if she came back and acted more civilized, but I am also quite sure that won’t happen because she is in fact like a flat-earther. (Note to Sophie: please come back and act more civilized, and I will happily apologize!)

  234. David Eddyshaw says

    Lyubov Sova

    She does seem quite spry for 85:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICIgfpnxwiA

    I had hoped to track her down at least as a reference in works on Bantu noun classes and semantics, but no luck so far, e.g.

    https://kb.osu.edu/bitstream/handle/1811/81826/WPL_19_September_1975_142.pdf
    https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_1005593/component/file_1005592/content

    On the other hand, one suspects that very few Western Bantuists can read Russian.

  235. Here’s a good example of the rare civilized-return event, the (in)famous MetaFilter post in which a woman who went by MiHail complained about a grocery store checker who was unable to identify a portobello mushroom. When people mocked her for her elitism, editorializing, and poor posting habits, she lashed out: “rxrfrx and codswallop, you are complete twits. Spelling “America” as “amerika” was DELIBERATE. Maybe you could get a job. As a checker at a grocery store.” Naturally, this led to a pile-on full of excellent snark like:

    Listen – I’m not American, I’m middle-class and I’m very well educated. I even know how to spell Portobello. And I couldn’t identify a Portobello Mushroom if I spent a romantic weekend in Paris with one, got married and had lots of little Portobello Mushroom children that I had to support by toiling for twenty years down the Portobello Mushroom mines.

    But then she came back and started sounding much more likeable (e.g.), and the collective response was eventually “We accept her, we accept her — one of us, one of us!” (paraphrased). So it can happen.

    (I posted about the word portobello in 2004 and 2007.)

  236. Trond Engen says

    I wish she would come back and explain her understanding of “Analytical Linguistics” in a less handwavy manner. Now I imagine that she got her concepts of linguistics from Lyubov Sova, be it from a guest lecture, a popular lecture, or a non-academic article, in which Sova explains the revolutionary nature of her all-encompassing and mathematical approach. Armed with that — as conceived through her own thoughts about language, with little understanding of Sova’s actual methods and body of work, and with no exposure to linguistics in general — Sophie believes she got it all.

  237. pdf of Sova’s Analytical Linguistics.

    Methodologically mathematics is extremely simple. One puts forward a proposition and then proves it. That’s it. No messy experiments, no contradictory results from two lines of research, no models that fit data well, but make no logical sense. There are occasional wonders like irrational numbers, Gibbs phenomenon, incompleteness theorem, but it’s not like the difficulty is methodological.

  238. David Eddyshaw says

    “Under certain conditions, present, for instance, in the Bantu languages, it is possible to describe verbal activity and the language that it gives rise to as a system “unwinding” out of one element.”

    Of course! Why have I never seen this before? But there is more:

    The application of this model to specific languages shows that during the formation of verbal consciousness, the notion of chaos acts as the initial unit of the plane of content; its binarization leads to the notions of light and
    darkness. Based on these, the contradistinction between airy-watery and solid substances is formed; from the contradictions within the notion of solids, the designation celestial solids in opposition to terrestrial solids is formed,
    binarization of the concept of airy-watery substances results in separation of the concept about water from that of about air, etc., etc. until all the elements of our vocabulary are created.

    In other words, examination of the Bantu languages makes it possible to conclude that speech activity in phylogeny and ontogeny arise in the form of multi-focus sounds, not broken down into separate sounds and not
    differentiated according to the position of the speech organs or the nature of breathing. Both the meaning and the form of these exclamations are generalized to the utmost, which is not in keeping with current notions.

    How I displayed my intellectual limitations in supposing that I might find references to Sova’s work in mere treatises on the semantic content of Bantu noun classes! She transcends such arbitrary categories …

    Further on, there are some very pretty diagrams, and also matrices. Chomsky doesn’t have any matrices. Take that, Noam!

    [She has quite a thing about grammatical agreement, which (I think) gets elevated into a Fundamental Principle of Thought; this probably explains much of the fixation on Zulu.]

  239. @Sophie:

    Throughout the 18th century, ‘Rumanian’ literature was in the Church Slavonic written by Moldovian clergy.

    I have to wonder if this is even true. There were no other Romanian works prior to the 19th century?

    WikiP (Romanian language):

    The oldest extant document written in Romanian remains Neacșu’s letter (1521) and was written using the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet, which was used until the late 19th century. The letter is oldest testimony of Romanian epistolary style and uses a prevalent lexis of Romanic origin.[15]

    In Palia de la Orăștie (1582), first known translation from the Bible in Romanian, stands written “we printed … in the Vlach’s language … Romanian The Five Books of Moses … and we gift them to you Romanian brothers … to you righteous of faith Vlachs”[16]

    [ . . . ]

    The earliest surviving writing in Latin script was a late 16th-century Transylvanian text which was written with the Hungarian alphabet conventions.

    [ . . . ]

    Both the name of rumână or rumâniască for the Romanian language and the self-designation rumân/român are attested as early as the 16th century, by various foreign travelers into the Carpathian Romance-speaking space,[17] as well as in other historical documents written in Romanian at that time such as Cronicile Țării Moldovei [ro] (The Chronicles of the land of Moldova) by Grigore Ureche.

    [ . . . ]

    Dimitrie Cantemir, in his Descriptio Moldaviae (Berlin, 1714), points out that the inhabitants of Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania spoke the same language. He notes, however, some differences in accent and vocabulary.[30] Cantemir’s work provides one of the earliest histories of the language, in which he notes, like Ureche before him, the evolution from Latin and notices the Greek and Polish borrowings. Additionally, he introduces the idea that some words must have had Dacian roots. Cantemir also notes that while the idea of a Latin origin of the language was prevalent in his time, other scholars considered it to have derived from Italian.

    The slow process of Romanian establishing itself as an official language, used in the public sphere, in literature and ecclesiastically, began in the late 15th century and ended in the early decades of the 18th century, by which time Romanian had begun to be regularly used by the Church. The oldest Romanian texts of a literary nature are religious manuscripts (Codicele Voronețean, Psaltirea Scheiană), translations of essential Christian texts.

    [ . . . ]

    The Modern age of Romanian language starts in 1780 with the printing in Viena of a very important grammar book[32] titled Elementa linguae daco-romanae sive valachicae. The author of the book, Samuil Micu Klein, and the revisor, Gheorghe Șincai, both members of the Transylvanian School, chose to use Latin as the language of the text and presented the phonetical and grammatical features of Romanian in comparison to its ancestor.

    So there’s centuries of works, written in and about the Romanian language that Sophie either was completely ignorant of, or less charitably, knew of but deliberately and dishonestly refused to mention.

    Sophie:

    In the early 19th Century, the movement led by Ion Eliade (Radulescu) produced a dictionary of Rumanian words that excluded all Slavic words.

    And did Rădulescu actually in fact exclude all Slavic words from his dictionary, and if he did, how much did it even matter to the rest of Romanians? WikiP does say that he introduced many Italian terms, and even went so far as to claim that Romanian was a form of Italian

    But the language as it was and is spoken has many non-Romance loanwords (Romanian lexis is another linked page of interest), so I am not sure what effect this exclusion would have had.

    WikiP:

    The literary critic George Călinescu also connected Heliade’s experimentation to his Russophobia, in turn reflecting his experiences as a revolutionary: “Hating Slavism and the Russians, who had striven to underline [Slavic influences in Romanian], he said to himself that he was to serve his motherland by discarding all Slavic vestiges”.[63] Călinescu notably attributed Heliade’s inconsistency to his “autodidacticism”, which, he contended, was responsible for “[his] casual implication in all issues, the unexpected move from common sense ideas to the most insane theories”.[66]

    Overall, Heliade’s experiments had marginal appeal, and their critics (Eminescu included) contrasted them with Heliade’s own tenets.[63][64] Late in his life, Heliade seems to have acknowledged this, notably writing: “This language, as it is written today by people who can speak Romanian, is my work”.

    Heh. The sentence, in isolation and without context, is ambiguously enough phrased that it does look like it could be taken as meaning that Romanian is his personally created conlang. (Does the Romanian for “work” also have the alternate meaning of “creation”; something he actually made himself?)

  240. Re blanket snark directed at humanities folks in general and Comp. Lit. folks in particular: I, in fact, have my doctorate in Comp. Lit. To be sure, I was already writing my dissertation when Derrida was translated, and I immediately spotted all that as nonsense, if only because I had an undergraduate STEM background and enough linguistics to know what Saussure was really about. (In fact, I started grad school intending to take a minor in linguistics, but in IU’s then echt-Chomskyan department–well, I’ve told that horror story before.)

  241. David Eddyshaw says

    “If our brain were tripartite (not two hemispheres, but three sections), it would seem that language units would be perceived by researchers not as signs consisting of signifieds/signifiers and the connections between them (“triangles”) but as “hexagons”, each of which has three parts and three links between them. The diversity that arises in this case is characterized by different kinds of modal logic.”

    Obvious, really, once it’s been pointed out.

    My theory is that this work was in fact generated by an AI.

  242. And did Rădulescu actually in fact exclude all Slavic words from his dictionary, and if he did, how much did it even matter to the rest of Romanians?

    English Wiki doesn’t mention that Heliade-Rădulescu produced any dictionary at all. People do produce some whimsical dictionaries sometimes. I have heard about but cannot quickly find a reference of a dictionary produced by some established late 19 – early 20c. Ukrainian scholar (that is well before current state of Ukrainian independence led to all sorts of nationalistic craziness) of Ukrainian words not shared with Russian. I guess if it excluded words common with Polish and non-standard Russian as well that would make for a very thin work indeed. Then Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn produced Russian dictionary of language expansion (Русский словарь языкового расширения, that’s a strange word order which begs the question of whether there are any other dictionaries of “language expansion”) in an attempt to reintroduce some of the words he found in Dahl into contemporary Russian.

  243. chaos … binarization leads to the notions of light and darkness … airy-watery and solid … celestial solids in opposition to terrestrial solids

    My immediate thought was, isn’t this directly from the book of Genesis? Sure enough, Sova not only cites Genesis, but goes on to explain that various mythologies from Central America and Africa are exactly the same story.

  244. Stu Clayton says

    an AI

    Pathetic fallacy creep ! Might as well come straight out and say IA (Intelligent Alien).

    Throughout history the notion of “intelligence” has usually been inextricably connected with the notion of “person”. The notion of AI (following on that of machine) was an attempt to break the bonds, and yet now people talk about “an AI” as capable of acting and/or … functioning ?

  245. @DE, fortunately, it is an example that does not reflect her views on tripartite brain.

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