I posted about Wikitongues back in 2013, but it was pretty new then, and I wasn’t especially impressed. Seven years later, it’s clearly a going concern and has a much wider variety of videos and speakers, and I’m considerably more impressed. Their About page says “Around the world, people from hundreds of cultures are finding ways to amplify their voices, defying the assumption that globalization can’t be inclusive”; you can start digging into their videos here — the Texas German one sounds mighty Texan! (Via misteraitch’s MeFi post.)

Also, Victor Mair at the Log posted an eight-minute video by “Josh” (apparently Joshua Rudder) on how we know (some of) what what he calls Middle Chinese and Mair calls Middle Sinitic sounded like — nothing especially new to anyone who knows anything about the subject, but it’s fun to see the old rhyme tables and have the various elements explained. There’s more in the comments, where David Marjanović links to Wikipedia’s useful Reconstructions of Old Chinese article.


  1. I wonder whether Stu knows any of those Texas Germans. There’s a Basil Fawlty type holding up a sign at a hotel saying “WELCOME GERMAN SPEAKERS” as if to say “I don’t like to do it myself, but nevertheless…”

  2. Yes, I’m hoping Stu will weigh in.

  3. J.W. Brewer says

    Texas is a very very big place. I believe Stu grew up near El Paso, which is approximately 500 miles west of the German Urheimat, or even further depending on whether you think of Fredericksburg or New Braunfels as the Hauptstadt.

  4. But Texans always love talking about Texas.

  5. John Cowan says

    “If he’s from Texas, he’ll tell you; if not, why embarrass him?”

  6. John Cowan says

    Ben Franklin wrote a short essay on the subject which he put into his memoirs:


    It is commonly asserted, that without self-denial there is no virtue, and that the greater the self-denial the greater the virtue.

    If it were said that he who cannot deny himself anything he inclines to, though he knows it will be to his hurt, has not the virtue of resolution or fortitude, it would be intelligible enough; but, as it stands, it seems obscure or erroneous.

    Let us consider some of the virtues singly.

    If a man has no inclination to wrong people in his dealings, if he feels no temptation to it, and, therefore, never does it, can it be said that he is not a just man? If he is a just man, has he not the virtue of justice?

    If to a certain man idle diversions have nothing in them that is tempting, and, therefore, he never relaxes his application to business for their sake, is he not an industrious man? Or has he not the virtue of industry?

    I might in like manner instance in all the rest of the virtues; but, to make the thing short, as it is certain that the more we strive against the temptation to any vice, and practise the contrary virtue, the weaker will that temptation be, and the stronger will be that habit, till at length the temptation has no force or entirely vanishes; does it follow from thence that, in our endeavours to overcome vice, we grow continually less and less virtuous, till at length we have no virtue at all?

    If self-denial be the essence of virtue, then it follows that the man who is naturally temperate, just, &c., is not virtuous; but that, in order to be virtuous, he must, in spite of his natural inclination, wrong his neighbours, and eat, and drink, &c., to excess.

    But perhaps it may be said, that by the word virtue in the above assertion is meant merit; and so it should stand thus: Without self-denial there is no merit, and the greater the self-denial the greater the merit.

    The self-denial here meant must be when our inclinations are towards vice, or else it would still be nonsense.

    By merit is understood desert; and when we say a man merits, we mean that he deserves praise or reward.

    We do not pretend to merit anything of God, for he is above our services; and the benefits he confers on us are the effects of his goodness and bounty.

    All our merit, then, is with regard to one another, and from one to another.

    Taking, then, the assertion as it last stands,

    If a man does me a service from a natural benevolent inclination, does he deserve less of me than another, who does me the like kindness against his inclination?

    If I have two journeymen, one naturally industrious, the other idle, but both perform a day’s work equally good, ought I to give the latter the most wages?

    Indeed, lazy workmen are commonly observed to be more extravagant in their demands than the industrious; for, if they have not more for their work, they cannot live as well. But though it be true to a proverb that lazy folks take the most pains, does it follow that they deserve the most money?

    If you were to employ servants in affairs of trust, would you not bid more for one you knew was naturally honest than for one naturally roguish, but who has lately acted honestly? For currents, whose natural channel is dammed up till the new course is by time worn sufficiently deep and become natural, are apt to break their banks. If one servant is more valuable than another, has he not more merit than the other? and yet this is not on account of superior self-denial.

    Is a patriot not praiseworthy if public spirit is natural to him?

    Is a pacing-horse less valuable for being a natural pacer?

    Nor, in my opinion, has any man less merit for having, in general, natural virtuous inclinations.

    The truth is, that temperance, justice, charity, &c, are virtues, whether practised with or against our inclinations; and the man who practises them merits our love and esteem; and self-denial is neither good nor bad but as it is applied. He that denies a vicious inclination, is virtuous in proportion to his resolution; but the most perfect virtue is above all temptation; such as the virtue of the saints in heaven; and he who does a foolish, indecent, or wicked thing, merely because it is contrary to his inclination (like some mad enthusiasts I have read of, who ran about naked, under the notion of taking up the cross), is not practising the reasonable science of virtue, but is a lunatic.

  7. In light of the discussion about Scots, I thought that the Shetlandic episode was interesting.

    Shetlandic is its own thing, not the same as standard Scots. Shetland spoke a Nordic language until a few centuries ago. As it happens, I’ve been reading a lot about Shetland lately, and took a particular interest in that video.

    One little item I read recently was about the Shetland fiddle tune called “Oot Be Est da Vong”. Whatever can that mean?

    It turns out that “Oot Be Est da Vong” is a well-known fishing ground that is just east of a rock in the sea called “da Vong”, which is supposed to look like a tooth. “Vong” is a Shetland word for tooth, similar to “fang”.

    I’ve seen mention of Walls, which according to her is not Walls at all, but a mistake by the Ordnance Survey. It certainly wouldn’t be the first.

    Previously I thought it was connected to the subject of a TV show I saw–there’s a massive Neolithic stone wall in Shetland 4 km long. But that is something entirely different.

    Another interesting cultural snippet is that the Hudson’s Bay Company used to recruit extensively from Orkney and Shetland, back into the 17th c., so some traditional cultural practices may survive among the Inuit around Hudson’s Bay. One example (perhaps a bit disputed) is the box fiddle.

    If we ever get to travel again, that would be a place I’d like to go. (Shetland I mean, not Hudson’s Bay so much.)

  8. maidhc, if you’re nearby (ish) the Faroes might also be worth a visit, especially if you like puffins.

  9. When I was in Texas in 1969, an older woman from New Braunfels came up to me at a function and said, “Vell howdy deah! How iss you-oll?” I now think this was probably a put-on for obvious furriners, but there it is.

  10. John Cowan says

    Shetlandic is its own thing, not the same as standard Scots.

    It definitely is. I’m about to write a general rant on Scots at the other post, but two obvious features are the change of voiced th everywhere to d and the full preservation of the second person singular, so that the ordinary word for ‘you’ sg., is du. More details on Shaelan (the language); John M. Tait’s “Shetland and Scots in Standard Scots, or Tait’s approximation of it; Tait’s “Sheltie Prattle an da Blue Lowe [flame]”, a panto-cum-morality-tale mostly in Shaetlan using Tait’s orthography, which needs to make distinctions that Standard Scots doesn’t and can’t. There’s a glossary for Shaetlan words that are not shared with either English or Scots.

  11. Yes, the Shetlandic one is really great; I think I posted a random comment about it here some months ago after watching and really enjoying it.

  12. here for more direct reference is john m. tait’s website on all manner of things scots-ish, which is one of my favorite things i was introduced to through this site:

    invaluable reading for anyone interested in languages that are small, threatened, endangered, or being actively ‘preserved’ – or really, any languages.

    more easily accessible if you speak scots (i don’t), but plenty in english or a combination. and (like much of the writing af yidish on yiddish) a great example of what’s possible when a language is taken seriously enough to be used for analytic writing about itself and its situation in the world.

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