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The Language Thread

Old Thunder

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Inspired by the What Made You Think Today? thread, in which @fuzzygobo wrote the following:
In the Spanish alphabet, there are only five vowels: A,E,I,O, and U.

There is a Y, but not used too often.
The “y” sound we use in “yellow” is used in Spanish with “LL” as in “LLAMA “. (pronounced “ya/ma”, not “la/ma”).

English alphabet has 26 letters.
Spanish has 29.
Add CH as in “churro”
RR as in “burrito”.
n^ (should be over the n) as in “ban^o”.
and LL.
And in Spanish, there is no W.

Takes notes, there might be a quiz later.
...and I followed up with:
While ch, rr, and ll have traditionally been considered separate letters, they have lately been labeled as digraphs - two letters which together make a distinct sound, like how ch is used in English.

Let’s look at the German alphabet. There are a solid number of digraphs as well, but as far as the alphabet goes, it incorporates the classic English twenty-six, plus four bonus letters.

Ää • Öö • Üü • ẞß

I’ll focus on the last letter because it would be hard to explain the other three through text. Eszett’s name combines the name for S and the name for Z in German. The letter is actually a ligature — two letters that got written together — as it evolved over time from ſs and ſz to ß. (S used to have three forms: Sſs.) ß represents the ss sound common in English in words like bless, and in German in words like groß.

For the longest time, ß only existed in lower case. When a word was written in all-caps, it was replaced by SS. A capital ß was finally created some years back to solve the problem.

Now if we could bring it into English...

More letter info to come most likely. I could do this all day.
Alphabets happen to be a very serious special interest of mine, and our posts got me thinking about doing more breakdowns from around the world of language. Hence this thread! I shall be spamming information here so hopefully someone will take interest and join in! There’s a lot to unravel just from the Latin languages, but there are a plethora of other scripts out there that I’ll bring up as well. Enjoy the show.
 

fuzzygobo

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English is a fascinating language. It is spoken in more countries than any other, although more people speak some form of Chinese as their native tongue.

English has more rules and exceptions than any other language.

Spanish is a second language to me. From very early on, in my native town of Newark, NJ, I got exposed to Cuban and Puerto Rican tongues.

On Sesame Street, and later Carrascolendas and Vills Allegra, not only did my vocabulary expand, but also learning more about Spanish culture, especially Southwestern and Mexican lore.

Somewhere my parents have me a Cat in the Hat English/Spanish dictionary, so starting at age seven I could start putting sentences together.

Five years of Spanish in middle school, high school, and college. Aced it. Still sucked at math, though.

Fifteen years at various jobs, knowing Spanish served me well.
I can go into quite a few neighborhoods in New York City and not look like a tourist. Knowing Spanish helped me assimilate with them, and not come off as some dumb gringo. A few decades of being eager to learn Spanish opened up quite a few doors.
 

D'Snowth

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English has more rules and exceptions than any other language.
It also doesn't help that English has so much slang and variations, which makes it one of the hardest languages to learn.

Speaking of which, this bit from I LOVE LUCY always springs into my mind when the subject of learning English comes up:
 

Old Thunder

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Is there anything you guys would like me to post about with this subject? If not, a breakdown of the Latin script will be heading your way shortly.
 

fuzzygobo

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I’ll share this with you. 20 years ago I worked for Toys R Us (You might have heard of them). I worked at one of six regional warehouses. Kinda like Amazon now.
On my shift, there were five hundred workers. Five white, five black, f490 Hispanic.
The misconception some had was just because I was white, they thought I didn’t know Spanish. The other white people, their grasp of Spanish was “Put el box-o in el truck-o”.
One day there were a couple Spanish guys hurling a few slurs my way, variations of honky and cracker, thinking I couldn’t understand them.
When I answered them back, the look on their face was priceless.

During my five years there, I got paid better than most. Not because I was white, but because I could speak Spanish. The same applies for those that could speak English.
Knowing Spanish definitely bridged a lot of gaps.
In 8th grade, we had to take a language. Some took French or German- a handful tried Latin, but by and large people chose Spanish. Little did I know how handy it became.
 

Old Thunder

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The Latin Script, Part I:
The Original Letters and Subsequent Additions

When we think about the Latin alphabet, we typically think of the classic English 26. However, the ancient Romans had only 23 letters in their Latin alphabet. Here they are:

A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T V X Y Z

As you’ll notice, there are three letters missing that were eventually added during the Middle Ages to help make things more readable and such.

J — Originally, a word with a j would iust be written with an i. I must say, the iudgement to add it to the script was quite iustified.

U — The u had to be added to the alphabet eventvally becavse it was very confvsing trying to distingvish between the v and the oo sovnds, as they were both ivst signified by the v.

W — In Latin, the w sovnd ivst straight-vp didn’t exist. In Old English, the sovnd ƿas represented by the letter ƿ, or “wynn”. Vnfortvnately, ƿ looked too similar to the letter p, so the decision to create the letter ƿe knoƿ of as “dovble-U” from tƿo v’s made sense. The name doesn’t, bvt the action did. VVovv.

FVRTHERMORE, IN LATIN THERE ǷERE NO LOǷERCASE LETTERS. THESE TOO ǷERE ADDED IN THE MIDDLE AGES. ISN’T IT MVCH EASIER TO READ THIS STVFF ǷITH THE SET-VP ǷE HAVE TODAY? CVZ IESVS CHRIST, THIS SVCKS.

So with three new letters and a set of lowercase characters added, the complete English 26, called the “ISO basic Latin alphabet” technically, were finalized as:

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

Noƿ that’s ivst ƿonderfvl.
 

D'Snowth

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“Put el box-o in el truck-o”.
Ah yes, even TV Tropes has a thing about that. . . .

 

Old Thunder

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The Latin Script, Part II:
The Diacritic Letters

Now beyond the ‘basic 26’, the Latin script has a world of color to be found in the alphabets that use it. To start with, diacritics are glyphs or marks added to existent Latin letters that we already use, to add distinct sounds. I’m gonna post all the diacritical letters my iPhone’s English keyboard allots me, and then explain what some of them do in other languages.

Àà Áá Ââ Ää Ãã Åå Āā
Çç Ćć Čč
Èè Éé Êê Ëë Ēē Ėė Ęę
Îî Ïï Íí Īī Įį Ìì
Łł
Ññ Ńń
Ôô Öö Òò Óó Øø Ōō Õõ
Śś Šš
Ûû Üü Ùù Úú Ūū
Ÿÿ
Žž Źź Żż

As you can see, typically the vowels have the most variants, but consonants can have diacritical marks as well. In fact, certain, more less common languages don’t even have their letters added to the English keyboard. The Azerbaijani alphabet, for instance, also has the diacritical letters İi, Ğğ, and Şş, and a few others already in the list above.

I shan’t break down every single diacritical letter here because that would be way too much information and I don’t even know all that myself, but here are some of them with their uses in certain languages.

Ää - German: basically if you the short sound of the American English “a” in “apple” and mix it with the short English “e” sound in “let”.

Ââ / Ãã - Portuguese: the closest sound in English is “uh”, like in “under”. When written with a circumflex (â), it’s the stressed syllable of the word it’s in. When written with a tilde (ã), that is not the case.

Åå - Swedish: the letter “o” in Swedish is actually pronounced like the “oo” in “loot”. The typical “oh” sound, like in the word “broke” is made by the letter “å”. The letter also appears in other languages, including Finnish, where it appeared thanks to being borrowed from Swedish.

Čč - Czech: makes the English “ch” sound of words like “chicken” and “chosen”.

Łł - Polish: makes the English “w” sound, like in “water”.

Ññ - Spanish: makes an “ny” sound, like in the phrase “seen you”. One of the more famous in America due to how important of a language Spanish is here.

Øø - Norwegian: makes an “eu” sound like in the French “bleu”. It’s like an “oo” but farther back in the mouth.

Öö - German: think “er” in “reader”. Now pronounce it the non-rhotic fashion, like in Britain (as in, don’t make that “r” at the end pronounced). That’s basically what “ö” sounds like.

Šš - Czech: makes the “sh” sound like in “ship”.

Üü - German: basically, make a long “e” sound, like in “sea”, but place it in your throat. That’s basically the “ü”.

Żż - Polish: sounds like the “s” sound in “measure”, typically transcribed in English as “zh”.

And finally: accent marks! When you have an accent mark, the letters aren’t separate letters at all, they’re just shown to be stressed. However, they still had to be transcribed to Unicode, and that’s why you can use “á” and such on your keyboard.

I would go further than this, but that’s enough information for this post I think. There’s plenty more to come though!
 
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