Learning some similar languages

Easterner   Friday, December 03, 2004, 08:59 GMT
Tiffany said: >>Maybe they don't take into account Romanian because it's a bastard mix of Latin and Slavic?<<

There is a lot of Slavic in it indeed, but I would say it is a Latin language in a Slavic garb, like a Latina woman wearing a Slavic folk costume, which I would think would be a very interesting combination. :-) This sounds a lot better than "bastard mix", doesn't it? By the whe way, I'm originally from Serbia, and I recognize a lot of Slavic words in Romanian too, because they used to cohabit with Slavic settlers in the early middle ages, before they migrated to present-day Romania (where they also found some Slavs, by the way), and they even wrote with Cyrillic script up to the 19th century. It even has some ties with Albanian, arising from a common Illyrian ancestry...

About "fac"... lol, it must have been embarrassing :-). By the way, the infinitive is "a face", like "to make", not "facere", "-re" or "-ire" are suffixes for nouns created out of verbs. E.g. "a se intalni" is "to meet", and "intalnire" is a meeting or a get-together.
Alberto Dibrasku   Friday, December 03, 2004, 11:21 GMT

la dracu!
nic   Friday, December 03, 2004, 13:08 GMT
As a french person, the 1st time i heard romanian, i noticed it did not look like a slavic language. Too many "la" "de" like you can find some in spanish, french, italian...

At least you can hear some words close to french like "gendarme" or italian. In fact Romanian looks like italian with an italo-slavic accent.

I don't know anything about slavic culture, i can't identify who's czeh, slovenian, serbian, polish, russian or ukrainian... but i can definitely identify someone who's romanian.

Some romanians told me they absolutly don't identify themselves as slavic but as latin people like italians, spanish, french, portuguese consider themselves.
Tiffany   Friday, December 03, 2004, 18:57 GMT
Nic - it's very true they identify as Latin. My fiance's boss is also Romanian and we have become very close to him and his wife. It's absolutely amazing that they can understand us when we speak Italian, but we understand absolutely nothing they say more than a few words!

Easterner - it's interesting that it is the NOUNS that end in -ire or -re. Opposite obviously in Italian. I wonder if that is a Slavic trait. I'd love to learn Romanian, but perhaps after I finish learning Italian (which will be never, since there is always something more to learn!)

I never read your history, but you write like a native (or at least you use all the right phrases!). Although one thing I noticed... I hope you don't mind me pointing it out, it's either Latina or Latin woman :)
Linguist   Friday, December 03, 2004, 20:20 GMT
I can advise you to learn any slavic languege, then you ll be able to understand all of them, as they are very similar. Possibly Russian shares both lexicon west ans east, so it s quite useful in East Europe and then other slavs were learning it at school in socialist times, so you will feel free:)
Goran   Monday, December 06, 2004, 22:29 GMT
I have been told that Slovak language is like an "esperanto" among slavic languages. If you speak and understand it you will be able to understand a good portion of other slavic languages. Is it true?
The same is with Catalonian language. It helps you to understand Italian, French and Portuguese. Of course all the catalonian speakers also speak and understand perfectly Spanish :)
By the way I'm Spanish living in Barcelona but I was born in former Yugoslavia. :)
Brennus   Monday, December 06, 2004, 23:11 GMT

I remember reading an article on Slovak in Colliers Encyclopedia years ago which said that it formed a bridge between Czech, Sorbian and Polish in the West and Ukrainian and Russian in the East. It also formed another bridge to the South Slavonic languages: Slovenian, Serbo-Croation & Bulgarian. Colliers is an authoritative encyclopedia so I guess that's true.

Catalan is midway between Castillian (Spanish) and French possibly because many of Charlemagne's soldiers came there to fight the Saracens (Moors) in the 9th century A.D. and stayed there permanently. If you compare just the expression FeliƧ Aniversari "Happy Birthday" with Spanish Feliz cumpleaƱos and French Bon Anniversaire and you see that it falls right smack dab in the middle between the two. Many more examples abound. The language has some links to the North Italian dialects too as in Catalan cavall "horse" and Italian cavallo (But French cheval and Spanish caballo). This is probably because in additon to having strong contacts with France, Catalonia also had strong contacts with the Italian city state of Genoa during the Middle Ages.
Brennus   Monday, December 06, 2004, 23:18 GMT
Serbo-Croation should be Serbo-Croatian
Goran   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 00:10 GMT
Thanks for that Brennus ! :) Where are you from?
Brennus   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 06:07 GMT

Goran... You're welcome. I was born in Washington D.C. but have lived most of my life on the west coast of the U.S., especially in the Seattle area. Good Luck!
Easterner   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 07:45 GMT
Goran said: >>I have been told that Slovak language is like an "esperanto" among slavic languages. If you speak and understand it you will be able to understand a good portion of other slavic languages.<<

This is true. I learnt Slovak for one year and now I can understand much of Czech and Polish, and something of Ukrainian too (I learnt Russian independently, so that's a different story). The link with the South Slavic languages is less apparent, but it is still there. Mind you, of course this doesn't mean I can speak all these languages, I just understand much of them when I hear them or see a written text. By the way, as I know, Slovak developed quite late as a separate language from three Slavic dialects spoken in present-day Slovakia, and it was standardised in the 19th century. On the other hand, it is also interesting that Moravia, the first Slavic principality also covered the territory of the Moravian part of Czechia and present-day West Slovakia, and Moravian princes contributed a lot to the development of the Old Slavic literary language, so Moravia can be seen as the fountain-head of Slavic literary culture.
Jordi   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 08:04 GMT
As a native Catalan speaker and a qualified Catalan linguist I'm quite surprised at your explanation on my everyday language. Catalan is the evolution of Latin as it was spoken in this part of the Roman Empire, or Tarraconensis province. It is very close to the varieties spoken in the Narbonensis province, explaining why it is close to Occitan but not quite the same (with some important differences in syntax). It has a central position (as Occitan also has) in the southern Latin continuum and it is very conservative, explaining why written Catalan has similarities to all the other languages around it. Lexicon is mainly Gallo-romanic explaining its similarity to Occitan and French. I suggest a visit to any other specialised web. Catalonia was a medieval Mediterranean political power and contacts were even stronger with places like Naples or even Athens (a Catalan colony for a short while). Genoa was, of course, our rival. As a Mediterranean country it does have Hellenisms (Greek) and Italianisms, but more in the lexicon and often in nautical terms. Spanish also has hundreds of Catalanisms, specially in the world of the sea and, even, agriculture; so we actually were the belt that passed on all that knowledge inland. Hardly surprising if you realise Castilian Spanish is, originally, an inland language. State languages haven't always been present State languages and minor Romance languages have an evolution of their own and some quite an important history. Catalan was the only official language of the Catalan-speaking countries of Spain until the ealy 18th century. This means that Spain, as we know it today, didn't exist.
We, of course had Germanic Invasions, who did remain amongst us long before Charlemagne arrived and that explains why Catalan has more Germanisms or even Celtisms than any other Iberian language, and the Germanic and Alpine influence is still to be seen in quite a few faces. To be fair, it also happened all over Northern Spain but even more here.
Catalan has also been influenced by Castilian Spanish in the past few centuries although the literary language has far less Hispanisms than the spoken language. Many of these Hispanisms are disappearing again since Catalan became an official language after he death of Franco. An example would be "cercar" (Medieval Catalan and Balearic Catalan) and "buscar" in most contemporary Catalan although an "Internet searcher" is now a "cercador" and never a "buscador". People in small towns and villages tend to speaker more conservative Catalan than people in the bigger cities.
It's a long story but things tend to be much more complicated than a few soldiers coming over for a battle or two. After all, children tend to speak and learn more with their mothers than their fathers and Catalonia was heavily romanised. Last but not least, the medieval Moorish influence in Catalan was much lesser than in other Iberian languages (Castilian Spanish has over 4.000 words of Arabic origin).
Brennus   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 08:22 GMT


Everything you say is generally true but Catalonia's modern history really begins as Charlemagne's "Spanish March" (Marche de l'Espagne) a bulwark he established against the Moors toward the end of the 8th century A.D.

Between 400 A.D. and 800 A.D historical sources are virtually silent and we don't really know much about was happening in Spain at that time. This is why one 19th century French historian referred to this time period as "The Dark Ages".
Jordi   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 10:06 GMT
Obviously, Catalan as a language could only start after the fall of the Roman Empire and the "Dark Ages" (a beautiful book I received in English when I was 10 years old had a full chapter under that name.)
People in the 5th century still spoke some sort of Vulgar Latin and this can't be said, any longer, in the 8th century. When Karl the Great's troops (his mother tongue was after all Germanic) arrived in Catalonia, at the end of the 8th century, people already spoke a form a pre-literary Catalan or evolved Latin. Our first written texts date from the 10th century and this is why Catalan celebrated a thousand years as a language a few years ago. Does that mean people woke up one day speaking Catalan? Certainly not! The fact is contemporary Catalan speakers can read the Medieval language with quite good ease since evolution has been moderate and our teenagers learn our great Medieval literature in the original (Raimon Llull, from Mallorca, (13th c.) or Tirant lo Blanc (15th c.) due to the Valencian writer Joanot Martorell.) Nothing to do with Old English and Contemporary English. The only thing our students use is a short glossary.
Hispania was the name Romans gave the Iberian peninsula (including Portugal) and Spain evolves from that name. It is quite usual for Medieval Catalan kings to say they are Spanish kings, following the old Roman tradition. Hispania was a geographic concept.
Unfortunately, both Castille and its language have usurped the name and would want us believe they are the first heirs of Rome in this part of the world. They now call their language Spanish as if the rest of languages in Hispania weren't also Spanish. We have always called it "castellano" since Castille is the place where it was spoken first. Luckily, the Portuguese got away from all that (nobody would call them Spanish or, even less, Castilians) and others are still struggling to defend what is as much theirs as anyone else. The fact is over 8 million people speak Catalan, almost as many as Modern Greek...
Easterner   Tuesday, December 07, 2004, 10:44 GMT
Just a remark to my previous post: it is perhaps not fully correct to claim that present-day Slovaks are direct descendants of Moravians, although the area of present-day Slovakia remained a predominantly Slavic one in spite of forming a part of the Kingdom of Hungary for about 1000 years, but other Slavic (e.g. Polish) settlers also came there in the course of time. The Slovak language took some time to develop, and it became literary around the 18th century (it has close ties with the Moravian variant of Czech from the west, and with the Ruthenian variant of Ukrainian from the east, while the literary language is based on the central dialect). The name of the people and the language originally means "Slavic", same as with "Slovenian" or "Slovene" (the Slovenian areas used to form part of Austria up until the end of WWI, when Yugoslavia was created).