28 September 2007

A few tidbits for you Anglophones and a lot of linguistics for the Francophones

This post won't be very interesting unless you speak French, because I'm going to put in a lot of linguistic trivia that can't be translated. But first the anglophone news:

Two recommendations:
- Go to your library (or just search YouTube) and find some music by Tri Yann. It's a Breton/French folk group which was founded in the early 1970s by three guys names Jean, Jean-Paul, and Jean-Lous hence the Breton name: "Three Johns." Some songs will remind you of Peter, Paul, and Mary, some will remind you of old Irish music, which makes sense because Breton is a Celtic language and the cultures have a lot of similarities. So don't be surprised if one track has bagpipes and the next has electric guitars! All of the music is really fun, and most is very cheerful. You'll like it even if you don't speak French. Or Breton.

- If you like herbal tea, Lipton makes an infusion which is probably called "Marocco" in English. It's mint-spice "tea," and I like it a lot. It comes in what they call pyramid-shaped teabags, but they're actually tetrahedrons. Nonetheless, the teabag shape is entertaining.

Progress in Dutch
We learned the alphabet and did some more pronunciation, and did a lot of practice. Our language teacher seems to have the same philosophy as the Russians: "повторение мать учения," repetition is the mother of learning. It's becoming easier to see how Dutch is related to Middle and Old English. With Dutch pronunciation, you'd actually pronounce a word spelled "knight" [knixt], like it was once pronounced in English (that's kneexxt, pronouncing the k and with the x as a guttural sound).
See you later, unilingual folk. Remember, though, "Knowing only one language is a handicap: one only sees the world in one way."

Francophones rejoice! Trivia abounds below.
- in French, reading silently while moving your lips is "oraliser," not "lire en bougeant les lèvres" or however you want to try to say it.
There are three main reasons why French spelling is a nightmare:
- French is a very "inégal" language: there are no phonemes represented by a single letter (the s sound can be written s, ss, c, ls, ti, ç, x, sc, cc, tz, or st) and no letter is pronounced in one single way all the time.
- In the middle ages, there was confusion because a word could be pronounced multiple ways depending on the meaning. For example, PIE could be pronounced [pi] or [pie], so they added a d when it meant foot, to make reading easier.
- My favorite: ever wonder why there are so many silent Ls at the ends of words? Outil, fil, and so on. Turns out that public scribes were paid by the letter, so they liked to up their salary by changing spelling slightly. That also can account for some of the places where you're got "au" instead of a simple "o."
- The city of Metz is pronounced "mess." Why? "On dit /mess/ au lieu de /metz/ parce que les gens de /metz/ seraient des "metzains." (pun, since it sounds like the word for doctor)
- One of the reasons we need spelling is to make communication easier. Our professor gave an example of a "polysémie syntaxique avec déplacement de frontières" that she heard on the radio. The news program was telling the outcome of the trial of a German man who had been charged with some serious crime. However, it was decided that he wasn't "solidement allemand." Quoi?!? Oh-- "solide mentalement." Big difference. However, in writing or reading you'd never make that mistake.
- A punny advertisement that could end up confusing children: "Votre pharmacien à un réponse à toux." (toux means a cough)

Finally, a poem written by the famous poet Verlaine, to his friend Duvigneaux who was a proponent of adopting a more phonetic spelling system. I don't think this is the whole poem, but it's all I could find through Google. Vous devrez oraliser ce poème, impossible de lire normalement!

É coi vréman, bon duvignô,
Vous zôci dou ke lé zagnô,
Et meïeur ke le pin con manj,
Vous metr'an ce courou zétranj?

Contr(e) ce tâ de brav(e) jan
O fon plus bête que méchan
Drapan leur linguistic étic
Dans l'ortograf(e) fonétic ?

Kel ir(e) donc vous zembala ?
Vi zavi de cé zoizola [HA!!! That's my favorite.]
Sufi d'une parol(e) verde.

Et pour leur prouvé san déba
Kil é dé mo ke n'atin pa
Leur sistem(e), dison-leur :.... !

O revwar, me zami! Ke votr(e) wi ken çe pas bie.

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