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I admit that this is a nonpolitical diary, but I have always been intrigued with language on some level. I am trying to learn new foreign languages. I want to speak obscure languages that only a few people in the world speak. I think that it would be cool to speak some obscure African language that no one else can understand.

More beneath the fold.

One of the tragedies in the world is that, as globalization starts to spread, languages are dying. Here in DC, at the Franciscan Monastery, you can find the "Hail Mary" and "Our Father" inscribed across the property in ancient and current languages. One ancient Gaelic language simply amounted to I's with slashes across them. I am curious as to how they made signs out of it. They also have that prayer in Ancient English, French, and other languages. It is interesting to see how English has evolved. Very ancient English sounds like nothing today's English.

I have heard that linguists have determined that Ethiopian is not related to any language in the world, as what taxi drivers from there have told me. They tell me that the language can't be connected to other languages, although it is considered a Semitic language.

I have heard that Sanskrit and Latin are related, but I don't know how. I wonder how they determined that. So I guess that the languages that descended from Sanskrit must be related. So French and some Indian languages must have distant relations? I am curious as to how they figured it out.

What I have also heard is tha Turkish and Korean and Japanese may be distantly related through the Altic family. I am curious as to how linguists trace language and how they determine similiarities. I do know that English and German are connected to each other.

I look at ancient Sumarian and Hieroglyphics. I wonder how people could make words and sounds out of pictures. I wonder how they learn how to pronounce it. It interests me that those early attempts at language could lead to spoken words.

Anyway, though, I've also wondereed if linguists have determined any relationships between the languages spoken by Indians in America and the Japanese and Chinese. I wonder if there is any emprical evidence to see if those languages are related.

Language interests me in some way. I am just curious as to how the science of linguists works. I know that this thread is random, but these are my thoughts about language.

Originally posted to jiacinto on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 07:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Spanish (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stridergambit, GreyHawk, chesapeake

    I keep trying to recommit myself to learning and sustaining Spanish. A few months ago I'd gotten pretty good about reading La Jornada online every day to practice, looking up and writing down the meanings of unfamiliar words. A small hotel owner in Granada, over a wonderful jug of sangria, once told me the reason he knew English at his age (in his 70s, I think) was that he spent 30 minutes a day reading in English, and that successfully kept up his skills.

    So I keep meaning to do that...and once I feel I've got my Spanish back up and running I'll try and remaster French. If I ever accomplish those two I'd love to branch out, but we'll see...

    I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

    by eugene on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 07:43:13 PM PST

  •  What do you mean by Ancient English? (5+ / 0-)

    I haven't heard that before.  There's Old English (Anglo-Saxon), the language of Beowulf; and Middle English, the language of Chaucer.

    Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

    by Statius on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 07:44:16 PM PST

  •  Sumerian (5+ / 0-)

    Guy who was working on his PHD in Sumerian told me the ideogram for hemp was on of the most common on the surviving tablets. He thought they were raising it as a food crop (seeds) as there's not evidence it had yet come into fiber use. Records of medical use date lightly later, in the Vedas and China.

    The symbol's a 5 frond, proportioned like the leaf.

    Democratic Candidate for US Senator, Wisconsin, in 2012

    by ben masel on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 07:54:31 PM PST

  •  Feb 21 was UNESCO's (6+ / 0-)

    Mother Language Day.

    According to them, 4% of the world's people account for 96% of the various languages, and half of those languages will be gone in 50 years.

    90% of our 6000 remaining languages have no presence on the web.

  •  To answer some of your questions: (6+ / 0-)
    1.  Linguists generally determine language relationships through the comparative method.  
    1.  I'm not sure that any Ethiopian language is a language isolate, but that link has a long list of them.  
    1.  Lastly, there have been some theories that Siberian languages are related to the Eskimo-Aleut languages, but they aren't widely accepted.

    "If America leads a blessed life, then why did God put all of our oil under people who hate us?" -- Jon Stewart

    by stridergambit on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 08:07:01 PM PST

  •  Cool diary. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Some trivia:

    There is a theory that Finnish and Japanese are related.

    At one time 700 languages were spoken in California.

    Approximately 800 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea.

    About 96% of the thousands of living languages of the world are spoken by 4% of its people.

    The languages of India that are descended from Sanskrit are related to the European languages. There is also a whole language family in India that is unrelated.

    There are some DNA studies that connect the peoples of central Asia to Native Americans.

    The Celtic branch and Romance branch of Indo-European languages are related.

    Look into the linguistics of sign language, which is fascinating.

  •  i've wondered if the sounds of languages (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    stridergambit, chesapeake

    might be derived from the environment.

    For instance, I once saw a short documentary about Inuit people and their kayaks.  Their language has sounds that remind me of ice chunks hitting against each other, kind of klunking sounds.  Vietnamese sounds to me like wind in leaves and branches.  

    I am learning Chinese, though it certainly isn't a rare or dying language.  The written language is very visual and poetic.  Chinese culture, history and sensibility can be found in the characters.  There are abstract pictures of women, men, children with big heads, open mouths, trees, hands, bamboo, pigs, roofs and walls, knives, swords, fields, moons, the sun, dragon, drops of water.... and on and on.  

    Sometimes, the concept of a particular character really strikes me.  This week, I learned the word xiwang, which means hope.  The first syllable,  xi, means specially woven cloth.  The second, wang, includes the characters for moon and a stand (pedestal?).  The dictionary interprets it as: watch, gaze at = hope, expect.  This is a worthy comparison.  But I was so moved by the image of the moon perched on a pedestal.  What is more beautiful than the moon?

    The Chinese character for house and family is a pig under a roof: ownership.  Time is represented by the sun in a doorway, I guess it reminds me of a sundial.  The character for 'to compare' is two people standing next to each other.   Hate is a deformed heart.

    I am constantly surprised by this language.

    •  It's hard to believe that at (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      stridergambit, chesapeake

      least some sounds and words are originally imitative.

      By the way, one of the arguments for the vowel shift in Greek since classical times:

      With the posited shift taken into accounr, the sheep in Aristophanes make a sound as written, something like "beh, beh."

      If there has been no shift, they would be saying something more like "vee, vee."

      •  sb "not originally imitative" (0+ / 0-)
      •  Ancient Greeks also saw a different rainbow (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Just slightly different but different none the less.

      •  There's a famous psychological test.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        doodlebug, melvin, chesapeake

        By the German-American psychologist Wolfgang Koehler about 60 years ago. He drew two shapes, one very spiky and one all rounded. Then he showed the drawings to a subject and asked, "Which one is named Kiki, and which one is named Boubou?" No matter what the native language of the subject, 98% of the subjects replied that the spiky drawing was Kiki, and the rounded one was Boubou. Clearly, they were drawing on some sort of metaphorical identification between the sounds of the names and the shapes of the drawings.

        These results have held for every world language tested -- the only group of people that consistently gets the name assignment backwards is the autistic.

        Through tattered clothes great vices do appear / Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. (King Lear)

        by sagesource on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 10:38:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  One of my Chinese teachers said that (0+ / 0-)

          the hard intitial sounds of ts or tz with a downward tone often indicates cutting, hitting, or a decisive action.  It's not always true, but it helps me to navigate this difficult language.

          Though we don't have tones in English, words such as cut, hit, kill, etc. have a percussive sound and a downward tone.  

    •  Visual Puns (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      doodlebug, stridergambit, BachFan

      I was reading Wang Wei with a translation, the original, and my dictionaries when I noticed that he was punning, visually, on the radicals of the characters, a character in the first line was copied in the last.  It had a flavor that you can only get in a non-alphabetic text.

      The difference between Chinese and Japanese use of characters and the addition of syllabaries as well as, now, the alphabet is also tasty.  

      When you speak a language, your mouth muscles have to take on different shapes.  I've been listening to a little Dutch recently and the back of the throat gutteralness of the language tickles and stings.  Interesting.

      Ah languages, what to say?

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

      by gmoke on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 09:01:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Was Wang Wei was playing with homonyms? (0+ / 0-)

        There are many Chinese words that sound alike but have different characters.  The Chinese like to play with that.  It is torture for the Chinese language student.

        In Chinese culture, there are many important symbols incorporated into everyday objects as amulets for good luck, prosperity and happiness.  One symbol I especially like is the bat.  You see stylized bats on architecture, furniture, folk art.  In Chinese, "bat" is pronounced fu, which sounds like the word for happiness, fu.  It's not that the Chinese love the bat, I'm told, it is the word play.

        •  Sound (0+ / 0-)

          When I was reading characters without regard to sound.  I had yet to study spoken Chinese.

          There is probably a relationship between the rhythm of the lines and the flow of characters on the page, at least for some calligraphers.  I imagine the tonal punnings would also be marvelous.

          Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

          by gmoke on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 01:32:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  O sambi mbang!! Mintangan baba bwubwu! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tiggers thotful spot, chesapeake


    "False language, evil in itself, infects the soul with evil." ----Socrates

    by mimi on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 08:18:44 PM PST

  •  Alle Menschen (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Canadian Reader, DaleA, BachFan

    Freude, schöner Götterfunken
    Joy, lovely divine light,
    Tochter aus Elysium
    Daughter of Elysium
    Wir betreten feuertrunken,
    We march, drunk with fire,
    Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
    Holy One, to thy holy kingdom.
    Deine Zauber binden wieder,
    Thy magic binds together
    Was die Mode streng geteilt;
    What tradition has strongly parted,
    Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
    All men will be brothers
    Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
    Dwelling under the safety of your wings.

  •  language is lots of fun (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eugene, poemless, doodlebug, stridergambit

    and a fascinating wasy to approach reality from a slightly different angle. and finally, it gives one the gifts of humility and empathy and repect for those who are learning one's own language, instead of taking the typical american response and just mocking them.

    one trick with counting and ordering families of languages is the definition of a language itself, which is often more complicated than it first appears.

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 08:32:41 PM PST

  •  Learn Pakuni and you can converse with (0+ / 0-)

    Michelle Malkin. On second thought . . .

  •  Studying German and Japanese now (0+ / 0-)

    with my sons (one wants to learn one and the other... the other).

    At various times I've learned some Indonesian (and forgotten almost all of it--enough to recall how to say "this book is good," or "this book is very good," basic greeting (Selamat pagi!) and to recall that orangutan means "man of the wood" (orang = man, - utan = of the wood"), Gaelic, French (once almost fluent... very rusty now), and Spanish.

    If you're serious, you can find Rosetta Stone CDs (not cheap, but some libraries carry them) and learn some of a language.  Including such not-common tongues as Welsh.

    But for really obscure ones?  You need to dig into the web and look for someone who's willing to teach it, because many of them have only a handful of speakers (a couple years ago, I recall that one of the Alaskan Indian languages was down to one native speaker, who was elderly...).  If you're able to find someone willing to teach one of those, remember that you're receiving it into your care, it's a precious thing, a way of seeing and understanding the world--because every language is different in how it understands and perceives the world.  

    "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

    by ogre on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 08:56:31 PM PST

    •  "Indonesian" (0+ / 0-)

      Is Malay retitled.  But it wouldn't do if the language were called something that was related to the title of another country (at the time of independence that country was "British Malaya" as it was a British colony.  

      I think it is impressive that your sons want to learn languages like that.  And that you are working with them.

      •  Malaysian is still around. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stridergambit, annetteboardman

        There's just a dialectical difference, as I recall.

        I wish I'd kept up with French.  And really pursued Gaelic.

        We'll see who the boys do; I couldn't persuade them to study Spanish... and we live in a pretty short drive of the US-Mexican border...

        "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

        by ogre on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 09:50:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is "Malay" (0+ / 0-)

          And the dialectical difference is very small depending on where you are -- in North Sumatra it is very limited, as that is just across the strait from the Malay Penninsula.  In Java the dialect would be a bit further afield.  But what I meant to emphasize is that there doesn't seem to have been an "Indonesian" essentially until independence.  Or that is what I have been told by specialists in Malay (not Malaysian) history.

      •  Sounds like Serbian vis-a-vis Croatian. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Same language using a Cyrillic or Latin alphabet, respectively, right?

    •  Japanese (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is famously tough (for me anyway) because of the syntax. I speak some Russian, German, French and Spanish (took most in college) but all have essentially the same logic---and are all, of course, Indo-European.  But Japanese, with its particles is hairy as anything.  Your kid picked a tough one.

      •  My understanding is... (0+ / 0-)

        (and I took a semester of Japanese, years ago, as well...) that the US gov't rates German as a "class 2" language--the measure of how hard it is for a native English speaker to get a grip on it; it's above class 1 (I'm not sure what falls there), probably because of its three genders and agglutinative characteristics. Plus it's written in a Roman alphabet; all that's added is the umlaute and eszet.

        Japanese is class 4, the top (or bottom--it's perspective) of the pile.  Doesn't get harder.  Two native scripts with at least twice as many characters as the Roman one--and nothing in common with it, even--plus Chinese characters.  And a whole pile, as you observed, of different assumptions and a different logic.  Who needs plurals?  And then there's the highly implicative quality of the language; you should know what's being spoken about, because it may not be referred to again.  

        But my son's sunk his teeth pitbullishly into aikido, and that's the root of his interest (which means that he's rolling his eyes at the anime and manga-motivations of the other kids (so far) taking the class).  Knowing his character, I suspect he'll stick with it.

        Maybe I'll take up Italian, too--we'll cover all the languages of the major powers that lost WWII.

        "I desire what is good. Therefore, everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor." King George III

        by ogre on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 03:04:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Related question (0+ / 0-)

    We always hear about languages disappearing.

    Are new languages being created?

    •  Esperanto and modern Hebrew (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaleA, SadTexan, bigchin, jhritz

      Hebrew was revived as a secular spoken language, which is pretty incredible considering how many centuries it had not been used as such.

      Esperanto was invented by linguists--it contains elements from many languages and has no irregular verbs.

      I used to know a linguist who said that when languages die, whole ways of thinking about the world die. It was as tragic to him as when biological species become extinct.

    •  Yes, they're being created. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Wherever there are sizeable migrations, for one, or where an indigenous population comes under the hegemony of another.  

      For examples of the former, look for new languages in Africa, where warfare, disease and starvation have been moving populations around for nearly two centuries.

      An example of the latter: Urdu is a fairly new language that developed in the 17th and 18th centuries when Persia dominated much of northern India.  The Hindi language of the locals suddenly to a back seat to the language of the military camps ("Urdu" means "camp"), which was Farsi.  Urdu contains a large portion of the Hindi lexicon, but with significant infusions of Farsi and Arabic, and is written in Arabic script.  

      According to wikipedia:

      Standard Urdū has approximately the twentieth largest population of native speakers, among all languages. It is the national language of Pakistan as well as one of the 23 official languages of India.

      Not bad for a "new" language.

      Dump the cheerleader; save the world.

      by Bob Love on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 10:19:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But are Hindi and Urdu (0+ / 0-)

        really separate languages?  I know language versus dialect is a complicated question, but to me, mutual intelligibility is key, and I was once told by an Urdu speaker that he could communicate in India just fine.  

        •  Yes, they can intercommunicate, (0+ / 0-)

          but from what I've been taught, 20% or so of Urdu consists of Persian and Arabic loan-words, so they're certainly not the same.  And of course their scripts are entirely different: arabic and devanagri.

          Whether they're separate languages or not is a technical issue that I don't have any expertise in.  It may be that Muslim Urdu speakers fundamentally wish to distinguish themselves from Hindu speakers of Hindi, and that's what fuels the controversy.

          Dump the cheerleader; save the world.

          by Bob Love on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 12:02:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The ratio is perhaps 100-1 deaths to starts (0+ / 0-)

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities" -- Voltaire

      by ohwilleke on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 10:55:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Klingon :-) (0+ / 0-)

      As a Texan, you should certainly know of Bushese and Republicanian too  :D

      There are quite a few efforts to create what are termed 'conlangs'  ('Constructed Languages').  The problem is that they have no culture or history attached to them, so there isn't a compelling reason to maintain knowledge of them.  Esperanto is always teetering on the verge of extinction; what seems to save it is that a good number of Europeans have kept a privileged fondness for Latin (which is the root language of Esperanto) as their, uh, lingua franca....

      Klingon has had unusual success as a conlang; there are probably a couple of hundred 'speakers', though the linguists who worked on Star Trek created a only a rather small vocabulary for it.  In the case of Klingon there does seem to be a 'culture' and 'history' for the adherents to use as reference points.

      Renewal, not mere Reform.

      by killjoy on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 11:08:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  New languages are being created all the time (0+ / 0-)

      One fine language is being created right now along the Mexican border.  The Tex-Mex "slanguage" has evolved past a dialect and has incorporated new forms.  My favorite example is the TexMex verb for "I'll see you later"  which takes the English word "watch" and tacks on a Spanish verb form.  The result: "Hai Watchando".  My buddies from Brownsville would also take regular Spanish words like "casheta" (face) and use it to represent "cash", as, "no tenemos sufficiente casheta."  

    •  Languages also die (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      by diverging into different daughter languages, the way Latin became French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian (and Corsican and Sardinian, but they don't have armies). Some say that is happening to Arabic today. It will probably happen to English eventually, if humanity doesn't blow itself up first, or if global warming doesn't do too much damage to the ecosystem, or an asteroid doesn't hit, or . . .

    •  Take a look at (0+ / 0-)

      pidgin languages and creolization.

  •  I've got some ideas for you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yes, Sanskrit is related to other Indo-European languages. That's why the group is called Indo-European.

    Don't you live in DC? Is there some kind of Esperanto club there? That is a language that only other language enthusiasts speak.

    If you're looking for obscure, I believe Basque is not related to any currently-spoken languages. There is a theory that it is related to the now-dead Etruscan.

    There are numerous Native American languages that have very few speakers left. I've heard the UC Santa Cruz linguistic department is strong in this area.

    In the Celtic language group, Welsh is doing pretty well, and Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic are growing. There are some Breton speakers in France. Cornish and Manx are pretty much dead--I think only academics know these languages.

    You might also try to learn some Finno-Ugric languages (Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian are the largest in this group). They are unrelated to the Indo-European languages. Several ethnic groups in the former Soviet Union have languages in this group that have very few speakers left.

    If you want an obscure language that has some practical value, try one of the Central Asian languages (most are in the Turkic group except for Tajik, which is related to Farsi). You could probably get a pretty good job in Washington if you become proficient in one of these.

    •  What is Esperanto? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I've never heard of it. What does Basque sound like? For DC related travel advice, please visit that link.

      by jiacinto on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 11:11:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  from wiki (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Esperanto (help·info) is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. The name derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof first published the Unua Libro in 1887. The word itself means 'one who hopes'. Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy and flexible language as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding.

        "...history is a tragedy not a melodrama" - I.F. Stone

        by bigchin on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 01:23:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  well.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ohwilleke, chesapeake

    Arguably languages don't quite die out unless their speakers die out.  People just continue to speak the old language using the words of some other language.  An example would be Haitian, which is considered French (and almost all of its words are French) but its grammar and usages are those of West African languages such as Ewe.

    An ancient form of Gaelic was written in the so-called ogham alphabet, which was the easiest to carve on stones.  The Germanic rune alphabet was mostly derived from a religious or magical rite involving the fall of a bundle of little sticks and divination from a set group of patterns.

    There are a number of Ethopian languages; most derive from Semitic.  There is a group of languages of small peoples who live along the Nile River that are lumped together as iirc 'Nilo-Saharan' and not obviously related to the other great African language families.

    West Saxon is considered the characteristic root language of modern English, along with Anglian dialects.  It's closely related to Friesan (the root of Dutch) and Saxon (northern German).  British English still sounds quite a bit like northern German and Danish and is grammatically still very close.  American English has diverged considerably, though the dialects of American English still reflect 17th century dialects of British English.

    The so-called Altaic language family is not doing too well among linguists.  Fragments of it may well be true- Japanese does seem to be related to Korean dialects that are now extinct.

    The American Indian language families are a very complicated linguistic problem.  Eskimo-Aleut is related to Chukchi, the closest Siberian language.  The Athapaskan language family (which includes the Apache languages and Navajo) is probably related to the Sino-Tibetan language family, i.e. Chinese.  Genetically, the Ainu people of Japan seem to be the closest living relatives of the first American Indians.

    The other American Indian languages are quite a collage of families and seeming isolates; it's rather complicated.  No one's quite sure how many different groups crossed the Bering Strait prior to the two relative latecomer groups, the Eskimo-Aleut and Athapaskans, or how to model the early waves' fusion and fission as small groups.  The picture from genetic analysis is of at least one one group of immigrants from central Eurasia and one distinctly Asian (i.e. Mongolian spot etc).  The picture from linguistics suggests, last I heard, immigration of two different waves of people speaking Eurasian languages.

    The origin point of several very old native North American language groups and biggest slew of language isolates lies along the Pacific Coast, from Vancouver Island to Latin America.  This suggests that the major immigration wave first moved south along the Pacific Coast and then eventually spread inland, judging from the origin point of language families, along the rivers that mouth into the Pacific.

    There are good introductory textbooks on linguistics.  Phonology and learning the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) well are probably the key things to do.  Everything else, despite a lot of complexity, follows quite logically once you have that foundation.

    I don't remember which country you say your parents came from, but why not start with the non-Spanish language your extended family either speaks or once spoke?  For e.g. El Salvador that is something like e.g. Pilpil, the geographically southernmost language of the Utaztecan language family.

    Renewal, not mere Reform.

    by killjoy on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 10:55:18 PM PST

  •  Why Do So Many People Sing Pentatonic? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Music is clearly some kind of language-play.

    So many of the world's lead-instruments, from sax to violin to oboe, banjo, flutes, countless folk instruments, all sound like crude baby-voice machines.

    Some of the major intervals of the scale seem to have the same emotion in many or most cultures: major 5th, major & minor 3rd, minor 7ths.


    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 11:16:23 PM PST

    •  Sing pentatonic? (1+ / 0-)
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      Eric Clapton sure plays pentatonic, but most of the classically-inspired metal bands like Van Halen use a chromatic scale modes like Mixolydian (starting on the 5th) or more extremely, Locrian (starting on the 7th.) Rock bands from the central Asian republics of the former USSR clearly use the harmonic minor scales and not the pentatonic. Music is so closely linked to ethnic groups that one can trace the Polish and Czech polkas into Mexico and the Scottish reels into Kentucky. Even Dick Dale's surf music had a source in Spanish flamenco, which in turn was influenced by the minor scales from the Arabian peninsula as well as Turkish music. Bottom line: Music is ultimately ethnic.

    •  some believe humans sang before we spoke. (0+ / 0-)

      I'm a singer, and find that very credible.  The sounds I make impart as much emotion as the words... I suppose that's the "condition" of music that Shopenhauer (?) said "all art aspires to."

      "...history is a tragedy not a melodrama" - I.F. Stone

      by bigchin on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 01:25:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you're really interested (1+ / 0-)
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    The Ethnologue website is a good place to start. BTW, "Ethiopian" (I assume you mean Amharic, not ancient Ge'ez or one of the minority languages) is Semitic, but from a different branch from Hebrew and Arabic, the other main Semitic languages.

  •  Uhh... (1+ / 0-)
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    I have heard that linguists have determined that Ethiopian is not related to any language in the world, as what taxi drivers from there have told me. They tell me that the language can't be connected to other languages, although it is considered a Semitic language.

    Uh, there is no language "Ethiopian".  Of the various Ethiopian languages, some are Semitic, some are not.  All of the Ethiopian languages are related to other languages.

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