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Last Spartans: the survival of Laconic Greek
The story of a Greek town that I'm told still preserves the Spartan tongue. I explore why they don't speak like the rest of Greece and dig into their connection to ancient Sparta. Will their Tsakonian language survive?
~ CORRECTIONS & ADDITIONS ~
The man from Leonidio is a "headmaster", not "schoolmaster". His story and links to the recordings are in my sources doc below.
~ SUMMARY ~
Ancient Greece was home to a variety of dialects. Athens and Sparta both put up a major fight. Long story short, the dialect of one of those cities won out. Guess which? Athens, of course. Attic Greek combined with a hefty dose of Ionic to form the Koiné (Common) Greek, the ancestor of basically all modern Greek dialects.
All but perhaps one. Travel to a small town in the south of Greece, where a headmaster leads his students up the hillsides...
I found this really cool video that shows a native of the Tsakonia region speaking Tsakonian from Wikitongues!
Read more… (30 words)
Read more (30 words)
What Shakespeare's English Sounded Like
Botched rhymes, buried puns and a staged accent that sounds more Victorian than Elizabethan. No more! Use linguistic sleuthing to dig up the surprisingly different sound of the bard's Early Modern English.
~ Briefly, and without spoilers ~
I'm embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I ever really got into Shakespeare. There's a personal story here, which I'll quickly share in the video.
The idea of reconstructing his pronunciation intrigued me. As I started making trips to the library and downloading old grammars, I just found the questions piling on. I did find some answers for you.
It starts with his odd spelling - well, the spelling he inherited. Chaucer's medieval spelling was followed by modern sound changes, including the start of the Great Vowel Shift. The introduction of Caxton's printing press and the spelling debates put Early Modern English in a state of flux by Shakespeare's time. They also left our first trail of evidence.
Other evidence comes from rhythm, rhymes and - more ...
Wow thanks for this video! Though I studied Shakespeare in school, we always focused on his inventive command of the language - it was never really put in the context of the language and syntactical structure that he inherited from Chaucer or the Great Vowel Shift.
I'd love if you could elaborate a little more on his...
Read more… (75 words)
Read more (75 words)
Irish Words Can Mutate!
Before you pronounce Irish names or thumb through a dictionary, you should know that Irish words do something quite unusual. They can mutate their starting sounds.
~ I GCUPLA FOCAL, BRIEFLY ~
I'm preparing a video that explores the entire history of Irish. As I stitch together my notes, I'm noticing I often just have time to name-drop terms like "Proto-Celtic" and "Ogham". Today let's spend time on one of the more unusual ones: "initial mutations".
Archaic or "Primitive Irish" had neat Celtic syllables, but when Old Irish pops in just a couple centuries later, it's already full of worn-out endings and these strange mutations.
Two types. First, lenition: a word's starting sound gets softer, like /p/ turning into /f/. Second, eclipse: the starting sound gets more voiced or nasalized. The textbook Sengoídelc adds a third type, aspiration: adding h before a vowel.
What makes these devious is that they're triggered b...
The Aztecs didn't call him Montezuma. Nor Moctezuma. They didn't call chocolate "chocolate". Heck, they didn't even call themselves Aztec! Though they were an oral culture, we have an idea of what their language really sounded like. Here's why.
~ Corrections ~
As Rodrigo Chacón comments, the transitive "nicua" is not used alone. Instead, expect to find "nitlacua" (indefinite -tla-) or "niccua" (definite -c-). Here's a better illustration for building the verb: "ni___cua".
~ Are you reading instead of watching? (no spoilers) ~
He's commonly known to English-speakers as Montezuma and Moctezuma in Spanish, but his language is a different story. Travel to Mexico and dig into language history. Look at early colonial writers and grammarians, learn their strengths and limitations, then move onto some surprising old and new evidence.
Along the way, you'll learn what the Aztecs called t...
It's always interesting to me that the Aztec empire had so many elements of a bustling civilization including art, poetry, religion, and philosophical schools for kids - yet we always associate them with a stereotypical, basic tribal culture.
Read more… (38 words)
Read more (38 words)
The Caucasus: Mountains Full of Languages
This region has a new language around every mountain. Over 50 languages and 7 language families! Learn why the Caucasus is one of the world's language hot zones.