Languages with exotic and interesting features

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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby lemme_try » Sun Mar 28, 2021 8:36 pm

guyome wrote:
lysi wrote:Mongolian script is also written from top to bottom.
Indeed. That's where the Manchus got it from (and the Mongolian version comes from Old Uyghur, all the way back to Syriac/Aramaic).


Yep. Uygurs were the most learned men in the region back in the day. I don't know if it is relevant to the thread but, the Uygur Khaganat got conquered by Yenessei Kirgiz, who ended up having a humongous empire, covering pretty much present day Southern Siberia, Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xinjiang, Western Kazakhstan and of course Kyrgyzstan. In less than a century, Kirgiz got conquered by the Mongols. Mongols did not have their own writing system, as they had oral tradition like many other nomads. And as the Mongol empire grew tremendously, it was natural to adopt the script from the most learned men, the Uygurs. They played roles of advisors and bureaucrats within the empire.

Interesting thing is, the Mongols, the Kirgiz still exist in former territories of the empire but might have diverged into other distinct ethnicities. There are 56 recognised major ethnic groups within PRC, but there are also unrecognised minor ones as well. There are distinct type of Mongols, Kyrgyz, or other Tungustic people within Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia who are grouped into larger ethnic groups. Khakass people of Southern Siberia speak similar language to the Kirgiz of Kyrgyzstan. But within 1000 years the cultures have diverged greatly. Pretty interesting trivia IMO.

IMO, Western China is a very interesting place for people interested in anthropology, history and linguistics. It is a huge mixing pot of various cultures and languages.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby IronMike » Mon Mar 29, 2021 12:33 am

Evidentiality in some of the native American languages really are intriguing. Very exotic and interesting.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby AroAro » Mon Mar 29, 2021 7:37 am

tungemål wrote:
Iversen wrote:...And there is no "yes" or "no", but the Romans survived not having invented those either - however the Romance languages standardized some typical answers to get these practical words, and the result is "oui" in French (from "hoc ille"), "oc" in Occitan (from just "hoc") and "si" in the rest, apart from Romanian which dug up "da" from somewhere - I'm not sure of the etymology there.


Obviously from slavic. But the existence or not of "yes" and "no" is interesting - it seems they would be very basic and necessary words. However, Chinese hasn't got those either. Japanese has got several to choose from on different politeness levels.


Never say "obviously" in linguistics ;) some linguists claim that the Romanian "da" comes from the late Latin "ita".

Un cuvânt considerat de mulţi lingvişti ca fiind de origine slavă este „da”. Există şi păreri că „da” ar proveni din limba latină târzie, din cuvântul „ita”: ita>ida>da. (K.A.Massey, A Latin etymology for Romanian da = yes. Revista Philologica Romanica, Vol. 8, 2008, 93–100).

Interesting features I've come across in some languages (I didn't study them all, I just like reading about other languages so in case of any incosnsistencies I hope other Forum Members will step in to correct me):

Hebrew - in fact, Hebrew does not have a present tense. Ok, maybe it does but it uses present participle to express the idea of an action taking place now. So instead of saying "The child goes to school" they say rather "The child going to school". The present participle has four forms (sing. masc. and fem. pl. masc. and fem.). Most of the courses do not go into details and just say this is the present tense in Hebrew but some other mention the fact it's just a participle used as a present tense.

Georgian - it's a split ergativity language. I haven't formally studied the language but from what I understand, in present tense we say "I have a book" but in past tense we cannot simply say "I had a book" because the subject of the phrase needs to be put in the dative case and the object becomes the subject in the ergative case, which gives us something like "The book belonged to me".

Vietnamese - unlike European languages which have a limited set of personal pronouns (I, you, he, she and so on), Vietnamese has dozens of personal pronouns, expressing the social relation between the speakers. So the personal pronouns one needs to use change depending on the age, gender, familiarity and so on.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby mokibao » Mon Mar 29, 2021 9:26 pm

I've always thought English' use of a do-periphrasis to make interrogative and negative statements was peculiar and unlike anything I've ever seen in any of the languages I've taken a look at. It's pronunciation is also the most disconnected to spelling without outright crossing the border to an ideographic system.

Then there's this age-old post: https://idlewords.com/2011/08/why_arabi ... rrific.htm Most of it applies to MSA but dialects have retained some of the fun features such as there being essentially no paradigm for plural formation, kinda like German but 10x worse. The diglossia situation along with the dialect continuum is also quite unique.

Russian is also quite the fun language. The case triggering system for numbers is so twisted you'd think a conlanger came up with it. Then there's all the stuff which gives it its fiercesome reputation to learners like 6 cases and 3 paradigms one of which is irregular, a second genitive, a bunch of irregular plurals and irregular verbs, the aspect system and its unpredictable formation, approximatively a million verbs for motion, a vocative that only exists for some words, and so on.

Esperanto has a suffix of unpredictable meaning -um for no apparent reason.

Japanese uses 3 writing systems at the same time: kanji and the two kana syllabaries.

The Berber languages use only one writing system at a time but are commonly written with 3 different scripts (adapted versions of the Latin and Arabic systems and their own one).

Then I guess you could look up concepts for stuff you didn't know existed or is different from what most people know and/or study, such as evidentiality, ergative-absolutive, grammatical number other than singular/plural/dual, and so on.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby IronMike » Tue Mar 30, 2021 1:07 am

mokibao wrote:Esperanto has a suffix of unpredictable meaning -um for no apparent reason.
...such as evidentiality, ergative-absolutive, grammatical number other than singular/plural/dual, and so on.

There's a good reason: foliumi, to flip through pages. brakumi, to hug. Very useful suffix.

See people: Evidentiality, like I brought up above. Very exotic and interesting.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby Querneus » Tue Mar 30, 2021 6:05 am

Hey, European languages can be exotic too, in relation to everyone else!! :) You mentioned the weirdness of don't/doesn't/didn't. I happen to have a list of exotic things in English at hand:

- The English fused pronoun + verb auxiliaries are pretty weird (I'm, I'd, I'll, you're, you'd, you'll...). Especially because it's not the pronouns that are reduced, but the verbs (-'m/-'re/-'s, -'d, -'ll).
- So is the thing of verbs only showing agreement for the present third person singular (sing vs. sings). Colloquial French is apparently also pretty exotic with its verbs where the distinct form is mostly just the "vous" form (vous aimez [ɛme] vs. aime/aimes/aiment [ɛm]).
- The construction of turning adjectives into noun phrases by adding the word "one" ("the better one, the worse ones"). Usually this is done with articles (which English does to a very limited extent: the rich, the French), or a word meaning "that" or "of" in some way, or just leaving the adjective as it is.

- According to the World Atlas of Language Structures, roughly 5/6 of the languages it surveyed have the "I don't sing nothing" type of construction. The so-called "fully logical" pattern of standard English / Dutch / German / Latin (I don't sing anything, I sing nothing) is really rare.
- Asking questions by changing subject-verb order (they are not teachers, are they not teachers?) is also exotic, extremely rarely found outside Germanic languages and Spanish. Languages around the world tend to just use a question particle, like Japanese "... ka?", or standard Arabic "hal ...?".
- English and much of the rest of European languages are also reported to be exotic with the use of the weird word "than" in comparisons.
- It's also weird how a bunch of European languages use "have" as part of the verb paradigm to express the notion of "I have done". And really just as part of the verb paradigm to begin with (I have done, I'll have done, I had done, I have been doing...).
- Languages in Europe and Siberia are also strange in their poor use of reduplication, that is, doubling words or parts of words. European languages have it but it's usually considered a cutesy colloquial thing at best ("I like like you", "I can't get myself to study study"), and it's noticeably very absent from much of Europe's long literature.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby tungemål » Tue Mar 30, 2021 8:28 am

Querneus wrote:Hey, European languages can be exotic too, in relation to everyone else!! :) You mentioned the weirdness of don't/doesn't/didn't. I happen to have a list of exotic things in English at hand:

That's pretty interesting. You're right, maybe I should the remove the "non-european" requirement.

- The English fused pronoun + verb auxiliaries are pretty weird (I'm, I'd, I'll, you're, you'd, you'll...). Especially because it's not the pronouns that are reduced, but the verbs (-'m/-'re/-'s, -'d, -'ll).


I see. The Spanish tend to omit the pronouns. Can we extrapolate and say that the British tend to be focused on the person doing something, while the Spanish are focused on what's being done? :D

On omitting pronouns: I always found that strange since we normally don't do it in Norwegian, but it might be common since I've discovered that it's the rule in Polish and Japanese as well as Spanish. The Japanese don't even conjugate verbs in persons and they still omit the pronoun, so you have to "guess" who did something.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby mokibao » Tue Mar 30, 2021 9:15 am

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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby outcast » Wed Apr 07, 2021 8:59 pm

Querneus wrote:Hey, European languages can be exotic too, in relation to everyone else!! :) You mentioned the weirdness of don't/doesn't/didn't. I happen to have a list of exotic things in English at hand:

- English and much of the rest of European languages are also reported to be exotic with the use of the weird word "than" in comparisons.


But Sino-Tibetan Mandarin Chinese has 比 (bi3) in basic comparisons, and also 和。。。相比 (比起来), akin to "compared to". The Koreanic family too has words equivalent to "than": 보다 (hboda) , and also 에 비해 (compared to) . I think Hindi has से ? Anyways, in the two other completely separate language families I have familiarity with, there are structures basically identical in their use to "than", or "que" / "als" etc. So I would doubt I just was just lucky enough to pick the exceptions outside Indo-European to this feature. I wonder what is the more "default" way to mark the entity that is the comparison's reference point then in most languages? Suffixes? Special verbal conjugation? Strict word order?

As a junkie for grammar and learning about peculiar features, a few of the top of my head:

The French passive is a bit peculiar to me: two prepositions are used depending on the semantic nature of the transitive verb ("par" for pure actions verbs that manipulate their objects: to turn, to write, to build; but transitive verbs that in their passive form make their object "receive some state" instead of direct manipulation use "de": to love, to hate, to respect). Thus:

Ce film a été tourné par un étudiant. ("par" because the film is being directly manipulated, it is being "filmed").
Elle est aimée de tous. ("de" because she is receiving the state of being loved, she is not being directly manipulated somehow)

What is fascinating about this is that Korean sort of does the same thing in the passive: transitive verbs of manipulation are changed from 하다 ending to 되다, but the ones where some "state" is being received can be changed to 받다 endings. This verb is literally "to receive". So some of the same verbs that use "de" in French passive can be predicted to take this "receive" ending in Korean: to respect, to admire (you can "receive" respect or admiration, in a way).

German Dative passive constructions are oddballs, though a few other languages have them too. A so-called "dative" verb can be turned into a passive, but the dative object is prohibited from becoming the subject of the passive sentence:

Ich danke den Männern. (active)
Den Männern wird gedankt. (Dative "passive", *Die Männer wird gedankt" is ungrammatical)
(you can still use "von": Den Männern wird von dem Präsidenten gedankt. And German does use "durch" instead of "von" when the agent of the passive sentence is not a willful entity: if you are scared by an explosion, it would be "durch eine Explosion", since an explosion does not willfully act on its own to create the action).

Mandarin Chinese has some oddities with word order that are very little mentioned in most language books:

老师来了 vs 来老师了。

The first sentence where the verb "come" is in the usual SV order, means that "the" teacher is coming ("the teacher" we presumably have been waiting for, and therefore which has been either specified as the topic either by prior mention, or just by the context of the situation). The second sentence where the verb is slotted before the subject, means that "a teacher" is coming. In other words, some random teacher that the speaker (or speaker and listener) were neither expecting nor had been topicalized from being mentioned before. So the placement of the verb in these two Mandarin sentences can create a sense of definiteness or indefiniteness without using "articles".

"The teacher is coming" vs "A teacher is coming."

There are similar effects with the infamous aspect particle 了 (which gets constantly misconstrued as a temporal / tense marker). 我去北京了 vs 我去了北京, but this one is VERY controversial because native speakers cannot agree on the differences, or if there is any at all. Some speakers claim no difference, others claim the difference is that in one sentence, you have gone to Shanghai and are still there, vs the other sentence stating "you went to Shanghai" (and have returned, or at least are no longer in Shanghai). But I can never get a straight answer as to WHICH sentence indicates which one of the two situations! Yet other people see the 了 as just a focus marker, in one the action is emphasized ("go"), in the other the location is emphasized ("Shanghai").

刚 ("just now") also can change the meaning of sentences depending on where it is placed but I have sadly forgotten the nuance examples at this time. By far my biggest gripe with Mandarin teaching materials is how little focus they put on how word order in Mandarin creates quite complex nuances. Chinese used to be "knocked" for not having much "grammar" (as in conjugation, declension, articles, and those type of "grammars"), but a lot of those are expressed through word order or the choice of word (semantics), or particles, since Chinese is an analytical language system.

Hindi, a Nominative-Accusative language, uses the Ergative-Absolutive system in aoristic sentences with transitive verbs, that is to say, the verb will agree with the direct object (which is actually the default case, since in Ergative-Absolutive systems, it is the Agent of the transitive verb that gets a special treatment).

That's one minor reason I will learn Hindi, besides the cultural treasures, but it's as close as I will come to using an Ergative-Absolutive system.

And then Korean with all of its crazy connectors and sentence endings, which I have decided to call "grammatical vocabulary", because really, they are considered grammar but they have as much a semantic meaning as they do grammar meaning. Since Korean is the only agglutinative language I have studied, I don't know if this type of feature is more unique to Koreanic or if it exists in other agglutinative languages too. I also don't know if Korean being SOV has something to do with these features.
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Re: Languages with exotic and interesting features

Postby lysi » Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:59 pm

outcast wrote:The French passive is a bit peculiar to me: two prepositions are used depending on the semantic nature of the transitive verb ("par" for pure actions verbs that manipulate their objects: to turn, to write, to build; but transitive verbs that in their passive form make their object "receive some state" instead of direct manipulation use "de": to love, to hate, to respect). Thus:

Ce film a été tourné par un étudiant. ("par" because the film is being directly manipulated, it is being "filmed").
Elle est aimée de tous. ("de" because she is receiving the state of being loved, she is not being directly manipulated somehow)

What is fascinating about this is that Korean sort of does the same thing in the passive: transitive verbs of manipulation are changed from 하다 ending to 되다, but the ones where some "state" is being received can be changed to 받다 endings. This verb is literally "to receive". So some of the same verbs that use "de" in French passive can be predicted to take this "receive" ending in Korean: to respect, to admire (you can "receive" respect or admiration, in a way).


This isn't an entirely accurate way to define the distinction between par and de for the passive form. It's true that par is used for direct manipulation where there's a real, material effect, and with real agents, but de can be ranged into specific categories which are much less ambiguous than the definition you gave of 'receiving some state':

1) when the past participle in the passive form has a similar sense to a past participle as an adjective which expresses manner, so for example 'le papier couvert de taches' and 'le papier est couvert de taches' where in the first the past participle of 'couvert' is an adjective and 'de taches' expresses the manner and in the second it's just a past participle.
2) when the sense of the verb is metaphorical eg 'il était accablé de honte' vs 'il était accablé par la chaleur'
3) when the verb expresses some sentiment, such as in your example

And the literary language just kind of does what it wants and uses 'de' in situations where you'd normally use 'par'.
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