Guyome's log [LAD, LAT, MAN, OCC, PER, YID]

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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Tue Oct 13, 2020 9:16 am

I haven't been working on Lo Gascon lèu e plan lately but I will take it up again at some point. I listen regularly to Gasocn podcasts and my understanding has improved.

I've read three more books:
- Joan Ganhaire's Lo Libre dau reirlutz (1979, 80 p., Limousin dialect), a collection of nine short fantastic(?) stories. Except the last one, I enjoyed them and it was nice to read something in Limousin
- Joan Vezole's Contes pas tròp messorguiers (1996, 250 p., Languedocian dialect). It's a collection of very short anecdotes and facetious stories related to 20th c. village life. Usually I like this kind of material, but this time I struggled to find them enjoyable and it took me forever to finish the book. The good thing is that there is an audiobook version read by the author himself, so I'll probably use that in the future to improve my listening skills in northern Languedocian
- Joan Bodon's La Grava sul camin (1956, 160 p. Languedocian dialect), a semi-autobiographical novel in which Bodon narrates the last months he spent as a STO worker in Germany during WW2 and his coming back to France, his growing-up in a small village in Aveyron and his failure at living a normal life there after coming back from Germany. Definitely not a book to read if you want to be uplifted, but I found it really well done.

One sentence puzzled me though. Just after being back in France (not yet in his village), the main character wants to buy a glass of wine in a café and is told it would cost 50 francs. His reaction:
Cinquanta francs, un veirat de vin ! Sens escotar mai sortissèm. Ne trobarem ben de vin endacòm e melhor compte encara. Quin josieu, aquel òme !

Fifty francs for a glass of wine! We go out without listening to more. Surely, we'll find wine somewhere else, and not as expensive, to boot. What a Jew, this guy!
So, because he finds the wine too expensive, the main character refers to the inn keeper as too greedy and does this by using the age-old trope of the money-loving Jew. I struggle a bit to understand what would push Bodon to include such a sentence.

Bodon himself, as far as I know, was no antisemite. There's also nothing in the book that would make such an addition necessary from the point of view of establishing the main character as being an antisemite since nowhere else in the book do Jews play any kind of role or are even mentioned.
That this racial stereotype was (and sadly still is) alive could explain Bodon's using it. If it it was in common use among the kind of people he is describing in the book, then it can be justified to have his characters speak 'normally', without removing the less savory aspects of it (cue Mark Twain). But I still find it insensitive and somewhat tone-deaf to casually use such a phrase in a book where, again, it seems to contribute nothing to the hero's characterisation or to the message.

I'm reading through Felix's Life of Guthlac, an Anglo-Saxon saint who lived from 674 to 715. I chose it mainly because there's an Old English translation of it and I thought it would be nice to try my hand at it after having read the Latin version.

Felix's Latin style is ok but not very enjoyable so far. He seems found of using slightly fancy phrases instead of expressing himself more plainly. Things like Evolutis aliquorum temporum curriculis, quibus se coniugalis iuris conditionibus indidissent or peractis mensium epidendarum cursibus or transcensis infantiae suae temporibus, (...) coaetanis parvulorum coetibus. Still, there is plenty to enjoy, as in the following passage where Felix describe how Guthlac spent his youth as a warrior/pillager, but one who would at some point decide to leave his victims a third of what they owned. How nice of him!
Igitur cum adolescentiae vires increvissent, et iuvenili in pectore egregius dominandi amor fervesceret, tunc valida pristinorum heroum facta reminiscens, veluti ex sopore evigilatus, mutata mente, adgregatis satellitum turmis, sese in arma convertit.
Et cum adversantium sibi urbes et villas, vicos et castella igne ferroque vastaret, conrasis undique diversarum gentium sociis, inmensas praedas gregasset, tunc velut ex divino consilio edoctus tertiam partem adgregatae gazae possidentibus remittebat.

Now when his youthful strength had increased, and a noble desire for command burned in his young breast, he remembered the valiant dees of heroes of old, and as though awaking from sleep, he changed his disposition and gathering bands of followers took up to arms;
but when he had devastated the towns and residences of his foes, their villages and fortresses with fire and sword, and, gathering together companions from various races and from all directions, had amassed immense booty, then as if instructed divine counsel, he would return to the owners a third part of the treasure collected.
(Translation: B. Colgrave)
Despite its Latin clothing and Christian overall context, this passage strikes me as also very "Germanic" in tone: the young Guthlac takes up a carrier in pillaging, which I find reminiscent of how to 'go on a viking' (=piracy expedition, fara í víking) is a routine thing in Icelandic sagas. I suspect too that the heroes of old who moved young Guthlac to such deeds were not Biblical or Classical figures but rather Germanic ones, whose deeds were still discussed and celebrated long after Christianisation took place (cf. Alcuin's 'Quid enim Hinieldus cum Christo?').
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:23 am

Still reading the Life of Saint Guthlac. It is not the most interesting thing I've ever read but it is ok. Guthlac is living as a hermit on an island in the middle of marshes and the Life spends a few pages narrating how Guthlac has to deal with mischievous ravens, who keep steeling stuff from him and his guests.
Ravens have an important and positive role in Saint Jerome's Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit, Paul being brought his food every day by a raven. I wonder if the depiction of ravens as essentially bad birds in Guthlac's Life could have been a way to counterbalance the positive depiction of ravens in Germanic mythology and their association with Odin. I may be reading too much into it, of course.

Over the last couple of days, I also read Pliny's Letters to the emperor Trajan. At the time, Pliny was governor of Bythinia and often wrote to Trajan about affairs he needed advice to deal with. He apparently wrote often enough, and at times on such trivial matters, that it seems to me Trajan is sometimes puzzled, or amused, and answers tongue-in-cheek. Take the following exchange:
C. Plinius Traiano imperatori
Quia confido, domine, ad curam tuam pertinere, nuntio tibi me Ephesum cum omnibus meis ὑπὲρ μαλέαν navigasse quamvis contrariis ventis retentum. Nunc destino partim orariis navibus, partim vehiculis provinciam petere. Nam sicut itineri graues aestus, ita continuae navigationi etesiae reluctantur.

Trajanus Plinio
Recte renuntiasti, mi Secunde carissime. Pertinet enim ad animum meum, quali itinere provinciam pervenias. Prudenter autem constituis interim navibus, interim vehiculis uti, prout loca suaserint.

Pliny to Trajan emperor
It is because I feel sure, Sir, that you will be interested to hear, that I send you news that I have rounded Cape Malea and have made my way with all my retinue to Ephesus. Though I have been delayed by contrary winds, I am now on the point of setting out for my province, travelling part of the way by coasters and part by land carriage, for the prevailing Etesian winds are as great an obstacle to journeying by sea as the overpowering heat is by land.

Trajan to Pliny
You have done well to send me news, my dear Pliny, for I am exceedingly interested to hear what sort of a journey you are having to your province. You are doing wisely to make use of coasters and land carriage alternately, according to the difficulties of the various districts.

Their correspondance also features the famous letter about Christians ("People keep denouncing these Christians and they seem harmless, what should I do?") and Trajan's no less famous answers ("Do not look for them, but punish them if presented to you"). This answer would be lambasted by Tertullian a few decades later:
Tunc Traianus rescripsit hoc genus inquirendos quidem non esse, oblatos vero puniri oportere. [8] O sententiam necessitate confusam! Negat inquirendos ut innocentes et mandat puniendos ut nocentes. Parcit et saevit, dissimulat et animadvertit. Quid temet ipsam, censura, circumvenis? Si damnas, cur non et inquiris? Si non inquiris, cur non et absolvis?

Then Trajan replied that such people were not indeed to be sought out, but that if they were brought before the court they ought to be punished. O self-contradictory verdict which says they are not to be sought out, because they are innocent, and yet orders them to be punished as criminals; which spares while it rages, which shuts the eye to crime and yet chastises it. Why, O judgment, dost thou cheat thyself? If thou condemnest, why dost thou not also denounce ? If thou dost not denounce, why not also acquit?

I'm reading In der tsukunft-shtot Edenya (In the Future City of Edenia), a short novel published in 1918 by Kalman Zingman. The work has recently been made available and translated by Jordan Finkin at In Geveb. Here is how he introduces the book:
In the Future City of Edenia (1918) is by any measure an unusual book. One of the few works of utopian science fiction in Yiddish literature, it envisions an ideal of the Jewish Folkists of the interwar period, namely Jewish cultural autonomy on European soil. The protagonist Zalmen Kindishman finds himself in the Ukrainian city of his birth after a career abroad, including several years in Palestine. What he finds is a futuristic land in which scientific endeavor, scholarly inquiry, and political harmony between ethnic groups have ushered in an age of creativity and tranquility which Kindishman finds so wondrous and wonderful that he is ultimately ill-equipped to deal with his emotional exhilaration.
As can be seen, the book is more about making sure the Folkist ideas are presented in the best light possible than it is about literature: Edenia has everything to offer, from advanced technology to harmonious cohabitation between different ethnic groups, and is thus light-years ahead of what Zionists are building in Palestine at the time.

Definitely not great literature, as far as I'm concerned, but it is still a very interesting document about the ideological war that was raging at the time between Jewish Socialists, Folkists, and Zionists, each of these groups with very different projects for the future of the Jewish people.
Last edited by guyome on Tue Oct 20, 2020 12:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby Nogon » Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:40 am

guyome wrote:Yiddish
I'm reading In der tsukunft-shtot Edenya (In the Future City of Edenia), a short novel published in 1918 by Kalman Zingman. The work has recently been made available and translated by Jordan Finkin at In Geveb.

Science fiction in Yiddish? Wow, didn't know there was anything like that. Have to read it, as soon as I'm able to do it (which may take some time).
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Tue Oct 20, 2020 11:10 am

Yiddish sci-fi is definitely not very common but I have marked down a couple of titles for later reading:
- Borodulin Lazar, Oyf yener zayṭ Sambaṭyun - ṿisenshafṭlikher un fanṭasṭisher roman (On the other side of the Sambation river), 1929. The opening pages mention a new machine that produces a beam able to destroy/kill from far away.
- Tshernovetski Velvl, Erev der ferṭer ṿelṭ-milḥome (On the Eve of the Fourth World War), 1959. The Martians are planning on invading the Earth because of a water shortage on their planet.
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Thu Oct 22, 2020 1:56 pm

Due to unforeseen (but not unwelcome) circumstances, I find myself in a position where knowing Persian would be nice. I must say that the language has always been very high on my wish list and it didn't take much to make me study it. So, starting right now, I'll make a concentrated effort to sudy the language over the next few weeks.

My Persian background
Persian was love at first sight. I heard it spoken for the first time 15 years ago and immediately decided that this was the most beautiful language on earth. Soon after, I bought the Assimil course and started studying it.

Alas! at the time I was already trying to improve my highschool English and studying Latin like crazy on my spare time, which left little time for Persian. It didn't help that I wasn't terribly experienced at learning languages outside of a classroom and that there wasn't much available online about/for Persian. Consequently, I ended up making only a little progress before shelving the book. Over the years, I have taken up Assimil (and the old TY by Mace) several times, more because I enjoyed reacquainting myself with the language than because I thought I'd actually learn it this time.

Where do I stand now?
Rereading and listening to the Assimil recordings, I'd say that:
- lessons 1-14 feel like old friends
- lessons 15-25, I understand almost everything apart from the odd word here and there
- lessons 26-35, I understand a lot but definitely not everything
- lessons 36-, I can see I have worked through some of these but can't remember much.

Grammar seems to have stuck pretty well, as well as basic vocab. If I listen to a podcast or try reading something in the wild, I definitely get plenty of words and small bits here and there. Of course, that's nowhere near enough for me to really understand much of what's actually going on.

What material will I use?
Mainly Assimil. It's rather slow and steady but I find it very good precisely for these reasons. I've seen people complaining about Assimil's newer courses being dumbed down but I don't really see the problem. If I wanted as many words and as much grammar as possible, I'd just buy a dictionary and a grammar book. What I'm looking for in a textbook is a carefully graded learning curve.

Apart from Assimil, I'll regularly listen to podcasts for a few minutes. Of course, I won't be able to understand much but I found it very useful to listen to my target language early on no matter what. My guess is that training the ear to recognise familiar words 'in the wild' is what makes the transition from textbook audio to authentic material natural (at any rate, that's been my experience with Yiddish and Ladino).

I'll also do some reading here and there. For the same reason as listening, I've found it very helpful to venture out of textbooks and encounter familiar material under another guise. Anything will do at this stage because it will be about recognising the odd word here and there, but later on I 'll probably make use of Iranian schoolbooks that I've downloaded. Things like textbooks for primary school may provide level appropriate readings.

What goals?
I'm not good at sticking to study plans, so I'll set up short-term goals rather than lofty ones.

Right now, my focus will be on finishing Assimil (or at least reaching a point where I feel the course teaches me less than other activities). Given that I've already worked through part of it in the past, my plan for next month is as follows:
- review lessons 1-7 and 8-14 today and tomorrow
- do two lessons a day afterwards (until it proves to be too much).
I'll be happy enough if I can stick to this routine for 30 days and will reevaluate things then.

Any comments, ideas, advice welcome!

(Also, if anybody knows how I can change the thread's title, let me know!)
Last edited by guyome on Fri Oct 23, 2020 7:30 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby DaveAgain » Thu Oct 22, 2020 2:06 pm

guyome wrote:Also, if anybody knows how I can change the thread's title, let me know!
I think you just need to edit the 'subject' field in the first post of this thread. ... 68#p157136
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Thu Oct 22, 2020 2:12 pm

Thanks, DaveAgain! I'll try that.
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Mon Oct 26, 2020 11:38 am

Focusing on Persian means less time for other activities. I still read regularly in all my languages but I've removed Lo Gascon lèu e plan from the schedule.

Went quickly through lessons 1-7 and 8-14 since I knew the contents almost by heart at this point. Then, I studied two lessons a day and finished working through lesson 20. There's not much I didn't remember in lessons 15-20, except for a couple of words (tab, bimâr).

I also listen daily to some Persian podcasts to train my ear. At this point, I can only understand very short bits here and there but I think it helps. I'm using RFI's تاریخ تازه‌ها. I have downloaded four or five episodes (around 1h of audio) and I listen to these regularly. Since I don't understand a lot, there's no real need for me to get new material every day (and I've always found relistening fruitful anyway).

I've also been thinking about how I'll tackle the formal/informal Persian differences. Assimil teaches formal ('as written') Persian, which differs in some ways from Persian used in informal situations. Lessons 42, 73-74 and 77 do give clues about regular sound changes between the two but that's probably not going to be enough.
Right now, I think I'll just go on with formal Persian as taught in the book and spoken in podcasts like تاریخ تازه‌ها. Later, when I'll have made good progress, I'll start listening to more colloquial Persian resources.

To give myself some point of reference for later, here is what I can understand of the beginning of the short story I posted in the thread about Iranian textbooks. It is taken from a Year 2 textbook, so written for 8-year old students. Some things haven't been introduced by Assimil yet (the imperfect tense, digar, etc) but I remember them from previous study.
farsi2.jpg (128.4 KiB) Viewed 215 times
Two small birds were living in a xxx. One of them was named "Kushâ" and the other was named "Nushâ". They were also xxx and always did xxx together.
One day, their parents told them: "You are grown-ups [lit. 'You have become tall/big']. xxx [Apart(?)] from playing, you should also take-xxx [lit. 'it is necessary that you practice/learn/...?'] other things".
Kushâ and Nushâ rejoiced and xxx, they xxx-ed their xxx.
On the way, they saw a xxx [woodpecker?]. The xxx [woodpecker?] was xxx bird xxx.
Wondering why the sentence Dar râh, dârkubi râ didand combines the indefinite marker -i with the definite marker ...Based on what I know, I'd expect that using one would exclude using the other.
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby guyome » Fri Oct 30, 2020 4:01 pm

Started reading Yoshe Kalb, a novel by Israel Joshua Singer (elder brother of Yiddish author and 1978 Literature Nobel prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer).
I'm only two chapters in but it's a good read so far. It is about a Hasidic rebbe, who's in a hurry to marry his daughter so that he can in turn remarry (for the fourth time!). Definitely not a rose-tinted view of Hasidic leadership.

Read El Mulino de oro, a short story (25p.) in Rashi script that has been digitised by the National Library of Israel.
The story begins with three Jewish porters discussing what they'd like to have right now, while they're waiting for work on the seaside in Haskoy (Istanbul). Two of them want good food and wine, while the third one declares he wants to have a mill that produces gold. The discussion stops when the three friends are called to unload a ship. The story then follows the third porter on his way to Paris and shows the reader how he manages to become filthy rich.

The beginning of the story, in Haskoy, kind of rings true but all the events taking place in France are wildly unbelievable, as is often the case with these Ladino short stories. It's a shame Ladino authors of the time didn't spend more time writing on Jewish life in the Ottoman Empire, it would have made for more interesting (and probably better quality) reading than their fantasized version of late 19th./early 20th c. French society.

Studied Assimil lessons 21-27. I'm still doing two lessons a day but had to skip one yesterday (might work through lesson 28 tonight though). The amount of words I didn't really remember has very slowly been on the increase, but apart from that I still feel in rather well-known territory. This should change around lesson 35 and I may have to dial things back to one lesson a day at this point.

About formal/informal Persian and getting to practice the latter, I remembered that FSI Persian uses the informal pronunciation throughout (except for the 2nd pl. -id/-in, surprisingly). So, that's one resource I could use in the future to transition from Assimil's formal ('pronounced as written') Persian to the informal pronunciation. I'll check the DLI course too.

Apart from Assimil, I'm still listening to podcasts, around 30 minutes a day, I'd say. Still very little I can understand in terms of full sentences but I can definitely feel my listening ability has improved and I can now pick up plenty of individual words and short phrases. I find it's good practice in order to reinforce what Assimil teaches me.
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Re: Occitan, Manchu, Yiddish and Latin

Postby cjareck » Fri Oct 30, 2020 6:02 pm

guyome wrote: I'll check the DLI course too.

There is no audio for some lessons, I don't know if it is missing or was not recorded. I've downloaded that course some time ago when I was dreaming of becoming hyperpolyglot since Persian is similar to Arabic ;) If you find out what is going on with that matter, please let me know.
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