Last night, I opened Daniels and Bright's The World's Writing Systems at random and found the above word.with lines atop all but the last four letters. It's the name of a language in that language. Can you guess what it is? This language was spoken by


'the men of ...'


1. Look at the last four letters of the name of the language and its speakers.

2. The font in this post is not quite correct.

3. Here are a few more words in that language from The World's Writing Systems:

εϥϣηϥ 'it being deserted'

ν̅γ̅ϩεϯε 'and you flow'

ευϫοσε 'they being high' FROM WHENCE THE -N- IN BORINQUEN?

I should have guessed that the name Borinquen 'Puerto Rico' and its cognates are of native origin:

Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name. The terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage.

I don't understand why Borinquen has an -n- absent from Borikén. Why would Spanish speakers insert an -n- at random? Are there other loanwords with inexplicably intrusive -n-s? Could Borikén have been [borĩken] with a nasalized [ĩ]?

The fine phonetic details of Taíno may be forever lost because that language is long extinct, though

[s]ome of the words used by them [the Taíno] such as barbacoa ("barbecue"), hamaca ("hammock"), canoa ("canoe"), tabaco ("tobacco"), yuca, and Juracán ("hurricane") have been incorporated into the Spanish and English languages.

I don't understand this part of its Ethnologue entry:

Shifted to Spanish, or Spanish-Taino mixed language, not understood by Spanish speakers. Present language estimated 55% Taino, 45% Spanish. Ethnic group uses Spanish or English.

The second and third sentences don't refer to the "Spanish-Taino mixed language" in the first and the second seems to say that over half still speak Taíno.

The front page of The Modern Taíno Dictionary quotes Chief Guanikeyu:

"We the Taino people of today, very proudly still speak our language in our Taino communities."

He may be referring to this "process of restoration":

Many of the Taíno descendants today speak English or Spanish peppered with a few Taíno words. The Taíno language has been very poorly preserved, yet it is undergoing a process of restoration by its community members, and its membership in the Arawakan family is generally accepted.

How can one restore a language from fragmentary evidence? Are holes filled by words, paradigms, and constructions borrowed and Taíno-ized from other Arawakan languages: e.g., Goajiro (a.k.a. Wayuu), perhaps Taíno's closest surviving relative? W∀ER IS WUTZOFANT?*

Thanks to Andrew West, I now know that Wutzofant wrote the Pennsylvania Dutch article on Routing.

According to Wutzofant's Yuuser-Blatt 'user page', he's not PD, but he speaks Rhine Franconian German. Palatine German is a subgroup of RFG which is the closest continental relative of PD. To write his article on routing, he must have taken standard German terminology, converted it into RFG, and then converted his RFG neologism into PD. This is like a standard Cantonese speaker taking Mandarin terminology and turning it into Toisanese (which is far closer to standard Cantonese than to Mandarin, though the phonetic gap between standard Cantonese and Toisanese is much greater than that between RFG and PD).

Wutzofant also knows English and has translated a few simple English sentences into PD.

*'Who is Wutzofant?' in Pennsylvania Dutch (using Learned's spelling). The standard German equivalent would be Wer ist Wutzofant? PENNSYLFAANISCH DENGLISCH (PART 3)

Marion Dexter Learned concluded his book on a sad note:

There is a touch of pathos in the fast vanishing traces of this once flourishing [Pennsylvania] German civilization.

He thought that Pennsylvania Dutch speakers were "dying" toward the end of the 19th century, but Wikipedia claims that there are perhaps almost 300,000 speakers at the beginning of the 21st century. I am always suspicious of figures for small languages with optimistic advocates. "[T]wo full semesters of the Pennsylvania German [= PD] language" at the university level are better than nothing, but they won't do much. People can and do take languages at school for years without even remotely approaching native-level competence. For most, a vague desire to reconnect with their ancestors is not enough to motivate mastery. What are the practical benefits of learning PD?

Is anyone using PD to read about Technology? Apart from the obligatory German-style capitalization, the word Technology is English (in accordance with Learned's rule 2). If I spoke PD natively, would I be reading these six articles in my language or would I be reading in English? Are there any PD monolinguals left? How many native PD speakers are online, and how many would turn to PD sources of information first?

According to Learned's rule 4, "technical terms are rarely, almost never translated" from English into PD. The technological articles use a mix of English loans, partial translations from English, and PD neologisms based on standard German: e.g.,

Reedio 'radio', Foohn 'phone' (with PD-style spelling)

Broadcaster (with German capitalization and English spelling)

Routingtabelle 'routing table' (Eng routing + ?PD Tabelle; cf. standard German Routingtabelle)

Guckbax 'television' (PD 'look' + Eng box)

Flughafe 'airport' (PD-ization of standard German Flughafen 'flight-haven')

I can't quickly find any PD technical neologisms without a basis in English or standard German. What would be the point of coining such words? How many PD native speaker IT people are there? How many PD speakers use or even understand terms like Routingtabelle? I bet they'd resort to English terms most of the time with a few exceptions (e.g., 'television'; see. Learned's rule 1). I myself don't know what a routing table is. I suspect the PD article on Routing was written as an experiment to determine if PD could be used to write about a modern technical subject. Anything can be written in any language. The question is whether anyone can understand an article filled with nonce words imported or coined by the author. PENNSYLFAANISCH DENGLISCH (PART 2)

Here are the English glosses for last night's 'Denglisch' words:

denki 'thank you' (you has been reduced to -i)

einfensə 'to fence in' (ein- is 'in' and is the Pennsylvania Dutch infinitive ending corresponding to standard German -en)

kiipen 'cow pen' (kii is PD for 'cow', presumably from an earlier *küü cognate to cow)

schmookpeif 'smoke pipe' (peif is PD for 'pipe')

hunnərtjoor 'century' < 'hundred-year' (cf. standard German Jahrhundert 'year-hundred' for 'century' with the elements in the reverse order)

When are Denglisch words used? Marion Dexter Learned proposed five laws of Denglisch:

1. PD or English words are used depending on "which is the most familiar to both speaker and hearer."

2. American concepts are expressed with English loanwords or part-English compounds like kiipen and einfensə.

3. The lack of reinforcement of PD in schools leads to "more indiscriminate" mixture.

4. "Official, formal, and technical terms are rarely, almost never translated" from English into PD.

5. English loans are based on colloquial (19th century Pennsylvania dialect?) pronunciations rather than on standard American English: e.g.,

bɒssəm for 'opossum' (19th c. PA possum?)

reschtə for 'to arrest' (19th c. PA rest?; -ə is the PD infinitive ending

schkiids for 'skates' (19th c. PA skeets?)

Next: Do these laws apply today? A little experiment. PENNSYLFAANISCH DENGLISCH (PART 1)

Marion Dexter Learned opens his section on English mixture in late 19th century Pennsylvania Dutch with the observation that German speakers in PA were not homogenous in terms of dialect, class, or religion, implying that even 'pure' PD is a made-in-America mixture*.

Learned found a five to one ratio of native PD words to English loans in the vocabulary of Rauch's hond-booch (which I blogged about last week).

Some loans are quite disguised: e.g., denki.

Others mix German and English elements:




Still others are German elements in English order: e.g., hunnərtjoor (j is pronounced 'y').

Can you guess the meanings of those words? I'll print the answers tomorrow.

*I am reminded of the claim that there was once a 'neutral', toneless Chinese created in Hawaii as a compromise between Cantonese and Hakka.

When my late grandmother went to Japan, she was told she sounded like a native speaker of Japanese from an unknown prefecture. Did she have a 'neutral', made-in-Hawaii accent? WIKIPEDIA IN DEITSCH

The i is intentional. Deitsch, not Deutsch. Thanks to Andrew West for linking to the Haaptblatt 'main page' of the Pennsylfaanisch-deitsche Wikipedelche. I assume -che is a diminutive suffix cognate to standard German -chen. Another diminutive suffix is -li in Uffguckbichli < 'up-look book-ie' = 'little book [to] look [things] up [in]'. In other words ...

En Uffguckbichli iss en Encyclopedia.

The site also includes a trilingual Englisch-Deitsch-Deutsch Waddebuch 'word-book' (dictionary). I couldn't find uffguck so my gloss above is a guess based on context ("Guuck uff" corresponds to "Search" in the English Wikipedia). However, I did find one word I sought last week for Bruce Rosenberger: Gebottsdaag 'birthday' (cf. standard German Geburtstag 'birth-s-day'*).

*9.28.1:02: The -s- after Geburt looks like a gentive ending, but Geburt is a feminine noun whose genitive has no ending: der Geburt (not der Geburts). Charles V. J. Russ regards feminine nouns plus -s in German compounds as "morphological anomalies" whose -s "are best regarded as empty morphemes."

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