is the Tangut pronunciation of

the phrase written right to left at the bottom of the graphic in my last post.

It is almost identical to the phrase I wrote at the bottom of my first post for 2009:

niəə təụ giəə kiw

Only the third character differs because the first phrase means 'two thousand ten year' and the second means 'two thousand nine year'. I already revealed that the last character meant 'year' in the beginning fo my last post. Given

'X Y A year' in 2010

'X Y Z year' in 2009

A = 10 and Z = 9, X = 2, and Y = 1000.

Tangut character
Tangutniəətəụ ɣạkiw
Tangut character
Tangutniəətəụ giəəkiw

As for my other question from my last post,

If the above question is too easy, could you explain to me the structure of the graph for 'tiger'?

I myself don't understand its structure, though last night I finally realized after 13 years that its left and right components

could be based on 乕, a variant of Chinese 虎 'tiger'.

But why are there two of those 乕 'tiger'-like elements in 'tiger', and why do they flank, of all things,

dzie 'one of a pair'

which has no phonetic or semantic similarity to ləi 'tiger'? HAPPY SIW YEAR 2010

I don't know how the Tangut would have said 'happy new year'. They certainly wouldn't have celebrated it on January 1st since they used , so I'll translate Chinese


'new year happy'


kiw siw bɛɛ reʳ!

'[may the] year new [be] happy'

Tangut siw 'new' usually follows nouns, so 'year new' means 'new year'.

The year of the (metal) tiger begins on February 14. The graph for 'tiger' (taken from Li Fanwen's Tongyin yanjiu) is at the top of the graphic below:

Can you figure out what the four graphs at the bottom mean?

Hint 1: They are read from right to left.

Hint 2: I've already mentioned one of them earlier in this post.

Hint 3: Last year I wrote (from right to left)

If the above question is too easy, could you explain to me the structure of the graph for 'tiger'? SERBO-CROATIAN: B. 1836?, D. 1991?

In "Overview of the linguistic aspects of the disintegration of former Yugoslavia" in the anthology Language in the Former Yugoslav Lands, Ranko Bugarski (2004: 6) "describes himself as a native speaker of an officially dead language." As you may have guessed from the title of his article, he is referring to Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian.

According to Wikipedia,

The term Serbo-Croatian was mentioned for the first time by Slovene philologist Jernej Kopitar in a letter from 1836, although it cannot be ruled out that he had become acquainted with the term by reading the Slovak philologist Pavol Jozef Šafárik's manuscript "Slovanské starožitnosti" printed 1837 [but presumably in circulation before Kopitar's 1836 letter?].

Note that Kopitar and Šafárik were both neither Serbian nor Croatian. I can't confirm this in Language in the Former Yugoslav Lands, though Popović (2004: 26) noted that Kopitar "inspired and guided" Vuk Karadžić's standardization of Serbian and Browne (2004: 259) mentioned that Kopitar helped 'Talvj' (Therese Albertine Luise von Jacob)* to translate Serbian songs into German.

I think Bugarski would say that Serbo-Croatian 'died' once Croatia became independent on 25 June 1991.

The fragmentation of what used to be Serbo-Croatian continues in Montenegro:

In the previous census of 1991, the vast majority, 510,320 or 82.97% of Montenegrin citizens, declared themselves as speakers of the then official language: Serbo-Croatian. [...] In the late nineties and early twenty-first century, organizations promoting Montenegrin as a distinct language appeared, and since 2004 the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro regime introduced the term to usage. The new constitution, adopted on 19 October 2007, deemed Montenegrin to be the official language of Montenegro.

Three special letters (in both Latin and Cyrillic) have been proposed to represent Montenegrin-'only' sounds

[ç]: Latin ś, Cyrillic с́

[ʝ]: Latin ź, Cyrillic з́

[dz]: Latin з, Cyrillic ѕ

even though

there are speakers in Montenegro who don't utter them and speakers of Serbian and Croatian outside of Montenegro (notably in Herzegovina and Bosanska Krajina) who do.

Bugarski (2004: 8) pointed out that

a speaker of standard Serbian will find the everyday urban speech of Podgorica or Nikšić [in Montenegro] perfectly comprehensible if perhaps somewhat quaint, whereas he might understand little of the normal everyday speech of Vranje or Pirot [in Serbia]. Yet the former should come under 'another' language, Montenegrin, and the latter under 'his own', Serbian!

National borders do not necessarily correspond to intelligibility which is a common criterion for defining 'languages'.

Bugarski (2004: 7) asked,

... let us imagine a group of three friends chatting in their native city of Sarajevo, one ethnically Bosniak, one Croat, and one Serb. What language are they using?

He guessed that

they might reply, respectively, that it was Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian. But they would probably feel somewhat uneasy or even regard such a response as a joke, preferring a label such as 'our language' or 'Sarajevo speech', which would reflect their awareness of speaking one and the same language, perhaps with barely noticeable differences of no consequence to them. And now imagine that the Serb moves to Belgrade [in Serbia], without changing his Ijekavian dialect or Sarajevo accent. What language would he be speaking them? He might go on calling it Serbian, but most Belgraders would hardly take such a designation seriously, in all likelihood insisting that his speech was clearly Bosnian. So where does this get us? May one be permitted to suggest, as still the most appropriate label, that in both situations the language in question was actually Serbo-Croatian?

*Talvj was also "[t]he first Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian language scholar in the United States" and "also our [America's] first Slavist of any sort." Browne suggested that "[t]he American preference for the adjective Slavic over Slavonic may well stem from her works." Unfortunately, she did not work for a university and "left no students". Slavic languages were not taught at American universities until 1896:

Archibald Cary Coolidge, [Harvard] professor of history, traveler to Russia and benefactor to the university, took matters into his own hands by paying the Russian language and literature's salary for the first five years! He later bought for the university library all the Slavic books in the Otto Harrassowitz catalogue in Leipzig. Leo Wiener, the first holder of the chair, was a philologist and translator born in Russia.

My formal study of Russian started in graduate school in 1997, almost exactly a century after the introduction of Russian as a university subject in the US.

Serbo-Croatian was first taught in the US at Columbia in 1915 or 1916. As of 2006, 306 students were enrolled in university-level 'Serbo-Croatian' courses. Only 24 were enrolled in 'Croatian', 16 in 'Serbian', and 8 in 'Bosnian'. HOW IS NA'VI LIKE UKRAINIAN?

I was initially surprised that Na'vi has two front high vowel phonemes /i/ and /ɪ/ but only one back vowel phoneme /u/ (with unexplained allophonic variation [u] ~ [ʊ]; is the latter in closed syllables?). Then I remembered that Ukrainian has a similarly unbalanced high vowel system:

і /i/ (not written и as in Russian!)

и /ɪ/ (not [i] as in Russian; romanized as y like Russian ы [a letter not in the Ukrainian alphabet] but not pronounced like Russian ы [ɨ])

у /u/ (as in Russian, but with an unstressed allophone [ʊ])

The Na'vi mid vowels e [ɛ] which is "always lax" is lower than its back counterpart o [o] (not [ɔ]!). Is there any language with this unbalance?

12.31.0:31: I just remembered a language with a different kind of unbalanced high vowel system. Manchu has one front high vowel /i/ but two back high vowels /u/ and the mysterious /ū/ ([ʊ]?). I should continue my "What Was the Sixth Vowel of Manchu?" series from where I left off in October. A LIVING NATIVE SPEAKER OF A DEAD LANGUAGE

Today I went to Schoenhof's near Harvard and picked up three books. I'll discuss them later this week.

The co-editor of one of the three books

sometimes describes himself as a native speaker of an officially dead language.

Can you guess which language he was referring to? It is (was?) neither small nor obscure, and I have blogged about it before. DID QIANG INITIAL CLUSTERS DEVELOP LIKE QIANG FINAL CONSONANTS?

Most East Asian languages do not have rich systems of final consonants: e.g., -n is the only final consonant permitted in Japanese. Mawo Qiang, on the other hand, has 22 possible final consonants which can form 22 clusters:

Mawo Qiang single final consonants

-p -t -ts -tʂ -tʃ -k -q
-b -d -dʒ
-m -n
-l -r

Mawo Qiang final consonant clusters

r-clusters: -rb, -rg

s-clusters -st

z-clusters: -zd

ʂ-clusters: -ʂp, -ʂk

x-clusters: -xs, -xts, -xtʂ, -xtʃ

ɣ-clusters: -ɣl, -ɣz, -ɣdʐ, -ɣdʐ

χ-clusters: -χp, -χs, -χl, -χʂ-

ʁ-clusters: -ʁl, -ʁdz, -ʁz, -ʁdʐ-

mdz- (only in loans from Tibetan; no other m-clusters)

This complex system of final consonants originates at least in part from initial consonants of the second parts of affix-root combinations and compounds: e.g.,

da- (verbal prefix) + tʃə 'do' = daʂ 'did'

'earth' + khsə (or khsi) 'god' = xs 'earth god'

rma 'Qiang' + dʒəβɑ 'language' = rmaʐ 'Qiang language'

Notice how initial consonants may be altered in final position after vowel loss. (Since -tʃ is a possible final consonant, I don't understand why tʃə was reduced to instead of -tʃ.)

I suspect that initial clusters also originated from vowel loss: CVC- > CC-.

I am puzzled because not all affix-root combinations and compounds involve vowel loss: e.g.,

da- (verbal prefix) + guə 'wear' = daɣu 'wore' (not dag or daɣ)

Neither -g nor are permissible. Is -u retained to avoid an unacceptable final consonant?
maxs maβɑ 'neither new or old' (not ... mab or ... maβ)

khsə 'new' (homophonous with khsə 'god' above) is reduced to vowelless -xs before ma 'not', but 'old' is not reduced to -b (-β is not permissible), though its b- is lenited to -β- between vowels. WHAT DOES THE APOSTROPHE IN NA'VI REPRESENT?

I went to see Dancing with Smurfs today. It was not my idea. But I hoped to get something linguistic out of it: namely, the answer to the title question. I didn't hear a glottal stop in Na'vi, unless such a pronunciation was used when I fell asleep a couple of times during the movie. Did I miss a [ʔ], [ʕ] (if ' = the ` used in Arabic romanization for ع), or whatever the apostrophe was supposed to be? Or was the apostrophe merely sci-fi orthographic exotica, a character added solely to make the name look (but not necessarily sound) more exotic? I don't care for vacuous characters.

I saw a PhD credited for the Na'vi language in the closing credits. I wonder if he was explicitly instructed to make the language easy for English-speaking actors to pronounce. I find 'alien' names so boring because they sound very English to me. The Na'vi language didn't strike my ears as being exotic. (The word Na'vi even sounds like an actual Earth-language word: Sanskrit naavi 'in a ship'. The English cognates should be obvious.)

I was looking at 麻窝羌语 Mawo Qiang (MQ) phonology yesterday in Sun Hongkai's 羌语简志 Qiang yu jianzhi. Unlike its distant relative Tangut, MQ has a rich system of consonants: e.g., up to eight kinds of 'ch' which can be differentiated in the International Phonetic Alphabet as

tʂ tʃ tɕ cɕ

tʂʰ tʃʰ tɕʰ cɕʰ

cɕ(ʰ) is no longer in the speech of younger MQ as of 1981 (or probably much earlier - the 50s or early 60s when Sun did his fieldwork?) and may be completely extinct now.

MQ also contains many initial consonant clusters* absent from English: e.g.,

hr-clusters: hrp-, hrt-, hrk-, hrts- (hr- = IPA [r̥])

r-clusters: rp-, rb-, rd-, rk-, rg-, rts-, rdz-, rtʃʰ-, rdʒ-, rdʑ-, rm-, rŋ-, rl-, rw-

s-clusters (only those absent from English are listed): sq-, stɕ-, sɲ-

ʂ-clusters: ʂp-, ʂtɕ-, ʂk-, ʂq-

z-clusters: zb-, zd-, zg-

-clusters: kʰs-, kʰʂ-, kʰɕ-

g-clusters: gz-, gʐ-, gʑ-

-clusters: qʰs-, qʰʂ-

x-clusters: xp-, xts-, xtʂ-, xtʃ-, xtɕ-, xl-

ɣ-clusters: ɣb-, ɣdʐ-, ɣdʒ-, ɣdʑ-, ɣl-, ɣn-

χ-clusters: χp-, χt-, χts-, χtʂ-, χtʃ-, χtɕ-, χl-

ʁ-clusters: ʁb-, ʁd-, ʁdz-, ʁdʐ-, ʁdʒ-, ʁdʑ-, ʁɲ-, ʁz-, ʁl-, ʁʑ-

mdz- (only in loans from Tibetan; no other m-clusters)

I can't imagine most actors (apart from Qiang-speaking ones!) attempting to pronounce MQ words like kʰsiɑʴqhu 'shadow' or ʁɲiqu 'water deity', much less MQ sentences at normal conversational speed.

The first elements of MQ clusters all have an opposite-voicing counterpart:











The voicing of the first element generally correlates with the voicing of following obstruents:

voiceless first element + voiceless obstruent (exception: r- can precede voiceless obstruents)

voiced first element + voiced obstruent

Any first element can precede voiced sonorants.

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