Friday, 10 July 2015

A Tale of Two Typoes

A long time ago I commented here on an article in The Times on endangered languages. I was not very impressed by the article itself, although its heart was in the right place; my scorn was directed in particular at this quote/translation:        
"Que l'lingo seit bouan ou mauvais,
J'pâlron coum'nou pâlait autefais."
(Whether the lingo be good or bad,  
I'm going to speak like dear old dad.)
Especially the last three words:
No 'dad', no 'dear', no 'old'.
(Any argument about the difficulty of verse translations, and the licence for idiomatic embellishments, I said, should be ruled out in view of the narrow measure of a newspaper column – which makes it impossible to detect the need for suspension of accuracy on poetical grounds. The newspaper article, transcribed on a website devoted to Manx, is  here.)

In that piece I expressed doubts about two verb forms. A recent holiday led me to do a bit of research, and rather than write  yet another update to an already over-updated piece....

The Wikipedia article on Guernésiais has the same text for Métivier's verse but no "dear old dad". Possibly coum'nou pâlait (specifically the "nou + 3rd person singular verb") is an impersonal form; so the Wikipedia translation is good: I’m going to speak as we used to speak). But that still doesn't account for j‘ pâlron  which, as I said here, seemed most unlikely:'s why, if you really want to know. There are systematic features of Latin-derived verb endings. There are in some cases exceptions, but they tend to be noted in philology texts; examples from minority languages are  the stock-in-trade of philology – I explained here how and why I know a single word of Gascon. If there were a language that had -ron as the first person singular in the future form of a first conjugation verb (-er verbs in French, -ar verbs in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and so on‡) I'd very probably have heard of it. 'Nou' looks like we, which would make the ending -ait first person plural – which I'd very probably have heard of. If one language had both oddities....
I was wrong about nou. As I suggested just  now, it's probably impersonal (like the standard French on  –  as that Wikipedia article says in a regrettably sparse section  on phonology 'Metathesis of /r/ is common in Guernésiais, by comparison with Sercquiais and Jèrriais.' I wouldn't be at all surprised if metathesis were common with n as well. I know of no language that restricts metathesis [which I discussed here] to a single phonological context).

All of this leaves  J'pâlron as an object of my doubt. The only verb table ...
<autobiographical_note meta="old fogey alert">
or paradigm as we used to say at school, before the word was exposed to such wanton over-use:

Collins frequency chart.  I rest my case
(and blame that Kuhn chap. His book was published in 1962 right at the start of that sharp rise).
...I can find gives "oimaïr - to love (regular conjugation)"; and that "regular" suggests that anything else is irregular. And among Romance languages, I can't imagine the word derived from PARABOLARE (the Vulgar Latin word for 'talk', adopted for its regularity) being irregular. Which would suggest that j'palron should fit this model:

oimaïr paradigm at  Wikipedia

An extraordinary feature that leaps out (eventually – it‘s so extraordinary that I missed it at first glance...
I'd no doubt have known about it if I'd bitten the bullet of studying the History of French (which I didn't do for reasons discussed in an  earlier post , I think)
)... is that Je (or j'  in this case) serves as both singular and plural,   so that J'pâlron[s?] in Métivier's poem means We will talk.

With curiosities like this lurking in every natural language, 20th-21st century mankind's insouciant destruction of the Earth's linguodioversity* is lamentable.

But there's a Velux to refurbish ...

Flourish backfires. (5)

Update 2015.07.09.16:20 – Added PPS

              <occasional_FOGGY_nomination explanation="here" perpetrator="mercifully anonymous">
This approach was on the understanding that these 11 units would not being [sic] subjected to any additional financial contributions, nor assessed against any policy, nor be included in any calculations which could result in affordable housing provision or environmental services that would not otherwise be expected via a prior approval and CLD application process.
           Wokingham Borough application F/2015/0346

              Hmmm... No idea what this means, but it imparts a nasty whiff of  nods and winks.

Update 2015.09.09.17:20 – Added link to earlier post.

Update 2015.12.14.14:00 – Crossword answer: SERIF (easy enough, I think, but pleasing) and added this note:

* My model for this is 'biodiversity'; but if I follow that model (or paradigm as I'm sure a true modernist would say) I should mix Greek (βιος) and Latin (divertere). Some commentators decry this mixing, irrationally; mixed etymologies are common, useful, and sometimes necessary for the coiner's purpose. And where, in any case, do you draw the line between a language and its descendant? A morganatic marriage, I've  just discovered, is one that involves no transfer of property except for a morning gift (OE  morgengifu):
morganatic (adj.) Look up morganatic at
1727, from French morganatique (18c.), from Medieval Latin matrimonium ad morganaticam "marriage of the morning," probably from Old High German*morgangeba (Middle High German morgengabe) "morning gift," corresponding to Old English morgengifu (see morn + gift)...
More here

But you'll look in vain for morganaticus in a Classical Latin dictionary, although the suffix -aticus was common. Television mixes Greek and Latin, but try calling it teleopsy.

So my linguodiversity ('pure' Latin) might better be glottodiversity (at the risk of sounding as though it could be thought to refer to trendy accents that affect a glottal stop [but inconsistently]).

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-paimercifullyrs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Well over 49,200 views  and nearly 9,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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