Natural languages, communication, etc

Archive for February, 2010

Origin of the letters AE,Y,W,J

Anybody knows at what time J, W and Y where incorporated in the Latin
alphabet ? What about AE (which is typed as one letter in Dansih and Norwegian
and sometimes in latin words such as anaestisia ?)


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Classification of Relative Pronouns

As I understand things, a relative pronoun is a word such as "that",
"which", "who" etc, which forms the subject of a relative clause, e.g.
"This is the car *that* I bought yesterday." The question is, can these
words also be classified as subordinating conjunctions? If not, is there
a convenient term which includes both, i.e. is there a term for the class
of words which mark non-principal clauses?


Mark B.

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A question I like to share:

I like to know the original meaning for the names of continents.

Australia and Antharctis are clear, but what about the others?

America becomes from Amerigo Vespucci, but what does his first
name Amerigo really mean?

Asia meant at first only part of Turkey looking from Greece, right?
What does the word originally mean?

As far as I know Europe (not forgetting the ancient Greek legends)
means originally something like the land of sunset or eveningland
(Abendland) and could be originated (the word) even to old Babylonia.
In what language does the word Europe originally come from?

Africa? I don’t know, but perhaps it is easier to explain than Europe.

Thank you.

Jorma Kyppo
Laukaa, Finland

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Re: English-French electronic dictionaries?

In article <3qetlc$…>,

S Berry <cs4…> wrote:
>I’m researhing machine translation English <-> French.
>I need 2 electronic dictionaries:
>    English <-> French
>    French monolingual
>Any info gratefully received

Harrap’s is now available on CD-ROM, but I only know a US source. It
works in Windows and links smoothly to Word6.

Tony Roder, speaking his mind….

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Population of Macedonia 1877 – 1918

Ethnic Composition of Macedonia 1877-1918

*V.Teploff, a Russian
Total Population 1877 1,479,417
Bulgarians 1,172,136 Greeks 190,047 Serbs 41,284 Vlachs 63,895
Albanians 12,055
(Serbs counted are of the Vilayet of Kosovo, north of Shar Mountain)

*St.Verkovitch Serbian
 1889 1,949,043
Bulgarians 1,317,211 Greeks 222,740 Vlachs 74,375 Turks 240,261
Albanians 78,790 Gypsies 10,558 Jews 1,612 Miscelaneous 3,483
(The Bulgarians counted include Bulgarian Pomaks (Islamic Bulgarians).
Verkovitch hasn’t counted the Jews of Salonika, Kavala, Veria, Bitolia,
and Koustor)

*Prof. G. Weigand German
 1898 2,275,000
Bulgarians 1,200,000 Greeks 220,000 Vlachs 70,000  Turks and Albanians
695,000 Jews 9,000

*Dr. Cleantis Nickolaidis Greek
 1899 1,820,500
Bulgarians 454,700 Greeks 656,300 Vlachs 41,200 Turks 576,600
Miscelaneous 91,700

*Nue Constantine Rumanian (Aromune Vlach?)
 1913 2,200,527
Bulgarians 512,000 Greeks 193,000 Serbs 21,700 Vlachs 350,000 Turks
and Albanians 1,030,420 Gypsies 25,000 Jews 65,600 Miscelaneous 2,807
(Serbs counted are from Kosovo)

*Robert Pelletier French
 1913 1,437,000
Bulgarians 1,172,000 Greeks 190,000 Vlachs 63,000 Albanians 12,000

*Richard von Mach German
 1906 1,334,827
Bulgarians 1,116,070 Greeks 95,005 Vlachs 56,148 Albanians 6,036
Gypsies 8,550 Miscelaneous 3,048

*Vladimir Sis Czech
 1918 2,173,849
Bulgarians 1,047,012 Greeks 204,367 Vlachs 67,865 Turks 520,845
Albanians 184,300 Gypsies 43,100 Jews & Miscelaneous 106,360
(Bulgarians counted include Bulgarian Pomaks)

*Turkish Government
 1905 2,903,920
Bulgarians 1,203,696 Serbs and Vlachs 199,717 Turks and Albanians
(Bulgarians counted include also Bulgarian Partriarchists. Serbs
counted are of Kosovo province.)

*Prof. Yordan Ivanoff Bulgarian
 1912 2,342,524
Bulgarians 1,103,111  Greeks 267,862 Vlachs 79,401 Turks 548,225
Albanians 194,195 Gypsies 43,370 Miscelaneous 106,360

*Leon Derainian American
 1917 1,438,084
Bulgarians 1,172,136 Greeks 190,047 Vlachs 63,895 Albanians 12,006
(Derainian is counting only Christians)

The geographic definition used to create the figures above,
cobines (only roughly) present-day Greek Macedonia, Mount Athos
(Hagion Oros), The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the
Bulgarian Macedonia region.
As far as I know, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has
 about 2.05 milliom people, 65% the group most related to the
Bulgarians, 21% Albanian, 5% Turkish, 3% Gypsie, and 2% Serbian.
I have read that many Macedonia Albanians living in parts
of the former Yugoslavia complain that the officials in charge of the
Macedonian census deliberately discount them.
The figures I haved decided are easiest to accept for 1920 are:
Total Population – 2.5 million
Bulgars 50%, Turks 25%, Greeks 10%, Albanians 7%, Vlaques 3%, Jews 3%,
Miscelaneous 2%  
Of course, what do I know?  I could be totally off, but the figures
are pretty neat and clean.
It is reported that the Bulgars of Macedonia no longer consider
themselves Bulgarian, and have embraced elements of their Macedonian
ancestry instead.
The Turkish and Jewish populations of Macedonia have clearly declined
with time.
Greeks have withdawn to, and  well populated the region of Macedonia
which is now a part of their country.
The Albanian population has risen notably with time.  Their
,population forms it’s concentration and absolute majority west
of the river Treska and Suva montains to the west and south of the
F.Y.R.o.M. capital ,Skopje.  Their region has a geographic area
equalling about 1/5 of the Republic’s total.
The Vlaques of Macedonia include mainly Aramunes and Meglenoromans.

Vlach = Vlaque,Wallachia,Wallonia,Welschenland,Welsche Vogteien,
Welsche Konfinien, Wales, Vaud?, Wallis, Vallais, Wallnut, Gaul,

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*[info] WWW Update Greece=Macedonia
Email: ht…

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Parts of speech accurate enough?

I wonder if the traditional classification of words by part of speech
(nouns, verbs etc.) isn’t too coarse to explain the syntax rules of
a language. What if a certain syntactic construction if only possible
with a limited number of words, but not with others, even if it makes sense
Dutch has an example of this in "ik zit naar de sterren te kijken"
(I sit and watch the stars). This construction is possible with
only FIVE verbs (known so far), but not with others. Viz. walk, sit,
stand, lie and hang can be used, but not ride, run, creep, etc.

If this occurs often in a language, it will be an obstacle for computer
translation, because just a list of words and their part of speech won’t
do, you must also record "can be used with this and that construction".

Examples in English (from "A Practical English Grammar",
Thomson & Martinet, 4th edition):

The most useful verbs which can be followed directly by the infinitive are:
agree, aim, appear … (list of some 50 verbs, some are which are specially
marked for an extra ability to be used with a that-clause, and/or a
"that .. should" construction. (Paragraph 241).

And paragraph 251:
A number of nouns can be followed directly by the infinitive. Some
of the most useful are:
ability, ambition, etc.

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Would any of you know where to find (if exist) vocabularies in, say English,
German and French, on the net, preferably in ASCII format.

Thanks in advance,

       __                                                       __
     _|_ |   Jacco Vrijland                                   _|_ |
    |  | |   wsbu…                              |  | |
   _|  | |   jacco.vrijl…                     _|  | |
 _|_|  |_|   It is nice to be important,                  _|_|  |_|
|______|       but it is more important to be nice…    |______|

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"There is" (was: "A is B" – which is subject?)

r… (Ralph T. Edwards) writes:

>Important cases where B is the subject include:
>There are three reasons.
>"*There is three reasons" makes my teeth hurt.  Never-the-less it is
>becoming increasingly common.

Very interesting food for thought.

 English generally requires Subject-Verb Agreement.  So for people who
can say "There is three reasons," it seems that "There" must be the
subject of the sentence, and that it must be singular.  So maybe our
analysis of this sentence-type is changing. Alternatively, I suppose,
the verb could be lacking agreement and simply be the default present
tense, which would suggest that the SVA requirement is changing.

I wonder, though, whether people can really say,
"There _is_ three reasons."  I haven’t heard this, but I have heard
"There’s three reasons."  In this case, there’s a third possibility,
namely that the ‘s clitic (or whatever it is) is gaining increased scope,
so that it can be used in some plural contexts.  And this could just be
a lexical change (possibly motivated by phonology), rather than a syntactic

 - Jay Rifkin                           (jirif…
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety."    - Benjamin Franklin

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Slavic Latin Orthographies

Some time ago, Joseph Boyle (bo… wrote:

>I seem to remember that Polish spelling was based on the old Czech
>spelling, which took its sound values from the German of the time,
>and  that the new Czech spelling, which today’s Czech, Slovak,
>Yugoslav, and  Baltic orthographies are based on, was invented by Jan
>Hus. Can you  confirm or correct this?

This is probably to simple a description.

The Latin script was introduced into those European countries which
were not a part of the Roman Empire via the Latin language not via the
vernaculars. The Latin language was first used in those countries by
the Catholic
Church and on this basis in can be said that the Latin script was
introduced by it. The ecclesiasticals were the first literate people in
these countries and the first texts (in whatever language) were
religious texts, wr
itten by them. Some people, for reason unknown to me, see the world as
a great pyramid and cannot free themselves from this scheme. They have
a hard time while trying to differentiate between the Holy Roman
Empire, the Ca
tholic Church in Germany, the kingdom of Bohemia and Jan Hus. They have
also difficulty in seeing the difference between the Holy Roman Empire
and those who imported (or not) something from Germany. One has to keep
in min
d that the first Polish Christian ruler —
Mieszko I, married a Bohemian princess and accepted baptism from
Bohemia in order to avoid giving the Holy Roman Emperors any pretext to
consider him to be their subject.

Jan Hus, whoever or whatever borrowed from him, hardly can be
considered to be a propagator of the imperial cause. He certainly was a
Bohemian patriot and if he used the Latin script to write in Czech, it
was because he w
rote earlier in Latin, as did every learned man in Europe, not because
of his connections with the Empire. He learned the Latin language and
script when he studied for the priesthood. It is not sure, however,
whether he w
as the first who wrote in Czech.

I would like to point out that we did not discuss the question of how
the spelling systems of some languages were established, but why the
used script was the Latin not Greek script. The script and the
orthography are not
 the same thing.

The first Polish texts (and I guess that Czech also) appeared much
earlier than Jan Hus was born. The use of vernacular did not start just
some day. Its introduction was a slow, gradual process, ocurring in
various places
 and full of expariments. The first, incidental, texts were very short
, inserted usually in Latin texts, and very few of them were preserved.
The spelling standard was not established, at least for one reason:
there were
 many dialects and for one of them or a combination of some to become
the standard a script was necessary. On a 16th century map the western
Bug river is called, starting from its easternmost part: Bug, Buh,

The initially used spelling was also different from today’s. The
medieval phonemes were also different — e.g.. in Polish there was one
nasal, now there are two of them. Because the oldest text were so
short, it is very d
ifficult to identify the language in which some texts, in
linguistically mixed areas, were written and what was the source of the
spelling. A fragment of "Ksie,ga Henrykowska" (The Henryko’w Book),
written in the Cistersi
an monastery of Henryko’w in Silesia, in the second half of the 13th
and in the 14th century, in Latin (nota bene), contained a sentence
which was, by some, considered to be the oldest, preserved, Polish

Here is the text: "Daj ut ja pobrusze, a ty poczywaj!"  ("Now, let me
grind (grain) and you take a break!"). These words were uttered by a
husband to his, grinding corn, wife. The Latin part of the text reports
the man to
 be a Czech.

Now this text is considered to be rather Czech than Polish.

In the 13th century’s Poland credo was said in Polish and the
archbishop of Gniezno Jakub S’winka recommended in 1285 that the Gospel
be explained in Polish, if there is somebody adequately prepared to do
so. The first lo
nger texts in Polish were, probably, sermons. The oldest, preserved,
sermons in Polish are, written in the 13th century, "Kazania
S’wie,tokrzyskie" ("The Sermons of the Mount of the Holy Cross"). Below
is a fragment of th

 "…I pokazuje evanjelista, iz"e tet to Krol i Krolewic niebieski  w
trojakiej rzeczy znamienitej jine wszytki krole zmija…" (… And
shows the Evangelist that this King and King’s Son in three-fold
excellence all othe
r kings surpasses…)

The other interesting text is, so called, "Psal/terz Florian’ski" (St.
Florian’s Psalter) written at the end of  the 14th and the beginning of
the 15th century in Latin, German, and Polish. The psalter was written
for Jad
wiga, queen of Poland and was kept in St. Florian’s convent in Austria.

My reference, "Toc’ Jest Dziwne a Nowe", Antologia Literatury Polskiego
S’redniowiecza (Anthology of Polish Medieval Literaure), Published by
Pan’stwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warsaw in 1987 mentiones also a Polish
text eng
raved on a 12th century ring and the famous religious hymn —
"Bogurodzica" (The Mother of God), which was the first Polish national
The hymn is said to be written in the 13th century. Some think that it
is even older.

There were, of course, translations from Czech as "Biblia Krolowej
Zofii", (The Bible of Queen Sophia), found in Szarosz-Patak in Hungary,
prepared in the 15th century for Sonka, the fourth wife of  Wladysl/aw
 king of Poland (Jadwiga was his first wife or rather he her husband)
This Bible was a translation from an unknown Czech text. One of the
translators was the queen’s chaplain, Andrzej from Jaszowice.

I don’t know what kind of spelling principles the translators followed.
The fact is that older German, Czech, and Polish texts already existed.
Uncertain is to what an extent the writers of  some of them knew the
works of
 the others.

The Czechs, Germans, and Poles had spelling problems only when they
needed a character for a phoneme which did not exist in the Latin
language. The table below clearly shows that where the Czech, German,
and Polish spelli
ng are identical it is because the character denotes a phoneme which
appeares in all of those languages and in Latin as well. So this is,
plain and simple, the Latin not German spelling.  

In his didactic poem written about 1440 — Obiecado (modern word
Abecadl/o — Alphabet), Jakub Porkosz presents recommended spelling of
the following phonemes:

a — short vs. aa — long (does not exist in today’s spelling)
e — short vs. ee — long (does not exist in today’s spelling)
b — b vs. b’ — b soft b (does not exist in today’s spelling)
c — /ts/ vs. k — /k/
c, — soft c (presently ci)
Ø – nasal vowel (the character does not exist in today’s spelling)
c — /ts/ vs. cz — /ch/
h — voiced h vs. ch — voiceless h

Latin   German  Czech   Polish  Transcription          
a       a       a       a       a              
                á              á              
ae                              ai              
        ä                      ä (umlaut)            
au      au      au              aw              
                        a,      nasal — oN            
b       b       b       b       b              
bs                              ps              
bt                              pt              
        z       c       c       ts              
                        c’ ,t’  very soft ts            
ch      ch      ch              kh              
                        ch      h              
                        ci, ti  long c’        
                        cz      ch              
d       d       d       d       d              
                dv              dy              
                dev             dye            
                di              dyi            
                dí             dyee            
                        dz       voiced ts              
                        dz’     voiced c’              
                        dz"        voiced cz              
                        dzi     long dz’                
e       e       e       e       e              
                é              é – as in first                
                        e,, en  eN — nasal            
eu                              ev+oo          
        eu                      oy              
        ei                      ai              
f       f       f       f       f              
g       g       g       g       g              
        ge                      zhe            
h       h       h       h       h              
i       i       i       i       i              
                í              ee              
        ie                      ee              
j       j       j       j, ÿ, y        y              
c       k       k       k, ck   k              
l       l       l       l       l              
                        l/      w              
m       m       m       m       m              
n       n       n       n       n              
                nv      n’      ny — very soft        
                nev             nye            
ngu     ng                      ng              
                ni      ni      nyi            
                ní             nyee            
o       o       o       o       o              
                ó      ó      ooo            
        ö                      ö (umlaut)            
oe                              oi              
                ou              ow              
p       p       p       p       p              
ph                              p              
qu                              kw              
r       r       r       r       r              
                rv              rzh            
                        rz      zh (was rzh)            
s       s       s       s       s              
                        s’      sh — very soft        
                        si      sh — long s’          
        sch     sv      sz      sh              
        si                      zi              
        ss                      s              
        st                      sht            
t       t       t       t       t              
                tv              ty — very soft        
                tev             tye            
th                              t              
                ti              tyi            
                tí             tyee            
u       u       u       u, v    u              
        ü                      y:              
ui                              ui              
v       v       v               v              
        v                       f              
        w               w       v              
x       x                       ks              
        y               y       Y              
                        z       z              
                        z’      voiced s’              
                        zi      long z’        
                zv      z" zh              

In the above table:

If  ’  is preceded by a character, it should be written over it;
If " is preceded by a z, it is a dot written over it;
If v is preceded by a character it is a "hacek" over it;
If , is preceded by a character (but not another ,) it is an "ogonek"
beneath it.
l/ is the slashed l.

Looking at the table, everybody can draw conclusions regarding
similarities of the phoneme sets in the reported languages and the
extent of any potential basing of every one of the above spellings on
another one. In the
Polish column I included some, known to me, old spelling, not used
today. The first character is always the one which is used today.  

As you can see, both Czech and Polish spelling contain only those
characters or their standard combination which existed in Latin or were
created in Bohemia or Poland, respectively. If Polish spelling was
based on the spe
lling used by Jan Hus (which I don’t know), the "old Czech spelling"
did not contain any German-introduced innovations.      

As far as the Baltic languages are concerned, I am not sure whether any
writing in Lithuanian started before the 19th century. This country
formed a union with Poland in 1386 and at that time sbegan its
conversion to Chri
stianity. The written languages, used in this country afterwards, were
Latin and Polish.  


Marek Konski

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