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After a big announcement, we delve into the mysteries and wonders of creating dialects, reviewing natlang tendencies and talking about some techniques that can be used to mimic them, and then we talk about a quite interesting conlang as well.

Top of Show Greeting: Palezi Urca

Links and Resources:

Featured Conlang: Anawanda

13 Responses to “Conlangery #40: Dialects and Kunstsprachen”

  1. Kenneth Nyman

    The British Library has these wonderful pages about dialects and accents in the UK: – with about 70 dialect recordings, many of them with excellent written linguistic commentaries.

    There is also the International Dialects of English Archive – and the Speech Accent Archive – – covering varieties of English also outside the UK. Unfortunately they don’t have the kind commentaries the BL pages have.

  2. Roman Rausch

    1. Isn’t there a natural kind of ‘Kunstsprache’ whenever a standard language is developed from a range of dialects? So instead of making many out of one, there is the possibility to assemble one’s conlang out of a dialect continuum. I’d say that there are two interesting effects:

    a) phonological differences -> semantic differences
    For example, Russian _mrak_ ‘darkness, dim light’ (cognate to English ‘murky’) is actually Church Slavonic, whereas the regular _morok(a)_ has shifted in meaning to ‘nuisance’ (I guess because it was troublesome to go through mist and darkness without a car with headlights).

    b) phonological differences -> grammatical differences
    In the Kansai (western) dialect of Japanese, adverbial _-ku_ has dropped the _k_, hence e.g. _haya-ku_ ‘quickly’ > _*hayau_ > _hayō_. In the standard language, _-ku_ remains the usual adverbial ending, whereas _-ō_ has basically become a politeness inflection (everyone knows _ohayō_ and _arigatō_), although I think it’s not really productive anymore.

    2. In films, the “particular English dialect” is just RP because it’s ‘standard average English’, isn’t it? (RP is also what one is supposed to learn in foreign schools, but it all comes out American anyway.) When they want to go kunstsprachy on the viewers, they put on a fake Shakespearean metaphorical kind of speech, like saying ‘to what end’ instead of ‘why’.

    3. _kw > p_ is also Romance, just look at Romanian _apa_ ‘water’, _limba_ ‘language’. No one remembers poor old Romanian… This change also supposedly happened in an obscure dialect of Japanese (in standard Japanese you get the plain dental), so despite being not very intuitive, it seems to be commonplace.

    4. Ancient Greek is cool. Can you (Willam) recommend a new-fashioned grammar of it? The kind that calls an imperfective an imperfective and maybe places it all in typological perspective?

    • Wm Annis

      Oh, dear. I always forget about Romanian, too.

      I’m afraid there isn’t currently a nicely modern grammar for Ancient Greek. There are, however, at least two currently in development, one out of Cambridge, and I forget the exact details of the second one. For those who are already on their way in Greek I always recommend Albert Rijksbaron’s Syntax and Semantics of the Verb in Classical Greek, which is a must for numerous reasons, not least because of clarity on issues of aspect. Plus, it’s still in print and not horribly priced. I understand he’s one of the people involved in the Cambridge Greek grammar project.

  3. Kenneth Nyman

    It’s certainly true that ‘standard languages’ will often contain features from a variety of local dialects, from various different regions, rather than be based in a single local dialect. Standard languages are typically based on the speech more educated or socially/economically advanced classes in a society, which are likely to be more geographically moveable. While one could say that RP owes much to the dialects in the southeast of Britain, some of its features have their roots in other dialects (Midland or northern English).

  4. Kraamlep

    You asked for feedback. Well, here’s an example of the effect the podcast can have: while I was listening to this episode about dialects, it suddenly struck me that I should flesh out the details of the dialects of Jameld I defined over a decade ago, and specifically I should do some dialect/isogloss maps. So I have, and it’s been a lot of fun. Forgive their amateurishness. You can see them here.

    • admin

      Yes and no. There is a technical distinction linguists use to distinguish languages and dialects: mutual intelligibility. The trouble is that things are still so fuzzy that often political boundaries will still have to figure into the calculation.

  5. pá mamūnám ontā́ bán

    Where I come from “tea”, /tiː/, means the last meal of the day and “dinner”, /dɪnə/, means the largest meal of the day, which is normally tea. “Lunch”, /lʊnʃ/, means the second meal of the day and can obviously also be “dinner” too. The word “supper”, /sʊpə/, normally means a small meal or snack eaten after tea and/or before you go to bed.

    I think that the reason for the unusually homogeneity of American dialects could be due to the fact that the country is incredibly young, whereas Britain is a very old country and so cities were more able developed their own dialects for lack of contact hundreds of years ago.

    Also, Bianca mentioned the use of “were” – this could just be the survival of the subjunctive in England where it has disappeared in America. However, in certain areas of the country “were” does replace “was” resulting in a generic past tense “were”. This is something I think of as very typical of Bolton, near Manchester.

  6. iandioch

    Regarding the loss of “p” in Irish it’s probably related to Irish’s grammatical system of the “séimhiú”. In very many cirumstances, a ‘h’ is added after the first letter of a word. For example, “cóta” means coat, but “a chóta” is “his coat”. The new dipthongs (eg. ch, dh, gh, th) are pronounced differently (kh, voiced kh or /j/, or voiced kh, and ‘h’ as in English respectively). Many of the letters, such as f, become silent because of this. I can imagine that the few words with ‘p’ in them lost it because “ph” would’ve been silent. This is just a theory, it very well might be total rubbish, but it’s an interesting little quirk of Irish nonetheless. If you want some interesting grammar, the séimhiú is great, as are the “urú” (where a word is prepended with a letter. “cóta” turns to “a gcóta”, “their coat”) and Irish genitive case (“an tuiseal ginidach”).

    • wm.annis

      The normal Irish phonetic processes might be involved, but the loss of /p/ shows up all over the place, in languages where such thoroughgoing lenition is not quite so common. The transition from Proto-UA to Nahuatl, for example, was hard on /p/.

  7. EratoNysiad

    I’m from the Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands. When I speak Dutch, I conjugate a lot of verbs as though they were strong, but aren’t. I’ve got a problem like this before. In Brabants, the word for “French fries” is “friet”, which is the word for “French fries” in almost all dialects, including standard Dutch. The exception is Hollands, where it’s “patat”. When I went over to a friend in Holland, he said that they’d get “patat” for dinner, so I asked what that was, and they looked at me like I was being mistreated by my parents, but I just hadn’t heard that before.


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