Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Do you know or can you guess which language it’s in and where it’s spoken?

This entry was posted in Language, Quiz questions.

18 Responses to Language quiz

  1. MäcØSŸ says:

    Some indian language?

  2. Halabund says:

    Something Native American?

  3. Justin says:

    Shot in the dark… Greenlandic?

  4. andre says:

    Also a shot in the dark, Apache? Or after further research, Klallam?
    I thought I heard a click sound near the beginning., but now I think that may be just how I interpreted the sound. Then at the end I heard an American accent saying something like, “I understand it.”

  5. andre says:

    *Or other Salishan language, perhaps.

  6. Dirk Bakker says:

    I can hear some aspirated plosives, as well as lateral ones, and what seem to be ejectives rather than clicks. Might this be Tlingit?

  7. pennifer says:

    My vague guess is a northern North American language. Those click-like sounds that aren’t clicks really remind me of some northern Native languages. Again, vague. 🙂

  8. dveej says:

    Sounds like Navajo. There is a two-level tone system, and vowel length contrasts long with short, and those “click” sounds people are describing are more like “ejective” consonants: an oral stop or affricate followed immediately by a glottal stop.
    If it is Navajo, it’s spoken in the “four-corners states”: AZ, NM, UT, and CO.

  9. dmh says:

    The beginning quiet part sounds almost like some Chinese dialect. However, the louder second part sounds like a different language.

  10. Wolfgang Kandagawa says:


  11. Christopher Miller says:

    I think “dveej” is probably closest. I’m pretty certain it’s an Athabascan language as it sounds almost exactly like what I hear on CBC Northern Service broadcasts. And there are no vowelless syllables, glottalised sonorants or pharyngeals that are such a typical areal feature of northwest Pacific Coast and interior languages.

    I think it’s most likely this is Diné/Navajo (the “hot” Athabascans) or one of the Dené languages of the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories or perhaps also the Yukon valley interior of Alaska (the “cold” Athabaskans). The intonation strikes me as an English intonation, very Canadian rather than American-sounding, imposed on the segmental phonology of the language. The second reader sounds like someone who grew up using English heavily but kept the knowledge of her indigenous language, perhaps from her parents or grandparents. The male voice especially (second speaker) doesn’t have that kind of English-like intonation. Possibly Slavey, that being the most widely spoken Athabaskan language in the NWT?

    Now that linguistics is pretty well convinced of the long-distance cross-Bering relationship, it would be nice to hear some Ket at some point!

  12. d.m.falk says:

    This might be a local language to me– I live where the Klamath, Yurok, Hupa, Karuk and Wiyot native languages still survive, if just barely. A couple of these- Hupa and Yurok (I think)- are indeed Athabaskan, with Hupa closely related to Navajo.

    I do stress MIGHT, though– This does sound like one of the efforts in preserving and reviving one of our local languages, particularly Yurok, but that’s just a guess.


  13. Simon says:

    Wolfgang got it – the language is Haida (Xaat Kíl), which is thought to be a language isolate and is spoken mainly on Queen Charlotte Island (Haida Gwaii) off the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, and also in parts of Alaska.

    The recording comes from YouTube, and the speakers on the recording are from Kasaan in the north of Alaska.

  14. Christopher Miller says:

    Ahhh! You can hear those pharyngeals clearly on the YouTube clip… Something no Athabaskan language has as far as I know…

  15. Lau says:

    I wonder if it is a coincidence that the word kíl (which I assume means language) is similar to the Finno-Ugric word for language. (Finnish: kieli, Estonian: keel, Udmurt: kyl, Moksha: kjaļ, Võro: kiil’ etc…)

  16. formiko says:

    I knew it definitely wasn’t Tlingit. (I did my dissertation on Tlingit), however I would have guessed Salishan, and would have been wrong 🙁

  17. Claudio says:

    Once I heard Haida language and this sample sounds like that, mainly because of the intonation and the plosives. Where can I see the answer?

  18. Simon says:

    Claudio – it is Haida – see comment 13.

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