Name the language

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.

13 Responses to Name the language

  1. Daydreamer says:

    Despite the repeated occurence of “saudade” I’m convinced that it’s not Portuguese, haha.

    I’d rather go for a Caucasian language, maybe Georgian?

  2. Given the preponderance of words which sounded like “Yemen”, could this be of the semitic languages spoken in Yemen?

  3. Peter J. Franke says:

    Tigrinya? Something out of the Horn of Africa, Amharic is another possibility but I miss ejectives in this sound sample. I here words like Saudi Arabia and Yemen and the intonation is like languages from that area, so….

  4. Podolsky says:

    Amharic, spoken in Ethiopia and also in Israel.

  5. Christopher Miller says:

    (And Amharic is also widely spoken in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Washington DC!)

    Though I haven’t heard enough of Amharic or other Ethiopic Semitic languages to recognise them with ease, I’m tempted to agree with “Podolsky” and say this may well be Amharic. I hear a lot of neutral schwa vowels in stressed as well as unstressed positions, which is typical of these languages, and what sounds like Semitic verbal structure in some words. However I don’t hear much if anything in the way of ejectives (k’, t’), which are also very typical of these languages, unless what sounds to me like [to:tət] is actually [t’o:t’ət]. However, it just seems to my ear that rather than being weak ejectives, the stops are just less aspirated than elsewhere in the recording.

    What also bothers me about the possibility of this being any Ethiopian Semitic language is the labiodental fricative [v] or glide [ʋ] I hear repeated several times through the recording, a sound that as far as I know simply doesn’t exist in these languages. If it’s not an Ethiopian language, I’m wondering if it might not perhaps be a northern Pakistani language, say Kashmiri or another language in the area…

  6. xyz says:


  7. pennifer says:

    As usual, I have no scientific basis for saying this, but to my ear it does sound vaguely like it belongs in the region of Pakistan, Afghanistan, India.

  8. TJ says:

    Ethiopic is a semitic language?
    I thought it’s hamitic.

  9. formiko says:

    I first thought it was Korean, due to the word endings I heard. It’s definitely not Punjabi, because I didn’t hear any retroflex consonants and I think Amharic is more guttural. I’m not even going to guess, since I’ve never heard this language before (at least I don’t think I have), although it does have an Asian feel to it.

  10. Drabkikker says:

    My guess would also be Tigrinya.

  11. Christopher Miller says:

    After listening to the clip again at full volume, I think I *do hear [t’o:t’ət] – with ejectives – close to the end. But still, that labiodental fricative/glide I hear all over the place still bugs me. Perhaps it’s an innovation in Amharic?

    For TJ:

    The vast majority of the languages of Ethiopia fall into either the Cushitic or Ethiopic Semitic groups. Oromo and Somali are the most important members of the Cushitic group, both in general and within Ethiopia; the Ethiopian (South) Semitic languages are mostly spoken in the highlands in the northwest quarter of the country, as well as in Eritrea. They have verbal morphology quite typical of Semitic and many lexical correspondences with languages like Arabic and Hebrew. For example, Haile Selassie means “power of the trinity”; the “selassie” part is cognate with thalaatha in Arabic or shlosha in Hebrew.

    As for “Hamitic” it’s an old grouping (basically “what is not obviously Semitic but still related”) from the early days of research on Afroasiatic languages. Researchers have long since rejected the idea of a single “Hamitic” subgroup in favour of Berber, Egyptian, Chadic, Cushitic and Omotic as subgroups on par with Semitic.

  12. Simon says:

    The language is indeed Tigrina (ትግርኛ) which is spoken in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Israel.

    The recording comes from Kol Israel International.

  13. Julia says:

    something arabic/african

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