Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language and where it’s spoken?

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This entry was posted in Language, Quiz questions.

29 Responses to Language quiz

  1. prase says:

    It appears to have strange word-final consonant clusters. Something from west Canada?

  2. phyl says:

    But it seems to have chunks of russian mixed in… something Siberian, maybe?

  3. michael farris says:

    I’m pretty sure I know what this is, but I’m not sure if it’s fair for me to say at this point so I’ll let other people guess.

  4. Will Athol says:

    I heard a consonant cluster at the end of a word that sounded like [nt'kt]. I would only expect to hear that from a Native American/Canadian, African, or Australian Aborigine-type language; I’ll stick with the first group and say that it might be a Salishan language.

  5. Trond Engen says:

    Some observations:
    – My first impulse was “something Caucasion”, my next was “no, something North American”,
    – The clusters aren’t only word-final but even sentence-final — or so it appears to me. That might mean that the language is verb-final.
    – I think I heard the word ‘hospital’.
    – An old woman speaking on a noisy tape tends to mean “dead or dying language”.

    I imagine that both Salishan and Algic languages have highly elaborated verb morphologies, but I don’t know enough about the syntax of the different language families of North America to make an educated guess. So here’s an uneducated one: Coeur d’Alène?

  6. Jayan says:

    Well, I’m pretty sure its not Montana Salish (studied by Dr. Thompson @ U of Michigan) which is the only language from the US NW region that I’m familiar with. just my 1.5 cents :p

  7. Jayan says:

    Correction: Dr. Thomason :S

  8. Christopher Miller says:

    I have the impression this is a language spoken in a Spanish-speaking country of Central or South America. The speaker seems to repeat “Castellano” several times and also says what seems to be a Spanish loanword “hospital”.

  9. michael farris says:

    You’re getting warmer…..

  10. joe mock says:

    A langauge in Northern Mexico? There’s something that reminds me of Navaho.

  11. Katrine says:

    I think it is aimara spoken of a woman from Bolivia.

  12. bronz says:

    I hear a lot of what sounds like [tɬ] clusters (different from the nt’kt observed, and I definitely hear them in initial and medial positions), so I was thinking a Nahuatl language. But given the quality of the audio, and my lack of knowledge in this area of languages, that’s my best guess.

    In terms of Spanish loans (or code switching?) I also hear [ke bonit] a couple of times (“que bonito/a”?).

  13. Andrew says:

    I genuinely have NO idea, the best I can do is say that it sounds very vaguely Indian, so something in or around India or that area of Asia in general.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  14. michael farris says:

    I’m feeling a lot of affection for this so (without asking!) I’ll assume some of Simon’s prerogative.

    The language is not relly endangered (in any real sense) speakers probably number in seven figures.
    There are no [tɬ] clusters at the phonemic level.
    It’s not ‘que bonito’, far from it.

    I’ll mention that I was initially confused by the fact that she uses a different common word from the one I had once learned and that substitution is kind of related to what she’s talking about.

  15. Katrine says:

    As I already mentioned, I believe it is Aimaran. This language is spoken of the inkas living in at least Bolivia.
    Maybe she is talking about the differences between Castillian (Spanish) and Aimara. She says something like “aimara que bonit” and so on. Spanish speakers from aimaran areas in Bolivia have a similar way of singing when they speak Spanish.

  16. Katrine says:

    Oops, I’m sorry I’m too insisting. I might even be wrong and the guessing is really interesting!

  17. Christopher Miller says:

    Runasimi?

    Her vowels seem to be limited to a, i and u and apart from the regular -tkt, which might be the result of vowel syncope, the syllable structure and sounds overall seem to match, though I don’t hear any ejectives…

  18. michael farris says:

    Final clue: The name of the language is mentioned in the clip.

  19. bronz says:

    There aren’t that many indigenous languages left with that many speakers… after much mucking around — Quiche from Guatemala?

    I checked Yucatec Maya, Guaraní, Quechua/Runasimi, and even Mixtec (because I heard “kastilian tixtec(o)” a couple of times, and “tixtec” led me there…), but Quiche seems to be the closest to the recording in terms of how consonant-happy they are etc, plus Quiche has a mid-central vowel that might lend well to syncope.

    I’m exhausted! That’s my best and last guess. What I found interesting though is that all these languages except Guaraní have ejectives.

  20. Simon says:

    The answer is Aymara (aymar aru), an Aymaran language spoken mainly in Bolivia and Peru, and also in Chile and Argentina.

    The recording comes from YouTube.

  21. bronz says:

    Ach! Never thought of looking there. Interesting to see that [e] and [o] are allophones of /i/ and /u/ respectively. Thank pete, my ears weren’t that horrible after all…

    What was the word you were confused by, michael?

  22. michael farris says:

    What people were hearing as que bonit is actually -ki-puni- (very roughly -only-exactly-) two suffixes that are very widely used together. I’m not entirely sure what the final t is (there’s more than one and it’s been 20 years since I was learning the language.

    One of the things that confused me at first was I had learned the root amuy- for understand so “I don’t understand” would be janiw amuyktti but she uses a Spanish loan intint- which ends up with ‘janiw intintktti’ since final vowels are often dropped (and geminates pronounced singly in clusters) you get intintkt

    Also it’s not quite as reptitive as it might sound. A common oratory device is based on reptitions with changing suffixes (of which there is a ton and they do a lot of work).

    There are ejectives (glottalized consonants) but the way many people pronounce them they’re easy to miss.

  23. I had no clue it was Aymara, It sounded like an Asian language to me. Nice quiz, when is the next one?

  24. bronz says:

    Interesting, thanks michael for the insights. I heard a lot of “jani” and was frantically lookingit up against the languages I was looking at. It looks like Aymara is an SOV language, so the -ktti is the negative suffix and janiw the 1st person singular?

    I’m surprised that a Spanish loan has replaced the native word for a rather basic concept, especially for a woman who’s been claimed to speak no Spanish. I’d understand “chair” or “table” being loanwords (as they are in a few of the Zapotec dialects I have come across), but “understand” seems so unlikely a candidate?

  25. michael farris says:

    jani = not then you add an aspect marker (k or x, almost always the former) just before the person marker and add the interrogative suffix -ti afterward. Usually the marker of personal knowledge -wa is added to the negative (except for imperatives)

    simplified glossing

    jani-w amuy-k-t-ti
    not-PK understand-asp-1p-int

    I don’t understand.

    In regular Aymara usage almost any Spanish lexical item can be borrowed (the root for the verb to speak is parla- (from old Spanish).

  26. Simon says:

    Foreign Language Learner – there are quizzes like this every Sunday.

  27. Christopher Miller says:

    Bronz-

    In English, apart from the basic word “understand” and metaphorical synonyms like “grasp” and “twig on”, we also use the Latin-based “comprehend”. And in Persian, the usual verb for understand (if I understand correctly) is فهم كردن/fahm kardan, a semi-loanword from Arabic built on the Arabic noun فهم/fahm “understanding” and the Persian verb كردن “to do”. So it’s not all that surprising that a word like this could be borrowed. It’s not a real basic item of vocabulary, considering how common it is in various languages for the word to be based on a metaphorical extension of a physical notion like “grab/seize” (and others).

  28. bronz says:

    Hm, I never thought of it that way. It does seem that in a number of languages that I can think of, the word for “understand” seems to be either metaphorical extension or historically a compound. Still, I guess I was expecting a woman who doesn’t speak any Spanish not to use any loan words for a concept that is not particularly modern (“hospital” I can see, for example), but so it appears historically Spanish definitely has had considerable influence on Aymara. I’m not familiar with the region so I don’t know if the Spaniards were as ubiquitous there as they were in Mexico where they definitely shook everything up. I’m impressed by the huge number of Aymara speakers there are, relatively speaking, compared to any given indigenous language in Mexico.

  29. lukas says:

    Is the influence of Spanish on Aymara anything like the influence of Arabic on Persian (or French on English, for that matter?)