Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

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

This entry was posted in Language.

19 Responses to Language quiz

  1. Petréa Mitchell says:

    Malay? Indonesian? Something in that vicinity?

  2. Christopher Miller says:

    It sounds vaguely Ethiopian to me. Have to think a bit more, listen some more again.

  3. Lev says:

    Arabic. I don’t know what variation, but I suspect MSA. (Of course, for all I know it could be Maltese.)

  4. José says:

    Completely lost with this one. I could say South East Asia or Middle East but who knows, maybe it’s even native American…

  5. Simon says:

    Here’s a clue – it’s a Semitic language, but not Arabic or Maltese.

  6. Jayan says:

    Well, based on a previous trend of giving us quizes at the same time as adding new material to the site, I’m gonna guess Chaha. Probably wrong, but hey 😀

  7. Eee says:

    Dahalik is my guess.

  8. Christopher Miller says:

    I seem to have heard a labialised /m/ in there. Since labialised and palatalised consonants are an important feature of Chaha phonology – so much so that Chaha is one of the star cases behind phonological theories – I am going to guess based on this alone that this might be Chaha.

  9. bennie says:

    I thought it sounded Afro-Asiatic. I’ll go with Tamazight (Berber).

  10. TJ says:

    I think it is one of the new added languages from Ethiopia.

  11. bronz says:

    I was going for that region too (a northeast African country), but can’t get any farther than that. I was going to check up on languages in Eritrea first, but gave up (too many to comb through and I’m not even familiar with languages of that region). What led me there though is hearing “salam aleykum” at the very end (at least I think? yet it is clearly not Arabic) and the fact that the intonation reminded me very much of African languages.

    As unlikely as this will be, I’ll go out on a limb and guess the related Muher, which is apparently pronounced with an initial labialized m itself.

  12. YankeeTranslator says:

    There aren’t too many Semitic languages these days, so unless we are dealing with some South Arabian language, Amharic or one of its sisters seems the most likely candidate. Since I can clearly hear the phrase “Yaa Salaam!” (an Arabo-Islamic phrase meaning something like “Good Lord!”), I am going to rule out Amharic, which is spoken mostly by Christians, and say perhaps Tigrinya.

  13. YankeeTranslator says:

    I should perhaps clarify that Tigrinya is the dominant language of Eritrea, which has a large Muslim population.

  14. TJ says:

    hmmm I think the phrase “Ya Salam” is used in the region regardless of the language or ethnicity, or the faith itself. It is a phrase, I would say, that became well common, just like the way we use English here for most of the computer terms (even though Arabic ones exist already). It’s just the wave of usage!

  15. Simon says:

    The answer is Silt’e (ስልጥኘ), a Southern Semitic language spoken mainly in central Ethiopia.

    The recording comes from the Silt’e Network.

  16. YankeeTranslator says:

    @TJ: Of course Christian Arabs say Yaa Salaam, but I find it unlikely that non-Muslim non-Arabs would do the same. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but what historical factors would have caused this? (According to Wikipedia, btw, the Silte are majority Muslim). As far as I know, Ethiopia has never lived under Islamic rule, so why would Ethiopian Christians adopt Arabo-Islamic phrases for basic concepts that have readily-available counterparts in the native languages (the computer terminology analogy doesn’t hold, because Westerners coined the terms for these concepts that didn’t exist, and only later did the Arabs try to coin their own terms, with very limited success in convincing the general populace to use them [funny story: I once tried to ask an Egyptian to scan something for me, using the classical verb masaha; of course, he had no idea what I was talking about until I used the word “scan”]).

    Again, I’m not saying this is impossible, but do you know of any non-Arabic-speaking non-Muslims in the Middle East or Africa who use Yaa Salaam?

  17. Simon says:

    YankeeTranslator – words similar to ‘salaam’ are used in Hebrew, Persian (Farsi).

  18. TJ says:

    @Yankee: lol funny story. Well, it might happen that such Arabic words would move around the globe and used in communities not related to Islam or Arabs in general. I have here two examples (or stories).
    1. Here in Kuwait we use some words, and by the fact that we have a lot of workers from Asia (generally, India and Bangladesh), they themselves started to use words from the Kuwaiti dialect itself to communicate between each other!

    2. One of my teachers back in college, American, used to live here for some time as well as she used to travel to UAE and Morocco as I read about her before. Funny thing, while I was trying to catch up with her online and trying to find some information about her, I’ve found out that some high school students rated her in PA (if I recall correctly), and one of their comments was (she is good, but sometimes she tends to explain words in Arabic or French when we are stuck!).

    I have to say… terms do travel from one language to another despite the ethnicity or faiths, but I have to say it’s true that it might not be “likely” to be so!

  19. YankeeTranslator says:

    @Simon: Of course Hebrew has shalom and uses the phrase shalom aleikhum which is an almost identical cognate to the Arabic as-salaam alaykum. However, the phrase “Yaa Salaam” is not talking about salam in the sense of “peace” or “greetings,” but is referring specifically to one of the names of God: as-Salaam, the All-Peaceable. Yaa is a vocative particle, so the phrase is literally a direct invocation of God, “O Thou source of peace!” but is used in everyday Arabic conversation to the effect of “Good Lord!” or even “Oh really?!?” It of course makes sense that the Silte would use this phrase, since they are Muslim, but it would be less likely (although again, not impossible) for a non-Muslim population to use the phrase unless they at one time had lived under Islamic rule. Now of course the Christian Ethiopians have probably picked up several Arabic words for several things, but to my mind it seems less likely for them to import a phrase like this when they likely have their own perfectly serviceably Amharic phrases from their own indigenous Christian tradition.

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