I came across a word that particularly appealed to me in my Breton lesson today – zizolo (discovering) in the sentence Ar vro a zizolo bemdez en doare-se (He discovers the country every day in this way) – referring to Gwennole who goes cycling a lot. It is a mutated form of dizolo (to discover), and appeals to me because of the z’s and sound of the word.

The letter z is relatively rare in most of the languages I know, but is common in Breton and in the Pinyin for Mandarin Chinese. It gives words an interesting and unusual, almost exotic, look and sound, at least to my eyes and ears it does.

Do you notice some letters more than others? Are any letters exotic, unusual or unexpected to you?

This entry was posted in Breton, English, Language.

5 Responses to Zizolo

  1. Jerry says:

    I know what you mean. I like words that have something unusual as well. Words that end on a Z for example, like fez or quiz. While in most western languages a Q is often followed by a U, some Swedish names like Lunqvist have a strange attraction. Or the small Dutch village called Cruquius – I can literally stare that for a while because of the beauty of that sequence of letters.

  2. David Eger says:

    “The letter z is relatively rare in most of the languages I know, but is common in Breton”

    The ‘z’ sound is entirely absent from Welsh (and from some Welsh accents of English, ‘s’ being substituted for it – issn’t it?). But Breton, which lacks ‘dd’ and ‘th’, both common in Welsh, uses ‘z’ in words where those sounds appear in Welsh (nevez vs. newydd, eizh vs. wyth). So that might explain its frequency in Breton. Similarly, ‘v’ seems to correspond to both ‘f’ and consonantal ‘w’ in Welsh, so, presumably, there are a lot of ‘v’s as well (The letter ‘v’, of course, is not used in Welsh, but the sound exists, represented by ‘f’.)

    Are there any sounds in Breton that have become merged in Welsh?

    Sorry – that wasn’t your question.

  3. prase says:

    Is z really so rare in languages you know? On your about page you list the following languages which you have some knowledge about: Mandarin, French, Welsh, Irish, German, Spanish, Japanese, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Czech, Taiwanese, Cantonese and British Sign Language. Ignoring those not normally written with Latin alphabet and adding English it is 12 languages, out of which 3 (Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic) don’t use the letter, English relatively rarely (rarity depends on how one writes the -ize/-ise suffix as in ‘jeopardize’), French also relatively rarely, mostly limiting to second person plural verbal endings, while it is a common letter in 6 languages (German, Spanish, Italian (often doubled), Portuguese, Esperanto and Czech). I am not sure about Manx.

    For comparison, q is normally used only in five (en, fr, es, pt, it), w in three (en, de, cy), y in five (en, fr, cy, es, cz) and x is limited to loanwords except in (en, fr). (Again, ignoring Manx and few German exceptions like ‘Quelle’ or ‘Hexe’.)

  4. David Eger says:

    ‘Z’ seems to be particularly abundant in Basque placenames (my only real experience of the language), often in a ‘tz’ combination – Biarritz, Ustaritz, Auritz, Zubiri, Zarauz, Linzoain. The is, however, considerable variation in spelling, so it may be represented as ‘s’ (Linsoain) or itself as ‘tz’ (Lintzoain – a lot of spellings for a tiny Navarra village) – presumably reflecting variation in pronunciation, from standard Castellano ‘th’, through Seseo ‘s’ and English-type ‘z’ to German ‘tz’.

    Again, not really answering your question straight, but consonant mergers provide an an abundance of ‘ll’ in Spanish and ‘ch’ ([ʃ] in Portuguese, both corresponding to French/Latin ‘cl’, ‘fl’ and ‘pl’. [ʃ] is a particularly abundant sound in Portuguese, since it is also how ‘s’ is realised when word-final or the first part of a consonant cluster.

  5. Simon says:

    prase – after writing this I realised that z is used quite a bit in some of the languages I know, though I find it more noticeable when it appears at the beginning of words and in words with more than one z.

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