Language quiz

Here is part of a song in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it was spoken?

Clue: this is an extinct language and the lyrics of the song are based on an ancient inscription.

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16 Responses to Language quiz

  1. Christopher Miller says:

    Just from the particular sounds and the way they’re combined, I’m guessing Albanian. The deliberately trilled /r:/ sounds make me think of its orthographic ‘rr’, the ‘sh’ in various places, what sound (at least with the musical phrasing) like fairly short words, the timbre of the vowels and the /aj/ diphthong, and the occasional consonant clusters I hear all combine to reinforce that impression.

  2. Tigerfire says:

    Thracian? Or some Illyrian language?

  3. Roger Bowden says:

    Maybe Etruscan but we don’t have the pronunciation to guide us, only the written word or it’s transliteration.

  4. prase says:

    It may be Sumerian.

  5. Petréa Mitchell says:

    I’ll say Sumerian.

  6. Joe Mock says:

    Aquitanian or Iberian. It sounds a lot like Basque.

  7. Chris Miller says:

    Wow. The file sounds so different on my computer compared to how it sounded on my iPad this morning! And somehow, I didn’t even see the clue about the ancient inscription.

    I agree, most probably Aquitanian. The singer has an unmistakeable Basque accent, and the ‘da’ at the end of the sixth and seventh musical phrases (repeated syntactic phrase) really is reminiscent of the Basque ‘da’ (is). And all we know of before Basque in the Basque family is Aquitanian, spoken in the area where Basque seems to have originated.

  8. Tigerfire says:

    But you originally said Albanian. Aren’t Thracian and/or Illyrian purported to be ancestors of Albanian? Indeed, inscriptions do remain for the former, but not so much the latter.

  9. Joe Mock says:

    Yea, I’m not sure there is enough in terms of inscriptions in Aquitanian to make a song out of – but it really does sound a lot like Basque.

  10. Simon says:

    The answer is Iberian, a language isolate spoken along the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula until about the 1st of 2nd century AD.

    The recording comes from an album called Montgòlia by the Ovidi Twins and the words are based on an inscription found in the Serreta de Alcoy in Alicante in 1922 and dating from the 4th or 5th century BC. I heard about this song on a blog called Language Continuity.

  11. Chris Miller says:

    Yes, Tigerfire, I did originally think it might be Albanian, but the sound quality on my iPad (without earphones) deceived me. I was astonished at how much more clearly I could hear the file on my desktop computer, and that changed my mind.

  12. Chris Miller says:

    By the way, I’m still trying to figure out what the latest “One language is never enough” language is. The phrase “एउटामात्र भाषा कहिल्यै पर्याप्त हुँदैन” (which transliterates as “euṭāmātra bhāṣā kahilyai payapti huṁdain”) doesn’t look like an Indo-European language, at least any that I’m familiar with. “भाषा – bhāṣā”, of course, comes from Sanskrit and is a common loan in all sorts of non-Indo-European languages in the Indosphere right through the Indonesian Archipelago.

  13. Simon says:

    Chris – the language that phrase is in is Nepali.

  14. Jade Henriques says:

    The man accent sounds a bit like like someone from South Spain, but that’s not Spanish. Iberian has been extinct for a very long time but it has so many resemblance to romance languages. I was surprised to find the vowels to be a e i o u.

  15. Chris Miller says:

    Thanks. Very strange looking, indeed. That first word especially just doesn’t look like what I would naively expect an Indo-Aryan language to look like. I guess I’ll have to go and learn a bit about Nepali!

  16. Armen says:

    Chris – Northern zone languages like Nepali and Kumaoni, like the Eastern zone langauges (Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Maithili, Bhojpuri, etc) have measure words that must be used for counting nouns when there is no unit. This is probably due to influence of Tibeto-Burman langauges. एउटा is “one-MW” and is combined with मात्र which means “only”. Compare the Bengali translation which begins মাত্র একটা ভাষা… “matro ekta bhasha”.