One language

Omnigot logo

Yesterday I say a post in the Silly Linguistics Community on Facebook challenging people to write a sentence in all the languages they speak. This is what I came up with:

Tha e duilich writing une phrase ym mhob språk atá agam, pero ich 試試 red ennagh symoil を書く, kaj nun я хочу říct že il mio tomo tawa supa está cheio de țipari.

This means “It is difficult writing a sentence in every language I speak, but I will try to write something interesting, and now I want to say my hovercraft is full of eels”.

The languages, in order, are Scottish Gaelic, English, French, Welsh, Swedish, Irish, Spanish, German, Chinese, Manx, Japanese, Esperanto, Russian, Czech, Italian, Toki Pona, Portuguese and Romanian.

It’s not the best sentence ever, perhaps, but I enjoyed the challenge of putting it together. It also got me thinking about how many languages and writing systems I could use in a version of my motto “one language is never enough“. This motto appears on some versions of my logo, such as the one above, and I usually try to write it in several difficult languages.

Here are some versions I came up with today. The first version incorporates some of the languages I speak and am learning, plus a few others.

Une singură 语言 är nikdy недостаточно – languages = French, Romanian, Chinese, Swedish, Czech / Slovak, Russian.

Ett seule 言語 ist nunca yn ddigon – languages = Norwegian / Swedish, French, Japanese, German, Portuguese / Galician / Spanish, Welsh.

Jeden lingua er niemals suficiente – languages = Czech / Polish / Slovak / Rusyn, Asturian / Chamorro / Corsican / Galician / Italian / Latin / Sicilian / Interlingua, Danish / Faroese / Icelandic / Norwegian, German, Spanish / Asturian.

Can you incorporate more languages and/or writing systems into this phrase?

Scandinavian Mutual Intelligibility

Scandinavian languages

The other day I meet a Faroe Islander, and one of the things we talked about was mutual intelligibility between Scandinavian languages.

I was under the impression that Faroese and Icelandic were closely related, and assumed that there would be quite a bit of mutually intelligibility between them.

She told me that this is true to some extent – if you know Faroese, you can understand written Icelandic quite well, but spoken Icelandic is more difficult to follow.

I also thought that Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are more or less mutually intelligible. I’ve been learning Swedish for a while now, and can make some sense of written Danish and Norwegian, and understand the spoken languages to a limited extent.

Everyone in the Faroe Islands learns Danish, which is very close to Norwegian, so they can understand both languages. According to my Faroese informant though, Swedish differs more from the other Scandinavian languages and is more difficult to understand.

If you speak one or more of the Scandinavian languages, how much can you understand the others?

Autos and bils

Yesterday I discovered that the Swedish for car is bil [biːl], which is related to the Icelandic bíll [bɪtl̥]. At first I wasn’t sure where these words came from, then realised that they are probably abbreviations of automobile.

The Swedish word does in fact come from automobil, according to Wiktionary. The same word is also found in Danish and Norwegian. In Faroese the word for car is simliar: bilur [ˈpiːlʊɹ].

The word automobile comes from the French automobile, from Ancient Greek αὐτός (autós – self) & the French mobile (moving), from the Latin mobilis (movable). In French this can be shortened to auto [source].

For details of the word car, see this post.