5 thoughts on “Language quiz

  1. I think I heard /q’/, and the vowel system appears to be three vowels with some diphthongs.

  2. Even though I don’t recognize the words, the overall sound of the language makes me think of Classical Arabic, both phonologically and in terms of what morphology I can make out. There are pharyngeal sounds, “emphatic” sounds, simple vowels, simple syllabic structure, etc. I think I maybe also heard at least part of the fixed phrase “ṣallā llāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam” (‘may God honor him and grant him peace’) at 0:25, pronounced in a fairly Arabic-like way, suggesting the speakers are able to code-switch into Arabic.

    What is very un-Arabic, though, is the prevalence of the lateral fricative /ɬ/ and lateral affricate /tɬ/ throughout the recording. As far as I know, while those sounds appeared in Proto-Semitic, they were lost sometime in the Classical Arabic period, so this could not be a descendant of Classical Arabic – but it could still be an Arabic-influenced language from outside the Arabic language group proper.

    With that information, I think that leaves me just one option: Razihi, the sole living descendant of Old South Arabian, which is the only branch of Semitic to preserve the lateral fricative and affricate. According to what I see on Wikipedia’s entry, Razihi /tɬ/ corresponds to Classical Arabic /ð/ – that might mean that the /haːtɬaː/ I hear at 0:30 could be cognate to /haːðaː/, the Classical Arabic word for ‘this’.

  3. Oops, looks like there are a few other South Arabian languages that descended from *Eastern* South Arabian, whereas Razihi is the only descendant of *Western* South Arabian left on the Arabian Peninsula (the rest being spoken in the Horn of Africa). And at least one Eastern South Arabian language (Mehri) also has the laterals mentioned above.

    So while I know it’s too late to change my answer, I acknowledge that this recording could also be Mehri or possibly one of its other sister languages of the Arabian Peninsula’s southeastern coast.

  4. The answer is Iraqw (Kángw Iraqw), a Cushitic language spoken in the Arusha and Manyara regions of northern Tanzania.

    The recording comes from YouTube:

  5. Amazing! I had no idea that Iraqw still “sounded” so Afro-Asiatic despite being so geographically isolated from the rest of the family. It still has almost all the same phoneme inventory as proto-Afro-Asiatic! Even those languages within the northeast African / southwest Asian homeland of Afro-Asiatic (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic, Amharic, Somali…) have lost many of those rarer sounds.

    Too bad I was so off with my guess though – but I’m glad those lateral fricatives and affricates I was hearing were really the Afro-Asiatic ones I was imagining.

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