13 thoughts on “Language quiz

  1. Sounds a lot like Japanese, but with the syllable ‘fa’. A Ryukyuan language? Okinawan?

  2. There are some Japanese words, like gakkō (school), shukudai (homework). Otherwise I can’t make out what he’s talking about. I’m not familiar with the Japonic languages besides Japanese, but this sounds so different from Japanese that I’m going to guess Satsugū dialect, because it is said to be “unintelligible” because of its different pronunciation and conjugation.

  3. Hmmm… Japanese but not Japanese? All I can think or guess is the Ainu language due to my limited knowledge.

  4. I guess Ainu.

    The overall segmental phonology – the sound of the vowels, consonants, and syllable structure – sounds quite similar to Japanese, as does the syllable rhythm which is affected by the ultrashortening of high vowels (which makes the syllables sound as if the vowels had dropped out). But the intonation sounds very different from Japanese: it doesn’t sound like there are any tonal accents on the words, unlike Japanese, so the overall intonation contour sounds a lot more like English or European languages other than Scandinavian and South Slavic languages. I’m operating on the assumption that this is a speaker of a language whose phonology (among other things) has been heavily influenced by Japanese, which is quite likely the case for Ainu.

  5. I’m pretty much positive it’s from some YouTube video, but I’m not finding any matches for Ainu. If Chris is right, I wonder whether it could be some Taiwanese language, such as Bunun. (But maybe he’s wrong and it really is some Ryukyuan language? Somehow I’m getting the feeling that it sounds terribly similar to clips I can find of Okinawan. And I doubt it sounds much like Ainu, either).

    I think I’ll go with Okinawan. (Or at least, some Ryukyuan language).

  6. Well, if that last comment hadn’t been there, I would have said something in the Ryukyuan family– not Okinawan, though, which doesn’t have /e/. I hear the Japanese loanwords, including at least one name (Masahiko).

  7. Ainu has little to do with Japanese; it’s quite obviously a language that’s very closely related to (modern) Japanese, so Ryûkyû is practically the only choice.

  8. @ Chris

    … the overall intonation contour sounds a lot more like English or European languages other than Scandinavian and South Slavic languages.

    You may want to add Ripuarian and Limburgish dialects of Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg to your list of tonal languages of Europe. In German their tonal accent is often referred to as Rheinische Schärfung.

  9. Charlie-

    Yes, you’re right, of course. I had neglected them simply because I was only thinking of the major ones only in my head while trying to remember the general regional distribution of these kinds of intonation.


    Not speaking Japanese, it was hard for me to make out anything (lexicon, morphology, syntax) that would be an obvious clue that this was a language related to Japanese rather than a genetically unrelated language loosely associated with Japanese but in a close contact relationship, which would be a plausible guess for Ainu. Were there anything more obvious, I might have thought of a Ryukyuan language, but I didn’t hear it, and the very different intonation contour seemed to point north rather than south (on the assumption – right or wrong – that Ryukyuan languages would probably be similar to Japanese in their intonational properties).

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