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Balto-Slavonic Profile

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Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 5698 days ago

4228 posts - 8257 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 17 of 35
13 April 2011 at 12:18am | IP Logged 
maxval wrote:
In the case of the Southern Slavonic languages there is a discussion whether the BCMS language is 1 or 4 languages. The same discussion exists in the case of Bulgarian-Macedonian.

These discussions are well known. But there are also less know Southern Slavonic languages/dialects.

The Bunjevac and the Šokac dialect/language. Considered by some people as a dialects of Serbian or Croatian, by others as separate languages. Native speakers of Šokac tend to declare themselves as a subgroup of Croats speaking a Croat dialect, some consider the language as different from Croat. In the case of the Bunjevac, many native speakers identify themselves as a separate ethnic group, different from Croats and Serbs. The language is mostly identified as a Croat dialect, but there also speakers who consider it a separate Southern Slavonic language.

The same happens with the Vend dialect of Slovenian. While native speakers consider themselves as a subgroup of Slovenes, there are people who consider the Vend language as a separate language.

The Torlaks. The language are considered as a dialect of Serbian or Bulgarian/Macedonian. Native speakers tend to identify themselves as Serbian or Bulgarian/Macedonian, while Torlak speakers with Islam religious affiliation (and specially the Gorani in Kosovo) tend to consider themselves as a separate Torlak (Gorani) ethnicity with their own Gorani language.

Pomaks. Originally Pomaks are Bulgarian native speakers with Islam religious affiliation. Ethnic identy is unclear, most of them consider themselves as "Muslims" with no other ethnic designation. Part of them are with Bulgarian (in Bulgaria) or Macedonian (in Macedonia) self-identity. Others considers themselves as simply "Muslims", specially in Northern Greece. There is also a part that consider itself Slavic-speaking Turks or even Arabs. The language is considered by most of them as Bulgarian/Macedonian, while in Greece many consider it as a separate Pomak language.


Don't forget also the Janjevci and Krashovani. Both groups often identify themselves as Croats or part of "Croatdom" (this is almost certainly because of their adherence to Catholicism) but they speak what amounts to Torlak even if they themselves may sometimes refer to their native Torlak speech as "Croatian". This may be strange for most people in the Balkans (including the average Croat) as they have come to connect Torlak with something classically non-Croatian thanks to Torlak's frequent association with Bulgarians, Macedonians and Serbs.
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Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 5698 days ago

4228 posts - 8257 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 18 of 35
21 April 2011 at 6:35am | IP Logged 
Dragomanno wrote:
Russian is definitively the first slavonic language you have to take on if you are interested in the post-Soviet space. If you are rather focused on the Balkans (as I am), Serbo-Croatian turns out to be more useful [...]
Chung, I would definitively support you if you are up to open a profile for Baltic languages. It seems they are quite underrated in this forum, and the last posts or discussions concerning Baltic seem to be quite old. But, as you noticed, there are some scattered Baltic speakers/students, so to gather them would be quite interesting.


Mooby wrote:
I'd vote for option 2, that is, a separate profile for Baltic languages.
Admittedly, it would be short but I think there's enough distinction to
separate them from the Slavic languages.
By profiling Latvian and Lithuanian together (rather than option 3), we can
get a reasonable comparison between them and this would help the learner pick
one. I agree that other input from experienced learners would be really valuable,
and something we may just have to wait for.
Thanks for your efforts!


Folks, I've just expanded the profile to Balto-Slavonic and Dragomanno, I would be happy to add any comments that you have on how your growing base in Lithuanian has helped with learning Serbo-Croatian (or vice-versa), if it has helped at all.
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Dragomanno
Triglot
Groupie
Zimbabwe
Joined 3545 days ago

80 posts - 98 votes 
Speaks: Italian*, EnglishC2, GermanB2
Studies: Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Latin, Lithuanian, Albanian, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 19 of 35
02 May 2011 at 11:47am | IP Logged 
Sorry for my terrible delay, but I have been away from the internet for a while. It's healthy sometimes ;)

Chung wrote:
Folks, I've just expanded the profile to Balto-Slavonic and Dragomanno, I would be happy to add any comments that you have on how your growing base in Lithuanian has helped with learning Serbo-Croatian (or vice-versa), if it has helped at all.


With great pleasure, Chung.
Belonging Serbo-Croatian and Lithuanian to two different branches of the Indoeuropean family, they are absolutely not mutually intellegible. I started studying Lithuanian one year after picking up Serbo-Croatian, and it soon seemed to me it was a completely different world.
There are but many similarities between their grammars (not talking about words like "knygas" or "soboras", that Lithuanian has borrowed from its Slavic neighbours), and they can help to a certain extent. If you are a linguist, you will have fun dwelling upon it...as I do. But if you are just up to learn Lithuanian, the knowledge of any Slavic language won't help you that much.
This if of course my personal opinion. I would be glad to hear back from anybody else who is engaged in the study of these challenging languages..

Edited by Dragomanno on 02 May 2011 at 3:58pm

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Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 5698 days ago

4228 posts - 8257 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 20 of 35
02 May 2011 at 2:19pm | IP Logged 
No problem, Dragomanno. I've just added your comments in the main profile.
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Theodisce
Octoglot
Senior Member
Poland
Joined 4428 days ago

127 posts - 167 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, Latin, Ancient Greek, Russian, Czech, French, English, German
Studies: Italian, Spanish, Slovak, Ukrainian, Serbo-Croatian, Greek, Portuguese

 
 Message 21 of 35
02 May 2011 at 5:29pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for your invitation to write something here, Chung. As a person with some experience in Czech and Slovak I'd like to share my thoughts. Having read a lot of medieval and early modern Polish texts I had easier access to Czech and Slovak, I guess, than most of my fellow countrymen, as they tend to preserve some archaic vocabulary not used in modern Polish.

I believe Slovak is more similar to Polish than Czech is. I started my journey with Slovak and Slovak Radio was my main resource as I believe in the importance of input and prefer audio materials. It wasn't difficult to begin to listen and unknown content explained itself by the way native speakers used their vocabulary. But when I invited a friend of mine to listen to Slovak radio, she didn't understand much. It was the moment I realized I had devoted to Slovak a significant amount of time. Still, for a Polish speaker, few weeks of radio based immersion would be sufficient to understand above 75%-80% of the content.

Czech is slightly more remote from Polish than Slovak is, still, immersion and patience gave me passive knowledge of the language similar to my command of Slovak. I would suggest Slovak-> Czech sequence for Polish speaking people.

Both Czech and Slovak are blessed with a large amount of podcasts available thanks to corresponding national radio websites. Having bigger native population, Czech has more rich literary tradition.

To sum it up, I believe 20-30 hours of listening to radio material would be enough if you already speak decent Polish. The numbers would be probably different for other languages in the family.


Having studied Slovak and Czech, I wanted to check if I would understand other Slavic languages in their written form. I discovered I was able to read a short Wikipedia article in Russian and Croatian with about 50-60% comprehension, which is a nice percentage to begin with.Sorbian has showed itself to be yet more intelligible, sharing familiar features with Czech and Polish. Written Ukrainian contains a lot of Polish loanwords and again I was able to read Ukrainian Wikipedia articles with some degree of comprehension.



   
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Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 5698 days ago

4228 posts - 8257 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 22 of 35
02 May 2011 at 5:57pm | IP Logged 
Thanks very much, Theodisce. I've just added your comments into the main profile. Will I receive a third set of comments today? ;-)
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michal
Pentaglot
Newbie
Czech Republic
Joined 3846 days ago

16 posts - 34 votes
Speaks: Czech*, English, German, Russian, French
Studies: Latvian, Modern Hebrew, Biblical Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Polish, Yiddish, Greek, Hungarian

 
 Message 23 of 35
04 May 2011 at 2:11pm | IP Logged 
Hello all,

A couple of weeks ago Chung asked me to describe some of my experience learning Latvian with a Slavonic background. I will first try to describe what I remember of my learning experience:

My background at the time I started learning Latvian was this:
It was back in the eighties, I had already learned some German, Russian and English (in this chronological order) by that time. All of these were at a usable intermediate level. My first language is Czech.

I bought a Soviet style textbook on a trip to Latvia and learned mostly from that, later I also found an old Teach Yourself book in a second-hand bookstore in Prague. This was the first time I learned a language mostly on my own. I learned enough to get by comfortably during a later trip to Latvia (still in the eighties). I am not learning the language actively now but I made a trip to Latvia a few years ago and revised my Latvian using the Colloquial book before that.

This is how my previous language background was relevant to learning Latvian:

1. Spelling, pronunciation: Here I was extremely lucky to have grown up speaking Czech. Modern Latvian orthography is a twentieth century creation based to a large extent on the model of Czech. That did not harm. What helped even more is that both Czech and Latvian are languages with fairly regular fixed stress on the first syllable and have syllable length independent of stress (all four combinations of long-short and stress-unstressed occur). This means that English spoken with a heavy Czech accent sounds rather bizarre, but Latvian spoken with a Czech accent sounds tolerable.

2. Grammar: Latvian is a language with a lot of inflections measured by the standards of major western European languages. Verbs get conjugated, nouns, adjectives and pronouns get declined. Having grown up speaking a language where this is also the case and having learned German and Russian before Latvian definitely helped. The endings were mostly new but I had already internalized the concept of noun cases, which made learning the grammar much easier. My non-Slavonic languages helped where Latvian grammar diverged from the familiar Slavonic patterns, in particular with the concept of expressing definiteness in adjective endings.

3. Vocabulary: Here i did not get too much out of speaking a couple of Slavonic languages. A few dozen words are shared between Slavonic and Latvian, mostly in the area of elementary vocabulary: head, hand, to carry, etc. This is something interesting to observe but does not make too much of a difference when you need to learn a few thousand words to be able to use the language.

So far my testimony, here is a tentative attempt at a summary and conclusions:

The one area where speaking a Slavonic language gave me a considerable advantage was grammar, where a lot of the work boiled down to learning new endings for familiar grammatical categories. The head start I had with pronunciation had more to do with speaking specifically Czech, most other Slavonic languages have rather different phonetic patterns. The vocabulary I got for free was negligible - years later when I learned French I was pleasantly surprised at how much vocabulary I could recycle from English, whereas in Latvian I had to learn the vocabulary mostly the hard way without any shortcuts.

Back to grammar: learning Latvian grammar with a Slavonic background is probably easier than doing so without this background, all other things being equal. Anyone who knows a richly inflected non-Slavic language will benefit in a similar way. A German who has studied Latin to some depth will probably learn Latvian grammar even more easily that a Czech who has only learned English as a foreign language and is not actively aware of the grammatical categories of his own language.

I understand Chung hesitated between separate Baltic and Slavic profiles and a joint one. I definitely respect his decision to go for a joint one, although the proximity of the two groups should not be overestimated. I have no problem with Balto-Slavic as a linguistic concept and I guess I can testify that Latvian is indeed closer to Slavonic languages that to Germanic, Romance or Greek. However, for practical learning purposes, when you learn a Baltic language, you will not get much more from knowing Slavonic languages then you would from knowing Latin.

If I may suggest one change to the profile, I would suggest getting rid of any notion of mutual intelligibility between Baltic and Slavonic - currently the text speaks of limited intelligibility between the two Baltic languages and "even less" with Slavonic languages. I would simply say that mutual intelligibility between Baltic and Slavonic is absent.

That is it, I hope this is useful.

Michal

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Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 5698 days ago

4228 posts - 8257 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 24 of 35
04 May 2011 at 4:13pm | IP Logged 
Thanks Michal, I've just added your comments and changed the comment on mutual intelligibility.

I do hesitate to say that the mutual intelligibility between Baltic and Slavonic is absent (implying 0). Perhaps our definition here differs. For me the mutual intelligibility between Baltic and Slavonic is rather similar to what I find between Finnish and Hungarian. The odd cognate is recognizable and various structures or tendencies are comparable but that's it. When I was studying Lithuanian I noticed a few items (other than what I've listed already) that reminded me of Slavonic (or at least my background in Slavonic helped in deciphering them).

For example I noticed that ž in a Slavonic language sometimes matched g in Lithuanian

e.g.

živ(j)eti = "to live" (BCMS/SC) Cf. gyventi (Lithuanian)
železnice = "railroad" (Czech) Cf. geležinkelis (Lithuanian)

There were also a few words that stood out because I could find them only in Baltic and Slavonic or at least the similarity was striking enough for me as a non-specialist to notice and remember.

e.g.

desno = "rightwards" (BCMS/SC) Cf. dešinys = "right (side)" (Lithuanian - it turns out that a distant cognate is dexter (Latin) which I had initially not picked up)
hlava = head (Czech, Slovak) Cf. galva (Lithuanian)
ruka = hand (Czech, Slovak) Cf. ranka (Lithuanian)


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