Previous posts in this discussion:
PostMinority Languages and Geopolitics (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 05/21/18 3:18 pm)
John E linked to a very good (how can it be otherwise?) post from the late Prof Hilton (20 May).
However, I believe that from an American point of view, even from an extremely erudite one such as Ronald Hilton's, it is very difficult fully to understand the problems of the small Europeans nations, as there are so many of them. Just think of the long history and traditions of the city-states.
In the first half of the last century, the strong European nation-states gave the impression that each one would go ahead with the predominant language while the minor local languages would survive only at the local or family level. Even more, in almost every European state, the language of a minority which was the same as a neighboring nation was looked at with suspicion. Often, attempts were made to eliminate it. Of course if the prohibited language was of the losers the suppression was fine, while if it was of the victors it was a crime.
In Italy there was strong unity in spite of regional or even small valley differences. All the inhabitants had Italian feelings while there was also a strong Italian irredentist feeling in Corsica, Nice, Malta, Dalmatia and even in Canton Ticino. During the Third Reich, the Austrians, Bavarians, Sorbi of Luzatia, Prussians, etc. were all "ein Volk ein Reich."
Then after WWII, practically all the European states crumbled to be dominated by outside empires. Then one of the empires imploded, and globalization became the dominant form. A poorly arranged European Union and an even more poorly conceived euro were created.
But now there is a reaction to extreme capitalism, globalization and uncontrolled immigration. The Europeans do not want to end up as the Neanderthals or the Native Americans did.
Europeans living in countries with charismatic leaders such as Hungary, Poland, Russia, etc. are comfortable with their states, while those living in weak states take refuge in their small nations such as Catalonia, the Basque Country, Flanders, Wallonia, etc.
Italy is an Interesting case. The new rising personality of Matteo Salvini has transformed his minority, separatist "Lega Nord" into a national party, with the "Lega" being, hopefully, on the road to restoring a united Italy enriched by regional/local diversities.
The case of Switzerland indicates that languages are not necessarily divisive, providing that on the border there is not a stronger state with the same language as the minority.
In the US the situation, it seems to me, is much different, as the ethnic differences of the immigrants do not have a real political/separatist nature. Even the various independence efforts sprouting in California and Texas are of no consequence.
The Hispanidad in the US Southwest, with increased immigration, may become a danger, but so far there is no attraction toward Mexico City. On the contrary, the attraction is in Mexico towards Washington. Furthermore the Hispanics are not all Mexicans but from different areas and divided.
Probably the bottom line is: the problem is too complicated to be satisfactorily addressed in a single WAIS post.
JE comments: But Eugenio, a good WAISer never stops at just one WAIS post!
I mostly agree with your take on languages, but you added a political aside that makes me uneasy. Why do you equate rightist authoritarians in Russia, Hungary, and Poland with "strong" leadership? Even more so, how can you assume the people are "comfortable" in these states? For Poland at least, I can name several who are not, and that is not even going outside the family.
Prof. Hilton was curious about minority languages, but tended to see them as a "problem" for national unity. His 1970 textbook La América latina de ayer y de hoy, which I am presently studying for an upcoming conference presentation, cites Latin America's linguistic unity as an advantage. Switzerland is the handy counterexample.
The bottom line: linguistic diversity is detrimental to a nation-state, except for when it is not.
(Timothy Brown, USA
05/22/18 4:38 AM)
In response to Eugenio Battaglia (May 21st), I constantly remind myself not to ever underestimate such things as the riot of language spoken in our world, how many languages there are, and how important one's language is to them. It's also important not to confuse languages with dialects, since while by definition a language is sufficiently unique to be incomprehensible to its non-speakers whereas dialects are intelligible to those who speak the same language despite different accents and specific words.
Having done a few Foreign Service tours on the Old Continent, I believe Europeans should be happy that their continent has very few languages compared to many other places. It's been estimated that 850 mutually unintelligible languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea today, and 1,900 were spoken in the Western Hemisphere prior to 1600, of which about 250 are still living languages.
JE comments: Papua New Guinea is the principal subject of Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday (2012). One would never intuitively pick New Guinea as the world's champion for language diversity, but indeed it is.
Tim Brown gives us a wisdom for the ages: do not underestimate the importance of a person's language, no matter (or especially) if it's very obscure. In the 20th century, it was assumed that radio and TV, as well as educational policy, were dooming most minority languages to extinction. Fortunately, this has not happened in many cases.
You are what you speak.
Italy's Language Diversity
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
05/23/18 1:45 PM)
I will not try to compare the different languages of Papua New Guinea, 462,840 sq km with 8,100,000 inhabitants, with those of Italy at 321,340 sq km and 60,500,000 inhabitants (see the very good post of Timothy Brown, 22 May), but you may be surprised by the following list of Italy's different languages:
The minority languages are protected by law and are the following:
German is spoken in Alto Adige/Sudtirol and nearby areas by almost 400,000 people. They have a large autonomy and German is one of Italy's official languages.
French is spoken by about 20,000 people in Val d'Aosta. French is also widely used in the Franco Provenzale; therefore French is another official language, while in a couple of small valleys there are the Walsers (about 2000) who speak a German dialect. The valleys have a special autonomy too.
The Ladini, numbering around 50,000, live in the Northeast Friuli.
The Mochens or Cymbris, sometime considered one people and sometimes two, number a few thousand and live in the Northeast of Italy, the most complicated area. They are descendants of the old German tribe, the Cimbris.
The Occitani (around 178,000) live in the valleys of the West Piedmont on the border with France.
The Albanians, around 98,000, arrived after the death of Skanderbeg, and live in the Eastern part of Southern Italy.
The Carnici (around 40,000) live in the Northeast of Italy in the Friuli region. Some consider them to be part of the Friulans, who number around 70,000.
The Corsicans (around 10,000) live on the Island of La Maddalena (Sardinia)
The Jews (around 30,000) live all over Italy, especially the 15,000 in Rome, to which city they arrived before the time of Christ. There are about 10,000 Jewish people in Milano and Leghorn, who mostly arrived from Spain in 1492.
The Greeks (about 13,800) live in Salento and Calabria, and a few in Sicily. According to some they are descendants of the old Greeks of the Magna Grecia, and others from the time of the Byzantine Empire.
The Catalans number a few thousand and live in Alghero (Sardinia).
The Roms (around 50,000) move all around Italy. Another 80,000 have recently arrived from Romania and the former Yugoslavia.
Additionally we have more than 5,000,000 immigrants, increasing day by day, from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Why in the hell do the Chinese arrive from China, such a rich country?
The Italian dialects are divided into four main groups--Northern, Tuscan, Central and Southern, but each town, village, and valley has its differences. For instance, both in Savona and Genoa the Ligurian dialect is spoken, but it has different words and accents. On top of it we do not like each other. When Genoa was allied with Rome, Savona was allied with Carthage. When Genoa was siding with Spain, Savona was siding with France and vice versa, and when Genoa was against Napoleon Savona sided with him.
A special dialect (language?) is Sardinian, divided in two main groups, the Northern one is the language (with Ladino) more similar to the old Latin but Sardinia also has an archaic Ligurian on the islands of San Pietro and Sant'Antioco, which dates from an immigration from Liguria, first in Tabarka (Tunisia) and then to the two small islands in the early 1700s. Furthermore in Sardinia there is a dialect similar to Corsican in the extreme North and another one (Sassaresu) which is a mixture of Sard, Ligurian and Pisano, dating from the old Pisan and Genoese eras. Also Sardinia has a special autonomy (as does Sicily), but the official language is Italian.
The latest news about the Italian government: the lackey of the Empire president of the Republic seems against an overly independent political program, even if it is originated by the two parties that have a majority, confirmed by the latest regional elections. This strong pressure from the Empire and the EU is very annoying.
JE comments: This is very interesting, Eugenio. I'd love to know more about the Walsers, who should be of interest to WAISers far and wide. I just learned that the village of Juf (Switzerland), population 24, is inhabited by Walsers. Juf's Walsers can boast of living in the highest village in Europe, at 2,126 meters (6,975 ft). No trees grow that high up, so they burn manure in their fireplaces.
Has anyone visited Juf? The town's name must come from the panting required to walk there.
Italy's Languages; from Noah Rich
(John Eipper, USA
05/24/18 4:16 AM)
Noah Rich writes:
I was just wondering if Eugenio Battaglia (May 23rd) could elaborate more on German being an official language of Italy.
As far as I was aware, Italian is the only official language of the Italian government. So is German official in that it is an official language by that region's government or province's government?
I'm grossly uninformed on the topic but I was surprised to see that. So if possible, Eugenio, can you elaborate a little more, or point me in the right direction to read on how it is an official language or what document or governing body outlines it as such?
JE comments: Great question, Noah. "Standard" or Tuscan Italian seems to be the only official language nation-wide, but I believe Eugenio was referring to the specific autonomous regions.
And great to hear from you, Noah. Are you still in Japan? Summer plans? Please send us an update when time allows.
Italy's Languages and Irredentism
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
05/24/18 1:00 PM)
With reference to the kind post from Noah Rich, 24 May, I have to apologize and correct my previous post regarding the ethnic minorities in Italy:
!) An error. Maybe because I was born in Fiume (Rijeka), my unconscious prefers to forget the Croatians and Slovenians. In Italy we now have about 65,000 Slovenians on the border with Slovenia north of Trieste. In spite of the final ethnic cleansing after WWII, there is still an Italian minority in Slovenia and Croatia.
The Croats arrived in Molise escaping from the Turkish invasion and founded some villages near Campobasso. Of them about 1000 of these still survive, speaking their old Croatian.
2) A clarification. In spite of the poorly created European Union, German is not (yet?) the official language in all of Italy. German is the second official language only in Alto Adige/Sud Tiro, where the German minority lives. Likewise, French is the second official language in Val d'Aostsa only.
Oh, by the way, nowhere in the Italian Constitution is it written that Italian is Italy's official language.
Only in the law 482 (1999), which protects the minority languages, is the Italian language finally mentioned.
JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia is one of the few WAISers (actually, the only one I'm certain of) who was born in a place that is now in a different country. (My father-in-law is in the same club--his birthplace was in Poland, now it's in Ukraine.) Perhaps this explains Eugenio's deep interest in irredentism.
But here's a counterpoint: a language spoken in more than one country tends to be more significant than a single-nation language. The extreme example would be Spanish, which is so internationally significant in part because it's the primary language of 21 countries. Contrast this with Hindi, which has slightly more native speakers, but they are concentrated in one country. (There are significant Hindi-speaking communities in Mauritius, Nepal, and Guyana.)
If Bolívar's dream had become reality, and Spanish were the language of one (or two, with Spain) mega-nations, would it still have the political clout in the UN and elsewhere?
- Italy's Cimbri (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 05/24/18 5:27 AM)
Just a small elaboration on the Cimbri, mentioned by Eugenio Battaglia is his post of May 23rd.
These people claim to be the descendants of the ancient Cimbrians, an ancient Germanic tribe of lowland origin (possibly Jutland) described by different Roman historians, but science doubts very much that this is the case. They speak an upland Germanic language which is close to Bavarian, and they seem to be ethnically Celtic. Most scholars believe they appeared in what is now Italy in medieval times and have nothing to do with the ancient Cimbrians. The Mochenos speak a different language which is even closer to Bavarian, and which is considered by many to be actually a dialect of Bavarian.
Both of these peoples live in remote parts of the Trentino; a rugged and fabulous place I have visited on a few occasions, and where I did some climbing once upon a time. I met some Cimbrians, and we could not communicate except with grunts and sign language. They did not understand standard German at all, and I could not understand them although by that time I could understand Bavarian quite well (granted however that Bavarian and other Southern German languages like Swabian and Frankish are a very big tent with an incredible amount of diversity among the multitude of local dialects--Oberpfalzisch and Upper Bavarian, for example, are only barely mutually intelligible).
The Trentino is historically part of Tyrol and was majority German-speaking during most of its history. When I was a student at Regensburg, I knew a few people who seriously thought it could be possible--and desirable--for Bavaria to secede from the Bundesrepublik and unite with historical Tyrol into an "Alpenrepublik," with the capital in Munich. A silly fantasy, I think, but shows how strong the cultural affinity is between the different upland Germanic peoples, who are a quite different people from other Germans (some Bavarians refer to all non-Southern Germans as "Prussians," or more bluntly, as "sau-Preisse," the same way as some Ukrainians refer to Russians, disparagingly, as "Muscovites"). Of course the Trentino today is majority Italian already, after being finally incorporated into Italy after World War I, but my friends counted on dissatisfaction there with what they considered the dysfunctional Italian state to make the Alpenrepublik dream popular even among ethnic Italians.
This was all before the EU and open borders--they wanted the border to be between themselves and the sau-Preissen, not between them and South Tyrol, where they felt at home and which they considered "their" country.
JE comments: Wikipedia gives pretty much the same version of the Italian Cimbri: that they are of Celtic origin, and speak a language akin to Bavarian. A naïve question: do the Bavarians themselves have Celtic roots? A quick Google says that this is--or possibly might be--the case.
My sister has recently performed a DNA ancestry test, and we Eipper/Fullertons are about 1/4 Celtic. I presumed it was from our Scots-Irish maternal side, but possibly there could be a Bavarian background. (The Eipper surname comes from somewhere in that part of Germany.)
Big surprises: We are 2% Russian and 1% Iberian. This must explain my career choice.
- Spanish and English, Global Languages (Timothy Brown, USA 05/25/18 3:49 AM)
I seem to have started something. So let's make things even more complex by adding Spain to the list, since it, too, has multiple languages and dialects.
Basque (first, since my wife of almost 60 years is Basque), Catalan, Aragonese, Galician, and (surprise!) Spanish (with a lisp), not to mention numerous dialects.
There are Basques throughout the Americas from Argentina to Cuba and the western US, and lots of French or Spanish tertulias.
As they say, "vive la différence."
Spanish is the official language of 21 countries, minus one if you subtract Guarani in Paraguay (phonetically--"na ha guaranime koa").
But English is the lingua franca of today's "Global Tribe," and that makes it the world's most widely in-demand second language, despite the irritation of the Francophone.
I doubt Mandarin will ever become universal, since despite centuries of central government efforts, it's still not the first language of most Chinese. Might the world's next dominant language be AI-speak? A ver.
JE comments: Yes, Zúñiga is a venerable Basque surname. I've always been intrigued by the huge Basque cultural presence in Tim Brown's native state, Nevada. This year's National Basque Festival is scheduled for June 29th through July 1st in Elko. I can't go this year, but the Bucket List awaits...
Paraguay is the only Latin American nation where the (white) elites have learned the indigenous language. This is the result of the Jesuit presence in that country during the colonial period. The Jesuits did not force Spanish on their subjects, as this would work against their goal of setting up an isolated Christian society. Prof. Hilton attended the UN founding conference in San Francisco, 1945. He recalled that the Paraguayan delegation preferred Guarani when talking among themselves.
Tim Brown did a diplomatic tour in Paraguay and observed how strongman Alfredo Stroessner would break into Guarani when angry. Did I get that right, Tim?
Guarani Language in Brazil; War of the Triple Alliance
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/25/18 9:30 AM)
Timothy Brown's post and John Eipper's comments (25 May) reminded of one of my best friends, a Brazilian businessman who traveled extensively throughout Paraguay in the last four decades.
He loved Paraguay and use to tell me interesting stories about the country and its people, as well as the Stroessner government. The stories coming to mind right now are the hatred many Paraguayans felt about the English manipulating the Argentinians and Brazilians into a war against Paraguay because they were such strong rivals with England. Is that historically accurate?
The hatred thing was because the invading forces committed genocide against the people, killing women and children. When I was in elementary school I remember studying about the Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López, who the textbook stated was the troublemaker. Has anyone studied that war tragedy?
Regarding Guarani as a language, it is a major component of Brazilian indigenous culture, and Tupi/Guarani has a major influence in Brazilian culture. While not many speak the language fluently, it is sprinkled all over the general population and geography in the names of cities, people, etc. I would say there is reverence for Guarani in Brazil as part of the national roots.
JE comments: There is some truth to the claim that Paraguay was forced into the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870) because of its isolation and relatively successful autarky. The immediate cause of the war was the conflict between the Blancos and Colorados in Uruguay. The dictator Solano López was an ally of the Blancos, and the Brazilians supported the Colorados. The war, with some 400,000 deaths, remains the deadliest in the history of Latin America.
Tim Brown has shared several Stroessner stories with the WAISitudes. A sample is below. I'd love to hear a few more.
Guarani Language; "Ayvu Rapyta"
(Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain
05/28/18 4:04 AM)
On the Guaraní language, I recommend the book La lengua guaraní del Paraguay: Historia, sociedad y literatura (Madrid: Mapfre, 1993) by the learned Jesuit Bartomeu Melia.
Guaraní belongs to the large and widespread family known as Tupi-Guarani.
The Tupinamba, the first people the Portuguese met on the Atlantic coast of what is now Brazil, spoke a language belonging to this family.
The Jesuits, who created the amazing system of missions in the Spanish colonies in South America. admired the language, and carefully studied it and made of it the "lengua general" of the area.
They printed many books in the language, and also produced high-quality dictionaries and grammars.
These mission were hated by the Spanish settlers, who wanted to exploit the natives, and Portuguese, who wanted to enslave them.
They largely collapsed when the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish empire in 1767, but I imagine the fact that a form of Guaraní is today spoken by most Paraguayans is in part a legacy of the missions.
One of the masterpieces of world literature, the creation chant and cycle of myths known as Ayvu Rapyta, recorded by ethnologist León Cadogan, is composed in Mbya Guaraní.
A key concept in this cycle is the equation of the human soul with articulated language, so the creation of the latter by the divinity is synonymous with the creation of humankind and the world in which we live.
Another way of explaining that in the beginning was the Word.
The original edition of Ayvu Rapyta can be accessed here:
JE comments: León Cadogan's bilingual edition (Guaraní and Spanish) is an outstanding example of good old-fashioned philology--and I say this in the best sense of the word. Thank you for the reference, José Manuel!
The orthodox interpretation of the Jesuits in Paraguay is not so much that they admired the Guaraní language, but that they sought to keep the locals ignorant of Spanish in order to maintain their isolation and social malleability. There's little doubt, as José Manuel notes above, that this policy led to the language's ubiquity and vitality today.
- Another Spanish Language: Silbo Gomero (Carmen Negrin, -France 05/25/18 11:27 AM)
As far as Spain is concerned, don't forget the whistling Canarios! They are a people also spread around the world. They founded a number of cities in the US, San Antonio and Santa Fe among others.
JE comments: The silbadores (whistlers) remain only on the island of La Gomera, which was Columbus's last Old World stop before coming to the Americas. The number of silbo "speakers" is few indeed. Perhaps a couple hundred? I understand that the language is based on the syntax and intonation of Spanish. Carmen Negrín has Canarian roots--what more can you teach us about the silbadores?
More on Silbo Gomero: The Whistling Negrins
(Carmen Negrin, -France
05/26/18 7:23 AM)
The government of Canarias has re-introduced the teaching of the "silbido," in particular in the island of La Gomera.
Herewith is a note from the Canary government on its meaning and use:
I have to say that it has become rather popular although not widespread, in the sense that even a successful French song talking/singing about it came out a year or two ago.
Personally, in our family, although not from La Gomera, we have always called each other, when at a distance or in a crowd, with a special whistle, transmitted from one generation to another. Maybe not always regarded as very polite, but certainly very useful!
JE comments: Very cool. Carmen, did your grandfather know silbo? Did he use it?
Juan Negrin, Silbador
(Carmen Negrin, -France
05/27/18 3:10 PM)
John E asked if my grandfather was a "speaker" of Silbo (the Canarian whistling language). He was indeed!
JE comments: Juan Negrín was an outstanding polyglot, so no surprise here. His biographers claim ten languages. I don't know if they count Silbo among them.
Speaking of singing Canaries, Gary Moore (next) has sent us some on-line demonstrations of Silbo in action.
A Demonstration of Silbo Gomero; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
05/28/18 4:30 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
So that's why they're called the Canary Islands.
Thanks very much to Carmen Negrín for opening
the wonderland of the Silbo Gomero.
Whole flocks of them can be found here:
JE comments: What is most charming about this video is that the two young Gomerans in Madrid, Aileen and Estefanía, cannot find each other the old-fashioned way (with their cell phones). Only some tried-and-true silbo cuts through the hubbub and confusion of the Puerta del Sol.
In the crime underworld, it's a sin to "sing like a Canary," but not on La Gomera! The credits at the end of the video state that silbo is taught to all Gomero schoolchildren. Bravo.
Dogs, Canaries, and The Canaries
(Carmen Negrin, -France
05/30/18 4:26 AM)
So sorry to disappoint Gary Moore (May 28th), but the name of Canary Islands, according to several sources, comes from the Latin canis, meaning dog, and not from the bird!
Some, Pliny the Elder in particular, say that the Romanized Berber, King Juba II, who sent an expedition to conquer the then called Fortunatae Insulae, was offered two Canarian mastiffs; others says the local population ate dogs. Whatever, but today the mastiff is the symbol of the islands. In front of the Cathedral of Las Palmas, there are several statues of dogs (https://www.alamy.es/imagenes/canary-island-dog-statue.html ).
Also, every year, the regional government awards a golden statue of a dog to those who have done something special for the region. We have one sitting in our Foundation in Las Palmas.
I also have to admit to John, that besides whistling in a particular "Gomeran" manner to call my brother and me, my grandfather (and my father, after him) didn't really use the Silbo Gomero to communicate.
Last but not least, perhaps you have noticed that the Latin Americans and in particular those from Venezuela, Cuba and Colombia, have a pronounced Canarian accent.
JE comments: The birds, rather, got their name from the Islands. Dog birds?
I've never been to the Canaries, but Caribbean Spanish (in Colombia they call it "Coastal"/costeño, to distinguish it from bogotano and other national variants) is always traced back to Andalusian through the Canaries. A language curiosity, Carmen: are the Canarios able to recognize accent differences among the islands--i.e., whether the speaker is from Tenerife or Gran Canaria or Lanzarote?
A Question on Whistling Technique; from Gary Moore
(John Eipper, USA
05/30/18 3:28 PM)
Gary Moore writes:
On the day the headlines read "Offensive Tweet" (Roseanne Barr),
I learn that the Canary Islands are named for dogs.
This news from Carmen
Negrín (30 May) seems bird-wreathed, if not star-crossed. But it doesn't solve
my quandary: In those amazing YouTube videos of the Silbo Gomero,
you can see the adepts sticking one finger into their mouths
(not two fingers as in some American wolf-whistles, or no fingers
as in others). So how do they turn that knuckle into a trumpet valve?
In distant adolescence I was finally shown what I couldn't figure out:
that the power of two-finger wolf-whistling comes from a careful
combination of placements (which after a time become habitual),
involving channeling outflow to a single spot (in this case, by pressure
of the two fingers against the slightly upraised tongue).
Can Carmen, or some other WAIS adept, enlighten me on how the
single-finger Silbo method works? Carmen, even if you didn't learn the
full Silbo language (as in the videos), you evidently learned the basic technique
of producing a beautifully emphatic blast of sibilance. Is there a how-to
manual somewhere on the Web? As in that ancient adolescent quest,
I wanna play too.
It's like hearing a new bird in the monte of Central America, and wondering what
to call it. Very tricky, because a moment has to arrive, star-crossed, when the bird
happens to decide to sing at the same time that a local adept is present, so
one can ask: "What's that? What do you call it" And it can't be just any adept--
but the rare one who will not only 1) know what the name of the bird is in local
parlance (say, a pica piedra or a papan), but also can b) articulate such knowledge
to the unknowing. It's a social riddle. Not every busy campesino cares about the
names of birds. But some do. So how to find that one wizard, to explain the
JE comments: I can hear the Gomeran maestra now: "Niños, it's time for silbo class. Pass around the hand sanitizer."
Carmen, can you give us some pointers on silbo technique? Problem is, how does one explain such a thing in writing? (Can you learn to ride a bike by reading about it?)
Learning the Silbo Canario
(Carmen Negrin, -France
06/01/18 4:28 AM)
In response to Gary Moore's request, this is the best I could find on the techniques of the silbo canario:
In the second clip you will also see the stick (called astia or lanza) with which the shepherds move from one mountain to another.
I hope it helps!
JE comments: The first YouTube video is off-limits to us Yanquis ("not available in your country"). Darn. But the second shows the knuckle-in-mouth whistling technique that so intrigued Gary Moore. I must practice.
La Gomera is one of the most rugged places imaginable. The roads have to be few and tortuous. So why walk (or drive) when silbo does the trick?
Whistling Canaries Again...and Colonel Bogey (from Gary Moore)
(John Eipper, USA
06/02/18 11:17 AM)
Gary Moore writes:
Thanks to Carmen Negrin (June 1) for the insights into the
whistle-language, Silbo Canario. I'm beginning to see the
technique--but as they say, thinking isn't doing.
I do find that if I entirely close off the left side of my mouth
by plugging it with the first knuckle of my left hand, I can make
the requisite restricted opening in the right corner of my mouth.
Then, by simultaneously pressing on my right check with my
right hand, and varying the pressure, I can regulate the channel
a bit, to get a slight ghost of sibillance.
But only a slight ghost, not a real whistle.
There are more videos. In this one, you can watch an adventurous
CBS correspondent puffing on her finger gamely, with Canary ruggedness
as backdrop, while there are also glimpses of technique (like a woman
who doesn't use her fingers at all, but visibly curls her tongue). In this and another tantalizing video, there are
charmingly whistle-thunderous classrooms where this bit of cultural
heritage is formally inculcated.
And the second video nods to the most famous whistle-moment in modernity.
It has a clip from Bridge Over the River Kwai.
JE comments: As kids we insisted on the "Comet" version. The British preferred to sing about Hitler's male anatomy. The "Colonel Bogey March" is associated with WWII, but like so many cultural icons, it emerged from the Great War (published in 1914).
We marched down the Bogey trail once before, in 2016:
- Canary Islands and Canarianisms: Waiting for a Guagua (Henry Levin, USA 05/30/18 3:56 PM)
I have been to Tenerife and Gran Canaria many times. They are lovely and with warm people.
Some of the words are similar to what I experienced in Puerto Rico and Latin America, but not in the Peninsula. For example, the term autobús is rarely used by anyone but tourists. The term used is the cute word: "guagua." Who knows the origin of this?
JE comments: I always assumed "guagua" was an onomatopeia for the noise of internal combustion, but several sources claim it comes from the English wagon. There is also some debate on whether the Canarians got the word from the Cubans, or the other way around.
In Perú and Chile, guagua is a baby (from the Quechua).
- Lanzarotto Malocello and the Island of Lanzarote (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 07/10/18 10:05 AM)
On 30 May, Carmen Negrín posted a very good essay about the marvelous Canary Islands, which I have visited and love very much--almost as much as my beloved Mount Prospect, Illinois.
Carmen mentioned a 1776 book by Joseph de Viera Clavejo, Noticias de la historia general de las Islas Canarias.
Reading this book I was dismayed that chapter XIX, on the island of Lanzarote, presents the name of the "modern" (1312) discoverer in a rather fuzzy way.
For an Italian seafarer with a passion for the voyages of exploration, this is a serious blow, and I feel obliged to correct the error.
The European navigator who first arrived in 1312 at the island of Lanzarote was Lanzarotto Malocello.
The Malocellos were a rich family from Genoa with many proprieties in Liguria since at least the 1100s. This family provided eleven consuls to Genoa and various important individuals even related to Popes. Carbone Malocello in 1235 attacked the Sultan of Ceuta to make him pay for depredations against the Genoese merchants residing there. The first Doge of Genoa, Simon Boccanegra, died in 1363 in the "palazzo" of the Malocellos, probably poisoned by the feuding Adorno and Fregoso families. See also the opera by Giuseppe Verdi.
Lanzarotto, born at Varazze near Savona in 1270, sailed toward the South Atlantic in search of the brothers Ugolino and Vadino Vivaldi, who were planning to reach the Indies well ahead of Henry the Navigator of Portugal. Lanzarotto did not find the Vivaldis, but in 1312 he reached Lanzarote and remained there for 20 years until he was sent away by the Guanci.
Jean de Bethencourt arrived in 1402 and found the ruins of the fortification erected by Lanzarotto on the hill of Guanapay. Later the surrounding waters became very congested shipping lanes.
The first chart/portolano of Angelino Dulcert appeared in 1339, on which Lanzarote is clearly indicated as "insula de Lanzarotus Maloncelus."
In 2012 Spain and Italy organized great conferences and studies on the 700th anniversary of the discovery.
It is reported that one branch of the Malocello family at the end of the 14th century moved to France to offer its services as shipping captains. They later became the De Maloisel. Probably it is from this fact that in 1659 a French family claimed to be the discoverers of Lanzarote, their ancestor being called Lancelot Maloisel.
On other topics in response to Noah Rich and Istvan Simon:
!) For a long time I have been strongly against the death penalty, especially for political reasons, but now I am so sick and tired of our lousy society that a death penalty for some particularly despicable crimes does not seem so bad. But certainly a death penalty imposed 20 years after the crime is ridiculous.
2) Of course an average American does not like Putin and will probably believe all the possible evil about him. He would prefer the drunkard Boris Yeltsin, as with the latter a broken Russia was about to become the final colony of the Empire.
But an enlightened authoritarian leader is preferable to a lackey of foreigners.
Finally, please, do not speak too badly of Stalin, after all he was the good Old Uncle Joe for FDR and his followers.
JE comments: Most on-line sources give the first name of Lancelotto, but I am indebted to Eugenio Battaglia for another "pre-Columbian" history lesson. We Latin Americanists tend to look no further back than 1492.
All this begs the question: where would the Spanish be without the contributions of their Genoese/Savonese sailors?
To shift gears, Eugenio has once again expressed his fondness for enlightened authoritarians. Perhaps I could too, but I cannot think of any. Perhaps--just perhaps--Abraham Lincoln? Russia had some aggressive modernizers, from Peter the Great to Stalin, but I wouldn't call them enlightened.
- Memories of Diplomatic Service in Paraguay (Timothy Brown, USA 05/26/18 4:13 AM)
Homework? At my age? Oh, well!
Actually, my thanks to John E for the plug on my collection of autobiographical vignettes, Diplomarine (in the Marines, we called them "sea stories").
I enjoyed every place where I served, except one in Tegucigalpa as head of a Secret/Exdis compartmentalized office as Senior Liaison Officer to the Nicaraguan Contras, trying (unsuccessfully) to do the impossible. I did my dissertation because of that misadventure, The Real Contra War (U Oklahoma Press).
But when ask which of my fourteen assignments was my favorite, I always say Asunción simply because it was the right place at the right time for my family--and for me. As for vignettes, six are in Diplomarine (chs. 30 Paraguay--Big Rivers, Bigger Egos; 31 Nixon, Stroessner and the French Connection; 32 Fat Colonels, Mau Maus, and Chilean Blonds; 33 Rutherford B. Hayes, National Hero; 34 The Return of Phoenix (Vietnam War-style); and 35 Itaipu--The $19 Billion Dollar Dam. There's even a signed photo Stroessner sent me in San Salvador, my next post, via his ambassador there. (Apart from what I put in my book, Stroessner asked for me to do some simultaneous interpretation for him with other visitors, too.)
A few years later, I wound up being State's Desk Officer for Paraguay/Uruguay and had a few more weird experiences.
JE comments: Weird experiences? Please share, Tim. Pretty please. (I can't resist giving homework. Must be in the DNA.)
A couple of months ago I dragged Aldona to Fremont, Ohio, to Spiegel Grove, the Rutherford B. Hayes mansion and presidential center. Fremont is a little over an hour from Adrian. The docents at SG know all about Paraguay and President Hayes's god-like status amongst the Paraguayans.
WAISer Pat Mears is another happy visitor to the Hayes museum complex. The splendid house alone is worth the trip, even if you're not so keen on Rutherford B:
- Basque, Ladino, and an Encounter in Rome (Edward Jajko, USA 05/26/18 9:38 AM)
Timothy Brown, in his post of May 25 on Spanish and English as global languages and mentioning various kinds of Spanish, writes about Basque, Euskara, which, while a language of Spain (and France), is of course not Spanish or related to any form of Spanish other than by geography. It is a linguistic isolate, totally unrelated to any other known language. Sumerian, the long-dead language of the ingenious inhabitants of Mesopotamia some 5,000 years ago, to whom we owe so much, is another isolate.
In his May 23 survey of linguistic minorities in Italy, Eugenio Battaglia mentioned the Ladini, inhabitants of northeast Friuli. These people speak Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romansch dialect related to the Romansch of Switzerland. Ladin is not to be confused with a form of Spanish that Timothy did not mention, Ladino. The Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492 were invited to resettle in various parts of the Ottoman Empire by Bayezid II. They brought with them the Spanish they spoke, written in Hebrew letters (often in the form of the alphabet called Rashi), to which were added Hebrew words and expressions and, later, Turkish and Arabic. This is Ladino. See the interesting Wikipedia article "Judaeo-Spanish."
This doesn't exactly involve a minority language of Italy, but the last time my wife and I were in Rome, staying at a hotel near the entrance to the Vatican museum, I had a dental emergency. The hotel manager directed me to his own dentist, a mile or two away. I got the time of my appointment wrong and we wound up spending way more than an hour sitting outside in a pedestrian mall waiting for the dentist to return from lunch and open up his offices. I enjoyed trying to grasp what the Italians around us were saying. Then, all of a sudden, I had to keep myself from laughing out loud. Two Polish women had sat down right next to me and one of them started laying into a third, not there, apparently a mutual acquaintance. It was one complaint after another about the absent woman, with a recurrent phrase, repeated several times like a figure in a musical work, something like "a jej nogi zawsze do góry ma"--she's always got her legs up in the air. It was really hard not to laugh.
JE comments: Aldona doesn't know the expression, but the meaning is quite clear. Not a nice thing to say in the shadow of the Vatican!
Where do the Basques come from? The Romans asked the same question two millennia ago. Language isolates challenge our assumptions about human origins. If all people came from somewhere else, how do these isolates get started? For the Basque priest Erroa in the 18th century, the answer was simple: Basque is the language of Eden.
This website provides ample pintxos for thought:
Massacre at Najran, c. AD 518
(John Heelan, -UK
05/27/18 4:55 AM)
JE asked on 26 May: "If all people came from somewhere else, how do [language] isolates get started?"
I suspect that communities setting up on trade routes (such as the Silk Road, the Spice Route and the Incense Route, as well as Phoenician traders setting up trading stations along Mediterranean coastline) had something to do with it--as well as exporting religious beliefs.
In Saudi Arabia, I had the opportunity to visit Najran on the Yemeni border--my group needed the permission of the local prince. Najran has an interesting history having has a pre-Islamic Jewish community and later a Christian community from c. AD 500. In c. 518 or 523 Dhū Nuwās, a Jewish king, attacked the Aksumite (mainly Christian) garrison at Zafar, capturing them and burning their churches. He then moved against Najrān, a Christian and Aksumite stronghold. After accepting the city's capitulation, he massacred those inhabitants who would not renounce Christianity.
Estimates of the death toll from this event range up to 20,000 in some sources; a surviving letter (where he is called Dimnon) written by Simon, the bishop of Beth Arsham in 524 AD, recounts Dhū Nuwās's persecution in Najrān (modern al-Ukhdūd in Saudi Arabia). The persecution is apparently described and condemned in the Qur'an (al-Buruj).
One can observe the results of Najran's buildings having been razed to the ground and burned. 1500 years later, one can see layers of the wood of which the buildings were constructed with bone fragments between them, resembling a mille feuille cake. Najran's oasis was like a film set from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Both the community and the oasis were so impressive that I recall them some decades later.
JE comments: John Heelan wrote previously on his visit to Najran. Click below. Not only does Najran have a fascinating history; it is also one of the fastest-growing cities in Saudi Arabia. According to Wikipedia, its population has increased tenfold since 1974, to 500,000.
- Spanish and Ladino in Israel (Timothy Brown, USA 05/28/18 10:52 AM)
My wife Leda and I normally speak to each other and our children in Spanish. When we were in Israel we would go to a market for fresh fruits and so forth. When vendors heard us speaking Spanish, the price would usually go down. When we mentioned her second name, Moraima, it sometimes dropped even lower, since Moraima is both North African Arabic and Ladino.
Their Ladino, while very different from Castilian Spanish, was sufficiently intelligible for us to think of it as a dialect rather than a separate language.
JE comments: Wikipedia says there are 100,000 Ladino speakers in Israel, as well as 10,000 in Turkey. The Istanbul newspaper Salom still publishes a Ladino-language page in every edition. Spanish readers will get a kick out of this:
- Italy's Languages and the Etruscans (Enrique Torner, USA 05/27/18 7:04 AM)
I really enjoyed Eugenio Battaglia's post on Italian languages (May 23rd). It reminded me of a fascinating course from the Great Courses: "The Mysterious Etruscans." by Steven L. Tuck.
According to Steven Tuck, "Virtually everything we today consider Roman was actually inherited from the Etruscans, including the toga and the temple, as well as major elements of art, writing, religion, and government. And the Etruscans have left behind some of the most spectacular art that survives from antiquity, including rich jewelry, sophisticated bronze sculpture, and stunning painted tombs."
Dr. Tuck says in his course that if Italy allowed archeologists to dig under their cities, we would find Etruscan cities, but either the government or the citizens themselves have been unwilling to sacrifice their structures. However, Tuck defends that many Roman cities were built right over Etruscan ones, so that gives us an idea of their organization.
One of the topics that struck me the most in Tuck's course was his lecture on Etruscan language and literature, and that's what led me to add to Eugenio's interesting WAIS post. Besides literature, I have always had a passion for languages, probably because my parents named me Enrique after a great-grand uncle whose name was Enrique Soler y Batlle, who was a university professor of pharmacy at the University of Barcelona, as well as its "rector" (sort of equivalent to university president), and he was fluent in 8 languages, many of which he learned by himself. According to my family, he would even use the time spent in the "tranvía" (something like the streetcars in San Francisco) to study languages, which he learned through books and a "prehistoric" machine, precursor to the already non-used tape recorders, whose name I can't recall even in Spanish (maybe some of the older WAISers will remember and tell me!), but it used some sort of tape or ribbon that rolled around two spools. Upon "Googling," I found out that this device belonged to the magnetic era of audio recording (1945-1975), and that the Germans invented it in the 1930s, using it in broadcasting until the end of WWII, when the "Allied observers first became aware of the existence of the new technology because they noticed that the audio quality of obviously pre-recorded programs was practically indistinguishable from live broadcasts. From 1950 onwards, magnetic tape quickly became the standard medium of audio master recording in the radio and music industries, and led to the development of the first hi-fi stereo recordings for the domestic market, the development of multi-track tape recording for music, and the demise of the disc as the primary mastering medium for sound." (Taken from a very interesting article in Wikipedia that you can read at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sound_recording ).
Anyway, my great-grand uncle, who was a great Renaissance man in his time, must have inspired my passion for languages, and I just realized--while writing this post and after counting--that, besides my native languages (Spanish and Catalan), I have studied 9 languages, including two dead ones, Greek and Latin.
Back to the Etruscans (I apologize for my digression), theirs is the only non-Indo-European language known from ancient Italy: it's unrelated to Latin, Greek or other associated language. According to Tuck, recent scientific studies have demonstrated that the Etruscans were autochthonous, meaning that they didn't come from anywhere: they just "sprung up" from Italian soil. I personally can't believe this, because the origin of man is supposed to be Mesopotamia, according to the Biblical account. Anyway, Tuck defends that the most important transmission from Etruscan is not vocabulary, but the writing of alphabetic script. However, to name one important lexical borrowing, the word "Roma" (Rome) comes from the Etruscan "Ruma." Surprisingly, Tuck doesn't seem to name any other words that come from Etruscan. I did some "Googling," and found that Wikipedia has a list of words that come from Etruscan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_of_Etruscan_origin ), but, as you can see, most borrowings are hypothetical. I also found a research article on Etruscan language written by Giuliano Bonfante, "Etruscan Words in Latin" (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00437956.1985.11435872 ), which claims that the argument for the Etruscan origin of "Roma" is weak, but this article was published in 1985, while Tuck's course is recent, which makes me think that he should be right. Bonfante disputes many previous claims of words as coming from Etruscan, and does not provide many examples of words with Etruscan origin. Some that he claims are most probably from Etruscan are: Tiber (river), person, Italian or Catalan "fenestra" ("window")--though I remember my college linguistics professor saying that Catalan "fenestra" came from vulgar Latin, while Spanish "ventana" came from classical Latin, "uerna" (a home-born slave), "atrium" (this word is one of the very few where I see certainty in the origin claim), "Saturnus", "Minerva", and "Mercurius," to name a few.
However, as I mentioned before and as you can see if you read the article, most of Bonfante's article is devoted to debunk supposed Etruscan origins of words. His article, however, names several lexical and grammatical features that Latin borrowed from Etruscan. Finally, Bonfante affirms that Etruscan played an important role as mediator between Greek and Latin, since this language imported many Greek words through Etruscan.
Again according to Tuck, the Etruscans had no written literature in the sense of poems, novels, etc. Etruscans had stories, but they apparently never moved from oral to written literature. The surviving examples of Etruscan writings are documentary, rather than literary: religious ceremonies, divination practices, epitaphs, votive inscriptions, labels on statues and personal objects, and names of both Etruscans and deities.
Tuck describes several Etruscan original texts that have been found. The most interesting one is the Liber Linteus, a linen book now in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb. This text was written on the linen wrappings of a mummy displayed at the museum. It was a religious calendar dating to the 3rd or 2nd century BC. The text confirms that Etruscan was an inflected language, with different forms of words for different uses in a sentence. It also gives us many forms of imperative verbs. Other texts found through history are inscribed on slabs, gold sheets, and, above all, on stone. I am including a picture of the Liber Linteus for your visual enjoyment.
I wonder how much of this was known by my dear WAISers, and I am especially curious about what Eugenio Battaglia and the other Italians WAISers have to say about their illustrious, but mysterious ancestors.
JE comments: Illustrious ancestors for the Italians (Etruscans), and an illustrious ancestor for Enrique Torner. There is a Catalan Viquipèdia entry for Enrique Soler i Batlle (two fine Catalan surnames, by the way). Dr Soler's dual passions for science and languages remind me of another illustrious WAISer ancestor, Dr Juan Negrín. I am still in awe of how Negrín taught himself Hungarian, among other languages. I'm sure the two met at one time or another.
I am woefully ignorant about the Etruscans, but Enrique Torner's post is a good start. Among the many mysteries, how could their language have died out, pure and simple?
Etruscans in Our Midst
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
05/30/18 12:39 PM)
I was delighted to read the magnificent post from our multilingual and therefore multicultural colleague Enrique Torner (27 May). There's very little to add to Enrique's comments.
Western Europe probably has three peoples of pre-Indoeuropean origins (perhaps with more Neanderthal genes?): the Etruscans were the more civilized, and the Basques and Ligurians the more savage.
My wife is from Maremma and considers herself Etruscan. I am from a Ligurian background, so imagine what a poor situation I find myself in. The greatest artistic achievements of the Ligurians were some petroglyphs, which compared to the Etruscan achievements are less than zero.
The Etruscans had a fantastic civilization in which the people enjoyed life and art.
This civilization was defeated and completely absorbed by the Romans, who were less jovial and more martial. It is strange that the Etruscan literature has disappeared and also that Emperor Claudio's monumental work in 20 volumes on Etruria has been lost.
The Romans used to conquer towns by destroying them and then building a new town upon the ruins. The defeated surviving locals ended up as slaves. See for example the end of the town of Veio in 396 BC.
Therefore as Prof. Tuck correctly stated, if we could really dig under the present towns of North/Central Italy we might learn much more about the Etruscans. Rome itself has an unbelievable number of historical places underground.
JE comments: Eugenio, what are the theories that trace the Ligurians to the Neanderthals? I've read that the Basques have a significant level of Neanderthal DNA. For example, some trace the high percentage of left-handedness in Basques to the left-handed Neanderthals. See this website below, which does strike me as outside the scientific mainstream. What are we to make of it?
Neanderthals in Our Midst?
(Eugenio Battaglia, Italy
06/01/18 10:54 AM)
In response to John E's question, I am aware of no study that traces the Ligurians to the Neanderthals.
The latter lived extensively in Liguria and I have visited some grottoes with evidence of their presence, but these same grottoes were later inhabited also by the Sapiens. It is assumed that the two species commingled and some genes have remained more or less in European peoples. The Ligurians were the first in this area after the dominion of the Neanderthals; therefore they would be the most related to them. However, I do not know of any specific study on the matter.
JE comments: I'm becoming ever more fascinated by Neanderthals. The map below was cribbed from Britannica.com. Note that the Neanderthals preferred a coastal environment, as most Sapiens do today.
Neanderthals in Gibraltar, Isle of Wight
(John Heelan, -UK
06/02/18 8:22 AM)
I believe that there are several studies of Neanderthal communities that apparently lived on the Rock of Gibraltar, possibly having crossed via the supposed land bridge following the food source of animals from North Africa to Europe: a land bridge that Seneca claims was breached with the influx of the Atlantic into the Mediterranean.
There are theories that a similar land bridge existed between France and the Isle of Wight. Certainly the Island has a history of discoveries of dinosaur remains, and Palaeoithic tools have also been discovered that might have been used by Neanderthals.
JE comments: Intriguing stuff. I've been doing some light reading on the Neanderthals. Their lifespan maxed out at 35 years, and technological advancement went little beyond rocks, skins, and feathers. It's not even clear if they mastered fire. The biggie question: did they have language? Probably, given their physiology, but the experts are not in unanimity.
And given their low-tech lifestyle, how did they travel to the islands, such as the Baleares? Floating on logs?
- Neanderthals in Gibraltar, Isle of Wight (John Heelan, -UK 06/02/18 8:22 AM)
- Neanderthals in Our Midst? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 06/01/18 10:54 AM)
- Spanish and Ladino in Israel (Timothy Brown, USA 05/28/18 10:52 AM)
- Canary Islands and Canarianisms: Waiting for a Guagua (Henry Levin, USA 05/30/18 3:56 PM)
- Whistling Canaries Again...and Colonel Bogey (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 06/02/18 11:17 AM)
- Learning the Silbo Canario (Carmen Negrin, -France 06/01/18 4:28 AM)
- A Question on Whistling Technique; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/30/18 3:28 PM)
- Dogs, Canaries, and The Canaries (Carmen Negrin, -France 05/30/18 4:26 AM)
- A Demonstration of Silbo Gomero; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/28/18 4:30 AM)
- Juan Negrin, Silbador (Carmen Negrin, -France 05/27/18 3:10 PM)
- Another Spanish Language: Silbo Gomero (Carmen Negrin, -France 05/25/18 11:27 AM)
- Guarani Language; "Ayvu Rapyta" (Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain 05/28/18 4:04 AM)
- Italy's Cimbri (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 05/24/18 5:27 AM)
- Italy's Languages and Irredentism (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/24/18 1:00 PM)
- Italy's Languages; from Noah Rich (John Eipper, USA 05/24/18 4:16 AM)
- Italy's Language Diversity (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/23/18 1:45 PM)