How Old is Hungarian?

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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 18:27

Levente wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
Levente wrote:Does a Moldovan understand a Romanian even if let's suppose he never went to school.
Define "understand" in this context. What degree of comprehension under what conditions?
For example I once watched Moldavian television and besides a slight accent,
which many people even here in Romania have, I couldn't tell any difference at all.
So in this case it's not a question.

In that case, perhaps. In Italy, I observed South Americans speaking Spanish to Italians and receiving replies in Italian. So I guess Spanish is really a dialect of Italian.

On the other hand, my spouse can't understand English spoken with a strong Newfoundland accent. So I guess Newfie is a language of its own. Q.E.D.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 18:37

linguoboy wrote:In that case, perhaps. In Italy, I observed South Americans speaking Spanish to Italians and receiving replies in Italian. So I guess Spanish is really a dialect of Italian.

On the other hand, my spouse can't understand English spoken with a strong Newfoundland accent. So I guess Newfie is a language of its own. Q.E.D.

In the case of Italian/Spanish I doubt that was the first time they had exposure.
I can understand quite a lot in written Italian but that's because I speak 3 Romance languages
and I had an interest in Romance grammar and I listened to Italian music.
So that doesn't mean that Spanish or in the worst case Romanian is a dialect of Italian.

And about your spouse: Really???
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 19:04

Levente wrote:In the case of Italian/Spanish I doubt that was the first time they had exposure.

That's purest speculation on your part.

Levente wrote:And about your spouse: Really???

Yes, really. He has difficulty with a wide variety of what would generally be called "dialects of English". He can't understand most Scottish speakers at all, and even has difficulty with Englishmen from as far south as the Midlands.

And he's hardly alone. I think I've told the story here before about inviting several of my high school friends to come see a Mike Leigh film with me and having to "translate" the Cockney spoken by two of the characters. (And we're not talking about rhyming slang or anything, just ordinary expressions like "fick" for "stupid".) I only understood as much as I did because I'd been watching EastEnders (a soap opera set in Inner London) at home for several years. On the other hand, I can't understand much of what's spoken in the African-American vernacular dialect of the city I've been living in for the past 25 years.

The point is there's a wide continuum between "100% comprehension" (if that's ever even possible between two different people) and not understanding a word. It's really hard to make generalisations about what a given person's performance will be based on the experiences of others. It depends on so many factors--exposure, willingness, expectations (some of the worst misunderstanding I've seen have been between people who thought their spoken varieties were more similar than they were), age, circumstance, and so on and so forth. Mutual intelligibility is never as straightforward as people like to make it out to be.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 19:15

Levente wrote:understand = to know what the other one is saying

For what value of "know"? Moreover, how do you determine this? It's relatively easy in situations where a demand or request is involved--either the other person complies or they don't. (Except, of course, that if they don't, it could be because they are unwilling or unable to, not because they don't understand what's being asked of them.) But there's a lot more to communication than that. Unless you're passing out well-designed comprehension tests to everyone you speak to and having them graded by an impartial assistant, all you have to go on is your subjective opinion.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 20:06

When I said to know I meant that
the person speaking gave some information an the other one got it.
I don't know other ways to interpret this.

I say that if there's an 90% comprehensibility then the two are the same language.
Of course, this is subjective.

The situation with your spouse is interesting.
For example my mom speaks Romanian but understands 0 Italian.
When you ask her what "Come ti chiami" means in Italian she has absolutely no idea
even though in Romanian it's "Cum te cheamă".
But my cousin understood this even if she never had any exposure.

So yeah it depends on each person.
Some people can recognise similar words, others can't. :(
And seemingly this applies to little accent differences too.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 20:15

Levente wrote:When I said to know I meant that the person speaking gave some information an the other one got it. I don't know other ways to interpret this.

But how do you know they got it? Unless you're constantly asking them to restate what they've understood in their own terms (and are yourself fluent enough to compare it with what was said), it's just an assumption on your part.

Levente wrote:Of course, this is subjective.

It couldn't be any other way; that's my entire point. And yet "" seems to think that linguists have some way of determining percentages scientifically without any reference to politics or sociolinguistics.

Levente wrote:So yeah it depends on each person. Some people can recognise similar words, others can't. :(

There's more to it than that, but yeah, that's part of it. Some people hear something unfamiliar and think, "Hmm, what is that? Can I make anything out?" And other people think, "It sounds like nonsense and I don't care."
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 20:25

linguoboy wrote:But how do you know they got it? Unless you're constantly asking them to restate what they've understood in their own terms (and are yourself fluent enough to compare it with what was said), it's just an assumption on your part.

Well, that could be done.

You could get a Romanian, give him an Italian text
and ask him to underline each word he understood.
Or maybe to ask him to try to translate whatever he can.

You get his result and you do the same thing with other 500 people and that's it,
you get some kind of percentage.

It wouldn't be an exact-exact percentage since it's not mathematics,
but the results would somehow reflect reality.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-11-11, 21:11

''' wrote:How did you come to that conclusion?
I didn't. Their speakers did.
I don't care about sociolinguistics or the opinions of language speakers when discussing linguistics.
Some people don't care about evolutionary theory. So what?
when I say a language is "seen" as as a separate language, I mean determined by linguists to be one
Please tell me how they do that then, because it's news to me that linguists had this power as opposed to, say, governments.
As for cantonese, while doubtless mutually unintelligible with mandarin, I was told that their written forms are identical,
Wrong.
Essencially the statement was made that canto and mandarin are both direct offspring of middle chinese with no (substantial) change in grammar or lexicon.
Wrong.
Now if I'm wrong (and somehow I suspect I am here) then the vast differences between mandarin and cantonese would certainly quality them to be considered separate, but you would be hard pressed to argue that moldovan should be viewed as a separate language.
That's my whole point, duh.

I'll make this easy for you: If you think there is a scientific, reliable way to tell what is a language and what isn't, you're going to be a sad little boy on Christmas morning.

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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 21:38

Levente wrote:You could get a Romanian, give him an Italian text and ask him to underline each word he understood. Or maybe to ask him to try to translate whatever he can.

Those sounds like terrible methods. You wouldn't be testing "comprehension". You'd be testing--respectively--the subjects' perception of their comprehension and their translation abilities. These aren't the same things at all.

Levente wrote:You get his result and you do the same thing with other 500 people and that's it,
you get some kind of percentage.

Which would tell you nothing.

Levente wrote:It wouldn't be an exact-exact percentage since it's not mathematics,
but the results would somehow reflect reality.

Oh, you could get an exact percentage. That's simply a function of how you process your numerical data. The challenge of doing social science isn't in generating percentages, it's in insuring that those percentages actually indicate something useful and preferably related to what it is you claim to be trying to measure.

The trouble is that you still haven't provided a rigorous notion of "comprehension" that controls for all the variables. Take your underlining/translation experiment. Results would vary wildly depending on what kind of text you gave them--whether, for instance, it was a textbook excerpt, a stanza of poetry, the back of a biscuit tin, or a brochure intended specifically for foreigners. It would matter a lot what their background and interests were. And even the conditions under which the test were administered (and what rewards were promised) would matter a lot.

It kind of annoys me that people routinely reject the collective judgment of millions in these matters as "unscientific" and then go on to propose alternative methods of evaluation that are equally flawed and subjective, if not worse.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-11-11, 21:44

It kind of annoys me that people routinely reject the collective judgment of millions in these matters as "unscientific" and then go on to propose alternative methods of evaluation that are equally flawed and subjective, if not worse.
Or more succinctly, "the plural of anecdote is not data".

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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 21:48

mōdgethanc wrote:
''' wrote:
As for cantonese, while doubtless mutually unintelligible with mandarin, I was told that their written forms are identical,
Wrong.

Just to give an example of how wrong:

English: "Is it theirs?"
Cantonese: 係唔係佢哋㗎?
Mandarin: 是不是他們的?

The only character here with substantially the same meaning as in Classical Chinese is 不 "not". 是, the modern Mandarin copula, originated as a demonstrative, and 他, the third person pronoun, was previously an indefinite pronoun meaning "other". (係, the Cantonese copula, is written with the same character as a Classical word meaning "bind", but there's probably no etymological relationship between the two.)
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 21:54

Why is it a terrible method?
If they can translate than they can also understand.
When was the last time you translated something and didn't understand?

And why would the results tell me nothing?
It would most probably show that Romanian is miles away from being an Italian dialect.
And if we did it with Aromanian and Romanian it will show that the intelligibility is higher
then when compared to Italian.

I wouldn't give a text about politics or poetry.
Maybe some text presenting an invented fairy-tale story, so it would contain general vocab.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 22:09

Levente wrote:Why is it a terrible method?
If they can translate than they can also understand.

Countless generations of Latin pupils are laughing at your from beyond the grave right now.

I can substitute one cognate for another using a few simple transformations, e.g. neinteligibil > unintelligible. I don't have to understand what either word means in order to do this.

Levente wrote:And why would the results tell me nothing?
It would most probably show that Romanian is miles away from being an Italian dialect.
And if we did it with Aromanian and Romanian it will show that the intelligibility is higher
then when compared to Italian.

What it would show would depend completely on how you structured your trials.

For one thing, using written texts means you'll be studying their written intelligibility. But that's not the same as general intelligibility--especially considering that writing is subordinate to speaking.

Levente wrote:I wouldn't give a text about politics or poetry.

Why not? Those are both pretty subjects; you'd expect any educated adult to understand them.

Levente wrote:Maybe some text presenting an invented fairy-tale story, so it would contain general vocab.

So then you'd have an idea of how difficult it is to understand invented fairy stories. Not seeing a whole lot of real-life applications for those findings (unless you actually do live in an enchanted forest).

You still haven't asked the most fundamental question of all: What am I doing this for? What is my ultimate purpose in trying to decided whether two varieties are "different languages" or not? Because the whole design of the experiment will follow from that.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 22:18

Basically what I wanted to say here is that the people should go to language test.

I'm talking about those tests that we usually use to find out
on which level does someone speak a language (A2, B2, C1, ...)
But we would use only the comprehension parts (Listening, text-understanding, ...)
leaving out the writing part for example.

If it works to find out your language level, it will probably work for this.

This would certainly show if two languages are separate or not.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 22:27

Levente wrote:This would certainly show if two languages are separate or not.

In the clearest cases. But we don't need in the clearest cases, do we? We need it for all the questionable cases, and no tests exist for those. Where do I find a language exam for AAVE, for instance? Or Newfie? When have you yourself ever seen a proficiency exam for Aromanian?
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 22:35

If we would care enough then we would make one and test it for those languages.

Until then let politics make the world a funnier place to live in.

I'm really curious what results would it give for EU/BR Portuguese ...
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 22:40

Levente wrote:If we would care enough then we would make one and test it for those languages.

It sounds like a vastly inefficient solution for answering the kinds of questions you're trying to get answered.

Then again, you've never explained what your ultimate purpose is in trying to make these distinctions, so I'm only guessing.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 22:48

Well, we started talking about Romanian/Moldovan and Mandarin/Cantonese
so I guess this is how it started.

Otherwise no special purpose.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby linguoboy » 2013-11-11, 22:57

Levente wrote:Well, we started talking about Romanian/Moldovan and Mandarin/Cantonese
so I guess this is how it started.

Actually how it started was with a question on how far back the origins of a "Hungarian language" distinct from other forms of Uralic can be established.

Levente wrote:Otherwise no special purpose.

Then there's no need for a special process. Most speakers of Rumanian say they can understand Moldovan perfectly well and vice versa. So we can say that they are "really" the "same language" but treated as separate for political purposes.

Cantonese speakers can't understand Mandarin without special instruction and vice versa, so we can say that these are "really" two "separate languages" which are treated as "dialects" of one for political purposes. There's nothing scientific about these conclusions, they're just a summary of the observed sociolinguistic situation in each case.

The only reason this became a debate is that "" rejects all political or sociolinguistic considerations outright. Which is his prerogative. The only trouble is that there's nothing more inherently "objective" to replace them with. Linguists aren't in the business of vetting "languagehood". It doesn't really matter what you call the varieties we study except for purposes of convenience.
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Re: How Old is Hungarian ? ? ?

Postby Levike » 2013-11-11, 23:05

For Cantonese/Mandarin I can not give an opinion.

But in Romanian/Moldovan it's just too obvious.
We understand them perfectly and they understand us perfectly.

It's like someone made a test to find out if
North Californian English and South Californian English are the same one.
They would find out that yes, they are the same and people would go "Well, duuuuh".

Moldovans know that they speak Romanian.
At school they learn from textbooks printed in Romania on which it says Limba română
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