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 Post subject: Most Insane Languages
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:44 am 
Sanci
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Okay, so I'm seeking nominations for most insane languages in six different categories.
In five days I'll create an online poll and post it.

Three nominations per category per person.

Category 1: Strangest Script Abuse (e.g. writing Chinese in Arabic script)
Category 2: Strangest Latin Script (e.g. Turkish)
Category 3: Strangest Orthography, Period (e.g. English)
Category 4: Strangest Phonology/Phonotactics
Category 5: Strangest Grammar
Category 6: Strangest Language
Category 7: Strangest Out-Of-Family Feature (e.g. tones in Punjabi (IE), etc.)

MY nominations:
1. Chinese in Arabic, Jawi (Malay in Arabic), Judeo-Spanish
2. Turkish, Romanian, Zulu
3. English, Irish, Chinese
4. Somali, Georgian, Rotokas
5. Navajo, Hungarian, Basque
6. Navajo, Basque, English
7. Punjabi (tones). No other nominations.

CURRENT NOMINEES (list to be updated)

Nominees:

Script abuse
Chinese in Arabic
Jawi
Judeo-Spanish
Manx
Saanich
Vietnamese
Japanese
Sogdian in Brahmi
Aramaic in Demotic
Canadian Syllabics
Burmese
Yi

Latinization
Turkish
Romanian
Zulu
Danish
Manx
Vietnamese
Janalif
Saanich
Hmong Daw
Qiang
English
Skolt Sami

Orthography
English
Irish
Chinese
Danish
Manx
Vietnamese
French
Hungarian
Burmese
Japanese

Phonology
Somali
Georgian
Rotokas
Danish
Nuxálk
ǃXóõ
Miyako
Ubykh
Yelî Dnye
Aranda aka Arrernte aka VC(C) language
Toda
dGudzong Tibetan
Pirahã
Marshallese

Grammar
Navajo
Basque
Hungarian
Dyirbal
Saanich
German
Montana Salish
Tok Pisin

Language
Navajo
Basque
English
Dyirbal
Piraha
!Xoo
NW Caucasian Languages (e.g. Abkaz)
Kunuda

Out of Family
Punjabi: IE, tones
Danish: IE, creaky voice
Marshallese: Austronesian, wierd vowels
Sakao: Austronesian, polysynthesis
French: Romance, front round vowels
Armenian: IE, agglutination
Dahalo
Kurdish: Iranian, pharyngeals
Ossetian: IE, ejectives
Kala Lagaw Ya: Australian, /s/
Estonian: Finnic, no vowel harmony

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Last edited by baradsonoron on Mon Sep 02, 2013 5:19 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:56 am 
Smeric
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You said that there are 6 categories, then wrote up seven...


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:14 am 
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OK, I'll bite to increase my post count.

1. Manx, Saanich, Vietnamese
2., 3. Danish, Manx, Vietnamese
4. Danish, Nuxálk, ǃXóõ
5. Dyirbal, Navajo, Saanich
6. Dyirbal, Navajo, Pirahã (if Everett's claims are correct)
7. Danish, Marshallese, Sakao

Grouped 2 and 3 because they are the same thing.


Last edited by Click on Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:21 am 
Smeric
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Quote:
Okay, so I'm seeking nominations for most insane languages in six different categories.

Who can't count, me or you? :PPP

1. Japanese in Kan(ji|a) — but seriously, writing an agglutinative 'lang in a mixture of two syllabaries and an ideography?
2. Janalif, Saanich
3. French, Hungarian
4. Nuxalk, Oogami/Miyako, Ubykh
5. German, Montana Salish
6. Piraha, !Xoo
7. front round vowels in French (Romance), agglutination in Armenian (IE)

Edit: Ningya'd.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:21 am 
Avisaru
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I can't be bothered to fill out the whole thing (partly because the categories are a bit vague, but mostly because I actually realize that I don't know the grammars of enough of the world's languages to give good answers for these questions instead of just regurgitating the standard linguistic Rogues Gallery: !Xoo, Dyirbal, Piraha, etc.), but I'll note that for #1 that I have seen Sumerian in the Greek alphabet, Sogdian in the Brahmi script, and Aramaic in Demotic, which are a bit wacky. There's also Old Nubian, an extinct Nilo-Saharan language written in the Coptic alphabet.

I really don't see what's so weird about the Turkish or Zulu alphabets. I suspect that it's because you're just glancing at individual letters and going "<c> for /dZ/! <q> for /k!/! How wacky!1!1!", without looking at how the orthography works as a whole-- Zulu, for instance, is actually a pretty elegant solution for romanizing an exotic phonology. My favorite example of what I'm talking about is Yup'ik: it uses <gg> for /x/ and <'> for /:/, for instance, which might make superficial people go "How wacky!1!1!", but the way the entire system works together with the language's phonotactics, it ends up being a very elegant and concise system. If you're looking for a romanization that really is ridiculous, look at Vietnamese, which writes /s/ with <x> for pretty much no reason.

As for the orthography question, I am confident other people are going to jump on Tibetan because of the famous <bsgrubs> = /d`up/, but again I must stress that the common opinion here is misguided: Tibetan's orthography is etymological and hopelessly out-of-date, but it is also almost entirely predictable and regular, unlike English. A better example I would suggest (though I have not studied the language, and it is possible that underneath the surface there is, as in Tibetan, an intelligible system) would be Burmese. This is an example sentence (from The World's Writing Systems), in transliteration and phonetic transcription:

pāḷiare:asā:saññ mranmācāare:asā:kui atōpaṅ lhwam:mui:khaịhantūsaññ.
palí-ʔəjèʔəθà-ði myãma-sa-ʔəjèʔəθà-go ətɔbĩ hlũ̀mmò-gɛ́-hãtu-ði

For "out of family" features, other than the obvious Dahalo, I'd like to nominate all the Iranian languages that have developed pharyngeal consonants. Why, Kurdish, why? :(

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:38 am 
Avisaru
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baradsonoron wrote:
Category 7: Most Batshit Insane Out-Of-Family Feature (e.g. tones in Punjabi (IE), etc.)


I have a quip with your example in this category. It's not really an out of family feature. Many of the Indo-aryan and related Dardic languages edging into northwest Pakistan have replaced the "voiced aspirated" series with tone, breathy voiced vowels, or a combination of the two (With dialect exceptions, e.g. Shina, bashkarik, gawarbari, khowar, katarkalai, shumashti, Tirahi, Dogri. But c.f. Kashmiri with no replacements of that type; and c.f. some dialect of lahanda, Palula, and (maybe) Torwali have "voiced aspirates" and tone).

Category 1: Most Batshit Insane Script Abuse: Not so much abuse, but Canadian Aboriginal syllabics (taking forms from devanagari, then introducing a rotating component to an abugida to show vowels, that's creative gold).
Category 2: Most Batshit Insane Latin Script: various Hmong languages/dialects (tone representation).
Category 3: Most Batshit Insane Orthography: English, of course.
Category 4: Most Batshit Insane Phonology/Phonotactics: Yelî Dnye and/or Aranda (but maybe not if subject to different analyses), Toda.
Category 5: Most Batshit Insane Grammar: Tok pisin (two main prepositions, little or no case marking).
Category 6: Most Batshit Insane Language: Northwest Caucasian languages (for their approaching loglangs and phonology); special mention for Shit Demon Speech.
Category 7: Most Batshit Insane Out-Of-Family Feature: Ossetian (ejectives).

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:25 pm 
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Category 1: Most Batshit Insane Script Abuse (e.g. writing Chinese in Arabic script)

Burmese
Yi - It's written with a syllabary, and the syllabary has 1165 characters.
Chinese in Arabic

Category 2: Most Batshit Insane Latin Script

Qiang: the Roman orthography is so bad that most of the speakers haven't learned it, and it's easy to see why. For one thing, <v> is /χ/. For another, voiced consonants are all written by doubling the letter that's used to write the unvoiced consonant -- except for /dʐ/, which is <dh>, and /ɦ/, which is <vh>. (/h/ is <hv>.) Vowel length is contrastive, but AFAIK unwritten.
Churchward's Rotuman orthography: "Let's make all the fucking morphology completely opaque!"
English, of course

Category 3: Most Batshit Insane Orthography, Period (e.g. English)

English
Burmese
Japanese

Category 4: Most Batshit Insane Phonology/Phonotactics

dGudzong Tibetan - contrasts all of /s sʰ ʰs ʰsʰ ts ʰts tsʰ z ʱz dz ʱdz ⁿsʰ ᵐtsʰ ⁿtsʰ ⁿdz ᵖts ᵖtsʰ ᵖtsʷʰ ᶲs/ and more that I can't be bothered to list. There are four tones, but no words distinguished only by tone. And there are 22 vowels.
I'm not going to bother nominating anything else.

Category 5: Most Batshit Insane Grammar

Basque - AFAIK the most consistently ergative language known
Tok Pisin
Saanich - no noun/verb distinction, semiregular metathesis, parasitic suffixes

Category 6: Most Batshit Insane Language

dunno, i'll just nominate Kusunda because why not

Category 7: Most Batshit Insane Out-Of-Family Feature (e.g. tones in Punjabi (IE), etc.)
Tones aren't uncommon in IE at all. A lot of Germanic languages have a two-tone contrast.

Ossetian
Dahalo
Kala Lagaw Ya - the only Australian language with /s/

Xephyr wrote:
If you're looking for a romanization that really is ridiculous, look at Vietnamese, which writes /s/ with <x> for pretty much no reason.

IIRC it used to be an apical-laminal contrast similar to the one in the Portuguese or Spanish or wherever the fuck the missionaries were from of the time -- so pretty much the same reason as why Hungarian misuses <s>.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:48 pm 
Avisaru
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Nortaneous wrote:
Xephyr wrote:
If you're looking for a romanization that really is ridiculous, look at Vietnamese, which writes /s/ with <x> for pretty much no reason.

IIRC it used to be an apical-laminal contrast similar to the one in the Portuguese or Spanish or wherever the fuck the missionaries were from of the time -- so pretty much the same reason as why Hungarian misuses <s>.

Yeah, some missionaries made the orthography several centuries ago.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:48 pm 
Smeric
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The situation with Burmese is pretty much the same as Tibetan's, but it does have *some* irregularities (I remember there was some word written with an "n" but pronounced with an [s]); in some sense the writing > speech correspondence is less "intuitive", though.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 2:26 am 
Avisaru
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baradsonoron wrote:
Danish (why, click Click?)
Marshallese (why, click Click?)
Sakao (why, click Click?)

Nominated Danish because of stød. I don't know of any other IE language with phonations.
Nominated Marshallese because of a weird vowel system and bizarre vowel allophones. As far as I know, doesn't happen in other Austronesian languages.
Nominated Sakao because of polysynthesis, the vowel system and extreme consonant clusters. Doesn't fit in among the Austronesian languages, right?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:21 pm 
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Clıck wrote:
Nominated Sakao because of polysynthesis, the vowel system and extreme consonant clusters. Doesn't fit in among the Austronesian languages, right?

vanuatu can have some interesting phonotactics. see also: dorig

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 3:31 pm 
Avisaru
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Nortaneous wrote:
Clıck wrote:
Nominated Sakao because of polysynthesis, the vowel system and extreme consonant clusters. Doesn't fit in among the Austronesian languages, right?

vanuatu can have some interesting phonotactics.

As far as I know, Vanuatu has everything except maybe ejectives.

Nortaneous wrote:
see also: dorig

Awesome. Do you have a grammar?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 3:58 pm 
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I thought people stopped saying "batshit insane" like two years ago, and haven't we had like ten threads like this? I've only skimmed it, but let me guess what everyone will choose for whatever: Ubykh, Basque, !Xoo, Piraha, Nuxalk, and English/German.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:30 pm 
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patiku wrote:
I thought people stopped saying "batshit insane" like two years ago, and haven't we had like ten threads like this? I've only skimmed it, but let me guess what everyone will choose for whatever: Ubykh, Basque, !Xoo, Piraha, Nuxalk, and English/German.
Well, baradsonoron is just a noob, it's part of one of those "phases", right next to making a thread for "Let's Fix English Spelling" and "Which Language Sounds the Best/the Worst?".

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:59 am 
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patiku wrote:
I thought people stopped saying "batshit insane" like two years ago, and haven't we had like ten threads like this? I've only skimmed it, but let me guess what everyone will choose for whatever: Ubykh, Basque, !Xoo, Piraha, Nuxalk, and English/German.


1. Good point. I read too many old Cracked articles. Changed the wording.
2. No, Ubykh is not a good choice because it just has a lot of consonants. Meh. What's strange are things like Georgian with CCCCCCCCVC syllables and Rotokas with their strange allophones. That actually stand out rather than just being the most extreme example of a common phenomenon (e.g. lots o' consonants.)
3. Basque is legitimately strange.
4. Piraha... meh. There's not enough information about it to confirm whether that's true, or whether it's just incorrect observations.

Serafín: english spelling is nice. I like it. It's just irregular, but it's regular enough. Although "island" is just ridiculous.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 9:09 am 
Smeric
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baradsonoron wrote:
2. No, Ubykh is not a good choice because it just has a lot of consonants. Meh. What's strange are things like Georgian with CCCCCCCCVC syllables and Rotokas with their strange allophones. That actually stand out rather than just being the most extreme example of a common phenomenon (e.g. lots o' consonants.)


Georgian is just the same, onset clusters aren't strikingly rare among languages in general (and certainly not compared to lots of consonants).


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:54 pm 
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baradsonoron wrote:
Rotokas with their strange allophones.

Rotokas is actually to be expected to have strange allophones because it has like six consonants or so, which is in turn very unusual.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 4:08 pm 
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baradsonoron wrote:
Category 1: Strangest Script Abuse (e.g. writing Chinese in Arabic script)

What exactly does this category mean? Are there some people who write Chinese in Arabic?

My unfinished nominations (I'll continue this later):
2. Vietnamese, Manx, Skolt Sami
3. Burmese, Japanese
4. Pirahã, Somali, Marshallese, Nuxálk
5. Dammit I can't remember which language it was. It was something spoken in either the US or Canada (or both). I read about it on WALS and couldn't understand a thing. Completely alien.
6. Pirahã
7. Estonian (for scrapping its vowel harmony alltogether, leaving behind bizarre, unpronunceable words :P)

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 5:15 pm 
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Clıck: yes, that's true.

Qwynegold: Yes, there are. It's horrific.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2013 4:09 am 
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Qwynegold wrote:
7. Estonian (for scrapping its vowel harmony alltogether, leaving behind bizarre, unpronunceable words :P)

that'sq whatq voroq isq forq

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:06 am 
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2+3 clusivity wrote:
baradsonoron wrote:
Category 7: Most Batshit Insane Out-Of-Family Feature (e.g. tones in Punjabi (IE), etc.)


Category 1: Most Batshit Insane Script Abuse: Not so much abuse, but Canadian Aboriginal syllabics (taking forms from devanagari, then introducing a rotating component to an abugida to show vowels, that's creative gold).

From what I heard Inuktitut takes its inspiration from Duploye, which is just a little like Japanese developing Hiragana from Chinese grass script.
Clıck wrote:
baradsonoron wrote:
Danish (why, click Click?)
Marshallese (why, click Click?)
Sakao (why, click Click?)

Nominated Danish because of stød. I don't know of any other IE language with phonations.

Danish stød is present in a few other Baltic languages, e.g. Livonian. I thought it was an areal feature.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:44 am 
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WHO DIDN'T NOMINATE SAANICH FOR ORTHOGRAPHY FUCKERY

I WAS GOING TO BUT KEPT GETTING DISTRACTED, SERIOUSLY I HAD THE FUCKING WINDOW OPEN SAYING FUCKING SAANICH ON 3 LINES

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:59 am 
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Drydic Guy wrote:
WHO DIDN'T NOMINATE SAANICH FOR ORTHOGRAPHY FUCKERY

I WAS GOING TO BUT KEPT GETTING DISTRACTED, SERIOUSLY I HAD THE FUCKING WINDOW OPEN SAYING FUCKING SAANICH ON 3 LINES


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 5:07 pm 
Avisaru
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A bit late, but I think these are worthy of mention:

Category 1: Strangest Script Abuse (e.g. writing Chinese in Arabic script)

Hittite in Cuneiform. Sturtevant's law is a desperate attempt to represent a voicing distinction that Akkadian hadn't succeeded in making as Hittite orthography was developed. _hartka_ (or _hrtka_?) was written har-tak-ga, whence such transcriptions as _hartagga_.

Category 2: Strangest Latin Script (e.g. Turkish)

ISO-11940 Thai transliteration. It keeps the left-to right order of the Thai symbols, so one ends up with wonders such as echīyngıh̄m̀ for Chiang Mai!

Category 3: Strangest Orthography, Period (e.g. English)

Tibetan and English, whatever their regularities.

Category 4: Strangest Phonology/Phonotactics

Proto-Indo-European. It more and more looks as though the opposition t~d~dʰ where dʰ is as in Sanskrit is correct, for all the difficulty we have in finding a good match in modern languages. Syllabic 'laryngeals' are pretty odd as well.

Category 5: Strangest Grammar

No nomination.

Category 6: Strangest Language

No nomination.

Category 7: Strangest Out-Of-Family Feature (e.g. tones in Punjabi (IE), etc.)

French? (Holophrastic IE language.)

How about Thai (Tai-Kadai, essentially uninflected) for prefix forms of nouns? Thai nouns of Indic origin sprout not only a link vowel when used as prefixes in compounds, but often prefix that link vowel by a consonant that is unpredictable from the isolated form. (You may choose to disqualify this on the grounds that the consonant can be deduced from the spelling.) Possibly this nomination should be transferred to Lao, where the modern spelling makes this duplicated consonant totally opaque.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 17, 2013 2:54 pm 
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Nortaneous wrote:
Saanich - no noun/verb distinction, semiregular metathesis, parasitic suffixes


please explain

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