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How does your brain learn languages?

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Postby Ladyquill » Mon Nov 28, 2005 1:21 pm

:) Thank you!
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Postby badandy » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:24 pm

i think another important point is the difference between comprehension and production. i can understand little bits of lots of languages, like greetings, etc. and I could tell you the basic structures, phonological characteristics, etc. but when it comes to having a conversation or writing novel sentences, it takes actual practice with others, and it takes a lot longer. think about babies, they can hear and understand things way before theyre able to produce the language.

about port. and span., i think the big difference is the difficult parts of the phonology in port., such as nasal vowels, and diphthongs, and the fricative sounds like in 'Joao.' this is totally foreign to Span. whereas port. contains all the sounds of Span. as far as vocabulary differences, theyre easily transferable
Habentne Gallinae Talones Acerbos?
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Postby Apoclima » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:50 pm

I agree, badandy, on both counts!

The phonology of Portuguese has moved faster and further than the phonology of Spanish. That is why it is easier for a Portuguese speaker to understand Spanish than it is for a Spanish speaker to understand (that Slavic-sounding) Portuguese!

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Postby badandy » Mon Dec 05, 2005 6:49 pm

Slavic-sounding! Ha! I always thought it was like a drunk Frenchman trying to speak Spanish. To me, some languages sound prettier than others, and I'd have to say Brazilian Portuguese is one of my favorites. Eu gosto Os Mutantes e todos dos Tropicalistas. Hopefully I didnt butcher it too much.

The phonology of Portuguese has moved faster and further than the phonology of Spanish.


faster and further from what? Latin? This is hard to say. that would mean that there is some continuum of closeness to the mother tongue from 2000 years ago. all the daughter languages are equally changed, in different ways. Italian is no closer linguictically to Latin than Portuguese or Catalan or French, only geographically. In some ways, French is much closer (unchanged) from Latin than Spanish or Italian, though the phonology has drastically changed. But I don't think Latin moved outward from Italy to France to Spain to Portugal changing more and more as it went.
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Postby anders » Mon Dec 05, 2005 7:28 pm

badandy wrote:i think another important point is the difference between comprehension and production. i can understand little bits of lots of languages, like greetings, etc. and I could tell you the basic structures, phonological characteristics, etc. but when it comes to having a conversation or writing novel sentences, it takes actual practice with others, and it takes a lot longer.

The EU has adapted a kind of scale for language acquisition. For the A level, you ... etc.
Trouble is, they believe that reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing and speaking skills all are acquired in parallell. I disagree. F'rinstance, I translate unhesitatingly just about any odd subject matter from French into Swedish, but ask any Francophone, and they'll say that I don't speak their language. They might understand my writing it, though. As for Spanish, I would never dare to write it, and I don't claim that I can translate from it, but on the other hand, during a week in Mexico I used Spanish almost all the time, and the kind people acted like they understood me.

One reason that I've tried to learn languages not very close to Swedish (Arabic, Hindi, Persian, Chinese) is that I have hoped to understand how I learn them - and, of course, what happens when I translate. (For those of you who don't know me, I'm a professional technical translator.) I failed. I don't understand how I do it, and even less what happens in my brain.

I'll introduce a new abbreviation to you: LF. LadyFriend. GF for girlfriend doesn't seem to apply to our chronological ages, despite her being a fair number of years my junior, and common-law wife is waaay too clumsy. Anyway, she's Chinese (speaking Swedish and English as well as her rather southern standard Chinese), and one of the few conclusion I've been able to make about this thread is that really and intensely wanting to learn a language is the prime driving force and key to success. How the brain makes it happen is a secondary aspect. But I'd love to know how.
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Postby Ladyquill » Mon Dec 05, 2005 11:38 pm

anders wrote:...they believe that reading comprehension, listening comprehension, writing and speaking skills all are acquired in parallell. I disagree. F'rinstance, I translate unhesitatingly just about any odd subject matter from French into Swedish, but ask any Francophone, and they'll say that I don't speak their language. They might understand my writing it, though.


I disagree, too... I have the good fortune of working with foreigners every day. I own a student exchange program. On average, upon arrival in the US, most of the students read and write VERY well but their speaking and listening skills have yet to develop. Their listening skills come along next, and finally their speaking skills kick in. It's hilarious when they actually start to forget words in their language and also, when they dream in English for the first time. The average student experiences this after about 2 to 2 1/2 months of living here. I had the same experience on my month-long trip to Brazil.

But is this the "comprehension and production" that badandy wrote about?

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Postby Apoclima » Tue Dec 06, 2005 12:02 am

badandy:
faster and further from what? Latin? This is hard to say. that would mean that there is some continuum of closeness to the mother tongue from 2000 years ago.


Pater noster, qui est in coelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua sicut in coelo et in terra. Panem nostrum cottidianum da nobis hodie et dimitte nobis dedita nostra, sicut nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in temptationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen


Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, santificado sea tu nombre. Venga tu Reino. Hágase tu voluntad, así en la tierra como en el cielo. El pan nuestro de cada día, danosle hoy y perdónanos nuestras deudas, así como nosotros perdonamos a nuestros deudores. Y no nos dejes caer en la tentación, más líbranos de mal. Amen.


Pai nosso que estás nos céos, santificádo seja o teu nome, venha o teu Reino, seja feita a tua vontade, assim na terra, como no céu. O pão nosso de cada dia nos dá hoje, e perdoa-nós as nossas dívidas, assim como nós perdoamos aos nossos devedores, e não nos induzas à tentação, mas livra-nos do mal. Amen.


Padre nostro che sei nei cieli, sia santificato il tuo nome; venga il tuo regno, sia fatta la tua volontà, come in cielo così in terra. Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano, rimetti a noi i nostri debiti, come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori e non ci indurre in tentazione, ma liberaci dal male. Amen.


Notre Père, qui es aux cieux, que ton nom soit sanctifié, que ton règne vienne, que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel. Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour. Pardonne-nous nos offences comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés. Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation, mais délivre-nous du mal, car c’est à toi qu’appartiennent le règne, la puissance et la gloire, aux siècles des siècles. Amen.


In my expert opinion, Spanish looks the most like Latin, Italian running a close second, but both French and Portuguese look to have undergone some massive phoneme elisions and vowel diphthongization (at least at one point in their respective histories), and more drastic changes in the consonants to sounds not found in Latin, Spanish or Italian.

Not to belabor the point, just my opinion.

A nice site: The Romance Languages

Apo
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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:54 am

I don't understand why you keep associating diphthongation with Portuguese. It's Spanish that likes ue's and ie's. We don't do that. We're much closer to Latin in that respect: Latin porcus (pig), Portuguese porco, Spanich puerco.

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Postby Apoclima » Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:03 pm

In standard Portuguese it consists of 9 simple vowels, 5 nasalized vowels, 2 semivowels, 25 simple diphthongs, 4 nasalized diphthongs, 5 simple triphthongs, 4 nasalized triphthongs, 21 consonants, or a total of 75 entities. Unstressed vowels are reduced. The nasalization is indicated in the orthography by m or n following the vowel (e.g., sim yes, bem well) or by the use of a tilde (~) over the vowel (mão hand, nação nation).


Portuguese Language

General Overview


25 simple diphthongs + 4 nasalized diphthongs = 29

Spanish:
* ARISING DIPHTHONGS

[ja] ia, lla, ya: viaje voyage, llama flame, yacer to lie (down);
[je] ie, lle, ye: pie foot, llegar to arrive, reyes kings;
[jo] io, llo, yo: cambio change, camello camel, mayor greater;
[wa] ua: agua water;
[we] ue: puedo I can;
[wo] uo: antiguo ancient.
* FALLING DIPHTHONGS

[aj] ay: hay there is;
[ej] ey: ley law;
[oj] oy: soy I am;
[aw] au: causa cause;
[ew] eu: deuda debt;
[ow] ou: does not occur in native words


(Spanish) Phonology and Spelling

6 rising + 6 falling = 12

I realize that Portuguese escaped the "great diphthongization of the stressed short vowels of Latin", but then where did all these diphthongs come from?

Some from the elision of consonants, but the others?

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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:54 pm

I don't know what these 25 (oral) diphthongs are. The ones that I've counted are: ai (taiga), au (auto), ei (leia), éi (idéia), eu (Deus), éu (troféu), ia (máfia), ie (bárbarie), iu (faliu), oi (boi), ói (corrói), ou (ouro), ua (água), ue (deságüe), ui (cuido), uo (vácuo) (16). But hey, if we have 25, even more power to us.

And I wonder what standard Portuguese is and whether I speak it or not.

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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:59 pm

Standard Portuguese is based on the dialect of Lisbon.

Oh, apparently I don't speak Standard Portuguese. :(

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Postby Ladyquill » Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:04 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:
Standard Portuguese is based on the dialect of Lisbon.

Oh, apparently I don't speak Standard Portuguese. :(

Brazilian dude


Don't make a :( ...have you HEARD Standard Portuguese? Be HAPPY :D . To Americans (at least this one) Brazilian Portuguese sounds like music and is a BEAUTIFUL language.

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Postby anders » Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:09 pm

How does your brain learn languages?

Well, just back from 3 hours of 3rd semester Chinese, I can only say ... slowly.
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Postby Ladyquill » Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:15 pm

I have a question...how are you doing with pronunciation in your Chinese class? I had a student that could hardly make herself clear when speaking English, but could write better than most Americans her age. And when she tried to teach me to speak a few phrases, she would laugh and laugh. I thought I sounded just her, and she said I sounded NOTHING like her. :oops:

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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Dec 06, 2005 5:18 pm

Obrigado, Ladyquill.

Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, santificado sea tu nombre. Venga tu Reino. Hágase tu voluntad, así en la tierra como en el cielo. El pan nuestro de cada día, danosle (dánoslo) hoy y perdónanos nuestras deudas, así como nosotros perdonamos a nuestros deudores. Y no nos dejes caer en la tentación (en tentación), más (mas)líbranos de mal. Amen (Amén).


Pai nosso que estás nos céos (céus), santificádo (santificado) seja o teu nome, venha o teu Reino, seja feita a tua vontade, assim na terra, como no céu. O pão nosso de cada dia nos dá hoje, e perdoa-nós (perdoa-nos) as nossas dívidas, assim como nós perdoamos aos nossos devedores, e não nos induzas à (deixes cair em) tentação, mas livra-nos do mal. Amen (Amém).


In my expert opinion, Spanish looks the most like Latin, Italian running a close second, but both French and Portuguese look to have undergone some massive phoneme elisions and vowel diphthongization (at least at one point in their respective histories), and more drastic changes in the consonants to sounds not found in Latin, Spanish or Italian

It certainly doesn't. It all depends on what words you're looking at. All Romance languages have kept Latin initial f, but Spanish decided to use an h instead in a lot of words: Latin/Italian formica, Portuguese/Catalan formiga, French fourmi, Spanish hormiga; Latin furnus, Portuguese/Italian forno, French four, Catalan forn, Spanish horno, etc. Besides, where does that Spanish j come from? It sounds a lot like Arabic to me. Portuguese/French/Catalan j sounds the same, and very similar to Italian g, but Spanish j is a whole new story.

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