Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Wikipedia Reference Desk covering the topic of language.

Welcome to the language reference desk.
Want a faster answer?

Main page: Help searching Wikipedia

How can I get my question answered?

  • Provide a short header that gives the general topic of the question.
  • Type '~~~~' (that is, four tilde characters) at the end – this signs and dates your contribution so we know who wrote what and when.
  • Post your question to only one desk.
  • Don't post personal contact information – it will be removed. All answers will be provided here.
  • Specific questions, that are likely to produce reliable sources, will tend to get clearer answers.
  • Note:
    • We don't answer (and may remove) questions that require medical diagnosis or legal advice.
    • We don't answer requests for opinions, predictions or debate.
    • We don't do your homework for you, though we'll help you past the stuck point.
    • We don't conduct original research or provide a free source of ideas, but we'll help you find information you need.



How do I answer a question?

Main page: Wikipedia:Reference desk/Guidelines

  • The best answers address the question directly, and back up facts with wikilinks and links to sources. Do not edit others' comments and do not give any medical or legal advice.
 
Choose a topic:
 
See also:
Help desk
Village pump
Help manual


September 13

Getting accent from one's spouse?

I watched a few videos of the famous English physicist Freeman Dyson (born and educated in England, and living in the US since the 1950s) and it seems to me (example) that he has a distinct German accent. I'm wondering where it could have come from. Reading his biography, his first wife was Swiss and his second (who he has been with for 60 years) is German. Could that explain it? He also studied in the US under Hans Bethe for a while. I couldn't find any audio on youtbe of him when he was younger, but maybe some is out there somewhere. Thanks. 173.228.123.166 (talk) 20:00, 13 September 2018 (UTC)

One can get, acquire, or change one's idiolect through any number of processes, both deliberate and subconscious, throughout one's life. One's speech is not necessarily fixed, and it is likely that one can change their accent throughout their lives. American-raised, Danish-born, British-citizen Sandi Toksvig has a great story about the history of her own accent, which has changed drastically throughout her life, and she discusses a lot of it here: [1]. While most studies seem to indicate that many accents become fixed in childhood, humans are variable enough that there is no singular, universal process that applies to every last person. The answer to any kind of question like this regarding "is it possible for a person to do this..." is unequivocally yes; as long as you are speaking of one person, then you're evidence that it is possible is that the person in question is actually doing it. You've answered your own question. People can change their accents, and do change their accents, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally. Here are some scientific studies that cover the topic: [2], [3], [4]. --Jayron32 18:28, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
This doesn't treat people who move from one country to another which has the same mother-tongue. Britons moving to Australia acquire an Australian accent if they stay there long enough. How long does this take? 2A00:23C0:7905:B600:BC63:D41E:72CD:7F2E (talk) 19:44, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
In my opinion, it never fully happens unless the person is very young when they move. It may seem to Brits back in England that their emigrant compatriot has acquired the accent of the adopted country, but Australians and New Zealanders can always detect a trace of the Brit accent in the immigrant, even after 30 or more years (my workplace experience). It's simply that the accent shifts, but the people back home in Britain aren't able to discern the difference, unlike us locals. Akld guy (talk) 00:34, 19 September 2018 (UTC)

September 14

ISO 639-1 code for Dutch language

The Dutch language page appears to me to indicate that ISO 639-1 language code is an improbable 'hh'. The ISO 639-1 page (and List of ISO 639-1 codes) say the more expected 'nl'. But when I try to edit the page I see this code:

iso1 = nl

I don't really understand how Wikipedia infoboxes work (for instance, I find no occurrence of '639-1' when I open 'Edit this page') but something seems wrong and I don't know how to fix it.

Hayttom (talk) 08:28, 14 September 2018 (UTC)

Very strange indeed! But what's more, the same 'hh' appears on all language pages, e.g. English language, German language and Korean language. - Lindert (talk) 08:53, 14 September 2018 (UTC)
If you "edit this page", you don't find "639-1" but you do find "| iso1 = nl". Clearly there is a bug in the code that translates that into the correct infobox entry. This is a problem for WP:VP/T, and I'll post a note there. --76.69.47.228 (talk) 09:10, 14 September 2018 (UTC)
The problem is that {{Infobox language}} calls {{ISO639-1}} which is an unprotected redirect to the actual {{ISO 639-1}} template. And an IP vandalized the former. –Ammarpad (talk) 09:57, 14 September 2018 (UTC)
Somebody has fixed it!
Resolved
Hayttom (talk) 11:05, 14 September 2018 (UTC)

Cote d'Ivorian family names

Following French language conventions I assume that this chap - Mr. N'GOAN AKA Mathias - would be written in English as Mr. Mathias N'Goan Aka (i.e. first name then family name).

Anyone familiar with family conventions in Ivory Coast/Côte d'Ivoire?

Thanks in advance 4u1e (talk) 10:17, 14 September 2018 (UTC)

Not specific to Côte d'Ivoire, but throughout French-speaking Africa, there is a convention on administrative forms that family names are written in capitals and first names in lower-case letters. This is because name order is not standardized. This usage has spilled over to other areas of life. So N'Goan Aka is indeed most likely the person's last name (Mathias being a common first name). --Xuxl (talk) 12:44, 14 September 2018 (UTC)
Brilliant - Merci! 4u1e (talk) 21:24, 14 September 2018 (UTC)
The same convention is often used in Esperantist publications, intended to be read by people whose customs may conflict. Can't remember for sure whether I've also seen it for Chinese-hybrid names like Jackie CHAN Kong-sang. —Tamfang (talk) 07:31, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

September 15

are all charactonyms also aptronyms?

things like Holly Golightly or Walter Faber or Rodion Raskolnikov. I'm asking because aptronym contains only real-world examples. There apparently used to be a charactonym article but it was merged into aptronym in 2012. However, all mentions of the stylistic device have since been purged, whatsmore, attempts to add any are reverted by eager editors (last time in 2016.) Could someone look into this and then either "un-merge" charactonym so it can be its own article again -or- edit aptronym to mention the charactonyms so the article doesn't (falsely?) suggest it's an exclusively real-world thing? Aecho6Ee (talk) 02:14, 15 September 2018 (UTC)

The old charactronym list was here. There is not much hope of being able to restore it without having to footnote every entry like the aptronym article currently does. 173.228.123.166 (talk) 16:00, 15 September 2018 (UTC)
By the way, before the 19th century, it was extremely commons to name minor characters in plays and novels after a leading characteristic of the character. There must be a scholarly paper somewhere which discusses this... AnonMoos (talk) 11:18, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

Linear A

Linear A contains the following statement:

It primarily appears in the left-to-right direction, but occasionally appears as a right-to-left or boustrophedon script.

How can we know what direction it's written, since it lacks capital letters and punctuation (and presumably spaces) and hasn't been deciphered? Nyttend (talk) 16:32, 15 September 2018 (UTC)

My WAG: sequence 2606:A000:1126:4CA:0:98F2:CFF6:1782 (talk) 17:24, 15 September 2018 (UTC)
One possible way to know the direction would be the appearance of the last line of a text, such as:
𐀀𐀐𐀠𐀰𐁀𐁐
𐀁𐀑𐀡𐀱𐁁𐁑
𐀂𐀒
versus

𐁓𐁃𐀳𐀣𐀓𐀃
𐁄𐀴𐀤𐀔𐀄
𐁖𐁆𐁔

—Stephen (talk) 18:37, 15 September 2018 (UTC)

Although it's true it hasn't been deciphered, it doesn't follow that the meaning of Linear A is a total mystery. This site, for instance, has examples of accounting lists where the structure of the text (numbers, types of goods etc.) would give a good indication of the direction. HenryFlower 20:48, 15 September 2018 (UTC)
And, regarding deciphered Linear B (successor to Linear A):  "...some scholars even rudely described the texts as being like laundry lists."[5]107.15.157.44 (talk) 21:51, 15 September 2018 (UTC)
If they mean actual laundry lists, they should keep in mind that such writings were serving the needs of the writer and the reader at the time. They weren't concerned about what historians hundreds or thousands of years later might make of them. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 19:06, 16 September 2018 (UTC)
Baseball_Bugs -- the majority of texts are inventories of items held by the palace, lists of supplies issued to palace workers etc. They were for the immediate convenience of palace administrators. There are no literary texts, not even accounts of kingly deeds of the type that were so common in the Middle East. I doubt that there were any actual laundry lists, but re-wo-to-ro-ko-wo lewotrokhowoi (classical λουτροχoοι) are mentioned: "those who pour water for baths/washing"... AnonMoos (talk) 08:28, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

Nyttend -- only a few scripts have developed a capital / lower-case distinction, so a lack of such a contrast would be expected for Linear B. Also, it's not really explained in the Linear B article, but Linear B had so-called "ideograms" like Linear A -- semantic characters expressing items to be counted or units of weight and measure. And we do understand the sequence of Linear A characters which spell out the word meaning "Total"... AnonMoos (talk) 14:31, 16 September 2018 (UTC)

You don't need to understand a script/langugage in order to discover its direction of writing. If you know one ore more recurring character sequences you can look for places where they are split between lines. For example, someone not understanding English might note that the combination "United States" occurs multiple times in a text. When he finds a line that has "United" on the right and "States" is found on the left of line below, he can deduce that the text is probably written from left to right, without needing to know what any of it means. - Lindert (talk) 15:35, 16 September 2018 (UTC)


It's often possible to deduce from the forms of individual characters and the relationship between them (particularly when there are overlaps) in which order they were written. In some scripts, there was a convention of which way certain characters 'faced' in relationship to the direction the line went (so in boustrophedon, for example, they would face one way on one line and the opposite in the next.) In the related (though not itself Linear A) case of the Phaistos Disc, some stamped characters overlaid others, confirming the order of writing (which proved to be the opposite of what was expected). {The poster formerly known as 87.81.230.195} 90.208.172.36 (talk) 18:42, 16 September 2018 (UTC)

Semivowels

A Semivowel is distinguished from its corresponding vowel because it functions as the syllable boundary, rather than as the nucleus of a syllable, right? And there are two definitions of vowel, the phonetic and phonological. So although I can see why a semivowel and vowel are distinguished as phonemes, there doesn't seem to be any phonetic/physical difference between their articulations, other than speed. So my question is this, what is the physical difference between /j/ and /i/? Makuta Makaveli (talk) 17:28, 15 September 2018 (UTC)

From Semivowel#Contrast with vowels: “Semivowels, by definition, contrast with vowels by being non-syllabic. In addition, they are usually shorter than vowels.[3] In languages as diverse as Amharic, Yoruba, and Zuni, semivowels are produced with a narrower constriction in the vocal tract than their corresponding vowels.[6] Nevertheless, semivowels may be phonemically equivalent with vowels.” [bolding is mine] Loraof (talk) 22:53, 15 September 2018 (UTC)
You didn't have to mention the non-syllabic part, I covered that. I knew speed or duration had to be one of the differences. So pretty much, there are only two physical differences between the two, duration, short or long, and narrow or wide constriction of the vocal tract. Other than that they are the same sound. Is this why Romans used V to represent both /w/ and /u/, I for /i/ and /j/? Makuta Makaveli (talk) 23:23, 15 September 2018 (UTC)
  • Latin-based and Cyrillic-based scripts, at least, make use of the same letters for both syllabic and regular (non-syllabic) consonants. For example Slovak uses R for both /r/ and /r̩/ and L for both /l/ and /l̩/, as well as accentuated Ŕ and Ĺ for long syllabic /r̩ː/ and /l̩ː/, the same way as it uses accentuated vowels to represent vowel length, such as Á for /aː/. --Theurgist (talk) 10:47, 19 September 2018 (UTC)

September 17

Polyglot

What is polyglot that speak the greatest number of language?--158.148.178.254 (talk) 17:35, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

It's more difficult to count than you might think. Our article at List of polyglots gives you a good idea. See also Polyglotism. Matt Deres (talk) 17:56, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

(after edit conflict) I have no definite answer, and certainly not for a living person. List of polyglots is interesting, though some of the people listed there only "claimed" they spoke that many languages (e.g. John Bowring "claimed he knew 200 languages of which he could speak 100. Many of his contemporaries and subsequent biographers thought otherwise."). See also this question asked here over twelve years ago (!) ---Sluzzelin talk 17:57, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

Correct punctuation for professional titles

What is the correct punctuation for professional titles, such as MD or DMD or DPM, etc.? Do they include or exclude the periods? Do they include or exclude spaces between the letters (and/or the periods)? I am asking for the conventions for American English (USA). Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 18:49, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

No spaces. Periods may be used or left out: M.D., D.M.D., D.P.M., D.D.S., LL.M., S.J.D., J.D., M.S./J.D. or MD, DMD, DPM, DDS, LLM, SJD, JD, MS/JD. —Stephen (talk) 08:46, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
Most mainstream publishers omit the periods these days; they don't serve any useful purpose. That is also the recommendation of the Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Abbreviations. --Shantavira|feed me 08:51, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

Correct punctuation for telephone numbers

What is the correct punctuation for telephone numbers? For example: 123 - 456 - 7890. Are those "dashes" simply regular dashes/hyphens? Or are they en dashes or em dashes? And, are there supposed to be any spaces or not? I am asking for the conventions for American English (USA). Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 18:52, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

"Wikipedia has an article on everything", including: National conventions for writing telephone numbers. 107.15.157.44 (talk) 22:44, 17 September 2018 (UTC) ... but, that article doesn't specifically answer your questions. Based purely on OR, (XXX) XXX-XXXX is still common, with space after close-paren, and regular dash→[hyphen or en dash (not em dash)], with XXX-XXX-XXXX becoming more common
Manhattan: New Years Eve 1985: 1 area code for 8 million people. 2017: 3 overlay area codes and 1 regular one for 1.6 million. 2100: 347 area codes and 2,197 overlays for 25 million people. Sagittarian Milky Way (talk) 02:20, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
There is also XXX.XXX.XXXX, which I've often seen on business cards. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 05:05, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

How do you pronounce "dog"?

What I am looking for, I suppose, are recordings of different people pronouncing the word, and the corresponding symbols representing each pronunciation.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 19:26, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

Wiktionary:dog has a couple of examples. Are you wondering about the difference between British and American pronunciations, or the variations within Canada? Dbfirs 20:44, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
Some of the differences are actually American.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 20:45, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
I couldn't get the US pronunciation to work, but the UK version did, and yes, that's one of the ones. But I can't figure out what that symbol is.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 20:47, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
IPA vowel chart with audio explains the symbols. Dbfirs 20:54, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
If I can't tell similar-looking symbols apart, that doesn't help much.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 21:08, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
It depends on where you are. In the Midwest, we say "dog" to rhyme with "log". In the South, it's often like "da-ohg". ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 21:17, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

(ec) Unfortunately the similarity of the symbols is the least of your problems. It's the meaning of the symbols that's complicated, because speakers with different accents may assign the same sound to different phonemes.
I still do not quite understand what is meant by /ɒ/, because it's a phoneme that I don't have — unless it's actually the phoneme that I think of as /ɔ/, which is possible, and complicates the evaluation of whether I have the cot–caught merger. --Trovatore (talk) 21:20, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
The pronunciation I'm really looking for is the one from Boston. And I say dawg.— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 21:33, 17 September 2018 (UTC)
Isn't that how some Southerners say it too? Sagittarian Milky Way (talk) 01:32, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
In Boston, they "pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd" [paːk ðə ˈkaːɹ‿ɪn ˈhaːvəd ˈjaːd], so maybe they own a "dahg" (?) -- cf: Boston accent. Per that article: ... the Boston accent merges the "short o" with the "aw" phoneme ... [becoming] long and rounded [ɒː]. The [ɒː] = Open back rounded vowel 2606:A000:1126:4CA:0:98F2:CFF6:1782 (talk) 17:19, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
See English Pronunciation 6: short "o" sound (British accent). Alansplodge (talk) 10:10, 19 September 2018 (UTC)
I definitely am not referring to "dahg".— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 14:43, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
Also [6] /dɒɡ/, which also gives the general American English equivalent as /dɔːɡ/, respelled as /dôɡ/. Bazza (talk) 15:16, 20 September 2018 (UTC)
An hour or so ago I heard Rush Limbaugh say caught "coh-aht".— Vchimpanzee • talk • contributions • 18:40, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

Turning left vs. turning right: who said it?

I am looking for a source as to who first said that following (paraphrased from memory, so I may have the wording wrong).

There are two kinds of people who walk through the door of a commercial airliner.

One kind of person turns right and sits in the passenger compartment. They just want to arrive at their destination quickly and safely without having to worry about the technical details.

The other kind of person turns left and sits in the pilot's seat. They want to have complete control over the aircraft, make all the important decisions, and make it so that the passengers can arrive at their destination quickly and safely without having to worry about the technical details.

--Guy Macon (talk) 22:06, 17 September 2018 (UTC)

The way I heard it is not about sitting in the pilot's seat. The point is that if you turn right you enter economy class, whereas if you turn left you enter first or business class. The distinction is between people who sit in economy (the majority) and those who can afford to sit in first/business (or, more commonly, whose employer pays for them to sit there). --Viennese Waltz 07:23, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
With the new non-stop Heathrow-Perth QANTAS schedule more people are turning left. Its not so much a question of affordability but the impracticality of sitting for fifteen hours when legroom is being continually reduced as airlines squeeze in ever more rows of seats. 2A00:23C1:CD83:1F01:D536:2A6C:D8F2:9746 (talk) 10:30, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
There may very well be a similar saying about luxury/economy, but lots of engineers and programmers tell the tale of the pilot turning left and the passenger turning right, and specifically about how much more training it takes to be allowed to turn left. I just don't know who said it first.
BTW, a quick search turned up planes where left=cockpit/right=passenger seating,[7] where left=first class/right=economy[8] and where the answer depends on which door you use.[9] --Guy Macon (talk) 12:29, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

September 18

Where in WP re questions about grammar answered?

wp:deny
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

Cannot get anymore closer to the question than that title?2605:E000:1301:4462:B12C:D9EF:8299:5A76 (talk) 13:06, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

This desk is a good place to ask your question, and you are guaranteed to get at least one answer. We have articles on Grammar and English grammar. Dbfirs 14:28, 18 September 2018 (UTC)
If you look on this page (Wikipedia:Reference desk), it specifically lists "grammar" as the type of question that should be asked here at the Language Reference Desk. So, yes, this is the correct page. What's your grammar question? Thanks. Joseph A. Spadaro (talk) 14:55, 18 September 2018 (UTC)

September 20

Hieroglyphs for "solar barge"

What would be the proper hieroglyphs, if there are any known, for Ra's solar barge/barque? I know that the ship had three native names for it (Atet, Mandjet, Mesektet) and the article for Barge lists the following hieroglyphs, but as far as I can tell, the term just generally refers to any boat of the time.

D58 G29 M17 M17 D21 P1

Thank you --72.235.231.236 (talk) 15:13, 20 September 2018 (UTC)

September 21

Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language&oldid=860524826"
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Reference_desk/Language
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA