Thursday, June 16, 2005

From blog member Samer al-Batal
S al-B: Something for the blog’s language enthusiasts.

Via Inferno XV:

Achtung! Al-Qawaa`id

A student faces the amusingly bizarre — or dreadful, depending on how one looks at it — complexities of Arabic (Modern Standard*) grammar, or qawaa`id.

Yal'la, shid'dul-him'meh!

The above Arabic exclamation? An idiomatic vernacular expression of encouragement that roughly translates to ‘Come on, pull up your (plural) resolve’.

Personally, I think Bulgarian verbs, their many forms of conjugation being the elephant of the Bulgarian grammar system (and unlike anything found in perhaps any Slavic language), might be enough take the breath out of any accomplished student of languages even before deciding to take a foray into Arabic.

How does this compare to Russian? Bulgarian presents quite a contrast with its sister languages. For one thing, it has definite articles, and those are stuck as a suffix at the end of the referent.

*In Arabic-speaking countries, this form of the language is used in the same way Katharevousa once was in Greece and enjoys the same place the latter did in the past. [End.]

I didn’t know that about Bulgarian verbs. They seem a little more complicated, even though of course a lot of their roots are the same as Russian’s (and Russian has ‘aspect’ as well), but the difficulty levels balance out because Bulgarian, unlike its sisters, hasn’t got cases!

I knew that it has articles: иконата, the icon. Learnt that example when a Bulgarian handed me something to read aloud to test my Cyrillic alphabet skills and I did — his wife commented that I read it with a Russian accent!

BTW, adding the definite article to the end of the noun is also something that (thanks, Michael Ernst) Swedish does: en man (like German ein Mann), a man, but mannen, the man.

Katharevousa was the Hellenists’/Greek nationalists’ attempt to pretend that Greeks still speak something like ancient Greek. The government made it the official language and forced it on everybody in school until around 1974 when they gave up and made the quite different real spoken language, demotic Greek, the standard.

Still haven’t figured out how to make Greek and Arabic letters work here.

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