Is Greek similar to other languages?

Awwal12

Senior Member
Russian
Yes, but /ʃ/ is without lip protrusion (old IPA symbol [ʆ], now [ʃʲ]).
Except palatalization has nothing to do with any manner of rounding ([ʃ] may be rounded, like it often is in English, - in which case the precise transcription will be [ʃʷ] - or it may not). Palatalization ([ʲ]), on the other hand, basically refers to raising the middle part of your tongue while articulating the consonant.
 
  • Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    At any rate, the "simple" inflectional verbal morphology in Russian seems to mask the fact that inflectional verbal morphology in Russian is really hard to separate from derivational verbal morphology (which is very much relevant for the grammar - you always need the correct verb in a particular grammatical context!).

    You mean like идти, ехать, ходить, ездить, уходить etc?
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You mean like идти, ехать, ходить, ездить, уходить etc?
    In the first place I mean the aspects (perfective vs. imperfective verbs), in particular because the differences between them seemingly cannot be reduced to pure semantics, as those semantic differences themselves will regularly depend on purely grammatical circumstances.
     

    Linnets

    Senior Member
    Except palatalization has nothing to do with any manner of rounding ([ʃ] may be rounded, like it often is in English, - in which case the precise transcription will be [ʃʷ] - or it may not). Palatalization ([ʲ]), on the other hand, basically refers to raising the middle part of your tongue while articulating the consonant.
    That was my attempt to transcribe unrounded [ʃ], I found it in a book by Italian phonetician Luciano Canepari.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    That was my attempt to transcribe unrounded [ʃ], I found it in a book by Italian phonetician Luciano Canepari.
    You might have slightly misunderstood Canepari. It's hard to tell without seeing the context. For certain, there is no direct connection between palatalization and labialization (potentially they can even co-occur, even though it's typologically rare).
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Although it sits on its own branch of the IE family, it is still an IE language and not an isolate, so Greek cannot be *that* different from other IE languages. However, I've been taking introductory lessons in Ancient Greek, and in terms of difficulty it seems to be a few steps above most other Semitic and IE languages I've been exposed to.

    For one thing, it's not enough to know cases because each case has at least 3 different sets of markers (and then when you read the first line of Homer you find menin isn't even inflected in the way they taught you because -- hey -- it just sounds better this way :D). There are some patterns to these markers but mostly it seems random (compare to the Semitic u/i/a case markers which seem almost childlike by comparison). Oh and the marker -os can be either nominative or genitive depending on what set of declensions you're using.

    Then there are the verbs, where you learn these neat rules for changing tenses (adding augments and endings) but then discover that the verb itself changes beyond recognition so you effectively have to memorize multiple versions of the verb. Now a specialist can discern all the rules and sound changes that lead to these transformations but for the average person I don't see how any pattern can be discerned. Other languages require you to memorize a lot of rules, but they are at least rules, so if you memorize you can predict. Seems harder than that for Greek verbs, but then again I am an absolute novice so I may be missing something.

    That said, Latin seems to have most of the same issues (five declensions instead of three) though I hear it is a bit more regular. And I've heard of languages with even more complex case and inflection systems in eastern Europe and the Caucuses (the latter would not be considered IE however). And Modern Greek is apparently a much more typical European language anyway. So, difficult, yes, and somewhat irregular, but can't say it's unique.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Catalan has both [s̪] and [ʃ]. It doesn't seem to bother them.

    Yes, but /ʃ/ is without lip protrusion (old IPA symbol [ʆ], now [ʃʲ]).

    Except palatalization has nothing to do with any manner of rounding ([ʃ] may be rounded, like it often is in English, - in which case the precise transcription will be [ʃʷ] - or it may not). Palatalization ([ʲ]), on the other hand, basically refers to raising the middle part of your tongue while articulating the consonant.
    Well, plural -s can get palatalized after -ll or -ny (alls /aʎ̟ʃ/, anys /aɲ̟ʃ/). However, I'd say the /ʃ/ in Catalan and in English is slightly different. Or at least I don't think I place my tongue in the very same way.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    It is obviously all subjective. To me Greek does not sound like Spanish just as Spanish spoken by someone with an English accent does not sound like Spanish.
    I think there are limits to how much we can appeal to subjectivity. If even Spanish speakers constantly say that Greek sounds like unintelligible Spanish, and Greek speakers vice versa (with common accounts of the natives mistaking one for the other at a distance), and if there exist objective and wide-ranging similarities in the two languages' phonologies and phonotactics, then it's obviously not all subjective. Appealing to individual words (X looks like a Greek word and not like a Spanish word) is mistaken because we're talking of unsegmented, continuous speech. This is precisely why it fools even the natives.

    I think your comparison should be the other way around: it's when language X is spoken with such a strong Spanish accent as to be unintelligible to language X's native speakers when these speakers might say "are they speaking Spanish?". I'm sure everyone can think of similar anecdotes themselves. The comparison should be "just as English spoken with a Spanish accent", and this necessary sounds like Spanish, especially when one doesn't understand the words. Saying that someone speaks with a Spanish accent means saying that their speech sounds like Spanish to a greater or lesser extent.

    I general I would comment that the extent to which relativity and scepticism are extolled in modern American society can sometimes be so strong as to overrule even one's ears. Put another way, one's beliefs can trump one's senses.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    You mean like идти, ехать, ходить, ездить, уходить etc?
    In the first place I mean the aspects (perfective vs. imperfective verbs), in particular because the differences between them seemingly cannot be reduced to pure semantics, as those semantic differences themselves will regularly depend on purely grammatical circumstances.
    To put this more simply, Russians don't think of perfective and imperfective pairs as different verbs and aren't aware which one they're using - in this the Russian system is little different from Ancient Greek. There's the complicating fact that how closely these pair is a continuum, often resulting in networks of verbs stems instead of pairs.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Now that's oversimplification.
    You're in a habit making impulsive, categorical, accusatory remarks without laying out any arguments for the other party to respond to, something I've observed you do every other message ever since you joined this forum. The civil and conductive way to act when feeling an urge to disagree is 1) withhold any categorical, accusatory remarks; 2) acknowledge some parts of the other's arguments or situations where they're valid 3) highlight the parts you disagreee with and/or situations where the arguments don't hold 4) provide reasons beyond your own personal opinion; 5) pad your message with politeness terms like "I think, in my opinion, it seems to me, I would say" and various modal expressions. In this case it's best to start a thread on the Russian forum.

    The right thing to do when one finds themselves unable or not concerned enough to do the above and reply properly is to swallow the urge to disagree and simply carry on. Otherwise the impression this creates is the very reason for the saying "opinions are like <insert body part/function>".
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You're in a habit making impulsive, categorical, accusatory remarks without laying out any arguments
    Sorry, so far I haven't seen any arguments to support the over-generalized "Russians don't think of perfective and imperfective pairs as different verbs" to begin with. It's not my job to *disprove* it, you know, but a remark was necessary so that other forum members wouldn't get a distorted perception of the issue.

    Yes, in many cases aspect is percieved by native speakers as a grammatical form. That elaboration will suffice.
     
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    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Sorry, so far I haven't seen any arguments to support "Russians don't think of perfective and imperfective pairs as different verbs" to begin with.
    One is not required to support a generic positive observation with arguments, especially as a native speaker. One is required to provide arguments and other evidence when trying to convince someone that their observation is incorrect or incorrectly expressed. Then one is doing something constructive and positive. Otherwise one is engaging in a battle of "ur wrong im right", for which there exist other venues.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    One is not required to support a generic positive observation with arguments, especially as a native speaker.
    Well, I hope I qualify as an observing native speaker as well. As I said, to me your statement seemed subjective and over-generalized, so the urge to put it into the more acceptable, objective shape was natural. And, as you could note, I didn't make anything personal out of this disagreement.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    Well, I hope I qualify as an observing native speaker as well.
    This is a red herring - you know that I know that you're a native speaker, so even from this it's obvious that the truth of my statement isn't predicated on you being one. Being a native speaker only gives you some authority in making a positive generalisation. It doesn't absolve you from the need to disagree constructively.
    As I said, to me your statement seemed subjective and over-generalized, so the urge to put it into the more acceptable, objective shape was natural.
    You made a point-black statement that the generalisation was mistaken in being too wide. This cannot serve as a start for a productive exchange, because this is not a factual statement. It's indistinguishable from saying "you're wrong" without specifying anything else. I can just as well retort that what's overly general for you is just right for me and for the general reader. You could retort that I'm over-generalising our readership, and I could retort that you're over-generalising my statement about our readership, and so on ad nauseam. This is really a vacuous statement.
    And, as you could note, I didn't make anything personal out of this disagreement.
    See points 1) and 5).
     
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    S.V.

    Senior Member
    Español, México
    And going back to a 'sorted string' here, it may not be a coincidence that both represented 'frontiers' under constant strain from relatives & foreigners alike, throughout their formative centuries. The former likely helping with the plasticity of the brain, so the "good enough" of biology is called "change typically eliminates markedness." Or for a simplification, a 'cosmopolitan' Athens where the father speaks 1½ languages & the slaves help in raising the kids. :p
    "I could not suffer my old nurse, or the slave who attended me as a boy, to live in want" (Demosthenes).
    Next to Greek (1931), in load, the word παιδαγωγόν paidagōgón refers to that slave; later comes pedagogy, as our Greek friends know.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think there are limits to how much we can appeal to subjectivity. If even Spanish speakers constantly say that Greek sounds like unintelligible Spanish, and Greek speakers vice versa (with common accounts of the natives mistaking one for the other at a distance), and if there exist objective and wide-ranging similarities in the two languages' phonologies and phonotactics, then it's obviously not all subjective. Appealing to individual words (X looks like a Greek word and not like a Spanish word) is mistaken because we're talking of unsegmented, continuous speech. This is precisely why it fools even the natives.

    I think your comparison should be the other way around: it's when language X is spoken with such a strong Spanish accent as to be unintelligible to language X's native speakers when these speakers might say "are they speaking Spanish?". I'm sure everyone can think of similar anecdotes themselves. The comparison should be "just as English spoken with a Spanish accent", and this necessary sounds like Spanish, especially when one doesn't understand the words. Saying that someone speaks with a Spanish accent means saying that their speech sounds like Spanish to a greater or lesser extent.

    I general I would comment that the extent to which relativity and scepticism are extolled in modern American society can sometimes be so strong as to overrule even one's ears. Put another way, one's beliefs can trump one's senses.

    You cannot get away from the fact that the same data can produce different impressions. Objectively, Spanish and Greek have more or less the same phoneme inventory and up to a point share the same phonotactics. That though is not the end of the story because the phonemes are not distributed in the same way. What some people pick up on is the phoneme inventory, but what I and others pick up on is that when we hear Greek we are not hearing sounds arranged in a Spanish way. Apart from that, Greek just does not have any sort of a Spanish accent. Every language has a "buzz". This buzz can be picked up at a distance even when words cannot be made out. Some people can do convincing imitations of languages they do not speak because they pick up and reproduce not only the sounds of the language and the way it arranges them but also its buzz.

    A degree of relativity and scepticism are healthy as they help to avoid conflict. Nietzsche said that there are no facts, only opinions. Like many aphorisms it may not stand up to close examination, but it is something to be borne in mind in the social sciences which, whether one is American or not, can often be an exercise to establish the truth of one's prejudices. On the whole I see a lot of things as fuzzy rather than black and white and believe there are no easy answers to difficult questions.
     
    He is a Spanish native speaker, who lives in Greece and speaks perfect Greek (the video has Spanish subtitles). His pronunciation and phonotactics reminds me of a Cypriot Greek speaking Standard Greek which I find interesting:
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    That though is not the end of the story because the phonemes are not distributed in the same way. What some people pick up on is the phoneme inventory, but what I and others pick up on is that when we hear Greek we are not hearing sounds arranged in a Spanish way. Apart from that, Greek just does not have any sort of a Spanish accent. Every language has a "buzz". This buzz can be picked up at a distance even when words cannot be made out. Some people can do convincing imitations of languages they do not speak because they pick up and reproduce not only the sounds of the language and the way it arranges them but also its buzz.
    I just don't believe that. As I have been studying Greek I have thought that the arrangement of sounds is very close to Spanish, even the same endings of words usually in o, os, a, e. Otherwise the syllables are structured the same way, always ending in a vowel or s. Maybe Spanish doesn't have quite as many syllables ending in -i. Greek also doesn't have much b or rr. But that's really it. The buzz sounds absolutely the same to me. The video put up by Apmoy70 sounds very Spanish.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I just don't believe that. As I have been studying Greek I have though that the arrangement of sounds is very close to Spanish, even the same endings of words usually in o, os, a, e. Otherwise the syllables are structured the same way, always ending in a vowel or s. Maybe Spanish doesn't have quite as many syllables ending in -i. Greek also doesn't have much b or rr. But that's really it. The buzz sounds absolutely the same to me. The video put up by Apmoy70 sounds very Spanish.
    Well, we are going to have to agree to disagree.

    Here is some Greek transliterated:

    To portréto pou anéthese ston eaftó tou pros to télos tis zoís tou parémeine sta domátia tou engonoú tou os fylaktó tis mousikís tou klironomiás.

    I am getting very little that comes as possible Spanish words.
     

    anahiseri

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain) and German (Germany)
    I don't think that's a counterexample to what some Spanish speakers, including myself, are saying. The similarity we're talking about is perceived when listening. Or, to be more precise, when hearing. Of course the written text looks very strange / exotic to me.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    to-por-tre-to-pua-ne-ce-ses-to-neaf-to-tu, pros-to-te-los-ti-sois-tu-pa-re-mei-nes-ta-do-ma-tia, en-go-nu-tuos-ti-lak-to-tis-mu-si-kis-tok-li-ro-no-mias

    I transcribed that to Spanish. Read it as Spanish and every syllable comes across as a possibility in Spanish.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    To portréto pou anéthese ston eaftó tou pros to télos tis zoís tou parémeine sta domátia tou engonoú tou os fylaktó tis mousikís tou klironomiás.

    I am getting very little that comes as possible Spanish words.
    This as well as your previous attempt ('quiterai') are rather puzzling to me, because you certainly realise that Greek orthography is very far from actual pronunciation, in stark contrast to Spanish. How can one adduce a transliteration that supposedly doesn't look like Spanish when it doesn't even look as Greek sounds? Even merquiades's transcriptions misses oi and ei which are simply /i/s. And to reiterate what I say in my previous message, segmenting words is cheating, because understanding is required for this. When people say "unintelligible Spanish" or "at a distance", they're conveying the fact that they're unable to segment what they hear. Observations like "Spanish doesn't have this particular ending" are impossible when this is the case. The comparion must transcribe unsegmented speech, at best with syntagmatic prosodic breaks (= linguist jargon for 'pauses'), IPA-manual style.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I couldn't decipher all the actual Greek words so I based it just on Hulalassar's example. I thought all the reductions had been made. I tried to find the original Greek sentence but didn't manage to.
    So sois and mei would definitely be sis and mis.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    A degree of relativity and scepticism are healthy as they help to avoid conflict. [...] On the whole I see a lot of things as fuzzy rather than black and white and believe there are no easy answers to difficult questions.
    One could hardly disagree with the gist of this; nevertheless I think fuzziness should still belong to definite shapes and not to unbounded cognitive soup. That is to say, I believe one ought to entertain several theories simultaneously, but at the same time strive to define and clarify each one to the best of their ability - I'm strongly opposed to the belief that perceived uncertainty and complexity means giving up on finding (an) explanation(s), and to any form of 'the Gem'. One should not overly commit themselves to any one theory; but one should still attempt to apply specific theories to given facts and situations, but not to the exclusion of another explanation. In short, there can hardly be just one cause for any complex phenomenon, but each explanation should strive for clarity.

    In this situation I feel like you're excluding strongly evident objective factors in favour of the subjective ones; the impression I get is that you're trying to suppress your awareness of the latter in an attempt to double-think yourself. Sometimes simple explanations and a naive approach work best, even if they do expose one to the risk of pedantic disagreements (which I'm fine with as long as they're constructive). It's best to start with the forest and not individual trees when looking for mushrooms.
     
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    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Το Λουτράκι είναι γνωστό από την αρχαιότητα ως ένας προορισμός Υγείας & Ευεξίας καθώς ο Ιαματικός

    To-Lu-trá-ki-neg-nos-tóa-pó-ti-nar-jes-ti-tao-sé-nas-pros-ris-mós-gi-as-kEv-ek-sias-ka-zo-so-ia-ma-ti-kós.

    Here is a random Greek sentence transcribed in Spanish alphabet. The g is to be read as fricative. Most syllables end in a vowel or s like Spanish
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    I had a school trip to Athens in highschool and we seemed to agree that Greek sounded like Flemings pretending to speak Spanish. Probably because of gamma and chi which sound so Brabantian/Limburgish and those two sounds are otherwise very rare. They also don't exist in Spanish.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    αρχέγονο has a palatal chi. The others are velar. Spanish j is uvular. The difference in these recordings is immense to me.
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    αρχέγονο has a palatal chi. The others are velar. Spanish j is uvular. The difference in these recordings is immense to me.
    You understand that I gave a mix of palatal and non-palatal recordings for both langauges. The Spanish j can be post-velar, like in jábega; most of the time it's a velar fricative in stanard Castilian, and a velar approximant up to glottal fricative [ h] in Andalus and the Americas: pendejo. Before front vowels it's absolutely not (post-)velar in Spanish - here's how that sounds (cf. the palatal one in Russian).
    1626021299047.png
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It is not a question of who is right and wrong, but of impressions. What I have been trying to do is find an explanation of why Spanish and Greek sound similar to some people but not to others.

    Spanish and Greek may have the same inventory of phonemes and to a large degree allow the same syllables, but the comparative frequency and the order in which they occur has to be significant.

    Someone above said that /i/ was more common in Greek than Spanish and that has always been my impression. I wrote down the names of the first six Greeks I thought of:

    Konstantinos Kavafis

    Melina Mercouri

    Mikis Theodorakis

    Nikos Kazantzakis

    Aristotelis Onasis

    Nikos Skalkottas

    Obviously not conclusive. I did a search and found some tables of the frequency of phonemes in Spanish and Greek but unfortunately I could not copy and paste them. Anyway, here are the percentage frequencies for the vowels, Greek on the left and Spanish on the right.

    /a/ 12.3 13.3

    /e/ 10.4 15.0

    /i/ 14.2 6.6

    /o/ 9.5 10.7

    /u/ 2.5 2.8

    No significant difference for /a/, /o/ or /u/. /e/ is significantly more prevalent in Spanish than Greek, but the difference for /i/ is huge and /i/ is the most common vowel in Greek occurring more frequently that the most common vowel in Spanish. The impression that /i/ abounds more in Greek than in Spanish is confirmed.

    There are probably somewhere tables showing the frequency of syllables, but I have not looked for them. Clearly the frequency is not going to be exactly the same, but I would not be surprised if the most frequent syllables differ. Apart from that, some sequences of syllables are bound to occur more in one language than the other.

    But as I said above, it is not just the sounds and their order and frequency, but also, and to a significant degree, the suprasegmentals such as pitch, stress and rhythm. Greek just does not come over to me as sounding like Spanish.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I'm very much on the side of those who say Greek and (European) Spanish sound similar. When I don't pay close attention (not being a native speaker of either language), I can't tell one apart from the other.
     

    Linnets

    Senior Member
    In comparison to Spanish, Greek has more consonant clusters with /s, z/: ψ (inexistent in Spanish), ξ (x exists in Spanish too), τσ (somewhat similar to Spanish ch), τζ, plus πν- (also this inexistent in Spanish) and others. There are also prenasalized obstruents that are peculiar to Modern Greek.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    But not for the Real Academia Española (seudónimo, siquiatra...)! Is there any Spanish speaker who pronounces *pneumático instead of neumático?
    Well, in all honesty, it'd be better to ask monolingual Spanish speakers for that. I'm so used to see ps- and pn- (in Catalan you just can't drop them) that they consistently hurt my eyes (apart from the fact that to me el doctor de l'ànima and el doctor de la figa are very different things :p). I admit though that I find it easier to pronounce ps- than pn-.
     

    Quiviscumque

    Moderator
    Spanish-Spain
    Well, in all honesty, it'd be better to ask monolingual Spanish speakers for that. I'm so used to see ps- and pn- (in Catalan you just can't drop them) that they consistently hurt my eyes (apart from the fact that to me el doctor de l'ànima and el doctor de la figa are very different things :p). I admit though that I find it easier to pronounce ps- than pn-.

    ps, pn are written and articulated in many Spanish words, even if not as the first two letters: asepsia, apnea...
    Concerning initial cluster ps, many people (me, for instance) love and articulate it, RAE notwithstanding. However, pn is a different story.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Spanish and Greek don't really sound very similar to me, but my Greek godson, who studied for years in Italy and then in England, has a most charming Spanish accent when he speaks English (think Antonio Banderas). He doesn't speak Spanish.
     

    Shih-Wei

    New Member
    Chinese - Taiwan
    I'd like to note, however, that most comparatively archaic IE languages, while mutually unintelligible, do share a considerable set of similarities (some of which are also shared by other Eurasian families, and some of which are also present in more developed IE languages):
    - comparatively high syntheticism (syntactical relationships tend to be reflected in bound morphemes);
    - fusional nature (a single inflection tend to express several grammatical parameters simultaneously);
    - strictly postpositioned inflections;
    - VO word order (SVO or VSO), with all the universals which necessarily come with it;
    - the common notion of an agent-based grammatical subject;
    - grammatical gender;
    - well-grammaticalized number (singular +dual + plural in the most archaic systems);
    - cross double marking in verb phrases, agreement in noun-adjective phrases (with declinable, generally noun-like adjectives), dependent marking in possessive phrases;
    - similar systems of grammatical cases with the nominative alignment of verbal arguments;
    - prepositions (which are the main category to reflect spatial relationships) demanding certain cases from dependent noun phrases;
    and more.
    The VO word order is not quite a common feature of the IE languages. Many archaic IE languages accept and prefer the SOV order. It is enough to mention Latin, Persian and Sanskrit. Although nowadays a lot of the western languages evoluted to SVO, most of the Indo-Iranian languages conserve the SOV order as preference.
     
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