Most similar languages

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by kusurija, Jul 29, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. kusurija

    kusurija Senior Member

    Lithuania, K. city
    Lithuania Czech
    Hi, all!
    I'm curious, according Your opinion, which pair of languages (but not dialects) is most similar each to other? Indicate which language family is the pair, please.

    In my humble opinion, one of most close pair would be Czech and Slovak languages of Slavic language family, but I'm sure someone will find another pair, which are more close similar, than this pair.
  2. Sionees Member

    England, UK
    Welsh - Wales
    Kernewek (Cornish) and Brezhoneg (Breton) in the Brittonic Celtic family, perhaps?

    Mind you, the Bretons and Cornish have appropriated our (the Welsh) national anthem and substituted their words for ours... Never mind, we're all P Celts together :)
  3. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In my opinion, the answer to this question is highly subjective.

    It depends, for starters, on how well/badly you know the languages, and tends to be affected by personal biases. The less you know about two related languages, the more you're tempted to claim that they're very similar.

    Then there is the issue that the dissimilarity between two "dialects" can sometimes be greater than the dissimilarity between two "languages".

    The very notion of "language" is a social construct, so I prefer not to name any languages.
  4. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I only can agree with Outsider, and I'd like to further add that after all "a language is only a dialect with an army and navy" (see the Wiki link).

    Linguistically speaking each dialect has its own grammar and is a language in its own right.

    This question would make more sense if you rephrase it as: "Most similar standard languages".

    In that case of course one should not take pluricentric languages into account - languages like English, Spanish, German, Arabic, Portuguese, Hindi/Urdu, Romanian (with Moldavian as second standard variety), also Bosnian/ Croatian/ Montenegrin/ Serbian ("technically" this still is one language - and not four different ones) and so on. Lower Sorbian and Upper Sorbian too should not be considered as "two languages".

    If you restrict the question to standard languages then indeed Czech and Slovak could be candidates for most similar standard languages; but also Russian and/or Belarussian and/or Ukrainian, possibly.

    I could imagine that probably Russian and Belarussian would be the closest two standard languages, but I know next to nothing about Belarussian - only that there still seems to be a debate going on on "how Belarussian" (i. e. how distinct from Russian) the language should be, at least according to Wiki.

    Two other very similar standard languages are Tadshiki and Persian, but of these two languages I know hardly more than that they are rather similar.
    Further there are Estonian and Finnish, of which I too know next to nothing except that they are similar.
    Then there are Scandinavian languages to consider - especially the triangle of Norvegian (with two standard varieties of which one is closer to Danish) plus Swedish plus Danish (with Icelandic and Faeringian being more different). Allegedly Scandinavians talk to each other in their respective languages and do understand each other quite well.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2008
  5. Erebos12345

    Erebos12345 Senior Member

    Yeah, this question is really hard to answer. Mostly because it's completely impossible to come up with an objective definition of language and differentiate it from a dialect. The things is, a language starts out as a single language. Then the people speaking that language split off from each other and live in different environments. The people in different groups will be influenced by different customs/cultures/foreign languages in their own respective environment. And with that, their language will slowly change, but in a way that's different from another group, who's influenced by a whole new set of customs/cultures/languages.

    Thus, you start off with a single language. The people split off, and through time, these people will develop their own dialects, which were influenced by their own unique surroundings. If you bring them back together afterwards, they'll still understand each other, but not as well as they used to. It's why English/French/etc. speakers from different parts of the world now speak differently compared to each other, yet they're still mutually understandable, for the most part.

    Given even more time for each dialect to change, sooner or later, when you bring these two groups back together, they'll no longer be able to understand each other. This would probably be the point where one ancestral language has branched off and evolved into two or more different languages. This is what happened to the Germanic family of languages, which started off as the same ancestral language (proto-Germanic). People speaking it broke off and lived in different places. Isolated, they developed their own dialects by changing the original language bit by bit. As time passed on, the changes increased until they branched off into the different languages we know today (English, German, Dutch, etc.) Same thing for other language families, such as the Romance languages. (Simplified model, of course)

    Therein lies the problem. When you bring these two groups together, at what "percentage of mutual comprehension" do you need to pass in order to classify them still as two dialects? And at what percentage will you classify them as two different languages? So, there really is no "magic division" separating language and dialect. Whatever boundaries we impose are completely arbitrary.

    Thus, the best answer I can give you: two languages that have recently branched off as two different languages, and not just dialects, would be the most similar. Once again, the point where two dialects "suddenly" are different enough to be classified as two separate languages is an arbitrary and subjective decision.
  6. Sionees Member

    England, UK
    Welsh - Wales
    Outsider's points are perfectly valid and I will admit my initial answer was a little hasty in being 'a layman's response.' Being a profesional linguist, I fell into my own trap of being 'too popular' in my answer and not applying strict scientific criteria as we are supposed to.

    Perhaps for the average person in the street our responses to date on this thread are adequate. However, and this is where I re-iterate my support for outsider's 'subjective test', in the cold analysis of a linguistics laboratory where languages can be investigated and dissected under microscopes (if I may be permitted scientific metaphors) then similarities and differences between them can be established in a far more thorough, professional and objective manner.

    This is not meant in any way to offend you, kusurija, and I welcome your enthusiasm for languages on this thread and elsewhere with open arms.
  7. avok

    avok Banned

    I would call this "being down to earth".

    Ich glaub,daß du "Montenegrinisch" meinst ;)
  8. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Yes, certainly; it seems my brain is even mixing up different languages by now. - Thanks, typo corrected!
  9. Chechen- Ingush
    Bahasa Indonesia - Bahasa Melayu - Bahasa Brunei
  10. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    I don't know Chechen and Ingush, but the three Indonesian languages probably should still count as polycentric language, although German Wiki already states that Indonesian and Malayan are drifting apart (quote, translated rather free by me):

    "Während sich Indonesier und Malaysier in der Kolonialzeit noch nahezu flüssig untereinander verständigen konnten, ist dies heute unter jungen Indonesiern und Malaysiern nur noch zu einem Grad möglich, wie es unter Sprechern verschiedener skandinavischer Sprachen der Fall ist.
    While Indonesians and Malayans were easily able to maintain a fluent conversation during colonial times this no longer is the case for the younger generation: they only can communicate with each other similar like it is the case between speakers of Scandinavian languages, with only partial understanding."

    If the three Bahasa varieties already would be too distant for being called a single language then of course they could be very good candidates for most similar (standard) languages; else they still should count as varieties of the same language.
  11. I think, Belarussian and Ukrainian may probably be referred to that category.
  12. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    I didn't know that "Bahasa Brunei" existed.

    Btw, bahasa means simply "language".
    German = Bahasa Jerman
    English = Bahasa Inggris

    About Indonesians and Malaysians:

  13. Saluton Banned

    Moscow, Russia
    I don't think Russian/Belarusian/Ukrainian are that much alike. Ukrainian - in its standard form, not Surzhyk, - is easy to understand for a Russian.
    To my mind, the most similar are some unrenowned languages anyway. Perhaps some of the languages of India, where there are so many people in a rather small territory and all languages and dialects are intermingled (perhaps I'm exaggerating, but still).
  14. el12345 New Member

    England - English
    I'm currently studying/learning Norwegian and am shocked as to how similar it is to Danish. In terms of basic vocabulary they seem to be pretty much the same language.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 15, 2009
  15. Saluton Banned

    Moscow, Russia
    Sorry, I made a mistake in my previous message.
  16. Foygl Member

    I would say some of the Baltic-Finnic languages are quite close to each other. I have seen Finns reading Karelian with no or only minor problems.
    The Tai-Kradai languages, Lao and Thai, are also quite close to each other.

    I wouldn't really say the Ingush and Chechen (and Bats) languages are very close to each other.
    They are Nakh languages, yes, but as far as I know, they are farther from each other mutually intelligibly than the Scandinavian languages.

    If you are learning Bokmål, some of the explanation may be because of the fact that Bokmål is derived directly from written Danish. If you are listening to spoken Danish and Norwegian you will realize that they are quite different, especially if you listen to some of the Norwegian dialects in the far north. None of them are particularly close to the written language - it's like with English and French, it is spelled in one way, but pronounced in a completely different way.
  17. holingher New Member

    Moldavian is not a "second standard variety " of Romanian.There is a unique standard variety of Romanian,identical in Romania and Moldova.Because of political reasons(different statehood is at the time the option of the majority of the Moldovan romanophones),romanian,in the same "standard variety",is called in Moldova, Moldovan!No more,no less.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 7, 2009
  18. holingher New Member

    Bokmal is actually in pronounciation norwegianised written danish.But i'll say that both have a quite danish or,in the case of Nynorsk,a "danish-alike" local base,the difference beeing more in vocabulary.
  19. Hyper Squirrel Member

    New York
    English - American
    Although all the Romance languages are similar, Spanish and Italian are close to identical, at least according to a former Spanish teacher of mine. She didn't speak Italian but understood exactly what was being said when she heard it.
  20. jana.bo99

    jana.bo99 Senior Member

    Cro, Slo
    When I was in Spain, summer 2004 for more than one month I had two experiences about languages and similarity. In that time I spoke Italian so much just to understand the tourists.
    If I had some question to the people on the street there, I have asked in Italian. They have understood me and gave answer in Spanish. It was a bit easier to understand as I went to the School for Spanish.

    Other thing: there where I was sleeping was one woman from Bulgaria. She spoke Bulgarian and me, I spoke Serbo-Croatian. It was very easy to understand each other. Both are Slavic languages.

    2005, I was in Italy. This time I had some conversation with one man: he spoke Italian and I spoke Spanish and our conversation was pretty clear. We understood each other although neither my Spanish nor my Italian was brilliant.

    Now, I forgot all my Italian and can even think in Spanish.

  21. Montesacro Senior Member

    Spanish and Italian close to identical? What an astonishing statement!

    Neddless to say, the two languages share many similarities but they are not mutually intelligible.

    Even their core vocabularies have striking differences:

    finestra........... ventana
    tagliare........... cortar
    salire.............. subir
    faccia............. cara
    gamba............ pierna
    schiena.......... espalda
    spalla............. hombro
    letto.............. cama
    cane.............. perro
    aceto............. vinagre
    olio................ aceite
    asino.............. burro
    burro.............. mantequilla

    ...and so on and so forth...
  22. jana.bo99

    jana.bo99 Senior Member

    Cro, Slo
    Sorry, I didn't write all.

    Italian and Spanish are very similar when the people talk with each other.
    As this list shows, the written words are very different like they belong to different group of languages.

    I was thinking very often, why is there such a difference?
  23. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello, I think, another pair is: Portuguese - Galego or Hindi-Urdu. Bye.
  24. Natalisha Senior Member

    Yes, but those who speak Belarusian easily understand those who speak the Ukranian language and vice versa.
    Both the Belorussians and the Ukrainians speak Russian, but it's difficult for a Russian to understand the Belarusian and Ukrainian languages.
  25. MaxJ Senior Member

    Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
    Dutch- Netherlands
    I don't know if the languages are most similar but Dutch and Afrikaans are very much alike too.
  26. bibax Senior Member

    Czech (Prague)
    Mostly the reason is that they are derived from different Latin words like

    mangiare (from Latin mandere) and comer (from Latin comedere)
    volere (from Latin volo/velle) and querer (from Latin quaerere)
  27. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    In my opinion Italian is more similar to French than it is to Spanish. I think Swedish and Norwegian are very close as well; also I can hardly distinguish German from Dutch :p

    By the way, although Turkish, Azeri, Uyghur, Uzbek, Tatar, Kyrgyz are all Turkic languages; only Turkish and Azeri are mutally intelligible.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  28. HUMBERT0

    HUMBERT0 Senior Member

    Verdad, pero tenemos sinónimos.

    tagliare.......tajar(Del lat. taliāre, cortar). Tallar (Dar forma o trabajar un material. ant. Cortar o tajar)
    testa……....…testa, testuz, testarudo (De testa)adj. Porfiado, terco, temoso.
    faccia…...…..facial (del rostro)
    aceto………....acético, ca adj. quím. Del vinagre o de sus derivados, ácido acético.
    canne …….....can
    olio………….....óleo, como en santos óleos.
    asino ………....asno
    richiedere…...requerir (solicitar, pedir)
    mangiare……..manjar (alimento, comestible, vianda, exquisitez)
    prendere ….. prender
  29. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Very interesting observation! :) I must confess sometimes I have the same feeling. And here are some examples of the most frequent verbs:

    avere - avoir - tener
    andare - aller - ir
    mettere - mettre - poner
    parlare - parler - hablar
    prendere - prendre - tomar
    trovare - trouver - encontrar
    cercare - chercher - buscar
    lasciare - laisser - dejar
    arrivare - arriver - llegar
    guardare - regarder - mirar


    ma - mais - pero
    più - plus - más
    loro - leur - suyo
    ancora - encore - todavía
    giorno - jour - día
    mai - jamais - nunca
    allora - alors - entonces
    lui - lui - él
    magazzino - magasin - almacén
    letto - lit - cama
    affare - affaire - asunto

    and many many more

    And sometimes I've got the feeling Portuguese is more similar to Italian than it is to Spanish.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  30. vandaman Member

    Macedonian and Bulgarian are also very similar. At marketplace people can understand each other without problems but for readings books or university lectures people need dictionaries.there are also false friends
  31. Orlin Banned

    Здравейте, vandaman!
    Не съм сигурен дали действително трябват речници в такива случаи. Според мен няма проблеми да се четат каквито и да е текстове, несъдържащи специализирана терминология (защото, ако не греша, терминологията е доста различна между нас и вас - в известна степен съм съгласен, че специализираните текстове трябва да се превеждат). Аз самият нямам почти никакви проблеми с разбирането на македонския, но значително ми помага и това, че говоря сръбски.

  32. vandaman Member

    Здраво Орлин, и јас читам бугарски книги без проблеми, но имам учено и српски и руски и старословенски. Зборувам за луѓе со просечно образование. На две до три реченици има збор кој луѓето не го разбираат или може да ги збуни.На тие зборови мислев кога мислев речници
  33. Orlin Banned

    Извинявам се, че е off topic, но съм убеден, че всеки, който знае и сръбски, и руски, разбира български на практика 100%-ово. Може би същото се отнася и за македонския, ако знаеш български и сръбски.
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  34. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    I understand nearly 100 of what you've written in Bulgarian and a deal less in Macedonian. However, understanding spoken Bulgarian proved for me - years ago - not so easy a task.
  35. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    The thing about Portuguese and Italian needs an explanations.
  36. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
  37. Rallino Moderatoúrkos

    I still think that Italian and French are more similar actually :p
  38. Favara Senior Member

    Catalan - Southern Val.
    According to that list, Catalan vocabulary seems to be somewhere between French/Italian and Spanish. We have a ton of synonims for most words.
    Last edited: May 18, 2010
  39. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Not if you have a closer look at the morphology.
  40. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Wow, thanks, interesting addition. And once again we all know that those words exist in the other language, too, but less frequent or false friends or obsolete, etc. I meant: Parla Inglese? Parlez-vous Anglais? Habla Usted inglés? ... etc.
  41. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    lui - lui - él -> here you confuse the subject and the indirect object forms in the three languages. It should be:
    egli/lui (if you're less puristical) - il - él
    gli/ a lui; le/ a lei - lui - le

    I meant the "emphasized pronouns (what you call them?): con lui - avec lui - con él
    Last edited: May 18, 2010
  42. Perkele Member

    Finland, Finnish
    Am I the only one who feels that this is like asking who can shout most quiet?

    Finnish and Karelian can be mutually intelligible, depending on the dialect. Karelian is also more closely related to Finnish than Estonian. Swedish, Danish and Norwegian are also mutually intelligible. Both cases are examples of nation borders separating dialects close to eachother before the creation of a standard language.
  43. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hello, I'd like to have a more concrete practical question. The first comment here is about Slovak and Czech. I think a rather good proof of the similarity is whether subtitles are used on TV. In case of Czech and Slovak, if you have a DVD you can choose both Czech and Slovak subtitles. But if a Slovak is speaking on TV (and vice versa), never ever any subtitles. How about other similar languages??? Thanks.
  44. Orlin Banned

    In Bulgaria we never subtitle Macedonian; I'm not sure but as far as I know, in Macedonia Bulgarian is at least sometimes subtitled, but in my opinion not because it isn't understandable enough but (almost) entirely because of political reasons.
  45. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    That's a very interesting comment indeed. Thanks.
  46. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Irish and Scottish Gaelic are extremely close, so much so that a native speaker of Ulster Irish could probably understand even the most out of the way Scots Gaelic speaker with very little difficulty.
    The main difference lies in the writing system. Irish Gaelic reformed its spelling in 1950, Scots Gaelic did not.
  47. bb3ca201 Senior Member

    Toronto sa Chanada
    English/Scottish Gaelic, Canada
    Most of the time we can; many words are close enough (written and spoken) that we can get across what the other is saying.

    Some easy examples:

    IR. i gcónaí tá mé eaglais scoil
    SC. an-còmhnaidh tha mi eaglais sgoil
    ENG always I am church school
  48. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Just checking what this means in English? :) I always go to Sunday school or something like that?
  49. bb3ca201 Senior Member

    Toronto sa Chanada
    English/Scottish Gaelic, Canada
    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I was just trying to list some examples of similar words -- they weren't meant to make up an actual sentence.

    Here's an easier way, maybe:

    i gcónaí (Irish) - an-comhnaidh (Scottish) - always
    tá mé = tha mi = I am
    scoil = sgoil = school
    eaglais = eaglais = church
  50. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    It's also interesting to note that in Ulster Irish Gaelige is pronounced as Gaeleg or Gaeilic, much akin to the Scottish pronunciation of Gàidhlig.

    One other well-known example is:

    Chan eil airgead agam (Scottish Gaelic)
    Chan fhuil airgead agam (Ulster Irish)
    Níl arigead agam ("standard" Irish)
    I have no money (English)

    Being a native Gaelic speaker, bb3ca201 probably knows quite a few more similarities.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page