The answers you’ve been waiting for!

Here are answers to the puzzle from a few days ago, the one that asked you to identify 13 different languages:

1. French
2. Italian
3. Spanish
4. Portuguese
5. Ladino
6. Galician
7. Aragonese
8. Catalan
9. Occitan
10. Corsican
11. Sardinian
12. Romanian
13. Latin

I am guessing that most of my readers will scan through this list, will recognize that seven of these are Romance languages (#1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 12, 13), and will therefore guess correctly that the other six must also be Romance languages, even without being able to identify what specific languages they are. Of those six, if you don’t know that Corsican (#10) and Sardinian (#11) are actual languages, you will still probably assume from their names that they are spoken primarily on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia respectively, as they are. (Yes, the official languages in those places are now French and Italian, for imperialist reasons.) The two differ substantially in number of speakers: Corsican is currently spoken by only 125,000 people, Sardinian by about 1.4 million. The latter figure would be a surprise to most Americans, who tend to be more insular than those on the island of Sardinia.

So that leaves four, with the following info supplied by Wikipedia:

  • #5. Ladino, a.k.a. גﬞודﬞיאו־איספאנייול, is familiar to Sephardic Jews (but not all of them) and bears approximately the same relationship to Spanish as Yiddish does to German. There are about 60,000–400,000 speakers today (a wide range of estimates, no?).
  • #6. Galician is known to Portuguese speakers as a dialect of Portuguese but is really a separate language, spoken in northwest Spain just north of Portugal. It’s one of the official languages of Spain, spoken by 2.4 million people — perhaps a surprising data point here since it’s virtually unknown among Americans. The dialect claim seems to be supported by the close similarity between #4 and #6, but the Wikipedia article on Galician goes into great interesting detail on the language/dialect issue for this thorny case.
  • #7. Aragonese is… well… raise your hand if you have ever heard of it. I see some experts in the history of Spain in general and Catalonia in particular, and some Indo-European linguists, but otherwise? Anyway, Aragonese is a Romance language spoken by about 25,000 people in what’s left of the old Kingdom of Aragon in northeastern Spain.
  • #9. Oddly, I’ve known about Occitan (a.k.a. langue d’oc) ever since middle school, but I’m weird that way. It is closely related to Catalan, as you can see by comparing sentences #8 and #9. Americans who have “a little knowledge” about the matter would be surprised about this relationship, since they might think that Occitan is a dialect of French and Catalan is a dialect of Spanish. Both beliefs are just plain wrong, and they arise for purely political (not linguistic) reasons: Occitan is spoken primarily in France, Catalan primarily in Spain. Occitan is currently spoken by about 100,000–800,000 people. Yikes, that’s an even less precise estimate that the ones for Ladino above. Such is the fate of minority languages.

Categories: Linguistics