How does Hungarian sound to someone who doesn’t speak it at all?

One of my favourite pastimes when I was younger was to channel-surf to SBS (the multi-cultural broadcaster), and try and guess the language being spoken in the movie I’d landed halfway through.

The rule of thumb I’d worked out is, if they sound Turkish and look Swedish, they’re Hungarian.

What are the differences between linguistics and philology?

Philology is what linguists think they are above doing, and they are boneheads for doing so.

Philology was the study of language in its literary context; so it was confined to written language, and historical linguistics, both of which have become decidedly old fashioned. So when the Old Man of Modern Greek  Linguistics, Georgios Chatzidakis, said (in impeccable Puristic Greek) πᾶς μὴ φιλολογῶν οὐ γλωσσολογεῖ, “If you’re not doing philology, you’re not doing linguistics”, the post-Saussurean mob guffaw.

I wouldn’t be guffawing if I was part of a movement that gave us the Chomskyan view of language.

The point of philology is not just the narrowly literary context of language, after all. When philology is being informed by archaeology, we’ve moved beyond literature. It is the cultural context of language, of which literature is one component. And Old Man Chatzidakis was right: if you’re studying language with no attention to the cultural norms it is situated in, you’re studying just an idealisation of language—and you’re going to miss things.

How come that the term “Pharaoh” ends with H in English and with N in many other languages [(like: Faraon, Firaun (in different languages)]?

A most excellent question, Aziz! I don’t have the complete answer, but googling gets what seems to be most of it.

The original form, per Pharaoh, ends in a vowel. Hieroglyphics pr-3,  Late Egyptian par-ʕoʔ, Greek pharaō /pʰaraɔ́ː/, Hebrew פרעה (parʿōh), Latin pharaō.

The Greek word  pharaō is indeclinable, but it does have a variant that is declinable: pharaōn, pharaōn-os. The Latin word regularly inflects as pharaō, pharaōn-is. That inflection explains why the –n in pharaon would show up in languages like French—just like virgo, virginis ends up as virgin, and origo, originis ends up as origin.

If anything, it’s a surprise that pharaoh does not end up as pharaon in English. It’s almost like someone respelled the word to match the Hebrew better. And of course, that’s exactly what happened, with the King James Bible changing the traditional renderings of Biblical names based on the original languages. The Middle English spellings of the word were Pharao (Latin) and Pharaon (French).

That’s explained the European languages that have the –n, and that learned of the Pharaoh via the Latin Vulgate. But how did it get to Arabic Firaun?

I don’t know, but Christoph Heger in this Usenet thread (Google Groups) does. Think about it. How did Arabs hear about Pharaoh? Either directly from Jews, or from Christians. What language did the Jews and Christians speak that they were likely to hear about Pharaoh from?

Give up?

There is no need of Divine revelation to get the “n”. In the (pre-Christian) Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the so called Septuaginta) the Hebrew “Par`oh” – also pronounced “Far`oh” – in the nominative case was written “Pharao”. The regular Greek declension of such a word like “Pharao” is “Pharaonos”, “Pharaoni” and “Pharaona” in the genetive, dative and accusative, resp. Especially the plural is “Pharaones”. One says the “stem” of the word is “Pharaon”.

The latter version entrenched the Syriac (Aramaic) language, in which the Egyptian ruler is termed “fir`own”. Therefore it is not correct to say that Jews and Christians always said “Pharaoh”. Aramaic speaking Jews and Christians said “fir`own”. And this word again entrenched the Arabic language, as many other Aramaic words did, giving rise to words like Allah, Qur’an, ayah, salat, zakat etc.

In other words, the –n got into Aramaic through a similar mechanism to how it got into French: by using the stem consonant as the ending in the borrowed form. Once it was in Aramaic, it got to Arabic. Once it got to Arabic, it got to all Islam-influenced languages.

Is there a big difference between Modern Greek and Medieval Greek?

Non-zero, but not huge.

Mediaeval Greek is  not the normal term used, because the Greek linguistic situation doesn’t align well with the Middle Ages. Let me explain.

The learnèd language of Byzantium was Attic Greek, with varying degrees of enthusiastic hypercorrection and exoticism. The officialese language of Byzantium was closer to Koine, with plenty of Latin terms.

The vernacular language is not well attested. We have the papyri up until around 700, a couple of generations after the Arab conquest of Egypt—although they represent one region and what was often a second language. Our first vernacular texts are from the mid 12th century, but all vernacular literature is macaronic with more archaic Greek, up until at least the Cretan renaissance.

Betweem 700 and 1150, we have some acclamations and ditties from chronicles, and the Proto-Bulgarian inscriptions, likely written by Greek POWs.

Received wisdom is: the Greek vernacular switched from Middle Greek to Modern Greek  in the Dark Ages—so around 1000.

The pronunciation of Greek, at a phonemic level, was pretty close to Modern by 500; the final change, of οι and υ to /i/, seems to have been around 1000 (a poem makes fun of the new pronunciation in 1040; but these things always take longer—place name evidence shows the old pronunciation lingering for another century). I’m not sure we know when double consonants were degeminated—and of course they haven’t degeminated in all Greek dialects.

The morphology seems mostly modern by the start of Early Modern Greek. The dative and future tense is still to be seen in the bits between 700 and 1150, but is gone by the first Early Modern texts. Verb tenses took a while to settle down: the future particle θα is 17th century, and the volitive future it came from (θέλει Verb) is 14th century; the perfect is 17th century, the pluperfect even later; the conditional used to use the aorist instead of the imperfect (να είδες, not να έβλεπες). The positioning of clitics was not the modern positioning; as with other features of Early Modern Greek, it was closer to Modern Cypriot than to Standard Modern Greek.

So the differences between 1200 Greek and 2000 Greek are noticeable. But I have to say, they’re not huge. The vocab is a bit on the exotic side; but within the range of modern dialect. If I were to compare it to English, maybe Shakespearean English, maybe later. (The tense “was being built” after all is only 19th century in English.) If you have some linguistic smarts, you’ll understand it just fine.

Did Hebrew influence Ancient Greek?

Thx4A2A, Dimitra.

The mainstream of Greek was not influenced substantially by Hebrew. The Hebrews were just another barbaric tribe in Classical times, as far as the Greeks were concerned, and not a terribly important one. Greek did get some words from Persian (the word for “chore”, αγγαρεία, is still used); but the Persians had an empire: they were barbarians that the Greeks noticed.

Because of Christianity, Koine Greek did receive some Hebrew lexicon, but really, not that much: most New Testament writers made a point of translating things into Greek. The most enduring influence on Greek is probably the word for Saturday, Σάββατο, which is of course just Sabbath; and a swag of ultimately Hebrew names, like John and James.

The Greek that Jews spoke was of course a different story. The Greek of the Septuagint is at times awkward, in some part because it’s a literalish translation, in part because of Semitisms in the language. Some of the New Testament is quite learned Greek; but some is colloquial vernacular, and again there are expressions showing Hebrew and Aramaic influence. (More Aramaic.)

We don’t know enough about Judaeo-Greek, the now extinct Greek spoken by Romaniote Jews in modern times. The Judaeo-Greek Torah of 1547 was a word-for-word translation; being in vowel-pointed Hebrew script, it tells us a fair bit about Early Modern Greek phonetics, but nothing about any living language’s syntax.

But from what we do know, the relation of Judaeo-Greek to Christian Greek was not like Yiddish to German, and indeed few Jewish languages were as distant from their Christian counterparts: they were more like Jewish English, with some lexical loans from Hebrew, and maybe some archaisms from being separated, but otherwise identifiably the same language. As this article shows, codeswitching to Hebrew came in handy for secrecy—as indeed Greek migrants have done elsewhere.

Is Mykonos considered as a magical land or it is just a Greek island?

So, when I was gathering materials for my PhD in Greek dialectology, I noticed that Greeks collecting texts would transcribe them in the Greek alphabet (natch), but foreigners in the 20th century usually used a Roman-based phonetic alphabet. Not the IPA, that would be way too sensible; typically some adaptation of a God-awful French or German dialectological alphabet.

Such as Hubert Pernot’s classic on Tsakonian. Or August Heisenberg (Werner’s dad) and his work with Greek POWs in World War I. Or Louis Roussel, and his collection of fairy tales, collected in 1910, and published in 1929.

Contes de Mycono : par Louis Roussel.

The blurb for the recent Greek reprint (and transliteration back into Greek) has it as:

Fairy Tales of Mykonos reveals the other side [of] Mykonos, far from summer scenes and tourist attractions. It is a journey into the past, guided by a French Hellenist and a Myconian folklorist. Panagiotios Kousathanas offers Greek and foreign readers a forgotten book. These lively fairy tales were written in 1910-11, and published in France in 1929. Some appeared in I Mikioniatiki newspaper around 15 years ago. The book is an opportunity to learn about the everyday customs, beliefs and fears of an age-old island population. Three storytellers told Roussel tales of lords and priests; dancing, festivities, and feasts; of girls transformed into birds by wicked witches and of lovers and spouses who incur suspicion. Related to the Greek demotic tradition and to Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, Myconian fairy tales are full of laughter, pain and passion for everything in life: birth, love, marriage, work, the family and death.

Well, that’s the poetic way of putting it. Leafing through it, I saw it reflected a clearly hardscrabble existence, with donkeys and fishing and strict islander morality, and a world not much wider than the Aegean.

My reaction: “So Mykonos used to be a real place…”

If yoghurt is a variant of yaourt, why is the g pronounced?

The <ğ> used to be pronounced, as a [ɣ]. It has dropped out in Modern Standard Turkish, though it survives in Turkish dialect, and in Greek loanwords from Turkish. So yoğurt used to be [joɣurt], which was transliterated as yoghurt. The /g/ is pronounced in that transliteration, because that’s the default thing to do in languages that don’t have a [ɣ].

I just said that Greek keeps [ɣ] in Turkish loans; so ağa = αγάς, bağlama = μπαγλαμάς. But in the case of yoghurt, the Greek form is γιαούρτι, which corresponds directly to yaourt, and has no <ğ> in sight.

The Triantafyllidis dictionary’s explanation (Λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής) is that the  yaourt variant has dropped the <ğ> earlier than standard Turkish did, either because it was Balkan Turkish, or because the <ğ> was dropped in Aromanian—for which their evidence is Bulgarian yagurt vs Romanian yaurt.

How do you say “forest” in Greek?

What Yossi Aharon said. The word is Ancient, but I think there are some indications it survived rather than being revived, despite being a horrible no good third declension noun.

A word no longer heard for “forest” is the Turkish loan word ρουμάνι < orman.

How do Greek people pronounce Thalia?

Modern Greek:

[ˈθa.ʎi.a]. If it was a truly vernacular name it would end up in two syllables as  [ˈθa.ʎa], but it isn’t.

That’s Thaglia, with the gli pronounced as in Italian (palatal l).

Ancient Greek, which you didn’t ask for:

[ tʰáleːa]

Why is Tony Abbott so hated in Australian politics?

Does the Iron Man and helps out with the CFA, does he? How do those small-scale acts of civic virtue qualify you for running a party and a country?

Or, in Half-Term Tony’s case, delegate running the party to your chief of staff, and running your country through arrays of flagpoles?

For the rest, I defer to the majority of other respondents.