February 26th, 2009

  • wiped

"Owl" in Near Eastern languages

I'm wondering about the etymology of the Persian word بوف (buf), which means "owl." A friend of mine, who is a native speaker of Persian, said that it 'felt' foreign to them. I usually have a good ear for picking out foreign loanwords in Persian (whether from Arabic, Turkish, French, or otherwise), but "buf" doesn't set off my radar. Neither the Hayyim nor the Steingass dictionary claim a foreign origin for the word, so I'm wondering if it's a truly native word, perhaps derived from Proto-Indo-European *ūw- ("owl").

Does anyone have any insight into this? Anyone know what the word for "owl" was in older Indo-Iranian languages (Middle Persian, Old Persian, etc.)? It must not be directly derived from Sanskrit, as the Sanskrit word is 'uluka.'

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I am not looking for translations of the word for "owl" into other languages, unless there's a chance that they may be related to the Persian word.
Fixing the bible

IPA explanation

So, while I do pretty well in my languages, I'm finding myself trying to catch up in conversations here. So I looked up the IPA and found this pdf. Do you know where I can find an explanation for what these symbols are supposed to sound like? I can figure out some of them, but am not sure how an \m\ differs from an \ɱ\
  • oh_meow

Sound merger poll

Poll #1355918 exciting waste of your valuable time

Are you ..

A native speaker of English
A non-native speaker

My form of English is closest to that of ..

Northern USA
Southern USA
Western/ Mid-Western USA
Southern England
English Midlands
Northern England
North Wales
South Wales
Northern Ireland
New Zealand

If other, please state

I merge these sounds

pin - pen
Mary - merry
Mary - merry *AND* marry
Paul - pull
Paul - pull *AND* pool
met - mat
father - bother
cot- caught
bud - bird
look - Luke
line - loin
found - fond
coil - curl
mare - mayor
some other one you forgot

buffer words

I just sent a note to an e-bay seller delicately questioning whether the items I received really matched the description. Because I want communication, not a fight, I used a lot of what I think of as "buffering" words or phrases: "It sort of looks like--" "I just..., is all." And so forth.

And it made me wonder if there's a proper linguistic term for things like that, things which leach out the impact of the language in order to make it less likely to offend in a charged atmosphere. (For instance, when I'm working at the grade school and I move to intercept a kid who's on the playground kicking the wall, with his face screwed up in distress and fury, I sometimes find myself saying things like, "You look kind of angry." So it's not just courtesy, it's any delicate situation; delicacy is different from, say, politeness or respect.)

And it also made me wonder - not least because the person I was writing to is EDIT: [name redacted] a seller located in Hong Kong, and does not write English exactly like I would expect from most native speakers - how EFL students are introduced to such essentially meaningless and yet very functional phrases.
  • joho07


Gemäß der Äquivalenztheorie ist grundsätzlich jedes Ereignis kausal für einen bestimmten Erfolg, das nicht hinweggedacht werden kann, ohne dass der Erfolg entfiele.

colin pile

German grammar/vocab

I just started taking German, and I've got some questions that my professor (not a native speaker, unfortunately, although her husband is; I've asked her these questions and she's never gotten back to me):

1) In series, does German use the Oxford comma (or whatever it's called in German if there's a name for it)? All the examples of series I'm seeing don't have a comma between the second to last item in the series and the und. Is it ungrammatical to put a comma there?

2) A couple of vocab questions: could I use Computerfirma as "software company" or is there a better word for that? Google's translator (I know, I know) translates it as "computer company" but that could be a lot of things. I also can't figure out how to say "property management company" (basically, a company that owns a lot of properties, sometimes including strip malls, and rents spaces out to people like a landlord) and "civil servant."

3) In colloquial time, would 11:45pm be "Viertel vor zwölf nachts" or "Viertel vor null"?

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    Kronos Quartet f. Asha Bhosle: Piya Tu Ab To Aaja
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himawari - shiny

Which language should I learn?

So, here's another "which language to learn" post.

I'm going to be on exchange to another university for a semester, and am thinking what language course(s) to take during the semester; as my own university offers the popular ones like French and German and Japanese as well, I'm considering to take one or two that aren't offered in my university. The choices are as follows:
Arabic, Filipino, Modern Greek, Ancient Greek, Modern Hebrew, Hindi, Latin and Persian.

Persian seems very interesting to me, but its orthography seems a bit hard to learn (and my concern about Arabic is somewhat similar); I'm also interested in Greek and Hebrew because for religion reason (as I'm a Christian), but I doubt it will have much help in reading the Christian Bible; Latin seems attractive too but I wonder if it will be too hard for me, as I don't know any Romance languages (although I have recently been reading Teach Yourself Spanish, but I guess it doesn't count).

As for languages that I speak, or experience of language learning, I'm a native speaker of Cantonese and know Standard Written Chinese quite well; I had been learning English for over ten years; I had Japanese lessons for two semesters; and that's about it. I'm also a linguistic student, if it helps.