A Look at the Incredible Pirahã Language

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the amazing Pirahã language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Muran

Pirahã is a language isolate spoken in the Brazilian Amazon. Recent writings by Daniel Everett indicate that not only is this one of the hardest languages on Earth to learn, but it is also one of the weirdest languages on Earth. It is monumentally complex in nearly every way imaginable. It is commonly listed on the rogue’s gallery of craziest languages and phonologies.

It has the smallest phonemic inventory of any language with only seven consonants, three vowels and either two or three tones. Everett recently wrote a paper about it after spending many years with them. Previous missionaries who had spent time with the Pirahã generally failed to learn the language because it was too hard to learn. It took Everett a very long time, but he finally learned it well.

Many of Everett’s claims about Pirahã are astounding: whistled speech, no system for counting, very few Portuguese loans (they deliberately refuse to use Portuguese loans) and evidence for both the much-maligned the Sapir-Whorf linguistic relativity hypothesis, and violation some of Noam Chomsky’s purported language universals such as embedding. It also has the t͡ʙ̥ sound – a bilabially trilled postdental affricate which is only found in two other languages, both in the Brazilian Amazon – Oro Win and Wari’.

Initially, Everett never heard the sound, but they got to know him better, they started to make it more often. Everett believes that they were ridiculed by other groups when they made the odd sound.

Pirahã has the simplest kinship system in any language – there is only word for both mother and father, and the Pirahã do not have any words for anyone other than direct biological relatives.

Pirahã may have only two numerals, or it may lack a numeral system altogether.

Pirahã does not distinguish between singular and plural person. This is highly unusual. The language may have borrowed its entire pronoun set from the Tupian languages Nheengatu and Tenarim, groups the Pirahã had formerly been in contact with. This may be one of the only attested case of the borrowing of a complete pronoun set.

There are mandatory evidentiality markers that must be used in Pirahã discourse. Speakers must say how they know something – whether they saw it themselves, it was hearsay or they inferred it circumstantially.

There are various strange moods – the desiderative (desire to perform an action) and two types of frustrative – frustration in starting an action (inchoative/incompletive) and frustration in completing an action (causative/incompletive). There are others: immediate/intentive (you are going to do something now/you intend to do it in the future)

There are many verbal aspects: perfect/imperfect (completed/incomplete) telic/atelic (reaching a goal/not reaching a goal), continuative (continuing), repetitive (iterative), and beginning an action (inchoative).

Each Pirahã verb has 262,144 possible forms, or possibly in the many millions, depending on which analysis you use.

The future tense is divided into future/somewhere and future/elsewhere. The past tense is divided into plain past and immediate past.

Pirahã has a closed class of only 90 verb roots, an incredibly small number. But these roots can be combined together to form compound verbs, a much larger category. Here is one example of three verbs strung together to form a compound verb:

xig ab op = “take turn go” or “bring back.” This refers to when you take something away, you turn around and you bring it back to where you got it to return it.

There are no abstract color terms in Pirahã. There are only two words for colors, one for “light” and one for “dark.” The only other languages with this restricted of a color sense are in Papua New Guinea. The other color terms are not really color terms, but are more descriptive – “red” is translated as “like blood.”

Pirahã can be whistled, hummed or encoded into music. Consonants and vowels can be omitted altogether and meaning conveyed instead via variations in stress, pitch and rhythm. Mothers teach the language to children by repeating musical patterns.

Pirahã may well be one of the hardest languages on Earth to learn.

Pirahã gets a 6 rating, hardest of all.

Answers to the Languages of Spain Post

Map of the languages of Spain.
Map of the languages of Spain.

There are nine languages in the map above.

You folks were not able to answer all nine of them correctly, so I will give you the answers.

Pink – Catalan

Light green – Aranese or Occitan (no one got this one)

Purple – Aragonese (no one got this one)

Aquamarine – Basque

Red – Castillian

Green – Asturian-Leonese

Yellow – Galician

Dark green – Extremaduran (no one got this one)

Brown – Fala (no one got this one)

Aranese is the Aranese dialect of Occitan which is either a separate language or a dialect of Occitan depending on how you look at it. Fala is actually a dialect of Galician but it is considered a language for sociopolitical reasons. There is another part of the dark green Extremaduran language which is typically not recognized. This is Cantabrian, spoken to the east of the green Asturian-Leonese area and to the west of the aquamarine  Basque area.

A Look at the Portuguese Language

From here.
This post will look at the Portuguese language from the view of how hard it is to learn for the native English speaker. The European and Brazilian versions of Portuguese will both be looked at in this context.
Portuguese, like Spanish, is also very easy to learn, though Portuguese pronunciation is harder due to the unusual vowels such as nasal diphthongs and the strange palatal lateral ʎ, which many English speakers will mistake for an l.
Of the nasal diphthongs, ão is the hardest to make. In addition, Brazilian (Br) Portuguese has an r that sounds like an h, and l that sounds like a w and a d that sounds like a j, but only some of the time! Fortunately, in European (Eu) Portuguese, all of these sounds sound as you would expect them to.
Portuguese has two r sounds, a tapped r (ɾ) that is often misconceived as a trilled r (present in some British and Irish English dialects) and an uvular r (ʁ) which is truly difficult to make. However, this is the typical r sound found in French, German, Danish and Hebrew, so if you have a background in one of those languages, this should be an easy sound.  L2 learners not only have a hard time making them but also mix them up sometimes.
You can run many vowels together in Portuguese and still make a coherent sentence. See here:
É o a ou o b? [Euaoube]
Is it (is your answer) a or b?

That utterance turns an entire sentence into a single verb via run-on vowels, five of them in a row.
Most Portuguese speakers say that Portuguese is harder to learn than Spanish, especially the variety spoken in Portugal. Eu Portuguese elides many vowels and has more sounds per symbol than Br Portuguese does. Portuguese has both nasal and oral vowels, while Spanish has only oral values. In addition, Portuguese has 12 vowel phonemes to Spanish’s 5.
Portuguese has also retained the archaic subjunctive future which has been lost in many Romance languages.
Try this sentence: When I am President, I will change the law.
In Spanish, one uses the future tense as in English:
Cuando yo soy presidente, voy a cambiar la ley.
In Portuguese, you use the subjunctive future, lost in all modern Romance languages and lacking in English:
Quando eu for presidente, vou mudar a lei. – literally, When I may be President, I will possibly change the law.
The future subjunctive causes a lot of problems for Portuguese learners and is one of the main ways that it is harder than Spanish.
There is a form called the personal infinitive in Portuguese that also causes a lot of problems for Portuguese learners.
In addition, when making the present perfect in Spanish, it is fairly easy with the use have + participle as in English.
Compare I have worked.
In Spanish:
Yo he trabajado.
In Portuguese, there is no perfect to have nor is there any participle, instead, present perfect is formed via a conjugation that varies among verbs:
Eu trabalhei – because Eu hei trabalhado makes no sense in Portuguese.
Portuguese still uses the pluperfect tense quite a bit, a tense that gone out or is heading out of most IE languages. The pluperfect is used a lot less now in Br Portuguese, but it is still very widely used in Eu Portuguese. The pluperfect is used to discuss a past action that took place before another past action. An English translation might be
He had already gone by the time she showed up. The italicized part would be the equivalent to the pluperfect in English.
O pássaro voara quando o gato pulou sobre ele para tentar comê-lo.
The bird had (already) flown away when the cat jumped over it trying to eat it.

Even Br Portuguese has its difficulties centering around diglossia. It is written in 1700’s Eu Portuguese, but in speech, the Brazilian vernacular is used. Hence:
I love you
Amo-te or Amo-o [standard, written]
Eu te amo or Eu amo você  [spoken]
We saw them
Vimo-los [standard, written]
A gente viu eles  [spoken]
Even Eu Portuguese native speakers often make mistakes in Portuguese grammar when speaking. Young people writing today in Portuguese are said to be notorious for not writing or speaking it properly. The pronunciation is so complicated and difficult that even foreigners residing in Portugal for a decade never seem to get it quite right. In addition, Portuguese grammar is unimaginably complicated. There are probably more exceptions than there are rules, and even native speakers have issues with Portuguese grammar.
Portuguese gets a 3 rating, average difficulty.

Mutual Intelligiblility in the Romance Family (Reading)

Just a personal anecdote. I have been reading a lot of Italian lately (with the help of Google Translate). I already read Spanish fairly well. I have studied French, Portuguese and Italian, and I can read Portuguese and French to some extent, Portuguese better than French.
But I confess that I am quite lost with Italian. This is worse than French and worse than Portuguese. A couple weeks of wading through this stuff hasn’t made me understand it any better.
Portuguese and Galician are said to be so close that they are a single language. I don’t agree with that at all, but they are very close, much closer to Spanish and Portuguese. Intelligibility may be on the order of 80-90%.
Nevertheless, the other day I tried to read a journal article on Galician. It looked like it was written in Portuguese, and who would write in Galician anyway? I copied the whole thing into Google Translate and let it ride. I waded through the whole article, and I must say it was a disaster. I had a very hard time understanding many of the main points of the article.
Then I remembered that Translate works on Galician now, so I decided on an off chance that the guy may have written the piece in Galician for some nutty reason. I ran it through Translate using Galician as target. The article went through perfectly. You could understand the whole thing. It was then that I realized how far apart Portuguese and Galician really are.
You can try some other experiments.
Occitan is said to be nearly intelligible with Spanish or maybe even French, better if you know both. There’s no Google Translate for Occitan yet, but I had to deal with a lot of Occitan texts recently. I couldn’t make heads or tails of them despite by Romance reading background. So I tried using Translate to turn them into Spanish or French. French was a total wreck, and there was no point even bothering with that. Spanish was much better, but even that was a serious mess.
Now we come to the crux. Catalan and Occitan are said to be so close that they are nearly one language. Translate now works in Catalan. So I ran the Occitan texts through Translate using Catalan. The result was a serious mess, but you could at least understand some of what the Occitan texts were about. But no way on Earth were those the same languages.
People keep saying that if you can read Spanish, you can read Portuguese. It’s not true, but you can see why people say it. Try this. Take a Spanish text and run it through Translate using the Portuguese filter. Now take a Portuguese text and run it through Translate using the Spanish filter. See what a mess you end up with!
Despite the fact that I can read Spanish pretty well, I have tried to read texts in Aragonese, Asturian, Extremaduran, Leonese and Mirandese. These are so close that some even say that they are dialects of Spanish. But even if you read Spanish, you can’t really read any of those languages, and they are all separate languages, I assure you. Sure, you get some of it, but not enough, and it’s a very frustrating experience.
There are texts on the Net in something called Churro or Xurro. It’s a Valencian-Aragonese transitional dialect spoken around Teruel in Aragon in Spain. It also has a lot of Old Castillian and a ton of regular Castillian in it. Wikipedia will tell you it’s a Spanish dialect. Running it through both the Spanish and Catalan filters didn’t work and ended up with train wrecks. I doubt if Xurro is a dialect of either Catalan or Spanish. It’s probably a separate language.
There is another odd lect spoken in the same region called Chappurriau. It is spoken in Aguaviva in Teruel in the Franca Strip. The Catalans say these people speak Catalan, but the speakers say that their language is not Catalan. Intelligibility with Catalan is said to be good. So effectively this is a Catalan dialect.
I found some Chappurriau texts on the Net and ran them through Translate using Catalan as the output. The result was an unreadable disaster, and I couldn’t really figure out what they were saying. Then I tried the Spanish filter, and that was even worse. I am starting to think that maybe Chappurriau is a separate language as its speakers say and not a Catalan dialect after all.
I conclude that the ability to cross read across the Romance languages is much exaggerated.
Not only that, but many Romance microlanguages, transitional dialects and lects that are supposedly dialects of larger languages may actually be separate languages.

Does Language Learning Carry Over to New Languages?

Not nearly as much as one might think.

For instance, I am relatively well versed in the Romance languages. I can read Spanish quite well, but not fluently. I can read a bit of French. And I have studied reading Italian and Portuguese for a bit.

So one would think that with all that Romance under my belt, I could just jump right into some new Romance languages and read them just like that, right?

Not so fast now.

Lately I have been going through lots and lots of Occitan texts on the Net. Occitan is approximately between Spanish and French. Honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of Occitan. Sometimes I can pick out a bit of information that I am looking very hard for, but mostly I just throw up my hands. My online translator calls Occitan “Catalan” and tries to translate it into English. Some say that Catalan and Occitan are one language. According to my translator, that is not so. Running the Catalan translator through Occitan fixes it up a bit, but it still leaves a gigantic steaming mess on the page. It’s nearly useless.

With Portuguese, Spanish and French, one would think Catalan would be a breeze, right? Think again. My translator is almost always able to grab it, but sometimes it can’t. When it can’t, I am stuck with Catalan and I am well and truly lost. Once again, I just throw up my hands. Obviously, it looks like some kind of Iberian language, but it’s so screwed up and crazy that you just don’t want to bother with it.

It’s said that Aragonese is nearly a Spanish dialect. Intelligibility is on the order of 80%. But try reading an Aragonese text sometime. It’s clearly derived from something like Spanish, but it’s so screwed up and crazy that you just want to run away from it. Try to read it and you are quickly lost and angry. My online translator thinks that Aragonese is Spanish. Run Aragonese through the Spanish translator and it fixes it up a bit, but it still a crazy mess and you can’t make a lot of sense of it.

Galician is a sort of Portuguese-Spanish hybrid that is often intelligible to many Spanish speakers. But don’t bother with trying to read Galician texts. They’re a frustrating mess. I dipped into it a bit, but it’s so screwed up and confusing that I quickly gave up.

One would think that with a bit of French under the belt, one could pick up on the various French patois of the langues d’oil. Forget it. It looks like a chaotic disaster on the page. The translator calls the various patois French. Running them through a French translator in general doesn’t really improve matters all that much. It’s still a messy disaster.

The moral to the story is don’t think that semi-getting a few languages under your belt is going to help you even with reading closely related languages. Things are not so simple.

What Languages Are You Studying?

Please feel free to update us on your current language learning endeavors, if they exist.

As for me:

English: Native speaker, no need to study anything. In fact, it’s unusual that I run across a word that I don’t know. The most recent one was analphabetism. I bet you don’t know what that means.

Spanish: I have been studying Spanish on and off since I was 6 years old. Studying Spanish is more or less of an ongoing thing with me. We have a lot of bilingual signs and prinouts in our area. I often read them with the English translations to bone up on my Spanish.

I could do better. There is a bilingual newspaper that is issued around here for free, but I never bother to pick it up.

Part of the problem is that when you are as good at Spanish as I am, learning more Spanish (such as reading Spanish papers) is really a serious drag. Spanish as written down especially in papers does not translate literally. Not only are there a ton of not commonly used words, but there are also a lot of figures of speech. In addition, there are lots of phrases, that, when looking at the Spanish and then at the English, one wonders how they managed to go from one to the other. The Spanish-English translation is not transparent at all.

As you learn Portuguese, French and Italian, it only helps you with your Spanish, though the assistance is not obvious. After a while, all Romance just starts running together. You might as well just study Latin and get it over with.

I speak Spanish to Spanish speakers around here on a regular basis. It’s a lot of fun, and they really appreciate if you can speak three words of their language, unlike the French.

The Spanish-speakers who are actually born in Mexico appreciate it a lot more than the ones who are born in the US. I am not sure why that is, but in so many ways, Hispanics who were born in Latin America are much better people than Hispanics who were born on the US. It’s popular to dog on Latin America, but Latin American Hispanic culture is much superior to US Hispanic culture.

There are deep elements of respect, pride, kindness, brotherhood, politeness and dignity present in Latin American Hispanic culture that are almost neutered in US Hispanic culture. US Hispanics are pretty much just typical asshole Americans, except that they happen to be Hispanics. And in many ways, such as the lumpenization of their culture, US Hispanics are actually worse than the rest of Americans.

I’m not sure what it is with US Hispanics, but something has gone terribly wrong. They’ve lost most of what’s grand about Latin American culture, and they’ve replaced it with what’s worst about US culture, in addition to concocting up various cultural poisons of their own. It’s cultural mongrelization of the worst sort, all of the bad, none of the good and a bunch of new innovations, almost all bad.

Portuguese: Past. I studied it a bit in the past when I was hanging around with this Brazilian woman. Now I’ve given it up. I am already studying Spanish and French, and after a while, you are just studying too many Romance languages. The words are so similar that you start getting them all tangled up in your head. You go to say a Spanish word and you say the Portuguese, Italian or French word instead. If you have some Spanish (especially), French and Italian, you get lots of help with Portuguese.

Italian: I study this language a little bit, but not too much. I am not very good at it, but it’s interesting. If you know some French, Spanish and Portuguese, you can go a long way with Italian.

French: My latest fetish is French. I am not very good at it, so I am at the point where learning the language is fun because you’re always learning new stuff. I have blown off verbs and just concentrate on vocabulary. Verbal conjugations in Romance languages suck anyway. Even in Spanish, they can be quite complex.

German: Past. Mostly I just picked up some basic vocabulary. Attempts to run beyond that, I am afraid, run into Hell. I understand that they still have case, and that the nouns are pretty crazy. There are supposedly other difficult aspects of this language, but I am not sure what they are. Learning basic vocabulary is pretty fun though.

That’s about it. For the most part, as a language learner, I concentrate on the Romance languages. They are difficult enough, believe me! Going beyond Romance seems like a gigantic PITA to me. You’re pretty much traveling to whole new planets. Why bother when Romance is hard enough as it is?

A Rather Subjective Analysis of European Minority Languages

One way to see how well European minority languages is if you run a popular website that gets a lot of hits from all over Europe. I run one here on my old site, which is in the top 1200 blogs on the Internet (This blog is also in the top 1200).
If you have a good weblog (a weblog allows a webmaster to monitor all of the visitors from your site), and I do, you can see what languages people are using on their browsers. When browsers come to the site, they are marked with language tracking. I am not sure if that is a language preference for webpages or if it is the language that the browser itself is written in.
Minority lanugages are languages that are not the main spoken language of the country or languages that only have a small speaker base. In this piece, we will be dealing with Irish, Welsh, Catalan, Basque, Galician and Luxemburgish. Those I am quite sure are offered as language versions of the major browsers.
Luxemburgish: Luxemburgish is the official language of Luxemburg, however, there are worries about it due to the small speaker base of only around 500,000. Further, there is a problem in that not enough new and technological words are coming into the language. Most browsers from Luxemburg are using the Luxemburgish language, so the language seems to be in pretty good shape.
Catalan: Catalan is the most popular of the remaining five. However, considering how many readers I get from the Catalan region, very few Catalans are using Catalan browsers. Most are using Spanish language browsers. So the situation of Catalan does not look so good.
Irish: I am amazed that there are any Irish browsers at all, but now and then, we do get one from Ireland. Needless to say, nearly all browsers from Ireland are using English. Still, everyone knows that Irish is in bad shape. Considering there are Irish browsers at all, I think Irish is in better shape than we think it is.
Galician: I was quite shocked to find a few Galician browsers out there coming out of Galicia in the far northwest of Spain. This language is probably in better shape than people think it is. Most Galician browsers use Spanish.
Welsh: Considering that most reports indicate that Welsh is doing pretty well, I was surprised that one almost never sees a Welsh browser. Almost all browsers coming out of Wales use English. I wonder if Welsh is in as good a shape as people say it is considering the dearth of Welsh browsers.
Basque: I have yet to see a Basque browser! If browsers are indeed offered in Basque (uncertain) this is very bad news. I get quite a bit of traffic out of the Basque country, and 100% of the time, Basque users are using Spanish as their browser language. Things don’t look good for the Basque language.
I can’t speak of other small languages in Europe because in general, browsers are not offered in those languages.
This was an interesting little experiment though.

Thoughts on Etnocentrism and “Race-Mixing”

Repost from the old site.

White nationalists tend to say that any White person who dates or marries outside the White race is a “race traitor” who is engaging in “race mixing” and is fostering “racial suicide”. They also say that any such person must be a “White self-hater” with no love or pride on their own people.

This post will examine whether or not that is so. It will also examine ethnocentrism cross-culturally, with a view towards whether or not it is normal. It will also examine the tendency among human groups to simultaneously guard their women from outsiders while the males also attempt to mate with outsiders.

I argue that all of these things are cultural norms in human beings and may have biological or genetic origins.

I’ve been talking to some of my smart friends about this stuff, and here’s what we came up with.

I noted that I have met persons from all over the world. One tendency that I noted among most, but not all, persons, was ethnocentrism, often of an extreme type. They all had a lot of pride in their race, nation, ethnic group, religion, or whatever. In particular, they did not like to hear criticism of it from outsiders.

At the same time, many were not particularly racist. They certainly were friendly enough towards me. These same people, if they were young and unmarried, often combined a profound ethnocentrism with a desire to marry outside their group. In this case, many of them wanted to marry an American, especially a White American.

This would seem to strongly contradict White nationalist theory that everyone who desires to marry outside their race, nation or ethnicity is race-traitor who is full of hatred for their own kind. That just doesn’t seem to be true. White nationalists are flat out wrong. It’s perfectly possible to love your people and marry outside of them.

Oddly enough, people seem to be able to combine an often profound ethnocentrism with a desire to marry out and commit “race-treason” or “racial suicide”.

I talked to one of my friends, and while he is not a White nationalist (he despises them), he admitted that he thinks Whites, specifically Northern Europeans, are superior to all other groups. He also said that he had been in love with a number of non-White women, and he would have gladly married them.

He said that even after he married them, he would probably still have felt that Northern Europeans were superior, even though he loved his wife. He suggested that many people of other races who marry non-group members probably feel the same way.

How can we make sense of these findings?

First of all ethnocentrism does seem to be a norm in human societies. As an example, let us look at a tribe in the Brazilian Amazon called the Pirahã.

This tribe has been the subject of a lot of research lately because they appear to lack recursion in their language. As recursion is said to be a human linguistic universal (or part of universal grammar in the Chomsky-Pinker paradigm) that is genetically coded into our brain, its absence in the Pirahã implies either that they are genetically distinct (dubious) or that the Chomsky-Pinker theory of universal grammar needs a lot of work.

Leaving aside the Pirahã’s lack of recursion for a moment, let us look at their extreme ethnocentrism. The Pirahã have been in contact with Europeans for a good 200 years. During that time, many a missionary has tried to convert them to Christianity. However, for a primitive people, the Pirahã are very scientific-minded, so they have never accepted Christianity.

Anthropologist/linguist Daniel Everett has worked with the Pirahã for 30 years. He originally started out as an evangelical minister to them, but their rejection of his preaching caused him to question his own religion, and he is now an atheist.

He used to talk to them about religion and the Pirahã would say, “Well, who is this Jesus guy? Have you ever seen him? Have you ever met him? Do you know anyone who has seen him or met him?” He would have to answer no to all of these questions. The Pirahã would then say, “So why should we believe this stuff?”

According to their culture, one can only believe things that one has experienced with their own senses, or that someone you know has experienced sensually.

Anyway, this is why the Pirahã have been rejecting missionaries for 200 years now. Not only have they rejected missionaries, but they have also rejected the Portuguese language and modern living, which they have also been exposed to for 200 years. They know what the Portuguese language is, and they know what modern living is, but they want no part of either.

Portuguese language classes have often been offered to the Pirahã, and they attend the classes and pretend to be engaged, but actually refuse to learn any of the language. Some of the children start to learn Portuguese, but as soon as they show signs of learning the language, the parents pull them out of class and refuse to let them return. They don’t want to learn Portuguese! Period!

Further, they want no part of modern culture. They have been told over and over the advantages of modern culture, but they’re not buying.

These refusals are rooted in the Pirahã’s profound sense of ethnocentrism. The Pirahã see themselves as superior to all other races, and they are even superior to all of the Indian tribes around them, whom they want nothing to do with. I’ve seen pictures of the Pirahã, and they just look like Amazonian Indians to me. In my ethnocentric mind, I can’t see how they have anything to feel superior about. But they do feel this way.

From this interesting post in Majority Rights, a White Supremacist site that is nevertheless intelligent, interesting and relatively easy to tolerate, we can see that this feeling is not limited to the Pirahã. It’s a discussion of racism in China. One commenter, who is Chinese, notes that most NE Asian groups see their race, nation or ethnic group as superior to all others, including surrounding Asians.

A White commenter who met Vietnamese students in Europe noted that these Vietnamese felt the same way. Furthermore, he noted that the Vietnamese place strong restrictions of their women marrying out.

The commenter said that a female member of the group that married out to a White man would be considered a whore who was lower than dirt who had just married into a subhuman race, the Whites. But if she married into an Asian group not her own, that would be even worse. She was now worse than a whore for marrying into a group that was even lower than Whites. The commenter noted that the Chinese felt much the same way.

I would imagine many other East Asians, especially the ethnocentric Koreans and Japanese, feel the same.

We really could go on and on here, but ethnocentrism, even profound ethnocentrism, seems to be a human norm. We can certainly get away from it as individuals, but it’s probably always going to be with us. It also implies that the thorough deracination of Western Whites, to the point of deliberate self-abnegation, is simply not normal. Much as I dislike them, the White nationalists are correct on this point.

Another commenter linked to this article, reported in the press as racist anti-African riots by Chinese students in China against African students. To the extent this stuff was written up at all in the Western press, it was as irrational racist riots against innocent Africans by racist Chinese.

The truth seems to be more complicated. A White American who was a student in China at the time noted that the African students were throwing wild parties in their dorms. Non-African males were allowed in, but not Chinese males. Chinese females were very much invited. He attended one of these parties and “rescued” two Chinese women by getting them out of there.

It was common knowledge at the time that the Africans were getting Chinese women drunk and then “raping” them. Whether that meant date rape or actual physical rape is uncertain, but after a while, Chinese students (probably mostly young males ) had had enough and there were days of anti-African riots.

Among the regulations that followed was that African male students were forbidden from consorting with Chinese females in their dorms.

In the examples above we see another essential part of ethnocentrism – “Don’t any of you outsiders dare to fuck with our women. We will defend the honor of our women with our lives and we will kill any outsider males who take liberties with our females.”

You don’t have to study a lot of anthropology or history to see how this line seems to be written all through human history. The horrible stoning of Dua Khalil Aswad, a 17 year old Yezidi girl who eloped with a non-Yezidi man, is an example. She was stoned to death by a crowd of 10,000 Yezidi men for “marrying an outsider”.

One of the best ways to rile up a population against an invader or an enemy is to suggest that “they are taking liberties with our women.” Countless male armies have been roused to defend the honor of the nation’s or group’s females.

We also see this in the Jim Crow laws of the South where Black males were lynched for looking at, whistling at, talking to, having sex with, or raping White women. The image of pure Southern womanhood was to be upheld with blood.

What’s up with this? Kevin MacDonald argues that there are probably dual imperatives operating here. The first is protection of the females of the tribe from mating with outsiders. This is probably done in the furtherance of “ethnic genetic interests.” That is, most tribes probably want to survive for as long as possible as an entity. The best way to do this is to keep outsiders away from your women.

At the same time, MacDonald argues that there is an opposite genetic imperative at work, that the males seek to mate with outsiders, while protecting their females from doing so. MacDonald sees this as attempting to add genetic diversity to the group to make it more fit, but I see it as more base than that.

Probably many of these mating occurred during raids in which the outsider females were raped. In many cases, they were captured as some sort of slaves, brought back to the group, and forced into marriages with males of the group.

In this way, the tribe poaches the women (probably the best, or most attractive women were favored), removes them from the competing group, and brings them into one’s own group. Though White nationalists would argue that this is genetic contamination, it surely was not seen that way. The tribe simply wishes to perpetuate itself, and the genes it utilizes in that goal are not relevant.

In older times, a woman who mated out probably was carted off by invading outsiders or went off with the outsider willingly, and hence was simply lost to the group. If all the women did this, the tribe would go extinct.

Yet males could mate out and still live with the group, since they would bring any captured women back to reside with the tribe of the man who captured her.

Further, by capturing the best females of competing outsiders, you deplete them of their best resource. If you rape them and run off, you force the outsiders to bear the children of your tribe (assuming they raise the child and don’t kill it), interjecting the genes of your own tribe into theirs against their will. It’s a form of domination and aggression of a very base sort.

Racists typically use these facts to try to justify racism by saying that everyone is a racist and that anti-racism is abnormal. This is to be condemned. At least here in the modern West, there seem to be an awful lot of folks that are significantly free of racist feelings, so it would seem we are not genetically doomed to racism.

Modern political correctness argues that the tendencies above, ethnocentrism and protection of one’s women from outsiders, are examples of the most horrible and evil racism.

The Left would simply argue that these are reactionary archaisms that must be swept away via revolution. They would probably throw in something stupid and say that these backwards tendencies are all related to economics.

But it seems so much deeper than that.

Though civilized man is capable of transcending most of his base instincts much of the time, the fact remains that at the end of the day, we are just long-legged bipedal apes.

Any sensible analysis of human behavior needs to recognize that.

Linguistic Map of Latin America

Map of the major languages of Latin America

This is an interesting map, though on first thought it seems unnecessary.

First of all, it makes quite clear how Brazil stands out as the Portuguese speaking state in Latin America. One could argue that this makes them odd man out, but if we look in terms of population, Latin America has a population of 570 million. 192 million of those are Brazilians. So 34%, or fully 1/3, of Latin Americans speak Portuguese. So what at first looks like Brazil’s linguistic isolation may not be so isolating as it appears.

All the Spanish-speaking countries can communicate well with each other, and there is a “neutral Spanish” that any educated person can use when conversing with any other educated person from Hispanophone Latin America. As long as you are doing this, you will both be understood.

Getting down to regional dialects, things do get complicated. I understand that Chilean soap operas, spoken in the rich dialect of the Chilean street, are dubbed in the rest of South America because other South Americans can’t understand Chilean street Spanish. But they are  probably well understood in Argentina. There does seem to be a “Southern Cone Street Spanish” that is harder to pick up as the latitudes move northward.

Bolivian Spanish sounds strange, but it’s probably intelligible in South America. It heavily inflected with Indian languages.

There is a general Caribbean Spanish that can be hard to understand.

The language of the Colombian Caribbean coast can be hard for even other Colombians to understand.

Dominican Spanish is notorious for being hard to understand. First of all, it seems to be based on Canarian Spanish of the Canary Islands, which is a very strange form of Spanish. Into this base went a ton of African words, much more than in the rest of Latin America. Further, it is spoken very fast. Dominican Spanish is pretty baffling to other Spanish speakers, at least for a while. Nevertheless, there is a more neutral form of Dominican Spanish that is widely intelligible to other Hispanophones.

On the streets of Mexico City, a very hardcore slang has emerged, sort of a Mexico City Street Spanish, that is pretty hard to figure out outside of Mexico.

Latin America is interesting in that the rest of the world seems to be learning “English as the universal language,” while Latin America is lagging behind.

I know quite a few educated Latin Americans who barely speak a lick of English. Latin Americans live not so much  in the society of the Western Hemisphere, but more particularly in the society of Latin America. And Latin America is extremely Hispanophone. Everywhere you go, most everyone speaks Spanish. Spanish is a very highly developed modern language with words for everything. Why bother to learn English? What for? To talk to gringos?

However, at advanced university levels, such as Master’s Degree and particularly doctorate level, increasingly there are requirements to learn English.

One would think that Mexicans at least would be required to take some English in school, right? Forget it. First of all, Mexican schools are crap, and they are broke. The elite and upper middle class steal all the money in the country, and the Libertarian/Republican dream minimal state/free market economy hosts horribly defunded and decrepit schools. It’s not uncommon to meet 20 year old Mexicans who dropped out in the 2nd grade.

English is typically not offered in Mexican public schools. It’s only offered in private schools, which is of course where the moneyed class above sends their kids, which is why they won’t pay for public schools (They don’t use ’em), which is why the public schools are crap. I’m sure many more non-Hispanic Americans in the US are taking Spanish than Latin Americans are studying English.

Hispanophones also often do not bother to learn Portuguese. Some of the educated ones claim they can understand it without studying it, but I doubt it.

A lot of Brazilians say they can understand Spanish pretty well (I think they study Spanish more than Hispanophone Latins study Portuguese), but when you start talking to them in Spanish (which I do on a regular basis) it doesn’t seem to work very well. Want to talk to a Brazilian? Learn Portuguese!

As we can see on the map, both French Guyana and Haiti speak French.

I was talking about Haiti with my liberal Democrat Mom once. The general conversation was along the lines that Haiti was all screwed up. She said, “Well, they’re all Black, they’re dirt poor, and worst of all, they’re in the Western Hemisphere, but they all speak French!” Indeed. What do these funny Frencophones think they’re doing in our Anglophone, Hispanophone and Lusophone Hemisphere anyway?

Further, the language of Haiti is not really intelligible to French speakers. It makes about as much sense as hardcore Jamaican English does to us. However, the Haitian elite often speaks good French. They also say they understand Spanish, but I’ve tried to talk to them in Spanish, and it didn’t go anywhere. Often they don’t understand much English either. Want to talk a member of the Haitian upper class? Learn French!

So the Haitians are rather isolated in this Hemisphere, but I’m not sure if your average dirt poor Haitian cares. I suppose they could always talk to the Quebecois, but no one understands Quebecois either.

French Guyana is also a French speaking country. It’s still a colony, and it has a very nice standard of living. Nowadays, colonies don’t even want to go free anymore, as it means a standard of living crash.

As you can see, British Honduras speaks English. There are some other English speaking islands in the Caribbean and some French speaking islands too, but none are marked on the map.

Dutch has pretty much died out in the Western Hemisphere, but it used to be spoken widely in Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean.

The main language of Guyana is probably some English creole, but it’s not shown on the map.

Indian languages are still very widely spoken in Peru (Quechua), Bolivia (Aymara) and Paraguay (Guarani).

Map of the Romance Speaking World

Here is a very nice map of the parts of the world that speak a Romance language, in whole or in part. The main languages covered here are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian.

Nice map of the Romance languages of the world. Click to enlarge.

The heavy Spanish speaking zone is Spain, Rio Muni, New Mexico and Latin America except for Brazil, the Guyanas, Haiti and some Caribbean islands that speak French. To a lesser extent, it is spoken Spanish Sahara and Belize. To a much lesser extent, it is spoken in  parts of the US and in the Philippines where it is a dying colonial language.

The heavy Portuguese speaking zone is Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, other parts of Africa and East Timor. In the latter countries, it is a lingua franca.

French is heavily spoken in France, Quebec, French Guyana, French Polynesia, Belgium and Switzerland, less heavily in much of Africa, especially Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali, Togo, Cote d’Ivorie, Burkino Faso, Senegal, West Africa, Central Africa, Djibouti and Madagascar, less in the rest of Canada, and even less in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Louisiana, where it is a dying colonial language overtaken by national languages in Southeast Asia, Arabic in Northwest Africa and English in Louisiana

Italian is spoken heavily in Italy and less so in Libya and Albania.

Romanian is spoken heavily in Romania, Moldova and Serbia.

Yet More Romance Intelligibility Figures

From here.

I happen to agree with these figures. The figures involve the intelligibility of various Romance languages, spoken and written, for speakers of Spanish.

Intelligibility for Spanish speakers, oral: 77% of Galician, 55% of Catalan, 54% of Portuguese, 25% of Italian, 1-5% of French and many Italian dialects.

Written: 93% of Galician, 90% of Catalan, 85% of Portuguese, 50% of Italian, 16% of French.

As you can see, the figures are much higher for written than spoken language. This makes a lot of sense. With my fluent Spanish and some knowledge of Portuguese, French and Italian, I can pick up a fair amount of the written text of any Romance language.

Orally though, I’m typically pretty lost. The best ones are those that are closest to Spanish, such as Andalucian dialect, Aragonese, Asturian and Galician. Leonese is a lot different, heading towards Portuguese. You get to Catalan and Occitan and I start having lots of problems. Portuguese is way harder than you might think, even with my rudimentary Portuguese. Standard Italian as spoken slowly by say a documentary narrator is a bit better.  Street Italian is nearly useless to me, as is Spoken French, Romansch, Romanian, Italian dialects and hard Andalucian.

It’s very interesting that Spanish speakers can understand Galician better than they can Portuguese, but it makes sense. After all, Galicia split off from Portugal long ago and came under the influence of Castillian. I am not sure which Galician they are referring to here. There is a soft Galician that is used on Galician TV which has very heavy Castillian influence. Even I can pick it up pretty well. But there is a hard Galician of the street and the rural areas that is much harder to understand.

The figure for Catalan is much lower than for Galician because Catalan has so much French influence. Look at the dismal figure for spoken French and you can see why Spanish speakers have a hard time with it.

25% intelligibility of Italian sounds about right to me. Spanish speakers can understand Italian much worse than they can understand Portuguese. The figure for French is shockingly low, but it makes sense, as previous studies have shown that nobody can understand the French.

I would agree that Standard Italian, especially spoken slowly by a professional speaker, is much easier to understand than many Italian dialects, which are actually spoken languages. I’ve seen them on Youtube and I can’t make out a single word.

With my Spanish, my figures for written intelligibility of Romance are not as high as those above, but I’m not really fluent as far as reading Spanish goes. I’m a lot better at speaking it and hearing it. Others have given much lower figures than the one above for Spanish speakers reading Galician, but it probably improves very quickly in a short period of time.

Check Out Galician

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UzwWh91UVc]
Galician is a language similar to Portuguese that is spoken in Spain by about 3.5 million speakers. Speakers are located in the far northwest of Spain in the region of Galicia. Galicia is one of four languages other than Castilian that are recognized by Spain. The other three are Basque, Catalan and Aranese (Occitan). Galician is having problems lately, as a lot of speakers in urban areas are not speaking it anymore, and much of the speaker base is located in rural areas.
Nevertheless, it is still widely spoken outside of large cities, even by young people. There have been some problems setting up Galician-medium schools, as the Spanish state doesn’t seem to want to pay for it. The state of Galicia has not done a very good job of preserving the language. For instance, most of the Galician TV stations are in Castillian.
Despite all of this, Galician is still doing pretty well and should be secure for the remainder of the 21st Century.
Galician is related to Portuguese, but Portuguese speakers are very ethnocentric and crazy about their language, and they have adopted the notion that all dialects of Portuguese can understand each other. This is not the case, as there are several languages under the Portuguese rubric, and even saying that Brazilian and European Portuguese are the same language is getting harder and harder of a case to make.
A group called “Reintegrationists” insists that Galician is a dialect of Portuguese, but this does not seem to be the case. For one thing, Portuguese and Galician are not really fully intelligible. So it looks like the best case is to split Galician off as a separate language closely related to Portuguese.
As long as we are talking about dialects, it really ought to be the other way around – Portuguese as a dialect of Galician. Galician is actually the original language of the area and it preserves the old form of Portuguese-Galician best of all. Portuguese is best seen as a Galician dialect that drifted further and further away from the original Galician language. Galicia has been a part of Spain for a good 600 years or so, and in this period, Galician and Portuguese have drifted further apart.
Galician is now properly seen as a language closely related to Portuguese that has been heavily influenced by Castillian. If you will, a language partway between Portuguese and Castillian. So if you speak Spanish, Galician should be more accessible to you than Portuguese. What is interesting is that Galician and Portuguese have drifted so far apart that Spanish speakers say that they understand Galician better than Portuguese speakers do. This is doubtless due to the heavy Spanish influence on Galician.
In recent times, the Castillian influence has only increased. A Galician group based in Spain has formed to oppose the influence of the Reintegrationists, who are proposing a common writing system for both Galician and Portuguese. The Galician purists propose a purified Galician written language that emphasizes Galician’s differences with Portuguese. They have their work cut out for them.
The video above is from Galician TV. On Galician TV a new form of Galician has emerged that is closer to Castillian than the form typically spoken on the Galician street. Many Castillian speakers say they can understand Galician TV pretty well, but even they have a hard time understanding street Galician. In the video, the female broadcaster in particular is speaking a heavily Castillianized form of Galician. The male broadcaster’s dialect is less so.
They are interviewing a man who represents the Reintegrationist group in Galicia. He is speaking a much more “street” form of Galician and was harder for me to understand. I understood the woman best of all, then the male broadcaster and last the man being interviewed. I understand Spanish pretty well.
If you understand Spanish, you should be able to understand some of the video above, but you probably won’t fully understand it.