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JUNE, 2008 → ← SEPTEMBER, 2008

Ljubljana. (ɴᴏᴛ ʟᴀɪвᴀᴄʜ; ᴛʜᴀᴛ’s ᴀ вᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇsᴇ ᴅᴀʏs) … Klagenfurt. 21st of August, 2008 POST·MERIDIEM 06:31

I got back Tuesday evening from three days in Ljubljana,, hanging out with Zocky, a friend from IRC. The weather behaved admirably—I had been worried about ridiculous heat, which is reasonably normal in the Balkans in August, and the few days beforehand had been rainy—Zocky and B. were excellent hosts, only breaking out the rifle a couple of times to prevent me for paying for dinner and coffee, and in general it was really fun.

It’s a small city, 270,000 people, a bit run-down, and was a regional capital in Austria-Hungary, so there’s not an astonishing amount to see. Zocky had time to show me around, and I ended up meeting lots of cool, mulilingual, smart people—the place seems younger than Berlin to me, but maybe that has something to do with who goes on holiday when.

On the way there and on the way back, I passed through Klagenfurt, capital of Carinthia, Jörg Haider’s stronghold. Despite the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the Slovenian minority there, superficially the place seems just like any provincial German town, except that I was saying »Wie bitte?« much more than normal.

Word of the day: hvala, pronounced [xˈvala] (with reduction of unstressed vowels in Ljubljana, though not in Maribor) is Slovenian for “thank you.”

The Changing Languages of Europe, Heine and Kuteva 10th of August, 2008 POST·MERIDIEM 01:25

The Changing Languages of Europe, Bernd Heine & Tania Kuteva, Oxford University Press, 2006. On the recommendation of Christopher Culver, I was interested in whether this book goes into specific Sprachbund relationships between Spanish and English—I am constantly finding that English as a first language is a distinct advantage when learning Spanish, compared to my German classmates, and even ignoring the huge overlap in vocabulary. Things like the parallels betwen «estoy hablando» and ‘I am speaking,’ or between «he comido» and ‘I have eaten’, where the German and French [exact] equivalents are minority usages and differ significantly in their structures. (« Je suis en train de parler », « j’ai déjà mangé », „ich bin am Reden“ (which is regarded as colloquial in some texts), „ich habe schon gegessen.“) In that languagehat thread, I remarked that the chronology for the disappearance of the perfect with be in English (cf. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come”) paralleled that in Spanish; German and French have retained their perfects with be without any sign of them disappearing in that time, and I wondered if there had been any work done on Sprachbund phenomena in the two, on the evolution of two geographically close languages (certainly in the New World, if not in Europe) in the same direction.

Now, this book doesn’t deal with that specific pair at all. It turns out to deal with a collection of phenomena in the European languages that have reached their fullest extent in English, French, German, Italian, Iberian Romance, and the Balkan Sprachbund, and documents the historical and modern spread of these phenomena. It makes a good case that this collection of phenomena exists, and was motivated by areal contact; it is well-researched, it cites papers on Irish and on Irish English that I was surprised existed, it goes into the influence of European languages on non-European languages outside of Europe, and in general, I’m glad I read it.

For anyone interested in questions of epistemology, though, it’s a diverting case study. If you read the book with an informed mind, it articulates things that add to the sum of human knowledge and motivates those things well. But there’s almost nothing falsifiable in it, in Popper’s sense. I suppose the same is true of much of historical, comparative linguistics, but I hadn’t read recent theoretical work that was as example-filled and as solid as this is in a long time, so I suppose it wasn’t at the back of my mind when I read up on Popper.

Word of the day: amenazar, Spanish for to threaten, to menace.

Important news. 4th of August, 2008 POST·MERIDIEM 07:08

I gave notice at work today. I’ll be working the rest of August and half of September, and my last day will be Friday the 12th. On Monday the 15th, I start Graduate Entry Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. Facebook rumour has it that we’re greeted by cadavers on the very first day. If you or anyone you know lives on the Luas green line and has a room to rent from September or October, I’d love to hear about it; I’m a good flatmate.

Don’t tell anyone, but my palms were clammy and my nerves were playing up as I gave my notice.

Word of the day: die Schädelhöhle, German for skull cavity.

Last comment from Aidan Kehoe on the 6th of August at 19:56
Mrs. Tilton, well, I’m still here for a month and a half, and if you happen to be in Klagenfurt or Ljubljana the weekend after this one, shout. Thanks for the good wishes; and my Handy does particularly terrible video, not to mention that I would be vaguely scared of being sued by the relevant families.

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