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Thread: Where is your native vocabulary from?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Linnea's Avatar
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    Where is your native vocabulary from?

    I speak in a dialect when I use Finnish. People who are not from the place where I live have called my speech quaint and wonderful and praised me for being brave enough to speak in my dialect (insert patronising tone here). Those people were also using their dialect, but they didn't recognise it as such because they thought that was the "normal" way to speak. On the other hand, some older people here have told me the words I use are weird and that I don't speak like a local. My vocabulary and speech patterns are a mishmash. Which is probably quite normal since a society would have to be protected from all outside influences for a dialect to stay "pure".

    I recently realised that parts of my vocabulary come down from my great-grandmother, who died before I was born. She was from another part of Finland and spoke a distinct dialect. These words are mainly the vocabulary of household items, baking and other things related to family and everyday life. I don't use them as much as my mother but still enough to mark my vocabulary as weird to some people.

    English influences some of my sentence structures and the way I use some Finnish words. Words to describe abstract things probably come a lot from reading but I can't tell those words apart like I can the words of my great-grandmother. Personal pronouns and speech patterns on the other hand are local and thus different from the ones my parents use.

    Can you separate parts of your everyday vocabulary by their origin and where you learnt them?

  2. #2
    Hasta Siempre Madrigal's Avatar
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    The places I have lived in have been like this:

    Honduras (0-1)
    Argentina (1-3)
    Vancouver (3-10)
    West Indies, ex British colony (10-14)
    Canada (14-15)
    Argentina (15-present)

    I dunno why my parents did the final detour in Canada. The one year in that hillbilly North American high school was hell.

    Anyway, this means that my English is mainly Canadian, although for a long while, both my intonation and my vocabulary were influenced by what I had picked up in the Caribbean (lots of British words). I never adopted the Caribbean accent, though.

    In Argentina, I rapidly needed to re-learn Spanish, because I could understand it but I had difficulty expressing myself by my mid-teens. To complicate things a bit, my grandparents were from Galicia, Spain, and they spoke a mix of old Spanish and Galician, which led me to believe that a number of old Spanish and Galician words were accepted vocabulary here (something I gradually learned to discard from my vocabulary, not without amusement from others).

    I think that the final result is that I have a neutral Canadian English (the accent of which I believe I have preserved, regardless of what some Americans say) but my English is rusty and I lack the fluency of a native. OTOH, I have a neutral Argentinean Spanish (the accent of which I have never completely mastered, regardless of what some Argentineans say), but I have a good vocabulary and the same fluency as anybody else.

    In other words, I can't say I speak either of my two main languages exactly as a native. At some point in my life, this was a worrisome thing to me, but I don't really care anymore. As far as national identities go, I strongly identify with Argentineans, but I keep some kind of attachment to North American culture (and I wouldn't have been on these forums for so long if that weren't the case).

    There is something to be said of slang. I'm extremely cautious with it in both languages. I think that when a language isn't really yours, you need to exercise some restraint when it comes to slang. I'll naturally use swear words in both languages, but some common everyday words, I consider off limits. Argentineans use a lot of slang, our variety is called "lunfardo", which involves a lot of Italian vocabulary and shortened or inverted Spanish words. This is a slang that in no small part originated in 19th Century brothels and appears in every tango song. "Atenti" means "watch out, "cafishio" means "pimp", a "chanta" is a con artist or fake, "escabiar" means to drink alcohol, "mina" is a woman, a "luca" is a thousand pesos, for example. I use these words rarely or not at all. Considering I'm not exactly one of them, I feel like some modesty is in order when it comes to these very familiar expressions. It gives my Spanish an almost formal quality, although it's hard for observers to pinpoint why. I doubt many people actually think, "Wait a minute, she doesn't use any slang!" But they subconsciously notice the effect. My mother being a Language and Literature teacher, I also say correctly what most people say incorrectly, which alienates me just a tiny bit more.

    My French is probably another mash-up since my teachers were either from Martinique, Quebec or Southern France. I'm blissfully unaware of how weird that must sound.
    Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent. - Mao

  3. #3
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    i'm only really fluent in english. people say my accent in mandarin is OK but i have a lot of trouble expressing myself. my family says my mandarin skills improved a lot after i stayed a little while in montreal since i don't speak french and instead of spending time in the anglo neighborhoods i spent my time in the asian / chinese-speaking ones. that goes away really quickly, though. it's gonna take more conscious study for me or immersion to pick up the skills again.

    whatever my native vocabulary is, it's borne out of my chinese american background. in english, i definitely code-switch between "white english" (american) and another english where i drop a lot of words and unnecessary articles. the rhythm of that is probably different, too. the switch isn't so much of a conscious thing, and depends on who i'm talking to and social context.

  4. #4
    Political Animal ☭ Ⓐ Animals's Avatar
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    Arabic, lebanese christian coastal dialect, (it's the winning dialect) infused with simplistic french and english. My arabic sounds arabic, my french sounds french and my english sounds like i'm speaking under water, how do you pronounce murderer?

  5. #5
    singularity precursor Limey's Avatar
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    I've almost lived half of my life in the US and half in the UK and as a result of the second half being US, I currently retain little of the UK specific terminology. Only in very few places do I refuse to let go of certain turns of phrase, or words, even at the risk of someone locally not understanding what I mean. One example that I like to retain is, "taa" instead of "thanks".

    Ever since I was a young child, I made a correlation between people that had a strong regional accent and a perceived lack of intelligence (right or wrong, this correlation remains). This was coupled with multiple third party cultural references and a general regional accent stigma placed on people where I was born and finally the fact that I have always traveled a lot and actually preferred it when people couldn't tell where I was from, mainly because it's generally irritating to be prejudged based on upon birthplace. This led to me always running my speech through a sort of filter that remains to this day. The filter works for both accent and regional colloquialism, so I'll spell in British English and use their specific words, (though I have no up-to-date slang) if that's my audience.

    In the advent of social media, it can be a bit annoying to have the conversation that I've had in real life for the thousandth time on the subtle differences between US and British English, so I'll often resort to putting in both words to try and prevent it.
    I long ago reached a point where I'd rather convey meaning, than have the conveyance itself regionally analyzed/analysed.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Linnea's Avatar
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    ^
    I don't make correlations between someone using a dialect in Finnish and their intelligence, but some dialects have a tone that comes across to me as stuck up and unpleasant. On the other hand some people speaking like that have told me that I sound warm and friendly when I speak so perhaps they realise themselves that their speech style is not the most pleasant one in the country.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Linnea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Animals View Post
    Arabic, lebanese christian coastal dialect, (it's the winning dialect) infused with simplistic french and english.
    I googled a bit and a lot of the comments about Lebanese dialect said that it's sounds smooth and is lovely to listen to. I would assume they were speaking about colloquial Lebanese since they didn't specify further.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Linnea's Avatar
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    An article about the influence of native language on though: Does Your Language Shape How You Think?.

    A quote from the article: "Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about."

  9. #9
    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    ^^That was an interesting rabbit hole to run down. I think language does focus thought or forces you to think in certain ways. I'm all in favor of coining new words even if they are only ever used inside my own head.

  10. #10
    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Linnea View Post
    Those people were also using their dialect, but they didn't recognise it as such because they thought that was the "normal" way to speak.
    While I agree with you, it's nonetheless the case that a lot of countries/cultures have an "official" dialect of their language which is actively regulated and maintained by some kind of central authority. This can contribute to the perception of some dialects as "normal" and others as "weird."

    I've studied German, where I know this is like official-official. There's a name for the regulated dialect--hochdeutsch or "high German"--and they have panels of university professors and other 'experts' in charge of voting on rule changes and putting out updated guides to using it on a regular basis. I know they officially dropped a unique letter from their alphabet a few years ago, after deciding to make it conform to the global English standard of 26 letters, for example. (Though the letter was only really in use among traditionalist or older people in Germany by that point, the Swiss and Austrians having dropped it already without a formal decision to do so.)

    American English has a less official version of that--part of the reason we spell some words differently than the British do is because of a nationalist movement to deliberately differentiate our language from theirs in the 19th century. (Daniel Webster, of the eponymous dictionary franchise, was a major figure in this.)

    If there's a "Standard American English" then that's pretty much what I speak. Of course, my father is a university professor so I'd have been unlikely to pick up too much of the unwashed vernacular wherever I happened to grow up. The local accent where I grew up (southern Minnesota) is thick and godawful--it's like an unholy mix of the north-Minnesota sing-song vowel pronunciation you hear in Fargo with a slurry drawl that seems to have migrated north from Missouri--but the usage and semantics of actual words don't deviate much from the national standard in my experience. (Except for restaurant employees who fucking correct me because living on the west coast has taught me to say "soda" instead of "paeahp." Kee-rist, just shut your damn mouths.) People do say "ain't" and "y'all" a lot, but I think those have become common all over the country by now.

    Supposedly the western parts of the US historically had more integration between the various ethnic groups of immigrants so there's less variation in accent/dialect and people speak something closer to an official "American" version of English.

    I've heard about some odd regional variants in some of the more easterly states, though--like how Pennsylvanians will use the word "anymore" as a positive modifier to indicate that something has started to be true, unlike the rest of the country where it's only used in combination with "not" to indicate that something has stopped being true. (As in "I've been eating lots of nachos anymore" vs. "I don't eat a lot of nachos anymore".) I think it would drive me up the wall to hear that on a daily basis--it's just so, so, very wrong according to how I learned to speak.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

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