Languages and Dialects

What if I told you that there are no linguistic criteria to distinguish languages from dialects?

One person came up with the following answer:
“A language is a dialect with an army and navy” (Max Weinreich)
Max made the point that the definition is dependent on political realities that have nothing to do with linguistics.

The first part of finding a partial answer is mutual intelligibility:
When two languages are mutually intelligible, they are dialects. If they are not understood, they are languages.

This is a very slippery answer because it is difficult to pin down “mutually intelligible”.

A big problem with this approach is dialect continuum:
Language A and B are mutually intelligible. B and C are mutually intelligible. A and C are NOT mutually intelligible. This is supposed to be very common with the Bantu languages.

If you really want to drive yourself nuts, think about the following. Latin is the mother tongue for Romance Languages;
wikipedia’s list of Romance Languages

  • Ibero-Romance: Portuguese and Galician, Mirandese and Asturian-Leonese, Spanish, Aragonese
  • Occitano-Romance: Catalan, Occitan
  • Gallo-Romance: Langues d’oïl (including French), Franco-Provençal
  • Rhaeto-Romance: Romansh, Ladin, Friulian
  • Gallo-Italic languages
  • Venetian
  • Italo-Romance: Corsican, Italian, Neapolitan, Sicilian
  • Sardinian
  • Dalmatian (extinct)
  • Romanian: Daco-Romanian, Istro-Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian.

At some point each would have been a dialect of Latin, later becoming a separate language. The next time someone mentions romance languages, ask them when each transitioned from a dialect to a separate language.

Water Margin Tales from the Marsh

Water Margin Tales from the Marsh
a/k/a Outlaws of the Marsh
Shi Naian

I am tackling the Chinese classics, in English translations, to get a glimpse of the roots of Chinese culture and thinking. This book helps me towards that goal.

It is considered one of the four great Chinese Classical Novels. The edition I read was translated by Sidney Shapiro with additional edits and revisions by Collinson Fair. The Kindle edition: link.

While I didn’t want to spend money, I also did not want to deal with a less than pristine translation. I felt that the subject matter warranted a good solid version. There are 70 chapter, 100 chapter, and 120 chapter versions of this book. This version is the 100 chapter version that ends with the death of the main character. The 120 chapter version has a materials that were added long after the fact and I don’t personally regard them as part of the original story. Maybe one day I will read a 120 chapter version, but not now.

“Classical Novels” may not mean exactly what you think it means. This particular tome, while written sometime in the 1300s, was written in common vernacular NOT classic style. In this case, “classical”, means very widely read and accepted and accepted as a national treasure. In other words the book itself is a classic but the style it was written in was not.

I have finished the book. While it did seem exceeding lengthy, it was not difficult reading.

The first two thirds of the books relate to the criminal fraternity and their dealing with local issues. Most killing and robbing. The last third relates to military campaigns against foreign encroachment.

The criminals are bad guys who do bad things but who have their own code of chivalry, a “gallant fraternity”. They are murderers, arsonists, thugs, and God knows what else. They are also loyal to the emperor and act on Heaven’s behalf. Think of a really big bunch of Robin Hood types with more blood lust and murderous intent who understand the true art of bribery.

I will let selected quotes give you an idea of the book;
“Truly, flowers open, only to be blown down by the wind.”
“…star can only fly down, it can never fly back.”
“Life and death are man’s destiny. Why take it so hard? There are important matters awaiting your attention.”
“In these times it doesn’t pay to be too proper.”
“The two spoke of feats of good fellows in the gallant fraternity, of deeds of murder and arson.”
“Of all the thirty-six possible solutions, the best one is— leave.’ Get out, quickly! Don’t delay!”
“‘With money you can reach even the gods.’ A bitter truth indeed.”

I did like the fact that there is a reference to a puppet show or play related to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the book. Even back then, authors gave props!

What appears so simple on the surface, has a lot of texture and shadows. I will need to finish the other three classics before I put any real thought into this book’s meanings.

Gee Pope, I’m seeing a wall

I hate to be a buzz-kill, but I’m seeing a wall on the outside of Vatican City…

Vaticane mura 2

I guess only the United States should take in the unwashed masses. The Pope is far too busy praying for a calculator with more digits for his accountants…

Strange how the people with the biggest walls keep telling us we don’t need one.

USA Pope Visit 2015

I was brought up Protestant and I am a practicing atheist. This guy is NOT my problem!

My observations in no particular order;

His political stances add new meaning to the punchline: “Is the Pope Catholic?”

Isn’t the Vatican surrounded by big walls with Swiss troops inside to keep order?

Doesn’t the church have a bunch of money, precious works of art, and incredibly valuable assets? Why should we support the “pilgrims” while the Pope lives in the ultimate gated community sitting on a massive stack of assets? Hypocrisy anyone?

Aren’t there Christians being slaughtered all over the Middle East? Hasn’t that been the case for the last few years? Isn’t it interesting that this Pope is so busy helping the Islamics that he “forgets” the Christians? I guess that is one way to make sure you have martyrs.

After listening to the Pope, I have to say that I am sure that my Spanish is better than his English.

Those who support liberation theology are vile useful tools of those who would reach into my pocket to support the lazy, the stupid, and the corrupt. The Pope is a big believer in liberation theology.

I am ready to see the Catholic Church taxed. Since they are advocating political stances, they can start paying the freight.

The Four Great Chinese Classical Novels

The four great Chinese classical novels;

  1. Water Margin Tales of the Marshes (14th century)
  2. Romance of the Three Kingdoms (14th century)
  3. Journey to the West (16th century)
  4. Dream of the Red Chamber (18th century)

The books are between 580 pages and 1400 pages.

In order to get a better idea of the roots of Chinese thinking, I have started reading the first of the four great Chinese classic novels, Water Margin Tales of the Marshes (English translation). The reading is light an interesting. It is filled with lots of chapters that each have a few pages.

After I have finished them, I will post my observations.

An Arab in the Netherlands hates Oktoberfest

Morad Almuradi, writing from the Netherlands, has posted a petition on

“I would like to inform you that the Oktoberfest is an Intolerant and Anti-Islamic”

“The cancellation of the Oktoberfest event will help refugees not to forget their Islamic history.”

Okay. Do I need to bother commenting? All I am going to say is that EVERY war in the world has at least one major faction that is Islamic.

“Islamic history” can be easily remembered by lining up any Islamic that wants to cancel Oktoberfest and shipping them back to that murderous cesspool they came from. If they are Islamic, that is the only type of place they come from!

Here is another link that shows the current happenings with the supposedly Syrian “”:

I would usually put in a disclaimer about there being good Islamics, blah, blah, blah, but NEVER AGAIN!

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
-George Orwell