February 28, 2005

Nerdiness pissing contest begins... now!

My Sanskrit book came in the mail on Friday. It's much better than the old one; it's actually a textbook divided up into lessons -- the alphabet, conjugation, cases, special usages -- with exercises for each lesson. I spent most of my weekend hunched over the first lesson, copying alphabets and memorizing consonant clusters. It's going reasonably well. I can transliterate words from the Roman alphabet to the Devanagari alphabet and vice versa without having to look up more than about one letter in five, and, and this is cool, I can do all of my looking-up in an alphabet table that doesn't have the pronunciation guide. Actually, by any reasonable definition of "cool", it's not, but I am proud of it. Gimme back my propeller hat.

So this is my favorite thing. Here we've got a 5,000-year-old mostly-dead South Asian language that nobody, flat nobody, speaks as a first language anymore. At the very best it's what the textbook lovingly calls a "living second language" that people still use for literary and religious purposes. My native tongue, on the other hand, is a young, vibrant Germanic language that's already spoken by half the planet and is being progressively forced on everybody else. One of these two languages is impossible to learn right from the start; its vocabulary is an impenetrable mass of complicated spelling systems, in which educated guesswork won't help you piece words together. The other is beautifully simple; the same combinations always yield the same syllables with the same pronunciation, because the words are all derived from the same language family. So, then, of these two choices, English is the one sweeping the world why?

Hey, no, wait! That's my lunch money! Hey, I need that! Oh no... no... not a wedgie! Noooooooo!

Posted by dianna at February 28, 2005 02:37 PM

That is so awesome. I forgot you were learning Sanskrit. I want to learn other languages so bad. I won't, though.

Posted by: jason s at February 28, 2005 07:54 PM

It is awesome, thank you. I despair, though. Did you know that Sanskrit has four Ns, two Ms, and, my favorite, three Rs of which two are actually vowels? That last one hurts me.

Will you not learn languages because of being busy, or because of being lazy?

Posted by: Dianna at March 1, 2005 10:07 AM


okay, how would you pronounce it?

Posted by: katie at March 1, 2005 10:44 AM

Depends on where the dots are. See, if there's a dot UNDER the N, then that's pronounced like a regular N but with a little bit of an R at the beginning. If there's a dot OVER the N, then it's like "ng". If there's a tilde over the N, then it's "nyuh", and if there's no dot then you try to say a regular N but with your tongue between your teeth. Then we get to the Rs, where there's either a dot underneath or no dot underneath, and there may or may not be a horizontal line over it.

So I'd pronounce it "fuck it, that's why I'm learning to read this stuff, not speak it".

Posted by: Dianna at March 1, 2005 10:48 AM