Welsh is not as distant as Basque, Maltese, or Apache

Larry Sheldon LarrySheldon at COX.NET
Tue Mar 20 05:00:15 UTC 2012

On 3/19/2012 8:39 PM, Eric Nielsen wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Eric Nielsen<ericbarnak at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Welsh is not as distant as Basque, Maltese, or Apache
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I'm curious and sincere: How does one measures how distant one language is
> from another? We have language families grouping together similar
> languages. I'm just an amateur, but I would guess families share common
> word roots and grammatical structures.
> English, however, while sharing common word roots with its inflected
> Indo-European cousins is now mostly uninflected. How does one measure
> dissimilarity? Is there any standard way of measuring this in Linguistics?

A bit of background here--I believe that if you learn a lot of roots and
fragments and what they mean, you can often figure out what unfamiliar
words might mean.  Since English has an boatload of imports from other
languages this means collecting bits and pieces that turn out to be from
foreign languages (some of which contribute a lot to English and are
"close" in my terminology; some of which contribute little that I
recognize and are "distant" in my estimation.

When I said Welsh was distant, I should have been more forceful in the
"in my experience". And some, like Lakota and I think Hawaiian, were
only recently forced in a a Roman Alphabet so I didn't even think about

But I think when I watch SCOLA or in my travels to places that speak a
foreign language (like Pennsylvania, Daneborg, Boston, the
European-heritage parts of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and some
University lecture halls, I can pick out bits of meanings, where I could
not in Wales.  Or Scotland, come to think of it.

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