Estonia to crown world's most beautiful language

Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Wed Jan 16 05:35:23 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Estonia to crown world's most beautiful language

The Estonian Minister of Education, Tonis Lukas, has announced a  
contest to determine the world’s most beautiful language.

Lukas is asking children from around the world to send in recordings  
of no more than seven words in their local language, to be compared  
with recordings of Estonian. The winner will be crowned the world's  
most beautiful language. It’s all part of Estonia’s 90th anniversary  
jubilee, commemorating the nation’s first independence from Russia  
after the overthrow of the tsars. Estonia’s second independence came  
after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Each month of 2008 will showcase a different aspect of Estonia’s  
proud history: January celebrates the national War of Independence.  
Though Estonian Independence Day actually falls in February, that  
month is dedicated not to independence but to the country’s president  
(hardly surprising for a former Soviet satellite). The former  
Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, or Eesti Nõukogude Sotsialistlik  
Vabariik, in beautiful Estonian, went capitalist and joined the EU in  
2005, so June will be “the month of the Bank of Estonia.” And July is  
“Local Governments Month,” celebrating free and fair elections in  
this formerly one-party state, which now has more than a dozen  
political parties scrambling for power, much like post-war Italy.

And speaking of Italy, according to Lukas, there’s a story that  
Estonian once came in second to Italian in a language beauty contest.  
The Estonian sentence that won the silver (or lost the gold,  
depending on your point of view) was “soida tasa ule silla” which  
means 'go slowly over the bridge,’ not exactly a phrase that screams  
out “winner.”

There’s no record of who took bronze in that contest, or if there  
even was a third contestant. And Lukas didn’t say what the golden  
words were, but according to, the winning phrase was  
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate,” a bit of Italian trash talk  
that means, “My entry will beat your entry so you might as well give  
up.” . . . .

read the rest on The Web of Language

Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English                                   	
University of Illinois	

608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

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