Re: FYI: The world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts

Philippe Verdy verdy_p at
Wed May 13 05:37:44 CDT 2015

Italian and Portuguese are difficult to understand between each other
(especially in speech: Italians speak really too fast)

On the opposite, exchanges between Standard French and Iberian Portuguese
is really easy, with low time of adaptation, either for native French
coming in Portugal for the first time, or native Portugueses coming in
France. Also there's not much difficulties between French Guiana and Brazil
for the two regional variants of the two "standard" languages.

Native Portuguese ans native French use approximately the same syntaxic
structure, similar phonology, similar rythms, and there's a large common
lexicon (also with imports from alsmost the same set of modern foreign
languages or historical languages), if this still does not work, reading
remains easy, and beside minor grammatical termination differences the
lexical roots are the same for most words, many words in Portuguese are
borrowed directly from French with very minor changes; the creation of new
words also use a similar system of prefixes and suffixes which are nearly

This is not true with modern Italian that has accumulated lots of phonetic
transforms since Latin, and that has mixed very different sets of regional
minority languages. And where the transformation of meanings (creation of
new lemmas of the same term, creation of irregular words composed by fusion
and many mutations) was much deeper in Italian than in French and
Portuguese (which were more conservative).

But if we speak about Hindi and Urdu, for long it was considered the same
language in speech (the writing systems in Urdu were separated only for
religious reasons, but religious texts could not be read by a vast majority
of people in India. They were really splitted in two languages only when
education and litteracy progressed a lot sarting in the middle of the 20th
century, and after the indepedence of India, then the separation of

So the practical difficult differences are only for the written script, but
as Urdu is also spoken in India, it is also still written with the
Devanagari script (in which case it becomes relatively easy to read by
native Hindi readers). Arabic-Devanagari Transliterators are still heavily
used for Urdu in India. But if Urdu native speakers don't want Hindi, they
choose to communicate in English (as a de facto interchange language
understood by both communities in India, but also by many Urdu speakers in

For many things, Urdu and Hindi are in a situation quite similar to Serbian
Cyrillic vs.Croatian (and the Serbian Latin transliteration is often named
"Serbocroatian" and can be used also as an interchange language. Bosnian
(or more recently Montenegrin) is also in the middle, extremely similar to
Serbian Latin (for now the separation is not really justified, except for
political reasons, but not cultural reasons (the attempt to separate them
is made by artificially introducing neologisms that many people don't know
or use correctly, or by inventing new orthographic rules that few people
know or follow exactly; mass medias cannot really help because they are
overwhelmed by medias in other major languages, or because medias in all
these newly intriduced languages are spread over the same regions, local
medias are not powerful enough to have a decisive audience that can
influence rapidly the evolution to separate languages, and even if they
exist, they often ignore the new artificial rules. In that region, many
people belonging to distinct communities have to interchange contents
everyday; and the time were Serbocroatian was still a single language is
not very old; even if the Cyrlliic script is prefered in Serbia, it is
still not the only standard and most people also use the Latin script
easily for the same language, and translitterators are also doing good job
with only very minor differences remaining with the standard orthography of
Serbian in each script).

2015-05-13 11:24 GMT+02:00 Jonathan Rosenne <jonathan.rosenne at>:

> I have two comments:
> - if Hindi and Urdu are counted together, why not Italian and Portuguese?
> - According to a lecture some time ago by a Israel professor (I forgot his
> name), there are 80 languages actively used in Israel, including Hebrew,
> Arabic, English (both varieties), Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish, Ladino,
> Tagalog, most European languages, and various African and East Asian
> languages used by the large number of refugees from Africa and foreign
> workers from East Asia.
> Best Regards,
> Jonathan Rosenne
> 054-4246522
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Unicode [mailto:unicode-bounces at] On Behalf Of
> dzo at
> Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 1:47 AM
> To: Karl Williamson; Unicode; Mark Davis ☕️; Unicode Public
> Subject: Re: FYI: The world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts
> And a tangent, picking up on a complaint that Swahili wasn't represented
> on one of the 7 WaPost graphics:
> Two other recent posts on this blog ("Beyond Niamey") critique the Africa
> part of a set of graphics/maps of "Second Most Spoken Languages Worldwide"
> (on the Olivet Nazarene University site) - another thought-provoking effort
> that could inform better if redone.
> Don Osborn
> ------Original Message------
> From: Karl Williamson
> Sender: Unicode
> To: Mark Davis ☕️
> To: Unicode Public
> Subject: Re: FYI: The world’s languages, in 7 maps and charts
> Sent: May 12, 2015 6:19 PM
> On 05/12/2015 03:05 PM, Mark Davis ☕️ wrote:
> >
> > //////
> And a critique:
> Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
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