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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Tuesday April 15, 2008
06:26 AM

Worse than Welsh

[ #36157 ]

I've discovered a European language that is even more confusing to pronounce than Welsh (Cymraeg) - Croatian (Hrvatski)

Welsh only has the appearance of "hunt-the-vowel" - for example


but once you know that w is a vowel in Welsh (with a u sound) you're sorted.

Whereas it turns out that Croatian has entire syllables without vowels. There's one above - Hrv has a rolled r in place of a vowel. Wah!

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  • Since Serbo-croatian (srpskohrvatski) doesn't technically exist any more, just add Serbian (srpski) and Bosnian (bosanski) to your list. Serbian gets a leg up for me since it has both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets with differing sort orders. For example, the Cyrillic Ш is equivalent to the Latin Š, but Ш is at the end of the Cyrillic alphabet while Š comes in just after S. That must certainly make SQL "order by" statements fun and exciting.
  • I guess the 'r' acts as a syllable itself, though. "errrrrh"

    I wonder what all in English is difficult for non-English speakers. I'm sure the 'r' sound is, for one, as that seems to differ in a lot of languages (English (even American vs. British can be different), French (who sometimes approximate English 'r' with a 'w'), German (trills), Spanish (like a soft 'd'), Czech ("rzh" as in Dvorak), Chinese (a mixture of l and r) that I can think of all have different 'r' sounds).

    • I guess the 'r' acts as a syllable itself, though. "errrrrh"

      Too bad it isn't more like "arrrrrrrr" because the pirates would have found the perfect language then.

    • German (trills)

      Rather guttural [ʀ] most of the time, or [ɐ] at the end of syllables. Russian's got trills.

      Chinese (a mixture of l and r)

      r in Standard Chinese is not like l at all. It is pronounced like [ɻ], or sometimes [ʐ] at the beginning of a syllable, and has to be carefully learned. [Illustration []]

      • Re: Chinese (a mixture of l and r).

        I guess he was thinking of Japanese. Remember that joke, which, if I remember it, asks a Japanese to repeat 'Flied lice' knowing they will say what sounds like 'Fried rice'.
  • I'm reminded of StrÄ prst skrz krk [] in Czech/Slovak.

    I think Croatian does them better when it comes to words without "traditional" vowels, though.

    And then there's Georgian, with impressive consonant clusters such as "gvprtskvni" ("you peel us" or something along those lines, IIRC).

    Esli epei eto cumprenan, shris soa Sfaha.
    Aettot ibrec epesecoth, spakhea scrifeteis.

    • I heard this one from a Slovak friend in college. Hearing a rolled "r" used as a vowel is crazy the first time...

      FWIW, is the Georgian pronounced like it's spelled (in English plus rolled "r")?