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Do similar languages really count as distinct languages?


Ernesto
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Or are they just variations of one language? I am sure linguists would disagree but for me, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian (perhaps French also) are just variations of Latin. Speaking Spanish and Portuguese is not two languages proper but speaking one language with two different set of standards as far as I see it.

I have a Bulgarian friend who had no difficulty learning Russian and a host of other Slavic languages. Added to English and French which he studied in school and that leaves him with about seven languages he can put in his CV and give people the appearance of a genius. He has no difficulty confessing that it is a bit "cheating" and that many Slavic languages are actually the same given different name just out of nationalistic fervor (as in Serbian and Croatian).

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Well for me, the fact that they are not 100% identical in use and meaning means that it's technically a different language, but with the same origins, never mind if the language is similar in many ways. The differences make it technically a different language.

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I'm not sure about Slavic languages but when I was in high school I had no issue learning the structure of French because it was so similar to Spanish.  My mom worked with a couple where her friend spoke Spanish while his girlfriend spoke a dialect of Portuguese influenced Spanish.  So they would get into arguments and then have to stop and speak in English because they didn't quite understand what the other said.  Most of the Romantic languages are derived from Latin so I can understand how you came to that conclusion. So I do agree that some languages are really variations of the same language.

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Scots should definitely be considered a different language to English. I'm sure the difference is greater than between Swedish and Norwegian for example. On a spoken level, they are practically unintelligible. People rarely write in Scots, but Someone speaking Scots will not be understood even by other Brits who have frequently interacted with Scots speakers.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have trouble with categorizing and defining everything too. I know how they are all officially considered but I don't always understand the reasoning behind them too like you. We have multiple different dialects in our country and they all might as well be called different languages because they are so far off of our own national language but somehow they are just dialects. I think Cantonese and mandarin are alright to be considered dialects because they are Chinese. 

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Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian may have originated from Latin but they have certainly come into their own. Portuguese, for one, has two major branches - Brazilian Portuguese and the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. There are a lot of things in common among these languages but they are certainly distinct languages that requires individual study. I agree, though, that it will be easier to study French or Italian if you know Spanish because then you'll know that verbs are conjugated according to number and gender and that everything has gender, including tables and chairs. But then, French would be more difficult to learn because of the liaisons and elisions.  

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11 hours ago, babelle said:

Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian may have originated from Latin but they have certainly come into their own. Portuguese, for one, has two major branches - Brazilian Portuguese and the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. There are a lot of things in common among these languages but they are certainly distinct languages that requires individual study. I agree, though, that it will be easier to study French or Italian if you know Spanish because then you'll know that verbs are conjugated according to number and gender and that everything has gender, including tables and chairs. But then, French would be more difficult to learn because of the liaisons and elisions.  

I am aware of this liaison problem for Spanish speakers who want to learn French and find it really odd, since I have the exact reverse problem with Spanish. I learned French first and in Spanish my mind just have a problem processing all the "se que es" etc which are just never concatenated like in French and one just ends up with over-abundance of "S"s and that is the single biggest problem for me currently when it comes to understanding oral Spanish when spoken at a fast pace (which sadly is 90% of the time :P).

 

The liaison thing is more of a hearing problem for Spanish speakers IMO since your mind is setup to process syllables differently, but for me I find the French liaison much more logical, and helps you avoid so many spelling errors. 

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I think that similar languages are still quite different. I knew someone who said that he had an easier time learning Portugese after he stopped considering it a bastardized version of Spanish. 

I understand quite a bit of French but if I listen to some of my friends from Haiti speak Creole I can have a pretty hard time understanding it. The way they are written is completely different too. An English speaker could read Creole as it is written and sound quite a bit like they knew what they were reading. If they would try to read French it would sound pretty ridiculous. 

I can read French and understand it quite well but Spanish is really hit and miss. 

I believe that just because languages share roots does not mean they are the same. 

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Yes, even if languages are similar, they count as different languages in my view. There are a lot of similarities between many different languages, but the accents, variations, spelling, etc make every single one different. So yes, even the languages that are really similar do count as seperate languages because there are many nuances and intricacies that make them unique and different from one another.

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These languages are quit distinct. If they weren't the speakers of these languages would understand each other without much difficulty, which they don't. Their bases might be the same but since Latin is divided into three different eras early, middle and late Latin, some languages will use the words of certain periods instead of others. Spanish has a lot of words from middle Latin while the other Latin languages tend to use words from the late Latin era. All this with local words and distinctive pronunciations make them different languages.

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It depends, but they either are or aren't. I find it quite weird how Frisian gets to be a separate language while it's pretty much a ''heavy'' dialect of Dutch, even though the locals will act nationalistic and say it's not. Meanwhile, the Irish have accents that are barely understandable to native English speakers, yet they are still speaking English. Obviously, it still won't matter what you and I think counts as a separate language, no one is going to change their centuries-old languages.

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