Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Language/2013 February 24

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February 24[edit]

Symbols in Latin text[edit]

Resolved

I would like to find out what the symbols next to the months are in this Latin scientific text.--Melburnian (talk) 02:41, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

The symbols are the es:Símbolos astronómicos. They can stand for 7 planets, 7 weekdays or 7 metals. I ignore what they mean in this text. --Pp.paul.4 (talk) 04:30, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Ah, thank you, this leads through interwiki to Astronomical symbols. In the linked text above (in the paragraph under Linkia levis) it gives
"D. Ludovico Née mense Aprili Saturn"
What does the Saturn symbol mean in this context?--Melburnian (talk) 05:03, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
According to Stearn's Botanical Latin, in Linnaean usage the Sun symbol = "annual", the Jupiter symbol = "perennial", the Saturn symbol = "woody" (i.e., tree or shrub), the Mars symbol = "male", and the Venus symbol = "female". (Perhaps the occasional use of the Mars symbol by Cavanilles indicates that he saw only a male specimen of a dioecious plant.) Stearn also says, however, that some authors have made somewhat idiosyncratic use of various symbols. The symbols were clearly used because printers had them on hand, not with any specific reference to their astronomical use (except, of course, for the widespread Mars-male, Venus-female use). Deor (talk) 10:41, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for that, "woody" fits in this case.--Melburnian (talk) 11:03, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

Request for Hausa Language in the world languages you mentioned in your web site.[edit]

Hausa language is the language speaking by billions of peoples in the world, why did you not put hausa language in to the languages you mentioned and listined in your web site for translating your data and information as you do in other languages like Enlish, Arabic, Franch and others?. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 41.190.3.41 (talk) 13:16, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

There is a Hausa Wikipedia here, but it appears to contain fewer than 1000 articles. If you would like to translate English articles into Hausa, I'm sure that the folks at that version would appreciate your help. (See Wikipedia:Translate us for guidance.) And, by the way, according to our article Hausa is spoken by about 43 million people, not by "billions". Deor (talk) 13:45, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Hausa is not spoken by "billions"; it's almost certainly under 50 million. AnonMoos (talk) 13:48, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Maybe the OP has a cold, so when he tried to say "millions" it came out "billions" because of a stuffy nose. Angr (talk) 20:20, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Nah, it's probably because we keep getting spam telling us we'll get 'billions' of money from some random Nigerian prince (who has either died, been put in prison, or has forgotten his own PIN number and cannot access his bank account), so long as we send them money to get the deal done, over and over until we have no money left, and we end up in a divorce and having our children taken away. 'Billion' seems to be the only number they know. KägeTorä - (影虎) (TALK) 09:54, 25 February 2013 (UTC)

Trace, track, trail[edit]

In English, a trace, a track, or a trail can all mean marks left by a moving object, such as a series of footprints indicating where a person or animal went. If you want to express this meaning, how do you choose from these three words? – b_jonas 14:19, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

In many cases, any of the three words would be equally correct. "Trace" specifically refers to the actual marks (rather than the route), and the plural is more usual for animals - "This is the trace of a bullet", but "These are the traces of a fox." "Trail" specifically refers to the route rather than the marks - "This is the trail of a fox, although there are no visible traces." "Track" is the most generic, and can refer to either the route or the marks, with the plural being more usual for the marks - "This is the track of a fox" = "This is the route a fox has taken": "These are the tracks of a fox" = "These are the footprints of a fox". Tevildo (talk) 14:53, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Is it Kokoda Track or Kokoda Trail? -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 20:25, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
When a word has political connotations, its meaning is a matter for the politican rather than the lexicographer. :) Tevildo (talk) 22:49, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Thank you for your answers. – b_jonas 09:19, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

Definition of Syllable[edit]

Is the number of syllables in a word a property inherent in the printed word?

For example, can one say by looking at "despised" how many syllables it has?

Or does that word have either two or three syllables depending whether it is said as "des-pised" or "des-pi-zed"?

Thank you, CBHA (talk) 19:44, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

The latter. It's the pronunciation that matters, not the spelling. I'm reliably informed North Americans regard the word "squirrel" as possessing but one syllable; the rest of the world is more than happy to give it two (skwi-ruhl). Same deal with "warrior": N.Am = 2 syllables (woy-yurr); elsewhere = 3 syllables (wo-ri-uh). -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 19:57, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
I agree that it's the pronunciation that matters, not the spelling. I disagree that warrior obligatorily has two syllables in North American English and that it's pronounced "woy-yurr" when it does have two syllables. I'm American and I usually pronounce it in three syllables, though I can reduce that to two in rapid speech. When I do reduce it, it's "war-yer" (with the first syllable identical to the word war, which for me ends in a clear "r"-sound). It gets murky with words like hire and higher, which most native English speakers "feel" should have one syllable and two syllables respectively (because of the spelling and because of the morphology of high+er), but in fact most people pronounce them identically. As a result it's somewhat ambiguous whether that resulting identical pronunciation has one syllable or two. Some phoneticians have described words like that as "sesquisyllabic", meaning they have one and a half syllables. Angr (talk) 20:17, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
What about "draw" and "drawer". I've never heard anyone give the latter more than one syllable, but it looks like it should have two. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 20:23, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
In North America, "drawer" is one syllable, rhyming with "or". But in the rare usage of "drawer" as in "one who draws sketches, etc.", it would be two syllables, the first being identical to "draw". Duoduoduo (talk) 20:33, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
(ec)My North American guess is that most North Americans pronounce "warrior" as 3 syllables and 'squirrel" as 2 syllables (or at least 1 1/2 syllables as per Angr's point). And "warrior", if pronounced as 2 syllables, would be "war-yurr" or, for non-rhotic accents, "waw-yurr". Duoduoduo (talk) 20:28, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
But it sounds (to me) like an exact rhyme for "lawyer". -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 20:39, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
The first vowel in warrior is more rounded than the first vowel in lawyer (even for me, and I do distinguish cot from caught). It's more rounded even than the caught vowel. Not sure how to IPA it. --Trovatore (talk) 23:29, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
  • Squirrel in NAEng has one syllable, the /r/ is the vowel: skwRl, rhymes with girl and pearl. Lawyer in NAEng is "loi-er" and warrior is either "war-i-er" or "war-yer", neither of which is analogous in any way to "loi-er".
It certainly is not true that all, if any, non-rhotic varieties of American English pronounce warrior as 'wɔːjə. Here in eastern New England, it's pronounced 'wɔrɪə or 'wɒrɪə, depending on the exact variety, but three syllables in either case. Rhotic speakers are more likely to say 'wɔrɪər (3 syllables) than 'wɔrjər (2 syllables), though I don't dispute that the latter occurs. I agree that squirrel is usually one syllable. Marco polo (talk) 23:24, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Squirrel is definitely two syllables for me (mostly California but some other influences). One time on a river kayaking trip one of the guides described a certain sort of water as "squirrely", but she pronounced it "squirly" to rhyme with "whirly", and I figured out only some time later that there was any connection with squirrel. But warrior is about two-and-a half. --Trovatore (talk) 23:39, 24 February 2013 (UTC)
Actually, now that I think about it, squirrel does indeed rhyme with girl, pretty much. The /l/ is sort of semi-syllabic in both words. This might be the "sesquisyllabicity" that Angr was talking about.
But squirrely definitely does not rhyme with girlie for me, whereas for my kayaking guide, it apparently did. --Trovatore (talk) 00:32, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
I've read that for many languages native speakers can have differing perceptions of syllable breaks and even the number of syllables, and it looks like this thread confirms it. For example, my perceptions of "squirrel" and "squirrely" are the opposite of Travatore's: for me "squirrel" does not rhyme with "girl", but "squirrely" rhymes with "girly". Go figure! Duoduoduo (talk) 02:11, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
Thank you all. As usual, it is most enlightening to ask questions here.
A couple of supplementary questions: As the various editors pronounce "spelled", is it 1 or 2 syllables? (Or one and a bit?)
Is "dreamed" 1 or 2 syllables? How about "dreamt"? CBHA (talk) 07:14, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
"Spelled", "dreamed", and "dreamt" (and "spelt" for that matter, which you didn't ask about) are all one syllable each. I don't think there's any ambiguity or dialectal variation there (except that North Americans are unlikely to use spelt as the past tense of spell whereas English speakers from other continents may well do so). Angr (talk) 08:24, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
That's a curious observation. All my life I spelt the past tense "spelled", but it was only after hanging around the novomundanians on the Ref Desk for a while that I became convinced "spelt" is the usual spelling these days, certainly in those countries, but pretty much everywhere. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 10:36, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
It's a general tendency in American vs. British English that when there are two alternative past tense forms, one with "-t" and one with "-ed", Americans almost always use "-ed". E.g. (working from List of English irregular verbs) Americans use dreamed, dwelled, killed, leaned, learned, mixed, penned, smelled, spelled, spilled, spoiled. But Americans say either knelt or kneeled, and either leapt or leaped. Duoduoduo (talk) 14:28, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
I suspect (though I am having trouble finding the sources) that much of the American tendency to standardize the past tense to the "ed" form comes from the reforms of Noah Webster, who had a fairly profound impact on the development of American English. Webster introduced many reforms designed to rationalize orthography and spelling, and to reduce the occurrence of irregular forms. I suspect the American predilection for using "ed" in forms where other forms of English use "t" has its roots in Webster. --Jayron32 16:19, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
Killed/kilt is new to me. Next time I see a Scotsman, I'll have to ask him whether he has anything dead under there or whether it's just a kilt. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 19:12, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
Not even "Kilt him a bar when he was only three"? Tevildo (talk) 22:10, 25 February 2013 (UTC)
Jack: be careful with that. There's a rumor that "kilt" is what happened to the last guy who called it a "skirt". --DaHorsesMouth (talk) 03:43, 26 February 2013 (UTC)
Duly noted. I was considering asking him if he'd strangled the dead thing himself or if someone else had given him a hand, but then I figured that's none of my business. -- Jack of Oz [Talk] 04:07, 26 February 2013 (UTC)