Languages of the World GeoQuiz Answers
1. ___ Which of the following languages features vowel harmony?
- Uzbek (Turkic)
- Kyrgyz (Turkic)
- Tagalog (Austronesian)
- Arabic (Semitic)
Vowel harmony—which means restricting the possible qualities of vowels in a word to all front or all back vowels—is typical of many Uralic and Turkic languages. Uzbek, however, is different in that it does not have vowel harmony, due most likely to influences of Iranian languages, especially Tajik. For example, the word for ‘bridge’ in Uzbek is ko’prik: the first vowel, [o] is pronounced with the tongue in the back position, and the second vowel, [i] is pronounced with the tongue in the front position. Austronesian and Semitic languages do not have vowel harmony.
2. ___ Which of these lists contains a wrong member?
- Indo-European languages: French, Lithuanian, Albanian, Farsi
- Indo-European languages: Romanian, Polish, German, Hungarian
- Austronesian languages: Indonesian, Tagalog, Malagasy, Hawaiian
- Finno-Ugric languages: Finnish, Karelian, Estonian, Saami
Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric (Uralic) rather than an Indo-European language. It’s closest relatives are Khanty and Mansi, spoken in Western Siberia. The original Hungarians, or Magyars, were presumably a forest-dwelling Ugric people who later took up a pastoral way of life on the steppe under Khazar patronage and later settled in the Danubian Basin.
3. ___ Languages of the Caucasus are known for which linguistic phenomenon?
- postposed articles
- tonal systems
- rich consonant inventories
- extensive use of reduplication
Languages of the Caucasus, especially those of the Northwestern Caucasian language family are known for their rich consonant inventories. For example, Kabardian features a “mere” 48 consonants, including some rather unusual ejective fricatives, pharyngeals (i.e. sounds articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx, at the back of the throat) and interdentals (i.e. “th”-sounds). Ubykh, a now extinct language, had one of the largest consonant inventories in the world, and probably the largest outside the Khoisan languages – a whopping 81 consonants (according to some analyses).
4. ___ Which of the following statements are false?
- Many languages, including most Austronesian languages, Chinese, Japanese feature either a lateral or a rhotic sound, but not both.
- In many languages from both Uralic and Turkic families, vowels assimilate to each other over intervening consonants.
- Click sounds must have spread from Bantu languages such as Zulu to Khoisan languages such as !Xoo.
- Retroflex consonants must have spread from Dravidian languages such as Malayalam to Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi.
Click sounds originate in Khoisan languages, rather than in Bantu. Because of the clicks, many of the Khoisan languages have very large sound inventories, and !Xũ—with its 47 clicks—is the absolute champion in this respect: according to some authors, it has 141 different sounds in its inventory! Only a few Bantu languages, those that are spoken in proximity to Khoisan languages, including Yeyi, Xhosa, and Zulu, have clicks. Moreover, Bantu languages feature a smaller range of clicks compared to Khoisan languages: only dental, alveolar and lateral clicks are found in Bantu languages, while bilabial and palatal clicks are found only in Khoisan languages. All other statements are true. (A) Mandarin Chinese, Tuvalu, Tongan, and Hawaiian have only /l/; Japanese, Rarotongan, Maori, Rapanui have only /r/. (B) See Question 1 above. (D) Retroflex consonants are characteristic of Dravidian languages, from which they have spread to Indo-Aryan languages; note that other Indo-European languages do not have a class of retroflex consonants (retroflex /r/ in English excepted).
5. ___ Which of the following language groupings do not form an accepted, reliably proven language family?
- Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages
- Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic languages
- Romance, Germanic, and Iranian languages
- Finnic, Ugric, and Samoyedic languages
It has been proposed that Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic languages form a family called “Altaic”; however, in recent years this proposal has been challenged. One of the strongest arguments against this family proposal concerns the convergence rather than divergence of languages over time: while Sanskrit and Latin are more similar to each other than Hindi and Italian, older forms of Tungusic, Turkic and Mongolic are less—rather than more—similar to each other. (B) Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic languages belong to the Afroasiatic language family. (C) Romance, Germanic, and Iranian languages belong to the Indo-European language family. (D) Finnic, Ugric, and Samoyedic languages belong to the Uralic language family.
6. ___ Which of the following neighboring languages are written using the same script?
- Hebrew and Arabic
- Armenian and Georgian
- Russian and Polish
- Hungarian and Slovak
Hungarian and Slovak are both written using the Latin alphabet. Hebrew and Arabic are written using distinct scripts, as are Armenian and Georgian. Russian is written in Cyrillic, while Polish is written in Latin alphabet.
7. ___ Which alphabet was invented by St. Cyril and his brother Methodius?
While some sources say that St. Cyril and his brother Methodius invented the Cyrillic alphabet, in actuality they invented Glagolitic, the first alphabet to be used for Slavic languages. Glagolitic and Cyrillic are near-identical in the names of letters, their order, and what sounds they represent. However, the shapes of the letters are very different. Glagolitic was designed to look at different as possible from Latin, Hebrew, or Greek alphabet, whereas most letters in Cyrillic are similar to some letters in those other alphabets. Glagolitic is sometimes still used for Croatian, while Cyrillic is used not only for Russian and some other Slavic languages, but also for many non-Slavic languages of the former Soviet Union.
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