New York’s Language Ark

Below is an article from the New York Times found and suggested by Brad B., a pre-eminent language expert and a Dialect regular.

Enjoy! 

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Listening to (and Saving) the World’s Languages

by Sam Roberts – published April 28, 2010

Valnea Smilovic, 59, left, with her mother, 92, in Queens.
They still speak Vlashki, a language spoken by the Istrians.
photo by James Estrin

The chances of overhearing a conversation in Vlashki, a variant of Istro-Romanian, are greater in Queens than in the remote mountain villages in Croatia that immigrants now living in New York left years ago.

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Word of the Week: Work Jumbie

Here’s a few Trinidadian/Tobagan words that seem fun.  I cannot vouch for their autheticity however.  I also can’t speak to the etymology of these words but I’ll at least note that, given Trinidad’s mixed linguistic heritage, these words could be from English, French or French Patois, Spanish, a South Asian or African origin, or possibly Arabic,  Chinese, or an indigenous language (unknown to me). 

Belly Full – A very heavy cake made up of left-over cakes and was sold for four cents.  Also GRATATAN, CHES’ PROVOKER.

Gimmie-Gimmie – A ‘disease’ that strikes greedy persons who always want you to give them everything you have. 

Obzokee or Obzokie  – Clumsey.  Bull in a China shop.  Ungainly. Awkward in appearance. Anything bent or twisted out of shape. 

Vup – In cricket to swing the bat as hard as possible. A wild vup – to do the same but with the eyes closed, and hoping to hit the ball with some luck.

Wine – to rotate the waist and hips in a suggestive manner.  Winer gyul – Winer girl.  Any female who takes the art of wining to extreme ends, especially at Carnival time. 

Work Jumbie – A ‘work-a-holic.’

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Taken from Cote ce Cote la: Trinidad & Tobago Dictionary by John Mendes circa 1986

Danza Negra

Danza Negra

The following poem is a rhythmic song that’s going to be a really fun piece.  First, we are going to learn how to sing the song or poem using a certain cadence.  Second, we will read the poem in that manner.  Following this, you can read my translation.  In translating the poem, I employed my beginner level Spanish skills as well as a heavy dose of artistic license. We will discuss my word choices and interpretation and your preferences in the commentary.  Lastly, there’s a word about what I know of the origins of the poem and my perspective on the subject.

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