I might be a Slav at heart, or I could convert…

I find myself frequently watching music videos from Slavic countries that have a Traditional Family motif. For whatever reason, their language and culture is more stable than those of the “Modern West”, that increasingly embraces insane ideology.

I had ONE 6 unit class in Russian. The simple fact is that many of the students taking the class were from Slavic countries looking for an “Easy A”. So I struggled with the Cyrillic alphabet while they breezed on to much more difficult things. Yet I found I liked the language despite my struggles with it. Compact. Tending toward a Tidy Mind kind of precision in many ways. Yet my Slavic Language Skills are at a primitive level. But I do love it…

HRDZA is a good one,

and then there is this one:

From “Guzowianki – SMAGŁY”. Slavic languages tend to way too many consonants for the vowels in evidence ;-0

Here’s another one (“Guzowianki – Czerwone Jagody”):

The language may be alien, the motif a bit odd, but the culture and values are mine… That said, I “get” at most a few words per video. The content is all visual and in the sound quality for me.

IMHO, any Celt or even German will recognize cultural touchstones in this. (BLM and Antifa and the DNC not so much…) “Guzowianki – Na Jarmarku”

Not really surprising when you consider that the cattle and agricultural peoples who swept over Europe thousands of years ago came from what is today the Slavic homeland of mid-Eastern Eurasia…

These are my people. Governments come and go but the people “just are”.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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26 Responses to I might be a Slav at heart, or I could convert…

  1. philjourdan says:

    It could be that most Slavic people have had a hard life (and while it has gotten better, it is not on the standard of the decadent west). So they do not have time for “Woke” BS. Just earning a living and taking care of their own. Most of the “Woke” BS is from the idle well off in the west. Those who feel guilty because they have not had a hard time, and probably never will.

  2. YMMV says:

    A little less Polish and more Czech?? A little less trad…

  3. YMMV says:

    So sorry, it is Croatia … I think.

  4. H.R. says:

    Nice videos, E.M.

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Glad you liked ’em ;-)

    Nice to see people just living a normal life and having fun, isn’t it…


    Guzowianki, near as I can tell, is Polish. I looked at learning Polish once, then thought better of it. They ADMIRE the “run on sentence” and can spend a few paragraphs before you reach a period… It has some similarities to Russian, but to my ear sounds less harsh.

    The Polish have had a very hard time of it over the centuries, dominated by various stronger neighbors periodically and oppressed. They are also staunchly Catholic. I think both have hardened their culture against outside corruption and internal decay.

    Hrdza is a Slovak folks band. The Slovaks have had a very tough road for a very long time, from invasion by Germans to domination by Communists and more. It is also an interesting language. Fairly mutually intelligible with Czech, and to some extent with Polish. A lot of German and Latin loan words in it too, so a few more I can pick out ;-) Only 5 million native speakers though.

    I’ve occasionally thought it might be fun to learn Czech or Slovakian, but then with whom would I speak it? Written literature sparse on the shelves here too ;-) But it is “pretty” as a Slavic language (at least to me, when sung).


    Per her wiki:

    Lidija Bačić, also known as Lille, is a Croatian pop singer and actress. Bačić rose to fame in 2005 after finishing as runner-up on the second season of Hrvatski Idol. Later in 2010, she released her debut album, Majčina ljubav.

    So yeah, Croatian. FWIW, the major differences in many of the regional Slavic languages are the inventory of Loan Words from neighbors. Some borrowed more from Russian, others German, yet others Latin, etc. Basically whoever was next door or occupied them for a few dozen decades… Many of the core words are the same or highly similar. They do tend to break into “Language Families” based on region. East, South, and West.

    East is Russian and related (Ukrainian, Belorussian…) while West is the Polish, Czech, Slovakian and such. South is down in the old Yugoslavia and nearby, including Macedonian and Bulgarian.

    Inside each group, things are much more like each other. Between groups, the South is more distant (due to a buffer zone between them and the other Slavs of German, Romanian, and Hungarian speakers) so tend to be “more different”… Also had a Muslim Invasion to deal with and that made for different loan words too.

    I like the Western Slavic sound a bit more than the others, but have not had the ambition to take on learning one of them. They are fairly complex. Czech, for example, has a complex sound system (quoting the wiki here):

    Czech has a moderately-sized phoneme inventory, comprising ten monophthongs, three diphthongs and 25 consonants (divided into “hard”, “neutral” and “soft” categories). Words may contain complicated consonant clusters or lack vowels altogether. Czech has a raised alveolar trill, which is known to occur as a phoneme in only a few other languages, represented by the grapheme ř. Czech uses a simple orthography which phonologists have used as a model.

    Then there is the Grammar:

    Czech grammar, like that of other Slavic languages, is fusional; its nouns, verbs, and adjectives are inflected by phonological processes to modify their meanings and grammatical functions, and the easily separable affixes characteristic of agglutinative languages are limited. Czech inflects for case, gender and number in nouns and tense, aspect, mood, person and subject number and gender in verbs.

    Parts of speech include adjectives, adverbs, numbers, interrogative words, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections. Adverbs are primarily formed from adjectives by taking the final ý, í or á of the base form and replacing it with e, ě, or o. Negative statements are formed by adding the affix ne- to the main verb of a clause, with one exception: je (he, she or it is) becomes není.

    Sentence and clause structure
    See also: Czech word order

    Because Czech uses grammatical case to convey word function in a sentence (instead of relying on word order, as English does), its word order is flexible. As a pro-drop language, in Czech an intransitive sentence can consist of only a verb; information about its subject is encoded in the verb. Enclitics (primarily auxiliary verbs and pronouns) appear in the second syntactic slot of a sentence, after the first stressed unit. The first slot must contain a subject or object, a main form of a verb, an adverb, or a conjunction (except for the light conjunctions a, “and”, i, “and even” or ale, “but”).

    Czech syntax has a subject–verb–object sentence structure. In practice, however, word order is flexible and used for topicalization and focus. Although Czech has a periphrastic passive construction (like English), in colloquial style, word-order changes frequently replace the passive voice. For example, to change “Peter killed Paul” to “Paul was killed by Peter” the order of subject and object is inverted: Petr zabil Pavla (“Peter killed Paul”) becomes “Paul, Peter killed” (Pavla zabil Petr). Pavla is in the accusative case, the grammatical object of the verb.

    A word at the end of a clause is typically emphasized, unless an upward intonation indicates that the sentence is a question:

    Pes jí bagetu. – The dog eats the baguette (rather than eating something else).
    Bagetu jí pes. – The dog eats the baguette (rather than someone else doing so).
    Pes bagetu jí. – The dog eats the baguette (rather than doing something else to it).
    Jí pes bagetu? – Does the dog eat the baguette? (emphasis ambiguous)

    Yeah, after learning about the language I decide not to try to learn the language…

    Then there’s this:

    Main article: Czech declension
    In Czech, nouns and adjectives are declined into one of seven grammatical cases which indicate their function in a sentence, two numbers (singular and plural) and three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter). The masculine gender is further divided into animate and inanimate classes.


    But don’t let the two numbers fool you, some things use the “dual” number:

    Although Czech’s grammatical numbers are singular and plural, several residuals of dual forms remain, such as the words dva (“two”) and oba (“both”), which decline the same way. Some nouns for paired body parts use a historical dual form to express plural in some cases: ruka (hand)—ruce (nominative); noha (leg)—nohama (instrumental), nohou (genitive/locative); oko (eye)—oči, and ucho (ear)—uši. While two of these nouns are neuter in their singular forms, all plural forms are considered feminine; their gender is relevant to their associated adjectives and verbs. These forms are plural semantically, used for any non-singular count, as in mezi čtyřma očima (face to face, lit. among four eyes). The plural number paradigms of these nouns are a mixture of historical dual and plural forms. For example, nohy (legs; nominative/accusative) is a standard plural form of this type of noun.

    So while I like the sound of it, no way I’m going to shove my brain through that linguistic sieve…

    Oh, and there are 14 million speakers, but it is divided into 5 or 6 dialect groups, so about 3 million per dialect (Yes, you get to learn 5 different ways of speaking and writing it too…)

    In a 1964 textbook on Czech dialectology, Břetislav Koudela used the following sentence to highlight phonetic differences between dialects:

    Standard Czech: Dej mouku ze mlýna na vozík.
    Common Czech: Dej mouku ze mlejna na vozejk.
    Central Moravian: Dé móku ze mléna na vozék.
    Eastern Moravian: Daj múku ze młýna na vozík.
    Silesian: Daj muku ze młyna na vozik.
    Slovak: Daj múku z mlyna na vozík.
    English: Put the flour from the mill into the cart.

    At least with Russian there’s only really one to learn…

  6. YMMV says:

    Czech … yeah, I’ll not try that one. I’d like to visit the place though.

    “At least with Russian there’s only really one to learn…”

    That’s usually what outsiders think of a country, not knowing about all the dialects! But for Russian, that might be true enough.

    Here’s one in Russian:

  7. philjourdan says:

    Interesting side bar. Apparently the concept of “both” comes from the Germanic side of the language. The Latin languages basically translate it into “the 2”. (los dos and les deux of the Latin languages I know).

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    Russian does have a bunch of dialects, but thanks to the authoritarian government, there’s the one standard language that everyone can use and understand. From the wiki:

    Russian is a rather homogeneous language, in dialectal variation, due to the early political centralization under Moscow’s rule, compulsory education, mass migration from rural to urban areas in the 20th century, and other factors. The standard language is used in written and spoken form almost everywhere in the country,
    from Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg in the West to Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the East, the enormous distance between notwithstanding.

    So, yeah, you can find places with some minor dialect variations (mostly preserving old forms removed from the Standard) but they will understand the Standard Russian just fine. Mostly minor variations in pronunciation and such that will be far far less than the degree to which I would be slaughtering the pronunciation and cadence…


    The Dual is an old form present in old IndoEuropean languages, and preserved most in “conservative” languages with a lot of inflection. Greek has it too.


    Dual (abbreviated du) is a grammatical number that some languages use in addition to singular and plural. When a noun or pronoun appears in dual form, it is interpreted as referring to precisely two of the entities (objects or persons) identified by the noun or pronoun acting as a single unit or in unison. Verbs can also have dual agreement forms in these languages.

    The dual number existed in Proto-Indo-European, persisted in many of its descendants, such as Ancient Greek and Sanskrit, which have dual forms across nouns, verbs, and adjectives, Gothic, which used dual forms in pronouns and verbs, and Old English (Anglo-Saxon), which used dual forms in its pronouns. It can still be found in a few modern Indo-European languages such as Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Lithuanian, Slovene, and Sorbian languages.

    The majority of modern Indo-European languages, including modern English, however, have lost dual through their development and only show residual traces of it. In all these languages, its function has mostly been replaced by simple plurals, although the remnants are evident in the English distinctions: both vs. all, either vs. any, neither vs. none, and so on. A commonly used sentence to exemplify dual in English is “Both go to the same school.” where both refers to two specific people who had already been determined in the conversation.

    Many Semitic languages also have dual numbers. For instance, in Hebrew יים- (-ayim) or a variation of it is added to the end of some nouns, e.g. some parts of the body (eye, ear, nostril, lip, hand, leg) and some time periods (minute, hour, day, week, month, year) to indicate that it is dual (regardless of how the plural is formed). A similar situation exists in classical Arabic, where ان‎ -ān is added to the end of any noun to indicate that it is dual (regardless of how the plural is formed).

    There’s a whole lot of recounting the history of the Dual in various languages and when the lost it in that wiki. Anyone interested can hit the link.

    Modern Greek has mostly let it go, but the Greek of the Bible has it. One of the “changes in translation” is that the Dual in Greek has to have some kind of circumlocution. So when the Greek says “John and Mary” then “(dual) They went”, in English we either just use the plural “They went” or add a marker like “The two, they went” and similar. Having done a ‘deep dive’ into Biblical translation and what it changed, the overwhelming number of changes are Dual to Plural or circumlocution. (After that, the substitution of He, His, The Lord, etc where the original has the Tetragrammaton (YHWH or 4 letter name of God as Yahweh. The Jehovah’s Witnesses make a big deal out of that and their bible has Jehovah where it belongs in the original Greek and Hebrew). In the end, my conclusion was that none of the changes made any real difference at all in the traditional translations (KJV, American Revised Standard, etc.) though some of the Free Translations lose a lot of the flavor and tone.

  9. H.R. says:

    That’s my mom’s side of the family; Tex-Czech.

    May maternal grandfather was 4 when the family immigrated to Texas from Bohemia. He spoke with a Czech accent all his life. They worked as farm hands to landowners.

    Since the area was heavily settled by Czechs, he was slow to learn English. He only formally finished 2nd grade, but he could read English at higher and higher levels over the years; didn’t know the word? Look it up. And he could add, subtract, multiply, divide, and work in fractions.

    At home and around the area, Czech was spoken, and since he only attended school when they could spare him from the farm, thus his slow pickup of English. I don’t know how old he was when they could no longer spare him from the farm to go to school. He was probably about 10 or 12 and could do all the jobs except those requiring the size and strength of a grown man.

    He married into an English-descended family that had also settled into the area. My mom and her siblings were bi-lingual English/Czech but they were discouraged from speaking Czech if any English-speaking people were around. It was impolite and not American. Mom taught us some Czech words, but never encouraged us in the language.
    One thing that’s interesting about the American melting pot is, until recently, all the immigrants wanted to learn English and become American. A lot of languages were dropped for American English by the 1st or at most, the 2nd generation.

    But what seems never to get dropped was ethnic cooking and traditional dishes. Everyone loves the comfort food “just like mom makes” and recipes get handed down.

    E.M., you write about Sunday Roast, Italians have family sauce recipes for pasta, the Greeks and their gyros, Mexican, German, Polish, and so on.

    And most of all, I think ethnic traditional desserts never die out. Go to any town or in larger cities, neighborhoods, where there’s a dominant ethnic group that settled there, and you’ll find some dessert or pastry, say Tiramisu or Pazci or Baklava and such that is better’n any place else except the home country.

    At least, that’s my observation.

    The language may get lost in the kids but the food never does.

  10. Paul, Somerset says:

    My father, born in 1921, came from the area of western Ukraine around L’viv known as Galicia. It had a mixed Polish and Ukrainian population, which more or less got on OK with each other as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, until the latter’s dissolution in 1918. A new state of Poland, which included Galicia, was then created out of the mists of history, and not just Ukrainians, but also Belarusians and Romanians found themselves under Polish rule. I won’t go into all the bloody repercussions of this here, but one consequence was that when thousands of refugees from this outpost of the old Central Europe eventually washed up one way or another in the UK after WW2, they had differing native languages, but all had been forced to learn Polish at school, and so that became their lingua franca.

    Which was ironic, because their deep hatred of the Polish state was one of the main things which united them. (Although, oddly enough, they got on perfectly well with individual Poles who also ended up in the UK as refugees – mainly on account of their shared trauma at the hands of Nazis and the Nazis’ enthusiastic allies in Communist Russia; yes, I know Nazis and Communists ended up fighting each other in 1941, but never forget that the invasion of Poland in 1939 had been a joint Nazi/Communist operation – indeed, it was Communist Russians who shot my grandparents when they arrived in 1939, on account of that pair having employed contractors on their farm, and thus standing accused of having exploited the workers.)

    Anyway, with regard to language, Ukrainian, despite its Cyrillic alphabet, to me always resembles Polish, with its Roman alphabet, more than it does Russian. For instance, “Thank you” in Ukrainian is Дякую, which is pronounced the same as the Polish Dziękuję, while the Russian is completely different (Спасибо). Which is emblematic of how Poles and Ukrainians thought of themselves – as civilized, Central Europeans, with a fundamentally shared language and culture, distinct from that of Asiatic Russia (of course it’s way more complicated than that – these things always are, hence the perpetual wars – but that’s how people like my father saw it). Even today, despite decades under Communist Russian rule, L’viv still looks more like Vienna than it does Moscow.

    And yes, these Slavs do have a sentimental attachment to family, home and hearth. It’s not always a good thing though. It leaves them open to a romantic belief in a rural idyll which never really existed. And it leaves their countries held back by economies impoverished by smallholdings and petty corruption and a bar on foreign investment. Is that better or worse than life in, say, California or multicultural London? Who can say, but it’s a balance that’s very hard to get right. Mass movements tend to go all-in one way or another, always leaving the individual struggling to keep their head above water and their values intact.

  11. beththeserf says:

    Your video, Hrdza, such fun, …Heya, hoya, heya heya, hoya, my kind of dancing,

  12. YMMV says:

    Speaking of the trials of learning Czech reminded me of a video about Basque origins. There is one theory which links it to ancient Czech, so perhaps they came from the Caucuses but there are more theories than evidence. But what can be said is that they have been there a long time and that they have resisted assimilation of those that have tried to conquer them, for example Romans and Muslims. How? By having a language so hard to learn that the invaders could not handle it and by refusing to speak the invaders’ languages!

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Folks have tried to tie Basque to just about every language on the planet at one time or another. It never quite works. Every mystery tablet, every dead obscure language fragment, they all get an assertion of maybe being a Basque relative.

    Given the different genetics of the Basques, most likely they are the remnant population of the folks in Europe prior to the arrival of the Indo-European speaking farming and cattle culture, all those thousands of years ago. If so, they will also be speaking a language even more thousands of years away from today and rooted in an alien culture to anything the modern Europeans spoke.

    IMHO it is just a complete “Language Isolate” and its own thing.

    Unfortunately, under Franco, Basque speaking was punished, so today only a bit under 30% of the Basque people speak it.

    I’ve looked at the sound system and grammar of it. (Hey, I took linguistics at University along with a few languages and I’m kind of into this whole encoding information thing ;-) It is somewhat bizarre.

    I’ll watch the video, but it is unlikely it will convince me things are other than I stated above. But such speculation is still a lot of fun ;-) What is fascinating is how very smart people all look at the same body of evidence and come to entirely different conclusions on some of the slimmest of reasoning…

  14. E.M.Smith says:


    Glad you liked it! Something about folks just having fun and dancing that I really enjoy, whatever language it is in.

    @Paul, Somerset:

    Interesting background.

    Yes, like the way folks in the USA romanticize The Old West. In reality a lot of it was just a hell of a lot of hard work and misery. I’ve ridden horses and going all day on one is Not Fun. Being in rain, snow, and wind with not much more than a hat, slicker, and wool blanket is pretty miserable to. But give me a scene of a Family Farm and a Ho-Down and I’m happy (even if “Paint Your Wagon” is sung by, ahem, “gravely voices” ;-)

    Ukrainian preserves many older form not present in Standard Russian (but extant in old Russian texts) along with having a lot more “borrowed” from western Slavic languages (such as Polish).

    One of the more fascinating things for me is how a language speaking group will just merge bits of stuff in from a nearby language group. Spanish differs from French in that Spanish has more Arabic loan words in it while French has more influence from Roman Latin and both Gaulish and Frankish German. German looks to be a kind of pidgin of “something unknown” with an old Indo-European base. English is a fusion of both German and French with what looks to be a Language Isolate base. Such words as King and Knight are a bit unique. (From “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue” , also some of the substrate language is also in other Germanic languages, such as Sea and Ship that are not in proto-indo-European)

    It just seems like people are hard wired to just soak up bits of just about any language and use it as they like…

    The most extreme case of this that I’ve heard of is Romany. The Gypsy language. By figuring out the loan words picked up along their travels, and the base language, some folks worked out where they came from and when. Then went looking in the history of that province of India.

    Seems a “king” in the area sent an army (with their wives and camp followers) out toward the western border and told them not to come back until the job was done… so it just kept going. We have the record of this order at just about the time the Gypsy’s would have started their traveling. This also explains the tight in-group, not trusting out-group folks, and tendency to song & dance around the camp fire for entertainment. Living in caravans, and being “on the move” a lot. LOTS of military like base words, but many loan words for different skills picked up along the way along with different plants and foods. So their language is a road map to their history, travel, and origins.

  15. Filip says:

    Try this:

    “For whatever reason, their language and culture is more stable than those of the “Modern West””
    Well, we will see I would say…

  16. Rienk says:

    King is cyning in old english, koning in dutch, könig in german and konungr in old norse. Knight would be knecht in both german and dutch and mean servant.It is quite possible that the oldest words around the northsea come from doggerland. If so those words are at least some 7000 years old.

    The meaning and spelling of words can shift dramatically. The name Karl, Karel, Charles had an original meaning of servant, not a name at all. The dutch word kerel has the meaning of a manly man or a bloke, in english there’s the word churl which now means rude and boorish but was a low ranking freeman earlier. The name Charlemagne therefore means something like mighty servant or big bloke. He is said to have had a brother called Carloman….

    The word home is variously written heim, heem, hiem, haim. In old english it was hamm, an enclosed plot of land, and pretty close to the meaning of haim in my lower-saxon dialect.

    In saxon times there was a law where in case of emergency you had to be able to be home within the hour. As a result the oldest villages are all aproximately 3 miles apart and three villages over the dialect is slightly but obviously different. Close enough to understand but sometimes have to do a double take because of an uncommon word or a different turn of phrase. People who still speak it natively can fairly accurately pinpoint where you come from. Putting a grammar and spelling and a dictionary on it will preserve something but destroy a lot at the same time.


  17. Elect H.R. says:

    Good ramble, Rienk.

    I am intrigued by your idea of words originating in Doggerland. From time to time, the topic of lost technology comes up here. The speculation is that civilizations that were by the seaside were rapidly overwhelmed by one of the meltwater pulses and subsequent rapid rise in sea level.

    Though not as interdependent as today, the tech knowledge would have been divvied up among specialists, and as everyone did a “run for the hills!” the knowledge would be separated and lost or just suddenly drowned outright. Electricity is the one technology that we’ve speculated on a bit (Egyptians had lightbulbs, it seems) as well as ocean trade and navigation (There’s evidence of Phoenician traders in Michigan).

    Now you bring up that words may have been scattered. We know it’s true to some extent as peoples migrated, were conquered, intermarried for alliances, or just traveled. Doggerland would be a good seat for a language that was fairly rapidly scattered in quite a few directions.

    Neat idea.

    P.S. The only reason archeologists haven’t dug up 9,000 year-old cell phones is because they are all underwater several miles off the coasts. 😜

  18. Julian Jones says:

    Thank you for this, good excuse to post some Laibach, maybe :
    “From the early days, the band was subject to controversies and bans due to their elaborate use of iconography with ambiguously repugnant parodies and pastiches of elements from totalitarianism, nationalism and militarism, a concept they have preserved throughout their career. Censored and banned in Socialist Yugoslavia and receiving a kind of dissident status”

    Bizarrely, they recently were invited to North Korea :

    Their involvement with cult crowdfunded movie Iron Sky more successful (gotta see ‘President Palin’). I never did grow up …

  19. John Henry Eden says:

    Ironically, the Slavic nations were shielded from Western decadence by communism

  20. E.M.Smith says:


    Watched the Basque video. Has generally got things stated as known. Watched some of his other stuff. It’s generally a bit lite and he’s mostly just reading papers, slooooly… and adding a bit of his own bias.

    One video, on the origin of ancient Egyptians, is a dogs breakfast. He’s on with a Black guy and they spend WAY too much time harping on ~”historical racist interpretation” and then go on to diss DNA studies without showing them wrong. The whole video seems to be about “up front” saying the Black Egyptian Origin theory is bogus then defending evidence for the Black Egyptian theory… Sheesh. Even spends time saying there’s not really any such thing as distinct racial populations then proceeds to use argument from distinct genetic populations.

    So I’m not willing to trust his stuff. He’s got a PC chip on his shoulder about race and genetics.

    He ought to just stick to the facts:

    MOST Egyptian artifacts and DNA show people who are light brown that may be a tan in the Egyptian sun. SOME show Black Africans. They are at the place where European types and Black African types meet. At the time, slavery was practiced, so they might be enslaving Blacks, or they might just be merging with the Nubian Black Nile society and there is so far no good way to know. We know Ramisis (one of them anyway… the third?) was a Redhead and we know they venerated blue eyes, so at least in that era they were highly “European” type (really middle-Asian type as that’s where the farming / cattle herding culture originated that swept over Egypt, North Africa, and Europe about 6,000-10,000 years ago)

    Similarly, we know the Basque peoples have a genetic type closest to Sardinians and that the Sardinians are also close to the original European type before the mid-Asian blonds and redheads showed up herding cattle. We also know a few armies were fought off (or slaughtered) attempting to fight them in their mountain stronghold. We also know that the “original European genotype” is strongest up in mountains across Europe and the “new European cattle herder genotype” is strongest in the valley. Occam’s Razor says the simplest explanation is that it’s Damned Hard to drive folks out of mountains they know should they chose to fight you hard (a well established fact) and that the interlopers typically only really wanted the good flatter bottom land for grazing and farming. Basques are just an extreme case of that.

    Does their unique language give them a stronger in-group bond? Certainly. But lots of folks had that and still got busted up and spread around (look at Rome relocation of the Jews to Spain…). Language alone is not enough to hold off armies. Tough fighters doing Guerrilla War in the mountains they have lived in forever is enough… (Or jungles, for that matter…)

    As to Basque being “impossible to learn”, um, no. Lots of folks have learned it and continue to learn it. I looked at it and saw nothing particularly more alien than any other language. Yes, there are almost no familiar words other than the “loan words” from the surrounding Latin based languages, but that’s the same as for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. The phonology (sound profile) is not particularly hard (unlike things like the click language of Africa or whistle languages and many others) and the structure is relatively orderly.

    Describing one of the “hard bits” for most Indo-Europeans the wiki points out it is somewhat common in other languages world wide:

    The auxiliary verb, which accompanies most main verbs, agrees not only with the subject, but with any direct object and the indirect object present. Among European languages, this polypersonal agreement is found only in Basque, some languages of the Caucasus, Mordvinic languages, Hungarian, and Maltese (all non-Indo-European). The ergative–absolutive alignment is also rare among European languages—occurring only in some languages of the Caucasus—but not infrequent worldwide.

    It does have some intense inflections, but so does Finnish…

    A Basque noun-phrase is inflected in 17 different ways for case, multiplied by four ways for its definiteness and number (indefinite, definite singular, definite plural, and definite close plural: euskaldun [Basque speaker], euskalduna [the Basque speaker, a Basque speaker], euskaldunak [Basque speakers, the Basque speakers], and euskaldunok [we Basque speakers, those Basque speakers]). These first 68 forms are further modified based on other parts of the sentence, which in turn are inflected for the noun again. It has been estimated that, with two levels of recursion, a Basque noun may have 458,683 inflected forms.

    Sounds horrible, but it is orderly. Essentially a word becomes an agglutinated short sentence in terms of information contained. You could do the same with English by pointing out all the combinations we can make from things like:

    From, to, of, by, near, approaching,… him, her, it, they them, others… etc. Just they do it with single sounds glued into a word (inflections) and we do it with single sounds run together that are thought of as individual words…

    That said, nobody ever claimed Finnish was easy to learn…

    So “hard, yes”, but impossible, no.

    BTW, there’s a theory of Language Evolution that says languages oscillate between aglutinative and inflected over thousands of years. For a while, the sounds act as glued together bits in a single inflected word, then they break apart into separate words as a “kit of parts” like English, then over time as they are regularized and run together in continuous speech, become an inflected set again. Is it “to them” or “tothem”? In speech it’s just run together.


    Is that agglutinative of inflected? Depends on where you chose to insert a space in the writing…

  21. H.R. says:

    @ John Henry E. – Good observation. True dat. Because….

    As I learned it, the people behind the Iron Curtain were continuously told that, although things were a little tough, the West was a basket case by comparison. Crime! Famine! Mass murders! Homelessness! Store shelves bare! NO TP!

    At least, that’s the propaganda that I understand was being pushed. I suppose the same is true in North Korea. “You think this is bad?!?! The West envies you. They are barely hanging on and dying in the millions of deprivation.”

    Many behind the Iron Curtain bought into all that. Just as many and more did not. Propaganda always works on some, and always has the opposite outcome on others.

  22. YMMV says:

    “As to Basque being “impossible to learn”, um, no. Lots of folks have learned it and continue to learn it. I looked at it and saw nothing particularly more alien than any other language.”

    Ah, good to know. I guess the Romans were just too lazy to learn it (sarc). That also explains why they only built half of the coliseum.

    So the Basques remained a tight-knit group because they were tight-knit, not because of their magical language.

    So the Basque language has a well defined structure, and even if it is complicated, that should make it possible to learn. Unlike for example this recent profundity from the Big Guy pretender:

    And the question is whether or not should be in a position where you are why can’t the experts say “we know that this virus is in fact is going to be we know all the drugs are temporarily approved but are permanently approved.”

    (and that is said to be with the help of in-the-ear prompting)

    from Slavic countries that have a Traditional Family motif. For whatever reason, their language and culture is more stable than those of the “Modern West”,

    For a few tens of thousands of years, if a small agricultural community wanted to survive, it had to be a community of common values, and I wouldn’t doubt that community singing and dancing helped to make that community more cohesive, simply because it is fun. Contrast other (religions) which ban dancing, some of which ban singing, and all of which ban fun.

    So did the golden past exist, where everyone was poor but happy? Happy is undefinable, so let us say ‘content’. This is my life and I like it and I don’t fret over something I don’t have and could never have. In a Buddhist or Taoist way.

    And then they invented serfs and feudalism …

  23. Steven Fraser says:

    @H.R. Multiplicity of Texas Cultures.

    Perhaps you know the ‘University of Texan Cultures’ facility in San Antonio. They do research, track history, collect artefacts, create presentations on all of the ethnic communities of Texas, even the endiginous ones.

    Oh, and the foods. You want authentic X, where X is the food from an ethnic group… you can find it.

    Outstanding Organization. I highly recommend it.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Steven Fraser:

    I’ll have to look it up!


    It is also the case that highly inflected languages change a LOT more slowly than aglutinative ones.

    It’s easy to swap “going to” for “will” and then “gonna” for going to, so you get the change from:
    I will do that
    I’m going to do that
    I’m gonna do that

    But when you have a 1000 verbs in 5 standard endings, it’s harder to change them all and still be understood. So mostly you just get very minor and very small vowel shifts, but even that takes centuries as “everyone knows” that ending in -as means one thing while -es and -os have other meanings… and there are only so many volwels…

    So being as highly inflected as Basque, it ought to change very slowly. Though even with that there are several dialects and not all mutually understandable…

  25. H.R. says:

    @Steven Fraser – I second E.M.

    I’ll look into it, too. I’m sure they’ll have some interesting things on the Czechs and I’m sure I’ll find some other interesting groups in Texas as well.

    Thanks for the heads up.

  26. Steven Fraser says:

    @H.R & @EM I just checked… its been re-named since I was last there. The full name now is ‘UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures’ UTSA is the branch of the University of Texas NW of San Antonio. The Institute is also affiliated with the Smithsonian.

    I worked on their IT infrastructure in the mid ’80s, Pulling cable, writing software, training users, etc. It is a great place to visit.

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