reede, november 16, 2007

Eh Noh Ei?

Some people think that Estonian is some kind of Finno-Ugric cave language. Once in awhile I have to agree.

Because the vocabulary is so different, one has to memorize huge numbers of new words. That's fine. At least there's no future tense or gender. There are trade-offs in every language.

But because Estonians often only speak the language amongst themselves they often slur their words together. Particularly in southern Estonia, consonants are given a light treatment and one needs to listen attentively to differentiate the words and swallow the sentences.

In North Estonia, the pronunciation is more clear and it is easier to break words apart to digest their meaning. Unfortunately, last night I wasn't playing basketball with North Estonians. They were from South Estonia and try as I might there were times when I had no friggin' idea what the hell they were talking about.

Typical sentences might go something like this: 'Kas oli nii või? Ei, noh, ei. Tõesti või? Eh, noh, eh. Laisk või? Noh, ei, noh." Other Estonians listening would sometimes chime in with a grunt, which I am sure can be written down on paper and assigned a meaning in the dictionary, but pretty much sounded like "Grunt" to me.

Epp has a friend Kaja who is from north Estonia. Kaja's family comes from near Lahemaa National Park, and it is easier to understand Kaja because she enunciates. I have tried to emulate this way of talking more because it seems easier that trying to muddle-up my words with the Lõuna-Eesti murre or dialect (and make sure to add that extra 'r' sound, mure can mean 'troubled').

But between my awkwardness with the language and inability to correctly say 'õ' there is a bit of a drunken islander style to my way of speaking Estonian. So, in true Estonian fashion, I have decided to say as little as possible.

19 kommentaari:

Gard ütles ...

L�una- ja P�hja-Eesti can be compared to Cockney- ja Queens-English, or for your own reference, them can be laik'nd tah Mississippi- 'n New York ta'k. Ah'm sure 'em fo'ks 'n Mississippi thinks 'em fo'ls 'n Niew Yo'k slur when ta'kin'.

Blogaddict ütles ...

I speak 3 languages and I can tell you - grunting, slurring of speech and extensive use of filler words with a barking intonation is something uneducated people tend to do. Regardless of the language. I'd say it's primarily a social status and class thing and has little to do with regionality. I bet you'd enjoy speaking estonian more with educated and well travelled estonians. Members of the academia for example. Alas, they won't be congregating at basketball courts.

Ahto ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Ahto ütles ...

"mure" can also mean "sour" in Estonian - as in "the milk is sour//piim on mure"

Andres ütles ...

ahto, I've never heard it being used like that...

Andres ütles ...

I've rather heard it being used as "crumbly". Like "muretainas"/"clumbly dough".

Giustino ütles ...

Juhtus niimoodi, et üks kord ma räägin ühe mehega ja tal oli mingi murre.

Ma küsisin, "Noh, kas sul on mure või"

Ja tema oli hästi vihane!

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

Have spoken today to a Last Days Saints Church's teenage-looking elder. I sometimes do it out of admiration for their language skill, which, I guess comes from their devotion to their religion. The guy I spoke to from Utah managed to speak some audible Estonian, having learnt it for 4 months in US. If he studied it for, say, 6 months he should be able to challenge TV version of this blog holder, at the relevant time in the past. But still, comprehension was a task he could not yet master. Oral comprehension of a foreign language is a thing in itself and always requires practice and interaction.

Kristopher ütles ...

Yes, perhaps Giustino would enjoy speaking a new language more with members of the elite with their clipped diction. But what about the members of the non-elite -- precisely the grunters, slurrers, barkers and court-congregators that blogaddict refers to? Who will speak to them?

We should, of course. Not out of any sort of Higginsian sense of responsibility but rather to expand our own horizons (while getting trounced at hoop-ball, a marvellous constitutional, I daresay).

Alas, I speak only two languages fluently but but I speak a number of dialects, including Jive (into which I always have this blog translated, purely incidentally) and Cockney. I am also studyng Moron.

That has little to do with the point of my comment I just wanted to state that for the record -- the rekkid.

Brevo, I for one would love speaking any of these tongues with educated people.

But spare a thought for the mumbling, dribbling, slackjawed denizens of the basketball court. And the druid cavemen of SE Estonia. Spare a kuradi thought, raisk.

Colm ütles ...

"But between my awkwardness with the language and inability to correctly say 'õ' there is a bit of a drunken islander style to my way of speaking Estonian. So, in true Estonian fashion, I have decided to say as little as possible."

HAHA! I can SO relate to that. My girlfriend and her family all say that I sound like a person from Saaremaa! Anyway, great post again!

Max ütles ...

Ahto said...
"mure" can also mean "sour" in Estonian - as in "the milk is sour//piim on mure"


Could be Ahto meant mõre as an adjective applied to milk. A localism in the south, I believe...
But I could be mistaken...
One shouldn't knock the Southern dialect, though: it's influence on literary Estonian is the primary one, and most of the major poets came from southern Estonia.

Trevor ütles ...

How DO you pronounce 'õ'? Is it really like the Turkish undotted i? I've read that it is like the Turkish undotted i, which is actually a very easy sound for English speakers. But I don't know if that is true.

sofie ütles ...

Piim, mis pole enam värske, mis on kergelt hapuka maitsega, aga pole veel korralik hapupiim (hapupiim on kalgendunud, paks), on minu teada MÜRE;)

Heli ütles ...

Actually I don´t undestand how native english-speakers can´t pronounce our õ- cause by me it is pronounced excactly as english article "a- a thing, a cat, a dog etc.."
Not "a-b-c "a":)

Giustino ütles ...

How DO you pronounce 'õ'?

It's a very tight, precise vowel sound. It's made in the back of your mouth with clenched teeth. Because I come from an English-language zone where we tend to be careless with our vowels, having to focus to create a vowel sound is odd.

Indrek ütles ...

It's a very tight, precise vowel sound. It's made in the back of your mouth with clenched teeth.

I can say Õ with mouth wide open.

margus ütles ...

G,
you forgot to mention the benefit that Estonian is written completely phonetically. A spelling contest in Estonian would be ridiculous.

Kristopher,
the translation - laughed my ass off, I think I might use it somewhere.

margus ütles ...

Indrek,
no you can't.

Doris ütles ...

No Heli, The english "a" in front of a noun is like the Estonian ö. The õ is a little like... the very first sound you make in "open" the Estonians tend to hear that as "õup(e)n" The problem for most foreigners is the concept of separating the vowels. They're so used to making some confusing mixture from vowels. you can also try saying "l" without touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth.