Friday, March 30, 2012

Language identification challenge (Answers)

 All three examples from this week's language identification challenge are taken from records on FamilySearch.

1. Italian - Italy, Caserta, Gricignano d'Aversa, Civil Registration (Comune), 1809-1929


First, the similarities to Latin and French should be pretty clear.  We can conclude that it's a Romance language. First, let's compare the words for "year" in a few Romance languages.
Catalan any
French an
Italian anno
Portuguese ano/anno
Romanian an 
Spanish año
Based on the forms above, the language is either Italian or Portuguese.  Now let's look at the words for "thousand".
Italian mille
Portuguese mil
So, it's Italian.


2. Dutch - Netherlands, Gelderland Province Civil Registration, 1811-1950


First, the similarities to English and German show that it's a Germanic language.  Let's look at word for "year".  In many languages, the English Y sound is represented by J.

Danish år
Dutch jaar
English year
Frisian jier
German Jahr
Icelandic ár
Norwegian år
Swedish år

It's Dutch. 

3. Portuguese - Portugal, Coimbra, Catholic Church Records, 1459-1911


This is a little tricky.  In modern Portuguese "year" is spelled with one N (ano), but in older records you will find it with two Ns (anno). If possible, it is useful to consult an older dictionary like this one available through Google Books.  In this case, we go through the same procedure as with Italian.  Another good marker of Portuguese is do, which is a combination of the preposition de "of" and the masculine singular article o "the". 

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