May 29, 2005

Language Quiz #4: the answer

The answer to language quiz #4: Hausa.

This was a single sentence (audio clip here) from a VOA radio broadcast about events in Uzbekistan.

In usual Hausa orthography, it would be Jami'an Gwamnati sun ce mutane tara sun mutu, wasu kuma talatin da huɗu sun jikkata, lokacin da sojoji suka yi harbi cikin taron masu zanga-zangar, meaning "Government officials confirmed 9 people dead and 34 injured when soldiers opened fire during a protest." [The transcription and translation were kindly provided by Will Leben].

Quite a few readers were able to find the answer quickly, by listening to the clip, picking out a clear word (usually the last one, zangazangar meaning "protest"), and searching on Google. Either {"zangazangar"} or {"zanga zangar"} produces lots of Hausa pages and not much else. The combination of alphabetic orthography and Google is an interesting new tool for language identification!

Some people documented their guesses on line, for example this weblog entry by Patrick Hall at Infundibulum. Some others contacted me by email with the correct answer: Aron Burrell, Jarek Weckwerth, Language Hat, Artur Jachacy and Bay Elliot (I hope I didn't forget anyone!) There were a couple of plausible wrong answers as well.

Hausa is an Afroasiatic language, spoken by about 25 million people in northern Nigeria and nearby areas, and used as a lingua franca by tens of millions of others across west Africa. Some resources on Hausa are available from a page at UCLA, especially five hours of videos on Hausa Language and Culture for which mp3 audio and transcripts are available on line.

Here's a version of the quiz sentence with long vowels and tones:

Jaami'an Gwamnati sun cee mutaanee tara sun mutu,
 L  L H    H  H L  H   L   H L  H   H L  H   H L  

wasu kuma talaatin da hu'du sun jikkata,
 H H  H H  L L  H   L  H  H  H   L  H L 

lookacin da soojoojii suka yi harbii cikin taaron maasu zangazangar.
 H  L H   L  H  H  H   H L  H  H  L   H H   L  H   L  H  L  L L  HL

Here are spectrograms, pitch tracks and waveforms for the three subphrases, with a time-aligned orthographic transcript:

[I originally promised to post some hints, and to post the answer on Thursday. I apologize for being late -- a cancelled flight on my return from Chicago in mid-week disrupted my schedule a bit. The Language Log Circulation Department offers, as always, a full refund of subscription fees to any reader who is less than fully satisfied.] Posted by Mark Liberman at May 29, 2005 08:04 AM