1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. Ossetian... that could be int…


Ossetian... that could be interesting.

Like many here on this website, I have an interest in languages and in the development of these languages.

One area that I would like to become more familiar with would be Indo-European langauges from Central Asia in Late Antiquity and into the Medieval era, languages like Avestan, Sogdian, Scythian and Tocharian.

The only modern descendants of the Scythian languages is Ossetian, spoken by a relatively small population near the Russian/Georgian border. (While it feels like my intellectual curiosity has been piqued by Ossetian, that does not mean I support the erstwhile breakaway republic of South Ossetia or its counterpart Abkhazia [or Transnistria])

I know that a Duo course on Ossetian would be highly unlikely but it would be an interesting opportunity. Honestly, Ossetian wouldn't even be in my top 5 courses that I would like Duo to develop, but it would be cool.

Anyway, is anyone else's curiosity piqued by this unique language that is a rare opportunity to gain insight into lost obscure empires of antiquity?

May 11, 2017


[deactivated user]

    All of the Caucasian languages are weirdly fascinating. From what little I've read about them, they seem to be trying to outweird each other. What - you guys have got 88 consonant phonemes now ? Huh. Well, we've just invented "muddy voice" vowels. Beat that…

    So, yes, Ossetian, why not, if someone wants to put together a course. But while we're in that neck of the woods, what about Georgian and Armenian ? More chance to actually use them, and also to travel there. Or maybe they're already listed, I haven't checked.

    As for your insights into lost obscure empires of antiquity, I think that may be a bit optimistic. I reckon those empires are pretty obscure and lost to modern Ossetians, too. As Ben Affleck might say, they're mainly concerned with going to work and making sandwiches. You'd need a pretty deep understanding of Ossetian etymology, and perhaps kinship structures and all the rest, to squeeze anything much like an insight into the Scythian past out of the language. I suspect.

    But talking of lost empires, theres is one language that has tried hard to keep its ancient past alive, and is now being deliberately snuffed out, and that's Coptic (relic of Ancient Egypt). Any chance, you reckon?


    That 88 consonant language you are talking about is Ubykh, which died in 1992 with Tevfik Esenç. It was a sad loss. At least there is documentation of the language so it is not truly dead.


    I have not heard of Ossetian but it sounds interesting to me ... however I think they should prioritize more used languages like Icelandic ... I don't have a list off the top of my head : )


    Ossetian apparently has 451,000 speakers in the Russian Federation according to the 2010 census, plus perhaps 50,000 more in South Ossetia, to wit 50% more than Icelandic.


    I have been wanting to learn Icelandic for years and still not on Duolingo!


    You have piqued my curiosity into ordering a book on it (which, conveniently, has an 84% discount on Amazon at the moment).
    From what I have read, Ossetian grammar and pronunciation looks far less sadistic than most other languages from the Caucasus.


    It's an Eastern Iranian language, so you're right. :]


    Yes. I am interested in the Caucuses. Here's a relevant section of an enthralling travelogue: https://eurasiaoverland.com/2010/06/03/20ii/ (South Ossetia features in the prior entry, which you can find with a few clicks).

    I like the fact the Russian federal subject is called "North Ossetia-Alania" (after the ancient Alans) and its capital is Vladikavkaz, "ruler of the Caucuses."

    I don't think there's anything "erstwhile" about the breakaway status, however. George Hewitt, author of one of the few textbooks on Georgian out there, goes (in another recent work) into 400+ pages of detail about why Georgia's ethnic minorities got anything but a fair shake. Call him a bought-and-paid-for Abkhaz apologist if you will, but western media treats these things as if there were no other side, and that's, well, less than terribly illuminating.


    Mr. Hewitt also has the questionable distinction of being Britain's pre-eminent scholar of Georgian who is banned from ever entering Georgia. His textbooks are also dreadfully confusingly-written. For the record, I don't disagree with his defence of Abkhazia; I do, however, think that he doesn't have the shadow of an idea of how to write a decent pedagogic grammar.


    I find Hewitt vaguely off-putting in general, but evincing a lack of ability to write a decent pedagogical work on Georgian strikes me as a fairly common feature of those few who have attempted to write a pedagogical work on Georgian. If you know of an exception, please do inform!


    Have you tried M. Nikolaishvili's 'Georgian Language intensive course'? It is rather inexpertly translated from Russian, but the translator's slightly odd but concise grammatical explanations are often a bit clearer than Hewitt's rambling shaggy Georgian dog stories. There also exists audio to accompany it, although I've not as yet managed to obtain it.

    I have also briefly perused Hewitt's Abkhaz tutor and I don't remember it being much better, so I don't think all the blame can be ascribed to the Georgian language. He really seems to think that the best way to explain anything remotely complex is to pack as much information as possible into a really long sentence with countless subclauses, in which one is referred back to some other paragraph-sized sentence 50 pages back having reached the middle of it...


    Thank you! That's one I'm unfamiliar with. Maybe I can track down the Russian original and "ladder" :)


    Rather you than I! I'm certainly not at the stage where I can ladder things in Russian yet without spending more time on the Russian than the thing I'm trying to learn. However, the original Russian text is just called 'Грузинский Язык' and was published in 1999, according to the information in my copy of the English translation.


    Support. I love the languages of the Caucasus, and Ossetian is one of those that are close to my heart.


    I would love to learn Ossetian with Duolingo! Currently I have to resort to outside sources such as Memrise. I hope Duolingo adds it soon!


    I would like to create a Georgian


    It generally takes two people to do that...

    Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.