What do we know about the Sentinelese language?

Uncontacted peoples -- people groups who have never made sustained contact with neighbouring communities, let alone the outside world in general. These people groups are often indigenous, and many of them are scattered in South America and the island of Papua. Some 100 of them exist, but here, we will focus on one of them. … Continue reading What do we know about the Sentinelese language?

Languages of Taiwan — Rukai (Drekay)

In the previous posts in this series, we have explored some of the more special aspects of each Formosan language (and Yami), from sounds, to words and grammar features. This language we are exploring here has a special grammatical system, and is hypothesised to have diverged from the Proto-Austronesian language extremely early. This language is … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Rukai (Drekay)

Languages of Taiwan — Puyuma (Pinuyumayan, Peinan, Beinan)

Among the Austronesian languages, linguists have suggested that this language is among the most divergent, that reconstruction efforts for Proto-Austronesian, a hypothesised ancestor of the Austronesian languages, often leaves out this language. Spoken by the sixth largest indigenous people group in Taiwan, the Puyuma language has hundreds to thousands of speakers, although most of these … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Puyuma (Pinuyumayan, Peinan, Beinan)

Speaking Japanese — The Interchangeability of /s/ and /h/

It is said that, before the Second World War, there were curious differences in the writings on signboards of pawnshops, which seemed to differ based on the prefecture one was in. If you were in Tokyo, you might see 「しちや」 (shichiya). But if you were in the Kansai region, particularly Osaka, you might see 「ひちや」 … Continue reading Speaking Japanese — The Interchangeability of /s/ and /h/

Reviving a “lost” Viking language — The Nynorn Project

Way back in the 9th century, the Norse people settled the islands of Shetland and Orkney. With this, they brought along a dialect of Old Norse spoken in the Viking times. These Norse people also likely migrated to Iceland and the Faroe Islands thereafter, spreading the old North Germanic language around. Over time, the language … Continue reading Reviving a “lost” Viking language — The Nynorn Project

Writing Japanese — H-hentaigana?

Ok. No, it is not what you are probably thinking. Hentaigana has nothing to do with perverted stuff so stereotypical in popular culture. This hentai we are talking about here pertains to this thing called 変体, or variant forms, and that hentaigana, or 変体仮名, basically means the historical variants of the currently used hiragana script. … Continue reading Writing Japanese — H-hentaigana?

Speaking Japanese — Understanding Aidzuchi

Verbal communication brings out a lot of colour in a language, way beyond the confines of the materials upon which the language is recorded in. Everyday expressions, slang terms, and other kinds of word variants can be picked up through speaking and listening in a conversational context. Very often, when listening to Japanese conversations, or … Continue reading Speaking Japanese — Understanding Aidzuchi

Speaking Japanese — What Exactly is Rendaku?

When learning Japanese, you would have encountered several patterns in speech. For example, while a person in Japanese is 人 (ひと, hito), the plural may be 人々 (ひとびと, hitobito). In a rather similar fashion, time is 時 (とき, toki), while sometimes is 時々 (ときどき, tokidoki). You may be asking, what is the pattern here? Notice … Continue reading Speaking Japanese — What Exactly is Rendaku?

Languages of Taiwan — Kanakanabu (Kanakanavu)

Our next language of Taiwan is also found in the southern end of the island, spoken by an indigenous people numbering in the hundreds today. Even so, this language, Kanakanabu (also known as Kanakanavu, or in Mandarin, 卡那卡那富語, Hanyu Pinyin: kǎ nà kǎ nà fù), is now classified as moribund, teetering on the brink of … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Kanakanabu (Kanakanavu)

Black History Month — Gullah Loanwords, and Conclusion

We have seen the various influences of West African languages, and varieties of English, on the development of Gullah spoken in the Sea Islands of the United States. Here, to conclude the post series on Black History Month 2021, we will explore the influences on Gullah by loanwords introduced from West African languages. As we … Continue reading Black History Month — Gullah Loanwords, and Conclusion

Black History Month — How Gullah Works, Summarised

In the past couple of posts, we have looked at the history, development and sounds of Gullah, drawing some influences from West and Central African languages, some of them noted by the father of Gullah studies, Lorenzo Dow Turner. Today, we will explore how Gullah grammar works, in brief, and try to draw similarities between … Continue reading Black History Month — How Gullah Works, Summarised

Black History Month — Introduction to Gullah (Sea Island Creole English)

Disclaimer: This post discusses the role of slavery in the origin and development of Gullah creole, we want to make this communication the least offensive possible. We welcome any feedback or comments on how further refine this communication, but still reflects the history of the creole in the most accurate way possible. Nestled in the … Continue reading Black History Month — Introduction to Gullah (Sea Island Creole English)

Languages of Taiwan — Introduction to the Formosan Languages

Taiwan, the Republic of China (ROC), or Formosa, is often linguistically associated with Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien and Hakka today. It is understandable, given that about 95% of Taiwan's population is Han Chinese. However, Taiwan is also known for something quite different; it is arguably the origin of the Austronesian languages, a language family widely spoken … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Introduction to the Formosan Languages

Mathematics in language — Transcendental algebra

Does mathematics transcend all languages? Mathematical equations seem to be able to communicate quantities, derivations, theorems and proofs across a large number of people, which may make it seem that mathematics is generally universally intelligible. The logic it contains is sort of homologous to what we see in language. The concepts of negation, comparison and … Continue reading Mathematics in language — Transcendental algebra

Writing in Africa — Nwagụ Aneke Script

Igbo, a language spoken by at least 45 million people mainly in Nigeria, has tried adopting several writing systems throughout its linguistic history. From Nsibidi to Ndebe, Igbo has experimented, or is currently experimenting with these systems, but what we know is that Igbo is now predominantly written in the Latin alphabet. A couple of … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Nwagụ Aneke Script

Lingua Ignota — The Earliest Known Constructed Language?

23 letters. 1011-word glossary. Some short manuscripts. This is among what remains of the legacy of St. Hildegard of Bingen OSB, one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, and the creation of this language she called Lingua Ignota. If confirmed, it could mean that Lingua Ignota is the oldest constructed language in human history, … Continue reading Lingua Ignota — The Earliest Known Constructed Language?

The languages they don’t want you to know — Secret languages

High in the Andes live a group of itinerant herbalist healers. They are known for herb-based treatments in Bolivia, stretching towards Peru, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Panama. Walking through ancient trails, which can date back to the Incan period, they search for plants said to contain medicinal properties. Some contained quinine, a compound used to … Continue reading The languages they don’t want you to know — Secret languages

Writing in North America — Great Lakes Algonquian Syllabics (GLAS)

In the 1880s, syllabic blocks of text recorded the languages of Ho-Chunk, Fox and several more languages. Derived from the Latin alphabet, this writing system strongly resembled Latin texts. But yet, no digitisation of this writing system was ever made, and what is revealed online is only an approximation, usually using a cursive Latin script. … Continue reading Writing in North America — Great Lakes Algonquian Syllabics (GLAS)

Writing in North America — Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

In 1827, an English-Canadian missionary and linguist set foot onto Rice Lake, Ontario. By the turn of the 20th century, virtually all Cree speakers were literate in a new writing system. From the Nunavut Inuktitut languages in the north to Ojibwe and Cree in eastern Canada, this writing system certainly has made its mark, and … Continue reading Writing in North America — Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

Writing in Africa – I say N’ko (ߒߞߏ‎)

Solomana Kante, a Guinean writer and an inventor of a writing system, but most importantly, a man who was determined to change the beliefs that Africans were a cultureless people. The Manding languages lacked an indigenous writing system at that time. And so, after a night of deep meditation, Kante went on to create an … Continue reading Writing in Africa – I say N’ko (ߒߞߏ‎)

Writing in Africa

Africa, a continent of thousands of ethnic groups, the most among all continents. Alongside these ethnic groups lie the linguistic diversity, rivaled only by the language diversity of Papua New Guinea. Many of these languages are still vulnerable to endangerment and extinction, and many of these also lack a written form to document their language. … Continue reading Writing in Africa

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Singlish in Society

Our final part of Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English covers the controversy surrounding this creole of English. In Singapore, you may notice newspaper articles and educational materials are written (or more rather, typed) in grammatically correct English, but the English you hear on the streets tend to be rather ungrammatical (with respect to Standard English). … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Singlish in Society

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – More Particles

We're finally back after the brief intermission where we talked about one of the most well-known indigenous languages, Inuktitut. Now, we will be discussing the hallmark features of Singlish particles, the use of particles like lah, leh, loh etc. We hear it quite often, they're normally used at the end of sentences, and they can … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – More Particles

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – The curious case of “already”

Singlish particles truly define this creole, giving it its identity, making it stand out as much as Bislama and Tok Pisin, both of which are other creoles of English spoken in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea respectively. Singlish particles draw influence mainly from Chinese (and its dialects) and Malay (and one from Tamil). This post … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – The curious case of “already”

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Verbs

Verbs. You know, those action words that bring life to sentences. Some languages conjugate by number, some by tense, some by aspect, mood, gender... yeah you get the point. Some don't even conjugate it at all. This post brings you verbs in Singlish, and how they differ from Standard English. One of the most prominent … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Verbs

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Topicalisation

Singlish, or more formally known as Colloquial Singaporean English, is an English creole which closely resembles that of Colloquial Malaysian English, drawing influences from the languages represented by the ethnic groups that make up the speakers' population. It's something I encounter almost every day, and I thought it would be good to make some observations … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Topicalisation