If I ask you what the hottest place on Earth is, your answer might probably be either Death Valley, or somewhere in the Middle East or North Africa. After all, these are the regions that have recorded the highest ever temperatures on the planet, with 56.7 degrees Celsius in Death Valley, and 54 degrees Celsius … Continue reading The Language in the Hottest Place on Earth
The English spoken in Earth’s most geographically isolated island
There are hundreds and thousands of islands, but not all of them are inhabited. Some are not large enough to support communities, while others are located in places that transport networks do not typically reach. Yet, in the South Pacific, there exists an island still inhabited by people. Located more than 5 000 kilometres from … Continue reading The English spoken in Earth’s most geographically isolated island
The language in the United States’ northernmost city
Alaska, the last frontier. It is the largest state in the United States by land area, yet has among the smallest population sizes, and is the most sparsely populated state. Being the northernmost state, Alaska is, without a doubt, home to the northernmost city in the United States. This city is rather isolated -- there … Continue reading The language in the United States’ northernmost city
Exploring the languages at Earth’s extremities
The idea of geographical or social isolation and their immense scale amazes and intrigues me. From being miles away from the closest road or airstrip to the rest of the country, or part thereof, to being days of boat rides away from literally everyone else, it is unfathomable how there are people living and forming … Continue reading Exploring the languages at Earth’s extremities
How did we get tones in Mandarin Chinese?
There are a bunch of tonal languages spoken throughout the world, but by a large margin, Mandarin Chinese comes up at the top in terms of number of native speakers. But its size or scope of usage is not the focus of our discussion today. One thing that intrigues me is the history of the … Continue reading How did we get tones in Mandarin Chinese?
The mystery of Maridi Arabic
Going down the list of notable and documented pidgins spoken all around the world, I came across a curious entry that, it verified legitimate, would be the oldest known pidgin in the world. The issue is, its existence was only known through 50 words in a single text, written some time in the 11th century. … Continue reading The mystery of Maridi Arabic
The variant of German not quite spoken in Germany now
When people talk about High and Low German, one might think that High German refers to the variant spoken in the northern parts of Germany, while Low German refers to the variant spoken in the southern parts. But as geography suggests, this is not the case. Low German is used to refer to the German … Continue reading The variant of German not quite spoken in Germany now
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?
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
Obscure languages — Wymysorys
Today, we will explore a rather obscure language, but at a rather precarious predicament. This language has less than 20 native speakers as of 2017, most of whom are elderly, prompting several revitalisation efforts to try to revive the language. Spoken in the region of Wilamowice, Poland (Wymysoü), this language is also quite an interesting … Continue reading Obscure languages — Wymysorys
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
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