If you are learning the variants of Swedish in the northern parts of Sweden, or that spoken in Finland, then one sentence should be sufficient to explain it. It is best approximated as a "sh-" sound. But if you are learning Swedish as it is spoken in places like Stockholm or Malmö, strap in, because … Continue reading How do I even pronounce the Swedish “sj-“?
Putting a ring on it — The å’s diacritic
The letter 'å' (typed using Alt+0229) is perhaps one of the most recognisable letters in the languages of Scandinavia, as you may have recalled the last time you went strolling about in an Ikea store. It is even the entire name of certain places in Norway and Sweden. So too does it represent a unit … Continue reading Putting a ring on it — The å’s diacritic
Where can we find the letter Đ?
This letter has long been associated with the Vietnamese language, ever since it switched over to the chữ Quốc ngữ from the traditional Chữ Nôm. In addition to the amount of diacritics and tone marks, the letter Đ is perhaps one of the most iconic in the Vietnamese alphabet. Yet, it is not the only … Continue reading Where can we find the letter Đ?
Why does the Hawaiian language have so few sounds?
The Hawaiian alphabet is short. In comparison with the English set of 26 letters, Hawaiian has only 13. 5 vowels, 7 consonants, and the 'okina, written as '. There is the macron used to mark long vowels in the Hawaiian language, but these vowels carrying macrons are not considered separate letters. With such a short … Continue reading Why does the Hawaiian language have so few sounds?
Going on a little break
I have a little announcement to make. I have decided to go on a little break over September, to refresh, read up, learn, and reflect on various aspects of language and language learning. I will be back in October to present to you more weekly content, so yeah, be patient with me, and stay tuned! … Continue reading Going on a little break
The language where the pronouns have tenses — Wolof
We have different ways of expressing the idea of something happening now, something happening in the past, and something that is going to happen at some point in the future. For languages like Mandarin Chinese, there are no conjugations -- as the way Mandarin Chinese works does not support conjugations for the most part. There … Continue reading The language where the pronouns have tenses — Wolof
A look into the Dzongkha language
Mountainous. Isolated. Intriguing. This country is so isolated, it only allows visa-free access to citizens of Bangladesh and the Maldives, and freedom of movement with India. Straddling the Himalayas, its elevation can range from just under 200m to over 7000m, with climates ranging from sub-tropical, to alpine or even polar. Known as the Land of … Continue reading A look into the Dzongkha language
When English lost its grammatical genders
Er, sie, es. Hann, hún, það. He, she, it. One of these is not quite like the other. Spotted it? The odd one out is "he, she, it", the third person singular pronouns used in English (the other trios being German and Icelandic respectively). Why? This is because English lacks grammatical genders. But what do … Continue reading When English lost its grammatical genders
Little did we know about this grammatical rule
In grammar, there are generally a number of typical patterns languages use to express the relationship between the subject, the object, and the action (or verb). This includes the nominative-accusative group, and the absolutive-ergative group. Within these groups, these elements can follow certain word orders with varying degrees of flexibility. The word order we are … Continue reading Little did we know about this grammatical rule
The truth about the other Swedish ‘yes’
When searching up weird sounds or expressions in languages like Swedish, you may have encountered this video clip by The Local (Sweden) in Umeå, eastern Sweden: https://youtu.be/URgdIAz4QNg The clip showing off an unusual way Swedish speakers may say 'yes' In fact, this video has been shared over many articles online, showing off how Swedish has … Continue reading The truth about the other Swedish ‘yes’
Why do Italian speakers have these hand gestures?
Looking back at 2021, some events have certainly thrust some parts about language into the spotlight. Perhaps the most prominent one was the Euro 2020 cup, especially in the Italian team: Perhaps one of the most significant memes of the Euro cup this year This is not one isolated incident; on Twitter, there are clips … Continue reading Why do Italian speakers have these hand gestures?
The language in Bavaria you may not be aware of — Bavarian (Bairisch)
So I have been living in Germany for several months at this point, particularly in the state of Bavaria, learning German along with some of its Southern variants. But, I have encountered something which did not quite sound like German, nor any of its variants I know about. Upon doing some bits of reading up, … Continue reading The language in Bavaria you may not be aware of — Bavarian (Bairisch)
The gaps in our languages
Fingerspitzengefühl. Hygge. Ubi sunt. What do these words have in common? While these words come from German, Danish, and Latin respectively, they all share a common feature -- that they do not really have any kind of direct English translation. Very often, translators may encounter obstacles and challenges in finding equivalents of certain words or … Continue reading The gaps in our languages
What happened to Bulgarian’s grammatical cases?
Down by the Black Sea, lies the country of Bulgaria, the primary home of the Bulgarian language. Rather closely related to Macedonian, this Slavic language is part of what is known as the Balkan sprachbund, an ensemble of generally common features shared by languages spoken in the Balkans, like grammar, vocabulary, and phonology. What sets … Continue reading What happened to Bulgarian’s grammatical cases?
Messing around to learn about Zipf’s Law
In quantitative linguistics, you may have encountered word frequency tables, listing out how abundant one word is relative to another, and the sort. Scrolling through these lists, there seems to be a trend. In English, the most commonly used words include "the", "of", and "and", while in Spanish, they are "de", "la", and "que". These … Continue reading Messing around to learn about Zipf’s Law
The language of the Orchid Island — Tao (Cizicizing No Tao, Ciriciring No Tao, Ireriak No Tao)
Some 46 kilometres southeast of Taiwan, lies a small volcanic island governed as Lanyu Township of Taitung County, Taiwan / Republic of China. Separated from the Batanes islands of northern parts of the Philippines by the Bashi Channel of the Luzon Strait, this island is inhabited speakers of a language more similar to languages spoken … Continue reading The language of the Orchid Island — Tao (Cizicizing No Tao, Ciriciring No Tao, Ireriak No Tao)
Icelandic is not as difficult as you think. Here’s why
Icelandic has often been touted as one of the most difficult languages, if not, the most difficult language to pick up. Some believe that it is impossible to learn Icelandic, and that being fluent in that language is a rather formidable achievement. Its early divergence from the other languages of Scandinavia, coupled with its preference … Continue reading Icelandic is not as difficult as you think. Here’s why
Languages of Taiwan — Tsou
This next language of Taiwan is of rather unknown status. With 2 100 native speakers estimated in 2002, and 4 100 speakers in 2015, Taiwanese linguists think this language is endangered or threatened. Located in the west-central mountains, in the southeast of Chiayi or Alishan area in Taiwan, the Tsou language, another member of the … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Tsou
Saying It Like It Sounds — Onomatopoeia
Language is actually quite a neat little concept, how it can be simplified to the expression of ideas, concepts, experiences and memories by the utterance of sounds that make sense to people who speak the same tongue. Sociology, human interactions with other humans and the environment, and the time-attested evolution could all impact a language's … Continue reading Saying It Like It Sounds — Onomatopoeia
Languages of Taiwan — Paiwan (Vinuculjan, Pinayuanan)
This language is so diverse, the dozens of dialects linguists seem to pick up are organised into geographical zones or other classification methods, making it a dialect cluster of rather immense proportions compared to the languages covered previously. Spoken by the Paiwan people, also known as Paywan, Kacalisian, or 排灣 (Hanyu Pinyin: pái wān), this … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Paiwan (Vinuculjan, Pinayuanan)
Languages of Taiwan — Seediq (Kari Sediq, Kari Seediq, Kari Seejiq)
Moving down the list of Formosan languages in Taiwan, we have the other member of the Atayalic branch, Seediq. Spoken in the mountains of Central and Eastern Taiwan by the Seediq and Taroko, this language is predominantly found in the counties of Hualien and Nantou. However, the number of native speakers prove concerning, although we … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Seediq (Kari Sediq, Kari Seediq, Kari Seejiq)
When Japanese Met Atayal — Yilan Creole Japanese
In 1895, Qing China ceded Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the first Sino-Japanese War. This began the five decades of Japanese rule of Taiwan. Although the administrative rule ended 75 years ago, the influence of Japanese culture on Taiwan still survives today. In Taiwanese Mandarin, Japanese loanwords are found, such as … Continue reading When Japanese Met Atayal — Yilan Creole Japanese
Languages of Taiwan — Atayal (Tayal)
Our next language to look at takes us to the Hsuehshan mountains, in the central-north region of Taiwan. The Atayal language, Tayal, or 泰雅語 (Hanyu Pinyin: tài yă yŭ), yet another member of the Formosan languages, is spoken by some 10 000 people, a very tiny proportion of the ethnic Atayal people. Despite the small … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Atayal (Tayal)
Languages of Taiwan — Amis (Pangcah)
Our first dive into the indigenous languages of Taiwan takes us to the Amis language, referred to as Sowal no Pangcah by the Amis people, and 阿美語 (Bopomofo: ㄚ ㄇㄟˇ ㄩˇ, Hanyu Pinyin: ā měi yǔ) by the Mandarin speaking majority of Taiwan. The largest of the Formosan languages, it is spoken as far north … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Amis (Pangcah)
Te Reo Māori o Aotearoa — The Māori Language
Aotearoa, or New Zealand, is amazing. Uninhabited before the 13th century, the Eastern Polynesians settled here after a long series of voyages through the islands of the South Pacific. These early settlers would later be the Māori people, calling Aotearoa their home. Now numbering about 775 000 in New Zealand (as of the 2018 census), … Continue reading Te Reo Māori o Aotearoa — The Māori Language
Korea’s other language — Jejueo / Jejumal (제주어 / 제주말)
The Korean peninsula is one of the most linguistically homogenous regions in the world, with around 75 million people, almost all of whom speak Korean. Korean's status as a language isolate, unrelated to almost any other language currently spoken in the world, depends on who you ask. Korean is part of its own language family, … Continue reading Korea’s other language — Jejueo / Jejumal (제주어 / 제주말)
The language with four-cornered letters — Bugis (ᨅᨔ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ) and the Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ) script
Indonesia is amazingly diverse. Hundreds of languages and cultures span the archipelago from Sumatra to the western half of New Guinea, encompassing more than 17 thousand islands. While Bahasa Indonesia is the most widely spoken language, by 80% of the entire country's population, many other Austronesian languages are spoken too, and more than 270 languages … Continue reading The language with four-cornered letters — Bugis (ᨅᨔ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ) and the Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ) script
Hiatus, and a Travel Blog?
So, as you may have noticed, I missed out last week's post about how Japanese kanji work. The reason is that I have been quite busy preparing for my travels and will be on hiatus for a month or so. It is not all doom and gloom, however. I would be announcing a travel blog … Continue reading Hiatus, and a Travel Blog?
Exploring Deeper into Japanese
Having studied Japanese for three years as of the time of writing, I decided to delve deeper into the depths of the Japanese kanji. This little exploration would take up a few posts due to the extensive system behind this script, but anyway, some time in the first century CE, the Japanese people had encountered Chinese … Continue reading Exploring Deeper into Japanese
A Non-Anglocentric Language Tier System?
1. How many languages do you know ? Okay, lemme define this question. To “know” a language, usually means to have the knowledge to speak, read, write, understand and communicate in a language. So yeah, as of now, I do know quite a bunch of languages to varying standards, like English, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French, Japanese, […]
Hypothetical Representation of a Language — Ithkuil
Previously, you have read on the simplest yet most ambiguous conlang you have come across so far. Now, we bring you what could be the most difficult but least ambiguous conlang to have ever existed. This is Ithkuil, a language constructed by John Quijada, designed to express deeper levels of human cognition briefly yet overtly and … Continue reading Hypothetical Representation of a Language — Ithkuil
The Language of Good — Toki Pona
Disclaimer: This post does not discuss a natural language, instead this post is about a constructed language, commonly contracted to conlang. You may have heard of Tolkien's Quenya, Star Trek's Klingon, and George R. R. Martin's Dothraki and High Valyrian, and these are all examples of a conlang. The question begs: What is the minimum … Continue reading The Language of Good — Toki Pona
Back in Time — Old Languages
We read and speak the languages we know as they are today, but undoubtedly, some of us have wondered how the same languages were spoken in the past. No, not during our grandparents' generation, nor Shakespeare's era, but way back, at least a thousand years into the past, the time of the legendary sagas of … Continue reading Back in Time — Old Languages
Language Islands — On Language Isolates
Imagine a map showing the languages of the world, not in a 'where they are spoken' sense, but more rather, based on how closely is one related to another. We would see the vast continents of Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan and Niger-Congo, some large islands like the Eskimo-Aleut and Finno-Ugric, and then we have the remotest of … Continue reading Language Islands — On Language Isolates
Singaporean Portuguese – A Brief Post on Kristang
While surfing the web looking through various creoles spoken in the world, one of them caught my eye. A creole spoken in Singapore and Malaysia, but not Singlish nor Manglish. Instead, it was a Portuguese creole, spoken by only a handful of people in the Malayan Peninsula. This is Kristang, known as Portugis to the … Continue reading Singaporean Portuguese – A Brief Post on Kristang
Languages With Consonant Clusters You Didn’t Know Are Possible
In the English language, consonant clusters aren't so much of a rare thing, like we have words like "strengthens", in which "str", "ngth" and "ns" are consonant clusters. In most of the Austronesian languages, however, consonant clusters are all but present. So let's explore the languages which have some of the really insane consonant clusters … Continue reading Languages With Consonant Clusters You Didn’t Know Are Possible
Interesting Things to Note in Austronesian Languages
At the start of this year I started to have a certain craving to learn some Austronesian Languages. We're not only talking about Malay and Indonesian, but also languages of the Polynesian and Micronesian Islands like Gagana Samoa, Niuean and the like. There were some nice observations I made when studying some of these (I'm … Continue reading Interesting Things to Note in Austronesian Languages
5 Most Unusual Consonants
It's time to cover the most unusual sounds you can make in the languages you speak 🙂 1. Voiceless dental fricative You know the "th" sound you pronounce in "thing", "theta" etc? This is actually a rare consonant you're making there, my friends. English, Modern Standard Arabic, Burmese, Greek and Standard European Spanish are among … Continue reading 5 Most Unusual Consonants
Learning the Lesser-known Languages
I believe some of us have always wanted to learn some cool languages like Nunavut Inuktitut, Nahuatl or Gagana Samoa, but where are the resources? Anyway, this post is about my journey in learning the rather lesser-known languages, where resources may be few and far out of reach (like books which I can't buy anywhere … Continue reading Learning the Lesser-known Languages
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