Sometimes you would see two dots above some vowels, like Joyeux Noël (French for Merry Christmas), or naïve in, curiously, English. This diacritic can be found in alphabets from Albanian to Swedish. Normally represented by two dots above the letter where the sound is modified, or some other things, we also find a similar-looking sort … Continue reading Diaresis, tréma, Umlaut. Which is it?
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 words we say but do not actually need — Tautology
We do say a bunch of unnecessary stuff in our everyday conversations and monologues. You know, the machine in ATM machine, the comics in DC comics (yes, DC technically stands for Detective Comics), and the display in LCD display. Many of these words are already incorporated in the abbreviations that contain them. Furthermore, when we … Continue reading The words we say but do not actually need — Tautology
Why did we learn cursive?
If you grew up in the 20th century, or heck, even into the early 2000s, and you are a speaker of English, you might have gone through the ordeal of learning penmanship, and most particularly, the cursive script, at some point in either preschool, primary school, or elementary school depending on your education system. For … Continue reading Why did we learn cursive?
What is Cockfosters meant to mean?
Picture this. You just landed in London Heathrow Airport, made it through passport control, and collected your checked baggage, if you brought some along. You now needed to make your way towards the city center (or Zone 1) because that is where your hotel is. You decided to board the London Underground because that is … Continue reading What is Cockfosters meant to mean?
The “-sex” in some British place names
The United Kingdom has some interesting place names. From names that could sound rather vulgar, like Bitchfield in Lincolnshire, Penistone, and Scunthorpe in South Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire respectively, to some outright ridiculous names like Braintree and Splatt. Many of these names are scattered throughout England, and to a smaller extent, Scotland. But today, we … Continue reading The “-sex” in some British place names
Why does “ph” make an “f” sound?
Phone. Phase. Phoenix. These words start with a "ph", yet this digraph is pronounced with an "f". In some other languages, we see such a pattern as well. Take French, for example. The word for "the seal", le phoque, also has its "ph" pronounced as an "f". We also see such a pattern in Vietnamese, … Continue reading Why does “ph” make an “f” sound?
Probably the weirdest language crossover
What happens when a bunch of speakers with no common language come together and want to communicate? A simplified form of the languages involved starts to form, usually impromptu, or through social conventions. Pidgins are not considered a native language by any speech community, instead learned as a second language (L2). However, pidgins usually form … Continue reading Probably the weirdest language crossover
The silent “w” in some British place names
In the past couple of Word Bites posts, we have gone over some of the most difficult (more rather, misleading) British place names to pronounce, and how those names originated, and some ideas why the pronunciation changed to strongly deviate from what is written. But today, let's explore some of the typical patterns in some … Continue reading The silent “w” in some British place names
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
Word Bites — Des milliers, des millions, des milliards
I remember a song by a French singer Jean-Louis Aubert titled "Milliers, Millions, Milliards", translated as "Thousands, Millions, Billions" in English. While a rather catchy song in its melody and lyrics, the title alone sort of hides a little linguistic curiosity. Let's explore another example, using a different language branch. In German, "million" is, well, … Continue reading Word Bites — Des milliers, des millions, des milliards
Word Bites — Why does the word “irregardless” exist?
It sounds ungrammatical, yet seemingly so intuitive to say. Even so, this word has attracted much controversy about its use in the twentieth century, in definition, usage, and the like. While it has been recognised as a dictionary entry decades ago, it still shows up as a spelling error in some text editors, including the … Continue reading Word Bites — Why does the word “irregardless” exist?
Word Bites — What is the deal with the word “obligated”?
When asked for a word meaning "a morally or legally bound act for a person", or "a duty or commitment", one would probably mention the word "obligation". And they would be right. However, when asked about the verb form of the noun "obligation", this is where we start to hear multiple answers. While I tend … Continue reading Word Bites — What is the deal with the word “obligated”?
Word Bites — More notorious British place names to pronounce
Previously, we have covered three of the British place names which do not seem to follow any pronunciation rule at all. This week, we are back with another installation of three place names to dissect -- their etymology, possible evolution pattern, and what this place actually is. You might also want to keep a score … Continue reading Word Bites — More notorious British place names to pronounce
Word Bites — Beaulieu, Woolfardisworthy, and other wacky British place names
Some British places are famous for their significance, like say, Brighton, or Manchester, or Greenwich. Other British places, however, are a bit more notorious for their wacky pronunciations, as with what is often regarded as the most difficult to pronounce British place name, Frome in Somerset, England. Among its ranks come Woolfardisworthy in Devon, and … Continue reading Word Bites — Beaulieu, Woolfardisworthy, and other wacky British place names
Word Bites — Similar words, different origins
Sometimes, people suggest that languages are related just because of a small number of lexical similarities between them. However, it could be extremely likely that these words appear similar by sheer coincidence. Perhaps, one of the most well-known examples quoted is the rather striking similarity between English and Mbabaram, for the word "dog". However, English … Continue reading Word Bites — Similar words, different origins
Word Bites — Why do some people say “this here” instead of “this”?
In some videos, movies, or films, you may have heard some characters or people use the phrase "this here (something)" or "that there (something)", probably to portray a more country or old-style atmosphere. However, occasionally, I have heard instances where phrases like this are spoken in perhaps some places in America. So this got me … Continue reading Word Bites — Why do some people say “this here” instead of “this”?
Word Bites — From Ross to Pferd
There are odd etymologies in various languages, and here, I want to present one of them. One that is rather commonly used, identified, and known by all. That is the word "horse". Understandably, given that English is a Germanic language, we would expect to see a rather similar sounding translation for this word. Right? Well, … Continue reading Word Bites — From Ross to Pferd
Word Bites — Dord?
In 1934, a curious word entry appeared in the D-section of the second edition of the New International Dictionary, published by G. and C. Merriam Company, what is now part of Merriam-Webster. The word was defined as a synonym for density, used in the contexts of physics and chemistry. However, this word was completely removed … Continue reading Word Bites — Dord?
The mystery of our alphabetical order
I am pretty sure you know how the alphabet song goes, from any language that uses some form of the Latin alphabet. Something that always intrigues me is why the alphabet, the English one at least, is ordered this way, and not any other sequence. Was it because the ABC song only sounds appropriate when … Continue reading The mystery of our alphabetical order
Word Bites — The Mystery of Soton
Sometimes, place names can often make little to no sense. Take Southampton and Northampton, in the United Kingdom, for example. One might think that they are bordering each other, but no. While Southampton is a city in the county of Hampshire, curiously deriving its name from Southampton itself, Northampton is located in Northamptonshire, somewhere in … Continue reading Word Bites — The Mystery of Soton
Word Bites — Awful vs Awesome
The English language is weird, yet interesting. Words that form from similar roots can take different, or opposite meanings. Sometimes, word pairs that sound like they have opposite meanings have rather similar, or identical meanings. Plus, there are also contronyms, where words can have opposite meanings based on the context in which they are used. … Continue reading Word Bites — Awful vs Awesome
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
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, […]
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