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?
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)
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)
In the previous posts in this series, we have covered some of the indigenous languages spoken across various regions in Taiwan, from the most commonly spoken, to the most endangered or moribund. Here, we shall introduce you to a language spoken by the fourth largest indigenous people group in Taiwan, primarily in the island's central … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Bunun
Described by the West as "The Land of the Rising Sun", the country of Japan is known to us English speakers as, well, Japan. In Japanese, this name is written as the kanji 日本, but carry two commonly used pronunciations, "Nihon" and "Nippon". We see and hear both forms across Japanese media and maybe some … Continue reading Word Bites — Is Japan “Nihon” or “Nippon”? Or both?
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”?
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/
For the past couple of months, I had been exploring the Mongolian language, learning about the rather interesting phonology system, the vowel harmony it sort of shares in common with some of the Turkic languages, and perhaps a bit of the writing system, Mongol bichig, which is probably one of the few writing systems today … Continue reading Trying to understand the “fleeting-n” in Mongolian
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
Here on this site, we have covered several creoles based on various languages, from Japanese-based creole called Yilan Creole Japanese spoken in Taiwan, to the Portuguese-based creole, Papiah Kristang spoken in Malaysia and Singapore. In this post, we will cover yet another special creole, this time, the only known German-based creole spoken in the world, … Continue reading The Only German-based Creole — Unserdeutsch (Rabaul Creole German)
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
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?
If you have learnt Japanese, you most likely have been introduced to how it is spoken in Tokyo, or to a lesser extent, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, or any Kansai variant. However, there are some kana sounds that may or may not sound different based on the prefecture you are in. These four, づ, ず, じ, … Continue reading Speaking Japanese — The Four Kana (Yotsugana)
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?
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
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?
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
As scheduled, here is my translation of what I wrote, under the guidance of my Japanese language tutor, for the script used in the Japanese Speech Contest submission entry! I included the original Japanese text at the top, followed by the English translation, to make referrals to the original script a bit easier. シンガポールの消滅危機言語の復興ークリスタン語 Language … Continue reading Japanese Speech Contest 2020/21 (日本語スピーチコンテスト 2020/21) — The translation
今週の投稿は少し異なる。去年の12月に英国日本語教育学会の日本語スピーチコンテストに参加することに決めた。決勝大会に選考されなかったが、この経験で書き方や話し方など色々なを身につけたと思う。それでは、書いた台本をこのサイトでシェアしたい。自己紹介や形式的な表現などの切ったところがあるが、内容としてたいてい保たれる。英語の翻訳は水曜日に出せる。 This week's post will be a little different. Last December, I decided to take part in the Japanese Speech Contest held by the British Association for Teaching Japanese. While I was not shortlisted for the finals day, I think that through this experience, I learnt a lot of stuff, from writing to speaking and … Continue reading Japanese Speech Contest 2020/21 (日本語スピーチコンテスト 2020/21) — The script
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
The demarcation of the border between the Republic of Korea (ROK), or South Korea, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, marked the separation of not only a people separated by ideology, but also how new words entered the Korean language. Over time, different policies towards the Korean languages in the … Continue reading Word Bites — Divergences in Korean words
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
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)
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
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
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
Previously, we introduced the brief history, and current status of the lesser-known English creole spoken in the United States, Gullah. In this post, we will explore the sound system of Gullah, and how it blends in both influences of the English variants, and of the West African languages. The study of Gullah and its features … Continue reading Black History Month — The Sounds of Gullah
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)
Disclaimer: This post describes an ongoing project to modernise the Nsibidi script, which as of writing, is not the finalised form. The accuracy of information is true as of 29 July 2020, so several things would have changed in the project by the time of this post. We will update this post when more information … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Neo-Nsibidi’s “kana”
Disclaimer: This post describes an ongoing project to modernise the Nsibidi script, which as of writing, is not the finalised form. The accuracy of information is true as of 29 July 2020, so several things would have changed in the project by the time of this post. We will update this post when more information … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Modernising Nsibidi
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)
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)
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
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)
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)
In this post, I want to try something different. About five years ago, I posted a reflection post about my learning experiences in Latin, on Facebook, read only by my friends. As The Language Closet developed and became the main repository of my personal reflections, I want to revisit this post, and to dissect what … Continue reading What I Got Wrong — Revisiting Latin
The Commonwealth of Australia is vast. Not only does it encompass the mainland of the Australian continent, it also includes the islands of Tasmania and the Torres Strait. A country of more than 25 million, it is quite surprising that many people know little of the languages spoken in Australia beyond the English language. It … Continue reading Languages of Australia — An Introduction to Australian Aboriginal 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
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
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
Using the Latin alphabet to write some languages brings a lot of challenges, since 26 letters may not always be enough to capture all the sounds in a language. Tones, nasal vowels, some consonants may be omitted, or have to adopt clunky digraphs like "gb", "ngg", and "ndl". This is true for many languages in … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Ńdébé
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
Sierra Leone, like many places in West Africa, is diverse. It contains at least 15 spoken languages, plus English, but more commonly spoken as a form of creole known as Krio. While Krio is spoken by the vast majority of Sierra Leoneans, in the southern region of the country, exists a regional lingua franca, spoken … Continue reading Writing in Africa — Mende Kikakui
This writing system is unlike those discussed previously. It did not arise in the 19th century, under the legacy of Sequoyah on the writing systems of North America. In fact, its writing system arose after the language was officially declared extinct in 2005, following the passing of Lucille Roubedeaux, the last native speaker of the … Continue reading Writing in North America — Osage Script
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
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)
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
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