The world of constructed languages is near limitless. From the days of Lingua Ignota, to more modern ones like Esperanto, constructed languages have pushed creativity to further heights in the linguistic fields. Such inventions have appeared in many pop culture scenes, aiding in world building, lore, and creating a more authentic-sounding fictional culture. Examples include … Continue reading I asked ChatGPT to invent its own language (Pt 1)
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?
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 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
Previously, we covered the Osmanya alphabet created in the early 20th century meant to write and represent the Somali language. Its spread was unfortunately put to an end by the Italians, who suspected its proliferation to be part of a pro-independence movement. But this was not the only writing system to arise in that era, … Continue reading Writing in Africa — The Somalian Alphabets (Pt 2)
In the Horn of Africa, several languages are widely spoken. From Amharic and Tigrinya in Ethiopia to Afar in Djibouti, many languages of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family are spoken here. In Somalia, Somaliland and Djibouti, Somali has official language status in the former two, and national language status in the latter. … Continue reading Writing in Africa — The Somalian Alphabets (Pt 1)
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?
A proverb is meant to be simple, it is meant to be insightful, and it expresses a perceived truth based on common experiences. Often figurative or metaphorical, proverbs collectively form a sort of folklore passed down by oral traditions. You may have heard of "Your mileage may vary" or "ignorance is bliss", but how about … Continue reading From politics to proverb
While browsing meme pages and terrible or not-so-terrible maps, I came across this one: Ignoring the notion of Proto-World, it appears that 48 of the 50 states plus Washington DC in the US of A have some sort of an etymology. After doing a bit of fact checking, that is correct. But now we come … Continue reading Where did Idaho come from?
Ananas. That is the name of the fruit that contains bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down proteins. Known for its tropical and exotic feel, this fruit has also found itself deep in controversy over its status as a pizza topping, dividing gastronomic communities all over. Yet, there is also another thing this fruit has stirred, … Continue reading Where did “pineapple” come from?
There is a curious poem in the book titled The Word Circus, written by Richard Lederer, and published in 1998. Called "Job's Job", it goes something like: In August, an august patriarchWas reading an ad in Reading, Mass.Long-suffering Job secured a jobTo polish piles of Polish brass.Richard Lederer, in The Word Circus, 1998 While seeming like … Continue reading When capitalisation actually makes a difference
In a previous post, we have introduced one of the writing systems that is written vertically, but read horizontally. But what if I told you that there are more writing systems that sort of use similar writing directions? That is right, because today, we will dive into yet another one of these writing systems, that … Continue reading Yet another vertical writing system
When prowling through various orthographies, and their changes throughout modernity, I came across a particularly interesting case study on the use of the letter "eszett" (or scharfes es) in relation to the surrounding vowels, the letter s, and the digraph ss. These changes somehow disproportionately applied to Standard German, particularly those used in Germany and … Continue reading Swiss High German has one fewer letter than Standard High German. But why?
You only see this letter being used in German today, but not just any German, more rather, the German typically spoken in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, and parts of Belgium. You might see this on street signs, or basically everywhere. For learners, you might have first encountered it in the very first lesson of a beginner's … Continue reading The story of Eszett (ß)
The Torres Strait Islands are a group of more than 270 islands straddling the Torres Strait, which separates Australia from the island of New Guinea. On them, live about 4 500 inhabitants, according to a 2016 census. Some of them speak a language indigenous to the central and western Torres Strait Islands, although it is … Continue reading A look at Australia’s unusual language — Kala Lagaw Ya
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
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?
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?
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?
As someone who has a background in ecology and many things biology, there are often many times I have tried to observe parallels between biodiversity and linguistic diversity. In fact, I have written a couple of posts before about these topics, breaking down published academic or scientific papers that explore these concepts. We see that … Continue reading Language and Ecology — Island Biogeography of Languages
Greetings. Probably the second thing you learn in a new languages just after the swear words and profanities. Across Europe, you would hear something along the lines of "hello", "hi", "good day", and the like. But there is this area in Europe that has a more, well, maritime-sounding greeting. Meet the languages of Czech, Slovak, … Continue reading The languages where you greet like pirates?
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
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7 400 islands, and home to dozens of languages, most of which belong to the Austronesian language family. While Tagalog, Filipino, Ilocano, and Cebuano stand out as some of the more spoken languages, or better known ones in the Philippines, there are many others with much fewer speakers, … Continue reading The writing system written in one direction, but read in another
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 sheikh's sixth sheep's sick. That is probably the most difficult tongue twister in English, owing to the tricky consonants and phonemes put together. But do you know which other sixth is happening? That's right, The Language Closet is celebrating their sixth anniversary today! We have been operating on a weekly post basis for the … Continue reading A sixth anniversary post
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
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
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
A web of deception. Lies. All resulting in the financial loss in the victim, with almost nothing good in return. It comes in many different forms, from the street, to your phone as robocalls, or to your emails in your spam folder. With it, comes many different terminologies specifying the type of deception, like the … Continue reading Where did the word ‘scam’ come from?
In colloquial German, and perhaps online discourse, you would see one of these words used in conversations. Just like other expressions like the infamous bitte, these words have different meanings, and are used in slightly different contexts. Here, we will be looking at the differences between the words genau, eben, and gerade. Genau In German … Continue reading The differences between “genau”, “eben”, and “gerade”
In January 2022, a game took the Internet by storm. In a burst of popularity, millions have taken to solve daily challenges, with a simple objective -- to guess the five letter word of the day within six guesses. Although originally released in English, this game has since been released in other languages, but ultimately … Continue reading A look back at Wordle
When learning languages, one can never escape from having to learn about pronouns. For some, it is quite "straightforward", while for others, not so much. As such, I was not surprised to see some of my classmates in German class trying to understand which pronoun this one word meant in certain contexts, written or spoken. … Continue reading How did this word mean three different pronouns?
This diacritic we will cover today will bother a lot of font developers who want to make a sans-serif font, basically a typeface that lacks any sort of protruding bits at the end of a stroke. These projecting features are called "serifs", and here, the one bothersome bit is called the cedilla, a diacritic mark … Continue reading The story of the cedilla
French is probably one of the more well-known languages with diacritics, although it does not get as elaborate as languages like Vietnamese today. This language has five different types of diacritics, also known as accents -- the accent aigu (é), accent grave (Eg. è), accent circonflexe (Eg. û), accent tréma (Eg. ë), and cédille (ç). … Continue reading Why does French have circumflex letters?
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
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
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
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?
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”?
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’
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 Arabic abjad has its influences throughout many parts of the world. From the Urdu script for, well, Urdu, and Persian script for Farsi, to the Jawi script for Bahasa Melayu, there are many letters added to the 28 original letters of Arabic from these respective languages. However, these scripts will not be the focus … Continue reading The writing system that resembles Arabic, but is not
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
When starting off in learning languages, learners would tend to take two different starter paths -- learning the greetings, and learning the profanities. Today we are talking about the former, one which has a rather interesting history. While I have dabbled here and there in German before coming to Germany to study, I realised down … Continue reading Word Bites — From servitude to greeting, the story of “Servus”
For a long time now, I have been wondering, how did people back then learn Mandarin Chinese characters? Today, we have the convenience of learning new characters by just looking at the hànyǔ pīnyīn, which is the official romanisation system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, and is also used in teaching Mandarin Chinese … Continue reading Learning Mandarin Chinese characters… with more Mandarin Chinese characters
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)
There are many places in the world that share the same name, or rather similar names. Take the distribution of all the Londons, Parises, and Romes of the world. While the most popular versions are the "originals" found in the UK, France, and Italy respectively, it did not stop the US, Canada, and even Kiribati … Continue reading Word Bites — Different cities, similar names (Helsinki / Helsingfors, Helsingborg, Helsingør)
In the field of language isolates, finding examples which maintain a sizable speaking population today is quite hard. Many language isolates are after all, extinct, or teetering to the brink of extinction. And on the other extreme, there are language isolates which still enjoy a vibrant status like Korean. The language we are covering today … Continue reading Languages of Australia — Tiwi (Tunuvivi)
Some months ago, I tried my hand at learning the Maori language, made more accessible through the release of learning applications developed in New Zealand, as well as the addition of Maori to several language learning applications we discussed, particularly Memrise. However, other than Memrise, there is another application which I am rather fond of, … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Drops
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
In Australia, lies a micronation no one recognises. Spanning the territory along the state border of New South Wales and Queensland, Australia, this corresponded to the traditional homeland of the Murrawarri people. It declared its independence in 30 March 2013 from Australia, and even brought their sovereignty campaign to the United Nations to request for … Continue reading Languages of Australia — Muruwari
As we have covered before in the segment on the demonym "Soton" to refer to people in Southampton, there are many weird and interesting demonyms around the world. So today, we will take a look at an interesting etymology behind yet another demonym, this time, used to refer to residents residing in the Netherlands. Sometimes, … Continue reading Word Bites — Why are people of the Netherlands called Dutch?
By the time this post is published, it would have been about 16 months since our very first post on the indigenous languages of Taiwan. Today, we will cover the final two Formosan languages still spoken in Taiwan, before wrapping the series up (for now, at least). Sakizaya In Hualien County, there is a people … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Sakizaya (Sakiray), Truku, and a conclusion
Sandwiched between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, Caucasia is home to the Caucasus Mountains, separating Eastern Europe and West Asia. Encompassing mainly Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and some parts of Southern Russia, the Caucasus may seem geographically small. But make no mistake, this region is among the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions on … Continue reading Why does the Caucasus have so many languages?
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
While browsing the various realms of the Internet for things about languages I find interesting, this one caught my attention: Interpret it for yourself, but its supposed intended message was to notify the motorist that the Maccas' at Yass opened at 6am. So what is Yass exactly? It turned out that Yass is a town … Continue reading Languages of Australia — Burragorang (Ngunawal – Gundungurra)
When thinking about languages to learn, I often ponder about what I wanted to achieve from the journey, and what I wanted to use the language for. Languages are designed to communicate -- verbally or in print and writing, relying on the utterances or graphemes transmitted by the sender or speaker, to be decoded by … Continue reading The biggest mistake I make when learning languages
This continuation of the Languages of Taiwan series introduces yet another critically endangered language, one at a rather precarious position. Traditionally considered as a subgroup of the Tsou people, the Lha'alua or Saaroa people received official recognition from the government of Taiwan, becoming the 15th recognised indigenous people in Taiwan. Numbering around 400 today, the … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Saaroa (Lha’alua)
There probably is a saying that goes, for every game that exists, there is a speedrunning community for it. Apparently, this extends to some language learning methods as well, particularly those which provide a gamified experience to users. With its own category on Twitch, I knew what I had to do on there for once … Continue reading I did a speedrun on Duolingo. Here’s what I learnt
The next language we are going to cover is a critically endangered one, one with less than 200 speakers, among a people group numbering less than 1000 individuals. Not to be confused with the Tao, the Thao, also known as Sao or Ngan, is an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting the Sun Moon Lake region in … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Thao (Thau a lalawa, Sao)
Making up around 1-2% of Taiwan's indigenous population, the Saisiyat people numbered 6743 in 2020. Among them, around 2000 were native speakers of the Saisiyat language, according to the Council of Indigenous Peoples Taiwan in 2015. The UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger has classified this language as "severely endangered", with many of … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Saisiyat (Saisiat)
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
This language was formerly spoken in the northeastern regions of Taiwan, but today, the language is no longer used there. Currently spoken in Eastern Taiwan, in Hualien, Yilan, and Taitung counties, it has experienced a continual state of decline in use. With many Kavalan speaking other languages like Amis, Mandarin, Japanese, and Taiwanese Hokkien, it … Continue reading Languages of Taiwan — Kavalan (Kvalan, Kebalan, Kbalan)
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)
I do not really do this often, but this event I am preparing for is strongly relevant to the content I write here. This would be the start of a new chapter in life for me, and I sure am looking forward to what is in store. I am moving to Germany for my post-graduate … Continue reading A Life Update
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/
When I first set out to learn Mongolian, I expected the sound system and alphabets to be more straightforward than some other languages like say, Tibetan. With this, came this expectation of sort of a one-to-one relationship between letter and sound. However, in reality, I realised some letters were not quite pronounced the way I … Continue reading Trying to understand a Mongolian phonology rule
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
Searching up language mysteries or weird coincidences, chances are, two languages would pop up. Spoken in Arizona and New Mexico, Zuni is considered by many linguists and anthropologists as a language isolate, a language with no established genealogical relationships with any other language. However, one anthropologist, Nancy Yaw Davis, has picked up some possible similarities … Continue reading Zuni vs Japanese — More than just a coincidence?
You may have encountered this meme, as vintage as it may be, now lurking in the depths of internet history and being dug up from time to time. A simple misspelt sign appearing in 2008, this has come to spread far and wide. But this is not a one-off event. Signs reading "Yard sard" or … Continue reading Word Bites — “Yard Sard” or “Yale Sale”
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
On this day, five years ago, I started this site to compile some of my most memorable things I encountered in my language learning journeys, reflections, and some of the most interesting things about languages around the world. I have seen how my writing style changed, hopefully giving a more reflective take on some posts, … Continue reading The Language Closet — 5 Years On
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?
Sometimes, I would ask myself this question -- given the time, resources and opportunity, which languages would I have got to learning? Recent events have provided opportunities to get started on some of these languages, but for the most part, I felt that I had accumulated quite a bit of backlog on language learning. Here, … Continue reading 3 languages that I’ve wanted to learn
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
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)
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
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?
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)
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
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)
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