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
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
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
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 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
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
If you have used social media as part of your language learning processes, or you are in language learning interest groups, you might have encountered various challenges that try to push you to speak or write in your target language. This includes the Lingua Franca Challenge, the 30-Day Record Yourself Challenge, and the 30 Day … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — The Language Learning Challenges
So, you have started learning a language, setting out the goals of being able to converse with native speakers across some topics, or write short essays in that target language. You have your textbooks ready, perhaps coupled with flashcards and beginner texts, all set to start off on the rather subjective "right path". Textbook audio … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — HiNative
Teach Yourself has a diverse set of language courses for various learners of various proficiencies, from the Get Started series for absolute beginners to the Enjoy series for learners who want to perfect their various skills in their target language. Last year, we covered the main series of Teach Yourself language coursebooks, the Complete series, … Continue reading 👏🏻Method 👏🏻 Review — Teach Yourself Enjoy Language Series
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
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)
Like Teach Yourself, Routledge is also another powerhouse of language coursebooks, primarily through the Colloquial Series of Multimedia Language Courses, containing courses for at least 40-50 languages. Audio is available through CDs, or through external downloads. Alongside these courses, Routledge also has several Grammar series, and courses focused on the grammar side of things compared … Continue reading 👏🏻Method 👏🏻 Review — Routledge’s Colloquial Series
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
Our first dive into the indigenous languages of Australia takes us into the Northern Territory, home of the Arrernte, Alyawarre, Anmatyerre, Ayerrereng and Yuruwinga peoples. Although these people groups are indeed diverse, they speak various dialects of a language, or dialect cluster, of a language known as Arrernte. With a total of 4 537 native … Continue reading Languages of Australia – Arrernte (Upper Arrernte)
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
In 2016, Duolingo made a new application which functioned quite a bit like Memrise. Using aesthetics and assets similar or inspired by the main Duolingo project, the flashcard app, Tinycards, was unveiled. It tried to be like its cousin Memrise, using a similar flashcard method, but with their own user-created or Duolingo-style art attached to … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — The Short-lived Tinycards (2016 – 2020)
It has been 10 years since I started learning Arabic, but never quite got to writing a full-length reflection on this journey thus far. I feel that it is time to share my experiences on the learning process, and the various challenges I encountered along the way. December 2009. I had only just completed my … Continue reading A Journey in Arabic (MSA)
The next review is yet another giant in the language learning industry. Like Duolingo, there is a focus on so-called games to teach languages to users. Since its release in 2013 onto the mobile market, Memrise has garnered more than 20 million users, learners of various languages to various subjects. Using flashcards as the main … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Memrise
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
In this review, we will take a look at the various publications in the language learning industry, particularly the self-instruction book giant Teach Yourself. From languages to quantum mechanics, Teach Yourself has an extremely wide spread of subjects, but this being a language learning site, we will be reviewing the Complete, Get Talking, Get Started, … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Teach Yourself Complete Series
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
"No, you are an apple" "I am a horse" Most people who use Duolingo in their language learning journeys probably have encountered sentences like this, and wondered, how does this even make sense, or how does this even help me? Duolingo is one of the most widely-used applications that aid in learning foreign languages, released … Continue reading 👏🏻 Method 👏🏻 Review — Duolingo
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?
In ecology, there is a widely-recognised global pattern in distribution of species. Studying terrestrial vertebrates, ecologists found that species richness increases from poles to tropics. This pattern is also seen in marine organisms as well. Birds, on the other hand, have the highest species richness in regions corresponding to the tropics and mountain ranges. The … Continue reading Language and Ecology — The Latitudinal Gradient
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
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
Previously, we have covered the various writing systems in Africa, to much interest, as not many are aware about the scripts used in the continent. From Ge'ez to Nsibidi, we have discussed the features and successes of these writing systems. This series of posts have certainly shown that writing systems in Africa are not just … Continue reading Writing in North America
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)