What do we know about the Sentinelese language?

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?

Languages of Taiwan — Rukai (Drekay)

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)

Languages of Taiwan — Puyuma (Pinuyumayan, Peinan, Beinan)

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)

Word Bites — Is Japan “Nihon” or “Nippon”? Or both?

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?

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”?

Speaking Japanese — The Interchangeability of /s/ and /h/

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/

Trying to understand a Mongolian phonology rule

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

Trying to understand the “fleeting-n” in Mongolian

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

Zuni vs Japanese — More than just a coincidence?

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?

Speaking Japanese — What Exactly is Rendaku?

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?

What happened to Bulgarian’s grammatical cases?

Down by the Black Sea, lies the country of Bulgaria, the primary home of the Bulgarian language. Rather closely related to Macedonian, this Slavic language is part of what is known as the Balkan sprachbund, an ensemble of generally common features shared by languages spoken in the Balkans, like grammar, vocabulary, and phonology. What sets … Continue reading What happened to Bulgarian’s grammatical cases?

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 — Divergences in Korean words

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

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

Saying It Like It Sounds — Onomatopoeia

Language is actually quite a neat little concept, how it can be simplified to the expression of ideas, concepts, experiences and memories by the utterance of sounds that make sense to people who speak the same tongue. Sociology, human interactions with other humans and the environment, and the time-attested evolution could all impact a language's … Continue reading Saying It Like It Sounds — Onomatopoeia

Languages of Taiwan — Introduction to the Formosan 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

Te Reo Māori o Aotearoa — The Māori Language

Aotearoa, or New Zealand, is amazing. Uninhabited before the 13th century, the Eastern Polynesians settled here after a long series of voyages through the islands of the South Pacific. These early settlers would later be the Māori people, calling Aotearoa their home. Now numbering about 775 000 in New Zealand (as of the 2018 census), … Continue reading Te Reo Māori o Aotearoa — The Māori Language

Mathematics in language — Transcendental algebra

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

Controlled Languages — Newspeak

George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is a remarkable novel in many ways, from setting the scene of perpetual war, illustrations of a totalitarian state with extensive government over-reach and surveillance, to the extreme restrictions on freedom of thought. Many real-world parallels have been drawn from this novel, and its relevance persists to this day. Personally, this … Continue reading Controlled Languages — Newspeak

Language and Ecology — Distribution of Tonal Languages

Previously, we looked at the ecological drivers behind global patterns and distribution of language diversity. On a global scale, language diversity increases towards the equator, and the tropics are found to be more language dense. To explain these patterns from an ecological perspective, it was proposed that ecological risk played a more significant role than … Continue reading Language and Ecology — Distribution of Tonal Languages

Language and Ecology — The Latitudinal Gradient

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

Writing in North America — Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

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

Korea’s other language — Jejueo / Jejumal (제주어 / 제주말)

The Korean peninsula is one of the most linguistically homogenous regions in the world, with around 75 million people, almost all of whom speak Korean. Korean's status as a language isolate, unrelated to almost any other language currently spoken in the world, depends on who you ask. Korean is part of its own language family, … Continue reading Korea’s other language — Jejueo / Jejumal (제주어 / 제주말)

The language with four-cornered letters — Bugis (ᨅᨔ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ) and the Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ) script

Indonesia is amazingly diverse. Hundreds of languages and cultures span the archipelago from Sumatra to the western half of New Guinea, encompassing more than 17 thousand islands. While Bahasa Indonesia is the most widely spoken language, by 80% of the entire country's population, many other Austronesian languages are spoken too, and more than 270 languages … Continue reading The language with four-cornered letters — Bugis (ᨅᨔ ᨕᨘᨁᨗ) and the Lontara (ᨒᨚᨈᨑ) script

Talking to our future selves — Long-term nuclear waste warning messages

What if everyone could understand what is written, no matter what language, dialect, creole or patois they speak? We do have street signs, where colour and shape tell us the rules of the road but minor bits vary according to country driving regulations. We have those hazard symbols representing radiation, biohazards, corrosives and irritants but … Continue reading Talking to our future selves — Long-term nuclear waste warning messages

Puhuminen Suomen — A Journey in Finnish

Before starting on my reflections when learning Finnish, I would like to highlight the first impression other learners get from the language. Many memes have circulated here and there talking about the sheer difficulty in learning Finnish. Even I have rated it as among the most difficult foreign languages to learn as a [monolingual] native … Continue reading Puhuminen Suomen — A Journey in Finnish

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, […]

5 of the Most Interesting Languages I have Learnt so far

During my language learning journeys and escapades, I have encountered special sounds, special words and special ways to express ideas and concepts. These languages are mostly unique in this regard, but I will be showing you five of the most interesting languages I have learnt so far in this journey. 5. Mongolian Mongolian is the … Continue reading 5 of the Most Interesting Languages I have Learnt so far

Hypothetical Representation of a Language — Ithkuil

Previously, you have read on the simplest yet most ambiguous conlang you have come across so far. Now, we bring you what could be the most difficult but least ambiguous conlang to have ever existed. This is Ithkuil, a language constructed by John Quijada, designed to express deeper levels of human cognition briefly yet overtly and … Continue reading Hypothetical Representation of a Language — Ithkuil

Actions Speak Louder than Words — A First Impression on Sign Language

In recent days, I decided to take a short break from learning words and sounds and stuff of our spoken languages and tried learning something different, signing, specifically American Sign Language, because that is the sign language where resources are very abundant (I know Singapore Sign Language exists as well but I don't quite have … Continue reading Actions Speak Louder than Words — A First Impression on Sign Language

Speaking “Indian”- A Reflection on Learning Experience in Hindi

India- A huge country with a massive population, and home to a whole bunch of languages. In fact, India recognises 23 official languages, including Hindi, English, Urdu, Panjabi, Gujarati, Tamil and Malayalam, just to name a few. Yet, some people refer to these diverse group of languages as just Indian, like "Do you speak Indian?" … Continue reading Speaking “Indian”- A Reflection on Learning Experience in Hindi

Writing in Africa

Africa, a continent of thousands of ethnic groups, the most among all continents. Alongside these ethnic groups lie the linguistic diversity, rivaled only by the language diversity of Papua New Guinea. Many of these languages are still vulnerable to endangerment and extinction, and many of these also lack a written form to document their language. … Continue reading Writing in Africa

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Singlish in Society

Our final part of Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English covers the controversy surrounding this creole of English. In Singapore, you may notice newspaper articles and educational materials are written (or more rather, typed) in grammatically correct English, but the English you hear on the streets tend to be rather ungrammatical (with respect to Standard English). … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Singlish in Society

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – More Particles

We're finally back after the brief intermission where we talked about one of the most well-known indigenous languages, Inuktitut. Now, we will be discussing the hallmark features of Singlish particles, the use of particles like lah, leh, loh etc. We hear it quite often, they're normally used at the end of sentences, and they can … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – More Particles

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – The curious case of “already”

Singlish particles truly define this creole, giving it its identity, making it stand out as much as Bislama and Tok Pisin, both of which are other creoles of English spoken in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea respectively. Singlish particles draw influence mainly from Chinese (and its dialects) and Malay (and one from Tamil). This post … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – The curious case of “already”

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Verbs

Verbs. You know, those action words that bring life to sentences. Some languages conjugate by number, some by tense, some by aspect, mood, gender... yeah you get the point. Some don't even conjugate it at all. This post brings you verbs in Singlish, and how they differ from Standard English. One of the most prominent … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Verbs

Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Topicalisation

Singlish, or more formally known as Colloquial Singaporean English, is an English creole which closely resembles that of Colloquial Malaysian English, drawing influences from the languages represented by the ethnic groups that make up the speakers' population. It's something I encounter almost every day, and I thought it would be good to make some observations … Continue reading Adventures in Colloquial Singaporean English (Singlish) – Topicalisation

Languages With Consonant Clusters You Didn’t Know Are Possible

In the English language, consonant clusters aren't so much of a rare thing, like we have words like "strengthens", in which "str", "ngth" and "ns" are consonant clusters. In most of the Austronesian languages, however, consonant clusters are all but present. So let's explore the languages which have some of the really insane consonant clusters … Continue reading Languages With Consonant Clusters You Didn’t Know Are Possible

Interesting Things to Note in Austronesian Languages

At the start of this year I started to have a certain craving to learn some Austronesian Languages. We're not only talking about Malay and Indonesian, but also languages of the Polynesian and Micronesian Islands like Gagana Samoa, Niuean and the like. There were some nice observations I made when studying some of these (I'm … Continue reading Interesting Things to Note in Austronesian Languages