Archive for the Category: English

Byd bach (Small world)

Yesterday I met some Russians who are in Bangor for Celtic-Slavic language conference. They both speak Welsh and one of them teaches Welsh in Moscow. We got chatting, mainly in Welsh, and it turned out that they know friends of mine who are studying or doing research in Aberystwyth, and they also know Russians I […]

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Also posted in Irish, Language, Welsh Leave a comment

Interesting!

The word interesting can have a variety of meanings, depending on how you say it and the context in which you use it. At least it does in British English. The basic definition is “inspiring interest; absorbing” [source]. It comes from the noun interest (legal claim or right; concern; benefit, advantage), from the Anglo-French interesse […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Language, Latin, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Churches and Cells

Today I discovered that the Welsh word llan (church, parish), which is used mainly in place names, such as Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, has cognates in the other Celtic languages: lann in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish and Manx, and lan in Breton. These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *lendʰ- (land, heath) [source]. Another word church-related word […]

Also posted in Breton, Cornish, Etymology, Irish, Language, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 7 Comments

High Stones

I spent yesterday in Harlech [ˈharlɛx] with a friend looking round the castle, exploring the village and wandering along the beach. We wondered where the name Harlech comes from, so I thought I’d find out. According to Wikipedia, there are two possible sources: from the Welsh ardd (high; hill) llech (stone) or from hardd (beautiful) […]

Also posted in Breton, Etymology, Irish, Language, Manx, Proto-Indo-European, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Blackberries and Walls

The French words mur (wall) mûr (ripe; mature) and mûre (blackberry; mulberry) are written differently but pronounced the same – [myʁ], so are only distinguished by context in speech. The word mur (wall) comes from the Latin mūrus (wall), from the Old Latin *moerus/*moiros, from the Proto-Indo-European *mei (to fix, to build fortifications or fences) […]

Also posted in Etymology, French, Greek, Language, Latin, Portuguese, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Welsh, Words and phrases 3 Comments

Differently polite

I discovered the other day that in Chinese families it is considered impolite to say the equivalents of please and thank you, as this is seen as distancing yourself from other members of the family, so within a family such words are apparently rarely used. Is this correct? Does it vary between families? Although I […]

Also posted in Chinese, Language 8 Comments

српски (Serbian)

Last week I started learning Serbian (српски) in preparation for the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad in Serbia in October. Whenever I visit a country whose language I don’t already speak I learn at least the basics of their language, so I couldn’t go to Serbia without learning some Serbian. I’m using online materials, such […]

Also posted in Language, Language learning, Serbian 3 Comments

When is a language not a language?

One perennial problem in linguistics is how to decide whether a language is a language or dialect. In the fascinating book, Speak: A Short History of Languages, which I read recently, Tore Janson argues that a language can be considered a language when those who speak it decide that it is one, and they give […]

Also posted in Italian, Language, Latin, Linguistics 2 Comments

Brushing up languages

Last week in Scotland I tried to speak Scottish Gaelic as much as possible, and had a number of good conversations. At first though, I was adding quite a lot of Irish Gaelic into the mix, which works sometimes as the two languages are close, but not always. Last year I had a month between […]

Also posted in Irish, Language, Language learning, Scottish Gaelic 1 Comment

Waulking and Walking

My Gaelic Song course is going well and I’m really enjoying it. There are thirteen of us in the class – most are from Scotland or of Scottish origin, and there are also a few from other countries like the USA and Germany. Some speak Gaelic well, others know a bit, and those without any […]

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