Echoes on the Tongue

Many years ago I went to a fascinating talk by David Crystal in Bangor University about endangered languages. One of the things he said was that a good way to spread the word about the plight of such languages might be for creative people to make art, or to write songs, stories, poems, etc about them.

Since then I’ve been thinking about writing a song about this topic, and finally got round to it a few weeks ago. Today I made a recording of it, with harp accompaniment. It’s called Echoes on the Tongue, and is written from the perspective of the words of an endangered language that has never been written down, and has only a few elderly speakers.

At the end of the recording I’ve added the phrase “we are still here” spoken in endangered languages – currently Welsh, Breton, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx. If you can translate this phrase into other endangered languages, and ideally make a recording of it, please do. Recordings can be sent to feedback[at]omniglot[dot]com.

Thatched Stegosauruses!

What do togas, stegosauruses and thatch have in common?

Stegasaurus

These words all come from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source].

Toga comes from the Latin togategō (I clothe) , from the Proto-Indo-European *togéh₂ (cover), from *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Stegosaurus comes from the Ancient Greek words στέγος (stégos – roof) and σαῦρος (saûros – lizard) [source], and στέγος comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- (cover, roof) [source]. The origins of σαῦρος are uncertain. So a stegosaurus is a “roof lizard”.

Thatch comes from the Old English þæc (roof-covering), from the Proto-Germanic *þaką (covering), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (to cover) [source].

Words for house in the Celtic languages also come ultimately from the same root – (Welsh) chi (Cornish), ti (Breton), teach (Irish), taigh (Scottish Gaelic) and thie (Manx). More details.

Asterix and the King

Have you ever wonder why the names of the Gauls in the Asterix books all end in -ix?

Asterix & Obelisk

There were genuine Gauls with names ending in -ix, or rather rix, which means king in Gaulish. They include Vercingetorix (see photo), Dumnorix, Albiorix, Adgennorix and Dagorix [source]. Asterix and friends have joke names with the -ix suffix to make them sound Gaulish.

The word rix comes from the Proto-Celtic *rīxs (king), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃rḗǵs (ruler, king). Words for king in Irish (), Scottish Gaelic (rìgh), Manx (ree) and Welsh (rhi) come from this root [source].

The Welsh one is in fact rarely used – the usual Welsh word for king is brenin, which comes from the Proto-Celtic *brigantīnos ((someone) pre-eminent, outstanding), from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰerǵʰ- (to rise, high, lofty, hill, mountain) [source], which is also the root of such English words as barrow, burrow, bury, borough, burgher and fort [source].

Words for realm or kingdom in Germanic languages come from this root, including Reich (empire, realm) in German, rike (realm, kingdom, empire, nation) in Swedish, and rik (realm, kingdom) and kinrick / kin(g)rik (kingdom) in Scots.

We also get the English suffix -ric from this root – as in bishopric (a diocese or region of a church which a bishop governs), and in the obsolete English word for kingdom – kingric, which means “king king” [source].

The words for king in the Romance languages also come from *h₃rḗǵs, via the Latin rēx (king, ruler) [source].

A Slew of Servants

When putting together a post on my Celtiadur today, I discovered that the English word slew (a large amount) is related to words in Celtic languages for troop, army, host or throng, and to words for servant in Slavic languages.

Slew was in fact borrowed from Irish – from the word slua (host, force, army; crowd, multitude, throng), from the Old Irish slúag / slóg (army, host; throng, crowd, company, assembly), from Proto-Celtic *slougos (troop, army), from the Proto-Indo-European *slowgʰos / *slowgos (entourage).

Manchester Day Parade

There are similar words in the other Celtic languages, including llu in Welsh, which means host, multitude, throng, crowd, flock, army, or regiment, and appears in the Welsh word for police: heddlu (hedd = peace).

In Manx the equivalent is sleih, which is the general word for people, and also means public, family, relations, inhabitants, crowd or populace.

Words for servant in Slavic languages, such as sluha in Czech and Slovak, sługa in Polish, and слуга (sluga) in Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian, all come from the same root, via the the Proto-Slavic word sluga (servant).

Another English word that comes from the same root is slogan, from the Scottish Gaelic sluagh-ghairm (battle cry), from the Old Irish slúag / slóg (army) and gairm (a call, cry) [source].

Sources: Wiktionary, On-Line Manx Dictionary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru

Polyglot Plans

Polyglot - definition

I just registered for the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava at the end of May / beginning of June. This will be the fifth time I’ve been to the Gathering – the second in Bratislava, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be staying in the same AirBnB as last time, which is close to the Gathering venue, and not too far from the centre of Bratislava. It’s easier that way as I already know my way around the area.

I haven’t decided if I’ll give a presentation or run a workshop at the Gathering. At previous polyglot events I’ve given talks on writing systems, the origins of languages, the origins of words, Manx, and language death and revival, and helped with a Welsh language workshop. Any suggestions for what I could talk about at this and future polyglot events?

At the end of January I’m going to Edinburgh for LingoFringo, a fringe event to the main polyglot conferences and gatherings with a focus on workshops, community and networking events. I’ll be running a workshop on traditional Scottish Gaelic songs there.

So this month I’ll be brushing up my Scottish Gaelic, preparing for the workshop, and continuing to work on other languages. The languages I’m focusing on currently are Swedish, Danish, Russian, Esperanto, Cornish and Scots. This year I also plan to learn some more British Sign Language and Slovak, and maybe some German, Czech and Spanish.

I don’t plan to start any new languages this year – we’ll see how that works out.

What are your language-related plans for this year?

Christmas

Christmas tree / Coeden nadolig

Did you get any language-related goodies for Christmas?

Are you planning to start learning any new languages next year?

I got a British Sign Language (BSL) course, The Accidental Dictionary by Paul Anthony, and a t-shirt with hello on it in many languages.

I plan to concentrate on improving my knowledge of the languages I already know, rather than starting any new ones. Whether I stick to this remains to be seen.

Oh and Merry Christmas
Nadolig Llawen
Joyeux Noël
Nedeleg Laouen
Frohe Weihnachten
Nadelik Lowen
聖誕快樂
Nollaig shona
メリークリスマス
Nollick Ghennal
¡Feliz Navidad!
Nollaig Chridheil
С Рождеством
God jul
Veselé vánoce
Glædelig jul
Ĝojan Kristnaskon

Frowning nosey nostrils!

Frowny face

What is the connection between frown, nose and nostrils?

The English word frown comes from the Middle English frounen (to frown as an expression of disapproval, displeasure, shame, fear, or jealousy), from the Old French frognier (to frown or scowl), from Gaulish *frognā (nostril), from the Proto-Celtic *srognā, from the Proto-Indo-European *sregʰ- (snore) [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *srognā is the root of the following words in the modern Celtic languages:

  • Irish (Gaeilge): srón [sˠɾˠoːnˠ] = nose; sense of smell; prow, projection
  • Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig): sròn [sdrɔːn] = nose, snout, trunk; promontory; snout (of a glacier); toe (of a shoe)
  • Manx (Gaelg): stroin [strɛin] = nose, promontory, headland, ness, naze, nose-piece
  • Welsh (Cymraeg): ffroen = nostril; muzzle of a gun, mouth of a cannon, nozzle of a pair of bellows; hole, entrance, opening (of a pipe), spout
  • Cornish (Kernewek): frig [fri:g] = nostril
  • Breton (Brezhoneg): froen = nostril, fri = nose

I’m not sure if the Cornish word frig comes from the same root, but it seems likely.

The French word renfrogner (to scowl), the Galician word enfurruñar (to frown, to get angry), the Spanish word enfurruñarse (to get angry, get cross, to sulk, to cloud over) also come from the same root.

Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Dictionnaire Favereau, Reverso

This is one of the connections I found recently while working on the Celtiadur, my collection of Celtic cognates.

Root bags

rutabaga, swede, (Swedish) turnip, neep, moot

One of the words that came up in the French conversation group last night was rutabaga [ʁy.ta.ba.ɡa], a root vegetable that originated as a cross between the cabbage and the turnip, and that was possibly introduced from Sweden.

The word rutabaga was borrowed in 1799 from the Swedish word rotabagge, a dialect word from Västergötland in southern Sweden, from rot (root) and‎ bagge (bag, short, stumpy object) [source].

This vegetable has a variety of names in different places:

  • In botanical Latin it is brassica napobrassica
  • In North America it is rutabaga, which is also used in French and Portuguese
  • In the England, Australia, New Zealand it is swede (from “Swedish turnip”).
  • In parts of northern England and the midlands, and in parts of Canada, it is a turnip.
  • In north east England swedes are known colloquially as snadgers, snaggers or narkiesno
  • In Wales it is swede or turnip in English, and as maip (Swedaidd), rwden, erfin, swedsen or swejen in Welsh.
  • In Cornwall it is turnip in English, and routabaga in Cornish.
  • In Scotland it is turnip in English, tumshie or neep in Scots, and snèap-Shuaineach (Swedish turnip / neep) in Scottish Gaelic. In parts of Scotland, particularly in the south east, it is baigie
  • In the Isle of Man it is turnip or moot in English, and as napin Soolynagh (Swedish turnip) in Manx.
  • In Ireland it is turnip in English and svaeid in Irish.
  • In Swedish it is kålrot (“cabbage/kale root”)

What other names does this vegetable have?

Sources: Wikipedia, Am Faclair Beag, Gerlyver Kernewek, foclóir.ie, Online Manx Dictionary

Bulging Budgets!

What do the words bulge, budge and budget have in common?

The answer is, they all come from the same root.

Bulge comes from the Old Northern French boulge (leather bag), from the Late Latin bulga (leather sack), from the Gaulish *bulga / *bulgos, from the Proto-Celtic *bolgos (sack, bag, stomach) [source], from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰelǵʰ- (to swell) [source].

Budge, in the sense of “a kind of fur prepared from lambskin dressed with the wool on, formerly used as an edging and ornament, especially on scholastic habits”, comes from the Middle English bouge (to swell out, to bilge) from the Late Latin bulga (leather sack) [source].

Budget comes from the Middle English bogett / bouget / bowgette (leather pouch), from the Old French bougette (purse for carrying coins), the diminutive of bouge (leather bag, wallet), from the Late Latin bulga (leather sack) [source].

The Proto-Celtic word *bolgos is also the root of bolg, which means belly, stomach, abdomen, buldge or hold in Irish; belly, stomach, abdomen, corporation, bilge or bowl in Manx; and blister, bilge, bulb or womb in Scottish Gaelic [source].

In the Brythonic languages *bolgos became bol (belly, paunch, abdomen, stomach, bowels; tripe; appetite, desire, gluttony, liking) in Welsh [source], bolgh (breach, gap, opening) in Cornish [source], and bolc’h in Breton [source].

Budge, in the sense of to move, comes from a different root: from the Middle French bougier, from Old French bougier, from the Vulgar Latin *bullicāre (to bubble; seethe; move; stir), from the Latin bullīre (to boil; seethe; roil) [source].

Lowender Peren

This weekend I’m in Newquay in Cornwall for the Lowender Peren festival of Celtic music and dance. This is the first time I’ve been to this particular festival, but I have been to pan-Celtic festivals in the Isle of Man before. There are performers and visitors here from all the Celtic lands – Cornwall, Brittany, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. I know quite a few of the people from the Isle of Man who are here, and a few from Scotland.

Lowender Peren

The name Lowender Peren means ‘Perran’s Mirth’ in Cornish. The word perran features in some Cornish places names, including Perranporth (Porthperan in Cornish), Perranzabuloe (Pyran yn Treth in Cornish) and Perranarworthal (Peran ar Wodhel in Cornish). It comes from Saint Piran (Peran in Cornish), a 5th century Cornish abbot who became the patron saint of tin miners, and is regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall.

The festival was offical opened last night with a speech in Cornish, and English, by a member of the Gorsedh Kernow, the Gorsedh of the Bards of Cornwall, possibly the Grand Bard herself. Gorsedh is ‘a meeting of bards’. She sounded fairly fluent, and I could actually understand some of the Cornish. I haven’t found anyone else here who speaks Cornish, apart from a few phrases.

Last night there was dancing to a local band, and then a trio of singers, members of the Lorho-Pasco family from Brittany, sang for us in Breton, and we improvised some dances. It was the first time I’d heard that style of Breton music. It works well for dancing, though I’m not sure if I’d want to listen to it for too long on its own.

I also spoke a bit of Manx with people I know from the Isle of Man, and some Scottish Gaelic with Joy Dunlop, a dancer and singer from Scotland who I know from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Newquay

This morning there was an interesting talk about the history of Newquay. Then I went for a wander around the town. This afternoon we went for a guided walk around Newquay seeing some of the things that were mentioned in the talk.

There will be a lot more music, singing and dancing over the next few days. There was even a music session going on in the hotel where the festival is taking place when I went past not long ago.