Language quiz

This week the quiz is a bit different. As I’m currently at the #PolyglotGathering, I thought I’d come up with a question related to the event.

So, the question is, can you guess which of these languages has not been talked about here (in one of the talks or lectures): Ukrainian, Warlpiri, Rapa Nui, Southern Sami, Manx, Tunica, or Shanghainese.

No cheating by looking at the program now 🙂

Yesterday was a good day with some interesting talks and conversations. At the International Culutural Evening I sang a Welsh folk song (Gwcw Fach) on my own, and two songs with a few others – one in Spanish (Cielito Lindo), and one in Māori (Ngā iwi e).

It’s not just about languages

Dance workshop at the Polyglot Gathering

As well as talks about language learning, languages and related topics, this year’s #PoylgotGathering includes workshops in singing songs in various languages, calligraphy, knitting and dancing. Yesterday I caught the end of a dancing workshop, and learnt a bit of belly dancing, and a folk dance from Brittany. It was a lot of fun.

I also did a bit of juggling and poi spinning with a few other polyglots yesterday, and there was a musical jam session with a few people who had instruments with them. I don’t have any instruments with me this year as I’m travelling light with only one small bag.

Tonight there’s an international cultural evening, and I plan to sing a Welsh folk song (Gwcw Fach), and maybe a Scottish Gaelic song (Illean Bithibh Sunndach). Some of us who took part in the singing workshop on Thursday with be singing songs in Maori and Spanish.

Languages I spoke yesteday – English, French, German, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Swedish, Slovak, Mandarin, Dutch, Esperanto, Portuguese.


My name tag for the 2018 Polyglot Gathering

Today is the second full day of the #PolyglotGathering. It’s been a lot of fun, with some very interesting talks, and I’ve met a lot of people I know from previous polyglot events, and many new people too.

So far I’ve had conversations in English, French, German, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Mandarin, Swedish, Russian and Esperanto, and have spoken odd bits of Manx, Danish, Icelandic, Czech, Italian, Portuguese and Slovak. I’ve learnt about Warlpiri, Bengali and Ukrainian, and have sung songs in Spanish, Italian, Serbian and Maori.

This morning I’ll be giving my presentation on Deconstructing Language. My original plan was to talk mainly about how grammar works and how it develops, but What I’ll actually talk about is where words come from and how and why they change over time.

Word of the day – kai

kai /kai̭/ [Māori]

  1. (verb) to eat, consume, feed (oneself), partake, devour.
  2. (noun) food, meal.

Related expressions include:

  • kai moana = seafood, shellfish
  • wāhi kai = café, restaurant (wāhi = place)
  • hari kai = a song to entertain visitors as food is set out (hari = joy, happiness)

The Māori word kai is mentioned quite a lot in the book I’m reading at the moment, Come On Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson: a memoir about the author’s life with her Māori husband which also discusses the history of the Māori, and contacts between them and other peoples.

Other Māori words and concepts are also discussed, include iwi, which means an extended kinship group, a tribe, a nation, a people, a nationality or a race, and often refers to a large group of people descended from a common ancestor, and utu, which means revenge, cost, price, wage, fee, payment, salary, reciprocity, and is an important concept in Māori culture.

Kai also means food in Tok Pisin, and kaikai means to eat. In Japanese kai (海 かい) means sea, among other things, though this reading of the kanji 海 is derived from Chinese (hai) – the native Japanese word for sea is うみ (umi).

In Hawai’ian, kai means sea, sea water, gravy, sauce or soup, while food is ʻai, or mea’ai.

Maori language in Hawaii

According to a news item I found today, it’s possible to study the Maori language at the University of Hawaii. The Maori courses, which are taught at the Manoa campus, are popular with Hawaiian students, who are interesting in Maori because it has many similarities with the Hawaiian language and they are curious to find out what it’s like. They are also interested in other Polynesian languages.

Another article I came across today compares the Cree, Hualapai, Maori, and Hawaiian indigenous language programs. The writer describes common components and problems of implementation, and concludes that successful programs need to link language and culture, need written teaching materials, and need community support and parental involvement.

Hualapai, a.k.a Walapai, is spoken in parts of Arizona, in case you’re wondering.

Māori spelling

This post was inspired by an email I received today from someone who wanted to know why the f sound in Māori is written wh, as in Whangarei.

According to a number of sites I found, Māori was first written down by missionaries who had little or no training in phonetics or phonology, and there was considerable variation in the spelling systems they came up with. The sound represented by wh was originally a voiceless bilabial fricative /ɸ/ (p\), though in some dialects, particularly in the North Shore area, it was a voiceless labial-velar fricative /ʍ/ (W). It was written w by some, and wh, f or v by others.

These days, many people pronounce wh as /f/, or sometimes /h/, /w/ or /ʍ/ (W).