Library mice and reading rats

Illustration of a bookworm

I discovered today that in Romanian a bookworm (a keen reader) is un şoarece de bibliotecă (a library mouse), which I rather like, being a bit of a bookworm / library mouse myself.

In French there is a simliar term for a bookworm – rat de bibliothèque (library rat), and in German voracious reader or bookworm is known as a Leseratte (reading rat), and in Spanish the equivalent is ratón de biblioteca (library mouse).

Are there interesting words for bookworm in other languages?

Horses, chariots and cars

Horses at Newborough on Anglesey - photo by Simon Ager

Today I saw a post on Facebook asking why words for horse are so different in languages like English and German, so I thought I’d investigate.

In English horse-related words include horse, stallion (male horse), mare (female horse), foal (young horse), filly (young female horse), colt (young male horse), pony (a small breed of horse), palfrey (a small horse with a smooth, ambling gait) and equine (a horse or horse-like animal; related to horses).

Horse comes from the Middle English horse / hors, from the Old English hors (horse), from the Proto-Germanic *hrussą (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱr̥sos (horse), from Proto-Indo-European *ḱers- (to run) [source]. This is also the root of the Proto-Celtic word *karros (wagon), from which we get the Latin currus (chariot, wagon), and the English words car, cart and chariot, and related words in other languages.

Stallion comes from the Middle English stalion, from the Middle French estalon and is of Germanic origin [source].

Mare comes from the Middle English mare / mere, from the Old English mere / miere (female horse, mare), from the Proto-Germanic *marhijō (female horse) [source].

Foal comes from the Middle English fole, from the Old English fola, from the Proto-Germanic *fulô, from the Proto-Indo-European *pōlH- (animal young) [source]

Filly comes from the Old Norse fylja [source].

Colt comes from the Old English colt (young donkey, young camel), from the Proto-Germanic *kultaz (plump; stump; thick shape, bulb), from the Proto-Indo-European *gelt- (something round, pregnant belly, child in the womb), from *gel- (to ball up, amass) [source].

Pony comes from the Scots powny, from the Middle French poulenet (little foal), from the Late Latin pullanus (young of an animal), from pullus (foal) [source].

Palfrey comes from the Anglo-Norman palefrei (steed), from the Old French palefroi, from the Late Latin paraverēdus (post horse, spare horse) [source].

Equine comes from the Latin equīnus (of or pertaining to horses), from equus (horse) [source].

The equivalent words in other European languages include:

Germanic languages

  German Dutch Danish Norwegian Swedish Icelandic
horse Pferd Paard hest hest häst hestur
stallion Hengst hengst hingst hingst hingst graðhestur
mare Stute merrie hoppe hoppe sto
märr
hryssa
foal Fohlen veulen føl føll
fole
föl folald

The German word Pferd and the Dutch paard come from the Middle High German phert / pherit / pferift (riding horse), from the Old High German pherit / pfarifrit / parafred, from the Late Latin paraverēdus (substitute post horse) [source], from para-, from the Ancient Greek παρά (from, by, near) & verēdus (a fast or light breed of horse), from the Proto-Celtic *uɸorēdos (horse) [source], *uɸo- (under) & *rēdo- (to ride; riding, chariot), from the Proto-Indo-European *(H)reydʰ- (to ride) [source].

The words hengst and hingst come from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱanḱest- / *kankest- (horse), which is also the root of the Welsh, Cornish and Breton words for mare, and of the Old English word for horse or stallion, hengest.

Romance / Italic languages

  French Italian Romanian Spanish Portuguese Latin
horse cheval cavallo cal caballo cavalo equus
stallion étalon stalone armăsar padrillo garanhão celo
mare jument giumenta
cavalla
iapă yegua égua equa
foal poulain puldero mânz potro potro equuleus
equulus
pullus
vitulus

In Latin there was another word for horse – caballus, which was only used in poetry in Classical Latin, and was the normal word for horse in Late and Vulgar Latin. It possibly comes from the Gaulish caballos [source]. This is also the root of the English words cavalry, cavalier, cavalcade and chivalry,

The word equus comes from the Proto-Italic *ekwos, from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁éḱwos (horse) [source].

Celtic languages

  Breton Cornish Welsh Irish Manx Scottish Gaelic
horse marc’h margh ceffyl capall cabbyl each
stallion marc’h margh march
stalwyn
stail collagh
grihder
greadhair
mare kazeg kasek caseg láir laair làir
foal ebeul ebel ebol searrach sharragh searrach

The Scottish Gaelic word for horse, each, comes from the
Old Irish ech (horse), from Proto-Celtic *ekʷos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁éḱwos (horse), which is also the root of the Breton, Cornish and Welsh words for foal.

The Breton marc’h (horse), the Cornish margh (horse) and the Welsh march (stallion) come from the Proto-Brythonic *marx (horse), from Proto-Celtic *markos (horse), from the Proto-Indo-European *márkos (horse). [source]. This is also the root of the Irish marcaigh (to ride), the Scottish Gaelic marcaich (to ride), and the Manx markiagh (to ride).

You can find more about Celtic words for horse on my Celtiadur blog

Slavic languages

  Bulgarian Czech Polish Russian Serbian Slovak
horse кон kůň kón
konno
лошадь коњ kôň
stallion жребец hřebec ogier
rumak
конь
жеребец
жребец žrebec
mare кобила klisna klacz
kobyła
кобыла кобила kobyla
foal жребец hříbě źrebak жеребёнок фоал žriebä

The Russian word for horse, лошадь, is a borrowing from a Turkic language, probably Tatar [source].

The other Slavic words for horse come from the Proto-Slavic konjь (horse), of unceratin origin [source].

Other European languages

  Latvian Lithuanian Albanian Greek
horse zirgs arklys kalë άλογο
ίππος
stallion ērze erelis hamshor επιβήτορα
mare ķēve kumelė merak φοράδα
foal kumeļi kumeliukas pjellë πουλάρι

Sources: Reverso, Linguee, bab.la, Google Translate

Newborough beach

One language

Omnigot logo

Yesterday I say a post in the Silly Linguistics Community on Facebook challenging people to write a sentence in all the languages they speak. This is what I came up with:

Tha e duilich writing une phrase ym mhob språk atá agam, pero ich 試試 red ennagh symoil を書く, kaj nun я хочу říct že il mio tomo tawa supa está cheio de țipari.

This means “It is difficult writing a sentence in every language I speak, but I will try to write something interesting, and now I want to say my hovercraft is full of eels”.

The languages, in order, are Scottish Gaelic, English, French, Welsh, Swedish, Irish, Spanish, German, Chinese, Manx, Japanese, Esperanto, Russian, Czech, Italian, Toki Pona, Portuguese and Romanian.

It’s not the best sentence ever, perhaps, but I enjoyed the challenge of putting it together. It also got me thinking about how many languages and writing systems I could use in a version of my motto “one language is never enough“. This motto appears on some versions of my logo, such as the one above, and I usually try to write it in several difficult languages.

Here are some versions I came up with today. The first version incorporates some of the languages I speak and am learning, plus a few others.

Une singură 语言 är nikdy недостаточно – languages = French, Romanian, Chinese, Swedish, Czech / Slovak, Russian.

Ett seule 言語 ist nunca yn ddigon – languages = Norwegian / Swedish, French, Japanese, German, Portuguese / Galician / Spanish, Welsh.

Jeden lingua er niemals suficiente – languages = Czech / Polish / Slovak / Rusyn, Asturian / Chamorro / Corsican / Galician / Italian / Latin / Sicilian / Interlingua, Danish / Faroese / Icelandic / Norwegian, German, Spanish / Asturian.

Can you incorporate more languages and/or writing systems into this phrase?

The Road Runs

Today I learnt that one way to say goodbye or farewell in Romanian is drum bun. This came up in a Duolingo lesson, and I translated it as “good road”, which is what it means literally. However that’s not how it’s used.

Drum (road) comes from the Greek δρόμος (drómos – road, track), from the Ancient Greek δρόμος (drómos – roadway, road, street, way; journey), from the Proto-Indo-European *drem- (to run) + -ος (-os).

*Drem- is also the root of the English drome, as in hippodrome, aerodrome, velodrome, anadrome, syndrome and palindrome.

In case you’re wondering, an anadrome is a word which forms a different word when spelled backwards, such as desserts and stressed. They are also known as volvograms, reversgrams, heteropalindromes, backwords, semordnilap or emordnilaps, or semordnilaps [source].

Other anadromes in English include spar / raps, star / rats, bus / sub, nip / pin, and so on.

Can you think of others in English or other languages?

Snow falls

As there has been some snow here this week, and it’s snowing at bit as I write this, I thought I’d look at some words for snow.

Snow / Eira
A bit of snow in my garden yesterday morning

In Romanian snow is zăpadă [zəˈpadə], which comes from the Slavic word zapadati (to fall) [source]. To snow is a ninge, and snowfall is ninsoare, which both come from the Latin ningere (to snow), utimately from the Proto-Indo-European *sneygʷʰ- (to snow) [source].

The English word snow comes from Middle English snow/snaw, from the Old English snāw (snow), from the Proto-Germanic *snaiwaz (snow), from the Proto-Indo-European *snóygʷʰos (snow), from the root *sneygʷʰ- (to snow).

Many of the words for snow in other European languages come from the same Proto-Indo-European root. However, words for snow in Welsh (eira), Cornish (ergh) and Breton erc’h, come from the Proto-Celtic *argyos (white), via the Proto-Brythonic *ėrɣ (snow) [source].

International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day Poster

As you might know, today is International Mother Language Day. The theme this year is “Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace”.

To do my bit for multilinguism, I’m currently learning Swedish, Russian, Romanian and Slovak, and practising other languages, especially French and Welsh. So far today I’ve learnt a bit more Romanian and Russian, listened to some Welsh language radio, and read a bit of Swedish.

Tonight I studied some Swedish and Slovak, spoke English and Laala, read in English, Latin and Scots, and sang in English, Welsh, French, Zulu and Church Slavonic.

What languages have you spoken, read, heard, written, sung and/or studied today?

Beards and chins

Illustration of a beard

One of the Romanian lessons I did today was about parts of the body. One word that came up was bărbie [bərˈbi.e], which I guessed meant beard, but actually means chin. I suppose beards usually grow on chins, so this isn’t too surprising.

Bărbie comes from the Vulgar Latin *barbilia, from the Latin barba (beard; wool; down on a plant). Or from the Romanian barbă (beard) +‎ -ie (a noun suffix) [source].

In Spanish chin is barbilla [barˈβiʎa] – barba (beard) with a diminutive suffix, so it could be translated as “little beard” [source].

The English word beard comes from the Middle English berd, bard, bærd, from the Old English beard, from Proto-Germanic *bardaz, from the Proto-Indo-European *bʰardʰeh₂, all of which mean beard. The PIE word *bʰardʰeh₂ is also the root of words for beard in Germanic, Slavic, Romance and Iranian languages [source], and in Welsh (barf) Cornish (barv) and Breton (barv) [source].

In the Gaelic / Goidelic languages however, the words for beard are different: féasóg in Irish, feusag in Scottish Gaelic, and faasaag in Manx. The come from the Old Irish fésóc, from fés (lip; body hair) [source].

Are words for beards and chins similar in other languages?

Bags, satchels and briefcases

In Romanian the word for a satchel, school bag or briefcase is ghiozdan [giˈozdan]. When I learnt this, I wondered where it might come from – it certainly doesn’t look Latin or Slavic.

Ghiozdan actually comes from the Turkish word cüzdăn (wallet, billfold, purse, pocket book).

A related word is servietă (briefcase), which comes from the French serviette (towel, napkin, serviette, briefcase).

There are in fact quite a few Romanian words borrowed from Turkish, including:

– bacșiș = tip, gratuity; baksheesh. From bahşiş (tip)
– basma = handkerchief. From the Turkish basma (printed cloth)
– degeaba = for nothing, for free; in vain. From the Turkish caba (effort)
– liliac = lilac; bat. From the Turkish leylak (lilac)
– murdar = dirty. From the Turkish murdar (uncleanly)

Sources: Wiktionary, Google Translate

Heim aftur / Home again

The Polyglot Conference is over now for another year, and I arrived back to Bangor yesterday. Although the conference only lasted two days, a lot was packed into that time.

On the Friday I went on a Golden Circle tour with two coach loads of other polyglots. Unfortunately it was a wet, cloudy and cold day, so the views were not great, but the landscape we could see was rather fine.

The first stop was Þingvellir (Thingvellir), a World Heritage Site where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It is also where the Iceland parliament (Alþingi) met from AD 930 until 1798.

Þingvellir / Thingvellir

Next we went to Geysir, and area of volcanic activity with a number of sprouting hot springs, including the famous Great Geysir, which is currently inactive, and Stokkur, which erupts every few minutes (see photo below). We also had lunch here – there are a number of eating places and souvenir shops in the complex near the hot springs. I was expecting the whole place to stink of sulphur, but it didn’t really.

Þingvellir / Thingvellir

Our final stop was Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”), waterfalls in the canyon of Ölfusá river. They were spectacular, and well worth seeing.

Gullfoss

In the evening, after we arrived back in Reykajvik, I went for dinner at an Indian restaurant with a few other polyglots.

The conference started on Saturday morning with interesting speeches by Dr Sebastian Drude, the director of the Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding, and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the former President of Iceland and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for languages.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir opening the 2017 Polyglot Conference in Reykjavik

Then there were talks on a variety of topics, with themes including Icelandic language and culture, bilingualism and autism, and maintaining ‘small’ languages. Some of the speakers were lecturers or researchers in universities, others were language enthusiasts. The talks I found most interesting were the one by Daniel Tammet and Sigriður Kristinsdóttir about how he learnt Icelandic in a week with her help; one about bilingualism and autism, one about the cognitive effects of language learning, and one about Mongolian.

The 2017 Polyglot Conference in Reykjavik

There was plenty of time between the talks and at lunch to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and practise languages. During my time in Iceland, I had conversations in English, Welsh, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and Irish, and spoke bits of Czech, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, Manx, Swedish and Icelandic.

Lunch was provided – small sandwiches and wraps, though didn’t appeal to me, so I bought something else in a supermarket.

A panel discussuion at the 2017 Polyglot Conference in Reykjavik

There weren’t any organised activities in the evenings, as there are at the Polyglot Gatherings. Instead babbles of polyglots went off to do their own thing. I went for dinner with some polyglot friends and had very interesting discussions about all sorts of things, not all of which were related to languages – we do have other interests.

The annoucement of where the Polyglot Conference will be in 2018

The next Polyglot Conference will be in Ljubljana in Slovenia from 5-7 October 2018 (as you might have guessed from this photo). So next year I will learn some Slovenian before the conference in Ljubljana, and some Slovak before the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava in Slovakia.

On Monday I did some work on Omniglot in the morning, explored Reykjavik a bit, had lunch in a restaurant in the old harbour area of Reykjavik, did some more work, then explored a bit more with the two Russian teachers who were staying in the same place as me.

Iceland is a very expensive place, which I expected. Meals in restaurants cost at least twice as much as in the UK, as do most other things. It wasn’t as cold as I expected – about 7-10°C during the day and 2-5°C at night. All the locals I met speak very good English, but if you speak Icelandic, they’re happy to speak it with you. There are apparently quite a few people who have moved to Iceland recently for work, most don’t speak Icelandic. On a clear, dry day, the scenery is spectacular. Even on grey, wet days, it’s still impressive and dramatic.

There are some more photos on Flickr:

Iceland / Ísland

Duolingo online

Duolingo logo

I’ve been studying Russian, Swedish and Romanian with Duolingo for the past four months using the app on my phone. I knew you could also study online, but have only just discovered that the online version includes notes on grammar. These are very helpful, and I’ll be going through them all.

The notes don’t appear to be included in the app, as far as I can see, unless I’ve missed something. Sometimes it can be tricky to work out grammatical patterns from the examples. It will be easier now with the notes.

I’m doing an experiment to see how much of these languages I can learn just from Duolingo. I have learnt some Russian and Swedish from other courses, but so far Duolingo is the only course I’ve used for Romanian. If I continue studying every day, at my current rate of progress I should complete the courses in another year or so.

Have you learned any languages just from Duolingo?