Polyglotting

Yesterday was the first full day of the Polyglot Gathering, and it went well. I went to some interesting talks and workshops, met lots of people, caught up with old friends, and spoke many languages.

Quite a few people came to my workshop on Scottish Gaelic songs, and they seemed to enjoy it. I chose relatively simple songs with choruses that people could sing, even if they couldn’t manage the verses. There were even a few people there who speak Gaelic, or who are learning it.

In the evening there was some polyglot karaoke, which was fun, and some people who took part were quite good singers.

Polylgot karaoke

Today was similar with some interesting talks and workshops. Fortunately the sun came out after several days of almost non-stop rain. The Scottish and Welsh dance workshop I ran with a Scottish friend went well. Not many people came, but enough for the dances we did, and there wouldn’t have been space for many more.

Polyglot dance workshop

There was a spontaneous juggling workshop this evening involving me and a juggler from Montreal. We learnt from each other, and tried to teach a few others to juggle. As we’re polyglots, we did this in English, French and German.

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].

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

Bibbling bibblers

Bibble

I came across a wonderful word yesterday – bibble – which means to eat and/or drink noisily, or to tipple. Or in Yiddish it means to worry.

It comes from the Middle English bibben (to drink), from the Latin bibō (I drink), from Proto-Indo-European *peh₃- (to drink) [source].

If you’re a bibbling bibbler, you may need a bib, which comes from the same root, and originally meant to drink heartily [source]. While bibbling, maybe you’ll engage in some bibble-babble (idle talk, babble), possibly in a bibbery (drinking house), which would be bibacious.

The words imbibe, potion and potable come from the same root, as do words for to drink in various languaages, including: ól (Irish), òl (Scottish Gaelic), yfed (Welsh), eva (Cornish), boire (French), and beber (Spanish, Portuguese, Galician, Asturian & Aragonese).

Words for beer Slavic languages come from the same root as well: pivo (Croatian, Czech, Slovak & Slovenian), piwo (Polish, Sorbian), and пиво (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian).

Can Hens Sing?

Four hens

What is the connection between singing and hens?

Hens don’t sing, but the words for to sing / speak in Celtic languages come from the same root as the English words hen and chant.

The root is the Proto-Indo-European *keh₂n- (to sing) [source].

This became *kan- (to sing) in Proto-Celtic, which became canaid (to sing) in Old Irish, and can (to chant, sing, speak, talk) in modern Irish. In Scottish Gaelic it became can (to sing, rehearse, say, name or call), and in Manx it became caayn (to bray, whine; song).

In Proto-Brythonic it became *kėnɨd (to sing), which became canam (to sing) in Old Welsh, canu (to sing, intone, chant, state, say) in modern Welsh, kana (to sing) in Cornish, canaff (to sing) in Middle Breton and kanañ (to sing) in Breton [source].

In Proto-Germanic *keh₂n- became *hanô (rooster), *hanjō (hen) and *hōnaz (fowl). The English word hen developed from *hanjō, via the Old English hænn / henn (hen). In other Germanic languages these words became: Huhn (hen, chicken) and Henne (hen) in German; hen (hen) in Dutch [source]; and höna (hen) in Swedish [source].

*keh₂n- is also the root of the Latin canō (I sing), from which words for to sing in Romance language developed, such as chanter (to sing) in French and cantar (to sing) in Spanish [source], and the English word chant [source].

See also the Celtiadur

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