New Year

It seems that a new year, and indeed a new decade has started, so Happy New Year / Decade!

I’ve noticed that some people are looking back at what they’ve done / achieved, etc over the past decade, so I thought I’d do something similar.

Back in 2009 I was studying for an MA in Linguistics at Bangor University, while working on Omniglot in my spare time, and writing for a couple of other websites. I finished my course in September of that year, though didn’t officially graduate until the following year, and have been working full-time on Omniglot since then.

Over the past decade Omniglot has grown quite a bit – I add something new, or make improvements, almost every day. The site now contains:

… and much more.

Since 2009 Omniglot has been visited by 176 million people, who have made 234 milion visits and viewed 407 million pages. There have been visitors every single country and territory, even Antarctica and North Korea. The top ten countries vistors come from are USA, India, UK, Canada, Philippines, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa. The most spoken languages of visitors are: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Dutch, Russian, Chinese and Polish.

Over the past decade I’ve studied and dabbled with a few languages, including: Breton, BSL, Cornish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Icelandic, Irish, Latin, Manx, Romanian, Russian, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Toki Pona. I also started creating my own language: Laala, and made some con-scripts such as Crymeddau and Curvetic.

I joined a French conversation group back in 2009, and have been going almost every week since then. This has really helped to improve my French and I feel a lot more confident about using it now. When I can, I also go to a Welsh conversation group, and for a while I tried to run a polyglot conversation group.

Every summer I’ve been to Ireland to do courses in Irish language, traditional Irish songs, harp and/or bodhrán playing. I’ve also been to Scotland quite a few times to do courses in Scottish Gaelic songs.

In 2012 I started writing songs and tunes, and have written quite a few since then, especially in 2019, when I wrote a new song almost every month and several new tunes. I also started to write out the music for my tunes and songs, and to make new arrangements of them.

The first song I wrote was The Elephant Song, which came to me after going to a poetry writing workshop.

I haven’t made a good recording of my most recent song, but here’s one I wrote in November / December 2019:

Since 2014 I’ve been to a number of polyglot events, including the Polyglot Gathering and the Polyglot Conference. At most of these I’ve given talks or run workshops.

Polyglottery

In 2018 I started the Radio Omniglot Podcast, and have made 27 episodes so far. I try to make two episodes per month, but don’t always manage it.

In 2018 I also launched the Celtiadur, a collection of Celtic cognates, where I explore links between modern and ancient Celtic languages. This is an extension of the Celtic Cognates section on Omniglot.

Wow! Putting it together like this makes me realise that I haven’t been entirely idle.

Gardens and Castles

The word for garden in Russian, and also in Belarusian, Ukrainian and Serbian, is сад [sat], which also means orchard. It comes from the Proto-Slavic word *sadъ (plant, garden).

The word for garden in most other Slavic languages is the same: sad in Croatian, Slovenian, Polish, Slovak and Sorbian. There are also similar words in Latvian (sads) and Lithuanian (sõdas) [source].

The word sad also exists in Czech, but just means orchard. The Czech word for garden is zahrada [ˈzaɦrada], which comes from za (for, in, behind), and hrad (castle), from the Proto-Slavic *gȏrdъ* (settlement, enclosed place). So zahrada could be translated as “in/behind the castle” [source].

*The Proto-Slavic *gȏrdъ comes ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰórtos (enclosure), which is also the root of the Irish gort (wheatfield), the Welsh garth (hill, enclosure), the Latin hortus (garden), and the English horticulture, yard and garden, and related words in other languages.

Powis Castle

Elephants & Camels

Elephants and camels

What do elephants and camels have in common?

Well, words for camel in Slavic languages like Czech and Russian possibly come from an Ancient Greek word meaning elephant.

In Czech the word for camel is velbloud [ˈvɛlblou̯t], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *velьb(l)ǫdъ / vъlьb(l)ǫdъ (camel), from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus – camel), from the Latin elephantus (elephant), from the Ancient Greek ἐλέφας (eléphas – elephant) [source].

Words from camel in other Slavic languages come from the same root: верблюд (verbljúd) in Russian and Ukrainian, вярблюд (vjarbljúd) in Belarusian, wielbłąd in Polish, and so on [source].

These all come from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus), but from there the etmological trial gets a bit hazy, as they quite often do. Traditionally this word is thought to derive from the Greek ἐλέφας, via the Latin elephantus.

Another theory is that the Gothic word comes from the Proto-Germanic *elpanduz (elephant, camel), which possibly comes from the Hittite word hu(wa)lpant (humpback), or from another ancient language of Anatolian such as Luwian [source].

The word for elephant in Czech (and also in Slovak, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian) is slon [slon], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *slonъ (elephant) [source], which comes either from the Turkish aslan (lion), or from *sloniti (to lean against), relating to the medieval story of an elephant sleeping leaning on a tree [source].

So now we know where the name of the lion in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe probably comes from.

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

Slovenian (slovenščina)

I’ve been learning Slovenian for nearly three months now, and will have chances to use it when I go to Slovenia in a few days. I’ll be there for the Polyglot Conference.

While I can’t say a lot in Slovenian yet, I have at least learnt the basics. I’ve been using a Memrise course based on Slovenian for Travelers, another version of which is available here.

As I’ve studied other Slavic languages to varying degrees – Russian, Czech, Slovak and Serbian – I can recognise quite a few words in Slovenian, and the grammar seems similar. I like the sound of Slovenian, and may continue learning it after the conference.

My favourite Slovenian words are currently: predvčerajšnjim (the day before yesterday) and pojutrišnjem (the day after tomorrow).

I plan to record an episode of the Radio Omniglot Podcast at the conference. It will be about the conference, and the people there, and will hopefully include recordings of participants speaking as many different languages as possible. Looking forward to it!

Mr Gospod

The Slovenian gospod [ɡɔˈspóːt] came up in my Slovenian lesson today. It means mister, sir, gentleman or lord. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *gospodь (lord, master).

Some examples of how it’s used include:

  • gospod župnik = Reverend
  • spoštovani gospod = Dear Sir
  • grajski gospod = Lord of the castle
  • biti sam svoj gospod = to be one’s own master
  • Gospod Bog = the Lord God

The last example appears in a song we sing in the Bangor Community Choir, Vsy Tya Hori (Вси Тя хори) (All your choirs), which is in Church Slavonic, I think.

You can see and hear us sing it in Penrhyn castle, near Bangor, here:

Related words include:

  • gospoda = lords, gentlemen
  • gospodar = landowner, master
  • gospodar posestva = lord of the manor
  • gospodarica = mistress
  • gospodična = miss
  • gaspa = mrs, lady
  • gospe in gospodje = ladies and gentlemen

Other Slavic languages have a similar words:

  • Russian & Ukrainian: господь = the Lord, God
  • Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian: господ = Lord, Jesus
  • Croatian: gospod = Mr, Lord, Jesus

Source: PONS, Wiktionary

Famous outside words

beseda (word in Slovenian)

In Slovenian beseda [bɛˈséːda] is the word for word or term.

Some expressions featuring beseda include:

– besedna igra = wordplay, pun, play on words
– brez besed = speechless (with shock etc.)
– častna beseda = word of honour
– dati častno besedo = to give one’s word
– držal te bom za besedo = I am going to take you at your word
– mož beseda = man of hono(u)r
– z besedo na dan! = spit it out! let the cat out (of the bag)!

This comes from the Proto-Slavic *besěda, which originally meant sitting outdoors (at night), then an outdoor gathering, or a conversation or speech at such a gathering.

*besěda comes from *bez (outside) and *sěděti (to sit).

In other Slavic languages the same root became:

– Belarusian: бяседа (bjasjeda) = banquet
– Russian: беседа (beséda) = conversation, talk, discussion
– Ukrainian: бесіда (besida) = talk, conversation, discussion
– Bulgarian: беседа (beséda) = talk, conversation
– Macedonian: беседа (beseda) = speech, oration, sermon
– Serbo-Croatian: бесједа / besjeda = speech, word (archaic)
– Czech: beseda = discussion
– Slovak: beseda = discussion
– Polish: biesiada = feast, banquet

Words for word in other Slavic languages include:

– Belarusian: слова (slova)
– Russian: слово (slovo)
– Ukrainian: слово (slovo)
– Bulgarian: дума (duma); слово (slovo)
– Macedonian: збор (zbor)
– Serbian: реч (reč)
– Croatian: rije
– Czech: slovo
– Slovak: slovo
– Polish: słowo

Slovo, and variations, comes from the Proto-Slavic *slovo (word), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱléwos (fame), which is also the root of the Welsh clyw (hearing), the Irish clú (honour, praise, fame), the Latvian slava (rumor, reputation, fame), and the Greek κλέος (kléos – renown, fame, honour).

Sources: Wiktionary, PONS, dict.com

Bread, loaves and circles

Language quiz image

In most Slavic languages the word for bread is chleb or something similar: Czech & Polish: chleb, Slovak: chlieb, Russian & Belarusian: хлеб, Ukrainian: хліб, Bulgarian: хляб, Macedonian: леб.

These words all comes from the Proto-Slavic *xlěbъ (bread), from the Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz (bread). [source]. *hlaibaz is also the root of the English word loaf, the German Laib (loaf), and words for loaf in other Germanic languages [source].

However, in Slovenian the word for bread is kruh, which means circle or ring in Czech, although the Czech word probably comes from a different root [source]. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *kruxъ (chunk, bread), which comes from *krews (crush, break) [source].

The bread in the photo is a type of Slovenian potato bread known as krompirjev kruh. You can find recipes here (in Slovenian) and here (in English).

Učenje slovenščine (Learning Slovenian)

Slovenia

Yesterday I started learning Slovenian (slovenščina) in preparation for the Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana in Slovenia in October. I always try to learn at least a little of any languages I’m likely to encounter on my travels – it’s only polite.

I’m using a Memrise course, and may use other resources – if you have any suggestions, do let me know.

A few years ago I went to a polyglot conference in Novi Sad in Serbia, and learnt some Serbian before going there. Slovenian seems to have a lot in common with Serbian, so far.

There was a lass from Ljubljana learning Irish in Ireland last week, and she taught me a few useful Slovenian phrases.

Polyglotting

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.