Episode 24 – Volapük

Johann Martin Schleyer playing the harp in 1888 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Johann_Martin_Schleyer?uselang=de

In this episode I talk about Volapük, an international auxilliary language created in the late 19th century by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German priest. I look at the history of the language and its structure and vocabulary, and also talk a bit about Schleyer himself.

Volapük was the first international auxillary language, or indeed constructed language, to attract a significant number of adherents. At its peak there were an estimated 283 clubs, 25 periodicals in or about Volapük, and 316 textbooks in 25 languages.

Not long after that, however, the Volapük movement began collapse and by the early 20th century few people were interested in Volapük. Many former Volapükists switched their attentions to Esperanto, which was published in 1887. Or tried to improve the language, and create new versions, none of which had much success.

The photo above is of Johann Martin Schleyer and comes from: Wikipedia

Information about Volapük

https://www.omniglot.com/writing/volapuk.htm
http://volapük.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volapük
https://wikisource.org/wiki/Gramat_Volapüka/Lafab_Volapükik

Examples of spoken Volapük

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch (played on the guitar)

See the score for this piece

The Swallow / Y Wennol

Episode 23 – Czech (čeština)

In this episode I talk about the Czech language (čeština / český jazyk). I give an overview of the language itself, talk about my efforts to learn it.

Examples of Czech noun cases

  • Nominative: () ji vidím = I see her
  • Genitive: Její květy jsou modré = Her flowers are blue
  • Dative: Dávám květiny = I give her flowers
  • Accusative: Ona vidí = She sees me
  • Vocative: Ahoj Evo = Hi Eva
  • Locative: Jsem doma = I am at home
  • Instrumental: Ona cestuje autobusem = She is travelling by bus

Some Czech tongue twisters without vowels

Source: https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strč_prst_skrz_krk
Translations and recordings by Rhee Diculous

More Czech tongue twisters

Information about Czech

https://www.omniglot.com/writing/czech.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_orthography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_phonology
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_conjugation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Czech_language

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Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch (played on the cavaquinho)

See the score for this piece

Hajej, můj zlatouškou (a Czech lullaby)

Episode 22 – Numbers

In this episode I discuss numbers, counting, and some of the other ways to refer to numbers and amounts in English – there are a lot more than you probably realise.

Links

Information about numbers and numerals
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_numerals
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numeral_prefix
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indefinite_and_fictitious_numbers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_large_numbers
https://www.omniglot.com/language/numbers/
https://www.omniglot.com/language/numerals.htm

Origins of hat-trick
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hat-trick

Numbers

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this piece

Climbing the Stairs / Dringo’r Grisiau

Episode 21 – Benefits of learning small languages

In this episode I talk about some of the benefits and advantages of learning minority and lesser-studied languages, focusing particularly on the Irish and other Celtic languages. I talk about my own experiences with these languages, and the benefits they have brought me.

Gleann Cholm Cille
Gleann Cholm Cille

There’s no point in learning small languages, is there? They’re spoken by relatively few people and maybe only in one country or region. So why bother? It would be better to learn a language that has many millions of speakers and that is spoken in many countries, like Spanish or French, wouldn’t it? Perhaps, but whatever language you learn can bring benefits and opportunities, even small, lesser-studied and minority languages.

Scoil Shamraidh 2017

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this piece

The Elephant Song / Cân yr Eliffant

Episode 20 – Language Families

In this episode I talk about language families – what they are, and how they develop, and I introduce some major and minor language families.

According to Wikipedia, a language family is “a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestral language or parental language, called the proto-language of that family”.

According to Ethnologue there are currently 142 different language families and 7,111 living languages. The ten largest languages families account for about 88% of the world’s population, and 74% of the world’s languages.

Top Ten Language Families

Language FamilyNumber of languagesNumber of speakers
Total5,2386,143,981,545
Niger-Congo1,526 519,814,033
Austronesian1,223325,862,510
Trans-New Guinea4783,580,507
Sino-Tibetan4531,385,995,195
Indo-European4453,237,999,904
Afro-Asiatic365499,294,669
Australian20437,032
Nilo-Saharan20053,359,610
Otomanguean1771,715,045
Austro-Asiatic167116,323,040

Here’s an illustration a the family tree of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish languages:

Elvish language family

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvish_languages_(Middle-earth)

More information about language families
https://www.omniglot.com/writing/langfam.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_family
https://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/family
https://www.mustgo.com/worldlanguages/language-families/

The tune featured in this episode

Dancing Donkeys / Asynnod sy’n Dawnsio

See the score for this tune

Costa Pacifica

Don’t forget that you can US$50 off the Polyglot Cruise 2020 by using the code OMNIGLOT.

Episode 19 – Pidgins and Creoles

In this episode I talk about pidgins and creoles – what are they, how they develop, what they sound like, how they are structed, and so on.

Here’s how a pidgin or pidgin language is defined on Dictionary.com:

1. an auxiliary language that has come into existence through the attempts by the speakers of two different languages to communicate and that is primarily a simplified form of one of the languages, with a reduced vocabulary and grammatical structure and considerable variation in pronunciation.

2. (loosely) any simplified or broken form of a language, especially when used for communication between speakers of different languages.

The definition of pidgin in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is even simpler:

a simplified speech used for communication between people with different languages

In the 19th century a form of pidgin, known as Chinese Pidgin English, developed between European and Chinese merchants in China. Pidgin was the way the Chinese pronounced business, and referred to this form of language. Later it was used to refer to all such contact languages. It was first used in writing in 1807 [source].

Dictionary.com defines a creole language:

a creolized language; a pidgin that has become the native language of a speech community

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a creole language as:

a language that has evolved from a pidgin but serves as the native language of a speech community

The word creole was first used in the 17th century, and comes from the Portuguese crioulo (a slave born in one’s household, person of European ancestry born in the colonies), probably from criar (to bring up), from the Latin creāre (to create) [source].

Examples of Creoles being spoken

Bislama

Tok Pisin

Haitian Creole

More information about Pidgin and Creole Languages

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidgin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creole_language
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/langfam.htm#creoles

Costa Pacifica

Details of the Polyglot Cruise 2020 – remember to use the code OMNIGLOT to get US$50 off!

Tunes featured in this episode

Time To Play / Amser i Chwarae

The Frog’s Excuse / Esgus y Llyffant

Episode 18 – Adventures in Polyglotland

In this episode I bring you news from the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, an annual get-together of polyglots and language lovers from all over the world. This year the Polyglot Gathering took place in Bratislava, Slovakia for the third time – it started in 2015 in Berlin, and was there for three years, then moved to Bratislava. The next Gathering will be in Teresin, near Warsaw in Poland from 26-30 May 2020.

I was planning to interview people at the Gathering, and to keep an audio diary, but was enjoying myself too much and decided to give you a flavour of the event after I got home. So this is the story of my Adventures in Polyglotland.

My badge from the Polyglot Gathering showing the languages I speak fluently, or at least fairly well:

My badge from the 2019 Polyglot Gathering

N = native language, C = advanced level, B = intermediate level, A = basic / elementary level, en = English, cy = Cymraeg (Welsh), zh = 中文 [zhōngwén] – (Mandarin Chinese), ga = Gaeilge (Irish), es = español (Spanish), de = Deutsch (German), eo = Esperanto, gd = Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic), ja = Japanese, gv = Gaelg Vanninagh (Manx Gaelic), ru = Русский [Russkij] (Russian), cs = český (Czech), sv = Svenska (Swedish), da = Dansk (Danish).

Information about polyglot events: http://www.omniglot.com/events/

Music featured in this episode

Bear With Me / Aros am yr Arth

See the score for this tune

Echoes on the Tongue / Atseiniau ar y Tafod

See the score for this tune

Episode 17 – Slang

Slang argot jargon patter cant patois lingo

In this episode we have a little natter about slang – what it is, where it comes from, and how it’s used.

Here are a few definitions of slang:

  1. language peculiar to a particular group: such as argot or jargon.
  2. an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.

Source: Merriam-Webster

  1. A kind of language occurring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor, irreverence, or other effect.
  2. Language peculiar to a group; argot or jargon.

Source: wordnik (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition)

  • colloquial words and phrases which have originated in the cant or rude speech of the vagabond or unlettered classes, or, belonging in form to standard speech, have acquired or have had given them restricted, capricious, or extravagantly metaphorical meanings, and are regarded as vulgar or inelegant.

Source: wordnik (from The Century Dictionary)

  1. very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language, as Hit the road.
  2. speech and writing characterized by the use of vulgar and socially taboo vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.
  3. the jargon of a particular class, profession, etc.
  4. the special vocabulary of thieves, vagabonds, etc.; argot.

Source: Dictionary.com

  • language (words, phrases, and usages) of an informal register that members of particular in-groups favor (over the common vocabulary of a standard language) in order to establish group identity, exclude outsiders, or both.

Source: Wikipedia

The origins of the word slang are not known. It was first used in writing in 1756 to refer to the language of “low” or “disreputable” people, or the “special vocabulary of tramps or thieves”. It possibly comes from the same root as sling, from the Old Norse slyngva (to hurl) [source]

Links

Information about slang
https://www.britannica.com/topic/slang
https://www.alphadictionary.com/articles/what_is_slang.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_slang
https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-back-slang-1689156M
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verlan

Details of specific words: natter, chat, gob (English), gob (Irish), mush, fika

Slang dictionaries
Green’s Dictionary of Slang
A Dictionary of Slang (British English)
Cockney Rhyming Slang
The Online Slang Dictionary (American, English, and Urban slang)

Music featured in this episode

The Scampering Squirrels / Y Gwiwerod sy’n Prancio

See the score for this tune

The Unexpected Badger / Y Mochyn Daear Annisgwyl

See the score for this tune

Episode 15 – Esperanto

In this episode I talk about the international language, or la lingva internacia, otherwise known as Esperanto. I look into it’s history and development, and discuss the language itself.

Here are some native speakers of Esperanto (they do exist) talking in Esperanto:

How Esperanto can help you to learn other languages:

This is an original song in Esperanto:

Music featured in this episode

The Esperanto anthem, La Espero, written by L.L. Zamenhof:

Mwmpwy Porthaethwy / Menai Bridge Fancy

More information about Esperanto:
http://esperanto.net/en/
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/esperanto.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto
https://lernu.net/en/esperanto
http://mylanguages.org/learn_esperanto.php

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.





Episode 14 – Alphabets and Writing Systems

Most people know, or at least have some idea what an alphabet is, but many people might not be so familiar with abjads, abugidas, syllabaries and other writing systems. In this episode I explain what these words mean, and how these writing systems work. I also talk a bit about the history of writing.

Here are some definitions:

Alphabet – a set of letters or other signs, usually arranged in a fixed order, used to represent the phonemes (sounds) of a language [source].

Some alphabets

Abjad – a type of writing system where each symbol stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel [source]. Also known as a consonant alphabet. Long vowels can be indicated by consonants, and short vowels can be indicated by lines, dots and other squiggles added to the consonants letters. When written with the short vowel symbols, they are said to be ‘vocalised’. Normally they are written ‘unvocalised’.

Some abjads

Abugida – a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is secondary [source]. Also known as a syllabic alphabet or alphasyllabary.

Some abugidas

Syllabary – a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or (more frequently) moras which make up words [source].

Some syllabaries

Logograph – a single written symbol that represents an entire word or phrase without indicating its pronunciation [source].

Some Mayan logograms

Ideograph – a graphic character that indicates the meaning of a thing without indicating the sounds used to say it [source].

Ideographs

Pictograph – a picture representing a word, phrase, or idea, especially one used in early writing systems. A picture or symbol standing for a word or group of words [source].

The development of the Chinese character for horse

Evolution of the character for horse

The tunes featured in the episode are:

The Blackbird’s Tail / Cynffon yr Aderyn Du

The Dragon’s Fancy / Mwmpwy y Ddraig

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.