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.
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].
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].
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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]
In this episode I talk about grammar – what it is, where it comes from, how it develops, and how knowledge of grammar can help you to learn languages. This post was partly inspired by this post on the Polyglots (Community) group on Facebook.
1a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences.
1b. The study of structural relationships in language or in a language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history.
2a. The system of inflections, syntax, and word formation of a language.
2b. The system of rules implicit in a language, viewed as a mechanism for generating all sentences possible in that language.
3a. A normative or prescriptive set of rules setting forth the current standard of usage for pedagogical or reference purposes.
3b. Writing or speech judged with regard to such a set of rules.
According to Wikipedia, grammar in linguistics is:
The set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes phonology, morphology, and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics.
To non-linguistics grammar might be:
rules of spelling and punctuation.
a generic way of referring to any aspect of English that people object to.
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].
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’.
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.
Syllabary – a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or (more frequently) moras which make up words [source].
Logograph – a single written symbol that represents an entire word or phrase without indicating its pronunciation [source].
Ideograph – a graphic character that indicates the meaning of a thing without indicating the sounds used to say it [source].
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
When people ask me what I do, I usually tell them that I write and talk about languages for a living, mainly on my website. This leads to more questions about what exactly my website is about, how I make money from it, and what I spend my days doing.
In this episode I try to answer these questions, and explain how Omniglot came to be, what my work involves, and how it generates revenue. I also suggest some ways you could turn your interests into online business.
In this episode I talk about Cornish, the Celtic language spoken in the southwest of Britain. I look at the history of the language, its decline and revival, and current status, and talk a bit about the language itself, and how I learnt it.
This is an example of An Mis, a monthly news programme in Cornish:
This is a song in Cornish, Tir Ha Mor (Land and Sea) by Gwenno Saunders, who grow up speaking Cornish, Welsh and English. It comes from her Album, Le Kov, which is entirely in Cornish.
The tunes featured in this episode are tradtional Cornish tunes called An Awhesyth / The Lark and An Kulyek Hos / The Mallard, from An Daras The Cornish Folk Arts Project. They are played and recorded by me.
In this episode I discuss the distinction between between less and fewer, and commonly-held beliefs about English grammar and usage. I investigate where these ‘rules’ and practises originated and find out who is responsible.
Less & Fewer
Less was used to mean fewer, i.e. a smaller number of from the 9th century. From the 11th century it was being used to mean smaller or lesser – a comparative form of little. By the 14th century it was being used to mean a smaller amount (of) or not as much.
It comes from the Old English lǣs (less), from the Proto-Germanic *laisiz [source].
Fewer is used to mean a smaller number of something, and is generally used before plural countable things. For example, fewer words, fewer letters.
It comes from few, from the Middle English fewe (few, little, not many; small, little), from the Old English fēaw (few), from the Proto-Germanic *fawaz (few), from Proto-Indo-European *peh₂w- (few, small). [source].
“LESS. This word is moſt commonly uſed in ſpeaking of a number; where I ſhould think Fewer would do better. No fewer than a Hundred, appears to me not only more elegant than No leſs than a Hundred, but more ſtrictly proper.”
A correspondent states as his own usage, and defends, the insertion of an adverb between the sign of the infinitive mood and the verb. He gives as an instance, “to scientifically illustrate.” But surely this is a practice unknown to English speakers and writers. It seems to me, that we ever regard the to of the infinitive as inseparable from its verb. And when we have already a choice between two forms of expression, “scientifically to illustrate,” and “to illustrate scientifically,” there seems no good reason for flying in the face of common usage.
The Prepoſition is often ſeparated from the Relative which it governs, and joined to the Verb at the end of the Sentence, or of ſome member of it: as, “Horace is an author, whom I am much delighted with.” “The world is too well bred to ſhock authors with a truth, which generally their bookſellers are the firſt that inform them of.” This is an Idiom which our language is ſtrongly inclined to; it prevails in common converſation, and ſuits very well with the familiar ſtyle in writing; but the placing of the Prepoſition before the Relative is more graceful as well as more perſpicuous; and agrees much better with the ſolemn and elevated Style.
the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings
There are also different definitions of dialect. The Free Dictionary define it as:
A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists.