In this episode I take you on an adventure in etymology, the study of where words come from, and how they have changed over time. I start with the word etymology, and see where I end up.
In this episode I talk about Dutch (Nederlands), a West Germanic language spoken mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium. I talk about the language itself and its history, about my attempts to learn it, and related stuff.
English words of Dutch origin include: Santa Claus, yacht, yankee, wildebeest, wagon, wiggle, waffle, stove, stoop, snack, skate, scone, rover, poppycock, pickle, plug, mannequin, maelstrom, luck, landscape, knapsack, jib, gin, furlough and many more [source].
Dutch pages on Omniglot
- Information about Dutch
- Useful Phrases
- Silly Phrases
- Family words
- Weather words
- Tongue twisters
- Tower of Babel
- Dutch Learning materials
Tunes features in this episode
Top reasons for giving up on a language include losing interest, not having enough time, getting distracted, another language seemed more interesting, and it being too hard.
Tunes features in this episode
Lifting the Lid / Codi’r Caead – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2020.
In this episode I talk to a friend of mine, Ruth Fischer, about her experiences of learning and using languages. Ruth grew up in Wales speaking English at home, and learnt Welsh, French and German at school. She spent a year in Switzerland as an au-pair, which was good for her German and French, and has learnt bits and pieces of a few other languages, including Swedish, Danish and Icelandic.
I’ve known Ruth for quite a few years – we met at a singing class we used to go to, and have sung and played recorders together in various groups since then.
Here’s a photo of Ruth (in red), our friend Femke (in yellow), and me (in blue) taken in Llandudno. We were taking part in a game devised by Femke for LLAWN – Llandudno Arts Weekend.
Since January 2019 we have met regularly to talk about songs we’re writing, and to sing and play recorders together. In September 2019 we recorded some of our songs and put them on a CD for a member of our group, Rosie, who was too ill to attend at the time. Sadly she died in October 2019.
More information about SaySomethinginWelsh – courses also available in Spanish, Dutch, Latin, Cornish and Manx.
Tunes features in this episode
The Bells of Hirael / Clychau Hirael – this tune has featured in a previous episode, but this version is for recorders.
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.
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Here’s an illustration a the family tree of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish languages:
More information about language families
The tune featured in this episode
In this episode I look into the differences between languages and dialects, and talk a bit about where they come from and how they develop.
Max Weinreich (1894-1969), a Russian linguist who specialised in sociolinguistics and Yiddish, popularised the saying,
אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט
(a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot)
A language is a dialect with an army and navy
There are various definitions of language. This is one from the Free Dictionary:
- Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
- Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
- Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.
Merriam-Webster defines language as:
- 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.
Merriam-Webster defines dialect as:
- a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language
Tunes featured in this episode hear
This epsiode is about polyglottery and was partly recorded at the 2018 Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana in Slovenia.
I talk about what is a polyglot, how many languages you have to speak to call yourself a polyglot, and discuss what polyglots get up to, including the Polyglot Conference and other polyglot events, such as the Polyglot Gathering and LangFest. There are also some sound bites from participants in the conference in a variety of languages.
Definitions of polyglot:
- “A polyglot is a person who speaks or understands many languages; a person with a command of many languages” [Collins English Dictionary].
- “person who knows and is able to use several languages” [English Oxford Living Dictionaries].
Definitions of polyglottery:
- “The knowledge or use of several languages, polyglot character” [English Oxford Living Dictionaries].
Other takes on polyglottery
Websites of some of the people who took part in the episode
- Foreign Language Expertise with Alexander Arguelles
- How to get fluent, with Dr Popkins
- Lindsay Does Languages. Lindsay is also co-host of the Fluent Show podcast
- The Intrepid Guide – Language Guides & Travel Tips from Around the World
- LinguaMaterna – Learn a New Language Without The complications
- Wouter Corduwener’s YouTube channel
If you took part in this podcast and have a website, blog, YouTube channel, etc that you’d like to see included here, let me know in the comments.
Videos from Polylgot events
My photos and videos from polyglot events