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.
If you’re good at languages, does it follow that you’re good at music, and vice versa? In this episode I talk about links between languages and music. I explore similarities and differences between learning and using languages, and learning and playing music, based mainly on my own experiences.
Edinburgh Language Event
Tunes features in this episode
The Whistling Windows / Y Ffenstri Sïo – a tune I wrote on various instruments in 2017.
Here’s a video I made at a music session in Y Glôb, a pub in Bangor. Musicians from Wales, England, Singapore and France were there that night.
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.
Information about numbers and numerals
Origins of hat-trick
Tunes features in this episode
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.
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.
Tunes featured in this episode
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 Family||Number of languages||Number of speakers|
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 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).
Information about polyglot events: http://www.omniglot.com/events/
Music featured in this episode
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:
- language peculiar to a particular group: such as argot or jargon.
- an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.
- 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.
Source: wordnik (from The Century Dictionary)
- very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language, as Hit the road.
- speech and writing characterized by the use of vulgar and socially taboo vocabulary and idiomatic expressions.
- the jargon of a particular class, profession, etc.
- the special vocabulary of thieves, vagabonds, etc.; argot.
- 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]
Information about slang
Music featured in this episode
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.
The tunes featured in the episode are:
Goosing Around / Gwyddio o Gwmpas
Spring at Last / Gwanwyn o’r Diwedd
The recording I use in the podcast was generated by MuseScore (See a PDF of the score). The recording below features me on all the instruments.
Blue Skies / Awyr Las
In Episode 12 I slipped in a couple of made-up facts and challenged you to spot them. They were:
- There is a version of Cornish called Kernewek Gwir (True/Real Cornish) that is a continuation of traditional Cornish.
- There are a few parrots and other birds who can speak a bit of Cornish.
Although I made these up, there are people who believe that Cornish never ceased to be spoken, and it’s possible that someone has trained their parrot to speak some Cornish.
In this episode I talk about Manx (Gaelg), or Manx Gaelic (Gaelg Vanninagh), a Celtic language spoken in the Isle of Man. I look at the history of the language, its decline and revival, and its current situation. I also talk about my own experiences with the language, and play a few Manx tunes, and a song I wrote in Manx and English.
Here are some of the bits of Manx featured:
Failt dys yn çhiaghtoo cur magh jeh’n podcreeley Radio Omniglot.
Welcome to episode 7 of the the Radio Omniglot podcast.
Mish Simon Ager, as bee’m laoyrt mychione y Ghaelg, ny’n Ghaelg Vanniagh, çhengey Cheltiagh ta goll er loayrt ayns Mannin.
I’m Simon Ager, and I will be speaking about Manx, or Manx Gaelic, the Celtic language spoken in the Isle of Man.=
Tra haink ny skibbyltee boghtey stiagh hie yn Ghaelg magh.
When the tourists came in, the Manx language went out.
Cha jean oo cosney ping lesh y Ghailck
You will not earn a penny from Manx
Gura mie mooar ayd son eaishtaght, as slane lhiat
Thank you very much for listening, and good bye
I mention that the Manx Tynwald (parliament), which is Tinvaal in Manx, comes from the Old Norse word Þingvǫllr (meeting place of the assembly), and that the modern Icelandic parliament has a similar name: Þingvellir (Thingvellir). The Icelandic parliament is in fact called the Alþingi (Althingi), and Þingvellir is the place south of Reykjavik where the parliament was held from 930-1798.
This is a photo I took of Þingvellir in Icelandic in October 2017.
Information about Manx
https://gv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaelg (in Manx)
Information about the Isle of Man
A day in the life of the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (Manx-medium primary school)
Brian Stowell and Adrian Cain talking about the revival of Manx
Cuchulainn – an animation telling Cuchulainn’s story in Manx
Brian Stowell and Adrian Cain talking about the native speakers of Manx
Manannan – an animation about Mannan beg mac y Leir, the Celtic sea god who is said to protect the Isle of Man with his mists
A conversation in Manx between Ned Maddrell and Tommy Lecce
Ruth Keggin – Irree ny greiney (Sunrise), a song in Manx written by Bob Carswell
Tunes featured in this episode
This episode is about Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig). I talk about the current state of the language, its history, how it is used, about my experiences of learning it, and share some observations I’ve collected from other Gaelic speakers and learners.
Last week I was at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, a college on the Isle of Skye where you can do courses in Scottish Gaelic languages, songs, traditional music, dance, drama, and other subjects. I have done quite a few courses in Scottish Gaelic songs since 2008.
You can hear some examples of spoken Gaelic here:
Here is a silly little video I made to practise my Scottish Gaelic:
More information about Scottish Gaelic
The music in this podcast is a piece I wrote After The Rain / Ar Ôl Y Glaw: