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
In this episode I talk about talent, particularly talent for languages. Do some people have an innate talent for learning languages? Do others lack such a talent? If you don’t have a talent for languages, can you learn one anyway?
Tunes features in this episode
Little Red Boats / Cychod bach coch – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2017.
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: (Já) ji vidím = I see her
- Genitive: Její květy jsou modré = Her flowers are blue
- Dative: Dávám jí květiny = I give her flowers
- Accusative: Ona mě 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
- Chrt pln skvrn zdrhl z Brd.
A greyhound full of spots escaped from the Brdy (mountains)
- Chrt pln skvrn zhltl hrst zrn.
A greyhound full of spots swallowed a handful of grain.
- Chrt pln skvrn vtrhl skrz trs chrp v čtvrť Krč, prv zhltl čtvrt hrst zrn.
A greyhound full of spots barged through a tuft of cornflowers into the Krč neighbourhood, (but) first, it swallowed a quarter-handful of grain.
- Plch zdrhl skrz drn, prv zhltl čtvrthrst zrn.
A dormouse escaped through a turf; first it swallowed a quarter-handful of grain.
- Zdrhl krt skrz drn, zprv zhltl hrst zrn.
A mole escaped through a turf; first, it swallowed a quarter-handful of grain.
- Vlk pln žbrnd zdrhl hrd z mlh Brd skrz vrch Smrk v čtvrť srn Krč.
A wolf full of poor-quality beverages escaped proud from the mists of Brdy through the Smrk hill into the roe deer district of Krč.
- Prd krt skrz drn, zprv zhlt hrst zrn
A mole farted through grass, having swallowed a handful of grain
- Škrt plch z mlh Brd pln skvrn z mrv prv hrd scvrnkl z brzd skrz trs chrp v krs vrb mls mrch srn čtvrthrst zrn
A miser dormouse from the mists of Brdy full of spots from manure, firstly proud, pushed (with its fingers in a specific way) a dainty of bitchy roe deer, quarter-handful of grain, off the brakes through a tuft of cornflowers into the dwarfed willows.
Translations and recordings by Rhee Diculous
Information about Czech
Tunes features in this episode
Hajej, můj zlatouškou (a Czech lullaby)
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 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
More information about Pidgin and Creole Languages
Details of the Polyglot Cruise 2020 – remember to use the code OMNIGLOT to get US$50 off!
Tunes 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 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:
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
The tunes featured in the episode are:
The Blackbird’s Tail / Cynffon yr Aderyn Du
The Dragon’s Fancy / Mwmpwy y Ddraig
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