Adventures in Etymology 18 – Parnips

Today we are looking at the word parsnip [ˈpɑː.snɪp/ˈpɑɹ.snɪp].

Parsnips

Definition:

  • A plant (Pastinaca sativa) in the parsley family, native to Eurasia, cultivated for its long, white, edible, fleshy root.
  • The root of this plant.

It comes from the Middle English word passenep a version of the Old French word pasnaie, with influence from the Middle English word nepe [neːp] (turnip), from the Latin pastināca [pas.tiˈnaː.ka] (parsnip, carrot, stringray) from pastinum [ˈpas.ti.num] (two-pronged fork/dibble), which is of unknown orgin [source].

Words for parsnip are similiar in quite a few other languages, including pastinaca in Italian, pastinaak in Dutch and panais in French.

One exception is Spanish, in which parsnip is chirivía [t͡ʃi.ɾiˈβ̞i.a], from alcaravea [al.ka.ɾaˈβ̞e.a] (caraway), from the Arabic كَرَاوِيَا‎ (karāwiyā, caraway) [source].

This adventure was inspired by a friend who sent me a collection of ‘useful’ phrases from the Welsh course on Duolingo concerning Owen and his parsnips.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

Episode 40 – Spanish (español)

In this episode I talk about the Spanish language, looking at its history, grammar, current status, and how I learnt it.

Links
https://www.omniglot.com/writing/spanish.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Spanish_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_grammar
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_phonology
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_language_in_the_Americas
https://www.ethnologue.com/language/spa
https://english.elpais.com/elpais/2017/11/29/inenglish/1511950198_079424.html

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

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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.

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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

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.