Woman speaking Shaetlan

Shaetlan (or Shetlandic) is a dialect of Scots (not Scottish Gaelic). The Scots language is closely related to English, and Shaetlan is spoken in the Shetland isles between Scotland and Norway, where Norn echoes in place-names and fair whispers.

At first it sounds like she's speaking English with an lilting accent; then the shrooms kick in. Read the rest

Inside the effort to save an indigenous Pacific Island language that the US tried to destroy

The United States "liberated" Guam and the Marianas Islands from 1898 during the Spanish-American War. As is usually the case with American Liberation, this meant further colonization, conversion into military outposts, and a forced re-education of the native Chamorros. To be fair, those indigenous inhabitants had already endured some 300 years of Spanish colonialism by then. By the time the US showed up, most Chammoros spoke in Spanish. But they also had their own language, called CHamoru.

But, as the Guardian tells it, the imperialist force that famously boasts about its firm belief in the freedom of speech (from a country that doesn't even have an official language) tried to stomp out the language at all costs:

The US navy banned CHamoru in 1917 “except for official interpreting”. The naval administration even burned CHamoru-English dictionaries.

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the ban on speaking CHamoru in schools was lifted, says Michael Bevacqua, a CHamoru language educator on Guam. Until then, schoolchildren who spoke CHamoru were punished, and their parents were sometimes even fined.

[…]

A decade ago, the US census estimated there were about 25,827 CHamoru speakers on Guam, just 2,394 of whom were under the age of 18, and only 14,176 CHamoru speakers in the rest of the island chain.

Robert Underwood, the former president of the University of Guam, says most of the fluent speakers are likely to be over the age of 50.

“In another 20 to 30 years there may not be any real first-language speakers of CHamoru,” he says.

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A fascinating map of the most spoken languages in every US state besides English and Spanish

The United States has never had a single "official" language. While English is broadly accepted accepted as the common tongue and typically used in schooling as well as government documents, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Spanish is also used frequently across the country — but there are a lot more languages than that at play throughout the States.

Andy Kiersz and Ivan De Luce at Business Insider crunched some data based on the individual-level responses from the 2017 American Community Survey  assembled and published by the Minnesota Population Center's Integrated Public Use Microdata Series program, to find out what other languages are most commonly used in the United States.

There are a lot of thought-provoking takeaways from the data as presented here. Some things may seem obvious — there's a lot of French, of course, particularly in Louisiana and the states that border eastern Canada. While I didn't know that Tagalog was as popular in California and Nevada until now, I can't say I'm surprised. The abundance of Haitian Creole in Florida makes sense, too, but its presence in Delaware is much more interesting. As someone with an interest in indigenous tongues after colonization, it's somewhat comforting to see that Ilocano, Aleut-Eskimo, and Dakota/Lakota/Nakota/Sioux languages are all still hanging on. Read the rest

25 useful Japanese words for everyday conversation

I wasn't expecting to learn much from this video about 25 useful Japanese words because I thought I would know them all, but there were quite a few that were new to me:

uso (no way!) chicchai (tiny and cute) harahetta (I'm starving) dekai (huge) umai (tasty, more casual than oishii) majide (you're not joking?) dasai (uncool) kakkoii (cool or attractive) sugei (incredible) tsukareta (I'm exhausted) Read the rest

Guess what languages these people are speaking

These people are pretty bad at recognizing different languages. And so am I.

Bonus facts I happened to find on Ethnologue, a fascinating directory of languages: Apparently there are more than 7,000 living languages in the world. Half the world's population speaks one of the top 23 most-used languages, with the top five being Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic, and Hindi. One-third of the 7,000 languages are endangered, "that is, loss of all individuals who continue to identify the language as being related to their identity." Read the rest

Deciphering "wee old lady" library book code

Georgia Grainger, a Scottish librarian, began a fascinating Twitter thread earlier this week:

Read the rest

Arabic version of Sega's early-1990s logo

This marvel of design was posted to Twitter by VGDensetsu; it's said to be official, and apparently romanizes as "Seja" as Arabic lacks a hard "G".

The Japanese company uses the classic Latin-alphabet logo in Japan, but here is a fanmade Japanese version:

And here is a Hebrew logo, devised by Baraksha, creator of an unlicensed translation of Sonic the Hedgehog into that language:

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The hardest and easiest languages to learn for native English speakers

The Foreign Service Institute has ranked the difficulty of learning a language for English speakers.

From Blazepress:

Languages based upon Latin, such as French, Spanish and Italian are some of the easiest to pick up and are placed in ‘Category I’ languages with an estimated learning time of around 6 months. Languages such as Japanese, Korean and Arabic are placed in ‘Category V,’ and can take considerably longer and an estimated 2 years to master properly. Check out the rest on the map below.

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Perl is the most hated programming language

What do computer programmers not want to code in? Read the rest

Vulgar generates fantasy languages with a click

Vulgar constructs languages for fantasy fiction or whatever other purpose you can imagine, applying consistent rules to the custom phonemes you feed it. [via]

Vulgar's output models the regularities, irregularities and quirks of real world languages; phonology, grammar, and a 2000 unique word vocabulary. Trial the demo version online. Purchase the premium version to get access to the complete 2000 word output (with derivational words) and extra grammatical rules. ...

Vulgar generates ... based on a list of some of English's most common words. However, the program is more than just a one-to-one mapping of unique outputs to English words. In an effort to mimic real world languages, Vulgar also creates various homphones and overlapping senses inspired by examples from real world languages. For example:

Here's my language:

The Language of Puput /ˈpʰupʰutʰ/

...and he stood holding his hat and turned his wet face to the wind. ...u lu bunela une luch yafa u neba luch miku peb tul ye Pronunciation: /u lu bɯˈnela ˈune løtʃ ˈjafa u ˈneba løtʃ ˈmikʰø pʰeb t̪øl je/ Narrow pronunciation: [u lu bɯˈnela ˈune løtʃ ˈjafa u ˈneba løtʃ ˈmikʰø pʰe t̪øl je] Puput structure: and he stood holding his hat and turned his wet face the wind to

Seed for this language: 0.36384689368800394

The Puput word for "stuff" is "nut." I'll spare you details of the nominative and accusative case forms, but they're there. The full edition of the app is $20. Read the rest

How to identify any language at a glance

Professional word taster James Harbeck shows you how to identify different languages by identifying the unique characters they use. Read the rest

Learn Japanese Quick!

There are so many ploys and scams out there that promise to teach you just enough Japanese to enjoy your big once-in-a-lifetime trip that even contemplating which one to choose is impossible.

My trips to Japan generally involve a trip to The Tokyo Disney Resort (surprise! … not) and I’m always scouring websites for the latest little titbit of new information. One of the few accessible ones (since most are in Japanese) is TDR Explorer. All the latest news, free, with good photography.

I like that the webmaster is actually thinking about things which would be of real practical value for a traveler not just to the Disney Resort, but often anywhere in Japan. And thus we come to his list of 17 basic phrases that you might find helpful.

The problem is that if you look at the center column of the list, you won’t have any idea how to pronounce these Japanese words. They are written in what is called “romaji,” or the Romanization of Japanese characters into western characters. This makes them extremely simple to say if they are broken down phonetically.

For example, “Yes” is pronounced “hi,” even though the romaji spelling is “hai.” If you didn’t know better you might say “hi-ee,” or “ha-i” or whatever.

So here is a simple tip: every syllable in Japanese is given the same emphasis. My friend Satoshi’s name is not pronounced “Sa-TOE-shi,” but “Sa-tō-she.” Equal emphasis on all syllables.

Here, then is my own version of a list of Japanese words, all spelled out phonetically so you can pronounce them properly (or at least closely) with some ease. Read the rest

Japanese in Mangaland – Study the language with manga

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

If you’re like me when it comes to speaking Japanese – extremely clunky with with a limited conversational vocabulary but can read the two syllabaries (katakana and hiragana), this book is a fantastic supplement to further study. Besides the high fun factor of studying with manga (which teaches you to speak like a Japanese person rather than a formal text-book-taught foreigner), it’s the first book I’ve read that clearly explains the grammar (such as when and where to use particles like wa, ga and o), the complicated number systems, conjugating verbs, telling time, etc. I’m also learning some basic kanji as well as silly things you find in manga like exclamations and swear words. Each chapter gives you exercises to do on separate paper with answers in the back of the book. This lesson book is packed with great info on how the Japanese language works, and it’s presented in an interesting way that makes me look forward to picking up the book. I'm really loving it.

However, I have to say that the title of this book is a bit misleading. Yes, we are studying Japanese using manga, but Learning the Basics is a bit of a stretch. The book does touch on the basics but it moves quickly, and if you’re brand new to Japanese, I would hold off on reading this book until you actually have learned the basics.

Japanese in Mangaland: Learning the Basics

by Marc Bernabe

Japan Publications Trading

2004, 269 pages, 6.8 Read the rest

Most popular programming languages shift at Github

Driven by the web and Android, Javascript and Java reign. Ruby and C lose ground. PHP lumbers on, impervious. Somewhere in the distance, a Perl script barks mournfully.

Between 2008 and 2015 GitHub gained the most traction in the Java community, which changed in rank from 7th to 2nd. Possible contributing factors to this growth could be the growing popularity of Android and the increasing demand for version control platforms at businesses and enterprises.

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Who put the "X" in "Xmas"

Turns out, it was the Greeks. Χριστος is how you write "Christ" in Greek and writers (including people who transcribed the Bible) have been using "X" as a convenient abbreviation of that since at least the 3rd and 4th centuries. Read the rest

How To: Pronounce Nelson Mandela's middle name

The BBC's in-house linguists have an interesting piece about pronouncing words in Xhosa — a major language spoken in the region of South Africa where Nelson Mandela grew up. (Helpfully included in the story: How to pronounce "Xhosa".) Read the rest

Saving dying languages with the help of math

Languages come and go and blend. It's likely been that way forever and the process only accelerates under the influence of mega-languages (like English) that represent a sort of global means of communication. But, increasingly, people who are at risk of losing their native language entirely are fighting back—trying to encourage more people to be bilingual and save the native language from extinction.

At Discover Magazine, Veronique Greenwood has a really interesting story about a mathematician who is helping to preserve Scottish Gaelic. How? The researcher, Anne Kandler, has put together some equations that can help native language supporters target their programs and plan their goals.

Some of the numbers are obvious—you must know how many people in the population you’re working with speak just Gaelic, how many speak just English, and how many are bilingual, as well as the rate of loss of Gaelic speakers. But also in the model are numbers that stand for the prestige of each language—the cultural value people place on speaking it—and numbers that describe a language’s economic value.

Put them all together into a system of equations that describe the growth of the three different groups—English speakers, Gaelic speakers, and bilinguals—and you can calculate what inputs are required for a stable bilingual population to emerge. In 2010, Kandler found that using the most current numbers, a total of 860 English speakers will have to learn Gaelic each year for the number of speakers to stay the same. To her, this sounded like a lot, but the national Gaelic Development Agency was pleased: it’s about the number of bilingual speakers they were already aiming to produce through classes and programs.

Read the rest

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