Tag language


Still at work… builds take ages on the Wii.

Here’s more linguistic amusement, though – in this video, two speakers of KhoeKhoegowab (also known as Nama) from Namibia demonstrate their language’s four click sounds (along with nasal and voiced clicks). You too will be able to pronounce "/khim !nu #hab //ga"!

Welsh LL changing?

On phoneticist John Wells’ blog (he’s the man who invented the word rhotic, so he knows what he’s about) there’s an interesting article (scroll down to Friday 26th June, there are no permalinks) about this BBC Wales web page giving audio samples for some Welsh place names.

What he finds odd is that the Welsh speaker seems to use the wrong sound for the famous Welsh ”ll”. In technical terms, he uses a voiceless palatal fricative – a soft ch sound, a bit like in the German Ich or Licht – instead of the standard voiceless alveolar lateral fricative. It’s a completely different sound to me, made in a completely different way in the mouth, and yet – even odder – his Welsh-speaking correspondents claim to be able to hear no problem. On the BBC site, just try Benllech in Anglesey, Llanelli in Carmarthenshire, and Machynlleth in.. hell, you lot know where Mach is. It’s very odd.

He asks if there’s some kind of sound change going on in contemporary Welsh, and whether "speakers of Welsh will no longer be able to boast of having a really exotic sound in their consonant system. They’ll be no more able to lay claim to exclusivity than the Germans, and the use of the true alveolar lateral fricative will be left to Zulu and Xhosa."

(You can also check out the sounds on the Paul Meier IPA chart)


Excellent news for Cornish – after decades of factionalism and infighting between the various different reconstructions of the language (Modern Cornish, Unified Cornish, Unified Cornish Revised, Kernewek Dasunys, Kernewek Kemmyn, Kernowak Standard, Cornish People’s Front, People’s Front of Cornwall), negotiations have finally resulted in a new Standard Written Form of the language.

Of course, those of us with a less prescriptivist bent may wonder why such a thing needs to exist to get EU funding (as the last paragraph of the Reg news item claims).

Dairies are where deys knead dough

Just as a rookery is where rooks are, and a nunnery is where nuns are, so apparently, the word "dairy" means "where deys are." And a "dey" is an old word meaning a female servant – originally, someone who kneads dough – dey, dough, see. Although the meaning has obviously shifted a bit.

Oh, and lady comes from "loaf-dey", or loaf-kneader. Interesting, eh?

Interactive IPA charts

The headline says it all, really – the full IPA chart, but when you click on a phoneme it makes the noise. Excellent!

Ithkuil and Ilkash

Two languages devised by the American linguist John Quijada, both insanely complex,

whose aim is the highest possible degree of logic, efficiency, detail, and accuracy in cognitive expression via spoken human language, while minimizing the ambiguity, vagueness, illogic, redundancy, polysemy (multiple meanings) and overall arbitrariness that is seemingly ubiquitous in natural human language.

In other words, all the fun stuff.

However, the premise notwithstanding, the languages are fascinatingly terse – for example, the Ilkash word uccuẹilÅ¡rokö’z means something like concerning a hypothetically puzzling desire for an end to everything having to do with ewe-wool clothing, and Đrëu’yìrňu wufyér? means Is it those formally recognized groups of people who are helping to make inquiries about it?.

The grammars read like a toolkit for conlangers to take ideas from – Ilkash has 96 cases for nouns for example. And the verbal system is madness too : for example, each verb has a set of suffixes encoding (in a complex, compressed way) for (among other things!) Mood, Context, Phase, Version and Sanction; for example, Speculative Representational Repetitive Rebuttative Positive. Putting this onto the verb to eat we would get on the contrary, maybe [subject] succeeded in – metaphorically speaking – eating [object] at regular intervals, if indeed he is trying to, which we don’t know.


Chesterton on language

Quoted in Borges’ piece The Analytical Language of John Wilkins:

He knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest… Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them, in all their tones and semitones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals. He believes that an ordinary civilized stockbroker can really produce out of this own inside noises which denote all the mysteries of memory and all the agonies of desire.

“Aid me, O Quirites!”

Apparently, the verb cry originated in the Latin cry (aid me), Quirites!, calling on help from the Roman citizenry. I would have had this pegged as a dodgy folk etymology, but the OED agrees.

Even stranger, the comments on the post linked above reveal that the term quiris (pl. quirites) itself comes from the inhabitants of the Sabine town of Cures, who joined with the Romans and decamped to the Quirinal hill, giving the name of their god Quirinus to the hill and, later, the whole Roman populace.

post 2554

Famous Welsh poem: Rhyfel (“War”) by Hedd Wyn. This poem, written on the Western Front in 1917, won him the Eisteddfod chair. By the time of the competition he had been killed at Passchendaele. Born and raised near Trawsfynydd, he was a young farmer, one of two brothers and a committed pacifist. When he found out that either he or his younger brother would have to fight, though, he immediately volunteered to save his brother. A film’s been made about him.

Gwae fi fy myw mewn oes mor ddreng,
A Duw ar drai ar orwel pell;
O’i ol mae dyn, yn deyrn a gwreng,
Yn codi ei awdurdod hell.
Pan deimlodd fyned ymaith Dduw
Cyfododd gledd i ladd ei frawd;
Mae swn yr ymladd ar ein clyw,
A’i gysgod ar fythynnod tlawd.
Mae’r hen delynau genid gynt
Ynghrog ar gangau’r helyg draw,
A gwaedd y bechgyn lond y gwynt,
A’u gwaed yn cymysg efo’r glaw.

My translation:

Woeful I am to live in such a harsh age,
With God ebbing on the far horizon;
Behind Him is man, both lord and commoner,
Raising up his brutal authority.
When he felt God disappear
He lifted up his sword to kill his brother;
The sound of battle is in our ears,
And its shadow on the poor cottages.
The harps that once were played
Are hanging on the branches of those willows.
The wind is full of the screams of the boys
And their blood mixes with the rain.

post 3420

One of my favourite words is now in the OED: wibble. As you probably don’t have a subscription, here’s a quote:

wibble, v. […] 2. intr. Brit. slang. To speak or write, especially at great length, without saying anything important; to witter or waffle; to talk drivel. Freq. with on. Also trans. with direct speech as object.

[1989 R. CURTIS & B. ELTON “Blackadder goes Forth” in R. Curtis et al. “Black-Adder” (1998) Blackadder. We tell HQ that I have gone insane and I will be invalided back to Blighty before you can say “wibble”, a poor gormless idiot… Go on, ask me some simple questions. Baldrick. What is your name? Blackadder. Wibble.] 1994 Independent 5 Apr. 24/3 There’s a pause [in the game] while an ancient sage with a racoon on his chin wibbles on about the impossibility of screens to come..and then it’s back for an even more hellish melée with faster, larger and trickier opponents. 1996 Ikon Jan.-Feb. 42/1 “I am a licence fee-funded radio station..” wibbles Matthew Bannister, the controller who killed Smashie and Nicey and deliberately lost Radio 1 five million listeners. 1999 S. STEWART Sharking xi. 185 “It used to be the same down the Ministry”, I wibbled.

All we need now is bimble.

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