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In my last post I told you about how I got to spend my Saturday visiting embassies open all around DC, part of the Around the World Embassy Tour. I said that the seven countries whose embassies I visited represented over 800 living languages total. How much do you know about the languages of those countries? Take today’s Pop Quiz to find out!
As a reminder, the embassies I visited were: Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Mozambique, Peru, the Philippines, and South Africa.
BONUS: I ran out of time before I could visit the embassy representing the country with the most living languages represented. Which country’s embassy would that be? (Hint: the embassy of Papua New Guinea did not participate in this year’s tour.)
BONUS: Next year I will be sure to visit the embassy of Indonesia, which represents speakers of over 700 different living languages.
How did you do? Was there anything you were surprised to learn? Which country’s embassy would you most want to visit if you could?
Copyright Allison Taylor-Adams. See About for details.
There are so many interesting insights into what we can learn from ancient texts in their original languages. My personal favorite is this one, discussing sound patterns in the first few lines of The Odyssey. But there are many more great blog posts (especially if you love Greek like I do!)
Check them out and have a happy Friday!
I was recently asked to participate in an Ancient Languages blog carnival being organized by the blog Linguae Antiquitatum. I love any opportunity to talk about ancient languages!
I’m especially happy to talk about my beloved Classical Greek. I believe that studying this language has made me a smarter, richer person, and a better linguist. And there’s historical precedent for that statement! When the thinkers of continental Europe were developing theories and models that we have come to recognize as modern linguistic science, they drew upon their classical education for their initial ideas of how languages worked. They also drew upon their knowledge of Greek and Latin words to coin new terms for the new concepts they were developing (exactly like I did when I named this blog!)
One of my favorite things about learning Greek is that it helps me understand my own language so much better. I sometimes describe it as “word math;” you often have these wonderful “a-HA” moments when you realize how two words have been added together to give us a modern English word. So today I thought I’d introduce you to some terms from linguistics that are made up of Greek roots. First I’ll give you some important Greek words – a lot of these show up in a lot of different words, not just scientific terms. Then I’ll give you some vocabulary from linguistics, and hopefully you will be able to say a-HA!
ἄλλος (allos) – “other; another.” This is probably most familiar to us via the Latin variant alias, though some linguistics terms have prefixes from the original Greek.
γράφω (graphō)– originally used to mean “to scratch” or “to graze,” this verb comes to mean “to inscribe” and finally “to write.” A graph is a system of marks used to convey information; graphite is a mineral used in pencils.
λέξις (lexis)– “speech; word or phrase.” A cousin of logos, below, but with a more precise definition. Dyslexia is difficulty reading or understanding words (that lovely curvy character in the middle of the Greek word is a /ks/ sound and gets written in Latin script as x).
λόγος (logos)– volumes have been written about this one little Greek word. It is one of the most frequent words in the corpus of Greek texts, and is especially important to theologians, who have spent centuries debating its precise conceptual definition (one important example comes from the Gospel of John 1:1, which says “In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God.”) The noun is derived from the verb λέγω, meaning “to speak” or “to say,” and the word can mean anything from “speech” or “account” to “statement of theory” or “thesis.” For our purposes right now, logos has come to be used as a suffix denoting terms of study or science – for example, the word theology, which combines the word for God (θεός) and study (λόγος).
μορφάω (morphaō)– “to shape, fashion, or mold.” In English we can use just this bare verb, to say things like “the car morphed into a robot.”
ὁμός (homos)– “one and the same; common; joint.” The little backwards apostrophe in Greek script means there is an aspiration (i.e. an /h/ sound) before the vowel. Homo- is a very productive suffix, both inside and outside linguistics.
ὄνομα (onoma)– “name.” Though onoma is the most common attested form of this word, and is the way it would have been pronounced in classical Attic Greek, a different dialect of Greek had the word as ὄνυμα, which gives us a suffix we use in English as –onym. A pseudonym is a false name.
σύν (sun)– “with.” The Greek letter upsilon (υ) gets transliterated, via Latin, into a y in Roman script, so in English we get words that start with syn- or sync- that have to do with the idea of putting together, doing something together, etc. (i.e. synchronize – to do something at the same time).
φωνή (phōnē)– “sound; tone.” Greek has two sounds which are written in Roman script as o – the omicron (ο) which was a short vowel, and the omega (ω), which was long. Because the vowel here is long, the English form phone sounds a lot like the original Greek.
Now that you know some important Greek roots, let’s take a look at some major terms from the science of linguistics:
Can you think of other words built on these Greek roots?
Thanks, JD, for inviting me to write this post! I’m looking forward to seeing what other bloggers have written!
Copyright Allison Taylor-Adams. See About for details.
I celebrated my 4th of July day off work by spending hours at the One World, Many Voices program at this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival. As you might imagine, I found the whole thing pretty exciting.
As the Independence Day parade wound down, the Mall was filled with tourists exploring exhibits and reading about the threat of language loss and the importance of preserving linguistic diversity.
At the large performance stage, I watched a hula dance demonstration and heard the troupe leader explain how she trains all of her students using the Hawaiian language. Even though some of the students don’t speak Hawaiian fluently, she insists that it is import to immerse them in the language as part of the dance.
I sat among a group of people in a discussion tent to hear Bud Lane and Joe Scott of the Siletz Dee-Ni tribe of Oregon talk about the traditions of harvesting materials for baskets, and about how the tribe is hoping to revive their language by developing “experiential curricula” for school-age children. Joe Scott hopes that his model for getting students out of the fluorescent lighting of the classroom and into the sunshine of the forests and shorelines on Siletz tribal lands can help young Siletz to more fully reconnect with their heritage.
As a bit of an aside, it was a little thrill for me to get to meet Bud Lane in person. I had read so much about him and his work on the Siletz talking dictionary (even the New York Times took notice!) and I really hope to get to speak more with him some day.
For the few short days of the Festival, the vast distances between small language communities disappeared. A group of Garifuna from Belize drummed furiously with a Kalmyk yurt in the background. I was blessed with fire and smoke by the Kallawaya of Bolivia and then with dancing and rice powder by the Koro of northern India, all in the span of half an hour. (How many people will ever get to say that?)
The highlight of my day was that I was asked by the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages to write a guest post for their blog. They invited me to interview speakers of the Koro language, with whom they’ve done significant work over the past few years. After a day full of displays and dances and Q&As, it was so nice to get to sit down with one or two people and just have a conversation.
Sorsomi is the lady speaking to me in the above photo. Though she didn’t speak much English, she spent a long time talking to me about her community and her hopes for her language, and she even sang a song for me. When I asked her if there was a word in Koro that she really loved, this is what she said:
You can read more of what I learned in my interview, and hear the song Sorsomi shared, on my guest post for Living Tongues!
Copyright Allison Taylor-Adams. See About for details.
Despite the heat-stroke inducing swamp summers we have around here, the first week of July is one of my favorite times to be a DC resident. Crowds of tourists start packing in, reminding me of how lucky I am not to be battling for a hotel room, and on the 4th we mosey down to the Lincoln Memorial, stopping for a sidewalk hot dog or two on the way. I have never missed a year of fireworks on the National Mall.
The first part of July also means it’s time for another festivity on the Mall that I never miss: the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. As the Smithsonian Institution explains, the festival “is an international exposition of living cultural heritage annually produced outdoors on the National Mall of the United States” and “features community-based cultural exemplars.” What that means is that for two weeks every summer, the Mall is covered with exhibits, demonstrations, crafts, food, dance, and music from the three “folklifes” chosen for that year’s festival. One year I watched a stonemason from Wales demonstrating traditional techniques for carving accent pieces for cathedrals. Another year a Buddhist lama from Bhutan performed a traditional chant. Last year they unrolled the AIDS memorial quilt, the largest piece of community folk art in the world.
A few months ago, I saw a press release for this year’s festival and I was overcome by a little bout of gasping and jumping up and down – the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival is featuring a program called One World, Many Voices. In addition to Hungarian heritage and African-American dress and body art, this year’s festival focuses on and highlights language diversity. Holy cow!!
Curator K. David Harrison, of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society’s Enduring Voices Project, put together this gorgeous program booklet. By my count, speakers from eighteen different threatened and endangered languages will be participating. And guess which happy, lucky blogger has a backstage pass? 🙂
I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. The Smithsonian Institution estimates that every year one million people visit the Folklife Festival. One million people! One million visitors will get to hear the sounds of Garifuna, Kallawaya, and Quechua. One million people will learn about the importance of global linguistic and cultural diversity. Also, it looks like there will be a lot of music and dancing. Pretty. Damn. Cool.
I’ll be posting a lot more about this in the next few days, and please be sure to keep an eye on the Living Tongues blog where they’ve been posting lots updates!
This blog has been on a little bit of a hiatus as I was working on completing the biggest project of my life, i.e. –
It was a very, very difficult semester, with lots of challenges and victories and stress and exhaustion and tears. If you’ve ever had to take comp exams, you’ll probably forgive me for not updating this blog in a while…among all the other things that kind of fell by the wayside these past couple of months.
I have to say that this, more than anything, is something I really feel like I earned. I worked so hard for this, completing a degree in four semesters (while also working full time, thankyouverymuch), and it is beyond rewarding and satisfying to have something real to show for all the hard work.
And now, I think, I can officially call myself a linguist 😀
Something amazing happened to me – the day after I took my comp exams, the day when I was FINALLY done with all of my assignments and studying, the day I felt like I was walking taller because a weight had been lifted from my shoulders…on that day, I took a long, lazy lunch and read a book – about linguistics. I am so happy to discover that not even the pain and stress of grad school can ruin the joy and fascination I have with the languages of the world. And I’m so happy and proud that I’m on a path to making languages my career.
And on that note, back to blogging! And none too soon – there are some very exciting things coming up in just the next few days! I’ll write about it soon, but in case you want a sneak peek, check out this blog post. As the blogger and development officer for the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages puts it, “For the next two weeks, the National Mall will be one of the most linguistically interesting places on the planet.” And the National Mall is my backyard!
Dear blog readers,
Today Polyglossic officially turns one year old! On March 5, 2012, I published my very first post. This year we’ve explored endangered languages, applied linguistics, ancient tongues, writing systems, and even a mystery or two. I’ve been excited to share featured speakers of ten different languages. And during this year this blog has been visited by readers by 113 different countries. (Isn’t the internet astonishing??)
Today, to celebrate, I have created a little pop quiz! Here is how you say “Happy Birthday” in ten different languages; the multiple-choice options are countries I’ve had blog visitors from this year. In which of the countries would you be most likely to hear the greeting? (Please note: I have sneakily chosen transliterated text so you don’t have a different script as a hint)
All text here comes from the good people at Omniglot. If you click through you’ll find audio files for most of them!
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Thank you everyone who has visited, read, shared, and commented. It’s been a wonderful year and it has been a joy to get to share my love of languages with this little part of the internet. Like I say in my “About” page, Polyglossic describes a world that is rich, vibrant, and robust in linguistic diversity. I’m looking forward to another year of encouraging and celebrating that world.
Happy birthday, blog!
This is my 100th polyglossic blog post! To celebrate, I would like to share a quote I came across recently:
Many things in life yield up their mysteries and lose their fascination after a little bit of examination and analysis. Language is not like that.
I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to even more examination and analysis. Here’s to the mysteries and fascination of language!
[quote is from O’Grady, W. (2005). How Children Learn Language (Cambridge Approaches to Linguistics), p. 197]
This blog won’t be getting any updates for a few days, because this blogger is going on vacation! Eighteen hours from now I’ll be sitting in a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean!
I’m spending this coming weekend at the Beautiful Days Festival in lovely rural southwestern England! My husband and I went a few years ago and have been wanting to get back very badly, and since this is the festival’s 10th anniversary (and the 100th birthday of Woodie Guthrie) we figured it was time to trek back out there.
If you’ve never been to an English music festival, you might be thinking to yourself, “But doesn’t it rain all the time there?” To which I would answer, “yes, yes it does”
This year I am hopefully better prepared both mentally and materially for the stunning amount of mud that several days of rain and hundreds of dancing people can create. But besides the mud, there’s the music, and the dancing, and the lovely people, and the English festival food. It’ll totally be worth it!
And then we’ll spend a couple of days in lovely London, where I plan to spend several hours worshipping ancient inscriptions at the British Museum.
My brand-spanking newly renewed passport got to me a few weeks ago, my raincoat is ready to go, and it’s been far too long since I’ve taken some time off. I can’t wait.
Au revoir, до встречи, and مع السلامة!