Japan to change official romanisation?

Recent press reports suggest that the Japanese government is thinking of changing the officially recommended system for romanising Japanese. Romanisation is writing Japanese in roman characters (known in Japanese as rōmaji). There are 2 main romanisation systems for Japanese: Hepburn, devised by an American Missionary James Curtis Hepburn (1815-1911). Kunrei, issued by the Japanese government…… Continue reading Japan to change official romanisation?

The Uralic Languages

According to Kiefer and Laakso (2014), there is a general consensus that there are 6 main branches of Uralic: Ugric: Hungarian (13 million speakers) and, in Western Siberia, the Ob-Ugric languages Khanty (almost 10,000 speakers) and Mansi (probably less than 10,000 speakers) Finnic: Finnish (5 million speakers); Estonian (1 million). Other Finnic languages have many…… Continue reading The Uralic Languages

Another way to classify English consonants

I have discussed before how many consonants there are in English. In this post, I consider whether it is possible to classify English consonants in a more economical way. Previous post In an earlier post, I discussed how many consonants there are in English. The variety of English I looked at was standard southern British…… Continue reading Another way to classify English consonants

Word frequencies and Zipf’s law

There is a well-known relationship between the frequency of words in a text and the ranking of those frequencies. The relationship is known as Zipf’s law and is one example of a relationship called a power law. Power laws crop up in many other settings. For example, they arise in investigating the distribution of populations…… Continue reading Word frequencies and Zipf’s law

Language sketch: Maori (1)—sounds

Maori is the language of the Māori people of New Zealand. It is known in Maori as te reo Māori (‘the language Maori’) or simply te reo (‘the language’) for short. Te reo Māori was made an official language in New Zealand in 1987, along with New Zealand Sign Language. There is a useful short…… Continue reading Language sketch: Maori (1)—sounds

More on early talking

I wrote in April about the progress our youngest 2 grandchildren were making in learning to talk, when they were 20 months and 13 months. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/early-words I wrote an update in September about how the older one was getting on, just after her 2nd birthday. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/09/into-the-2-word-stage Here is a further update. They are now 26…… Continue reading More on early talking

How German speakers pronounce English  

Someone’s first language tends to cause consistent errors when they speak a second language. I’ve always found it interesting see what types of error people make in speaking (or writing) English they have learnt as a foreign language. Those errors can be useful pointers to the features of the speaker’s first language. Spotting those errors…… Continue reading How German speakers pronounce English  

Hangul Day

Today (9 October) is Hangul Day. Hangul is the name used in South Korea and most of the world for the writing system used in writing Korean.   Origin of Hangul Before the 15th century, most written documents in Korea were in Chinese. When Korean was written, people used Chinese characters, known in Korean as…… Continue reading Hangul Day

Cabinet of grammatical rarities

A Raritätenkabinett (cabinet of rarities) is a collection of things, living or dead, which are considered worth collecting (and perhaps exhibiting) because they are rare. An online collection of grammatical rarities is available at https://typo.uni-konstanz.de/rara/ The site classifies the items it contains into the following categories: rarum (plural rara): ‘a trait (of any conceivable sort:…… Continue reading Cabinet of grammatical rarities

Sequential voicing (rendaku) in Japanese

In Japanese, the second component of a compound word undergoes a process called known as rendaku (sequential voicing). Tsujimura (1996) summarises the main principles of rendaku: If an independent word starts with an unvoiced consonant, that initial consonant becomes voiced if the word is the 2nd component of a compound word.nevertheless, if the 2nd component…… Continue reading Sequential voicing (rendaku) in Japanese