Hello, universe

After several months of producing unintelligible data, NASA’s spacecraft Voyager 1 has recently started sending usable information back to Earth again. Voaygers 1 and 2 departed from Earth in 1977 on tours of the outer planets, before heading off from the Solar System into inter-stellar space. Greetings, non-earthlings Among other things, the Voyagers carry a…… Continue reading Hello, universe

How to need and how to have

The way languages express needing something is linked in a surprising way to how they express having something. In their paper Having “need” and needing “have” Stephanie Harves and Richard Kayne (Linguistic Inquiry, 2012) summarise the facts and suggest an explanation. How to have: H-languages English and some other languages use a transitive verb like…… Continue reading How to need and how to have

From the Steppes or from Anatolia?

A recent paper takes a further look at some old questions: when did Indo-European languages separate from the rest of that language family, and in which order? where did speakers of Proto Indo-European—the ancestral language of the Indo-European language family—live? The paper Language trees with sampled ancestors support a hybrid model for the origin of…… Continue reading From the Steppes or from Anatolia?

Who used to live near the Don?

Major rivers in Russia and neighbouring countries include the Dniester, Dnieper, Don (and its tributary the Donets). They flow into the Black Sea—the Don doing so via the Sea of Azov. These names are believed to derive from the Iranic words danu (‘river’). For example, the Dnieper comes from a form reconstructed as *danu para…… Continue reading Who used to live near the Don?

Structure of numbers in Indo-European

How are numerals formed in Indo-European languages today, and how were they formed in the ancestral language Proto-Indo-European (PIE)? And do ordering patterns of components within numerals align with other word order patterns in the same languages? Andreea S. Calude and Annemarie Verkerk considered those questions in a paper looking at how 81 present and past…… Continue reading Structure of numbers in Indo-European

Do swear words contain some sounds more often?

A recent study suggests that approximants—sounds such as /l/; /r/; /w/; and /y/—appear less often in swear words than they do in other words. The paper is The sound of swearing: Are there universal patterns in profanity?, by Shiri Lev-Ari and Ryan McKay (2022) published online in December 2022 by the experimental psychology journal Psychonomic…… Continue reading Do swear words contain some sounds more often?

2,000 year old Sanskrit puzzle solved?

A PhD student may have found a way to simplify the analysis of Sanskrit grammar, overturning a time-honoured way of reading a classic grammatical description. In his PhD thesis, Dr Rishi Rajpopat (of St John’s College, Cambridge) analysed the oldest surviving descriptive grammar of any language. This is Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, a comprehensive grammar of Sanskrit,…… Continue reading 2,000 year old Sanskrit puzzle solved?

Pāṇini and Panini

A great grammarian of Sanskrit, Pāṇini, lived sometime around the 6th to the 4th century BCE. Pāṇini is often considered to be the first great descriptive linguist. The name Pāṇini is not to be confused with name of the Italian sandwiches known as panini.  https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/06/paninis-apostrophes/ According to a comment made by a user on a…… Continue reading Pāṇini and Panini

Digitising materials in the Indian language Oda

Here is a link to a documentary on a project to digitise 200 years of magazines, newspapers and books published in the Indian language Odia https://www.endangeredalphabets.com/2022/11/16/the-volunteer-odia-archivists/ The author of that page describes Oda has having a ‘delightful bald-headed script’. Odia was the 6th language to become designated as an official language in India https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/odia-a-classical-language-in-india/ 

Odia, a classical language in India

According to a quiz I read recently, the 6th language to be designated in India as a ‘classical language’ is Odia. I had never heard of Odia, so I wanted to find out more. The Language Odia belongs, with Bengali and Assamese to the Madaghan sub-family of Indo-Aryan (Klaiman, 1990). Indo-Aryan is itself part of…… Continue reading Odia, a classical language in India