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?

Král Karel

In a recent article on The Conversation, Neil Bermel, professor of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, explained how some European languages will refer to King Charles III: in Czech, although he was almost always called princ Charles before ascending to the throne and occasionally král Charles is in use, he is…… Continue reading Král Karel

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

Gorbachev or Gorbachov?

The surname of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Михаил Горбачёв) was occasionally spelled Gorbachov in English, especially early in his leadership. It is a pity that this spelling didn’t persist. The spelling with <o> would show English speakers more clearly how to pronounce this name. Cyrillic spelling Gorbachev’s surname is spelled Горбачeв in the Russian…… Continue reading Gorbachev or Gorbachov?

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

More about Ginkgo

I’ve previously posted my translation of Goethe’s poem Ginkgo Biloba. I’ve recently found more about the history, spelling and pronunciation of the word Ginkgo. I found this in section 8.3 of Sounds Fascinating: Further Investigations on English Phonetics and Phonology (2016), by JC Wells. Wells notes that the Oxford English Dictionary describes the word as…… Continue reading More about Ginkgo

A Mandarin tongue twister

The following tongue twister in Mandarin contains 8 instances of the syllable ma, differentiated only by the tone they bear, as well as one similar syllable (man). Māma qí mǎ. Mǎ màn. Māma mà mǎ.Mother rides horse. Horse slow. Mother scolds horse. The above example is written in pinyin, the official transliteration system for Mandarin.…… Continue reading A Mandarin tongue twister

How many syllables are there in a Haiku?

Some of us learnt in school English lessons about a Japanese verse form called the haiku. We learnt then that a haiku contains a fixed number of syllables (17), divided into 3 lines: 5, then 7, then 5. Our English teachers encouraged us to experiment using that form in writing short, pithy verses in English.…… Continue reading How many syllables are there in a Haiku?

Silly transliteration

A Bulgarian footballer Bontcho Guentchev played for the English club Ipswich Town from 1992 to 1995. Many people wondered how to pronounce this odd looking name. This strange combination of letters was supplied to the club by the Bulgarian football association. It was supposedly a transliteration of the player’s actual name, which in the Cyrillic…… Continue reading Silly transliteration