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

Lopping sweaters

A spoonerism is an error in speech. In a spoonerism, the speaker swaps the initial consonant of one word with the initial consonant of another word.   Spoonerisms take their name from an Oxford academic, Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930). Perhaps the best known spoonerism is one often attributed to Spooner himself, though possibly apocryphally.…… Continue reading Lopping sweaters

When a typo says something about sound structure

Many typos are just mechanical errors. Examples are mis-hitting a key next to the right one, or missing a key altogether. But sometimes, a typo reveals something about the connection between sound systems (phonology / phonetics) and writing systems. Here’s an example I saw the other day. Someone wrote ‘point of you’ clearly meaning ‘point…… Continue reading When a typo says something about sound structure

Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?

Swedish has a sound /s/, broadly similar to English /s/ in, for example, English seep. I’ve known for a long time that Swedish also has 2 other sibilant consonants, which I’d thought corresponded roughly to English /ʃ/, as in English sheep. Common transcriptions for those 2 sibilants in the International Phonetic Alphabet are /ɕ/ and…… Continue reading Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?

How many nouns are there in Finnish?

How many nouns are there in Finnish? A paper by Fred Karlsson investigates that question. The paper also considers their sound structure. Karlsson used a machine-readable version of the Reverse Dictionary of Modern Standard Finnish (RDF, Suomen kielen käänteissanakirja). This lists 72,785 entries. Of those, 34,673 (47.6 %) have the code ‘S’, short for noun…… Continue reading How many nouns are there in Finnish?

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

Learning by rote for non-rhotic speakers

There are many varieties of English pronunciation. The existence of different varieties has implications for English spelling. A paper by the retired phonetician John Wells discusses some of those implications. https://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/accents_spellingreform.htm One of those implications arises from the distinction between rhotic varieties and non-rhotic varieties. In the following positions, rhotic varieties pronounce the sound /r/…… Continue reading Learning by rote for non-rhotic speakers

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