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

Take me to the Hotel War Wick

I once stayed in Manhattan in the Hotel Warwick. The cab-driver who took me there didn’t understand where I said I wanted to go. When I showed him my confirmation, he said ‘Oh, the hotel War Wick’. And at the hotel, the staff also called it the ‘War Wick’, though of course the name was…… Continue reading Take me to the Hotel War Wick

Another error in spaceflight

‘This is another error in spaceflight’. This is what I heard a NASA Planetary Scientist saying on the radio one morning recently. She was talking about the previous day’s unexpectedly short maiden flight by SpaceX’s new rocket Starship.   The rocket exploded just a few minutes into the flight, so ‘error’ might seem like the…… Continue reading Another error in spaceflight

Language sketch: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian

Here is a summary of some things I learnt about the Mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian) a couple of years ago, when I was carrying out a self-imposed language challenge. http://languagemiscellany.com/2021/09/scandinavian-challenge-how-did-it-go/   I am commenting here only on those 3 languages, not their relatives, the insular Scandinavian Languages (Icelandic and Faroese). For an…… Continue reading Language sketch: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian

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

Another error

This morning, I heard a BBC reporter saying on Radio 4’s Today programme that: “Americans are now preparing for another error of divided government.” At first, I thought I understood what the reporter was saying. But then I remembered that some Americans pronounce era in the same way that British speakers pronounce error. The reporter—speaking…… Continue reading Another error

New spelling may rool OK?

Last month, the English Spelling Society provisionally endorsed a new spelling system which it hopes will ultimately eventually replace the highly irregular system used today in spelling English. The new system is called Traditional Spelling Revised (TSR for short). The Society believes that adopting TSR would help children and students to predict pronunciation from spelling,…… Continue reading New spelling may rool OK?

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