All posts by Steve the vagabond

Hi, I created Silly Linguistics. If you like life on the silly side, you have found just the right place

Your language is part of who you are

I hope that one day people will treat the language someone speaks like they do characteristics like eye colour or height. The more I learn  about languages the more I realise that language is fundamentally human. The language someone speaks natively says something about who they  are. Language is brought to a place by those who speak it. You only speak the language you speak because someone brought the language to  your area and those around you spoke it while you were growing up.

Because language is such an ever present part of our lives, things can get very messy. People look down on those who speak certain languages  because of associations they have with the group that speaks that language. The only way around this is to make people aware of what is  actually happening out in the world and to correct any misinformation or lack of knowledge people have. I can’t fix what people don’t know about history or politics or mathematics. But I can teach people about language.

One thing I know for sure. You should never be ashamed of the language you speak. Your language is the result of centuries and centuries of  evolution and change performed by ordinary people. Your language is an organism. It is like the fauna and flora of the world. It developed naturally. It is something to be proud of. Your language is part of who you are.

Each language carries in it the thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams of its people. Each time we lose a language, we lose an expression of what it means to be human. I always liked language before, but I see even more clearly now how marvellous and special language is.

Language is an inextricable part of culture. People know the language they know because of the culture they live in. A part of the reason languages die is because they stop being spoken by native speakers and thus don’t get passed on to future generations. Because language is a part of culture, cultural forces affect languages. If a culture decides that their language is no longer worth learning, it will probably disappear.

Maybe in a small way I can change that just by saying: Your language matters. Never be ashamed of your language. Your language is beautiful, messy, chaotic and wonderful. It is part of who you are and it is worth preserving.

“tch” in English

A lot (but not all) words in English that end on “tch” come from the ancestor of English which linguists call Proto Germanic. All Germanic languages come from Proto Germanic. Cognate means that the word shares an origin with a word in another Germanic language

ċ in Old English was pronounced like Modern English “ch”

fetch from Old English feċċan, cognate with Dutch vatten and German fassen
ditch from Old English dīċ, cognate with Dutch dijk and German Teich
watch from Old English wæċċan, cognate with Dutch waken and German wachen
stretch from Old English streċċan, cognate with Dutch strekken and German strecken
stitch from Old English stiċe, cognate with Dutch steek and German Stich
thatch from Old English þæċ, cognate with Dutch dak and German Dach

There are many more. This is just to give you an idea of what kind of words are out there. If they end on “tch”, they might be Germanic 🙂

Join the Steve the vagabond Patreon :)

Each part is easy to follow and will build on the parts before. No matter how good or bad you think you are at languages, you will be able to follow this series and fulfill your dream of learning languages.

The first part introduces the language and gives and overview of its place in the world and some fun facts about it. The first part ends with some sample phrases in the language. The second part explores the verbs of the language in an easy to follow format.

Steve the vagabond brings languages to you in an easy to read format and offers new lessons every week. You can download one or all of the currently available lessons. It’s completely up to you. Discover a new way to learn languages with Steve the vagabond.

Help define the style of Silly Linguistics and Steve the vagabond

I am planning a graphical overhaul of Silly Linguistics and Steve the vagabond and silly linguist. I would like to expand the brand and bring comics and all sorts of other language fun to people all over the world. I have previously done a call out for illustrators but I wanted to do it again because I want the results to be perfect. I have already had lots of submissions and they are awesome.

But I want to see what is out there. Maybe there is yet a style that will be even better for the page.

My goal is to have a bunch of illustrations of Steve the vagabond (the character in the profile picture of this page) that I can use to add a bit of character to posts I make for the page. I want people to associate the character with language, learning and fun.

I got the idea from this set of pictures

https://creativemarket.com/artenot/885636-150-poses-of-character-Copywriter

I would like a set of Steve the vagabond drawings which I can use to build up the character of Steve the vagabond a bit. I want angry, happy, sad, joyful and energetic pictures of him in cartoony style which I can use on my posts.

Send submissions as messages to the page or email me at stev@sillylinguistics.com

The world’s first language

What did the world’s first language sound like?

The simple answer is that we just don’t know for sure. There could also have been multiple first languages.

But we can make some guesses based on what we know about how languages work. Creoles are often described as languages starting over. They lack complex conjugation, irregular verbs or difficult conjugation. They tend to be isolating. Creoles are languages that came about when a pidgin evolves into a full language. The first language would probably have looked a lot like a creole.

What do we know about the humans that spoke the first language? Linguists estimate that language emerged between 100 000 to 50 000 years ago. The first human speakers would have been extremely similar to us biologically, since 100 000 years is not a long time in the evolutionary time scale.

Continue reading The world’s first language

Crimean Tatar Introduction

Crimean Tatar Introduction
By Naoki Watanabe

Crimean Tatars are a Sunni Muslim and Turkic ethnicity indigenous to Crimea and actively trying to reassert their culture there. The people are often called “Tatar” and this leads to confusion with the actual ethnic group known as the Tatars (or Volga Tatars), who live in Tatarstan, and while related to Crimean Tatars (as they’re both Sunni Muslim and Turkic), are different as Tatars speak a language from the Uralo-Caspian branch of the Kypchak group of Turkic languages while Crimean Tatars speak a language from the Ponto-Caspian group and because Crimean Tatars have had more influences from Turks and Ukrainians while Tatars have had more interactions with the peoples of the Volga—such as the Udmurts, Mari, Erzyans, and Mokshans (the term “Tatar” or “Tartar” has also been used to denote several other ethnic groups incorrectly such as the Kalmyks and Manchus; Crimean Tatars and their language have also been erroneously referred to as “Crimean Turkish”).

Although Crimea has been controlled by numerous powers throughout its long history, the Crimean Tatars were the ones who succeeded in giving the region its current common name (“Crimea” comes from the word Qırım) and have influenced many topographic names (e.g. the name of Crimea’s most famous city, Yalta, is taken directly from Crimean). Their culture and language has been influenced by several groups in different ways which has led to variations in both which can be seen in the three sub-ethnicities: the Tats, (who make up 55% of Crimeans and whose dialect is the language’s standard), the Yalıboyu (who make up 30% of the population and speak a heavily Turkish-influenced dialect), and the Noğay (who make up 15% of the population and speak a more explicitly Kypchak language). The Crimean Tatar language has about 450,000 speakers and is considered endangered.

Crimean Tatar is unique amongst the Turkic languages because it’s been seen as both a member of the Kypchak group of Turkic languages (which includes Kazakh, Tatar, and Bashkir), and the Oghuz group (which includes Turkish, Gagauz, and Turkmen). Although Crimean Tatar is nowadays usually seen as a Kypchak language, it has had heavy influences from Oghuz languages (especially Turkish), which are most prominent in the Yalıboyu dialect. An example of this is in the words for “goodbye” which are “Sağlıqnen qalıñız” (said by person leaving) and “Sağlıqnen barıñız” (said by person staying) in the Tat dialect, but are “Oşçakal” (said by the person leaving) and “Küle küle” (said by the person staying) in the Yalıboyu dialect (in Turkish, the words for “goodbye” are “Hoşçakal” and “Güle güle”).

There are three alphabets for the language: an Arabic one that is no longer in use, a Latin one almost identical to that of Turkish (with the addition of the letters “Qq” and “Ññ”), and a Cyrillic one preferred by the Russian government currently controlling Crimea. The language’s grammar is almost identical to that of Turkish and shares features like a flexible word order (an example being in the sentence “Menim vaqtım yoq”—“I don’t have time” which can also be rendered as “Yoq vaqtım”, although this is slightly rude) and using the word “bar” (equivalent to Turkish “var”) to indicate possession. This can be seen in the sentences “Deñizde dalar bar.” (Crimean Tatar) and “Denizde adalar var.” (Turkish) which mean “There are islands in the sea.” (“Deñizde” means “at sea” and “adalar” means “islands or archipelago”).

Naoki Watanabe also writes poetry which you can find here: https://www.fictionpress.com/u/929458/PoetOfSaiMiHunManKal
Naoki Watanabe on VK: https://vk.com/poetofsaimihunmankal
Naoki Watanabe on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/naoki.watanabe.566

This post was written by a reader of my Facebook page. If you have cool language articles that you have written and would like some exposure, send a message to the my facebook page, write a comment below, or email me at steve@sillylinguistics.com

The history of “ch” in English

The sound “ch” in English has an interesting history. Original the sound was a “k” in Proto Germanic. The sound became palatilised in some words, which means that the sound is pronounced with tongue raised against the hard palate. This can often happen so a series of sounds are easier to say, such as “did you” becoming “di’jew”. In IPA this would be [dɪdjuː] becoming [dɪdʒuː]

A star indicates that the word is reconstructed. Linguists look at the oldest literature in Germanic languages and find connections between the languages. They can then theorise as to what the word was in the parent language.

Here are some Modern English words and the words they came from

beseech: Old English be + sēċan, Proto Germanic *sōkijaną
church: Old English ċiriċe, Proto Germanic *kirikǭ
latch: Old English læċċan, Proto Germanic *lakkijaną
much: Old English miċel, Proto Germanic *mikilaz
watch: Old English wæċċan, Proto Germanic *wakjaną

The “k” sound did not palatilise in other Germanic languages at the same time as Old English did but many of them ended up palatilising later, but to different sounds. In German, sometimes the “k” became /x/ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_velar_fricative), sometimes it became /ç/ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_palatal_fricative#Palatal) and other times it remained a “k”. In Swedish too the “k” sometimes changed to another sound.

These are cognates, not translations. This means that the words listed here come from the same word in Proto Germanic. Cognates can often have different meanings

English German Dutch Swedish
beseech besuchen bezoeken besöka
church Kirche kerk kyrka
much michel mekel mycket
watch wachen waken väcka

English is one of the more divergent Germanic languages. It has very different pronunciations than the other Germanic languages and some of the divergence already happened in Old English. English was weird even back then 😀