South African English

South African English has many accents, even amongst native speakers. There is Cultivated, Common and Broad, roughly equivalent to upper class, middle class and lower class. My accent (I live in Cape Town) is somewhere in the middle.

Diphthongs can often get monophthongised, so that the single vowel is the only thing to tell you what diphthong was meant. Here is a cool example.

/a:/ for /aɪ/ (price)
/ɑː/ for /aʊ/ (mouth)

“That is a file” “That is a /fa:l/”
“That is a foul” “That is a /fɑːl/”

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What is semantic shift? (aka, how “gather” and “good” are related)

Semantic shift is when a word changes in meaning over time. When a word becomes associated with something, it can often gets a new meaning by association.

“gather” comes from Proto Germanic *gadurōną which also means “gather” which
is derived from the adverb *gadur. This word mean “together”, “gathered in one place”. *gadur is derived from Proto Indo European *gʰedʰ- which is a word that means “to unite”.

“good” comes from Proto Germanic *godaz, but this word in Proto Germanic is also derived from Proto Indo European *gʰedʰ-, so “gather” and “good” are actually cognate. Being united is a good thing, so over time the equivalent of “united” in Proto Germanic took on a meaning of “good”

Another example of semantic shift is the word “forest”. It comes from Proto Germanic *furhō “pine”. This word developed into the word *forhist in the language of Franks, a Germanic tribe that give France its name. This word eventually made its way into Old French as “forest”, and the French brought it to England. Over time the word that meant “pine” eventually began to be used to refer to the whole forest.

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What does “sooth” in “soothsayer” mean?

Some compound words in English seem weird because the first part of the
compound has disappeared from the language, but the compound lives on. What
does the word “sooth” in “soothsayer” mean? “sooth” comes from Old English
sōþ, from Proto Germanic *sanþaz and they both mean “true, real”.

Soothsayers were basically truth-tellers, they would tell the future and
people trusted that the future they were being told would become true. Proto
Germanic *sanþaz became “sannr” in Old Norse, and “sann” in Swedish. So
“sann” and “sooth” are actually cognate. “soothe” is derived from “sooth” and
this word still exists in the language.

“soothe” meant “to verify” in Middle English before going on to mean “to
calm”. “soothe” is cognate with Swedish “sanna” which means “to verify”.

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How are “boon”, “ban”, “prophet” and “fame” related?

“boon” meaning “blessing, benefit” come from Old Norse “bón” where it meant
“prayer” or “petition”. This word ultimately comes Proto Indo European
*bʰeh₂- where it meant “to say”.

“ban” comes from Proto Germanic *bannaną where it meant “curse” or “forbid”
and it took came from Proto Indo European *bʰeh₂-

“fame” comes from Old French “fame” where it meant “celebrity” or “renown”.
This word came from Latin fāma where it meant “talk”, “rumour” or
“reputation”. This word ultimately also came from Proto Indo European *bʰeh₂-

You may be wondering how “prophet” is related? Well, it came into English
from Latin prophēta. But Latin got it from Ancient Greek προφήτης ‎(prophḗtēs)
where it meant “one who speak for a god”. The “phḗ” part comes from “phēmí”
which means “I say”, and you guessed it, that too comes from Proto Indo
European *bʰeh₂-

All of these are examples of semantic shift, which means that words change
meaning over time. “boon” now means “benefit”, but it used to mean “prayer”
or “petition” which is usually something spoken.

“ban” is also derived from the Proto Indo European word “to speak” because
when people were banned it usually was the result of spoken commands, as you
can see in the Old English version of the word. “ban” comes from Old English
“bannan” where it meant “to summon” or “to proclaim”.

“prophet” is someone who speaks for a god, so the speaking connection is
clear there. “fame” is quite interesting because it started out just meaning
“reputation” or “rumour”. Well, as people talk about someone, there
reputation can grow, and as your reputation grows, you might eventually
become famous.

Word connections are all around us, and these are but a few of them 🙂

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How “frog” and “spring” are related

How are “frog” and “spring” related?

Proto Indo European is the grandfather or great grandfather of English (depending on how you count). This means that we can trace elements of Modern English all the way back to Proto Indo European which was spoken about 4000 BC.

Proto Indo European, like any language, had its own peculiarities. One of them was the “s-mobile” which refers to how the letter “s” sometimes just didn’t stay there in some words but did in others.

The s-mobile is indicated by a bracket around the letter s in words that have been reconstructed in Proto Indo European. We have to reconstruct them because no one wrote Proto Indo European down. We reconstruct words by looking at Modern Indo European languages like English, German, Spanish, Italian, Persian and Hindi and start finding connections between them.

English, German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and a few others are part of the Germanic group of languages. They all descend from a language linguists call Proto Germanic.

If we don’t have direct evidence that a word existed then we say the word is reconstructed and we apply a star at the beginning. If a document exists that has the word in question in it, we say the word is attested.

The word for “bull” in Proto Indo European is *(s)táwros. Here we can see the star and the brackets. We know that the s was mobile because it appears in some descendant languages but not others.

The word *(s)táwros became “steer” in English, and “Stier” in German, but in Greek, the “s” wasn’t inherited, so we get “tauros”.

So what does this all have to do with spring and frog? Well, they are actually related because they both come from a Proto Indo European word with an s-mobile in it.

One last thing we need to know about to make sense of this. When Proto Indo European developed into Proto Germanic in Scandanavia, the sound “p” became “f”. But this did not affect other descendants of Proto Indo European. So for instance, it is “father” in English but “pater” in Latin.

But here is where things get weird (if s-mobile wasn’t weird enough already!). The sound change (also called a sound shift) of “p” becoming an “f” did not affect words that had the combination “sp”.

So in the Proto Indo European word *(s)preu (which means jump), when the “s” was present, the “p” stayed and turned into the word “spring”, but when the “s” wasn’t present, the “p” became a “f” and the word developed into the word “frog”. So “spring” and “frog” are what linguists called cognate which means they descend from the same source.

And now you can tell people that the frog is named after the fact that it jumps 🙂

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“squire” and “shield”

“squire” comes from Latin “scūtārius” which means “shield-bearer”. The Latin
word is derived from “scūtum” which means “shield”.

The word “shield” comes from Proto Germanic *skelduz, which comes from Proto
Indo European word *(s)kelH- which means “to cut, split”. “scūtum”
comes from the related form *skey- which also means “to cut, split”, so
“squire” and “shield” are actually cognate.

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An article about German replaced with English cognates

The article about the German language in German replaced with English cognates. If a cognate doesn’t exist, I tried to create one that is as close to what the real one would be if it existed

Dutch Speech

The dutch speech beteewise dutch offcurted Dt., Dtsch., is a West Germanic Speech. Ye speechroom umfetch Dutchland, Eastern Empire, the German Swiss, Lightstone, Littlecastle, East Belgium, South Tirol, that Else Sazo and Lutheringen sowhy North Sleswich. Outerthem is she a minihoodspeech in any european and outer-european lands to byspell in Romania and South Africa, sowhy national speech in african Namibia.

The standard speech, that standard dutch, set sik out standard variants the roof speech tosame. The dutch speechroom bestand orspringlike alone out an fulltale fan high dutch and nether dutch mouth arts, the innerhalf the continental west germanic dialect continuums mid-one-other bind sint.

The Germanistics is the academic discipline of ghostwitship the the dutch speech and dutch speechish literature and your historical and againstwart forms erforced, documented and middled.

The article translated into English

The German Language or German shortened to Dt., Dtsch., is a West Germanic language.

Its usage area includes Germany, Austria, German Switzerland, Liechenstenstein, Luxembourg, East Belgium, Southern Tirol, Alsace and Lorraine as well as North Schleswig. Besides this, it is a minority language in a few european and outside european countries, such as Romanian and South Africa, as well as a national language in african Namibia.

The standard language, Standard German, consists of standard varities of the common German lingua francas brought together. The german usage area consisted originally of only a multitude of high german and low german dialects, which are themselves connected by being part of the continental west germanic dialect continuum.

Germanistics is the academic discipline in the Humanities where the german language and german language literature in its current and historical forms is researched, documented and disseminated.

Cognates vs translation

Cognates are words that share a common ancestor. For example, “Zweig” comes from Proto Germanic *twīgą as does Modern English “twig”.

“Zweig” can mean both “branch” and “twig”, but the English cognate has lost one of those meanings.

Cognates sometimes diverge a lot over time, such as “merry” being cognate with Ancient Greek “βρᾰχῠ́ς ‎(brakhús) which means “arm”.

Other times two cognates have the same meaning as in English “ship” and German “Schiff”.

Translation, on the other hand, seeks to translate the meaning of the original, and using words that are merely etymologically related is a minor concern. Translation often changed the whole sentence to make sure the sense is carried across.

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I was featured on Lingholic!

Best from Steve the vagabond and silly linguist Facebook – Lingholic


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Latin declensions

Oh man! Latin declensions are so hard!

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