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Silly Linguistics The Magazine for Language Lovers

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We here at Silly Linguistics love language and linguistics. We discuss etymology and where words come from. We look at the social impact of words and how words shape the world around us. Languages are fundamentally human and they touch all parts of our lives. Discover all this and more in our magazine Silly Linguistics

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Issue 64
Issue 72

Issue 72 – May 2024

Excerpts from our articles

The story of “boat”

“The word boat has an interesting history. Words can either be inherited from an older form, like Latin words slowly changing as the language developed into French and other Romance languages, or they can be borrowed.

But knowing whether a word is borrowed is not always straight forward because people might not realise a word is borrowed and older documents would not mention a word being borrowed, and if they do not all words would be covered. So how do we work out if a word is borrowed? Well, we can use some linguistic sleuthing.

By Steve the vagabond

Text from the west or how Chinese use a keyboard

With Chinese, it’s a lot more complicated, to say the least. They don’t have an “alphabet” so to speak, albeit having an analogous sound system that correspond to letters, imagine the Chinese language moreso like pictograms. They don’t have a limited amount of symbols that you can just look up in a dictionary, they comprise their words and sentences from different symbols meaning different things, and the possibilities are practically endless. For a westerner to grasp that language system is quite hard, and to learn it – even harder.

By Joana Atanasova

Acronyms: not always the answer

“We are having a bit of a love affair with the acronym in the current phase of human language evolution. In the worlds of science, academia, law and in everyday use, acronyms are everywhere”

By MJ Buckman

Phonology fun

“When you‘re at the library late at night and you see someone sitting in a corner with a safe distance from everyone else, making the weirdest sounds with lips and tongue as quiet as possible – that is probably a linguist!

When I attended university for the first time, I found this discipline so weird and interesting, I wanted to be a part of it, and within only a few weeks, I had joined the nerdy group of people that played around with their mouths, temporarily forgot what words actually were, and spent nights over a set of data to unriddle before the next lesson to pass the test.

By Lydia Pryba

 

What Does Endangered Mean? Interpreting UNESCO’s World Atlas of Languages Classification System

Linguists often draw an analogy between languages and biological species: both can be grouped into subfamilies within larger families based on common features, both have historical geographical bounds that have changed due to modernization – and in both of their cases, over 90% of them are endangered or threatened with extinction due to modernization.

By qiy

Småländska and language in relation to Småland

“Småländska is a rather generic name for the Nordic dialects spoken within Småland, a region of southeastern Sweden, with a coastline on the Baltic in the east, with a coastline on the Baltic in the east, part of which faces the island of Öland. I have written about several of Sweden’s traditional languages before, which include North-Germanic, Sámi and Finnic languages, but the background of this rather complex picture is beyond the scope of this article. But I will briefly introduce this topic.

Sweden is linguistically diverse, and many of the “dialects of Swedish” can be more accurately be described as “traditional Nordic languages” which became defined as “Swedish” in more recent history, often alongside a general watering down of these older language features into more standard forms of Swedish, which has created a gradient between traditional languages and regional dialects of “Swedish” proper.”

By Linden Alexander Pentecost

Issue 71

Issue 71 – April 2024

Excerpts from our articles

Silly Linguistics Trivia #2

“My name is Forest, and I’m a trivia writer and host of FWD Trivia and KLCC’s weekly radio show The Conundrum on the West Coast of the USA. Here I’ll be doing a regular quiz for all of you with the goal of sharing my love for both puzzles and language. This month’s quiz has a food theme. Feel free to let me know how you did and if you have any thoughts about this or for future quizzes”

By Forest

A Bird’s Eye View

“What Do Our Names for Birds Say About the English Language, It’s Spread, and Its Relationship to the Environment? In the mid-18th century, Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus, real name Carl Linne, recognizing the necessity and difficulty in naming nature’s huge variety of species, came up with what we today call binomial nomenclature. That is, each species is to be designated a two-part Latin-based name: the first part referring to the genus, which is to also be applied to closely related species, and the second part designating the species within that genus group.”

By Trevor Attenberg

Inscripts – Writing as Technology

“It’s important to highlight this idea that we create and develop this complexity of language and these linguistic features every single day as we interact with our environment. Reflect on how your use of language
has developed over the past five, ten, and fifteen years. Parallel that reflection with how your use of technology has developed, and remember that even rudimentary
things that we use every single day were once an innovation that was simultaneously loved and feared.”

By Reagan O’Brien

Be!rs: How Taboos Work Their Way into Our Language

“Social prohibitions of words work their way into our lives daily. Some topics we like to avoid in daily speech in this way might be death, menstruation, and blasphemy. Now, while ancient Germanic tribes may not have worried about the manner in which they spoke about death, they did worry about bears. Now, if we go back to the Proto-Indoeuropean (PIE) word for “bear,” it is reconstructed as *rkso- or *rtko-. We see this continued into Latin in their word “ursa,” and French “ours,” but what about English “bear/bruin,” German “baer,” and Dutch “beer”?”

By Skylar Millet

Arrival: The Lexicon of Aliens

“The aliens that arrive on earth in the film speak one of two languages. Heptapod A and Heptapod B. For this article, we’ll be focusing on Heptapod B, the written language of the extraterrestrials that have been introduced. The genius of the logograms in this particular dialect is that it isn’t linear. Instead, they are written in circular symbols that express their sentences. You do not read it from right to left or top to bottom, because their sentences appear fully formed as a whole since they do not experience time as we do.”

By Samantha Steyn

Language around Sognefjord in Western Norway: the Aurland dialect and ancient language

“Norwegian dialects are to me, a very interesting subject, which I have written about many times before. Whilst a few years ago I would have said that the Nordland dialects of Norwegian (in Northern Norway) are the prettiest, in my opinion; the more that I listen to the Sognefjord and other western Norwegian dialects, the more I think: “hmm, I like these a lot too.” Sognefjord is Norway’s longest fjord, as well as being the deepest fjord in Norway, with a maximum depth of 4,291 feet, or 1,308 metres. The local Norwegian dialects spoken around the fjord are collectively referred to as Sognemål, or Sognemaol in local pronunciation.”

By Linden Alexander Pentecost

Issue 70

Issue 70 – March 2024

Excerpts from our articles

ASL? “Sign” me up!

“Sign language, on the other hand, seems joyful, lyrical, colorful and passionate. What people don’t realize is sign language is enjoyed and eagerly utilized by the gifted as well as the “Average Joe’s” in society. These factors, from varying demands and requirements for proper execution, then, bring sign language to the forefront in terms of clear and concise communication.”

By Angela J. Olney

Star Trek – Would the Tamarian language actually work?

“In the second episode of season 5, the Enterprise meets a ship of a species called the Tamarians. Never before has the Federation made meaningful contact with this species, because they were in general believed to not very intelligent. Mostly, because they spoke in ways no one understood. Captain Picard is stranded with one of those Tamarians, and is exposed to a language that seems to only work with metaphors. From my point of view, such a language would never work out as the only option of communication for a humanoid species, and I will walk you through why.”

By Lydia Pryba

The Rich Salad of Pronouns in Indonesian Languages

“In Indonesian languages, the choice of pronouns is not merely about grammatical correctness but carries significant weight in expressing respect, politeness, and social standing. The choices made during communication give subtle yet essential information about the relationships between speakers.”

By Baihaqi Hakim

Identity

“I don’t want a box or a label, boxes were so confusing when I was coming to terms with who I was.” Her wife Liza agreed, saying that the words can be a huge problem, putting labels on something that doesn’t need a label. She felt labels were only useful for other people, such as her parents, not for herself; breaking her down into component parts it was easier for others to process the situation. “It’s more that they need labels to understand you, but it can be damaging for you.”

By MJ Buckman

Speak Like Yoda You Can. Like Yoda Speak Can You. Confused, I am

“When Master Yoda makes his grand debut in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), aside from his curious design – courtesy of motion picture make-up artist Stuart Freeborn –, it is his speech pattern that is certain to leave a lasting impact. If Star Wars internal lore frames Yoda’s manner of expression as a vestige of an ancient version of the Basic Galactic, most of these inconsistencies are explained by external cinematographic necessities – most notably, the need for emphasis and memorability for his pearls of wisdom.”

By Nicole Lorenzoni

Trivia

“Trivia Welcome to the first Silly Linguistics Quiz. My name is Forest, and I’m a trivia writer and host of FWD Trivia on the West Coast of the USA. Here I’ll be doing a regular quiz for all of you with the goal of sharing my love for both puzzles and language. This month’s quiz has a miscellaneous theme.”

By Forest

Latest Issues Read & Download

Top Stories

Six Fun Dutch Words

By Michael Simpson I’ve always enjoyed the weird words in other languages that just make the language feel more unique. 

Language party

From Silly Linguistics Issue #5 October 2018 By Alexandra Gough The way I see it, French is a bit like

Balancing Acts

By Georgie O’Mara One of my favourite hobbies is reading the Chinese translations of signs around my city. Mandarin, mostly.