Top Five Invented Languages

Humans have been inventing languages for hundreds of years. The first record of a made up language dates back

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to the twelfth century when German nun Hildegard von Bingen, created a language called Lingua Ignota. Since her time, hundreds more have been brought to life as either a means to communicate, for artistic creation, to give life to fiction, or for philosophical or religious reasons.

Although many of the constructed languages have disappeared, others have endured time and are almost, if not as, complex as many of our natural languages.

Esperanto
Invented by L. L. Zamenhof in the 1880s, Esperanto is perhaps the best-known invented language. It may not have achieved its aim world peace and unifying the world under one language, but at its height it had as many as two million speakers. In 1954 Esperanto was recognized by UNESCO and today it is estimated that about 50,000 speak the language. It is a featured language in Facebook, Skype and Google Translate, and Wikipedia has 150,000 entries in Esperanto. Though many consider it a failed language, Esperanto has more speakers than six thousand of the languages spoken around the world today.

Klingon
When it comes to fiction, no other language is as popular as Klingon. Created by American linguist Marc Okrand, it is the language spoken by the Klingons in Star Trek. The Klingon language has a complete grammar and vocabulary, an institute in which people can learn the language, a dictionary that has sold over 300,000 copies and even its own translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Elvish
Philologist and writer, J. R. R. Tolkien invented Elvish, a complete language for the Elves tribes that first appears in his novel The Hobbit. His creation was a complex language based on

Welsh and Finnish, which was made

fully functional by hundreds of fans adding their own words and phrases.

Dothraki
When Geroge R. R. Martin wrote his epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire, he invented a few words and phrases to give life to the Dothraki people. But it was David J. Peterson, a U.C. Berkeley-trained linguist who designed the entire Dothraki language – which includes a 300 page grammar and dictionary – for the HBO show based on Martin’s books, Game of Thrones. The popularity of the show has resulted in Dothraki being heard by more people each week than Yiddish, Navajo, Inuit, Basque, and Welsh combined.

Na’vi
Paul Frommer, a professor at the USC Marshall School of Business with a doctorate in linguists created the Na’vi language for James Cameron’s film Avatar. This language, complete with nouns, adjectives and verbs, is quite complex and is considered a fully learnable language.

Sources:
The Economist
The New Yorker
The Huffington Post
Oxford Dictionaries

Lack of Technology Support Driving Most European Languages into Digital Extinction

According to a team of European researchers, including scientists from the University of Manchester’s National Centre for Text Mining (NaCTeM), an astounding 21 European languages are facing digital extinction due to insufficient language technology software support.

In today’s high tech environment, language technology software is everything; it includes machine translation systems, web search engines, spelling and grammar checkers, speech processing, and smartphone personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri. The problem is these technologies are not available in most European languages.

The study evaluated language technology support (excellent, good, moderate, fragmentary and weak/no support) for each European language across four areas: automatic translation, speech interaction, text analysis and availability of language resources.

Receiving the lowest scores in all areas (weak/no support), Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese were at the highest risk for extinction. Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Greek, Hungarian and Polish showed fragmentary support and are therefore also at risk. Languages receiving moderate support included Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. View the complete results of the study here.

What do these results reveal? To the researchers it is clear: unless language technology support is available for these languages, they may soon disappear altogether from our digital world.

Sources:

Science Daily

META-NET

Language Mixing on the Rise

Do you speak ‘Hinglish’? Perhaps ‘Spanglish’, ‘Franglais’ or ‘Denglish’? If you were brought up in a bilingual home or live in a bilingual country, code-mixing – the mixing of two or more languages in speech – may be a natural part of your daily communication.

Indeed, these “hybrid” languages are nothing new; for centuries languages have been borrowing words from each other. In many cases, we borrow words from another language and incorporate them into our own without having any knowledge of the source language.

Today however, code-mixing has gone far beyond a fashion trend and just borrowing a few words here and there; whole new “languages” are evolving. Take for example, ‘Hinglish’, a portmanteau of Hindu and English. English is an associate official language of India, so naturally code-mixing was bound to happen, and did happen since colonial times. But to what extent, probably no one ever imagined.

Currently, more than 350 million people in India speak Hinglish, and it is so widespread that British diplomats are being urged to learn the ‘language’ before taking

their posts in the country, lest they be left lost in translation, which could seriously affect communications and business deals.

Hinglish is so ingrained in the culture, society and business world of India that even multinationals have realized they need to address their audience in this up-and-coming language. Pepsi’s slogan “yeh dil maange more!” (The heart wants more!) is

a prime example as is McDonald’s “what your bahana is?” (what’s your excuse?).

The mixing of languages is a natural outcome of increasing globalization. So, what should we expect

in the future? A hybrid of a hybrid?

 

The 1, 2, 3s of Arabic numerals

You want to translate your website into Arabic and decide on using Arabic numbers, i.e. (٠‎١‎٢‎٣‎٤…) rather than the numbers we all know and use in many parts of the world today (01234…).

Stop right there because the numbers we are familiar with today are actually Arabic

numerals and the numbers we call “Arabic” are not even Arabic at all, they are Hindu. In fact, both our numbers (Arabic numerals) and the numbers the Arabic language uses (Hindu numerals) are variations that originally stem from India and are more correctly known today as Hindu-Arabic numerals. However, for the purpose of clearly distinguishing between the variations, Arabic numerals and Hindu numerals are used independently here.

So why are our numbers called Arabic numerals? Why does the Arabic language use

Hindu numbers instead?

It all started between the 1st and 5th centuries AD when a numeral system was developed in India to represent the numbers 1 to 9. At this time the concept of “0” was known, but no symbol was used to represent it.

A few hundred years later in the 9th century AD, the Hindu numerical system made its way into Persia and the Middle East when Muslim mathematicians adopted it. During this century, the first use of “0” as a number was recorded in India, although interestingly at about the same time it was also being used throughout Persia and the Middle East.

Within the Islamic empires, variations of the Hindu numerals began to develop. What is known as Eastern Arabic numerals developed in present-day Iraq and are used today throughout Egypt and the Middle East (Persian and Urdu have their own variation). A century later, Western Arabic numerals, the “European” numbers we are familiar with today, developed in North Africa and Al-Andalus – the states governed by Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula.

Western Arabic numerals were at first only used in North Africa and Al-Andalus and it was not until the early 13th century that they were introduced into Europe via the Arabs, hence the name “Arabic numerals.” Italian mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci, was a major player in promoting the Arabic numerals in Europe. He believed, and rightly so, that Arabic numerals provided a much simpler and more practical means of performing calculations than the Roman numerals currently in use then.

Although Arabic numerals were used in European mathematics as early as the 12th century, it wasn’t until the 15th century and the invention of the printing press that Arabic numerals were widely accepted and replaced Roman numerals. From there, Arabic numbers spread to the rest of the world.

20 Words the English Language Borrowed from Others

Many of the words we use today in English (and most all other languages) are loanwords, words that we have borrowed from other languages and incorporated into our own. An inevitable result of contact with foreign cultures, we have been borrowing and using foreign words for centuries and today words continue to enter the English language. We

don’t have to speak the source language to use them; in fact, many times we don’t even know the word we are using has been borrowed from another language.

Why do we borrow words from other languages? Although the history behind loan words is very complex and we don’t entirely know why certain words and phrases are adopted into a language while others are not, loan words are generally used when we encounter a new concept and don’t have a name for it or it cannot be clearly expressed. Other words have been assimilated into our language merely for the purpose of convenience and style.

While some loan words have maintained the same spelling and pronunciation from the source language, others have undergone an adaptation in spelling or pronunciation, or both.

The following are 20 loanwords and phrases used in the English language that have undergone little or no modifications from the donor language:

French

  • Faux pas: a false or wrong step, usually in a social context.
  • Déjà vu: a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.

Spanish

  • Vigilante: a member of a self-appointed group who undertake law enforcement in their community.
  • Bonanza: a source of good fortune and wealth.
  • Macho: being overly masculine in a forceful way.

German

  • Gesundheit: wishing good health to someone who has just sneezed.
  • Kaput: something broken and without use.
  • Wanderlust: a yearning to travel.

Swedish

  • Ombudsman: a legal representative; an official assigned to investigate a person’s complaint against an organization.

Russian

  • Mammoth: large, hairy extinct elephant. As an adjective we use it to describe something of great size.

Sanskrit

  • Dinghy: a small rowing boat. We also refer to small inflatable rubber boats as dinghies.

Chinese

  • Gung-ho: to be overly enthusiastic and eager, particularly about taking part in fighting or war.

Japanese

  • Tycoon: “great lord”; today we associate it with a wealthy, powerful person within a business or industry.

Arabic

  • Alchemy: the precursor of chemistry in which alchemists tried to transform base metals into gold.
  • Algebra: “mending of the broken parts”; a branch of mathematics in which letters and symbols are used to represent numbers in formulae and equations.
  • Ghoul: an evil spirit who purportedly robs graves and devours

    corpses.

Persian

  • Shawl: fabric worn around shoulders, head or to wrap round a baby.

Malay

  • Amok: rushing about in a frenzy; behaving uncontrollably.

Hindi

  • Bandanna: large colored scarf.
  • Cot: small bed for babies or small children; small, portable bed.