Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lately I haven't had the time to post here anymore. Now, I have even less time. And that is because I'll be posting at the PhraseBase blog.

If you stumbled upon this blog and want to make any comment about it or to simply complain about what was said here, you can reach me at:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Some conlangs

Auxlangs :
  • Volapük: created in 1879-1880 by Johann Martin Schleyer, a Catholic priest in Baden. The vocabulary is mostly from English, with a smattering of German and French, and often modified it beyond easy recognizability. Here you can find a handbook of Volapük, and , a ten-lesson course.
  • Europanto: created in 1996 by Diego Marani. There are no fixed rules, merely a set of suggestions. Europanto as it is used, tends to have a grammar much like English, with words borrowed from various languages and adapted to be easily understood. Europanto home page.
  • Folkspraak: intended to be quickly learnable by all Germanic speakers. The original idea is that a word from the same root, with the same or similar meaning should be common in, or at least exist in three out of four languages (core languages) including (General) English, (High) German, Dutch and Swedish/Norwegian/Danish (often counted as one language, where a word wouldn't need to be common in more than one of the languages).
  • Mondlango: also known as Ulango, is similar to Esperanto with a greater English influence. It was initially authored by He Yafu in 2002. Monlango home page.
  • Lingua Franca Nova: created by C. George Boeree of Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania. It is based on French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan. The grammar is based on that of Romance creoles. LFN home page.

  • Quenya: one of the languages spoken by the Elves in J. R. R. Tolkien's work. It was the language that developed among those non-Telerin Elves that reached Valinor from an earlier language called Common Eldarin. Here it is a Quenya course and here, more information.
  • Klingon: created by Marc Okrand for Paramount Pictures and spoken by Klingons in the fictional Star Trek universe. He designed the language with Object Verb Subject (OVS) word order to give an alien feel to the language. Klingon is similar to Native American languages in several aspects. The Klingon Language Institute, Klingonska Akademien.
  • Toki Pona: designed by Canadian translator and linguist Sonja Elen Kisa. It was first published online in mid-2001. Toki Pona is a minimal language. Like a pidgin, it focuses on simple concepts and elements that are relatively universal among cultures. The language has 14 phonemes and 118 words. Official site.
  • Newspeak: a fictional language in George Orwell's famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Newspeak is closely based on English but has a greatly reduced and simplified vocabulary and grammar. This suited the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim was to make subversive thought ("thoughtcrime") and speech impossible.
  • Nadsat: a constructed set of Russian-based slang invented by the linguist, novelist, and composer Anthony Burgess. Nadsat is a teen language spoken by Alex and his 'droogs' in the futuristic world of A Clockwork Orange. It is basically English, with some transliterated words from Russian.

  • Loglan: developed beginning in 1955 by James Cooke Brown with the goal of making a language so powerfully expressive for logic and calculation that people learning it would think better if the Saphir-Whorfhypothesis were true. The Loglan Institute.
  • Lojban: created by the Logical Language Group in 1987 based on the earlier Loglan, with the intent to make the language more complete, usable, and freely available. The grammar is based on predicate logic, and is capable of expressing complex logical constructs precisely. The Logical Language Group.
  • Ro: an a priori 'philosophical language,' meaning you can guess what category of meaning a word falls into merely by looking at the first letters. For example, bofoc means red, bofod means orange, and bofof means yellow. It was created by the Reverend Edward Powell Foster (1853-1937).
  • Ithkuil: designed by American linguist John Quijada to convey large amounts of linguistic information using fewer and shorter words than naturally-evolved languages; most sentences in other languages will be shorter when translated into Ithkuil. Grammar here.
  • Láadan: created by Suzette Haden Elgin in 1982 to test the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis for women, specifically to determine if Western natural languages were better suited for expressing the views of men than women.
But the list of conlangs is long. Take a look at Langmaker.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


(eo) influi: Havi efikon sur la pensoj, sinteno, agmaniero de alia persono
(no) påvirke: ha en innflytelse som fører til at noe forandrer seg
(sp) influir: Dicho de una persona o de una cosa: Ejercer predominio, o fuerza moral
(en) influence: A power to affect persons or events especially power based on prestige, etc.


Today someone called my attention to this article.
The Pirahã language is one of those examples in which, despite a very little amount of speakers, the language is not endangered., as as language use is vigorous and the Pirahã community is monolingual.
Pirahã language has a set of interesting features. For example, the pronunciation of several phonemes depends on the speaker's gender. And it has one of the smallest phoneme inventories of any known language. And also their counting system is limited to one, two and many (read a little more here and here).
Read Living without numbers or time. there's even an online dictionary.

Friday, April 13, 2007


(eo) sorto: Nekonata forto, imagata kiel supernatura, rigardata kiel havanta kapricojn, kaj al kiu oni emas atribui la okazaĵojn, kies kaŭzon oni ne konas
(no) en skjebne: (innbilte) krefter som er utenfor menneskelig kontroll og som bestemmer hva som skal skje
(sp) el hado: Fuerza desconocida que, según algunos, obra irresistiblemente sobre los dioses, los hombres y los sucesos.
(en) fate: An event (or course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future

Online translators

Do you know of someone who thinks translating from a language into another is trivial because computers assist us?
Let's makean experiment. Let's try one of the "best" online translators. I'll translate a sentence and then translate it back into English. Let's use a text taken from Wikipedia:
Chess is a recreational and competitive game for two players. Sometimes called Western Chess or International Chess to distinguish it from its predecessors and other chess variants, the current form of the game emerged in Southern Europe in the second half of the 15th century after evolving from similar, much older games of Indian origin.
Today, chess is one of the world's most popular games, played by an estimated 605 million people worldwide in clubs, online, by correspondence (mail and e-mail), in tournaments (amateur and professional) and informally. Aspects of art and science are found in chess composition and theory. Chess is also advocated as a way of enhancing mental prowess.
Babelfish, into Spanish and then into English:
The chess is a recreacional and competitive game for two players. Western sometimes called Chess or international chess to distinguish it of its precursors and other variants of the chess, the present form of the game emerged in southern Europe by half second from the fifteenth century after developing of similar games, much more old of the Indian origin. Today, the chess is one of the most popular games of the world, played by 605 million people of considered everywhere in clubs, in line, by the correspondence (mail and email), in matches (become fond of and professional) and unreliable person. The aspects of the art and science are in the composition and the theory of the chess. The chess also is pleaded like way to heighten mental value.
Babelfish again, into German and then into English:
Chess is a relaxing and competitive play for two players. Western Chess or international chess called sometimes to differentiate to it of its predecessors and from other chess variants to dipped the present form of the play into south Europe to the half second 15. Century up, after it had developed of the similar, many older plays Indian origin. Today chess one of the most popular plays of the world, world-wide easily by estimated 605 million people in the associations, is on-line, by correspondence (post office and email), in the tournaments (Bewunderer and specialist) and informal. Aspects of the art and the science are found in structure of chess and theory. Chess is endorsed also as way of increasing of spirit ability.
Babelfish, into French and then into English:
The failures are a play récréationnel and competing for two players. Western sometimes called international Chess or failures to distinguish them from its predecessors and other alternatives from failures, the current form of the play emerged in southernmost Europe in second half of the 15th century after evolution of the similar plays and much older of Indian origin. Today, the failures are one of the most popular plays of the world, played by 605 million people approximately in the whole world in the clubs, on line, by the correspondence (mail and E-mail), in the tournaments (amateur and professional) and semi-officially. Aspects of art and science are found in the composition and the theory in failures. Failures are also recommended like manner of increasing the mental prowess.
Babelfish, into Dutch and then into English:
The schaak is a recreational and competitive game for two players. The sometimes called western schaak came or the international schaak for of its predecessors and other schaakvarianten to distinguish, the current form of the game in Southern Europe in second half of the 15de centuries after evolving at voorschijn from similar, much older plays of Indian origin. Today, the schaak one of the most popular game of the world, which is worldwide played by valued 605 millions people in clubs, online, by correspondence (, is post and e-mail), in tournaments (amateur and profession) and informally. The aspects of art and science are found in schaaksamenstelling and theory. The schaak is also argued as a manner to improve mental dapperheid.
Babelfish, into traditional Chinese and then into English:
The chess is whiles away the time with the competition match is two players. Sometimes tells Western Chess or the international chess distinguish it with its senior and other chess distortions, the competition current form will emerge one half from has later been similar in the southern Europe in 15 centuries second in the evolution, older competed 印第安 to origin. Today, the chess is world most universal competition middle, plays by estimates 605 million people's world in the club, on-line, by the correspondence (mail and email), (amateur and expert) and is informal at the competition. Artistic and the science aspect is discovered in the chess constitution and the theory. The chess and the position achievement enhances the spiritual heroic way.
Babelfish, into Greek and then into English:
The chess is a recreational and competitive game for two players. The sometimes called western chess or the international chess in order to him it distinguishes from his predecessors and other variants of chess, the running form of game resulted in southern Europe in second half the 15$oy of century after it is evolved from the similar, much older games of Indian origin. Today, the chess is one from the world more popular games, that are played by at estimate 605 million persons worldwide in the clubs, in direct connection, by the correspondence (post and electronic post), in the championships (amateur and professional) and informally. The aspects of art and science are found in the composition and the theory of chess. The chess is supported also as way mental bravery.
Babelfish, into Korean and then into English:
The chess 2 person bows with hazard recreation is competitive game. It predecessor in office and different chess variant and it distinguishes it similar inside Southern Europe after the WesternChess international evolving which it calls from time to time inside latter half of 15 century India source it was, very long from the game which becomes, currently the shape of game it came out. By it plays inside the world-wide general on-line club, by a communication (mail and e-mail), (amateur and specialist) and 605 where the molasses flavored rice today, the chess estimates one of world-wide masses game thing, it is a person who is countless inside tournament. The aspect of art and science is discovered inside chess composing and objection. The chess spirit it strengthens bravely, also is supported with method.
Babelfish, into Russian and then into English:
Chess there will be recreational and konkurentnayaa game for 2 players. Sometimes caused is Western chess or international of chess, it is which necessary to distinguish it from its predecessors and different versions of chess, at present the form of game emerged in south europe in the second-half to yshchtyu of century afterward to evolve from similar, much Star of the games of Indian beginning. Today, chess of one of the games of the peace of the popular, after 4 is played that evaluated of 605 million people world in the clubs, online, by correspondence (mail and and -m31lo), in the tournaments (amateur and professional) is unofficial. The aspects of iskusstvoa and science are found in composition and theory of chess. Chess is also protected as road to increase the mental prowess.
You may say that with a little good will from my side, I'd be able to understand the text.
First consider that I translated back into English. Several big errors were reversed "consistently" and that's why the English final version is a little understandable.
Second, nobody does this process. It'd have no sense. You only go from one language into another. Many of those who use this kind of software don't know a word in the target language. So how can they know if the translation needs to be polished? People just leave it like that.
Third, consider that if the source text has typos or grammar errors (verbs or gender words not matching, for example), the translation won't know what to do with that.
If you don't give a damn about the resulting translation, go ahead and use an online translator. I hope your business ends well or your tatoo is not in a very visible place or that only you read the result.
Gosh! Just look at the Korean one! Even after reading the original, the resulting translation is simply crap.
I'll test more of these thingies. Just out of curiosity. Which one would be "the best"?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who reads me?

Very few leave a comment. Anyway, as I said from the begining, I am writing this more for me than for someone else. But I find interesting to know what langauge people arriving here have their browser in.
I live in a Spanish speaking country and my browser is in English. It is not in Norwegian only because I am too lazy. But I feel more comfortable with English. The above graph shows the language visitors of this blog use (the last 100, excluding me): English, Spanish, Norwegian, French, Danish, Ukrainian, Korean, Greek, German and Arabic.
Recently, I've had visitors from Turkey and Romania. But the languages spoken there do not show in the graph.
I wonder how that graph would be if I wrote in Spanish or Esperanto.


(eo) inviti: Afable peti iun, ke li ien venu
(no) invitere: be noen komme som gjest, by inn
(sp) invitar: Llamar a alguien para un convite o para asistir a algún acto
(en) invite: Express willingness to have in one's home or environs

Russian languages

So what's the official language in Russia? Russian, of course. But there are regions in which other languages are officially recognized. These are:
  • in the Altai Republic: Altay
  • in the Buryat Republic: Buryat
  • in the Mari El Republic: Mari
  • in the Sakha Republic: Yakut
  • in the Tuva Republic: Tuvin
  • in the Udmurt Republic: Udmurt
  • in the Republic of Adygea: Adyghe
  • in the Republic of Bashkortosta: Bashkir
  • in the Republic of Ingushetia: Ingush
  • in the Republic of Kalmykia: Kalmyk
  • in the Republic of Khakassia: Khakas
  • in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania: Ossetic
  • in the Republic of Tatarstan: Tatar
  • in Agin-Buryat Autonomous Okrug: Buryat
  • in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug: Chukchi
  • in Evenk Autonomous Okrug: Evenk
  • in Koryak Autonomous Okrug: Koryak
  • in Nenets Autonomous Okrug: Nenets
  • in Taymyr Autonomous Okrug: Dolgan
  • in Ust-Orda Buryat Autonomous Okrug: Buryat
  • in Jewish Autonomous Oblast: Yiddish
Of course, there are more languages spoken in the Russian Federation. you can see here and here (or here). Bibliography about some of these languages (only 54 languages with speakers not exceeding 50,000) can be found here. Some of these languages are endangered. See the list.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


(eo) murdi: intence mortigi homon
(no) myrde: utføre et mord, drepe noen med overlegg
(sp) asesinar: Matar a alguien con premeditación, alevosía, etc.
(en) murder: Kill intentionally and with premeditation

Poor language

I am always complaining about how Mexican media use Spanish. Poor usage of language, deliverately misusing words or twisting grammar. Many years ago, I would have expected that someone who stands infront of a TV cammera, someone who talks on a microphone or someone who writes for a news papers should have at least some knowledge.
Don't blame immigrants for bad use of English.
But it is a problem when even teachers can't use grammar. How to solve this? Would this approach work?
The problem clearly goes beyond chat speak. I don't like it. But I can't avoid using "lol" and the like. They are already part of the way I type, even when I do it in Spanish. Is it true that youngsters who use their worst English on internet can be taken by someone educated when they write essays?
What if we'd get fined for misusing our language? I am not sure if this is a desirable condition...

Thanks to Colm and Danial.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


(eo) invadi: Perforte eniri kaj ekokupi fremdan landon
(no) invadere: gjøre invasjon
(sp) invadir: Irrumpir, entrar por la fuerza; ocupar anormal o irregularmente un lugar
(en) invade: March aggressively into another's territory by military force for the purposes of conquest and occupation

Monday, April 9, 2007

The language contest

I still don't understand why some people wants to know which language is "best". I think the question is poorly stated, in any case. But if that is really the question, I don't get it. Maybe I am stubborn and I don't want to get it.
This parable by Alex Gross, first published in Language Montly in 1987, is about this topic.

The language contest
Fifty contestants enter a large hall. Inside the hall are fifty desks. Each contestant sits down at one of the desks. On each desk is a large weirdly shaped package. All the packages on all the desks have the same size and shape. They all jut out and scoop inwards in strange ways, and they all have a large number of surfaces at odd angles to each other. Some of the surfaces are very hard to the touch, some very soft.
All the packages are exactly the same in this regard. They are in fact identical in every way.
Next to each package is a small pile of wrapping paper, tape, perhaps some string. None of the piles of wrapping materials is the same. In some the wrapping paper comes in one or more sheets of different sizes, in others it comes in rolls or strips, in yet others it is nothing more than fragments or badly wrinkled shreds. The tape too comes in a weird variety of shapes, sizes, and quantities.
The string, on those desks that have it, may be anything from a half-full spool of thread to a thickly encrusted length of clothes line. A pair of scissors is also provided. In fact, the only uniform property possessed by these various piles, other than the scissors, is the known fact, announced to the contestants beforehand, that no one of the piles of materials is sufficient to wrap the package completely, regardless of the ingenuity of the contestants. The best any of them will be able to achieve is to wrap about 90% of the package, with about 10% remaining uncovered.
This, the principle rule of the contest, is now formally announced to the fifty participants. They must use all their knowledge and skills to wrap the package as completely as possible, using only the pile of materials on the desk next to the package. They will be judged according to their success in this task.
A few informal rules are also believed to be true by some contestants but not by others. One such rule alleges that it is possible to cheat by not following all the contours of the package and letting the wrapping material stretch from edge to edge over a hollow between surfaces. Others have heard this rule but believe they may be penalized if they do not cover all the surfaces. Others say that the whole game is an enormous put-on, but one must play along in order to be promoted. Some have also heard that one is awarded higher points for the dextrous use of the scissors, others believe one will be penalized for using the scissors too often.
Contestants employ various strategies in wrapping their packages. Some try to cover as large a surface as possible, leaving the unwrapped area as the very last portion of the package, when their materials run out. Some try to hide this space in some less easily visible contour of the package. Others, in their eagerness to cover space, do not care where this space ends up. A few, dependent on their supplies or their use of the scissors, try out a postage stamp technique, taping small pieces of paper on all surfaces of the box, with the unfilled space intervening on all sides.
The package is reality, with all its odd contours and escarpments. The piles of wrapping paper, tape and string are our languages (most certainly including our computer languages as well) with all their odd, arbitrary rules and connective structures. The places where the contestants fail to follow the package's contours are the places where our language (anyone's language) lies to us about reality. The scissors are probably akin to various odd ideas of grammar and usage that we keep on teaching and tending to believe. The places which cannot be covered by the tape or paper are those parts of reality none can escape: birth, death, hunger, animal passion in its positive and negative aspects.
It is finally announced that none of the wrapping procedures is necessarily better than the others. This message is received amidst much booing, as many contestants are quite convinced that their method of wrapping is clearly the best.
Still others complain that hundreds of other possible contestants were not invited to take part, while some voice the claim that the contest is too simple-minded because everyone receives the same reality/package, contrary to "true" reality, which may differ from people to people, culture to culture, coordinately with language.
The judges give up and leave. No prizes are awarded.
Found here.
I think I am getting tired of the absurd question "What is the best language?".


(eo) freneza: Perdinta la prudenton pro mensa malsano
(no) sprø: gal, vanvittig, fra vettet
(sp) loco: Que ha perdido la razón
(en) crazy: Affected with madness or insanity.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


(eo) ekzisti: Efektive kaj nune esti
(no) eksistere: være, finnes, leve
(en) exist: Have an existence, be extant
(sp) existir: Dicho de una cosa: Ser real y verdadera; tener vida.


I fell in love with this writting system since I "discovered" it. It is FULL of meanings! Sensefull meanings everywhere!
Hangul was promulgated by the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, Sejong the Great. It is an artificial script in the sense that it was created from scratch by (most probably) a group of people. Hangul (한글) is a term coined by Ju Sigyeong in 1912 that simultaneously means great (한) script (글) in archaic Korean and Korean script in modern Korean. Contrary to what many may think Hangul is a phonemic alphabet. It is organized into blocks of at least two of the 24 jamo (자모) (a jamo is one of the units that make up the Hangul alphabet. 자 means letter or character, and 모 means mother, so the name suggests that the jamo are the building-blocks of the script): at least one of the 14 consonants and one of the ten vowels.
The jamo are:
  • 14 simple consonant letters: ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ, plus obsolete ㅿ(alveolar),ㆁ(velar),ㆆ,ㅱ,ㅸ,ㆄ
  • 5 double letters (glotalized): ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ, plus obsolete ㅥ,ㆀ,ㆅ,ㅹ
  • 11 consonant clusters: ㄳ, ㄵ, ㄶ, ㄺ, ㄻ, ㄼ, ㄽ, ㄾ, ㄿ, ㅀ, ㅄ, plus obsolete ㅦ,ㅧ,ㅨ,ㅪ,ㅬ,ㅭ,ㅮ,ㅯ,ㅰ,ㅲ,ㅳ,ㅶ,ㅷ,ㅺ,ㅻ,ㅼ,ㅽ,ㅾ,ㆂ,ㆃ, and obsolete triple clusters ㅩ,ㅫ,ㅴ,ㅵ
  • 6 simple vowel letters: ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅣ, plus obsolete ㆍ
  • 4 simple iotized vowel letters (semi consonant-semi vowel): ㅑ, ㅕ, ㅛ, ㅠ
  • 11 diphthongs: ㅐ, ㅒ, ㅔ, ㅖ, ㅘ, ㅙ, ㅚ, ㅝ, ㅞ, ㅟ, ㅢ, plus obsolete ㆎ,ㆇ,ㆈ,ㆉ,ㆊ,ㆋ,ㆌ
Hangul uses distinct strokes to indicate distinctive features such as place of articulation (labial, coronal, velar, or glottal) and manner of articulation (plosive, nasal, sibilant, aspiration) for consonants, and iotation (a preceding i- sound), harmonic class, and I-mutation for vowels. This is just incredible as each jamo is telling you what sound it represents!! You can tell the difference between ㄱ and ㅋ (both velar), but there is no way of telling between Latin letters g and k (here, the shape of the letter means absolutelly nothing).
Vowel letters are based on three elements:
  • a horizontal line representing the flat Earth, the essence of yin
  • a point for the Sun in the heavens, the essence of yang (this becomes a short stroke when written with a brush)
  • a vertical line for the upright Human, the neutral mediator between the Heaven and Earth
Except for a few grammatical morphemes in archaic texts, no letter may stand alone to represent elements of the Korean language. Instead, jamo are grouped into syllabic blocks of at least two and often three: a consonant or consonant cluster called the initial, a vowel or diphthong called the medial, and, optionally, a consonant or consonant cluster at the end of the syllable, called the final. When a syllable has no actual initial consonant, the null initial ㅇ is used as a placeholder (no placeholder is needed when there is no final). That is, a syllabic block contains a minimum of two jamo.
This script is fascinating. I suggest taking a look at, this short tutorial and this tutorial. In order to type the jamo, go here.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

It won't last long...

... so... I thought I had to mention it before it ends :p
For almost ayear I've been answering questions at Yahoo! Answers. Of course, the cathegory I've been participating the most in is... LANGUAGES. Difficult to guess, eh?
The layout has changed a little and now, the person with most "best answers" in each cathegory is being shown.
To my surprise... I AM the one with most answers!
And I think it won't last because second one is Martha P, who is very close and gives many good answers. Here, the list of the top ten.
But this really came as a surprise to me!

I hate this word!

It always leaves me without much to say back. It sounds as a "I don't want to continue with this argue".

Webster's Online Dictionary says:
One or some or every or all without specification; "give me any peaches you don't want"; "not any milk is left"; "any child would know that"; "pick any card"; "any day now"; "cars can be rented at almost any airport"; "at twilight or any other time"; "beyond any doubt"; "need any help we can get"; "give me whatever peaches you don't want"; "no milk whatsoever is left".

AskOxford says:
used to emphasize a lack of restriction in referring to any thing; no
matter what; pronoun used for emphasis instead of ‘what’ in questions; at all;
of any kind; no matter what happens.
You can also read the entry at
So... what's so annoying about this harmless and innocent word? WHATEV-AH!!!!


(eo) kulpa: Intence aŭ konscie plenuminta ion riproĉindan aŭ punindan.
(no) skyldig: som har skylden for en forbrytelse eller en feil, ansvarlig
(en) guilty: Responsible for or chargeable with a reprehensible act; or marked by guilt
(sp) culpable: Se dice de la persona a quien se imputa una acción u omisión ilícitas por haberlas cometido de forma deliberada o con negligencia de sus deberes

Friday, April 6, 2007


It is always nice when you get recognized for your effort at learning a language.

Kudos to Gary Petengell for his Personality of the Year award! Learning Lithuanian might have not been easy.
I should study harder!! :p


I have had some problems in my life and that's why I could not post here (this site is NOT randomly updated!). So, here we go again with the word of the day. Thanks to Lernu! :p
(eo) fremda: Senrilata kun la koncernata persono aŭ afero: pro aparteneco al alia lando.
(no) fremmed: som er ny og ukjent; utenlandsk.
(en) foreign: Of concern to or concerning the affairs of other nations (other than your own); relating to or originating in or characteristic of another place or part of the world.
(sp) extranjero: Que es o viene de país de otra soberanía; natural de una nación con respecto a los naturales de cualquier otra.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Politically-correctness times

I know this is a very controversian topic. But this:
The American people believe English should be the official language of the
government. ... We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English
so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language
of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto.

Who said that? Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and possible contender for the White House.
His reply to all critiscism he got was:

Yeah, right...
Just out of curiosity...
The name ghetto refers to an area where people from a given ethnic
background or united in a given culture or religion live as a group, voluntarily
or involuntarily, in milder or stricter seclusion. The word historically
referred to restricted housing zones for Jews; however, it now commonly labels
any poverty-stricken urban area.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Monday, March 26, 2007


(eo) imiti: agi tiel same, kiel alia persono.
(no) imitere: etterligne eller kopiere (et bestemt mønster), herme.
(sp) imitar: ejecutar algo a ejemplo o semejanza de otra cosa. Hacer o esforzarse por hacer algo lo mismo que otro o según el estilo de otro.
(en) imitate: reproduce someone's behavior or looks
(fr) imiter: faire ou s'efforcer de faire (ce que fait une personne ou un animal) dans le seul but de reproduire dans sa particularité (une attitude, un comportement, une façon de s'exprimer).
(ms) meniru: mengikuti perbuatan (perkataan, gaya, cara, dll) orang dll, mencontoh, meneladan.

Some learning tips

I just have to quote this. Mainly... to keep it in mind. It was written by Susan Scherer from Indonesia Australia Language Foundation (IALF).

Why do some people learn easily and others have so much more difficulty?

Whether you succeed or not really depends on what kind of a commitment you make to the learning process.

Age is not the issue! Adults not only have better habits for memorizing data, but they also are better at organizing and at studying in general. In the case of adults learning Bahasa Indonesia, the motivation factor is often very high: the difference between being able to communicate and not is obvious in one's daily life. Witness the average newcomer's frustration at not being able to tell a driver where to go or the same person's discomfort at being unable to understand what's happening in the office. Being at the mercy of a so-called 'interpreter' is not a condition most of us independent westerners feel comfortable with. Learning to communicate effectively is, then, something we feel will improve our ability to cope successfully with life in our new surroundings.

The disadvantage of being an adult learner is our reluctance to make mistakes, an area where children are much more comfortable. Adult learners need to tell themselves often that making mistakes is the way we learn and that without mistakes, little learning takes place. One teacher decided to substitute 'learning step' for the word 'mistake', thus putting his students much more at ease with normal errors.

Some people seem to have a talent for languages; for others, it seems that only effort is what makes the difference. Hearing is one area where there is a big difference: those who have a good ear, for music and tone for example, will have an easier time learning to speak since they can 'hear' and thus imitate more accurately. Another factor in successful learning is your attitude: are you open to the new culture and language? Looking forward to learning or dreading it? It can make an enormous difference in the kind of progress you make.

What kind of a person you are also influences language learning: people who are outgoing, extroverted and like talking to others will easily be able to harness their natural instincts in communicating in the target language. Chances are an extroverted person will also be less likely to be upset at making errors. Laughing along with the guys who laugh at your mistakes makes everyone feel better. Within one month of arrival I had ordered two kilos of traditional bras (kutang) instead of the potatoesI wanted (kentang). The entire household had a good laugh over that one!

When learning a language, a high tolerance for ambiguity also helps. As westerners, we tend to want to make everything black and white and very organized: a neat little list of what the language is. Often it isn't exactly that black and white; an acceptance of some gray will help in making your progress faster. Some things can be worried about later.

When you start out from zero, having a plan helps. Give yourself a schedule and some targets or objectives. Whether you choose to take a class, hire a private teacher or study on your own, some type of framework will make meeting your targets an easier task. So now, for the real hints:

1. Set aside a certain time for study each day: after morning coffee, on the way to work, during lunch - whatever you can maintain without too much 'stretching'.
2. Spend time with words: make flash cards and use them until you remember easily, then exchange them for others.
3. Listen a lot: keep the radio on, watch TV. Even without being aware of it, you will be absorbing the sounds of the language.
4. Ask others to correct you when you make mistakes. Most Asians don't feel completely comfortable with this, but at least try.
5. Experiment with new words or new patterns. Even if you make mistakes, you need to use it before it really becomes a part of you.
6. Be active: talk to everyone you meet. Taxi drivers are almost always ready for a conversation; people in shops and restaurants as well. Don't lose these remarkable opportunities for free practice.
7. Make a 'hat rack' of words and build on it. See how words are related and how they fit together in certain ways. Keep a list or book of your new words and expressions and always have it with you.
8. Look at where you make your mistakes. Are you making the same mistake over and over again? Why? Carelessness or real lack of understanding? Check it out and try again.

And that is the final point: try and try again, especially with a sense of humor. Enjoy the joke, even if it's at your expense!

Sunday, March 25, 2007


At last! I thought Lernu was not going to keep on posting new words.
(eo) universo: tutaĵo de ĉio, kio ekzistas
(no) et univers: verden, verdensaltet, kosmos
(sp) el universo: mundo. Conjunto de todas las cosas creadas
(en) universe: everything that exists anywhere. the whole collection of existing things.
(fr) l'univers: l'ensemble de tout ce qui existe, la totalité des êtres et des choses.
(de) das Universum: Gesamtheit aller in Raum und Zeit existierenden und zugleich allumfassenden materiellen Systeme, Weltall, Kosmos.
(ms) alam: segala yg ada di langit dan di bumi.

Danish language is falling apart

This is a funny video Ulven posted at PB.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


A proto-language, sometimes also called Ursprache (German word, derived from the prefix Ur- "primordial" and Sprache "language"), is a hypothetically reconstructed language based on the comparison of attested vocabularies and grammars.
In most cases, the ancestral proto-language is not known directly and it has to be reconstructed by comparing different members of the language family via a technique called the comparative method. Through this process only a part of the proto-language's structure and vocabulary can be reconstructed; the reconstruction remains the more fragmentary the more ancient the proto-language in question is.

Sometimes, however, the proto-language is a language which is known from inscriptions, an example being the Proto-Norse language attested in the Elder Futhark runic inscriptions.
Other proto-languages are Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Uralic and Proto-Bantu.

Traditional historical linguistics state that so far it has been impossible to show that all the world's languages are genetically related. Critics say that from the purely statistical point of view, among any two unrelated languages, there would be more than 40% of words sharing a roughly similar sound and meaning. Therefore, the concept of comparing languages basing only on general comparisons between their vocabularies is considered flawed.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A language is a dialect with an army and navy

That was originally said in Yiddish by Max Weinreich in 1945: ״אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט״.

פֿאַר אַ יאָרן האָבן מיר אין דער ד״ר צמח שאַבאַד־אַספּיראַנטור געהאַט אַ קורס פֿון צוואַנציק לעקציעס אויף דער טעמע׃ „פּראָבלעמען אין דער געשיכטע פֿון דער ייִדישער שפּראַך“. צווישן די צוהערערס איז איין מאָל אױך אַרײַנגעפֿאַלן אַ לערער פֿון אַ בראָנקסער הײַסקול. ער איז געקומען קײן אַמעריקע ווי אַ קינד און האָט פֿאַר דער גאַנצער צײַט קײן מאָל ניט געהערט, אַז ייִדיש האָט אַ געשיכטע און קען דינען פֿאַר העכערע ענינים אויך. ווי אַזוי ער איז פֿון דער אַספּיראַנטור פֿון ייִוואָ געווויר געוואָרן ווייס איך ניט, נאָר פֿון יעמאָלט אָן האָט ער שוין גענומען קומען. איין מאָל נאָך אַ לעקציע גייט ער צו צו מיר און פֿרעגט׃ „וואָס איז דער חילוק פֿון אַ דיאַלעקט ביז אַ שפּראַך?“ איך האָב געמיינט, אַז עס רופֿט זיך אים דער משׂכּילישער ביטול, און איך האָב אים געפּרוּווט אַרויפֿפֿירן אויפֿן ריכטיקן וועג, נאָר ער האָט מיך איבערגעריסן׃ „דאָס ווייס איך, אָבער יך וועל אײַך געבן אַ בעסערע דעפֿיניציע׃ אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט“. איך האָב זיך יעמאָלט באַלד פֿאַרגעדענקט, אַז די דאָזיקע וווּנדערלעכע פֿאָרמולירונג פֿון דער סאָציאַלער מערכה פֿון ייִדיש מוז איך ברענגען צו אַ גרויסן עולם
In English:
Last year we held a course in the Dr. Tsemakh Shabad Jewish Studies Program with twenty lectures on the subject, 'Problems in the History of the Yiddish Language'. A teacher at a Bronx high school once appeared among the auditors. He had come to America as a child and during the entire time had never heard that Yiddish had a history and can also serve for higher matters. I do not know how he came to be among the YIVO scholars, only that he was there from then on. Once after a lecture he came up to me and asked, 'What is the difference between a dialect and language?' I said that it was a matter of intellectual subjectivity, and sensed that he felt this led in the right direction, but he interrupted me and said, 'I know that, but I want to give you a better definition. A language is a dialect with an army and navy.' It then struck me that I had to convey this wonderful expression of the social plight of Yiddish to a large audience.

And I quoted all this because many Mexicans think all languages spoken in Mexico are only dialects and the only real language is Spanish.Mexican Constitution says in its Article 2:
A. Esta Constitución reconoce y garantiza el derecho de los pueblos y las comunidades indígenas a la libre determinación y, en consecuencia, a la autonomía para:
IV. Preservar y enriquecer sus lenguas, conocimientos y todos los elementos que constituyan su cultura e identidad.
Para abatir las carencias y rezagos que afectan a los pueblos y comunidades indígenas, dichas autoridades, tienen la obligación de:
II. Garantizar e incrementar los niveles de escolaridad, favoreciendo la educación bilingüe e intercultural, la alfabetización...

It'd be so great to start informing people that all those are languages and not dialects.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Siguiendo con el tema de ayer, hoy quiero hablar de las Pioneer 10 y 11. Y la pregunta sigue siendo cómo nos comunicaríamos con una sociedad extraterrestre. ¿Cuál sería la manera de hacer que nuestro mensaje sea entendido? Pioneer 10 y Pioneer portan sendas placas con un mensaje de la humanidad. La placa de aluminio es ésta:La idea básica es comunicar quiénes somos y dónde estamos. A la derecha, hay dos figuras desnudas de hombre y mujer. En la esquina superior izquierda hay una representación de la transición hiperfina del hidrógeno. Debajo hay una representación de la posición de nuestro sol con respecto al centro de la galaxia y a catorce pulsares (también se incluyen los periodos de estos pulsares. Y como estos periodos varían con el tiempo, la época de lanzamiento puede ser calculada). En la parte de abajo hay una representación del sisyema solar. Lo que se ve detrás de las figuras humanas es la silueta de la nave (esto ayuda como escala para tener idea del tamaño real de las figuras humanas).

¿Qué tan difícil de comprender sería todo esto para una civilización extraterrestre? Sería interesante saber si alguien tiene una mejor idea. Claro, el mensaje de la Voyager es mucho más completo. Pero si nos limitamos al contenido de una placa, ¿qué más podríamos decir acerca de nosotros?


Segundo día de palabras. Espero poder mantener esto. Mismo orden que ayer: esperanto, noruego, español e inglés. Pero ahora agrego el francés.
(eo) koketa: Penanta plaĉi, precipe al eventualaj seksaj partneroj, per elegantaj vestoj kaj logaj manieroj.
(no) kokett: innsmigrende, flørtende.
(sp) coqueto: dicho de una persona: que coquetea. Dicho de una persona: presumida, esmerada en su arreglo personal y en todo cuanto pueda hacerla parecer atractiva.
(en) coquettish: like a coquette.
(fr) coquet: Qui a le souci de plaire. Par une mine soignée, une toilette recherchée. Par son esprit, ses manières, ses attitudes. Qui est soucieux de plaire à une personne de l'autre sexe. Qui cherche à séduire les hommes sans s'attacher à aucun.

Español en internet

Ayer, mientras leía el bitácora de mi amiguita (muy recomendable, por cierto), me topé con una liga, que me llevó a otra y luego a otra. En una de esas páginas ví este logo. Y llamó mi atención. Entré a ver y llegué a esta página. Claro que me dejó pensando. No es que vaya a empezar a ecribir todo en español aquí. Desde que empecé en esto del internet lo hice en inglés y la mayoría de las personas con las que interactuo aquí hablan inglés (normalmente el inglés no es su idioma natal). Así que para mí, utilizar el inglés se volvió en algo cotidiano. Si un sitio está disponible en ambos idiomas, prefiero ir al de inglés. Si los programas que descargo me dan la opción de elegir idioma, escojo inglés. No es que tenga algo en contra del español. Siplemente que me siento más cómodo utilizando un idioma en ciertas situaciones.
Pero por el día de hoy, escribiré en español. No es que a alguien le importe. La verdad es que me expreso mejor (no acepto dudas al respecto :p ) utilizando el español en mi vida diaria. Tal vez en un futuro no podré hacerlo. Tal vez mi alguien más tendrá que hacerlo. No lo sé.
Lo que sí sé es que, hasta el momento, ésta es la entrada más aleatoria (e intrascendente) que hay en esta bitácora.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I am kind of worried about my vocabulary. It is my main problem regarding language learning, I think. So, I'll start using Lernu's words. I'll start with Esperanto, Norwegian, Spanish and English.
insisti: Firme kaj daŭre esprimi sian opinion, altirante la atenton de aliaj. Firme kaj daŭre postuli, ke alia agu laŭ nia opinio aŭ deziro.
insistere: holde fast ved, ikke gi seg.
insistir: instar reiteradamente. Persistir o mantenerse firme en algo. Repetir o hacer incapié en algo.
insist: be insistent and refuse to budge. Beg persistently and urgently.


Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan wrote:
In the annals of exploration, the achievements of the two Voyager spacecraft are unprecedented. The piddling journeys of Columbus and Magellan spanned a few tens of thousands of miles on the watery surface of one small world. Voyagers 1 and 2 have traveled billions of miles through the ocean of space, exploring dozens of new worlds along the way and revolutionizing our knowledge of the solar system in which we live. And as a gift of the brilliant mission design, these robot ships are no longer bound by the Sun's gravity. They have passed the outermost planets and are on their way to the cold, dark near-vacuum that constitutes interstellar space. Nothing can stop them. Their radio transmitters are unlikely to work beyond the year 2020. Thereafter, they will wander silently and forever in the realm of the stars.

Who knows who's out there? Perhaps the rest of the Milky Way Galaxy is populated by desolate, wasteland worlds circling a hundred billion stars. Or maybe the Galaxy is rich in life forms and intelligence and technology much further beyond our reach than the Voyagers are beyond the reach of Columbus and Magellan. Someday - maybe millions of years in the future - one of these ghostly, derelict ships may be detected and captured by the representatives of some devastatingly advanced interstellar culture. They will wonder about the shipbuilders.

If you could send a long message to such extraterrestrial beings - words, pictures, sounds, music - what would you say? How would you describe us? What would you leave out? Could you communicate intelligibly to very different beings with a wholly independent evolution? In 1977, at NASA's behest, a few of us had a remarkable opportunity to attempt such a (one-way) communication.

You can see what was recorded in that golden disc here. This is the golden disc cover:
This is the information on the cover:
You can find a detaild explanation of it here. You can read about its content here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I am able to recognize some easy Chinese characters. 马, 人, 女 and 水 are easy to remember. But... 57 strokes! If I were studying Chinese, I'd try to learn this one just to show off. This is the most complex character in use. As it is a problem to type it, there are two phonetical equivalents to it: 棒棒麵 and 梆梆麵. But what does it mean? Biáng biáng noodles are a a type of noodle popular in China's Shaanxi province.

But there's someone who says the pronunciation is not biang. Read the mnemonics for writing it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Toki pona

Among weird conlangs I've found, I think Toki pona is an interesting one. It is a minimal language. Like a pidgin, it focuses on simple concepts and elements that are relatively universal among cultures. Toki pona aims to express maximal meaning with minimal complexity. The language has 14 phonemes and only 118 words. It is not designed as an international auxiliary language but is instead inspired by Taoist philosophy.

The 118 offical Toki pona words are: a, akesi, ala, ale (ali), anpa, ante, anu, awen, e, en ijo, ike, ilo, insa, jaki, jan, jelo, jo, kala, kalama, kama, kasi, ken, kepeken, kili, kin, kiwen, ko, kon, kule, kute, kulupu, la, lape, laso, lawa, len, lete, li, lili, linja, lipu, loje, lon, luka, lukin, lupa, ma, mama, mani, meli, mi, mije, moku, moli, monsi, mu, mun, musi, mute, nanpa, nasa, nasin, nena, ni, nimi, noka, o, oko, olin, ona, open, pakala, pali, palisa, pana, pi, pilin, pimeja, pini, pipi, poka, poki, pona, sama, seli, selo, seme, sewi, sijelo, sike, sin, sina, sinpin, sitelen, sona, soweli, suli, suno, supa, suwi, tan, taso, tawa, telo, tenpo, toki, tomo, tu, unpa, uta, utala, walo, wan, waso, wawa, weka, wile.
These words were based on words from English, Tok Pisin, Finnish, Georgian, Dutch, Acadian French, Esperanto, Croatian, Mandarin Chinese, and Cantonese. To see the origines, read here.
You'd be surprised to see how many things can be said with only those words. If you see the official list, each word has several meanings. For example, moli can mean death, to die, to be dead, to kill or even fatal. The precise meaning has to be taken from the context. But even with this polysemy, it is hard to have much things to say. Toki pona solves this with the use of "compund" words. For example, jan means person, and lili means small, little, young. If you combine them, you have jan lili, meaning child.

Toki pona only accepts capitalizing if the word is not in that list. Not even at the begining of a sentence.
There are no propper nouns. Toki pona has propper adjectives. This can be something difficult to understand at first. For example, Norway is a propper noun in English. To talk about that country in Toki pona, you need a noun and a propper adjective. The noun is ma, which means country, and the adjective is Nosiki (capitalized, because it is a word not included in the list. It is adapted to the Toki pona sound system). Then Norway is ma Nosiki (the adjective follows the noun).

This isn't an auxiliary language. And you won't find many speakers around. Then... why bother?! I am not sure. It has an interesting idea.
If you are curious, abut Toki pona, check a short course.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

ñ ! !

The ñ is one of the seven letters in Spanish that takes a diacritic. The difference is that the diacritics makes it a completely different letter (not as what happens with the other diacritics). the little swung dash is called virgulilla or tilde (the English word for it is tilde, as well) This letter has the sound /ɲ/, a palatal nasal. Are there more languages with this letter? The Spanish language has influenced many other languages and through loanwords, ñ made its way into those languages. You can find ñ in Aragonese, Asturian, Aymara, Quechua, Guaraní, Mapudungun, Tagalog, Basque, Galician and Tetum. It also exists in Tatar and in Breton, but it represents a different sound.
As many letter that are not part of the English alphabet, it might be a problem when trying to type ñ. You can get Ñ with ALT + 0209 or ALT + 165, and ñ with ALT + 0241 or ALT + 164.
In a Newsweek article, Leland and Chambers labeled Hispanic culture and its influence on the US as “Generation Ñ". Ñ is seen as a mark of Hispanic heritage.
Historically, ñ arose as a representation of “nn”. The tilde was shorthand for the second n, written over the first. For example, the Spanish word año is derived from Latin annus.
¿La eñe también es gente? "La letra es sinónimo de carácter", says the author.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Swadesh list

A Swadesh list is a prescribed list of basic vocabulary (207 words) developed by Morris Swadesh in the 1940-50s, which is used in glottochronology to determine the approximate date of first separation of genetically related languages. The closeness of the relationship of the languages is suggested to be roughly proportional to the number of cognate words present in the list.

The Swadesh list in English is: I, you (singular), he, we, you (plural), they, this, that, here, there, who, what, where, when, how, not, all, many, some, few, other, one, two, three, four, five, big, long, wide, thick, heavy, small, short, narrow, thin, woman, man (adult male), man (human being), child, wife, husband, mother, father, animal, fish, bird, dog, louse, snake, worm, tree, forest, stick, fruit, seed, leaf, root, bark, flower, grass, rope, skin, meat, blood, bone, fat (n.), egg, horn, tail, feather, hair, head, ear, eye, nose, mouth, tooth, tongue, fingernail, foot, leg, knee, hand, wing, belly, guts, neck, back, breast, heart, liver, drink, eat, bite, suck, spit, vomit, blow, breathe, laugh, see, hear, know, think, smell, fear, sleep, live, die, kill, fight, hunt, hit, cut, split, stab, scratch, dig, swim, fly (v.), walk, come, lie, sit, stand, turn, fall, give, hold, squeeze, rub, wash, wipe, pull, push, throw, tie, sew, count, say, sing, play, float, flow, freeze, swell, sun, moon, star, water, rain, river, lake, sea, salt, stone, sand, dust, earth, cloud, fog, sky, wind, snow, ice, smoke, fire, ashes, burn, road, mountain, red, green, yellow, white, black, night, day, year, warm, cold, full, new, old, good, bad, rotten, dirty, straight, , round, sharp, dull, smooth, wet, dry, correct, near, far, right, left, at, in, with, and, if, because, name.

Using this list of "stable" words, glottochronologists believed they could calculate the approximate amount of time that had passed between the split-up of two related languages. Unfortunately, language, unlike C-14, does not seem to change at a constant rate. The word list and the formulas to use it will accurately show that the Romance languages started to split up about 2000 years ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if the formulas were fine-tuned to Romance rates of change in the first place.

Click here for a 100 word Swadesh list with animation.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Freedom of Expression awards

I just thought I had to call atention into this:
Activists honoured at Freedom of Expression awards
Awards for free speech defenders

Index on Censorship
is a magazine founded in 1972 by a group of writers, journalists and artists, who were inspired by the British poet Stephen Spender to take to the page in defence of the basic human right of freedom of expression.

Index Freedom of Expression Awards 2007.

Official language

An official language is a language that is given a unique legal status in the countries, states, and other territories. It is typically the language used in a nation's legislative bodies, though the law in many nations requires that government documents be produced in other languages as well.

A few states have no official language, although in most such cases there is a single de facto main language. The acceptance of de facto national languages is sometimes used as a means of remaining unprejudiced or unbiased. In the United States, the federal government has not declared a national language. English is accepted as the de facto national language. To partially cope with this situation, the federal government has given states the right to declare their official language. This right is exercised, with New Mexico having recognized both English and Spanish for official purposes ever since gaining statehood. Also, Louisiana uses French and English as official languages, and Hawaii uses Hawaiian and English as official languages.
Similarly, in the former Soviet Union, Russian was not legally the official language, but de facto. Likewise in the UK, English is the dominant language but no official language has ever been declared. Sweden is another case of a country with no de jure language.

A national language is a language (or language variant, i.e. dialect) which represents the national identity of a nation or country. A national language is used for political and legal discourse and so designated by a country's government. Some countries have more than one national language, such as Canada which uses both French and English. A national language is not to be confused with the predominant language, which is spoken by the majority of people from within a country's borders.

A regional language is a language spoken in a part of a country. It may be a small area, a federal state or province, or a wider area. It is often mistaken for a dialect.
For the purposes of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages:
"regional or minority languages" means languages that are:
  1. traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and
  2. different from the official language(s) of that State

Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have signed a resolution to recognise sign languages as official languages. And New Zealand schools will offer it.

Will Irish be an official language in Northern Ireland? We are waiting for the 12-week consultation period to end.

How to forget your mother tongue and remember your national language?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Greek phrases and proverbs I

1. Ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω
"Let no-one without knowledge of geometry enter". Motto over the entrance to Plato's Academy.

2. Ἀεὶ Λιβύη φέρει τι κακόν / καινόν
Libya always bears something evil / new", Aristotle, in Historia Animalium.

3. Ἀεὶ κολοιὸς παρὰ κολοιῷ ἱζάνει
"A jackdaw is always found near a jackdaw", i.e. "birds of a feather flock together."

4. Ἀεὶ ὁ θεὸς γεωμετρεῖ
"Always god geometrizes", Plato

5. Ἀεὶ ὁ θεὸς ὁ μέγας γεωμετρεῖ τό σύμπαν
"Always the great god applies geometry to everything", A mnemonic for π (pi); Ἀεί =3, ὁ=1, θεός=4, ὁ=1, μέγας=5, γεωμετρεῖ=9,τό=2, σύμπαν=6

6. Ἀετοῦ γῆρας, κορυδοῦ νεότης
"An eagle's old age (is worth) a sparrow's youth".

7. Ἀνάγκᾳ δ’οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται
"Even the Gods do not fight necessity", Simonides.

9. Ἄνθρωπος μέτρον
"Man the measure (of all things)", motto of Protagoras.

10. Ἅπαξ λεγόμενον
"Once said", i.e. a word that only occurs once in a text or body of literature.

11. Ἀπὸ μηχανῆς Θεός
Deus ex machina.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bible translations

Contrary to popular belief, the Gutenberg Bible (or Mazarin Bible) is not the first book printed by Gutenberg's new movable type system. But it is his major work. It is a version of the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. Its printing started on February 23rd, 1455, and it had 1282 pages.
More than five centuries after that first printing, how many languages have a version of the Bible?
Ethnologue has a catalogue of 6912 living languages. According to the 2006 Scripture Language Report (just released in late January), there are 2426 languages in which at least one book of the Bible has been completely translated. Among those, 260 have complete translation. You might think that 4 % of human languages is not much if we are talking about the book that has been the most read through history. But it is deffinetely a big number!
Why don't they just add translation then? It is not an easy task.

Do you know where Ranonga is? Take a look at the map. It is a tiny island in the Western province of the Solomon Islands.
In that little island, there are some 2800 Lungga speakers. One of them, Alpheaus Zobule, went to the United States to study linguistics and theology. With this backgroud, he wanted to translate the Bible into his mother tongue. The main problem was that Lungga was an oral language. He started translating the New Testament in 1981. And it was not until three years ago when the first 2500 copies of this translation were published.
He had to face many desicions. One was to translate the Hebrew word "amen" (אמן) to the Lungga word agua, which means "that's it" or "I agree". He felt it was important to end the prayer with an indigenous word.

According to the world's largest Bible translator Wycliffe International, oral languages make up the majority of the roughly 2000 Bible translation projects underway around the world.

In Zobule's words:
"In school, we'd be punished for speaking our own language. We had to speak English. It builds a thought in us that our languages were not good; it affected our identity. When people got this translation, they said: 'You mean our language is important? You mean we are important?' "
Read more of this story in the articles Found through translation, God’s Word is ‘the most important canoe’ for islanders, and United Bibles Society's Latest news #301.