Category Archives: Languagewatch

German dialect in Texas is one of a kind, and dying out

German dialect in Texas is one of a kind and dying out
BBC: “The first German settlers arrived in Texas over 150 years ago and successfully passed on their native language throughout the generations – until now.

German was the main language used in schools, churches and businesses around the hill country between Austin and San Antonio. But two world wars and the resulting drop in the standing of German meant that the fifth and sixth generation of immigrants did not pass it on to their children.

Still the biggest ancestry group in the US, according to Census data, a large majority of German-Americans never learned the language of their ancestors.

Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.

Mr Boas has recorded 800 hours of interviews with over 400 German descendants in Texas and archived them at the Texas German Dialect Project. He says the dialect, created from various regional German origins and a mix of English, is one of a kind.

“We have found no two speakers that speak roughly alike,” Mr Boas told the BBC at his office in Austin.

The BBC’s Franz Strasser went to Weimar, New Braunfels and Austin to find the last speakers of this dialect.”

Borrowed Words – A History of Loanwords in English

Borrowed words

The rich variety of the English vocabulary reflects the vast number of words it has taken from other languages. These range from Latin, Greek, Scandinavian, Celtic, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian to, among others, Hebrew, Maori, Malay, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, andYiddish. Philip Durkin’s full and accessible history reveals how, when, and why. He shows how to discover the origins of loanwords, when and why they were adopted, and what happens to them once they have been. The long documented history of English includes contact with languages in a variety of contexts, including: the dissemination of Christian culture in Latin in Anglo-Saxon England, and the interactions of French, Latin, Scandinavian, Celtic, and English during the Middle Ages; exposure to languages throughout the world during the colonial era; and the effects of using English as an international language of science. Philip Durkin describes these and other historical inputs, introducing the approaches each requires, from the comparative method for the earliest period to documentary and corpus research in the modern. The discussion is illustrated at every point with examples taken from a variety of different sources. The framework Dr Durkin develops can be used to explore lexical borrowing in any language.

Get it from amazon.

Also available as an ebook from Oxford University Press

English with a Twist

We just added this fine “Blog About Learning The English Language to our blogroll.

What is the best punctuation mark?

Biq Q header emoticon
For Johnny Grimond, writer of The Economist’s style guide, the comma is unmatched in its versatility: “Commas are for artists. They can be applied with a fine nib or a thick brush, as a slash or a curl, with brio, delicacy or deliberation. They can be a waxing moon, a falling number nine, a clenched fist or a regal wave, a brandished hockey stick or a drunken tadpole. They are sometimes obligatory, sometimes discretionary. They may be single, like this one. Or they may come in pairs, on either side of a parenthetical phrase (Rutland, famous for its tradition of rush-strewing, is home to some notable Morris dancers) or a relative clause (Rutland, which is the smallest county in England, may also be the dullest).

More Intelligent Life has started a new series to find out what the best punctuation mark is. Biq Q header comma_0

Commas are also for musicians. They govern the flow of a sentence, offering advice about breathing, pausing and, by their unexpected absence, pressing on. They give rhythm. They substitute for missing conjunctions (I love Rutland, its pleasing plainness). They give emphasis (The men of Rutland are often, and always proudly, known as Raddle men). Commas do the work of an implied verb (Though undistinguished, Rutland has its admirers) or give the impression of disjointed speech or activity (We dashed through it, I wasn’t sorry).”

Read on here…

See also: Rosie Blau on punctuation—a very short history, Claire Messud thinks the semi-colon is the best and Norah Perkins loves the dash. Soon to be published: Ali Smith marvels at the ampersand, Julian Barnes makes a plea for the exclamation mark and Kassia St Clair favours the ellipsis.

How to Sneeze in 10 Languages

James Chapman drew this cartoon in response to a fascinating article from the BBC which claims that the sounds that we make when we sneeze are entirely culturally-driven. There’s no biological imperative to express a sneeze a particular way:

Inserting words into sneezes – and our responses such as “bless you” – are cultural habits we pick up along the way. So it’s not surprising that British deaf people, particularly users of sign language, don’t think to add the English word “achoo” to this most natural of actions.

For deaf people, “a sneeze is what it should be… something that just happens”, says Swinbourne in his article.

He even attempts to describe what an achoo-free deaf sneeze sounds like: “[There is] a heavy breath as the deep pre-sneeze breath is taken, then a sharper, faster sound of air being released.”

Learn Early Indo-European Languages Online

Learn how to read Sanskrit, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian, Classical Greek, Latin, Koine Greek, Gothic, Classical Armenian, Tocharian, Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Old French, Old Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Albanian in ten lessons apiece.

From the Introduction to the Language Lessons by Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann:”Recent advances in determining the origin of western civilization and the settlement of Europe are based especially on findings in genetics, archeology and linguistics. The papers on the topic given at a conference that brought together eminent specialists in these fields under organization of the Banco Popolare di Milano have been published in Italian under the title Le radici prime dell’Europa. Gli intrecci genetici, linguistici, storici, edited by Gianluca Bocchi and Mauro Ceruti (Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2001). While these three sciences all provide information on the settlement, only through linguistics can the people involved be identified. Yet linguistics dealing with the early period is least advanced of the three. Moreover, grammars published as introductions to the early languages are produced on the pattern of those designed for instruction of secondary school students of years past, who were expected to take eight years of Latin, six of Greek, and then proceed to the study of Sanskrit and other less widely studied languages like Old Slavic, Armenian, and Avestan. Under curricula of today, few scholars find such a course of study acceptable.

Moreover, the important ability with respect to these languages is that of reading texts, with or without the help of translations. The online introductions in Early Indo-European Online are designed to provide such ability. In this series, texts that in themselves are valuable for literary and historical as well as linguistic purposes are briefly introduced, glossed word-by-word, followed by grammatical descriptions, and accompanied by a complete glossary, a base-form dictionary, and an English meaning index. “

Early Indo-European Online

How good is your English vocabulary, really?

Ghent University in Belgium has created an online, almost arcade-game-like test of word knowledge.

How many English words do you know? With this test you get a valid estimate of your English vocabulary size within 4 minutes and you help scientific research.

In this test you get 100 letter sequences, some of which are existing English words (American spelling) and some of which are made-up nonwords. Indicate for each letter sequence whether it is a word you know or not by pressing the F or J key.

10 everyday English words that were originally Japanese

“While Japan’s bank of English loan words has grown to the point where “context” and even “paradigm” can be understood by most people, there seems to be only a handful of Japanese words that have been sprinkled into the modern English vocabulary. Of course, there’s things like “manga”, “sushi,” and “karate,” which English speakers can instantly recognize as comics, a Japanese food, and a way to kick ass (in that respective order), but there are also some sleeper agent Japanese words traipsing about our English conversations. Let’s take a look at Japanese words, like “honcho” (as in “head honcho”) and “tycoon” (as in “oil tycoon”), that we use in English.”

The Made Up Words Project

made up words

made up words

The Made Up Words Project is an on-going undertaking by illustrator Rinee Shah.
The goal is to collect and catalog the made up words that we share with family and friends.


Sandals; Spanglish version of the word “chancletas,”
(noun) changks

Example: “Timmy, put on your chanks, we’re going to the beach!”
- From Billy G., Manhattan Beach, California

How to sound like a phone in nine languages



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