Archive for languages of the world

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

“one peso for every Ilonggo word you say”: The Prestige of English in the Philippines

Gabrielle Torres

Fig. 1. Graphic by Nico Villarete,

The nuns would say to us neat little school girls in our neat little school uniforms that only English and Tagalog should be spoken within school property. I was born in Iloilo City, Philippines, where people speak Ilonggo, a language spoken by approximately 9 million people. You’re probably wondering, ‘Why not speak Ilonggo in your school, then? It’s not a dying language and it’s spoken by millions of people, anyway.’ Well, Ilonggo is not a standardized language and most definitely not as prestigious as English. Ilonggo is a funny-sounding language with too many vowels in one word, and if you are unfamiliar with the language, all you can hear are the glottal and velar stops. Still, why do Filipinos perceive English as prestigious? Within the privileged Filipino community, the English language is utilized to create a cultural divide between the highly educated English-speaking Filipinos and the less-privileged non-English-speaking Filipinos. Since English is the language of the elite and the educated in the Philippines, it is also the language of the privileged.

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Why is English Germanic and not a Romance Language?

Miguel Dela Pena

Sundberg, Minna. “The Indo-European & Uralic Language Families.” The Guardian, Guardian News & Media, 23 Jan. 2015,

I was told even before this class, but also in an educational setting, that most of the English lexicon has Latin roots, and a few previous classes have discussed how Latin was a high-status language and was used in grammar schools in England, so I was confused why English is considered a Germanic language when Latin is not. After a bit of searching, I found that a good number of people are, too. The following are just some reasons for the classification of English:

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Saturday, March 28th, 2020

What’s in a Name?

Katherine Luneng

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

Names have a huge significance in our society particularly, our first names. Names are connected to a large part of some individual’s identity. Has anyone ever mispronounced your name? How did you react or feel when they did that? Do you like all your nicknames? Does your name resemble another name that is in another language? The study of proper names is called onomastics and, there are a lot of unanswered questions. However, it is a large field within linguistics. Due to the size of this field, I can only discuss a small amount about it. Research needs to answer the questions above, because there is a lot of research about last names becoming anglicized but otherwise, not much else about what I want to explore further. We can, for example, observe the linguistic features occurring from French first names becoming anglicized. Anglicization is the phenomenon where one’s name that is originally from a different language, gets modified to sound more English.

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Thursday, March 29th, 2018

A Quick Look at EU’s <Eu> Mathematicians

Shawn Predicala

For some of you who didn’t know about this before, this could be the most enlightening discovery of your lives or it could just be another random and useless fact, but yes, the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler’s last name is actually pronounced /ɔɪlər/.

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Monday, February 12th, 2018

The Influence of Flemish Trade on the English Language

Jake Decker

While both originating from the language family of Proto-Germanic, Dutch and English have evolved in close proximity to one another for hundreds of years. A surprising amount of loan words exist in the English language originating from Dutch but most of this lexical change happened during the period of Middle-English.

The County of Flanders. Image: (cc) Wikimedia Commons.

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Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Klutz, putz, schmuck and all the dreck in between: Yiddish pejoratives in English

Quinnton Weiman

A traditional bagel with lox. The culinary equivalent of Yiddishisms in English — sharp, bold, and to the point. Image: Sandwich America.

After spending the past few months with my nose in books about the topic, and shlepping them all over between the Murray library and student coffee klatches around town, I’ve decided to finally quit my kvetching and get this blog post written. It is no small task to sift through the storied, thousand-year-old history of the expressive mame loshn Yiddish and the (very long) short list of the languages it has influenced and been influenced by, but thankfully in regards to English specifically, there is a definite and relatively recent starting point. This period, known as the great migration, spanned roughly between 1870 and 1914. Fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, Jews sought out greener pastures in the western, primarily English-speaking world, with as many as two million Jews emigrating to the United States during this period alone (Weinstein 133). English, seen as a pathway to a better life, was adopted with gusto by many of these emigrés, whose mordant and cynical humour, tempered by centuries of oppression in Europe, was also readily absorbed into English. This can be largely attributed to the decline of Yiddish as it was subjected to the cultural melting pot of English America. Miriam Weinstein, in her book Yiddish: a Nation of Words, also attributes this decline to a strong desire to fit in and to quickly cast away the “otherness” of Yiddish – as she describes it, “no other people would feel such ambivalence about what they had left [behind]” (142). This loss of language was hailed as tragic by many, in particular in the wake of the cultural genocide and virtual extermination of Yiddish in Europe during the Holocaust. However, little could stop the language from occupying the niche of humour, in particular among its own people as they embraced their new English lives and left the past behind. As Weinstein puts it, Yiddish had slid from being the “golden key to Jewish tradition” to being an “easy laugh at the immigrants’ expense” (and delight, mind) within a generation (143).

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Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Fact: All natural human languages are complex.

Yin Liu

Fallacy: Some languages are more complex than others, or harder to learn.

Language is complex, but so is your brain. You can handle it. Image: NICHD/P. Basser. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

One of the basic ideas of modern linguistics is that all natural human languages are equally complex, or at least that you can’t measure complexity in a way that would allow you to rank languages from most to least complex. By ‘natural human language’ here I am including all human languages that have been used as primary languages (i.e. a person’s ‘first’ language, the one a person probably learned first and uses most often in the greatest variety of contexts), and excluding secondary language forms like pidgins or invented languages, and non-human ‘languages’ like computer code. If you think about it, the idea that all natural human languages are equally hard (or easy) to learn makes sense from the point of view of language acquisition. Human children learn their primary (spoken) languages at approximately the same rate, no matter what the language is. You don’t find that, on average, children who grow up speaking Tagalog acquire their language faster or slower than children who grow up speaking Spanish. You don’t need to be more intelligent to speak Gitxsan now than you did to speak Old Norse a thousand years ago. (You might need to be more determined, though: Gitxsan is an endangered language.)

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