What can Johnny Cash’s lyrics educate us in regards to the little-known Tangut dialect? Is ‘tabernacle’ rather a swear be aware in Quebecois? Which language has totally no verbs? what's Earth’s politest insult? and what's biting the wax tadpole really a translation of?*
Prepare for a hilarious rollercoaster journey via countless numbers of recognized, vague, tricky, lifeless or even made-up languages. Elizabeth Little has waded via innumerable verb tables in each to be had temper and annoying, untangled as much as eighteen instances of noun, and wrestled with all types of complex adjective, participles and glottal stops to carry you the simplest and such a lot strange quirks of the methods humans speak everywhere in the globe.
From the language that has no diverse be aware for ‘blue’ or ‘green’, to why Icelanders desire reliable permission to call their childrens, from what makes a Korean television hit to what humans may imagine you’re asserting when you order eggs in Spain, Biting the Wax Tadpole will be sure you’re by no means misplaced for phrases back.
*Coca-Cola, might you suspect it?
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Extra info for Biting the Wax Tadpole: Misadventures of an Armchair Linguist
Seems, a couple of different bigtime languages usually do an identical – French, Spanish, Portuguese – that's fairly handy. yet it’s no longer continually really easy. Even in English, a language of restricted inflection, there are lots of abnormal plurals. There are, for example, phrases that lead to ‘f’ that take a ‘v’ within the plural like calves, halves, elves. (And but: ‘roofs’. ) English additionally has tough plurals like young ones and oxen, ducks, enamel and ft. after which there’s the Latinate plural – alumnus and alumni, addendum and addenda – which has won sufficient intellectual language-maven forex over the centuries that i locate myself frequently wondering the plural of walrus. So it may come as no shock that in the course of the international, languages have a few methods – a few uncomplicated, a few tricky – to mark plural nouns. at the less complicated facet are these languages that use par ticles for plurals, like Tagalog, which makes use of the particle mga to point the plural of universal nouns: mga batà, ‘the children’. Malay and Indonesian, very heavily similar languages, usually shape plurals with reduplication. To shape the plural of a notice, simply repeat it: in Malay, anak, ‘child’, turns into anak-anak, ‘children’; and buku, ‘book’, turns into buku-buku, ‘books’. A language family members with a particularly difficult plural is the Semitic kin, together with the trendy languages Arabic and Hebrew, let alone Aramaic, historical Egyptian, Akkadian and Phoenician. Semitic languages are – and that i don’t imagine I’m exaggerating the following – extraordinary. while many languages depend upon notice endings to get the grammatical gist throughout, Semitic languages in its place permit the inner vowels do the heavy lifting. (This grammatical interest even though, Semitic scripts frequently overlook vowels, which i locate splendidly perverse. ) A Collective of Nouns A plural noun isn't like a collective noun – a noun that refers to a gaggle of things, as in ‘deck of playing cards’ or ‘pack of untamed dogs’. Many languages even have particular how you can mark collective nouns grammatically. Javanese makes use of reduplication, or repetition of the note, for its collective nouns, whereas Navajo can insert a verb prefix to point that an motion is being played by way of a gaggle. essentially the most strange collective nouns, besides the fact that, are literally present in English, which has in some way constructed a very weird and wonderful number of species-specific collective nouns: a homicide of crows, a multitude of iguanas, and – my favorite – a coffle of asses. Semitic grammar is predicated largely on be aware roots of 3 consonants. every one root has a normal which means, and by means of including and altering the vowels among the consonants, you could create similar nouns, verbs and adjectives. And when you examine one derivational development, you should use it time and again. Take the Arabic root ktb, that's linked to writing. by utilizing assorted vowel styles, through lengthening or altering the vowels, you could derive different writing-related phrases like kataba, ‘he wrote’, kātib, ‘writer’, or kitāb, ‘book’. And if you happen to see one other similar notice – maktaba, for example, this means that ‘library’ – you could paintings backwards to discover the trend after which use it on one other root.