Meanderings of an Amateur Linguist

Just me and my languages – a dangerous combonation

Heritage Languages

Posted by ILuvEire on March 13, 2009

As an American, I have roots from all over the world. I’m sure you do too (maybe not if you aren’t an American.) But have you ever thought of learning the language of your “people”?

Now I’m going to go on about myself, so if you don’t care then you can leave. It’s okay, I won’t say anything.

My biggest origins are Italian, German and Lakota. Much of my mom’s family is Italian(WHO REFUSED TO PASS DOWN THE LANGUAGE), but my greatgrandpa was Lakota (AND HE REFUSED TO TEACH ANY OF HIS KIDS THE LANGUAGE). Then my Dad is second generation immigrant, and…you guessed it HIS GRANDPARENTS DIDN’T PASS DOWN GERMAN OR YIDDISH. Of course, there’s also the Japanese grandpa on my mom’s side who didn’t want to pass down Japanese to his daughter. Thanks, by the way.

That’s right my whole family is filled with immigrants and NONE of them passed down the languages. They never even told me about being able to speak any of these languages! I just recently found out about my grandpa’s speaking Lakota (after his death no less).

So my life plan is to learn to speak all of these languages. I’ve studied every one of these languages to some extent (although I’m doing Cherokee right now, but Lakota will have its time).

What about you? Have you ever thought of doing something like this?


Posted in general, Languages | 7 Comments »

Currently Reading

Posted by ILuvEire on March 12, 2009

Hey there! I decided, why the hell don’t I make like three posts in a row!

Currently Reading

The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
John McWhorter is officially my FAVORITE author, ever. Ever. Period. I love his writing style, I can learn about linguistics, but still stayed interested. So, I’m reading every one of his books I can get a hold of. 🙂

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This book isn’t bad, it’s just not my first choice. We’re reading it in my English class.

Recently Finished

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English by John McWhorter
This is the first McWhorter book I’ve read. I loved it, plus is was really interesting and gave tons of interesting info.

The Search for the Perfect Language by Umberto Eco
Sadly, this book put me to sleep. I’m quite sad to read something so bad from Umberto Eco. The info was really interesting, but it’s obscured by the dreary language. I think it might have been bad on the part of the translator though.

The Odyssey by Homer (?)
We read it in my English class. It would have been much more interesting if I didn’t have to do tests and annotation and notes and crap, or if I could have read it in the original Greek.

Anyway, these two linguistic books warrant a book review, coming up.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Language Awards!

Posted by ILuvEire on March 12, 2009

Thanks Diogenes!

Okay, so since I believe in Internet plagiarism, I’m stealing Diogenes’ idea (click the link above and check her post out. I’ll wait…)

Best Pronunciation: Arabic, baby!
Most interesting script, non-Latin: Hebrew
Most interesting use of the Latin script: Vietnamese
Script best suited to the language: Hebrew/Arabic (even tie).
Script worst suited to the language: Japanese’s kanji
Prettiest non-Latin script: Georgian
Prettiest use of the Latin script: Finnish

Most interesting phonology: Klingon
Least interesting phonology: Hawaiian
Most interesting use of loans: Vietnamese
Least interesting use of loans: English

Happiest language: Toki Pona
Angriest language: Russian
Hardest language: Georgian
Easiest language: Somish

Coolest IAL: Volapük
Dumbest IAL: Interlingua
Coolest conlang: Láadan
Dumbest conlang: I can’t award this one! Even the most boring Romlang takes work on the part of the creator.
Coolest conscript: Blissymbol
Dumbest conscript: Tengwar (it sukz!)

Posted in general, Languages, Linguistics | 3 Comments »

Updated Wish List

Posted by ILuvEire on February 25, 2009

Oh…wow. Things have changed! If you’re curious, this, is my old language list, as of 11/32/08. Now here’s a draft of my new language list:

Japanese: This is my main focus for now. I’ve been working at it for a couple of weeks, and I plan to keep it up! When I make it to a upper intermediate level I’ll start on onr of these other languages. I’m predicting that to be in a few months.

After Japanese I plan to learn more languages from (South)East Asia. The languages on the top of my list are Mandarin and Vietnamese. Other languages I am looking into in this region are Thai and Hmong.

Besides languages from this area, I plan to continue with my Cherokee, and Italian. I want to get to be conversational in Cherokee and fluent in Italian. Also I learned Norwegian for a month…but I think I want to switch to Swedish when I pick it up again. I’ve gotten myself interested in Finnish and Finland for a while, and it seems stupid to learn Norwegian and Finnish, plus I much prefer the Swedish of Finland to the Swedish of Sweden. 🙂

Then we have Albanian and Georgian. I learned the basics of both these languages and REALLY want to get back to them. I don’t know when I will, but I will definitely get back to them. They are both beautiful and I love them.

The last portion of my language learning list includes smaller languages. I want to learn Swahili, Zulu, and Hawaiian. I have a huge interest in all of these languages, and someday I wish to learn them. This will make up the bottom of my list, and is subject the change (which I’m sure there will be some).

All-in-all my list goes like this:

1 Japanese
2 Mandarin
3 Vietnamese
4 Thai
5 Cherokee
6 Italian
7 Swedish
9 Albanian
10 Georgian

The parentheses’d ones are on my “maybe/maybe not” list, for whatever reason.

There ya’ go. Comment away!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Book Review: How to Learn Any Language

Posted by ILuvEire on January 21, 2009

Rating: 8/10

 Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably and on Your Own by Barry Farber

How To Learn Any Language: Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably and on Your Own by Barry Farber

This book is separated into two sections. The first gives the authors history as polyglot, and his expirience with various languages. The second part gives the methods he has created, and methods used by other people to attain fluency in the target language.

I thought that the tips were great. Absolutely wonderful. I’ve used every single one of them at one point or another. My only issue with his ideas, were that they weren’t his own. He presented techniques that other people use all in one book. If I wanted to learn about other people’s techniques, then I would have read other people’s books.

The other thing, is that at some points the writing gets somewhat dry. At most points I keep up with it pretty well, but periodically you become bored. He goes way too long with the Latin storyline, I feel that it starts to become a rant about Latin and about the percieved uselessness of learning an extinct language.

Also, another issue with the book is price. The book costs 12USD (10USD on Amazon) and is very, very short. It’s 184 pages, a very diminutive language book.

Price: 12.ooUSD

PPP: 0.06USD

Rating: 8/10

Where to buy?

Posted in Book Review | 5 Comments »

Book Review: Spoken Here

Posted by ILuvEire on January 18, 2009

Rating: 8/10

Spoken Here by Mark Abley

Spoken Here by Mark Abley

This is a review for the book, Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley.

I found it while browsing the Lingusitics section in my local book store (okay…more like linguistics shelf). It’s not a long read, but it’s quite an interesting book.

When reading this, don’t expect much about linguistics. The book gives a basic overview of the langauges phonology and morphology, then he goes straight into interviews with people trying to keep the language alive. It’s not his fault, he’s not a linguist, he’s a journalist.

He talks to one of the last three speakers of the Mati-Ke (alternatly Marri-ge and every other name that starts with an M and ends with E) language, and to speakers of the Murrinh-Patha language, which is used in the same area. He travels to the Isle of Mann to speak to members of the language revival (the Manx language having died ~30 years previously). In Oklahoma he speaks to the last surviving speakers of the Yuchi language. One of special interest to me was Provençal. The language was quite prominent, and then was quickly extinguished. The last surviving speakers have access to a rich amount of literature in Provençal and Occitian (a related dialect/language). Yiddish, a language the flourished, and was also resently sent into decline, is observed in a theatre. Back to the states for the polysynthetic giant, Mohawk. And he rounds it off with a healthy dose of Welsh, one of language revival’s biggest success stories.

The only reson this book didn’t recieve a 10/10 is because of the rest of the book. In between each of these interesting information filled chapters, is a chapter about language extinction and revival. They are usually quite deppressing, and do not fit in well with the rest of the books happiness. They center around language death and how we cant do anything to stop it. Then it procedes to talk about the evils of the English language. Over. And over.

That aside, I highly recommend you pick up this book. It’s available in the linguistics section at Barnes and Noble, and also available online from and You can also pick it up on from his website, right here.

Posted in Book Review | 3 Comments »


Posted by ILuvEire on January 18, 2009

Okie dokie. Sorry ’bout all of the leaving. Someone hacked my blog. Why? Who knows? Who cares?

Anyway, so what’s in the future:
1. I’m going to do more Volapük lessons. The Vietnamese lessons are on hold for a few months.
2. I’m going to get more into my language learning techniques.
3. Perhaps language spotlight articles?

Those are my plans. They may change, but probably not. 🙂 If you have questions, you can e-mail me.

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Volapük: Lesson 2/Volapük: Tiodem Tel

Posted by ILuvEire on December 1, 2008

Volapük is a heavily agglutinative language as I’m sure you know. Each noun can be declined in the Nominative, Dative, Genitive, and Accusative cases. I will abbreviate them as nom., dat., gen., and acc. in the rest of this lesson. The other abbreviations I will be using are pl., and sing..

The nom. sing. doesn’t really have a declension. It is the base for forming all of the other declensions.
The nom. pl. uses the suffix -s.

Acc. sing. uses the suffix -i
Acc. pl. uses -is

Dat. sing. is -e
Dat. pl. is -es

Gen. sing. is -a
Gen. pl. is -as

A fully declined noun:
Nom. Sing. Yat
Nom. pl. Yats
Acc. sing. Yati
Acc. pl. Yatis
Dat. sing. Yate
Dat. pl. Yates
Gen. sing. Yata
Gen. pl. Yatas

Volapük doesn’t use articles for “native words” (real Volapük words). Words that don’t have Volapük equivalents, and ones that wont be transliterated use a “dummy article”. Called el. It is declined instead of the word itself.

This is usually only used for place names. For example using my name (Tyler), I don’t call myself el Tyler. When people are going to see me they say Kileke, not ele Tyler (using the transliteration of my name into Hawaiian, Kileki, and deleting the i).
el New York
els New York

eli New York
elis New York

ela New York
elas New York

ele New York
eles New York

Decline the word buk (book).
Decline the place name Helsinki

Posted in Languages, Volapük - Volapük | 2 Comments »

Volapük: Lesson 1/Volapük: Tiodem Bal

Posted by ILuvEire on December 1, 2008


IPA will be in green, X-SAMPA in blue, but only when they differ. There will also be English examples.
A: /a/ spa
E: /e/ egg
I: /i/ meat
O: /o/ no
U: /u/ blue
Then there are the three umlauted vowels. Similar to the German umlauts.
Ä: / ɛ E/ made

Ö: / ø 2/ This one has no English equivalent. Make it by making your lips say “oo” but have your mouth say “eh”.
Ü: /y/ This one doesn’t have an English equivalent either. Make it by making your lips say “oo” but your mouth say “ee”.
If you cant type umlauts, just leave them out. There is nothing like the <ae oe ue> of German used.
There are also handwritten shortcuts to the umlauts. I personally use them all the time. You can see them here (I can’t post the image because it’s too big.)

All of the consonants are the same as their IPA values except the following:
C: / tS/ church
J: /ʃ S/ shin
X: /ks/ Mexico
Y: /j/ yes
Z: /ts/ Mets
Some amount of voicing is allowed for all of the consonants, especially <C, J>.


Practice saying the numbers 1-10.
1. bal
2. tel
3. kil
4. fol
5. lul
6. mäl
7. vel
8. jöl
9. zül
10. deg

Posted in Languages, Volapük - Volapük | Leave a Comment »

Why I learn Volapük

Posted by ILuvEire on December 1, 2008

Glidis! Alärnosös Volapüki!

I’m one of the world’s few Volapükists. I’ve been asked so many times why I choose to support this language, as opposed to other IALs (Interational Auxiliary Languages). I’ve broken it up into two points.

1) International Vocabulary

Volapük’s vocabulary is far more “international” than Esperanto, Novial, Ido, Lingua Franca Nova and pretty much every other IAL, except for Lojban/Loglan. Much (if not all) of Volapük’s vocabulary is derived from English and German (the two languages its creator spoke the best). Volapük however has an extremely constricting syllable structure. Every word must begin and end in a consonant. He attempted to make the vocabulary as international as possible, and ended up with these extremely changed words, mutilated some would say. This makes the vocabulary equally hard for everyone. Lol means rose, but only in Volapük. A Japanese speaker and an English speaker will both have the same difficulty learning it.

The creator also attempted to keep all of the words to one syllable long (so that compounds wouldn’t be so long, and affixes could be easily applied). This means that he also avoided any long consonant clusters.

2) Grammar

Volapük’s grammar is quite complicated. It’s heavily agglutinative. This is pretty much hard for everyone, because his cases are used in different ways than most other agglutinative languages (like Hungarian or Finnish). He keeps his case endings very short (one vowel apiece) and his tense prefixes are one vowel long, then each mood suffix is a vowel and consonant long (like –ös for example, except for the passive prefix which is just p– . He wraps things up in a little package. I like it.

On top of that, the grammar is not similar to any living language. I think that the creator did that on purpose, so that the language would be totally different and therefore more international.

Some examples:

Lol – rose (nom)

Loli – acc

Lola – gen

Lole – dat

Then, add an –s to make the plural.

Each verb has tons of conjugations and forms, so I’m only going to demonstrate a few. I’m going to have the root bolded on each of the examples, and then the feature I’m trying to demonstrate italicized.

Lärnön – to learn

Lärnom – He learns

The present tense is formed by adding the appropriate pronoun. Om means “he,” so all you have to do is suffix it to the end of the stem.

Alärnomös! – Learn now!

Most of the moods are suffixed after the person inflection. The passive voice is p– on the frond of the tense prefix.

If you ever want someone to talk to about Volapük, I’m right here for ya’!

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