Topic related to languages and dialects.

“Language is the carrier of culture and memory. To starve or kill a language is to starve and kill a people’s memory bank.”

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, 2009




Latin, prae+cedere->praecedere to Old French preceder.
Latin, pro+cedere->procedere to Old French proceder. So far so good.

precedere to Middle English precede
procedere to Middle English proceed

AUGH! You were so close!


Proto-Indo-European: perd
Old English: feortan; vert
Old High German: ferzan
Old Norse: freta

Middle English: fertan

Modern English: fart


I listened to an episode of 99% invisible recently that detailed why English has so many peculiar spelling idiosyncrasies. Belgian printing press operators setting up shop in England while the language rules were in Flux.



That’s about right.


Welsh: no you can’t have any more vowels, the Finnish vikings stole them all ages ago.


A little like Egyptian then? It’s easy once you know the vowels?



In German, there are words like Imbissstube that indeed have three s’s in a row, all of which are pronounced. There have to be some German words that contain four of the same letter in a row, but I can’t think of any right now.


The problem with Welsh is not the vowels. As long as you realize that w and y are also vowels, then it isn’t that bad. The problem with Welsh is that its morphology is based on changing the first sound of all the words around in a particular way and it has free word order so that when you see a noun you don’t know, there is no way to tell either what the case is because of the word position, nor are you able to tell what first sound of the word is because you don’t know the case, nor are you able to look up the word to find out what the first sound is because the dictionary is written alphabetically. I’m told that Modern Welsh is somewhat better than Middle Welsh but Middle Welsh is basically impossible to learn from working through texts with a dictionary and grammar because you already have to know the language in order to look anything up.

People accuse English of stealing vocabulary and grammar from other languages. Other than place names the Anglo-Saxons (the Norse too, for that matter) basically thought Welsh was too hard to steal anything from.


Depends a bit on whether one

  1. uses the ß
  2. adheres to the “new” rules introduced by the latest, somewhat botched, Rechtschreibreform

It also depends on whether you consider pronouncing the preceding vowel as lax as “pronouncing” two s’s and then the following ʃ sound as also “pronouncing” an s. It isn’t like anyone is saying “sss sss sss” when pronouncing “Imbissstube”.

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That’s where the ß comes in.

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The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse wh*re. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary.

— James Davis Nicoll, rec.arts.sf-lovers, 15 May 1990


Welsh has fourteen vowels: a, e, i, o, u, w, y, â, ê. î, ô, û, ŵ, and ŷ, plus diphthongs.

It’s not Welsh’s fault the Saeson don’t know how to read most of them.


Can’t think of any either but, for example, if someone with the last name Remtsmaa discovered a new species of eel, it could conceivably be called a Remtsmaaaal


For we Englysshe men ben borne under the domynacyon of the mone, whiche is never stedfaste but ever waverynge, wexynge one season and waneth and dyscreaseth another season. And that comyn Englysshe that is spoken in one shyre varyeth from a-nother, in so moche that in my dayes happened that certayn marchauntes were in a ship in Tamyse for to have sayled over the see into Zelande, and, for lacke of wynde, thei taryed atte Forlond, and wente to lande for to refreshe them. And one of theym named Sheffelde, a mercer, cam in to an hows and axed for mete and specyally he axyd after eggys, and the goode wyf answerde that she could speke no Frenshe. And the marchaunt was angry, for he also coude speke no Frenshe, but wolde have hadde egges; and she understode hym not. And thenne at laste a-nother sayd that he wolde have eyren. Then the good wyf sayd that she understod hym wel. Loo, what sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges, or eyren? Certaynly it is hard to playse every man, by-cause of dyversite and chaunge of langage.

Caxton’s response was, basically, that when it came to dialect choice and spelling, in the absence of being able to please everyone, he was going to please himself.