Marquesan languages

The Marquesan languages have undergone quite a few interesting sound changes. The velar nasal (“ng” in “singing”) is completely gone in most variants, the /f/ only exists on one island, the “r” and “l” has disappeared from many words in all variants, to the point where even the word for “language” – ” ‘eo’ ” lost its /r/ or /l/.

The language(s) also have a number marker known as the “paucal”, which indicates a few, or several of something. It has dual, and plural markers just like typical Polynesian languages.

The verbal structure is also very typical of Polynesian languages, it has the imperfective and perfective aspects, tense (like the past, present, imperative), and also mood, such as the desiderative. The desiderative mood plays a subjunctive role in Marquesan, but rather than being a tense, it is a mood in this language. Another thing possibly unique to Marquesan is what’s called “the caveat mood”, this mood is simply used to warn, strongly suggest, or to make someone aware of something, it has two markers, one of a weaker warning, and another which is stronger. It could be somehing like “lest” or “unless”, “look at the road, lest you (want to) crash”.

Check these resources out to learn more about the Marquesan languages, and this LangShack video on the subject.


“Grammaire et dictionnaire de la langue des Îles Marquises”: Mgr Rene Ildefonse Dordillon’s Marquesan language dictionary & Grammar (Société des études océaniennes, Pape’ete, 1904 – reissued 1999) (in French)

Mutu, M., & Tekìtutoua, B. (2002). Ùa Pou: Aspects of a Marquesan dialect.

The Yoruba language

Ṣe daadaa ni o wa? – How are you?
Mo wa daadaa, o ̣se – I’m good!
Ẹ ku alẹ – Good evening!
Ẹ ku ọsan – Good afternoon!
O da aarọ – good night!
Ki ni orukọ rẹ? – What’s your name?
Orukọ mi ni [name] – My name is…
Ṣe o n sọ Yorùbá? – Do you speak Yoruba?

Tonal system
Yoruba has three main tone levels, which are high, medium, and low. These are generally only applied to vowels. A word pronounced with a different tone can result in a different meaning, just like many Chinese languages or Vietnamese.

ọkọ – ‘husband’ (medium tone)
ọkọ́ – ‘hoe’ (high tone on second vowel)
ọ̀kọ̀ – ‘spear’ (low tone)
ọkọ̀ – ‘vehicle’ (low tone on second vowel)

Ìgbà ‘time’ (low tone on both vowels)
Igba ‘two hundred’ (mid tone)
Ìgbá ‘garden egg’ (low tone on first – high tone on second vowel)
Igbà ‘climbing rope’ (mid tone on first – low tone on second vowel)
ìwọ̀ – ‘hook’ (low tone on both vowels)
iwọ – ‘poison’ (mid tone on both vowels)

*High tones are not possible at the beginning of words in Yoruba
órí (correct > orí) – (head)
ígò (correct > ìgò) (bottle)
éwúro (correct > ewúro) – (bitter leaves)

Yoruba is typically an S-V-O (subject-object-verb) language

mo fe ra ìwe méjì
‘I want to buy two books’
Olú yóò lọ sí Ìbàdàn
Olu will go to Ibadan
‘Olu will go to Ibadan’

Nouns in Yoruba are the same for both singular and plural. can be newly formed in a variety of ways, like duplication, affixes, and compounding

Yoruba often involves elision when in conversation, or in context. This is similar to how “want to” or “going to” become “wanna” and “gonna’ in conversation and formal registers. some vowels can become glued to the next word, generally if the first word ends in a vowel, and the next one begins with one.

mo fẹ́ ra ọ̀bẹ –> mo fe rọ̀bẹ
I want buy knife
‘I want to buy a knife’

In this sentence, the verb ‘ra’ loses its final vowel when eliding with “ọ̀bẹ”, but you can see that the next word’s vowel is still intact

mo ra ‘ ìwe –> mo rawe
I bought book
‘I bought a book’

Splitting verbs are not so common in Yoruba, but it still happens. It appears that the object of such sentences serves as the agent in them.

fihàn – to introduce
Olu fi Ade hàn Ola
Olu appear Ade appear Ola
‘Olu introduced Ade to Ola.’

Yoruba uses a wide range of aspect and mood words in combination with verbs in sentences, many of these are similar to English.

a ti máa ‘usually will …’
n – [verb]ing..
lè – can
ìbá – would have
kĭi – usually don’t (and many, many more)

Demonstratives in Soqotri (“this” and “that”)

These are the demonstratives in Soqotri, a language spoken in the Indian Ocean south of Yemen and east of Somalia. I will be posting grammar samples of this language, and some little exercises soon. There hasn’t been anything like this done for this language, no everyday Soqotri course. We’re doing that now.

The top portions are demonstratives like “this, these” that point to something that is near, or being referred to directly. The ones on the bottom are for “that, those”, which tend to be further away.

Singularde … dħɘħthisdeʃ …dħɘħthis
Dualdeki … dħɘħthesedeʃi …dħɘħthese two
Pluralle … lħɘħThese (more than two)le … lħɘħthese
Above: “this”, “these”, demonstratives that are closer to you
Singularde .. dbakthatdeʃ … dbakthat
Dualdeki … dbakthosedeʃi … dbakthose two
Pluralle … lbakthosele … lbakthose
Above: “that”, “those”, demonstratives that are further away from you

Brayon and Chiac, Canadian dialects of French

I personally never realized how many distinct dialects of French were spoken just in North America alone. Louisiana has a different variety from town to town, but in Canada, there are entirely distinct ethnic groups using their own kinds of French, Chiac French is a subdialect of Acadian French, but Brayon is its very own dialect, and ethnic group.

Chiac is spoken in New Brunswick around the cities of Moncton, Shediac, and other towns in that area. Chiac is used on a range between full Chiac Acadian French, and Chiac mixed with lots of English. Some believe it is threatened, but it was also found that when many Chiac speakers went to Quebec or an anglophone part of Canada, that they could switch between full French or full English just fine. It has become increasingly more mixed with English in the past few decades as English media increases and French education or media continue to not be offered much in the region where Chiac is spoken. One article said that the amount of French used will determine the future of Chiac in the region, and it is important that the speakers continue to use a healthy amount of French to ensure the variety can survive for more generations to come.

Brayon is spoken in the Madawaska region of New Brunswick. It has four main sound changes that occur between it in French. The “-a/â” representation are both pronounced /ɑ/, like an “ahh” at the back of the throat, but the back of the tongue is lifted, as called an open back unrounded vowel. The difference also happens with “ai” and “ê”, which both have the /ɛ/ sound in Brayon. This is most similar to the “e” in “bed”. If you’re familiar with Quebec French, many speakers pronounce the object pronoun “moi” or “toi” (me/you (obj.)) as “moé” and “toé“. The Brayons pronounce any word ending with “oir” as “oér”, instead. Brayon also has colored French with its own localized expressions, even some unique ones to their region.

Check out these resources for more information on Chiac, and how it’s viewed.

There isn’t really anything for Brayon outside of the Wikipedia page and native speakers. A native speaker suggested the topic, and helped me with information for the video, and provided audio recordings and verified the original script.

Bureau, Government of Canada, Public Works and Government Services Canada – Translation. “Vous parlez chiac? Crazy! – Articles – From Our Contributors – Language Portal of Canada”. Archived from the original on 2016-04-21. Retrieved 2016-05-29.

“Chiac: A pride or a threat to French?”

Native speakers speaking Chiac

The Tahitian language

The Tahitian language is spoken mainly on Tahiti, but also in other parts of Polynesian, which could be partially due to it being the main island of French Polynesia. The language has around 70K speakers currently, and is possibly endangered because of encroachment from French. The language exhibits all the features typical of Polynesian languages, such as the tense/aspect/modality/locality system of syntax, this is used in nearly all sentences.

The Tahitian language also has a fairly complex in/definite article system, having articles for dual, and plural, and even has counter words (like “a pair of shoes”, or “a school of fish”) similar to Korean or Chinese languages. Tahitian even combines definite articles and counters together with close granularity, generally used for animals, or plants, it also has some special counter-definite articles for people. It has numerous articles with counters.

Tahitian also has dual reduplication, usually there is a base or stem form, and them the complete duplication, but this sort of duplication has to agree with the person, and can only refer to two, not more or less than. Tahitian influenced Rapa Nui greatly, and if one takes a look at Rapa Nui today, you can immediately notice many words derived from Tahitian like “nehenehe” – “pretty”, and “vahine” – “woman”, which Rapa Nui had “vi’e” in its natural evolution.

Norn, a lost descendant of Old Norse

Norn was a language left behind by Viking settlers from the eighth century. Norn was spoken in the archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland in NW UK. Surprisingly, the language didn’t die quickly, it persisted for a few centuries after Norway handed over the two archipelagos to Scotland in 1468. It died with the last speaker, Walter Sutherland in 1850, however, the language was easily still well-intertwined with the local dialect of Scots until 1900. Even today, remnants of Norn remain in Orkney and Shetland Scot’s vocabularies in a few areas.

Based upon the etymological dictionary written by Jakob Jakobsen in 1896, Norn contains much of the same grammatical features that its sister languages share, such as having three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), and four grammatical cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, and dative). A new language called Nynorn takes from this dictionary and Norse linguistics to reconstruct a language for daily use. Progress on this project will be interesting to see develop over the next few years.

The language appeared to be closest to Faroese, sharing some features with Icelandic and its verb conjugation structure must have borrowed from Norwegian, given family ties may have stretched there as late as the 18th century.

Check out this video on Norn that I made, it is longer than usual since a background about the language needed to be given for context.

Check out this website on Nynorn. It also has information on the Norn spoken on mainland Scotland, and both archipelagos. It has a wealth of information on the history of the language as well.

Check out these other fantastic resources on Norn: the second resource is especially informational.

 Trudgill, Peter (1984). Language in the British Isles. Cambridge University Press. p. 361. ISBN 978-0-521-28409-7

Barnes, Michael P. The study of Norn Northern Lights, Northern Words. Selected Papers from the FRLSU Conference, Kirkwall 2009.

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