Category Archives: Language and Linguistics


Have you ever really talked about your hands?


March 19, 2020 ||

Word origins can vary widely within and across languages. For certain concepts like ‘water’, ‘head’, or ‘egg’, the modern words often resemble the ancestors of these words from thousands of years ago. On the other hand, for wanderwort concepts like ‘taxi’ or ‘sushi’, borrowing across languages is the norm. Nearly anywhere you go in the […]



Celebrating “Zero to Digital”


January 21, 2020 ||

In 2019, Translations Commons published “Indigenous Languages: Zero to Digital”, a guide to creating digital infrastructure for indigenous communities. Using flowcharts and clear instructions, it explains how to create every level of the technology stack required to make a language usable online. This easy-to-understand and ground-breaking resource was co-authored with several partners in language and […]


Ferreting Out Etymologies


January 21, 2020 ||

Words for animals often have interesting histories. Some, like English mouse, have remained almost unchanged for centuries (millennia, if you go back to Indo-European). Others, like English dog, can be tracked only so far before the trail runs dry. The word for bear was altered in many Indo-European languages through a process called taboo deformation. […]


Meet the Etymology Guy


November 20, 2019 ||

Every November 5, the United Kingdom celebrates Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes was an Englishman who attempted to blow up the House of Parliament in 1605. The story is fairly well known—but why was this guy named Guy? What kind of a name is that, anyway? As it turns out, it’s kind of a long […]