Category Archives: Language and Linguistics

How does COVID-19 threaten endangered languages?

June 11, 2020 ||

Endangered languages often exist in a situation where they have a dwindling group of mostly older speakers, and their community may be marginalized or otherwise not valued and supported. Because of this already precarious situation, the loss of life among that final group of speakers brings a double tragedy: loss of loved ones, and also […]

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. […]