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  • Forfatterens bildeRebekah Olson

21 Language Facts for 2021 - Part 2

Continuing with our part two of our 2021 series on sweet facts about language you might not yet know!

45% of all websites are written in English, but, even though English is the most popular second language learned, 78.8% of the global population doesn't understand English. What ever happened to supply and demand?

Our native languages actually have their own global holiday! Mother Language Day is February 21 and aims to promote awareness of humanity's linguistic and cultural diversity.

You might already know that Arabic is written from right to left, but did you also know Arabic numbers are written from left to right? That's as easy as... CBA, 123? 🤔

As a Romance language, Spanish was most heavily influenced by Latin. But the second biggest influencer to Spanish is actually Arabic! That's a long way to go for some paella!

From the French word for "slang", an argot is a language used by a certain group in order to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. "Kids these days with their LOLs, JKs, AFKs, WTHs; what are they even talking about?!" - moms everywhere.

An argot popular among French teens is Verlan, which inverts syllabic sounds in words. The word verlan itself is an example, as it is derived from inverting the syllables in l'envers (the inverse). Want to bum a cigarette, or clope? Better ask for a peclot.

Today, there are at least 35 indigenous languages spoken in South Africa. 10 of these and English are the official national languages, making South Africa the country with the most official languages in the world.

The original French version of Les Miserables contains the longest single sentence in the written world, with 823 words. Probably couldn't sing that either, ey Russel?

Language isolates have no known historical or linguistic relationship to any other languages. There are 75 of these throughout the world, including Basque and Korean, which both managed to survive genocides and encroaching monarchies.

Contranyms are words that are both their meaning and their opposite, and they run rampant throughout English. Oversight is both monitoring and the failure to monitor, a strike is both a hit and a missed hit. Is a seeded watermelon with or without seeds?

(That's totally what this song is about...right?)

English-speakers subconsciously attribute trustworthiness/stability to Germanic words and weakness/flimsiness to Romance words. Consequently, speech-writers will often take this into account. Take the following Churchill speech for example:

"We shall fight on the beaches // we shall fight on the landing grounds // we shall fight in the fields and in the streets // we shall fight in the hills //we shall never surrender."

In this speech, every single word is of Germanic origin, except one: surrender.

The Dark Hedges, Balleymoney, Ireland

Isn't language awesome?

If you liked these, follow us on Instagram @olsonlinguistics for a daily dose of cool linguistics tidbits!

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