Page 6 - Language Facts

The Basque language, local to parts of Spain and France, is unlike any other language. How is this possible?


Some twins are so close that they share their own private language. What if that was the case for an entire region of the world, and no neighboring country spoke anything remotely similar? This is not the stuff of science fiction; it’s real, and it’s geographically located in a region of northeastern Spain and southwestern France. Since the language of Basque bears no similarity to Indo-European Romance languages spoken in the surrounding regions, it’s considered an isolated language.

So how does an isolated language originate? It’s a bit of a puzzle to linguists. Many believe that this language pre-dates the European conquests which is why it bears no European influences. Some have noted that the words for "knife" (aizto), "axe" (aizkora) and "hoe" (aitzur) are all derived from the word for "stone" (haitz), and have therefore concluded that the language dates to the Stone Age, when those tools were made of stone. Basque-type skulls discovered in Neolithic archaeological sites support this theory.

Although rich in oral history, the Basque language was not written until the 16th century. Rural communities have kept it alive. In fact, there are some 520,000 Basque speaking people in Spain which is a quarter of their entire population.

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Star Wars has been translated into 50 languages—including Navajo! Find out how long it took


"Star Wars" has been translated into over 50 different languages, and now "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" is available in Navajo, the first major motion picture to be dubbed into a Native American language. The idea was proposed by Manuelito Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum and a fan of the Star Wars franchise. Wheeler chose this film because it is an iconic movie with an international appeal, depicting the age old battle between good versus evil, and providing audiences with a hopeful ending.

It took Wheeler three years working with Lucasfilm to have his passion project approved, but once he got the green light, he wasted no time. Wheeler assembled a team of five translators who then worked for 36 hours straight translating the 90 page script.

Elsa Johnson, an Arizona State Alumna and proud Navajo woman, was among the translators. Johnson said that since the last century, Native American tribes were shamed and forbidden to speak their languages in government schools and by western religions. This is one of the reasons why many Native American tribes have lost their languages. "Our language enables us to pass down our tribal history, culture, ancestry, traditional teachings and ceremony," Johnson said. "Keeping the language alive ensures continuance of our culture," she said.

The marathon translation session did suffer the occasional hiccup. The scenes with aliens speaking have Navajo subtitles, but some of the futuristic English words have no companion among the Navajo language. In those instances, the translators had to be more literal. For example, "droid" was translated into "steel being" and "light saber" was translated into "light weapon."

A success may this film be.

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Baggins is not Bilbo's real name. Neither was Bilbo! The reason why is a bit... convoluted


Westron was the language of the Dunedain of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings series of books by J. R. R. Tolkein. He wrote the books as if they had been translated from Westron (the Common Speech). Westron was the closest to the universal language of Middle-earth. Westron is a western word—not a word from the original language.

Westron as a created language is a derivative of the Aduniac tongue of Numenor, originating as a Creole language on the western coast of Middle-earth where the Numenoreans established forts and outposts for trading. From the west it spread east, with the exception of Mordor.

The translation has many effects on the language and by extension the novels. The ending of the "true" hobbit name was Bilba with an -a. However, the -a ending is associated with a female, so Tolkein changed it to the more masculine -o. Bag End was actually Labin-nec after Labingi, the true form of Baggins.

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Some awesome lists!

We all know the difference between upper and lower case letters, but do you know why they are called that? Keep reading to find out.


In the late 19th Century, printing presses used individual letter plates to create what they wanted to print and then be able to transfer to paper.

This became the norm for books and newspapers that had previously all been hand-written. Hand writing was not only time consuming, but did not leave much room for error. These printing presses now had the technology to record information and print it in mass quantities to share with the public by using these presses with letter plates.

Letter plates were small metal plates, each with its own letter, that were arranged on a larger plate to create full pages. In order to keep these letters organized, they came in a case referred to as a type case.

Type cases had small shallow compartments where the letter plates could be stored. Since most sentences have a significantly less amount of capital letters, these letters were stored in the upper part of the type case. The remainder of the letters were stored in the lower portion of the tray cases. That is the simple reason as to how upper case and lower case letters got their name.

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Japanese has a word for buying books and never reading them. Do you ever do this?


In Sanskrit, there are 96 words for “love.” Ancient Parisian has 80 words for “love.” Even Greek has three different words while English only has one. What does that say about Anglo-Saxons’ relationship to their feelings? Discuss. Meanwhile, I’ll tell you that Inuits have 30 different words for “snow.” How many are used in the United States, and what does that say about our relationship to this form of precipitation? That’s too boring to discuss, so read on.

One word we do have? Bootylicious (syllabification: Boo·ty·li·cious). If “bootylicious” could be added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, why do we have no word for the common task of buying books and putting them on shelves without reading them? “Tsundoku” is what the Japanese call it.

The rest of us just practice it, whether we name it or not. It’s used informally in Japanese and is pronounced “tsoon-doh-koo” in English. Maybe we can get a curvaceous R & B singer to write a song about this word, making it the next big thing?

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