Category Archives: Language

Parlez-vous? Ungathetha? ¿Habla? Praat jy?


Through the Language Glass

Through the Language Glass is the second book on linguistics by Guy Deutscher that I’ve read recently (the other being The Unfolding of Language). This popular science book explains various differences between languages, and tackles the rather thorny question of whether the language we think […]


The Unfolding of Language

I have an enduring passion for and interest in language, and was thus quite intrigued when I read about Guy Deutscher’s two books, The Unfolding of Language and Through the Language Glass. As it was written earlier, I read The Unfolding of Language first. In […]


Pidgin & Creole Languages

I stumbled on Suzanne Romaine’s work Pidgin & Creole Languages quite by accident in a second-hand bookstore, and was immediately intrigued. I have a continuing interest in languages, especially how they work, how they differ and how they don’t differ, and this seemed to fit […]

Soli & Koranna

From the Annals: Soli & Koranna

During my last Xhosa class, I asked my lecturer whether there is currently much research into Khoisan (“bushman”) languages, especially given the increasingly few native speakers left. She said that there is still some, especially from German researchers, and further she gave me the following […]


Too many letters

English orthography, or the manner in which we employ the alphabet to suggest words’ phonetic expressions, is notoriously irregular. It presents a full continuum from the straightforward, like mat, to the indirect but regular, like bubble, to the quite bizarre, such as phlegm. This illogical […]


Louis Braille

For a recent French assignment, we had to write a brief biography of a famous French person. I chose Louis Braille, and wrote the following: Louis Braille est né le 4 janvier 1809, et est mort le 6 janvier 1852 à l’âge de 43 ans. […]



Xhosa, like most Bantu languages, has a complex system of noun classes each of which has a distinctive prefix. This allows multiple related concepts to be formed from the stem, giving a connectedness to concepts that I find particularly pleasing. By way of example, I […]

Un gout pour les langues

It’s now been more than a year that I’ve been actively studying two new languages, French and isiXhosa. I am finally (if slowly) reaching the point where I can express myself, and occasionally even hold a brief conversation. As a result I thought it would […]


How Languages are Learned

I have an ongoing interest in language and especially how it works. As a result I was rather interested in reading How Languages are Learned, a textbook on language acquisition, particularly second language acquisition. While the content of this book is reasonably good, all it […]


The Language Instinct

Given my ongoing fascination with language and linguistics, when I saw Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct in our campus bookshop I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy it. It was truly an excellent purchase. Pinker provides a eloquent, factual, well-researched and above all interesting overview […]