Language facts: Slovenian

Slovenian (or Slovene) is a Slavic language from the South Slavic group, most closely related to Croatian and a distant relative of languages such as Russian. Slovenian should NOT be confused with the Slovak language, which does not have much in common with Slovenian, apart from both being Slavic languages. Interestingly, both languages call their own language by the same expression – slovensky/i, sloven(s)cina – which literally means Slavic in the old Slavonian. Slovenian is spoken by about 2 million people in Slovenia – a small country, but with both high mountains (Alps) and a sea (the Adriatic sea), as well as Slovenian communities in neighboring countries and immigrants around the world. Slovenian is also an official EU language.

The least homogeneous Slavic language

Slovenian is a heavily inflected language with some ancient grammatical peculiarities, such as the dual grammatical number. Despite the small number of speakers, the dialects are heavily diversified and strong dialects from opposite sides of the country, influenced by neighboring languages, are practically mutually unintelligible. This was due to the fact that compulsory schooling was in other languages than Slovenian (mainly German and Italian). Standardized Slovenian as a national language was formed in the 18th century based on the Upper and Lower Carnolian dialects. 

Alphabet

Slovenian uses the Latin alphabet, without the letters Q, X, Y, W and with the addition of a few extra letters. The letters Q, X, Y, W, however, are used as independent letters in encyclopedias and dictionary listings (and as such are included in the alphabet here). 

A B C Č Ć D Đ E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S Š T U V W X Y Z Ž

a b c č ć d đ e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s š t u v w x y z ž

Language facts: Estonian

Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages, which has its roots somewhere behind the Ural Mountains (together with Hungarian, Finnish, etc.). Today, there are several dozens small Finno-Ugric populations settled in North Europe, in the Volga and Ural region, and in Siberia and the Russian Far North. 

Closest to Estonian are the Finnish languages, first of all Finnish itself. Estonian is, in fact, currently spoken by less than a million people in Estonia where it is the official language, and smaller communities scattered throughout the world. Estonian is also one of the official EU languages.

Two languages in one

Historically, there were actually two Estonian languages used in Estonia: the Northern and the Southern Estonian. The reason for this differentiation is quite interesting, as it results from the two main separate migration waves of the old ancestors of today's Estonians. The migration waves were not apart from each other just in terms of time, but also the separate groups used considerably different vernaculars. The modern version of Estonian is derived from the Northern Estonian dialects. Due to historical reasons (e.g. Northern Crusades, World War Two and the Soviet expansion), Estonian was quite neglected in the area, mainly in terms of literature. The first written form of Estonian is not older than the 13th century. Estonian is also heavily influenced by the languages of nations who took over the rule over the Estonian lands at various points in time, namely Sweden, Germany and Russia.

Alphabet

In addition to the standard English alphabet, Estonian includes Š Ž Õ Ä Ö Ü. Loanwords can include F, Š, Z and Ž, while C, Q, W, X and Y are used in writing foreign proper names. These letters are not considered part of the Estonian alphabet, though. It is also worth mentioning that Estonian uses up to three degrees of phonetic length (not just short and long, but also "overlong"), thus one word can have three different meanings based on how much effort (length) is put into pronouncing it.

 

A B D E G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V Õ Ä Ö Ü a b d e g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v õ ä ö ü

Language facts: Tagalog

Tagalog (also known as Filipino or the native Pilipino) is one of the two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English. Tagalog is an Austronesian language and as such related to Malay, Javanese and Hawaiian. Tagalog is the first language of one third of the Philippines with about 21.5 million speakers, and the second language of the remaining two thirds (approximately 70 million speakers) who use other regional languages such as Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray, Bikolano, Bisaya, etc. The language is also spoken by many ethnic minorities (including 1.5 million diaspora in the United States).

Mysterious language ruled by the Spanish

Very little is known about Tagalog that most likely has its origins in Mindanao (the second largest island in the Philipines). Literally Tagalog means “river dweller”. It was declared the official language by the Philippines’ first constitution in 1897. Today, Tagalog is concentrated to the central and southern parts of Luzon, but is also spoken on many other islands. 

Tagalog's first written record dates back to 900 AD, while the first book known to be written in Tagalog – the Doctrina Christiana – came to light by the end of 16th century (1593) and used also Spanish alongside Tagalog.

The Spanish colonists and the strong Christian culture they brought upon the islands heavily influenced evolution of (not just) the languages of the Phillipines. It was, after all, Spanish monk Pedro de San Buenaverture, who wrote the first dictionary of Tagalog. Interestingly, another and much more substantial dictionary (Vocabulario de la lengua tagala) was written by Czech Jesuit, Paul Klein, who published several other books in Tagalog.

Alphabet

Until 1987, Tagalog was based on a writing system consisting of 20 Latin letters, the so called ABAKADA alphabet. Today it adopts 28 letters under the official name Filipino.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N Ñ NG O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n ñ ng o p q r s t u v w x y z

Endangered languages: Will your mother tongue survive?

Welcome to the extinction era! You may not be aware of it since it seems the human race is thriving, but Earth is experiencing yet another mass extinction. Scientists have lately suggested defining a new epoch, Anthropocene, as it may be us, humans, who have contributed our bit to the current unfolding of events. Human impact is endangering the animals and plants, but in truth they are not the only ones endangered. 

Migration killing unique cultures?

96% of the world's languages are spoken by only 4% of the global population according to the Sorosoro foundation. Globalization and mass migration in the 21st century have caused adoption of a dominant language in many areas to the detriment of original, local languages (what a paradox in terms of multiculturalism). It is now estimated that a substantial part of the world's presently known languages and dialects will cease to exist in written or spoken form and even become extinct in the not-so-distant future.According to UNESCO, unless this trend is reversed, half of today's 7,000+ languages will disappear by the end of this century. Columbia University linguist John McWhorter's predictions are even more gloomy with the outlook that 90% of today's existing languages will be displaced on a global scale by simplified versions of culturally dominant languages. Given that one of the important defining factors of a culture – if not the most important one – is its language, such development would irreversibly deprive us of our world's most important cultural heritage. New languages simply don't come into existence in amounts that wouldcompensate this trend. And by definition, they cannot compensate the loss of languages that have developed through the course of human history.

These languages should begin to worry us

Despite many arguments and disagreement on the definition of a language vs. a dialect, in terms of extinction, both a language and a dialect are equal. Hundreds of languages literally waiting to cease to exist as their last living speakers pass away. In Europe, we see dialects such as Bavarian (Germany, Austria), Gordiol (Italy), Istriot (Croatia) and Cornish (UK) that are likely heading toward their terminal days. Also Walloon, spoken in a good part of Belgium, Yiddish, and Romani – the tongue of Romani (Gypsy) people across Europe – are on the endangered list. 

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How to preserve a language

Systematic efforts are being made to document as many languages as possible and preserve them at least in artificial form. It is in fact feasible to revive a language suppressed or existing in "lab conditions" only, and history has shown us many an example. One is modern Hebrew, which was revived to a living official language from ancient religious texts. Also Irish and Greenlandic languages were resurrected from near-death thanks to social and political development, and they are now slowly beginning to spread. And in terms of language documentation, preservation and popularization, the translation industry can in fact help a lot :)

Language facts: Croatian

Croatian is a South Slavic language used primarily in Croatia (where it is an official language) by Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in neighboring countries where Croats make up autochthonous communities (e.g. the Serbian province of Vojvodina, Molise in Italy, or Burgenland in Austria), and generally the global Croatian diaspora. 

It is sometimes classified as belonging to the Central South Slavic diasystem (also referred to as "Serbo-Croatian"). Croatian is spoken by 4,800,000 native speakers and approx. 6.5 million people around the world and uses a three-letter code: HRV (= hrvatska/i) for international recognition. It is also one of the official EU languages since Croatia became an EU member in 2013.

Croatian: a language with mixed origin

The modern Croatian standard language is a continuous outgrowth of more than nine hundred years of literature written in a mixture of Croatian Church Slavonic, or worded differently the Serbo-Croatian variant of Church Slavonic (i.e. Old Slavonic that was, for a brief period, also an official recognized language of the liturgy) and the vernacular language. Croatian Church Slavonic was abandoned by the mid-15th century, and Croatian as embodied in a purely vernacular literature (Shtokavian dialect literature) has now existed for more than five centuries.

Nowadays the Croatian language is an important symbol of national identity, but suggesting that Croatian language equals or is fully intelligible with Serbo-Croatian is still a sensitive subject to bring up. In fact, the differences between Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian language are (sometimes much too intensively) highlighted due to political reasons. The fact is that Croatians, Bosnians and Serbians generally understand each other, similarly to or even better than Czechs and Slovaks.

Alphabet

The Croatian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet with special characters ć, č, đ, š, ž, dž; it does not have q, w, x, y.

A B C Č D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž a b c č d dž đ e f g h i j k l lj m n nj o p r s š t u v z ž

Language facts: Greenlandic

Greenlandic is a language spoken by the Inuit people in Greenland. The main dialect, Kalaallisut, of Western Greenland belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut family (closely related to other Inuit languages, e.g. in Canada and basically accross the Arctic area). 

It became the only official language of Greenland when it gained autonomy from Denmark in 2009, after abandoning the Danish language. Greenlandic has around 58,000 native speakers.

Parents don't understand their kids – literally

It is not exactly known what language was spoken in Greenland by it's original inhabitants, however, the roots of today's Greenlandic was brought to the island around 13th century (by the ancestors of Inuits, the Thule people). There was no mention of the language in written form until the 17th century and the process of Greenlandic grammar constitution and the introduction of dictionaries accelerated with the Danish colonization of Greenland. The very first Danish-Greenlandic dictionary was introduced in 1750, and the first grammar followed in 1760.

Interestingly, similar to colonialism also the independence tendencies boosted development of the language. Since a home rule agreement in 1979, Greenlandic is the only language used in primary schooling and also by a lot of media, causing many young people to be bilingual in both Greenlandic and Danish, while their parents are monolingual in Danish. Modern Greenlandic has loaned many words from both English and Danish, but when adopting new technologies, attempts are made to construct words based on Greenlandic roots. Today, the language is regulated by the Greenland Language Committee and is still considered as "vulnerable" by UNESCO in terms of its endangerment. 

Alphabet

Greenlandic is written in Latin script since it became a Danish colony in the 1700s. The alphabet is very short, consisting of just 18 characters, but it uses the letters b, c, d, h, x, y, z, w, æ, ø and å to enable spelling of loan words from Danish and English.

Language facts: Greek

The Greek language (or Modern Greek or Hellenic as it is sometimes called) belongs to the Indo-European language family and is the continuity of Ancient Greek. Both languages share almost the same alphabet, grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Latin language and all the Latin-derived languages were influenced by Ancient Greek.

Nowadays Greek is spoken by over 17 million people around the world, mainly in Greece but also in the U.S.A., Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia, etc. A dialect of Greek (Greek Cypriot) is also spoken in Cyprus. Greek is the official language in Greece and Cyprus as well as an official EU language. 

LANGUAGE OF THE ANTIQUITY

Greek is the language that in it's own way has helped to define today's Western culture. Not only is it the oldest recorded living language in the world (written down in clay around 1450-1350 BC), but it is also the core of Ancient literature and knowledge, such as Homer's epic poems Illias and Odyssey, Platonic dialogues, the entire work of Aristotle, even the New Testament – all were written down in Greek. During the time of the Antiquity, Greek was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean and together with Latin (then the language of Romans who competed and eventually overcame the Greeks) it has been the subject of an entire discipline of studies, the so called Classics. 

ALPHABET

The Greek alphabet is considered to be the earliest European alphabet (since about 9th century BC). Greek language and it's ancient forms used in fact three writing systems in the course of history – Linear B (a set of 87 syllabic signs and more than 100 ideographs that signify objects and it is believed these ideograms had no phonetic meaning), Cypriot syllabary – closely related to Linear B, but abandoned during the Classical era to be replaced by today's Greek alphabet (current variant is the so-called Ionic). 

Today's Greek writing system has 24 letters, whereas English has 26. 

 

Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω 

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Language facts: Slovak

Slovak, also known as Slovakian, is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Slavic languages (together with Czech and Polish). The language is very similar to Czech and the two are mutually intelligible, with the exception of some dialects in East Slovakia that have structural differences and is hardly comprehensible to those familiar with the official version. 

Slovak has been influenced by many languages, including Czech, Polish, German and Hungarian. It's the official language in Slovakia and Vojvodina (in Serbia), as well as an official EU language, with over 5 million native speakers in Slovakia and small minorities in the USA, Czech Republic and Serbia.

Language – a tool of failed revolution

Slovak is a descendant to Proto-Slavic language, from which it started to differ around the 8-9th century after inhabiting today's area of Slovakia. In 863, the first script – the Glagolitic alphabet – was used to write down the "Old Slavonic" (language of Slovene – the Slavic inhabitants of the area) after the arrival of Constantine and Methodius (brothers and Byzantine theologians and inventors of the script). The brothers even pushed through Old Slavonic as the fourth liturgical language. This was however abolished in 885 and the area got back to using latin script.

Slovak was not constituted until the middle of 19th century and its codification itself marks the era of a strong national movement against former Hungarian supremacy. In the European revolutionary years of 1848-1849, the group around protestant literate Ľudovít Štúr promoted the use of Slovak language in their publications and engaged in the nationalistic brawl (which was logically followed by reprisals from Hungarian government). After Austria-Hungary was established in 1867, the government forced a strong Magyarization including conversion of all Slovak schools (from elementary to universities) to Hungarian, while Slovak language was allowed only as a foreign language with very limited extent of one hour per week. Slovak language was not officially recognized until 1918, when Czechoslovakia was established.

Alphabet 

Slovak uses the Latin alphabet with diacritics. It is a common practice to change the spelling of foreign words into Slovak to establish a new Slovak word (e.g. weekend = víkend, dubbing = dabing, etc.).

 

A Á Ä B C Č D Ď Dz Dž E É F G H Ch I Í J K L Ľ M N Ň O Ó Ô P Q R Ŕ S Š T Ť U Ú V W X Y Ý Z Ž

a á ä b c č d ď dz dž e é f g h ch i í j k l ľ m n ň o ó ô p q r ŕ s š t ť u ú v w x y ý z ž

Language facts: Polish

Polish is a West Slavic language and the official language of Poland. It is most closely related to Czech and Slovak, sharing the region of Central Europe. 

It is spoken by around 55 million people around the world, primarily in Poland (around 38 million), and by immigrant communities in many countries in Europe, the UAE and USA (there are 11 million Polish Americans and a vast diaspora lives also in the UK). It is also one of the official EU languages. 

LANGUAGE OF A COMPLICATED TERRITORY

Polish language appeared around the 10th century as a result of an emerging Polish state. Until accepting Christianity and the Latin script, there was no alphabet to write Polish down so it existed only in spoken form. Despite a very complicated history of Poland and Polish people, and many attempts to suppress the language, its literature still developed. Nowadays, Polish is the second most widely spoken Slavic language in the world (after Russian), even surpassing Ukrainian. 

The language has some quite interesting grammar rules. Polish is highly inflected with seven cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives. It also has a complex gender system, but uses only three tenses. There are no definite or indefinite articles in Polish. Interestingly, when formally addressing someone (even in direct personal communication), Polish switch from second to third person and use the pronouns pan (Mr.), pani (Mrs.) or panstwo (plural - equivalent to "ladies and gentlemen").

POLISH ALPHABET

In addition to the standard Latin alphabet, Polish uses 9 special characters (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż; Ą, Ć, Ę, Ł, Ń, Ó, Ś, Ź, Ż) and special character pairs (ch, cz, dz, dż, dź, sz, rz) which represent sounds not available in the Latin alphabet. 

A Ą B C Ć D E Ę F G H I J K L Ł M N Ń O Ó P R S Ś T U W Y Z Ź Ż

a ą b c ć d e ę f g h i j k l ł m n ń o ó p r s ś t u w y z ź ż

Language facts: Swahili

Swahili (or Kiswahili) is a language from the Niger-Congo branch, included in the group of Bantu languages. It is spoken in several East African countries, even reaching across the Mozambique Channel to northern Mozambique and is considered a lingua francain the area of the African Great Lakes as well as other parts of Southeast Africa. 

Swahili is the official language in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Comoros. It is spoken by tens of million of people, possibly even by more than one hundred million people, either as a primary or secondary language.  

Lingua franca of Southeast Africa

This language dates back at least 1,000 years, being in fact the first language of the Swahili people, and originally spread mainly in coastal region by fishermen. During the colonial period, it has been much influenced by German, English, Portuguese, French and even Arabic. It was in fact the German colonists who declared Swahili as the general administrative language in mainland Tanzania (back then Tanganyika). English colonists had similar plans with Swahili in Kenya, but without any official conclusion. However, after the British took over Tanzania – the former colony of the defeated Germany – they instituted Swahili as a common language for lower levels of education and administration in all British colonies in the area (while secondary education and governance would be in English only).

Since 1928, when a conference in Mombasa was held in order to standardize Swahili language and provide it also with a written form (the language uses the Zanzibar Swahili dialect Kiunguja as a basis for standardization), the language has been regulated by the National Swahili Council in Tanzania. Today, Arabic language is gaining influence in Swahili language evolution due to the large amount of Arabic-speaking Muslim inhabitants in the region's east coast.

Alphabet

Swahili has two writing systems: Latin and Arabic. While it used to be based on the Arabic scripts, Latin script is common today.

Latin version:

A B CH D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W X Y Z

a b ch d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v w x y z

Official languages of international organizations

Not just in today's globalized world, but whenever more cultures or nations sit together behind one table, languages surely represent a very important part of national and cultural identities to be respected among all partners. Usage of languages, or the constitution of official languages within international organisations or treaties, suggests the importance and respect to each associate, and also reflects their history and "genesis".

But it also indirectly underscores the trouble of translation, interpretation and localization of official material into all the "official" languages of a particular organization. Not just within the regular operation of these organizations – such as the United Nations (UN), or European Union (EU) – but also in lesser contexts by manufacturers and language suppliers who wish to supply to such organizations face headaches. A case in point is all the languages they need to describe their products in when trying to sell in the EU. 

So what languages are these?

Languages of the United Nations

There are currently six official languages, used in all official documents of the UN (the documents are not even published until available in all official languages), as well as in meetings of the various UN organs, such as the General Assembly, Security Council, etc.: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English (British), French, Russian and Spanish.

The UN supplies mutual interpretation of the above-mentioned languages during these meetings, but if a state representative wants to speak in another language, one needs to provide translation into one of the official UN languages. The truth is that English has been preferred in communication at the expense of omitting the other five languages, an issue that has been subject to continuous public criticism. Focus on the language parity and multilingualism was supported even in the adoption of the Resolution on Multilingualism by the General Assembly in 2011.

Languages of the European Union

The number of EU languages rises whenever the Union expands, although the number of member states does exceed the number of the official languages. The first official languages of, at that time, the European Community (1958) were Dutch, French, German and Italian. Interestingly English was excluded then and did not become an official EU language until 1973.

Currently, there are 24 official EU languages, but also several others with the status of so-called co-official or semi-official language (Basque, Catalan, Galician, Scottish, Welsh).

Unlike the UN, when meetings are held among EU member states, all participants are allowed to use their own language – this is because the EU maintains the policy that every EU citizen has the right to communicate and access all EU documents in one of the official EU languages (this extends also to consumer information, e.g. in product manuals, safety information, etc., turning these into an additional cost issue, albeit with great marketing potential, to manufacturers entering the huge European Union market).

The European Commission itself actually operates the largest language service in the world to cover all the aspects of this language policy. A service that is very open to the general public with shared documents in almost any imaginable field and often a treasure trove to language aficionadi.

Language facts: Bengali

Bengali (or Bangla) is an Indo-Aryan language used in the area of Bengal in eastern South Asia including the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The language is the second most spoken language in India and the seventh largest language in the world with approximately 230-250 million native speakers (300 million worldwide), and it dates back at least 1,000 years, some say more. 

Many different variations of Bengali exist, however, the main and generally accepted dialect is the West-Central one, called Nadia, spoken in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Bengali is the official language in Bangladesh and enjoys official language status in West Bengal, Tripura and Barak Valley (in India).

Bengali vs. Hindi

While the above-mentioned languages both belong to the Indo-Aryan language family, both are spoken widely in India, with  origin from Sanskrit, but there's number of differences that make Bengali and Hindi mutually unintelligible. However, in regions where Bengali and Hindi speakers are exposed to each other's speech, they understand both. As Bangla speakers are more frequently exposed to Hindi, they are more likely to understand Hindi than vice versa. 

Alphabet

Similar to different dialects, Bengali also has different scripts of which today Cholito bhasa is the generally accepted script and is the standard for written Bengali (another Bengali script is called Sadhu bhasa). Bengali is assumed to include some 100,000 separate words. 

The letters in the Bengali script run from left to right. It uses the same punctuation as in western scripts, however the full stop is represented by the down stroke (|). Bengali still lacks a uniform sorting order, although attempts are underway to solve this. 

 

Vowels:

অ, আ, ই, ঈ, উ, ঊ, ঋ, এ, ঐ, ও, ঔ

 

Consonants:

ক, খ, গ, ঘ, ঙ; চ, ছ, জ, ঝ, ঞ; ট, ঠ, ড, ঢ, ণ; ত, থ, দ, ধ, ন; প, ফ, ব, ভ, ম; য, র, ল, ব; শ, ষ, স, হ; ড়, ঢ়, য়;

Language facts: Hungarian

Hungarian (Magyar) is an official EU language and has about 14.5 million native speakers, mostly in Hungary and the diaspora – mainly in seven neighboring countries (e.g. Romania, Serbia, Ukraine or Slovakia, the latter where Hungarian even has a status of second language in the areas inhabited by Hungarian minority), but also worldwide. 

Hungarian is a non-Indo-European language, a member of the Finno-Ugric group (like Finnish and Estonian, though not mutually intelligible) and Uralic family of languages. Hungarian is therefore related to languages like Khanty or Mansi, used by people living in Western Siberia, Ural region or around the Ob river (Russia). 

Nomadic language

Ural is in fact considered the homeland of Hungarians, who (although formerly settled) slowly turned into nomadic people. Because of the history of Hungarian people (nomadic background plus the era of the Hungarian empire), the Hungarian vocabulary has borrowed quite a lot of words from Turkic languages, Slavic languages, German and even old Persian (possibly due to early contacts with Iranian nomads).

Hungarian is an agglutinative language – words consist of morphemes determining the meaning, but remain unchanged after forming a word – opposite to fusional languages represented by most of the European languages. Hungarian uses suffixes and prefixes extensively instead and features vowel harmony. 

Alphabet 

Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet, with several extra letters: accented vowels (á, é, í, ó, ö, ő, ú, ü, ű), digraphs – two characters representing a single letter (cs, dz, gy, ly, ny, sz, ty, zs) and even a trigraph (dzs). Characters with diacritical marks are considered separate letters. Vowels that differ only in length are treated the same when ordering words. Example: O and Ó are not distinguished in ordering, neither are Ö and Ő, but the latter two follow the O's. 

 

A Á B C Cs D Dz Dzs E É F G Gy H I Í J K L Ly M N Ny O Ó Ö Ő P (Q) R S Sz T Ty U Ú Ü Ű V (W) (X) (Y) Z Zs a á b c cs d dz dzs e é f g gy h i í j k l ly m n ny o ó ö ő p (q) r s sz t ty u ú ü ű v (w) (x) (y) z zs

Language facts: Korean

Korean is one of the Far East Asian languages, but is a so-called "language isolate" and the only remaining member of the Koreanic language family (all relative languages have been long extinct).

Korean has around 80 million native speakers, and it is the official language in both South and North Korea and also one of the official languages of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China. 

Torn language 

There is number of differences between South and North Korean due to historical reasons and the isolation of North Korea. Spelling is slightly different between the two nations, but pronunciation is in fact the same (in South Korean the language is based largely on the Seoul dialect, while in North Korea spoken Korean is influenced by the dialect of Pyongyang). The two countries also have slightly different grammar and vocabulary (mainly due to political reasons). For instance, there's number of loan words in both Koreans, but while in South they are taken from English, in the North the vocabulary is "deliberately" influenced by Russian terms (e.g. the expression for "friend" used to be chingu (친구 / 親舊) in the entire Korea, but after the division of the peninsula, the North adopted the translation of the Russian term comrade, tongmu (동무 / 同務).

Even if some English words have been adapted in the North, they are usually transliterated into Korean differently from the practices in the South. Interestingly, for names of places, countries and nations, South Korea uses the English version of the term as a base for transliteration, while North Korea uses the word form in its original language as a base (e.g. Poland in the South is transliterated as Pollandeu (폴란드), but Ppolsŭkka (뽈스까) in the North, based on the Polish original name – Polska). 

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The division into two parts of a once single great nation is visible also in such should-be-common and historically important words as the name of the Korean Peninsula itself (hanbando (한반도 / 韓半島) in the South and chosŏnbando (조선반도 / 朝鮮半島) in the North), or the very reason for the division: the Korean War (hanguk jeonjaeng 한국 전쟁 / 韓國戰爭 in the South vs.choguk'aepangjŏnjaeng 조국해방전쟁 / 祖國解放戰爭 in the North).

Unusual Alphabet

Korean has its own, unique alphabet system – Hangul – established under the rule of Sejong the Great, and used since the 15th century (however, it did not become an official script in Korea until the 20th century). Today, Hangul is used both in North and South Korea, and it can be written from left to right or in columns from top to bottom starting from the right. 

The Korean writing system also uses Hanja, the Korean name for Chinese characters and traditionally used for words of Chinese origin. These can  be mixed in to write Sino-Korean words. South Korea still teaches 1800 Hanja characters in its schools, while the North abolished the use of Hanja decades ago. In the past, Hanja was the core of the Korean writing system.

 

Consonants:

ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ, ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅆ, ㅃ, ㅉ

 

Vowels: 

ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅡ, ㅣ

Language facts: Khmer

Khmer, also known as Cambodian, is an Austro-Asiatic language and it is the official language of Cambodia. Khmer is spoken by 15 million native speakers, 12.6 million of whom live in Cambodia.

As old as the Khmer empire

Khmer has been influenced by Sanskrit and Pali through Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the Southeast Asian languages of Thai, Lao and Vietnamese, but unlike those it is NOT a tonal language (in tonal languages, changing a tone of speech changes the meaning of words, with otherwise intact spelling. Many Asian languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai, are tonal, while most languages in Europe are not, although in some European languages the meaning of words can be changed using pitch accent on certain syllables).

The language developed under the Khmer Empire, dating back to the 9th century, but goes back even further. It underwent turbulent change from the 14th to the 18th century. Modern Khmer as used today cannot be used to interpret Old Khmer. Several dialects of Khmer exist with a significant amounts of speakers in both Thailand and Vietnam. The majority of speakers use the Central Khmer dialect though. 

Khmer is an analytical and isolating language, which means there are no inflections, conjugations or case endings used.

Alphabet

Khmer is written in the Khmer script, from which both Thai and Lao have developed. This script also has its own numerals.The Khmer alphabet consists of 33 consonants supported by vowels represented by diacritics written above, below and/or alongside on either side of the consonant to modify it. This example shows consonants without the vowel diacritics:

ក ខ គ ឃ ង ច ឆ ជ ឈ ញ ដ ឋ ឌ ឍ ណ ត ថ ទ ធ ន ប ផ ព ភ ម យ រ ល វ ឝ ឞ ស ហ ឡ អ

 

Khmer numerals (0 to 9):

០ ១ ២ ៣ ៤ ៥ ៦ ៧ ៨ ៩



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