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Wednesday, 16 December 2015



The book of Genesis in the Bible  tells us that the emergence of different languages happened in around 4,000 BC. It was God's punishment for man's presumption in building the mighty tower of Babel, in Babylonia which was a monument to their own greatness. He scattered the people all over the Earth and confused their language so they wouldn't understand each other.

By around 300 BC, early Celtic language had become Europe's first lingua franca, making it the English of its day.

It was much because of the efforts of Ulfilas (c. 311–383), the first Gothic Bishop that the Germanic language began to get written down. He undertook to give the Goths the Bible in their own language and  consequently produced the first Barbarian translation of the Holy Scriptures. This marked out not only the beginning of Christianity amongst his people but of Germanic literature.

Modern English, Dutch and German all have their origins in the Old High German language heard between 500 and 1050 AD.

The Norman conquest led by William the Conqueror, The Duke of Normandy, fused French and English cultures. As a consequence, the language of England evolved into Middle English with an English syntax and grammar and a heavily French vocabulary.

By the 12th century Middle English was fully developed, integrating both Norse and Norman features. However, it was only by 1200 that some religious texts were being written in the English vernacular rather than Latin.

English really emerged as the national language of England in the middle of the fourteenth century. When Henry IV acceded to the throne in 1399, he became the first English king whose mother tongue was English.

King James IV of Scotland conducted an experiment in 1493 which involved sending a deaf and dumb woman to the uninhabited island of Inchkeith, in the midst of the Firth and Forth, with two infants. He hoped that when the children learnt to speak, free from normal communication, they would reveal the original human language.

As a college student, Isaac Newton tried to invent a universal language that would let people know what any word meant just by hearing it.

Determined to bring about the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language as a way of unifying Jews, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda had what is believed to be the first modern conversation in Hebrew in 1881 while living in Paris.

German polyglot Emil Krebs (November 15, 1867 - March 31, 1930) mastered 68 languages in speech and writing - including Mandarin and all those spoken in today’s European Union - and studied 120 other languages. His private library contained the Bible in 61 different languages.

Emil Krebs

After Krebs died, his brain was recovered and is still kept as an ‘elite brain’ at the Vogt Institute for Brain Research at Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf.

The government of South Africa declared Afrikaans an official language in 1925.

The two Voyager probes that were launched in 1977 each contains a space message to any extraterrestrials who might find the spacecraft as it journeys through interstellar space.  In addition to pictures and music and sounds from earth, greetings in 55 languages were included, Swahili is not included in the 55 languages,  because the person did not show up to the studio.

During a joint sitting of both houses of the Indian Parliament on June 6, 2004, President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam announced that Tamil was to be made the first legally recognized classical language of India. This followed a political campaign supported by several Tamil associations.
The word "Tamil" in Tamil language

The Eyak language in Alaska became extinct in 2008 after Marie Smith Jones, the language's last native speaker, died, an event that became a symbol in the fight against language extinction.


There are around 7,000 languages spoken in the world, of which around 40 per cent are in danger of disappearing.

The most recent language to become extinct was Mandan, a Siouan language of North Dakota in the United States. The last speaker died on December 9, 2016.

The ten most spoken languages in the world are Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French, in that order.

With 1.2 billion native speakers, Mandarin Chinese is easily the world’s biggest language. Spanish is the second biggest language with 329 million speakers, slightly ahead of English (328 million),

Swahili is the official language in more countries than the one with the most native speakers, Mandarin Chinese.

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, which is more than any other country. South Africa comes second with 11.

According to data from the 2011 Census, the five languages most spoken in the UK are English, Polish, Welsh, Punjabi and Urdu, in that order.

Africa accounts for nearly 25 percent of the languages spoken on Earth.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa. No other country has as many.

800 different languages are spoken in New York City, making it the most linguistically diverse city on Earth.


There are about 6,900 languages in existence but more than half the world’s population uses only 20 of them.

The most complex language to voice is !Xóõ, spoken mostly in Botswana—it has 112 distinct sounds, while English has about 40.

About 70 per cent of words in !Xoo (including !Xoo itself) begin with one of 83 types of click.

The Rotokas language of Papua New Guinea has a 12-letter alphabet, the world's smallest.

In the Pirahã language, spoken by a tribe in the Amazon jungle, women have only seven consonants at their command, while men have eight.

Maltese is the only dialect of Arabic written in the Latin alphabet, and is the only Semitic language that has official status in the European Union.

The Basque language isn't in any language family and is completely distinct from any other language in the world.

The last speaker of Cornish as a first language is thought to have died in 1777. In 2009, Unesco listed the Cornish language as 'extinct' but in 2010, after protests, Unesco stated that the Cornish language was not extinct after all.

There exists a dying Mexican language called Ayapenaco. The only two people left in the world that can speak it are a pair of elderly men who refused to talk to each other until 2014 when they decided to make amends to try to prevent the language from going extinct.

The Old Testament was translated into Cornish in 2004 and the New Testament in 2011. The Book of Genesis begins: "En delathuaz deewe aveth wraz neave ha no are."

To create the Elvish language, J.R.R. Tolkien drew heavily from the Finnish and Welsh languages.

The Ewok language is a combination of Tibetan and Nepali.

The linguist who created the Klingon language for Star Trek also created the Atlantean language for Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

For the sci-fi movie Avatar, a linguist created an entire ‘alien’ language, Na’vi, from scratch, with words such as "Kaltxì" for Hello, "Nga2 for You and "Tskxe" for Rock.

The directors of Despicable Me actually wrote a language for the gibberish the minions speak throughout the movie. Each word has a meaning.


Of the 13 languages attested from before 1000 BC, only two (Ancient Chinese and Mycenaean Greek) have descendants which continue to be spoken to this day.

Babies can learn sign language well before they learn to speak and this can help them with spoken language later on.

Zipf's Law proposed by American linguist George Kingsley Zipf (1902–50) , says that in almost every language, the most common word will occur twice as often as the second most common word, three times as often as the third most common word, and so on.

The 19 As in Malaysian Scrabble is the highest number of one Scrabble letter in any language.

52 per cent of people in the world can speak more than one language.

Bilinguals can be dyslexic in one language but not the other.

Columbian pop star Shakira can speak English, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Portuguese fluently.

The astronauts on the International Space Station have developed a hybrid of English-Russian speech, a "space creole" called Runglish.

The word "huh" appears in near-identical sound and function in 31 vastly different languages.

Sources Daily Mail, Daily Express

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