Language is a strange and wonderful thing, and not many people notice it. There are so many differences that are expressed through languages and the closer we look, the stranger things can get. Here are some of our favorite facts about language that prove how strange it can be.
There are no words for “yes”
Whether you are looking at Scots or Irish Gaelic (as these are very closely intertwined), you will find that there are actually no exact words for yes or no. Many other languages have them (“oui” and “non” are key examples from French), but the Gaelic-speaking populations do not.
Of course, this does not mean that there is no way to express a positive or negative. Gaelic tends to use phrases that express “it is” or “it is not” instead of yes or no. It is interesting to ponder and wonder how exactly these conditions came about.
Most of the European languages are related
Believe it or not, most European and some Asian languages are related in some way, with the exception of two. This may seem strange when you start looking at language families. For example, English is a West Germanic language that is closely related to others such as Dutch and German. These seem to be very different on the surface than the Romance languages - Spanish, French and Italian – which descend from Latin.
However, there is an older family of languages that links all of these languages together. Scientists call this language Proto-Indo-European. It is a theorized common ancestor of all that would undoubtedly have been brought by migrants thousands of years ago. As we settled down and spread the word, the languages developed into the families we know today.
Basque and Finnish are exceptions
The two main exceptions to Proto-Indo-European languages are Basque and Finnish. These two are strangely unique, and many scientists aren’t sure exactly how they came about. If you look at Basque first, it’s clear that there are links between French and Spanish, but there is the Basque region that sits right between the two and has its own unique way of saying things.
The other exception is Finnish. The other Scandinavian languages are very similar. Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian have many similar phrases and words as the Romance languages, and Finnish is the exception. Just looking at the Finnish language you can even see how different it is even if you don’t speak it. However, when you do decide to learn Finnish, you can rest assured that you know one of the most unique languages in the world!
Colors can be different
Did you know that something as simple as a color can be utterly difficult for someone who speaks another language? Let’s take an example of the cornflower and navy blue colors here. Although they have the adjectives on the front that tell us something about the hue, the English speakers would agree that these colors are the same. They are both blue.
The difference comes for Russian speakers. A Russian would claim that these are actually different colors. One is “Goluboy” or light blue while the other is “siniy” or dark blue. This is just one of the many differences we see around the world for something as simple as color. It is really amazing to think that we can express the same thing so differently.
Language unites us all and is one of the most interesting areas to study. Try to learn another language, even just for fun. You never know what differences you might come across!
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