15 Interesting Language Facts
We use languages every day, but how much do we know about the one we use?
Letrário – Translation Services decided to put together
15 interesting language facts about several languages to share with you.
Did you know that…?
- Hawaiians have over 200 different words for “rain.” For example, there’s the kili noe, a fine, light rain, kili ʻohu, which is even finer and lighter, and pōʻaihale, rain that falls in a shape circling your home.1
- There are over 200 artificial languages2 in books, movies, and TV shows, such as klingon (Star Trek) and quenya (The Lord of the Rings), which is one of the many Elvish languages created by philologist and author J. R. R. Tolkien.
- Cryptophasia, from Greek crypto (secret) and phasia (language), is a linguistic disorder that occurs in twins. It’s a secret language only understood by twins. It occurs in 40–47% of all twin pairs in early childhood, it stems entirely from the environment, not genetics, and disappears soon. It can also emerge in two siblings or close friends.3
- Papua New Guinea has the most languages: over 800. Unfortunately, most of them are undocumented and on the brink of extinction.
- A German dialect is spoken in Brazil. Virtually extinct in the historical region of Pomerania, which is located in the north of Poland and Germany, Pomeranian is a low-German dialect spoken in several Brazilian regions to this day, especially in the southern states and Espírito Santo. In Santa Catarina, Pomerode, 90% of the residents speak this dialect, which is different from standard German because the languages have different origins. Pomeranian is similar to Dutch, Westphalian and Old Saxon.5
- Although everyone assumes English is the official language of the United States, it has no official language.6
- The languages spoken in North Korea and South Korea are quite different. They have distinct vocabularies and grammatical rules due to being separated. For instance, in the southern variety, loanwords are easily accepted; in the northern variety, original terms are coined.7
- Native speakers have an active vocabulary (i.e. words they usually use) that ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 words and a passive vocabulary (words they understand) that can go up to 100,000 words.8
- German is the most spoken language in Europe. Besides Germany, there are five countries that have German as an official language: Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.9
- At least half of the world’s population is bilingual.10
- The Bible still is the world’s most translated book. According to SIL, at least one book of the Bible has been translated into 2400 of the 7000 languages listed by them.11
- According to Ethnologue, a publication of the Christian institution SIL International, there are 7,117 languages in the world, and most of them are dialects.
- It is estimated that half of the world’s 7,000 languages will be extinct by the end of this century, and that about one language dies every 14 days.12
- Only 23 languages account for over half of the world’s population.13
- Several linguists believe that language originated in 100,000 BC.14
Did you like learning more about the languages of the world? What was your favourite fact? Share it with us!
If you need help with any language, contact us. We will be happy to help.
1 Dekneef, M., 2016. Hawaiians Have More Than 200 Words For Rain. [online] Hawaii Magazine. Available at: <https://www.hawaiimagazine.com/content/hawaiians-have-more-200-words-rain> [Accessed 18.05.2020].
2 Danesi, M., 2016. Language and Mathematics. De Gruyter Mouton.
3 Reynolds, C., Vannest, K. and Fletcher-Janzen, E., 2014. Encyclopedia of Special Education. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.
4 Pereltsvaig, A., 2016. Languages of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5 Piskorski, J. and Warnecke, A., 1999. Pommern Im Wandeln Der Zeiten. Szczecin: Zamek Książąt Pomorskich.
6 Wardbaugh, R., 1986. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
7 Labourdette, J. and Auzias, D., 2019. NORTH KOREA 2019/2020 Petit Futé. Paris: Nouv. éd. de l’Université.
8 Gallagher, E., 2008. Equal Rights to the Curriculum: Many Languages, One Message. Multilingual Matters.
9 Clyne, M., 1995. The German Language in a Changing Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
10 Grosjean, F., 1982. Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
11 Roberts, M., 2014. Defending The Bible Against Christians. Westbow Press.
12 Price, K., 2013. Dying Languages: Scientists Fret As One Disappears Every 14 Days. [online] thestar.com. Available at: <https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/04/15/dying_languages_scientists_fret_as_one_disappears_every_14_days.html> [Accessed 18.05.2020].
13 Simons, G. and Fennig, C., 2017. Ethnologue. Dallas: SIL International Publications.
14 Leakey, R., 1981. The Making of Mankind. New York: Dutton.