How do you say “laptop” in Lakota?

I’ve been on vacation the last few days, so I haven’t gotten to posting a word tasting. But my latest article for The Week is up. This one came at the suggestion and with the assistance of several people involved in the Lakota language preservation projects, and it took me far too long to get around to writing. I was lucky to have enough background in the other languages I mention: Mandarin, Icelandic, French… but the Lakota is the centrepiece, and the point is:

This is how old languages add new words


4 responses to “How do you say “laptop” in Lakota?

  1. Is not referring to some languages as “older” than others rather risky? Are not all languages, other than pidgins and creoles, of — presumably –. the same “age”? Some may have changed more than others in their known histories — and this is only a relatively small number of languages — but this has no impact on their “age”….

    • I don’t write the titles or even get to see them before the articles are posted. But this one is at least somewhat defensible: although the line between languages is arbitrary, we can recognize that Modern English is newer than Middle English and a fortiori Old English (and we would be fools to think all three the same language), and it is a matter of historical record that Afrikaans is a very new language – if you want to think of it as a creolized Dutch you may, but its official existence and codification are modern – and it is equally plain that Icelandic has changed so little in the last millennium it is still generally mutually comprehensible with the Sagas. So it is not otiose to speak of the ages of languages. (I would not have titled the article that, though.)

      • You made a valiant defence for the title-chooser, but in effect, I suggest, you do not disagree with me. I could have expanded my comment thus:”Some (e.g., English, French, …..) have changed more than others (e.g., Welsh, Lithuanian, Icelandic, …) but those with histories we can reliably trace make up a tiny percentage of the world’s languages” — and should therefore not be used as examples in an argument. And indeed, Afrikaans, along with Swahili and, I would argue English and maybe French,, are “creolized” to at least some extent, so maybe their “ages” should be computed in a different way. — And of course once you begin pointing out the differences between Modern, Middle and Old English, you have to contrast these with temporally-equivalent differences (for there will be some at least) in languages which have apparently changed so much… and there is no good (scientific) way of “counting differences”.

  2. Excuse my pedantiicity/-ness, please. I have had these thoughts ever since trying to re-translate the Welsh anthem (the current one is paltry), with its line O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau [“May our old language endure”]. Old, indeed! — I shall now dismount from my high horse and let her go back to grazing on your daily columns, which we both much enjoy.

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