Haluatko Lukea Jotain Mielenkiintoista?

It means something close to “Want to read something interesting?” This is my wobbly beginner’s Finnish.

Finnish is maybe not the easiest thing for speakers of the Latin group of languages to learn, as you can see by trying to decipher a random front page of the country’s biggest newspaper, the Hensingin Sanomat. Like this one from last week:

Finnish, spoken by about five million people, is a “Finno-Ugric” language, with vague origins in the Ural mountains. Have a look at this nice photo essay about Finno-Ugric people called In Search of Russia’s First Inhabitants.

Read This in Your Vafri

Department of admirable ideas: In Iceland, instead of borrowing words from English, when a new word is necessary they invent a new Icelandic word,

“rooted in the tongue’s ancient Norse past: a neologism that looks, sounds and behaves like Icelandic.

The Icelandic word for computer, for example, is tölva, a marriage of tala, which means number, and völva, prophetess. A web browser is vafri, derived from the verb to wander.”

Here is the whole article, headlined “Icelandic language battles threat of ‘digital extinction’.” In English.

European Languages in Danger?

Euronews has an article with a nice map of European languages in danger. The map is interactive on the Euronews site, here. Every now and then we hear a story about the rampant death of languages around the world. The news here is that in Europe, at least, languages are largely holding their own. The Euronews article is built around a UNESCO report, which you can view here.

The Apostrophe’s Tale, Continued

Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet. From DuoLingo, here is an example of the old script compared to the new:

Cyrillic: Барлық адамдар тумысынан азат және қадір-қасиеті мен кұқықтары тең болып дүниеге келеді. Адамдарға ақыл-парасат, ар-ождан берілген, сондықтан олар бір-бірімен туыстық, бауырмалдық қарым-қатынас жасаулары тиіс.

New Latin: Barlyq adamdar ty’mysynan azat ja’ne qadir-qasi’yeti men kuqyqtary ten’ bolyp du’ni’ege keledi. Adamdarg’a aqyl-parasat, ar-ojdan berilgen, sondyqtan olar bir-birimen ty’ystyq, bay’yrmaldyq qarym-qatynas jasay’lary ti’is.

The Republic of Kazakhstan (Қазақстан Республикасы) will become Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy. Clear as a bell.

I put up this chart of the new Latinized script last November, in a post called Apostrophe Catastrophe. Now, a few months on, reviews of “the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors,” according to President Nazarbayev, are starting to come in.  Here’s what people are saying.

Reading Around the Web

Looks like my second book, Visiting Chernobyl, is on track for publication by the end of next week. The day it’s up on Amazon I’ll excerpt it here and send the first chapter to everybody who signs up over on the right (Go ahead, sign up now). While I’m tending to that, here are a few entertaining, well done or arcane things to spend some time with:

A Night under Concrete: Albanian Tourism Project Puts Beds in Bunkers

Tom Christian, Descendant of Bounty Mutineer, Dies at 77

How a high school-educated drug smuggler built a fleet of submarines—in the middle of the jungle

The Enclaves and Counter-enclaves of Baarle

I Went on the World’s Deadliest Road Trip

Bad Blood: The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko

Getting to Shore at Sea

Shadows in Greece

The Russia Left Behind

The death of a language

Why Navalny Is Winning

Liquid History