Lang Belta: the Belter language from SYFY/Amazon’s The Expanse

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The Belter language, which in the TV show is referred to as Lang Belta, is a Creole language spoken by the Belter people in the The Expanse universe. A creole language can be characterized as a new language, based on the vocabulary of an existing language, but with an innovated grammatical system.

The Expanse takes place 200 years from now, in a future in which Earth has colonized the solar system. In this world, people emigrated to the Asteroid Belt from Earth looking for work, and now survive by scavenging materials in the Belt. In this contribution I will outline the construction and general characteristics of this very complex and interesting Creole and discuss some of its grammatical characteristics.

Languages in and around Armenia

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As of November 2020, the territories where native Armenian speakers live have become smaller. Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, launched a war against the unrecognized territory of Artsakh (also known as Nagorno Karabakh), inhabited by ethnic Armenians. As a result, a large part of Artsakh was given to Azerbaijan, and ethnic Armenians had to leave their homes. Many of those displaced families had roots in the area reaching back centuries.

Being displaced from ancestral homelands is no news to Armenians. Within the past two hundred years Armenians have been through a genocide, various massacres and pogroms by Turkey and Azerbaijan. There is even a word for “eviction of Armenians” in Armenian  – հայաթափում (“hayatapum”), where հայ (“hay”) means “Armenian” and թափում …

The Story of Speech Synthesis: From Talking Tubes to Neural Networks, Part 1/3

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What would we do without the helpful voices in our GPS systems guiding us to our destinations? How would we look up esoteric facts without the silky voices of the virtual assistants on our phones? And how would we remember our belongings as we leave the train without a considerate voice reminding us to do so? Artificial voices suffuse our day-to-day worlds and fulfill practical functions, but where do these voices come from, and how do you ‘synthesise’ speech?

    The first stones of the story of speech synthesis were laid over 200 years ago where mechanical devices produced speech sounds by emulating the complex structure of the human articulatory system. Technological innovations in the early 20th century then allowed for

Can sounds have meaning? The peculiar case of West-Flemish tj and dj

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As linguists, we investigate all sorts of building bocks of language, such as sentences, predicates, prefixes and suffixes, and even individual sounds like p and z. Most of these building blocks have some kind of meaning. For example, a sentence like The cat sat on the mat means something, a predicate like is crazy in John is crazy means something, and even prefixes and suffixes mean something, such as pre- in pre-heated, which means something like ‘done in advance’, so that pre-heated means ‘heated in advance’. But, you may ask, do sounds like p and z also have meaning?

We know that sounds may distinguish meaning, but it is not so obvious that they have meaning. For example, …

Eli Fischer-Jørgensen (1911-2010)

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Lingoblog continues to provide you with suggestions for your summer readings on various linguistic topics. This week we have found a biography of language researcher Eli Fischer-Jørgensen (1911-2010).

In January 1999, a few years after I had moved to Denmark, I was astounded to come across an interview in the Danish weekly Weekendavisen with the renowned Danish phonetician Eli Fischer- Jørgensen (henceforth EFJ) and marveled: She is still alive! Having made her name in publications as early as the first half of the past century, in the interview EFJ still appeared intellectually unabated, and full of new writing plans yet. She even remarked that she hoped soon to finish a major work on a special liturgic form of Danish!

In …

Phon-phon for phun

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You may have heard about an entity that exists at Aarhus University, titled Phon-phon for phun. What is it? Why is it? Should you care about it? Let me explain.

Phon-phon for phun stands for “Phonetics and phonology for fun” and is the unofficial but very commonly used name of one of the official research groups of interest to those who are associated with the programme of Language, Linguistics, Communication, and Cognition. The research group was initiated in spring 2017 and officially established as a research group in autumn 2017. We’ve got our own website, which you are very welcome to explore: https://soundsoflanguageandspeech.wordpress.com/

What is it we do, exactly? Well, we do all sorts of things because we’re interested …

Why are there so many different types of “R”?

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One of the things that got us excited about linguistics back in the days wasn’t any kind of scientific holy grail, such as why only humans have language or whether we are born with an innate language faculty. It was something very simple, namely: why are there so many different types of “R”?

As a speaker of an Eastern-Dutch dialect, I (Jeroen) noticed I could never roll my R’s with the tip of my tongue like in Spanish or Italian. Rather, I roll my R’s with my uvula (the little “ball” in the back of your throat, see the picture below). Why, I wondered, do I roll my R’s in my throat, whereas most people in Amsterdam roll their R’s …