origami (ȯr-ə-ˈgä-mē)

"Hojyo Takashi's Violinist" by Joey Ilagan.

Hello everyone!

For the last two weeks, I was at the Ohio State University studying Linguistics as part of their Summer Linguistics Institute for Youth Scholars, also known as SLIYS (pronounced SLICE).

It was a great opportunity to learn about the sounds of languages, the meaning and structure of words, and different writing systems. I also learned about how linguists gather data about languages through consultations with a native speaker of a foreign language. During my first week, I worked with a native speaker of Farsi. I had to figure out linguistic rules, morphosyntactic agreement, and how to create consonant and vowel charts for Farsi. It was particularly challenging because our consultant was not allowed to speak English on the first day. I also learned about many other languages such as Greek, Japanese, and Tagalog.

In this post, I want to introduce you to a couple of Japanese words and talk about rendaku – a linguistic phenomenon that occurs in the Japanese language.

Most everyone is familiar with origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into beautiful figures. The word origami is a compound word that consists of the Japanese word ori meaning fold and kami meaning paper.  Yes, you read that correctly. Logically, the word should be ori-kami, not ori-gami. Here’s where rendaku comes in.

The reason the word is ori -gami and not ori-kami is because of rendaku. Rendaku occurs when the second part of a compound word changes from a voiceless consonant to a voiced consonant. If you can feel a vibration in your throat when you say a certain consonant, that means it is voiced. If you cannot feel the vibration in your throat, that means that the sound is voiceless.

In this example, the k-sound in kami becomes a g-sound when it is added to ori. Below is a chart of other sounds that can be changed:

K ———–> G

T ———–> D

CH ———> J

S ———-> Z

Rendaku doesn’t always occur. For example, when the first word ends with an voiceless sound, rendaku usually doesn’t happen.

I look forward to sharing more linguistics-related posts as I delve deeper into the field! Please comment and let me know if you enjoyed this post.

-tara (tarə)

Hello everyone! As I study for the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee, there are certain words that naturally catch my attention. I am particularly intrigued by words that contain my name. I didn’t realize that tara could be found in so many words originating from different languages.

Tarantism (tarənˌtizəm) is an uncontrollable urge to dance, and tarantella (tarənˈtelə) is an Italian folk dance. Both these words are named after Taranto, a city in Italy.  A taradiddle (tarəˈdidəl) is a small fib. No one knows where this word originates from, but it was first used around 1796.

One of my favorite words is taramosalata (tärəˌmōsəˈlä-tə). This is a Greek fish spread and it originates from Greek. A tuatara (tüəˈtärə) is a large reptile commonly found in New Zealand. This word originates from Maori, a Polynesian language.

The word tarantara is an imitative word that mimics the sound of a bugle. This is actually a variation of the Latin word tantara (tanˈtarə).

Tara means star not only in Sanskrit, but also in many other Indian languages, such as Hindi and Telugu. So there you have it, a post all about my name! I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you will indulge my narcissism especially since I recently celebrated my birthday!

sisyphean (sisəfēən)

To continue my theme of words that come from Greek mythology, I decided to write about the word sisyphean, an adjective that describes a task that can never be completed.

Sisyphus was a Corinthian king who fooled the gods many times with his wit. For example, when Zeus ordered Hades to take Sisyphus to the Underworld to punish him, Sisyphus pretended it was a great honor. He asked Hades why Hermes had not come to get him, since it was Hermes’ duty to lead souls to the Underworld. Hades could not formulate an answer and while he was thinking about it, Sisyphus wound a large chain around him. With Hades chained up, the world was in confusion because no one could die.

The gods got angry and threatened to make Sisyphus’ life so miserable that he would wish that he were dead, so he released Hades at once. The first soul to be claimed was that of Sisyphus. This time, Hermes came to get him. Sisyphus expected this and told his wife not to give him a funeral feast or put a coin under his tongue. Hades thought that his wife should be punished for not giving her husband a proper burial so he sent Sisyphus to go back to the Upperworld to teach his wife manners. Sisyphus rejoined his wife and they lived happily for many more years, for Sisyphus had tricked Hades. Finally when Sisyphus became old, he died and went back to the Underworld. To stop him from thinking of any more evil plans, Hades had Sisyphus roll a boulder up a hill. As soon as he got the boulder to the top, the boulder would roll out of his hands back to the bottom, and he would have to start the task again.

That’s it for now! I have to go perform the sisyphean task of stopping my sister from doing something destructive!! What sisyphean task do you have?

lethean (lēthēən)

The National Mythology Exam is coming up, and I decided that I would explore words that come from Greek mythology. My first word is lethean, an adjective, which means forgetfulness. The River Lethe (lee-thee) is one of the five rivers of the Underworld. It is the river of forgetfulness and wipes the memories of spirits who drink from it. All spirits have to drink from the River Lethe in order to forget their life on Earth.