P is for Proto-Indo-European

Proto-Indo-European is the common ancestor of many of the India and European languages spoken today. Little is known about it, because it wasn’t a written language, but linguists have traced languages backwards, using their knowledge of how languages evolve, to reconstruct what PIE probably sounded like.

Because there are no written records, nobody even knows for sure how long ago it was spoken, or where it originated, but the theory is that it dates back to between 5000 and 2500 BC and that the speakers lived around the Black Sea area. From there they probably migrated across Europe and Asia and the language evolved in different ways to the languages we speak today.

I came across this article a while back and found it fascinating. Have a look and listen to what Proto-Indo-European was probably like! Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European – Archaeology Magazine.

Related posts:  O is for Ojibwe      Q is for…..

Sign Languages

Next week is Deaf Awareness Week. I have written before about being deaf aware, and so this week I decided to write about sign languages.

Many people believe that there is one universal sign language used by deaf people all over the world, but this is not the case. Different countries have different sign languages which are mutually unintelligible. French Sign Language is as different from British Sign Language as French is from English.

Just as spoken languages belong to families – eg the Romance family which includes French, Spanish and Italian, and the Germanic family which includes German, Dutch and Swedish – so do sign languages. French Sign Language is related to American Sign Language; British sign language is related to Australian Sign Language.

Another common misconception is that British Sign Language (BSL) is the same as Sign Supported English (SSE).  This is not true…..

BSL is a language in its own right, with a rich vocabulary. There is no one-word-to-one-sign relationship: some words need more than one sign to explain, and some signs can convey concepts which would require a whole sentence in English.  Sign Supported English is, as it sounds, spoken English with accompanying signs. SSE also has signs to indicate prefixes and suffixes. For example, “I will walk to the shops” in BSL would be three signs – shops me walk – whereas in SSE it would be 6 signs – one for each word.

If you fancy having a go at learning BSL, you have lots of options. Many Adult Education Centres offer introductory level up to at least level 3, and there are also lots of private tuition companies. You can’t beat face-to-face learning, but if you really want to learn from your own home you could look for Skype sessions or look at websites such as spreadthesign where you can learn some words.

Another way to learn a few signs would be to purchase a pack of Flashsticks and learn a few each day. It wouldn’t help you to speak fluently, and you wouldn’t learn any grammar, but it would help you to use Sign Supported English.

Whichever route you choose, it’s definitely worth learning some. It’s an extra skill to show off to potential employers, and it could open up a whole new circle of friends to you.

How do they celebrate Easter in France?

decorated eggOn the Thursday evening before Easter Day, the church bells in France fall silent. Adults tell the children that the bells have flown off to Rome to visit to the Pope and to collect the Easter eggs. The bells remain silent (absent) on Friday and Saturday, and then on Easter Sunday they return to the churches, droppings the eggs off along the way, and ring out over the country. They are known as “Les Cloches Volants” or the flying bells.

One game that is played on this day is to throw and catch a raw egg. If you drop and break your egg you are out, and the winner is the last person left with their egg still intact.

As Poisson d’avril is so close to Easter, chocolate fish as well as chocolate eggs are included in the sweet treats at his time.

Related posts: Easter in England , Christmas in France , Easter in Germany  , Easter in Switzerland

 

How do they celebrate Easter in Switzerland

decorated eggDifferent regions of Switzerland have different traditions, for example in one region in the south of Switzerland they perform a passion play on the Thursday before Easter Day. In another region, in the west of the country there is a “weeping women parade” where the women carry red cushions with nails and a crown of thorns.

It is the cuckoo who brings the Easter eggs in Switzerland, and so in the run up to the festival, the shops have displays of baskets of eggs and cuckoos.

Easter Day itself begins with an Easter egg hunt for children, with a prize for the person who finds the most eggs.

Easter Monday brings another game: the adults have to try to break the children’s decorated eggs with a 20 cent coin. If they succeed, they get to keep the egg and the money, but if they lose the child gets the 20 cents.

Related posts: Easter in England, Easter in Germany, Easter in France

How do they celebrate Easter in Germany?

As with many things in Germany, different regions have different traditions for Easter. In some regions it’s the Easter fox who delivers the chocolate eggs; in others it’s the Easter rooster or the Easter stork. However the Österhase (the Easter hare or Easter bunny) is slowly taking over all of the regions.

In the north of the country, fires are lit to celebrate the end of the cold winter months and to welcome spring. They are lit on the Saturday night and kept burning until the Sunday morning. This stems from a Pagan tradition which was believed to keep away sickness.

Another Germany Easter tradition is the Easter egg tree. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a tree with decorated eggs hanging from it. Sometimes, rather than decorating a whole tree, a twig in a vase is used.

A typical Easter meal would be a lamb dish, followed by a cream-filled cake in the shape of lamb.

Related posts: Easter in England, Easter in France, Easter in Switzerland