Sunday Reading List – 8 May 2016

Far Cry Primal Language

Sunday should be spent lazily – and what better way to spend a lazy Sunday than with some leisurely reading? Here’s a roundup of some fascinating websites and articles I’ve found.

In this week’s instalment: Far Cry Primal, Captain America: Civil War, Chinese ‘dialects’ and dumplings.

1. On Dumplings


It wouldn’t be Dear Babette if there wasn’t something about food here, obviously. Here’s a simple list of the dumplings of China, by the inimitable Lucky Peach. Read it – then stumble out of bed and stagger around looking for dumplings.

Guide to Chinese Dumplings


2. The Language in Far Cry Primal


I love how we are gradually seeing the value of constructed languages (conlangs) in worldbuilding, for sci-fi as well as fantasy settings such as games, films and TV. For Far Cry Primal, though, the game’s designers and linguists took a different tack. Using a key method of historical linguistics, they reconstructed an approximation of what people in Europe might have spoken 10,000 years back: pre-proto-Indo-European.

‘“I want them to play the game and jump into the water, and the Udam chasing them yells out ‘wódr,’ and the player says—wait, that’s crazy. Why does that word sound like ‘water’? Why is it the same word?”’

How Ubisoft brought Ancient Languages back to Life


3. More about Language – in Captain America: Civil War

If Wakanda is in East Africa, shouldn't they be speaking something like Swahili instead?

This case is just about the opposite of the case above. It turns out that Black Panther, who comes from the fictional African state of Wakanda, doesn’t speak a constructed language. Rather he speaks Xhosa – a very real language spoken by millions in South Africa.

Black Panther speaks Xhosa

Xhosa, like many languages in southern Africa, has got clicks – in fact, that ‘X’ is a click. Try making a ‘tsk’ sound, then moving your tongue back a bit more. That ‘chk chk’ sound is the X in Xhosa. Or I’ll let Trevor Noah demonstrate it (to the rather disturbing excitement of Stephen Fry):


4. A Repository of the Sinitic Languages

In Singapore, under the weight of the (amusingly incompetent) Speak Mandarin Campaign, we’ve lost a lot of the diverse linguistic heritage that the older generations had. Much the same thing is happening in China, which is where Phonemica (鄉音苑) comes in.


This fascinating website is an interactive database of recordings, made in all sorts of Chinese languages (and some others), many of which have transcripts and translations. You can also submit your own recordings – and actually, I think we should! There isn’t a single recording from Singapore that I can see.


That’s it for this week. Hope you enjoy reading and perusing these as much as I did!


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