language zenoli

On the other hand….

According to Wikipedia, zenoli is also the Friulian word for ‘knee’. The same article informs us that Friulian (also called ‘Eastern Ladin’) is spoken by at least 600,000 people–about twice the number that speak Icelandic. When I first discovered that the language existed, I had to blink several times and realize that I’ve never spent that much time digging into linguistics beyond the big categories. Even so, I’d never noticed that there’s a Friulian version of Firefox.

Last night I was browsing through the language shelf at the bookstore, and was struck by the number of lesser-known languages represented, including many Indian and African dialects. It reminded me how easy it is to fall into mental ruts; after a certain point, our models of the world tend to ossify, and areas of lesser familiarity (such as, in my case, non-big-name-brand languages), tend to be chucked into very general mental buckets. (“Let’s see, they speak Hindi in India, right?”) lists hundreds of living Indian languages, some with millions of speakers, others with as few as 150…enough diversity to satiate lifetimes of linguistic scholarship.

I’m always happy to be reminded of the complexity of the world, but for the sake of any speakers of Friulian it’s worth noting that this site has very little to do with knees.

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