A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

Z is for … Zapotec

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Zapotec is the name not of a single language, but of a group of 58 languages that, together with related Chatino group, belongs to the Otomanguean linguistic stock. Zapotec is one of the largest families in the Oto-Manguean stock in terms of the number of speakers since the Zapotecs are the third largest indigenous ethnic group in Mexico, after the Nahua and the Mayan people. Zapotec has more varieties than any other member of the Otomanguean linguistic stock with almost as many varieties as there are pueblos in which it is spoken.

There are approximately 450,000 speakers of Zapotec most of whom live in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. While most are proficient in Spanish, there are also many who speak only one or more varieties of their native Zapotec.

Of the 58 varieties of Zapotech listed by Ethnologue, 49 have fewer than 10,000 speakers. Most have only from several hundred to several thousand speakers. Several are on the brink of extinction.

A funerary urn in the shape of a “Bat God”

Fascinating facts about the Zapotec

The Zapotec worshipped their ancestors and, believing in a paradisiacal underworld, stressed the cult of the dead.

They had a great religious centre at Mitla and a magnificent city at Monte Albán, where a highly developed civilisation flourished possibly more than 2,000 years ago.

The name Zapotec comes from Nahuatl tzapotēcah (singular tzapotēcatl). This word means “inhabitants of the place of sapote”. The Zapotec referred to themselves as Be’ena’a, which means “The People.”

The Zapotec developed a calendar and a special system of writing. This system has a separate glyph for each of the syllables of the language. It is one of several candidates thought to have been the first writings system of Mesoamerica. It is the predecessor of the writing systems developed by the Maya, Mixtec, and Aztec civilisations.

The Zapotecs believe their ancestors emerged from the earth, from caves, or that they turned from trees or jaguars into people, while the elite that governed them believed that they descended from supernatural beings that lived among the clouds, and that upon death they would return to such status. In fact, the name by which Zapotecs are known today resulted from this belief. In Central Valley Zapotec “The Cloud People’ is “Be’ena’ Za’a.”

Thanks for reading 🙂

On a side note:

It’s over!  I survived the A to Z Challenge. If you’ve read, like and commented … Thank you! I hope you learned something new, I know I did.

For sticking with me, this month, I invite you to celebrate … virtually, of course.


A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

Y is for … Yorùbá

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Yorùbá (èdè Yorùbá) is a member of the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo language family. It is spoken by some 28 million people, most of whom live in Nigeria. It is also spoken in Benin, Siera Leon, Togo, United Kingdom, USA.

Even though the official language of Nigeria is English, Yorùbá together with Igbo and Hausa are quazi-official languages that serve as lingua francas for speakers of the 400 odd languages spoken in Nigeria. In southwest Nigeria where most of Yorùbá speakers are concentrated, Yorùbá, although not an official language, is used in government administration, print and electronic media, at all levels of education, in literature and in film.

Code-switching between Yorùbá and English is a way of life for educated Yorùbá-English bilinguals. They use Yorùbá mainly in the family setting and in formal situations such as village or tribal meetings. They use standard English in formal or official situations. In informal situations they use a creolised form of English dubbed Yoruglish. The latter represents a blend of both English and Yorùbá grammar and vocabulary.

Yoruba boat – Model in the Vatican Museum

Fascinating facts about Yorùbá

Yorubas are very Expressive People. This is particularly seen in the way they speak and converse with one another. It is also seen in their colourful festivals and celebrations. From wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies, housewarming parties and even burials, you cannot deny the rich and ostentatious style and ceremonial nature of the people of the culture.

When a baby is born, water is sprinkled on the baby, till he/she cries. When they fail to cry, no word will be spoken until they do.  After eight days, a naming ceremony is held and relatives are invited.

The Yorubas like spicy and oily food. Almost all their food is prepared with either oil, pepper or both. Their food are mostly made from starchy tubers,plantains and grains. Yams and rice are eaten on important occasions.

Due to the effect of slave migration in the colonial era, some of the Yoruba tradition has been inculcated into the culture and tradition of the Brazilians to this very day.

According to Yoruba mythology, all Yoruba people are descendants of Oduduwa.

They started sculpture making as early as the 12th century. These days they make sculptures to honour their ancestors, deities and gods, using brass, wood, and terracotta.


Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

X is for … Xhosa

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Xhosa (isiXhosa) is the southernmost member of the Bantoid group of the Niger-Congo language family in Africa. It is closely related to Zulu, Swati, and Ndebele. Although mutually intelligible, they are considered to be separate languages for political and cultural reasons.

The Xhosa, formerly called Kaffir or Kafir (Arabic for ‘infidel’), are a cluster of related peoples who have inhabited Eastern Cape Province and Transkei, South Africa, since before the 16th century. They are thought to have migrated to this region along the east coast of Africa and through central Africa. In southern Africa, they came into contact with Khoisan-speaking people. As a result of this contact, the Xhosa people borrowed some Khoisan words along with their pronunciation, for instance, the click sounds of the Khoisan languages.

Xhosa is spoken as a first language by 8.2 million people and by 11 million as a second language in South Africa, mostly in Eastern Cape Province and Transkei. It is also spoken in Botswana and Lesotho. It is one of the eleven official languages of the Republic of South Africa, although the status of Xhosa, like all other African languages in the Republic of South Africa, is complex.

Xhosa Rondavel – Photo by Renette LouwLouw

Fascinating facts about Xhosa

It’s also one of the most recognisable Bantu languages, mainly due to the prominence of its click consonants and its intense use of the letter “x,” used to denote some of the clicks.

Xhosa has its origins in the tribal group descended from the Bantu, who originated in present-day Cameroon and Nigeria and migrated south between 2000 B.C. and 1000 A.D.

The use of Xhosa in education was previously governed by apartheid-era legislation. The role of African language in South African education has since improved, but remains complex and ambiguous.

Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba, helped introduce Xhosa to an international audience with her 1957 hit single, “Pata Pata.” It was one of the first mainstream moments for Xhosa. In an interview she gave in 1979, Makeba discussed the experience of sharing her language with the rest of the world. “Everywhere we go, people often ask me, ‘How do you make that noise?’” she said. “It used to offend me because it isn’t a noise. It’s my language.”

Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

W is for … Warlpiri

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Warlpiri belongs to the South-West Ngarga branch of the Pama-Nyungan language family, the largest of the Indigenous Australian language families. It is spoken by about 2,500 Warlpiri people in Australia’s Northern Territory. It is one of the largest Northern Territory languages in Australia in terms of number of speakers.

Warlpiri has no official status in Australia. The language is endangered in spite of efforts to teach it to children in Warlpiri settlements. In some Warlpiri communities, children and young adults use “Light Warlpiri”, a variety of speech that combines elements of Warlpiri, Australian Aboriginal Kriol (an English-based creole) and Australian English.


Fascinating facts about Warlpiri

Warlpiri country is located in the Tanami Desert, east of the NT-WA border, west of the Stuart Highway and Tennant Creek, and northwest of Alice Springs.

The main communities in Warlpiri country are: Yuendumu, Lajamanu, Nyirrpi, and Willowra. Many Warlpiri live in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, and the smaller towns of Central Australia.

Warlpiri traditional territory was resource-poor to white eyes, and lay a considerable distance away from the main telegraph routes and highway infrastructure built by Europeans, a fact which meant they conserved unlike many tribes affected by these intrusive developments, relatively intact and flourishing.

Warlpiri are famous for their tribal dances.

Warlpiris divide their relatives, and by extension the entire population, into eight named groups or subsections. These subsections are related to kinship, and determine one’s family rights and obligations. It follows from these rules that one must choose one’s spouse from a particular subsection, and traditional Warlpiri disapprove of marriages that break this constraint. The correct subsection to marry from is that of one’s maternal grandfather (though of course one seeks a spouse closer to one’s own age).

Warlpiris often address each other by subsection name rather than by personal name, and incorporate their subsection name into their English one, usually as a middle name.

Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

V is for … Vietnamese

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Vietnamese (tiếng Việt), formerly known as Annamese, is a member of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic language family. With 76 million speakers, it is the 16th largest language of the world. It is spoken by 75 million people in Vietnam . It is also spoken in Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Finland, France, Germany, Laos, Martinique, Netherlands, New Caledonia, Norway, Philippines, Senegal, Thailand, United Kingdom, USA, and Vanuatu.

It is thought that the ancestor of Vietnamese originated in the area of the Red River in what is now northern Vietnam and that it eventually spread into central and southern portions of the area.
After the revolution that ended the French colonial rule, Vietnamese became the national and official language of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam where it is spoken by the majority of the country’s population. It is used in Vietnam throughout all levels of the educational system, including higher education, for all official and non-official communication, in the media, and in publishing.

Merry Christmas In Vietnamese

Fascinating facts about Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine is considered amongst the healthiest in the world. Featuring fresh herbs, a lot of vegetables and seafood combined with traditional cooking techniques that avoids frying and oils in their food, this cuisine is considered amongst some of the healthiest in the world.

They have half-hatched eggs for breakfast. Balut, a developed bird embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell, is a common Vietnamese breakfast.

Vietnam is the world’s leading exporter of cashew nuts and black pepper, exporting 348,000 tons of cashew nuts and 180,000 tons of black peppers in 2016.

Giving handkerchiefs, anything black, yellow flowers, or chrysanthemum is considered unlucky.

Ruou ran, also known as snake wine is a pickled snake in rice wine that is commonly drunk for health, vitality and restorative purposes.

They are the second largest producer of coffee in the world and own approximately 20% of the coffee market share.

Bargaining is considered a way of life in Vietnam. Merchants frequently put an additional markup on their products in order to give buyers the opportunity to bargain for a better price.

15. The Binh Chau Hot Natural Springs get so hot, reaching temperatures of up to 82°C which is hot enough to boil eggs!

Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

U is for … Urdu

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Urdū belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is spoken as a first language by 64 million people in Pakistan and India, and by 94 million people as a second language in Pakistan.

It is also spoken in urban Afghanistan, in the major urban centers of the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. There is a large Urdū-speaking diaspora in the United Kingdom, the United States,Canada, Norway and Australia.

Fascinating facts about Urdu

Urdu is distinguished slightly from Hindi in terms of its script and vocabulary and is thus one of the official languages of India.

Urdu has a way of saying things that mark the courteous from the unlearned and the noble from the ordinary. It is known to touch the soul the way it imparts hidden meanings in a prose or poetry like no other language can.


English is said to have been derived from a lot of languages. Here are some English words of Urdu origin:

Cummerbund- “waist binding”,

Khaki- dusty, grey,


Pyjamas- trouser,

Typhoon- Toofan or storm and some others.
source: Wikipedia


The Punjabi language is very similar to Urdu. Written Punjabi can be understood by speakers of Urdu, with a little difficulty, but spoken Punjabi has a different phonology and cannot be easily understood by Urdu speakers.

The closest linked language to Urdu is Hindi. Linguists think of Hindi and Urdu as the same language, the difference being that Hindi is written in Devanagari and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit, while Urdu is written in Arabic script and draws on Persian.

Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

T is for … Tatar

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Tatar (Tatar tele, Tatarça, Татар теле, Татарча) belongs to the Western Turkic branch of the Altaic language family. Its closest relatives are Bashkir (Bashkort) and Chulym. It is not the same language as Crimean Tatar. There are 5.2 million speakers of Kazan Tatar most of whom live in the Russian Federation and in the former Soviet republics. Majority of the Tatar-speaking population is concentrated in the Republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in the central Volga region as well as in Moscow, St.Petersburg and elsewhere. Tatar is the largest minority language of the Russian Federation.

There are two main theories concerning the origins of Tatars of Tatarstan. According to one theory, the Volga-region Tatars are direct descendants of the Tatars of the Golden Horde. Another theory holds that the ancestors of these Tatars were Bulgars, a Turkic people who were displaced from the Azov steppes by Arab raiders and who settled in the Middle Volga region in the 8th century and converted to Islam in 922. After the Mongol invasion of Europe in 1241, Volga Bulgars were absorbed into the Golden Horde. The Kazan Khanate which succeeded the Golden Horde was annexed by Russia in 1552.

The “Pyramid” in Kazan

Fascinating facts about Tatarstan


Tatarstan (510 miles southeast of Moscow) is one of 21 internal republics in Russia. Located in the Volga-Urals region, it covers 27,100 square miles (roughly the size of Ireland) and is home to 4 million people and lies on the middle part of Volga River.

Efforts are being made to bring back the Tatar language and culture.

Tatarstan is rich in oil.

Tatarstan was established as an autonomous republic in 1920 for one segment of the large and widespread Tatar population of the Russian Republic. In the 1980s, less than one-third of Russia’s Tatars lived in the republic designated for them. The population of Tatarstan, about 3.8 million in 1995, is second only to that of Bashkortostan among Russia’s republics.

Kazan (on the Volga River, 550 miles southeast of Moscow) is a city of 1.1 million and the capital of the Tatar Republic. Founded in the 13th century and capital of the Tatar state in the 15th and 16th centuries, it was claimed for Russia by Ivan the Terrible in 1552 and later developed as the gateway to Siberia. Both Lenin and Tolstoy studied at Kazan University, one of Russia’s oldest. Lenin was thrown out for his revolutionary activities.

Kazan is an old historical city of Moslem minarets, Christian domes and military fortresses. Dominating a large hill, the kremlin has been built, destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current white limestone walls were built under Ivan the Terrible.

Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

S is for … Slovak

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World



Slovak (Slovenský jazyk), also called Slovakian, belongs to the West Slavic group of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. It is spoken by 4.75 million people in Slovakia. There are also expatriate Slovak communities in Canada, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Ukraine, and USA.The total number of Slovak speakers worldwide is 5.2 million. Slovak is close to Czech, and Slovak speakers in the western part of Slovakia and Czech speakers are able to understand each other. All Slovaks are able to understand Standard Czech thanks to the media. However, with the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the two languages have begun to drift apart with the differences between Czech and Slovak being primarily lexical and phonological.

Fascinating facts about Slovakia



Slovakia has the world’s highest number of castles and chateaux per capita: 180 castles and 425 chateaux in a country with the entire population far smaller than the city of New York. The real highlight amongst Slovak castles is undoubtedly medieval Spiš Castle, which belongs to the largest castles in the Central Europe and was included in the UNESCO List of World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage.

More than six thousand caves have been discovered in Slovakia so far. Most spectacular caves can be found in the national parks of Low Tatras, Slovak Paradise and Slovak Karst. Many of them represent unique natural wonders.


The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, lies on the borders with Austria and Hungary. That makes the city the only one capital in the world that borders two independent countries.

Near the village Kremnické Bane in Slovakia, right next to the St. John Baptist Church, is located the geographical midpoint of Europe. Unfortunately, another 7 European villages claim to host this hypothetical midpoint as well.

Slovakia has incredible sources of mineral water and healing thermal springs. Most of them are actively used for therapeutic and recreation purposes within 21 spa resorts.

Old medieval town of Levoča is a home of the highest wooden altar in the world. This remarkable work was created by Master Paul. It is located in Church of St. James right in the historical centre of Levoča. 18,6 m high and 6 m wide altar was made without the use of a single nail! The entire town centre is also included in the List of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

R is for … Romani

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Romani (Řomani ćhib) refers to a group of languages spoken by the Romani people. These languages belong to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family and are the only Indo-Aryan languages spoken exclusively outside the Indian subcontinent. Romani should not be confused with either Romanian, or Romansh, both of which are Romance languages. The ancestor of Romani is thought to have been the language of the Roma people of central India. Linguistic data suggest that the Roma left the Indian subcontinent in the second half of the first millennium AD, passing through what is now Afghanistan, Iran, Armenia, and Turkey. The cause of the Roma emigration is unknown due to the absence of written records. What is known is that they reached the Balkan peninsula by the 14th century AD. Some Roma migrated south to North Africa and reached Europe through the Strait of Gibraltar.

The development of Romani was strongly influenced by its contact with European languages. The greatest influence came from Byzantine Greek which had an impact on Romani vocabulary, phonology and grammar.

The Roma are popularly known in English as Gypsies, a word which is derived from the word Egypt, based on the mistaken belief that they were natives of Egypt. The term was never used by the Roma to describe themselves. In Europe, Gypsies are also known as Tsiganes, Zigeuners, and Gitanos.

T’aves baxtalo – Welcome!

Fascinating facts about the Roma

During WWII in Nazi Germany and Nazi-controlled countries, the Roma were commonly persecuted for being “racially inferior” because of their traditions and beliefs. As a result, thousands of Romani people were slaughtered throughout the Soviet Union and Serbia after Germany invaded. Thousands more were then killed in concentration camps when neighbouring countries deported them. Imprisoned Roma were subjected to cruel medical experiments by the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele and were killed in droves alongside Jewish and other minority victims. In the countries that the Nazis invaded or were allied with, Roma were frequently targeted by killing squads, and in Croatia nearly the entire Roma population of 25,000 people were murdered.

The Roma are descendants of the Dom caste in Northwestern India, who were known to be commercial nomads. Dom people were most often employed as cleaners, entertainers, metal workers, and sometimes farm workers. In modern times, the Roma have continued their legacy of living a nomadic lifestyle and do not typically settle in one area for very long, which has led to various social complications regarding the national policies of different European states.

Weddings in the Roma culture are multi-day affairs with various religious and cultural traditions blended together. In addition to church services, which usually incorporate Orthodox Greek religious and Roma cultural elements, the bride and groom participate in other practices. For example, one common ritual that is still practiced is a mock kidnapping where the groom’s family and friends will stage a break-in to the bride’s home to whisk her away to the ceremony. The groom will also then negotiate what is called a bride price, in a symbolic gesture to an old practice. Finally, the couple is crowned and the celebration begins. Marriages are often arranged by the parents and the wedded pair are usually just teenagers when they exchange their vows.

Roma live in bands of traveling communities known as kumpanias*, which are typically made up of 30 to 40 families that all share one primary profession or skill-set. These groups move from place to place for primarily economic reasons. Currently, there are approximately nine recognised kumpanias, although about one third of Roma have declared that they do not officially affiliate themselves permanently with one group or another. The decrease in their nomadic lifestyle habits can likely be attributed to restrictions that were placed on kumpanias based in communist countries like the Soviet Union, which frequently prohibited them from moving between areas.


*Update* “kumpania” (“kompaniya”) is a Russian word that means a group of friends. The Rom word for their travelling bands is “tabor,” and among themselves, they do note a distinction between “tabor Rom” and “city Rom.”

Thanks to koolkosherkitchen for the correction 🙂

Thanks for reading 🙂

A to Z challenge · Bloggers · languages

Q is for …Quechua

Blogging from A to Z

Theme: Languages of the World


Quechuan, called Runasimi in Quechua, from runa ‘people’ + simi ‘speech,’ is a family of some 45 closely-related languages spoken in the Andean region of South America by close to 10 million people.

Various theories regarding the origins of Quechua are hotly disputed. It is thought by some scholars that Quechua originated on the central coast of Peru around 2,600 BC. The Inca kings of Cuzco made Quechua their official language. With the Inca conquest of Peru in the 14th century, Quechua became Peru’s lingua franca. The Inca Empire flourished in what is today’s Peru from 1438 to 1533 AD. Although the empire lasted only about 100 years, the Incas spread Quechua to areas that today are Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century AD, Quechua had already spread throughout a large portion of the South American continent. The languages continued to spread into areas that were not part of the Inca empire such as Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina.

Fascinating facts about Quechua

Quechua has the status of an official language in Peru and Bolivia, along with Spanish and Aymara. In rural areas, it is used for everyday communication in informal contexts. Since most native speakers of Quechua are illiterate in their native language, it remains largely an oral language. In formal contexts, such as government, administration, commerce, education, and the media, Spanish is used. The only cultural domain where Quechua is used extensively is traditional Andean music.

Although education In Peru is exclusively in Spanish, many primary-school teachers use a combination of Spanish and Quechua with monolingual Quechua-speaking children. Efforts to promote bilingual education in Peru have not been successful.

In Bolivia and Ecuador, there is a movement to revitalise the language, which has resulted in the introduction of bilingual education programs in those countries, although efforts are held back by lack of written materials in Quechua in general, and teaching materials in particular.

Quechua is known for only having 3 vowel sounds: a, i, and u.

The Quechua language has given names to many places in Peru, including the Ancash Region. Anqash is the Quechua word for blue, and it is thought that the name refers to the blue skies of Ancash.


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