loudly, from the sum of many small noises
Dai Lue, or Lü – 300,000 speakers, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China
ᦺᦢᦺᦙᧉ ᦶᦓᧃ ᦙᦱ ᦌᦱᧁᧉᦌᦱᧁᧉ
baj˥ma̰j˩ næn˩ maa˩ sa̰a̰w˩sa̰a̰w˩
leaf make.sound cont loudly
The leaves were rustling “saaw-saaw.”
ᦷᦂᧇ ᦵᦃᧆᧈ ᦔᦲᧃ ᦶᦉᧃ ᦣᦸᧂᧉ ᦌᦱᧁᧉᦌᦱᧁᧉ
kop˦˥ xeet˦˥ pin˥ sæn˥ hɔ̰ŋ˩ sa̰a̰w˩sa̰a̰w˩
frog frog be 100,000 cry loudly
Frogs by the millions were croaking “saaw-saaw.”
Dai Lue is spoken in China, Burma, Laos and Thailand. Dai Lue belongs to the Kra-Dai family, a family that includes Thai and Lao. It is written using the New Tai Lue alphabet, which is similar to the Thai and Lao scripts.
Dai Lue has six tones: ˥ high, ˦ high rising, ˨˧ low rising with creak, ˩ low tone, ˧ falling tone, ˩ low tone with creak. Here are some minimal sets that demonstrate the distinctiveness of the tones.
˥ ᦎᧁ taw˥ fireplace ᦉᦱᧁ saaw˥ young woman
˦ ᦎᧁᧈ taw˦˥ turtle ᦉᦱᧁᧈ saaw˦˥ to add ingredients while stir-frying
˨ ᦎᧁᧉ ta̰w˨˧ gourd ᦉᦱᧁᧉ sa̰a̰w˨˧ feed-trough
˩ ᦑᧁ taw˩ seaweed ᦌᦱᧁ saaw˩ twenty
˧ ᦑᧁᧈ taw˦˧ to equal ᦌᦱᧁᧈ saaw˦˧ –
˩ ᦑᧁᧉ ta̰w˩ to support ᦌᦱᧁᧉ sa̰a̰w˩ loudly, from the sum of many small noises
The online Dai Lue-English Dictionary has more information about
all aspects of Dai Lue sounds, grammar, writing system, and vocabulary.
Source: William Hanna
gather people together in love for reconciliation
Natügu – 3,700 speakers, Santa Cruz Island, Solomon Islands
Aodu can be analysed as a- (causative) + odu (to gather in friendship).
Aodu is usually initiated by a community or family leader, so that members who are feuding do not just passively agree to get along, but grow to value and love the others and desire for them to be blessed. Aodu involves hearing the other person’s position in the presence of the one who gathers them, who serves as both moderator and mediator.
The Natügu language has a `circumfix' (prefix-suffix combination) nz- + -ngr which converts verbs into nouns. Thus, from odu and aodu we can form nzodungr `friendship' and nzaodungr `loving reconciliation'.
Natügu has 10 vowels. Five of them are represented using the letters a, e, i, o, and u. The remaining five use the letters, c, q, r, x, and z, which have no other use in the language. The sounds of c, q, r, x, and z are something like the vowels of English words caught, cute, curt, cat, and cut. Years ago, speakers of Natqgu made this decision because typewriters did not contain the letters with extra symbols, like â, ü, ö, ä, and ë. This decision makes it easy for people to compose text messages in Natqgu today.
Source: Boerger, Brenda H. (2016). Freeing biblical poetry to sing. Open Theology 2:179-203. Topical issue on Bible Translation. Mark L. Strauss, ed. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0014, page 198.
1. make someone feel tender emotions including love, sadness, or empathy, e.g. to make someone love someone/something so much that it makes it them sad, or to love someone/something so much that it hurts
2. a genre of traditional songs that can inspire such feelings
Amazonian Kichwa – 60,000 speakers, Ecuador
Derived from adding a the causative morpheme -chi to the verb llakina, to love / to be sad. The notions of love and sadness are intricately intertwined in this language.
One may feel llakichina for not just other people but also for infants and animals. An infant or baby animal may induce llakichina as its relatively pathetic and helpless state – being unable to care for itself – may make one feel sad and love at the same time. See the following citation for more information:
Nuckolls, J. B., & Swanson, T. D. (2018). Respectable uncertainty and pathetic truth in Amazonian Quichua-speaking culture. In J. Proust & M. Fortier (Eds.), Metacognitive Diversity: An Interdisciplinary Approach (pp. 171–192). https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198789710.001.0001
Source: Nuckolls, J. B., & Swanson, T. D. (2020). Amazonian Quichua language and Life: Introduction to grammar, ecology, and discourse patterns from Pastaza and Upper Napo Speakers. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Credits: Tod D. Swason, Janis B. Nuckolls, Alexander Rice.
coolness after overheating; feeling of returned mental clarity after one's body temperature lowers
Western Pantar – 10,000 speakers, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
Pantar Island has few sources of potable water, and work and travel during the dry season can lead to heat exhaustion, including fatigue, dizziness, and faintness. Once overheated, without access to water, one must wait in the shade or relative coolness of evening for one's body temperature to lower. This subtle and gradual cooling is accompanied by a returned mental clarity and almost euphoric sense of well being, known as tummang.
Tummang is an experiencer verb which takes a patientive pronoun. Thus, one cannot initiate tummang; rather, tummang is something that happens, beyond the speaker's control. Naing tummang. 'I have cooled down' (with the implication that I have come out of my stupor and am ready to get on with my work).
Source: Holton and Lamma Koly (2008). Kamus Pengantar Bahasa Pantar Barat.
Credits: Mahalalel Lamma Koly, Gary Holton
The uneasy feeling that one's insides are being displaced, such as when looking down from a height, sitting in a fast-moving vehicle going over hilly terrain, or being in the presence of a member of the opposite sex.
Galo – approx 60,000 speakers – C. Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India
Galo is a Trans-Himalayan language spoken by approximately 60,000 people in Central Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India. Although many young Galo are increasingly using Arunachali Hindi as a primary mode of communication, Galo is still a vibrant language with a high percentage of fluent speakers and child learners. Galo community members are also very active in language documentation and development, under the patronage of the Galo Welfare Society and the Galo Language Development Committee. Working both independently and in partnership with Mark W. Post, Galo community members have produced a community orthography (notably, one which is capable of accurately representing a complex tone system), gained official state recognition for their language, gained approval for its use in school curricula in Arunachal Pradesh, produced language textbooks and other written materials, and published a large-scale dictionary from which this word has been excerpted.
Source: Galo-English Dictionary and field notes
Credit: Mark W Post, 'Ilww Rwbaa, 'Igoo Rwbaa, Miilww Xodu and Bomcak Rwbaa
the pain felt when swallowing something dry
Muyu – approx 2,000 speakers – Western New Guinea
Used as a noun and clearly different from all other forms of pain one can experience, which are labeled welen.
Muyu is a Non-Austronesian (Papuan) language of New Guinea. It is spoken by an estimated 2,000 people living alongside the Kao and Muyu Rivers in the Boven-Digoel regency, Papuan Province, Indonesia. There is no transmission to a younger generation. Muyu speakers are aware of nine dialects: Kasawut, Are, Ninggrum, Yonggom, Kakaip, Kawip, Kapom, Kamindip, and Okpari.
Source: Personal field notes, https://www.elararchive.org/dk0601/
Credit: Alexander Zahrer
when a parent has been trying to tell their children to do something, then they just give up and say "oh go on then"
Murrinhpatha – approx 3,000 speakers – Australia (Wadeye, Northern Territory)
Murrinhpatha is spoken by Australian Aboriginal people from several clans, living in Wadeye and other towns in the Northern Territory. Murrinhpatha is still learnt as first-language by children growing up in the area.
Source: Originally heard in a story recorded by Chester Street in the 1970s. John Mansfield followed up on the meaning in 2021.
Credit: Dungkul Noelene Parry. Any inaccuracy in the translation is due to John Mansfield.
A discourse marker to show that the speaker believes something is imaginary, illusory, or hard to believe.
Kriol – 30,000 speakers – Central Northern Australia (Barunga region)
Example of use for (1) an imaginary scenario and (2) an illusionary belief:
(1) Im, gemen mardi reken lil beibi darran dei
Trans.: “[About someone treating a teddy bear as if it was a real baby.]
She is like, pretending to think that this is a little baby.”
(2) imin jis hapi ba luk im mami gemin bat najing
Trans.: “[About a little girl who believes (wrongly) that she is going to find her mother.]
She was so happy to see her mum she thought, but it didn’t happen.”
Gemen is a discourse particle, and as such it is invariable. It is relatively flexible as to where it can be placed in the sentence.
Source: Data from speakers in Beswick, Barunga, Weemol. See also Schultze-Berndt, Eva, Maïa Ponsonnet and Denise Angelo. In prep. The semantics of modal markers in Northern Australian Kriol.
Credit: Maïa Ponsonnet and Denise Angelo
brood over something: feel resentful, remorseful; be sad, be upset. Also, for some speakers, be confused, not know.
Dalabon – 5 speakers – Australia (Arnhem Land)
njirrk(mu) describes negative emotional states that involve worrying and even feeling depressed, but also negative feelings targetting others such as holding resentment. It is also associated with social isolation, lack of communication, hatred and conflict. More.
njirrk(mu) is an intransitive verb.
(1) Mak bala-njirrkmi, mak bala-burruni.
"[After their relative died,] they didn’t hold resentment (feel vengeful) [towards the person responsible for their relative's death], they didn’t fight."
(2) Kardu bunu burrah-marnu-buninj, be-burrng, o kanh eksiden-kun balah-eksidenhminj… Balah-dja-njirrmu yelek.
"Perhaps them two bashed their son, or about an accident, they had an accident. They are still brooding over it, yet."
Source: Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2011. Les figures du doute en langue dalabon (Australie du Nord). Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 132(1):151-164. http://jso.revues.org/6358?lang=fr and Ponsonnet, Maïa. 2014. The language of emotions: The case of Dalabon (Australia). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Collection Cognitive Linguistic Studies in Cultural Contexts, p. 435
Credit: Maggie Tukumba
one who excels at playing the didgeridoo
Mawng – approx 260 speakers – Australia (Goulburn Island, Northern Territory)
Mawng is the common language spoken on Warruwi, an island also known as South Goulburn Island in the North West of Australia’s Arnhem Land. Around 400 people live on Warruwi. Mawng is the main language but people also speak Kun-barlang, Kunwinjku as well as Yolgnu-matha languages and some Torres Strait Creole and English. More about Mawng.
Source: Ruth Singer, Nita Garidjalalug, Mawng Dictionary
Credit: Linda Barwick
Extraordinary words from the world's Indigenous languages.