A new language blog, الف لسان mille langues χιλιοι γλωσσῶν, looks very promising. The first post begins:

A thousand and one tongues shall be the name of this polyglot blog (though most of the writing will be in English, I hope to have snippets from numerous languages), and this tithe of the myriad manners of expression upon the earth shall consist of lesser-known languages, dialects, creoles, “extinct” and contact languages. My personal contributions will gravitate toward languages from majority arabophone countries, though I invite the contributions of others from spheres and climes beyond my reach and ken.

Check out the Nubian text and khawaji’s attempted decipherment. Welcome, and happy blogging!


  1. Please do not ignore my chinese based language blog

  2. χιλιοι γλωσσῶν ??

  3. You can use genitive following the number; Thucydides has χίλιοι Μακεδόνων.

  4. Oh, wait, you mean it should be χίλιαι, don’t you? Yeah, I guess it should. My Greek’s a little rusty.

  5. My classical Greek is rusty, but Thucydides’s “χιλίους Μακεδόνων” is more specific than “a thousand Macedonians” — it’s rather “a thousand [of the | among the] Macedonians. “A thousand [of the world’s] languages” makes sense, but it’s not a literal translation of “mille langues”.

  6. Ah, you’re doubtless right. I hope khawaji drops by to address the issue.

  7. David Marjanović says

    Lameen Souag has been linking to it for a few days under the name of “Alf Lisan”.

  8. David Marjanović says

    …and of course I just might have noticed that the address is, instead of selling my great insight as something new. Hmmm.

  9. My utmost apologies for not noticing the attention that my humble blog had garnered so far (I am quite surprised and honored to have been mentioned in so illustrious a blog as language hat already), and the controversy of χιλιοι γλωσσων is something I should not have allowed to lie dormant for so long – I will hide behind the excuse that I am in Darfur and have limited internet access. But I address the issue in full in my latest post, which I hope will satisfy the dubious.

  10. John Cowan says

    χιλίους Μακεδόνων

    I think this is best rendered as regiments of Macedonians, the military organization headed by a chiliarch ‘commander of a thousand’.

  11. Bathrobe says

    Canonling seems to have disappeared.

  12. I see khawaji’s blog didn’t last past October 5, 2009. Ah well.

  13. χῑ́λιοι is apparently the origin of the Bulgarian хиляда (“thousand”). “Second” is another example of a borrowed numeral, but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head that aren’t a million or bigger.

    Edit: I suppose the on’yomi readings for numerals in Japanese would be another example.

  14. Wikipedia article on Old Nubian script has even better example

    Line 8 starts with a very familiar word written in Old Nubian alphabet as


  15. David Eddyshaw says

    Old Nubian has in fact been pretty thoroughly studied, considering the very limited amount of material that survives.

    My copy of Gerald Browne’s Old Nubian Grammar has an irritating blurb on the back saying

    it is the only indigenous African language whose development we can follow for over a millennium.

    I’m sorry to say this is taken from the actual text of the grammar. A moment’s thought would have revealed the fatuity of this statement, you’d have thought. However, it’s a perfectly decent grammar in its way; its limitations probably arise from the fact that Browne was not an Africanist, but more of an old-time “philologist.”

    There’s apparently some question that the royal courts, at least, of the Christian kingdoms of mediaeval Nubia were actually Greek-speaking. There are a good number of Greek loanwords in Old Nubian, anyway, though not nearly as many as in Coptic.

    The supposed Nubian text in the original post is actually Coptic, as an anonymous commenter points out.

  16. David Marjanović says


    Also North Macedonian and Serbian, spelled хиљада/hiljada, and I hear that the separation between “Serbian” hiljada and “Croatian” tisuća isn’t as neat as the nationalists would have it.

  17. January First-of-May says

    but I can’t think of any others off the top of my head that aren’t a million or bigger

    Cases like “myriad” (and “lakh”, for that matter) nonwithstanding, some of the etymologies for Russian sorok “40” involve loans (though I’m not sure how well they are accepted compared to the traditional derivation that makes it related to sorochka “shirt”, through an intermediate meaning along the lines of “bundle of furs”).

    IIRC, Romani numerals are borrowed from multiple languages.

    Zompist’s small number page can probably reveal many other cases; I recall that, when looking up on it whether the (now-extinct) Yameo language of South America really had poellarrarorincourac for “three” [actually the reported form in the original account is poettarrarorincouroac], I found out that the recorded Yameo numerals in Zompist’s listing are obvious Quechua loans.
    (Some other nearby languages did have number terms of about or nearly that length, though, on the account of having a word for 3 that meant “2+1”.)

  18. January First-of-May says

    whether the (now-extinct) Yameo language of South America really had poettarrarorincouroac for “three” [as recorded in 1745]

    Turns out that the Yameo word for “three” was later (in the 20th century?) recorded as pwiterorineo; the first 5-6 syllables essentially match (as well as they’re expected to over a two-century gap, anyway), and the non-match of the final part is probably easily explained.

    Both the 1745 report and later accounts agree that numerals higher than 3, when needed, were borrowed from other languages (though the specific languages involved differ).

  19. The PIE words for 6 and 7 look suspiciously similar to the Semitic words, and it has been speculated that they’re loans from Semitic, or that they are old Wanderwörter linked to early commerce, as similar words seem also to be attested in some Caucasian languages.

  20. “Hey, all my life I’ve been saying ‘one more than five,’ and those people over there have a word for it! Maybe I’ll give it a try…”

  21. January First-of-May says

    as similar words seem also to be attested in some Caucasian languages

    Uralic too, for 7, though IIRC that one is suspected to be a PIE loan.

    Sporadic and possibly accidental examples show up elsewhere as well; an old LH comment I wrote mentioned “Italian sette, Yakut sette, Estonian seitse, (Sino-)Japanese shichi, Georgian švidi, all five words meaning “seven””.

  22. Yes, I’m always suspicious of arguments from similarity not backed up by any structural supports. It’s very hard to make oneself realize how much coincidence there is.

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