Anonymous asks:

Do you know why “wh” is pronounced like “f” in Maori? Is it an evolution in the language that happened since it was first transcribed with the Latin alphabet? Did linguists think they were hearing something else?

You know, I’ve wondered that myself, but I actually have no idea.  As I understand it, the sound was originally supposed to be a bilabial and not a labiodental like an English f, but when that sound turns up in other languages it normally gets transcribed as f or ph, so I’m not sure what made the Pakeha linguists decide to write it as wh.  I gather the pronunciation varies a lot between dialects, and probably sounds quite different in modern Maori than it did in the early 19th century.

Anonymous asks:

Would you say that in the Pokemon world, rather than Pokemon being named after human words, Pokemon names are onomatopoeia derived from Pokemon-speak, and the human words that sound similar come from those Pokemon names?


By which I mean that it makes sense and it seems more likely than not that something like this is going on, but at the same time I’m concerned I’ve never thought through the implications of that possibility in sufficient detail.  If you see what I mean.  Because it’s a nice way of making sense of what we actually see – that is, a world where all the animals neatly and politely know how to say their own names, but nothing else.  And on a certain level it makes a lot of intuitive sense.  When you have a very basic writing system, you write the word for ‘horse’ by drawing a picture of a horse, and maybe later on the “horse” symbol becomes the symbol for “h” once you start wanting to write things that can’t easily be represented pictographically.  When you’re just grappling with the rudiments of language, well, what do you call the animal that makes the sound “pi-ka-chu”?  A “pi-ka-chu-animal,” obviously.  And maybe then from there you start to take words for other things from those names for your animals, like, what do you call this pointy stick that you made for hunting?  Well, you name it after the pointy bird that hunts things, obviously.  Consider also the fact that the Latin alphabet, in the Pokémon world, is explicitly supposed to have been borrowed from the Unown, and it makes perfect sense that elements of spoken language might have been taken over in the same way.

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