Wednesday, March 18, 2015

J is for, well, nothing

ABC Wednesday posts normally talk about what a letter is. Well, how about one talking about what a letter ISN’T? This is that sort of post.

The letter J doesn't exist in Te Reo Māori, the language of the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand. The Māori alphabet has only fifteen letters: h, k, m, n, p, r, t, w, a, e, i, o, u, wh, and ng. You’ll note there’s no J there.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I never actually realised that until recently, partly because I don’t speak Te Reo, and that factoid just doesn’t come up in everyday conversation.

The reality is that people who speak a certain language are used to that language and don’t even notice things that stand out for non-speakers. In English, for example the word fish might be spelled ghoti, but we never think about such things.

So, the absence of a letter like J in Māori is interesting only to those who, like me, don’t speak the language. How many other linguistic quirks exist in our planet’s many languages, and how many have any of us ever heard of?

Now you know one thing J isn’t. I think it make a nice change of pace.

Related: Back in Round 10, I talked about wh and its use in Māori.

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rogerogreen said...

I'd say that's clever, but there's no V there either!

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Aw, man! Now that you've pointed that out, I'll have to pick a new topic for V!