Simon Willison’s Weblog

I am currently documenting a language called Seenku, spoken by fewer than 15,000 people in the rolling hills of southwestern Burkina Faso in West Africa. Like Chinese, it is a tonal language, meaning the pitch on which a word is pronounced can radically alter its meaning. For instance, tsu can mean “thatch” when pronounced with an extra low pitch, but “hippopotamus” when pronounced with falling pitch. In fact, pitch plays such a huge role in Seenku that it can be “spoken” through music alone, most notably on the traditional xylophone.

Laura McPherson

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