Linguistic Puzzles 5 – 8

Challenge 5 — When words are made up of meaning bits (Science of Linguistics)

Languages around the world organize information in different ways. It is the job of a linguist (language analyst) to puzzle out the meanings of words and parts of words. To do this, they compare several related phrases and find out what is the same and what is different. Some Oksapmin hunters were talking. Try to compare some of their words to discover which part of the word is the action, which part is the person, and which part is the tense.

su-pat = (He) is killing (something).

su-tir = (He) killed (something) yesterday.

da-tir = (He) got (something) yesterday.

su-tpa = (They) killed (something) a long time ago.’

na-su-tip = (He) killed (something) for me a long time ago.’

na-da-tir = (She) got (something) for me yesterday.’

da-tiri = (They) got (something) yesterday.’

su pat da tir tpa na tip tiri

What do the small bits mean? Drag the word segments from the left into the appropriate places:

  1. _____ = kill
  2. _____ = get
  3. _____ = present tense (singular)
  4. _____ = yesterday (singular)
  5. _____ = yesterday (plural)
  6. _____ = long ago (plural)
  7. _____ = long ago (singular)
  8. _____ = for me
Now, drag the word segments to say this:
(They) got (something) for me a long time ago. = _____ _____ _____

Challenge 6 — Breaking the language code (Science of Linguistics)

Let’s visit the Dane-zaa people of British Columbia. They represent over 800 speakers and currently have some portions of Scripture available in their language.

Part A Each language not only has unique ways to make up words, but it often arranges the words in a different sequence too. By comparing these sentences in the Dane-zaa language, see if you can figure out what the words mean.

Dane ihuuge gha?ě. ‘The man saw a fish.’
Dane nǒdaa gha?ě. ‘The man saw a lynx.’
Dane ihuuge atsits. ‘The man is eating a fish.’
Gaah atsits. ‘She is eating a rabbit.’
atsits dane
ihuuge gaah
gha?ě nǒdaa
_____ man _____ lynx
_____ fish _____ rabbit
_____ he/she is eating _____ he/she saw

Part B How do the order of the words in the Dane-zaa sentences differ from English?

  1. Verb - Subject - Object
  2. Subject - Object - Verb
  3. Subject - Verb - Object
  1. English order: ____________
  2. Dane-zaa order: ____________

Part C Using the 6 words that you have learned from the Dane-zaa language, and accounting for the different word order, translate the following sentence. Drag and drop from the words above.

Translate: “The lynx is eating a rabbit” — _____ _____ _____

Challenge 7 - Learning to count in a different language (Science of Linguistics)

Still among the Dane-zaa people of British Columbia. Look at the Dane-zaa counting system below. Can you notice any patterns?

1 ehlhaahch’ii

2 ǒkech’ii

3 taach’ii

4 jěch’ii

5 lhaahtsech’ii

6 ěhts’e?taach’ii

7 taawedze

8 ěhtse?jěch’ii

9 k’alaak’ech’ii

10 k’enech’ii

11 k’enech’ii ehlhaahch’ii mataah

12 k’enech’ii ǒkech’ii mataah

19 k’enech’ii k’alaak’ech’ii mataah

30 taach’ii k’ech’ii

42 jěch’ii k’ech’ii ǒkech’ii mataah

90 k’alaak’wenech’ii k’ech’ii

99 k’alaak’wenech’ii k’ech’ii k’alaak’ech’ii mataah

100 k’wenech’ii k’ech’ii

199 k’wenech’ii k’ech’ii k’alaak’wenech’iik’ech’ii k’alaak’ech’ii mataah

900 k’alaak’ech’ii k’wenech’ii k’ech’ii

1000 k’enech’ii k’wenech’ii k’ech’ii


In Genesis 5:25, it says that Methuselah died when he was 969 years old.
Using the information above, drag the numbers below into the correct order. When you get it right, "Correct!" will show up below.

  • k’alaak’ech’ii
  • mataah
  • k’alaak’ech’ii
  • ěhts’e?taach’ii k’ech’ii
  • k’wenech’ii k’ech’ii

Challenge 8 — When words don’t match (Application for Bible Translation)

Some words in another language are used differently to the way we use them in English. Here is an example of how some words are used in the Aguaruna language of Peru.

man's brother = yatsug
man's sister = ubag
woman's brother = ubag
woman's sister = kaig
  1. Matthew 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother _____ Andrew.
  2. John 11:2 This Mary, sister _____ of Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.
  3. John 11:23 Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother _____ will rise again.”
  4. Mark 3:35 Jesus said, “Whoever does God's will is my brother _____ and sister _____ and mother.”
  5. Luke 10:39 Martha had a sister _____ called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.

Congratulations on finishing this set of challenges.

If you enjoyed solving language puzzles from around the world, perhaps you should consider getting training to be a linguist or a Bible Translator. They often live with a people group for a time and study the structure of their language. Of the 7000 languages in the world, it has been determined that 1750 languages are still needing Bible translation and other types of language development work. That represents about 250 million people - roughly 9 times the population of Canada. When you are done click on the Home button above and choose another set of challenges.