Posts Tagged: language
Vervet monkeys use different words (or, at least, “different alarm calls to refer to different types of predators, such as snakes and leopards”) but don’t arrange them into diverse kinds of sentences. Songbirds, meanwhile, create elaborate sentences with a variety of notes, but the notes don’t act as words the way the monkey alarm calls do....more
“Homophobic language isn’t always meant to be hurtful, but how often do we use it without thinking?
So asks NoHomophobes.com, a website “designed as a social mirror to show the prevalence of casual homophobia in our society.” The site tracks, in real-time, the Twitter usage of the terms “faggot,” “dyke,” “no homo,” and “so gay.” Last week, the word “faggot” was tweeted a depressing 218,946 times....more
“Different languages highlight the varieties of human experience, revealing as mutable aspects of life that we tend to think of as settled and universal, such as our experience of time, number, or color.”
At National Geographic, Russ Rhymer writes about the value of protecting the heterogeneity of language in a rapidly globalizing world....more
According to scholars, Homer never mentioned the color blue in any of his works; neither did the Bible, nor an abundance of ancient texts. Also, linguists have found a near-universal pattern in which languages developed color in stages, and blue was always the last to be named....more
“For all those who are in the situation of Hero and Leander, and similarly to them can only exchange secret signs about the feelings of their hearts, here we publish the secrets of the language of stamps. If the stamp stands upright in the upper right corner of the card or envelope, it means: I wish your friendship....more
Here’s a reflection on nationhood through the lens of bilingualism, product packaging, and mixed vegetables.
“The French and the English cannot be made to say exactly the same thing, not even in the blunt, literal language of generics. And this unharmonizability, one fears, is but the exact linguistic reflection of the irreducible discreteness of the can’s various contents (this is not a mash, but a mix), which in turn is but the alimentary mirror of unending human conflict.”
(Via The Book Bench)...more
This article discusses the Klingon language—its creation and lasting influence (“people get married in Klingon ceremonies; one man tried (unsuccessfully) to make it his son’s native tongue”). The piece ends with a video in which linguist Marc Okrand explains how he invented Klingon....more
Does the rise of new technology, specifically auto-translate, signal the death of human translation and multilingualism? David Bellos, author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything, thinks not. Check out his reasoning in this interview, which touches on the methodology of Google Translate, vehicular languages, and multilingualism in America....more
How does a non-native English speaker figure out the proper usage and placement of “like”? Is the “like tic” nothing more than a meaningless flaw?
“Had the non-native inquirer delved further, he would have found “like” analyzed as communicating something about the speaker’s relationship to his or her statement; as a “hedge”; as more common (surprisingly!) among males than among females; as an aspect of “sluicing” or elided speech; as a presentation of dramatized dialogue; as a useful point of departure for the study of the interactions of components of grammar....more
“Hearing people should not fool themselves into thinking they can understand the Deaf experience. What we need to understand, though, is that there is more to it than not being able to hear.”
In honor of Deaf Awareness Week this article offers a glimpse into the ins and outs of Deaf culture, which was officially recognized in the 1960s....more
According to the Endangered Alphabets Project, the 6,000-7,000 languages spoken on this planet are written in fewer than 100 alphabets. And, at least a third of those remaining alphabets are considered endangered. The project exhibits fourteen of those scripts: Inuktitut, Baybayin, Manchu, Bugis, Bassa Vah, Cherokee, Samaritan, Mandaic, Syriac, Khmer, Pahauh Hmong, Balinese, Tifinagh and Nom....more
Headed by the University of Vermont’s Isabel Klouman, a team of researchers did a massive language study that revealed an optimistic tendency of the English language—there are more positive words than negative. Compiling words from years of the New York Times, tweets, popular song lyrics and Google Books, they then analyzed the most common from each source, and finally rated each word’s relative positivity from the 10,122-word list....more
Does anyone else think the question mark is the most beautiful of all punctuation marks?
Well, the very first question mark may have looked more like a colon. Discovered in Syriac manuscripts of the Bible from the fifth century, the double dot symbol is placed above a word near the beginning of a sentence to indicate to the reader that it is a question....more
For all the logophiles out there—the Awl published an essay on how wartime words are integrated into our vernacular. Just as technological advances happened in the context of war, language evolved via wartime slang.
War is the context behind “trench coat” and “airminded.” A great history lesson to start your day!...more
A twenty year-old French law that sought to keep the news media from promoting commercial enterprises is being newly reinforced.
This means that using “Facebook” and “Twitter” on air is strictly forbidden. This seems like a good way to stave off potential conflicts of interest, however with ubiquity having rendered these terms into (basically) general nouns, it might be difficult to find a vernacularly-fitting way around them....more