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Death of the dirty word
March 7, 2009 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Why would an evolutionary biologist study words? It turns out there is an astonishing parallel between the evolution of words in a lexicon and the evolution of genes in an organism. The word two, for example, has been around much longer than most, and will likely be with us for millennia, whereas the comparatively rare and recent word dirty has undergone many mutations, and will probably be extinct in a few hundred years. Professor Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, UK, tells us why on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's program As It Happens. Pull slider to 16:00 to start the seven minute interview.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium (49 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 


I've long since replaced 'dirty' with 'filthy little whore.'

What?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:11 PM on March 7, 2009


Thanks Dumsnill, you beat me to it.
posted by stonepharisee at 6:14 PM on March 7, 2009


Some people are not entirely wowed by Pagels' research.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:19 PM on March 7, 2009


And by "some people" you mean Carl Pyrdum? Goodness. Did you listen to the interview with Pagel, Chrysostom?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:31 PM on March 7, 2009


Why would an evolutionary biologist study words?

Presumably, in an attempt to show that the oldest concepts known to mankind are "young" and "big boobed".
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:36 PM on March 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Because in the beginning was the Word.
posted by DU at 6:38 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


(hang on, i read that as "evolutionary psychologist")
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:40 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't wait until languagehat shows up in this post. Maybe if I say his username three times, he'll appear. Languagehat, languagehat, languagehat.

If you're interested in some of the criticism surrounding this story (although, really, "condemnation" might be more accurate), then here are some posts from the Language Log:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1186
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1191
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1197
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:59 PM on March 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wish the phrase "frigged my pego" never went out of style.
posted by digsrus at 7:09 PM on March 7, 2009


Metafilter: the most densely nonsensical three-minute sequence
posted by jonp72 at 7:23 PM on March 7, 2009


Furthermore, a handy little guide to small talk in the Stone Age...
posted by dawson at 7:29 PM on March 7, 2009


POPPYCOCK.

(Dutch dialect pappekak, literally, soft dung, from Dutch pap pap + kak dung Date:1865)
posted by Hammond Rye at 7:44 PM on March 7, 2009


Well, I think it's the cats pajamas.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:48 PM on March 7, 2009


Just nthing here how much I love Language Log. Some truly excellent blogging, there.
posted by emjaybee at 7:54 PM on March 7, 2009


There is a great deal in common between biological evolution and cultural evolution. But there's also a huge difference: cultural evolution is fundamentally Lamarckian. It responds intelligently to new challenges and passes on acquired traits.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:55 PM on March 7, 2009


Love this stuff. Had a few friends who did Linguistics 100 at university to make up points in 1st year. Wish I'd done that instead of Psychology 100. But then again... Psych100 was pretty interesting.

Language and evolution. Is this what Chomsky does? Apart from whinge about stuff.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:06 PM on March 7, 2009


Lots of ad hominem and false premise here so far. Pagel is not equating biological and cultural evolution. The parallel is drawn by the media for purposes of illustration, but Pagel is data mining language with an IBM supercomputer and extrapolating. If you disagree with his conclusions you should address them rationally.
And Kutsuwamushi: Ass kissing aside, what do you think?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:00 PM on March 7, 2009


That's not too surprising, critical genes don't change much, and critical words (which would be the words more frequently used, I guess) change a lot.

Also, check out this great article by Carl Zimmer that's related.

You know the RNA World hypothesis? The one that says the earliest forms of life were entirely based on RNA, and that DNA didn't evolve till much later? I've heard people say that it's possible that RNA based life could still exist somewhere, but it turns out it does and we've known about it since the 1960s. The article talks about the evolution of viroids and how, lacking any checking mechanism it's very susceptible to mutation and therefore can't have a very long genome.
posted by delmoi at 9:35 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a computational linguist. I prefer to reserve judgment until I've had a chance to study the research methodology (I've got a cold and my body wants to go to sleep now), but there are a few things that jumped out at me as being a little odd. First, is the assertion that conjunctions and prepositions are more prone to change than numbers or question adverbs (I'm going to chalk up 'less important' to the journalist) or pronouns. The pronouns are what get me especially since we had a major shift in systems in the last 400 or so years. When was the last time you said 'thee' or 'thou' seriously? Conjunctions and prepositions are closed class words, which means that we make up new ones very very infrequently, as opposed to, say, a class like nouns which has new words coined every minute.

I looked at the abstract of another paper 'Languages Evolve in Punctuational Bursts' which involves a study of Austronesian languages (among others). Austronesian languages, even the more frequently studied ones like Warlpiri don't have a ton of data, especially historical data, and most of it isn't digitized. Almost all of the stuff that works reliably in computational linguistics thrives on really big data sets, I'm talking in the millions and billions of words. 10,000 word tokens really won't work.

Still, I plan on reading the papers themselves when I get a chance and maybe there is something in their methodology that will assuage my doubts.

I've also been of the mind that language change slows down as time goes on, especially as we have more literacy, fewer long-term mass invasions accompanied by re-settlements and more regularity. It would be interesting to see if Professor Pagel's work takes this into account.

I found the irregular verb stuff to be pretty interesting. I did similar research in graduate school as a side project, and since then I've been a little bit of a geek about language irregularity. Irregularity is like a time capsule we open every time we open our mouths; we keep the crufty bits of our old languages with us this way. Instead of looking back to Old and Middle English I looked at how irregular verbs lurched toward regularity when released into the wilds of the early 2000's blog world (at least in comparison to newspaper articles). 'Smited' and 'sweeped' were surprisingly common, and no one used 'durst' when they could say 'dared', though it popped up in my news articles.
posted by Alison at 9:46 PM on March 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Language and evolution. Is this what Chomsky does?

Nope.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 10:10 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]




And Kutsuwamushi: Ass kissing aside, what do you think?

Wow. Hoping that someone will comment on a thread and letting that be known is ass kissing now.

What do I think? Other people have expressed it much more eloquently than I can, but if you really want to hear another person say the same thing:

I should no longer be surprised at how little even the "educated" public knows about language, but every once in a while, something is published that is so incredibly and obviously idiotic that I'm surprised again.

It isn't the factual errors, because although errors this basic should be incredibly embarrassing to any professional journalist, I've come to expect them. It's the complete failure to think critically about language. You don't need to know anything about linguistics to realize that a lot of the the descriptions about Pagel's research make no sense at all; you only need to ponder them for a moment.

Astoundingly nonsensical reportage like this is almost enough to make me think that there's more than simple ignorance behind it - that there is some sort of social resistance towards thinking of language is an object that can be studied, and that has experts who can be consulted on things. And in my less charitable moments, I think that this social resistance might have something to do with the number of people I've met who think that doing well in English Composition means they're an expert on language.

As for Pagel's research itself, I'm not going to form an opinion based on the information available to me, which is god-awful.

I will say, for people who are interested, that although the Language Log posts I linked to start with criticizing the journalism, in the comments people start to speculate about Pagel's work on this project and how responsible he is for the bad coverage. The comments are almost as interesting as the post, really.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:17 PM on March 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


You don't need to know anything about linguistics to realize that a lot of the the descriptions about Pagel's research make no sense at all; you only need to ponder them for a moment.

Care to enlighten us? I read the brief linked article (New Scientist, 11/07), and did not see any glaring inconsistencies. What should I be looking for? The basic premises of the research described seemed sound to me on first pass. FWIW, it appears either one or both of the two separate studies referred to (Pagel's and Lieberman's) in the NS article were originally published in Nature.

In general, Kutsuwamushi, I'm not seeing any substance or coherence to your argument, but that's largely b/c you're not articulating why we should be so dismissive of the research referred to the in the post. I have no particular dog in this fight, but just saying "the article is silly and the research sounds--from what one gather without actually reading it!--silly too" is not exactly much of an argument.
posted by ornate insect at 12:29 AM on March 8, 2009


Astoundingly nonsensical reportage like this is almost enough to make me think that there's more than simple ignorance behind it - that there is some sort of social resistance towards thinking of language is an object that can be studied, and that has experts who can be consulted on things.

What a bizzare claim. I mean, here we have a bunch of stories about an expert studying language an object, and the takeaway is that people are averse to consulting with experts and studying language as an object?

Now you may think this particular expert is a crank and people are drawing incorrect conclusions, but I don't see how you can say that's because people just can't deal. You'll find astoundingly bad journalism about all aspects of science, often drawing on a single scientist or paper, and making kitchen sinks full of mix-metaphor conclusion soups. It's also that way with politics, and economics, and anything else because journalists are lazy and usually writing about stuff they don't understand.

Also, languagelog doesn't actually criticize the newscientist (which is ordinarily terrible) or the As it Happens interview in the linked FPP.
posted by delmoi at 12:38 AM on March 8, 2009


Care to enlighten us? I read the brief linked article (New Scientist, 11/07), and did not see any glaring inconsistencies.

The New Scientist article isn't that bad compared to some other coverage, but starting from the first paragraph: it's horribly vague. What does it mean for a word to be "unaltered"? The writer doesn't say, leaving us to puzzle it out for ourselves.

The word for "two" in English is obviously not the same as it was 10,000 years ago. "Two" isn't that similar to "zwei," after all. So you should already know something is a little unconventional about the writer's use of "unaltered."

To give the author the benefit of the doubt, I tried to assume that they meant the semantic content remains stable. But then I came to this sentence: "They found the more frequently the meaning is used in speech, the less change in the words used to express it." There goes that assumption.

At least for the New Scientist article, the confusion between the form of a word, and the meanig the word expresses, is the only big problem that I think should be obvious to a careful reader.

(I can't get "As It Happens" to load for me.)

What a bizzare claim.

Maybe. I think the attitude does exist, based on personal experiences, not necessarily that the journalists muddling their way through this story hold the attitude themselves. Of course, the articles are about research done by an evolutionary biologist and a mathematician, and not linguists - who are very real and who are doing research that is every bit as interesting as this. I don't have much trouble imagining that "evolutionary biologist" and "mathematician" are much more recognizable (and therefore a better story) than the people whose primary area of study is language, given how many people have asked "what's that?" after I've told them what I'm going to school for.

but that's largely b/c you're not articulating why we should be so dismissive of the research

That's because, as I said, I don't have an opinion about the research. I only have access to Pagel's research through the filter of mainstream science journalism, which usually manages to mess things up.

It's dangerous to make conclusions about language in general based on one language family, though. Whether Pagel is actually doing that - no idea.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:00 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I miss Barbara Frum.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:41 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is interesting whether or not it's true. However...

There's no solid evidence one way or the other that Neandertals had any linguistic abilities. Even if we're just talking about Paleolithic anatomically modern humans, there's yet again a dearth of evidence of when language as we know it began. There's some assumption that it's coincident with the appearance of symbolic representation, but still, just an assumption.

Also, population densities from those times are unknown, so assuming there was some sort of monolithic "Stone Age language family," with words virtually unchanged through present that we could use to communicate with the cavemen, is ridiculous. If the population densities were as low as many of the estimates, as likely as not there were as many languages in Europe then as there are in Papua New Guinea now (or, were a few hundred years ago, pre-contact), from wildly diverse origins and most some degree of mutually unintelligible from each other.

Given the study's focus on only Indo-European languages, then, to say that one could use a certain set of words to communicate with cavemen is, frankly, nutty (it also completely ignores the one known pre-Indo-European language in Europe, Basque, the language whose words for some tools derive from the word for stone).
posted by The Michael The at 5:51 AM on March 8, 2009


The New Scientist article makes no sense whatsoever. You migh as well do one of those 'kids say the funniest things' style interview to understand where babies come from as to understand the research from that article. The radio interview is much clearer though.

The first parts don't seem that controversial in themselves: for each meaning in a language there is a word, and in the Indo-European languages a number of those words with the same meaning are cognate (evolved from the same place, but not borrowed) across several languages. Pagel recognises the words sound very different in some cases, so he's clearly not suggesting you could talk to 'cavemen' using these words like some media seem to think. He then goes on to say that there are open and closed classes of meanings with some words being cognate across a wide number of languages and therefore possibly unreplaced since proto-Indo-European, and other meanings having non-cognate words in a wide number of languages and therefore replaced at some point in history. None of this is particularly new, and there has been a similar/same method of lexicostatistics since the 1950s studying these things.

Pagel however makes two interesting claims which may be less accepted. The first is that the difference between the open and closed class of meanings is the level of use they receive. More commonly used meanings tend to have their words replaced less, and less commonly used meanings get their words replaced more. I think that could be objected to on a number of points, but especially that usage data applies only to the time period in which it was collected, for the words it was collected, and the language that contains those words. Twentieth century English usage data doesn't tell us anything about usage in ninth-century common south western slavic, when the good people of Podgorica were busy using new words for old meanings. Indeed, we have no usable data for long long periods of time in many languages when such changes were happening, and so don't know whether the open and closed classes then were based on usage or not, even if they are so now (which I would doubt).

Pagel's second claim is that you can then work out a 'half-life' for some words, suggesting that they have a certain probability of being replaced within a given timespan. This smacks of some kind of weak-form glottochronology, a very disparaged method in linguistics that uses lexicostatistics to determine the rate of language change. It's not quite the same, I acknowledge, but it runs into the same difficulties of trying to be predictive instead of descriptive. Language change seems to be a very complex and unordered process, so claim-making is fraught with danger. There are tendencies (like the aforementioned regularising of irregular verbs), but they don't allow anything but the most broad of predictions, 'there will be fewer irregular verbs in the future than there are now'. Pagel's claim for a 'half-life' of 'dirty' to be 750 years is much too specific, and only something very weak like, '"dirty" has a higher likelihood of being replaced than "two" in any given amount of time', has any chance of standing up. But then, that's not a very useful claim, or very new, or even very interesting for the media.
posted by Sova at 6:57 AM on March 8, 2009


Love this stuff.

Have you read The Secret Life of Words: How English Became English? I'm not a linguist, but I found it fascinating. It is the evolution of the English language placed in its cultural context.
Whereas in the previous phase [of borrowing from the Scandinavian languages] English-speakers had adopted Norse words out of deference to their new masters, now Norse-speakers were switching to English and interfering with its vocabulary.[...]As Simon Winchester nicely remarks, 'we can somehow understand that the gloomy antecedents of Ibsen would have given to English the likes of awkward, birth, dirt, fog (perhaps), gap, ill, mire, muggy, ransack, reindeer, root, rotten, rugged, scant, scowl and wrong.' Even grimmer loans from this source include muck, scab, and possibly scum.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:59 AM on March 8, 2009


This thread suggests that a lot of discussions of science (in the softer disciplines, at least) is based on whether people find the ideas interesting, not whether they happen to be true or not. A lot of linguisic poppycock, a lot of evolutionary psychology, right hemisphere/left hemisphere, etc. Scientific journalism and popular science books thrive on this. People find ideas interesting even when they can't be true given other things we know. This is a flaw in human evolution, in m opinion.
posted by cogneuro at 8:50 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


People find ideas interesting even when they can't be true given other things we know. This is a flaw in human evolution, in m opinion.

If it's a flaw, then it's certainly a most fortunate one. Quite often, some of the things we have known to be true turn out to be false. If we dismissed everything that can't be true given all the things we know, there would be no progress in our knowledge.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:12 AM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dumsnill beat me to the Language Log link (which is comprehensive enough that I didn't feel the need to post about this nonsense at LH); otherwise, all I have to say is that cogneuro's point that "a lot of discussions of science (in the softer disciplines, at least) is based on whether people find the ideas interesting, not whether they happen to be true or not" is true and should be taken into account much more than it is (though, of course, there's always the wide-eyed response that "some of the things we have known to be true turn out to be false"—yes, and sometimes bridges really are for sale, but it's well to consider the probabilities).

Pagel is not a linguist and does not know how linguistics works. And it's pointless to demand that commenters here spell out the problems with this gee-whiz news story in detail; why should we, when Language Log has done it already?
posted by languagehat at 9:43 AM on March 8, 2009


I don't have an opinion about the research. I only have access to Pagel's research through the filter of mainstream science journalism, which usually manages to mess things up.

But you are having your cake and eating it too: you are claiming that either the article is missing something important about the research that would have it make more sense, or the article is a reflection of faulty research. It's a little like discerning what the new U2 album sounds like from just reading a review in Rolling Stone and not actually listening to it. One may think the album must blow, but who knows maybe upon listening one would actually like it.
posted by ornate insect at 12:46 PM on March 8, 2009


sometimes bridges really are for sale, but it's well to consider the probabilities

Well, I agree that the odds of something so radical being discovered that the whole world is turned upside down are infinitesimal. What I wanted to say was that our knowledge is always limited and if we only took interest in facts that fit our limited worldview but didn't expand it in any way, we'd be in a bucket of muck. Curiosity is what keeps us going. So it's a good thing that people take interest in (and discuss) things not only because they are true within their limited worlds. I'm not trying to say that everything "interesting" is valuable (in my experience, quite a lot of crap gets published because someone found the idea intriguing), but I consider these things an unavoidable byproduct of the scientific process (unavoidable, as the process isn't perfect).

(Incidentally, I know this bridge that could be for sale - as scrap metal)
posted by daniel_charms at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2009


Pagel is not a linguist and does not know how linguistics works.

Do we know for a fact that he did not consult with linguists or attempt to integrate their insights into the work? It's possible his research and the data it draws from were not the sole province of one person (this is often the case). Of course, I could be wrong, but why are wagons being circled without a more thorough look at the research itself? I have no dog here, but I'm just surprised at how many superficial opinions are being thrown about. Maybe Pagel's research is bunkum, maybe not, but to draw such a conclusion too hastily either way seems unwarranted.
posted by ornate insect at 2:01 PM on March 8, 2009


He may well have consulted with linguists, but if you aren't well grounded in the findings and approach of a field, you're not going to be able to do well by it. He had this brilliant idea and knew just how to research it; I don't think he was going to let some dusty denizen of a historical linguistics department discourage him with mutterings about the failings of glottochronology. Like the Language Loggers, I am normally sympathetic to scientists whose research gets hopelessly mangled by idiot journalists, but this guy seems to have positively encouraged the wild-eyed articles.
posted by languagehat at 2:37 PM on March 8, 2009


fair enough, lh, but why are you still taking pot shots at an article (here's the abstract) when:

a) you've not read it
b) it was written by three people (not one)
c) the original Language Log piece calls it "sensible"
d) Nature is a pretty good indication that the article is not just pure hackery

Again, maybe the original article deserves to be called out as making basic conceptual mistakes that someone more "grounded in the findings and approach" of linguistics could have spotted, but then again maybe if you read it (I have not) you might find the suppositions are not as faulty as you currently suspect. That's at least a possibility, is it not?
posted by ornate insect at 3:00 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


FWIW, Pagel co-authored the original article with this guy and someone else as well. Pagel's name is also attached to this jointly authored and similar research.
posted by ornate insect at 3:12 PM on March 8, 2009


ornate insect: while Language Log does find the 2007 article sensible, they also find (and I'm with them on both counts) that the claims made in the press releases and interviews that concern Pagel's latest research - are preposterous. Even if it's not Pagel who's making these claims (we cannot be 100% sure, as the research itself is yet to be published), he's certainly encouraging them. Which is why the wagons are being circled.
posted by daniel_charms at 3:18 PM on March 8, 2009


If it's a flaw, then it's certainly a most fortunate one. Quite often, some of the things we have known to be true turn out to be false. If we dismissed everything that can't be true given all the things we know, there would be no progress in our knowledge.

In the the meantime, we have lots of people who can't tell fact from fairy tail. The balance is way biased toward the side of credulity and away from ability to ask hard questions.
posted by cogneuro at 3:38 PM on March 8, 2009


Which is why the wagons are being circled.

And perhaps you're correct, but one also senses the residue of some extra-scientific prejudices at work, i.e. some dogmatic reflexivity against any perceived interloper into the field of linguistics.
posted by ornate insect at 3:41 PM on March 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


But you are having your cake and eating it too: you are claiming that either the article is missing something important about the research that would have it make more sense, or the article is a reflection of faulty research.

I don't understand what contradiction you think there is here.

I don't need to have access to Pagel's research to conclude that the news coverage has been an embarrassment. I can tell that from the writing. It's a journalist's job to understand at least the basics of such news stories and relay them accurately and sensibly to their readers, and it's obvious that they've failed to do that, in a very basic way.

(Also, "proven rigorously" - no. It's even worse in science journalism, where the writers should have at least a basic idea of how much is involved in scientific proof.)

i.e. some dogmatic reflexivity against any perceived interloper into the field of linguistics.

If Pagel is speaking as an expert on a subject that he really isn't an expert in, and is saying things that are wrong, then criticizing him and the journalists who are giving him airtime without consulting real experts in the field isn't "dogmatic reflexivity," but completely sensible.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:34 PM on March 8, 2009


If Pagel is speaking as an expert on a subject that he really isn't an expert in...

Take it up with Nature, Science, Pagel (his email is on the abstract links) and his research colleagues. But you might want to read the research first. Good luck.
posted by ornate insect at 4:43 PM on March 8, 2009


In the the meantime, we have lots of people who can't tell fact from fairy tail.

And they're particularly wide of the mark, considering that fairies don't even have tails.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:54 PM on March 8, 2009


If Pagel is speaking as an expert on a subject that he really isn't an expert in, and is saying things that are wrong...
posted by Kutsuwamushi


You are begging the question, Kutsuwamushi. None of your arguments contains any proof that Pagel is wrong, or evidence that you have read his research.

Pagel is not a linguist and does not know how linguistics works...
posted by languagehat

And perhaps you're correct, but one also senses the residue of some extra-scientific prejudices at work, i.e. some dogmatic reflexivity against any perceived interloper into the field of linguistics.
posted by ornate insect


Wikipedia:Continental drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other. The hypothesis that continents 'drift' was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596 and was fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912. However, it was not until the development of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s, that a sufficient geological explanation of that movement was found...Wegener was the first to use the phrase "continental drift" (1912, 1915)...During Wegener's lifetime, his theory of continental drift was severely attacked by leading geologists, who viewed him as an outsider meddling in their field.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:47 PM on March 8, 2009


You are begging the question, Kutsuwamushi. None of your arguments contains any proof that Pagel is wrong, or evidence that you have read his research.

How many times do I have to repeat myself? I've already said, more than once, that I haven't read Pagel's research and don't intend to judge it based on the heavily filtered information that's available to me. I have been criticising the journalism.

You're misinterpreting a response to a specific comment of ornate insect's, that suggested other people who have criticized Pagel's research or behavior are doing so out of a dogmatic dislike of non-linguistics doing linguistics-related research, ignoring that there might be a very legitimate reason to react negatively.

I never assumed that Pagel is wrong ("if"), but you and ornate insect certainly seem to be assuming that he's right.

I don't have time for this. And now I see that you're the one who posted the original links. Bowing out.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:13 PM on March 8, 2009


A great book on language change that comes from an almost opposite historical linguistics perspective is Empires of the Word, by Nicholas Ostler.
posted by afu at 11:35 PM on March 8, 2009


ornate insect: And perhaps you're correct, but one also senses the residue of some extra-scientific prejudices at work, i.e. some dogmatic reflexivity against any perceived interloper into the field of linguistics.

One also senses the residue of some very real extra-scientific prejudices in boosterism of this work, specifically, the bias that combining "evolution" with some previously explored social phenomena makes it more sciency.

I'll just state my opinion again that "science" news on the blue without links to the primary research are not worth crap and don't belong here for this reason.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:58 AM on March 9, 2009


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