Some are strong, and some are weak. The weak, as is well known, are easily mastered—completely regular and, frankly, pathetic. But it doesn't have to be that way! The Society for the Strengthening of Verbs
labors at its noble cause of strengthening verbs
(in English too
, though with less Sprachgefühl), increasing the stock of causatives
, and generally messing around
with German (excuse me, with Neutsch
Shakespeare: Globe to Globe
was a series of 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 37 different languages
presented at the reconstructed Shakespeare Globe theatre in London this summer. [more inside]
The universe (which others call The Twitter) is composed of every word
in the English language; Shakespeare's folios
, line-by-line-by-line; the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
, exploded; Constantine XI
, in 140 character chunks; Sun Tzu's Art of War
, in its entirety; the chapter headings of JG Ballard
, in abundance; and definitive discographies
of Every. Artist. Ever...
All this, I repeat
, is true, but one hundred forty characters of inalterable wwwtext
cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. [more inside]
Researchers think that the late beluga whale named NOC had been trying to speak with a human accent
– or at least talk to its keepers. Current Biology
has more (PDF link).
What ho, dearest cousins in the Western Colonies. You appear to be increasingly using the vernacular of the mother country
. Splendid! [more inside]
The Global Language Online Support System
(or GLOSS), produced by the Defense Language Institute in sunny Monterey, CA, offers over six thousand
free lessons in 38 languages from Albanian to Uzbek, with particular emphasis on Chinese, Persian, Russian, Korean, and various types of Arabic. The lessons include both reading and listening components and are refreshingly based on real local materials (news articles, radio segments, etc.) rather than generic templates. [more inside]
Starting with a bracket for every letter
of the alphabet
, a bracket suggested by readers
and a "Fuck" play-in bracket
, blogger Ted McCagg just finished a contest for the Best Word Ever. In the running
were Umpteen, Eke, Isthmus, Skedaddle and Akimbo. The Final Four
. The finals
. The champion
. [Via The Paris Review & Kottke.]
Who Draws The Borders Of Culture?
(NYTimes) Cultural border, as opposed to national borders, are funny things. One country can contain many
(Coke vs. Soda. Vs. Pop, previously
). Cultural borders often appear as food and drink choices, like sweet tea
, forms of alcohol
, or BBQ sauce
. [more inside]
In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West
can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube
. [more inside]
Staying_On-Topic in r/intelligentanimals posts a huge number of links explaining why Corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, etc) are amazing.
The Northern Cities Vowel Shift is radically changing the sound of English:
Despite fears that the growth of TV and radio would homogenize English dialects in the US, the Great Lakes region (from Syracuse to Milwaukee) has been in fact diverging with respect to how people there pronounce English words. Rob Mifsud writes: Consider the three-letter words that begin with b and end in t: bat, bet, bit, bot, and but. All five of those words contain short vowel sounds. Their long-vowel equivalents—bate, beet, bite, boat, boot, and bout—arrived at their modern pronunciations as a result of the Great Vowel Shift that began around 1400 and established the basic contours of today’s English. But those short vowels have remained pretty much constant since the eighth century—in other words, for more than a thousand years. Until now. [more inside]
What makes a memorable movie quote memorable?
A news summary of how they went about it
A short audio version
(via NPR) of the story and research summary.
A Wikipedia list: AFI's 100 years, 100 quotes
A short list of advertising slogans
that fit the research model for movie quote memorability.
The research paper
(automatic PDF download). [more inside]
with no simple English equivalent
James Fallows, in a series of interesting blog posts
, questions the typical English pronunciation of China's capital city arguing that "the "jing" in Beijing is pronounced basically like the "jing" in Jingle Bells. It's essentially the normal English j- sound. What it's not like is the Frenchified zh- sound you hear in "azure" or "leisure," or at the end of "sabotage.""
One reader suggests, "My working theory about "Beijing/bay-zhing" is that at some deep, unconscious level, English speakers secretly believe that all foreign languages are French and should be pronounced as such in the absence of instructions to the contrary."
Another reader argues, "Major cities and countries have historically had different names in different languages, and these names serve a good purpose by being easy to pronounce and identify in the languages where they are used. There is really no more reason to say "Beijing" in English than "München" or "Moskva."" [more inside]
The Project Twins
have created bold illustrative posters of unusual words from A to Z
Momo and Andrew realized that no one else could pronounce Danish either and finally did something about it
. [more inside]
Where Are Your Keys?
(WAYK) is a language-learning game that starts with identifying a few simple objects and builds into a conversation dealing with abstract concepts — in the space of an hour or two, with minimal supplies. [more inside]
Recent technologies developed at American universities are making communication easier for the sight and hearing impaired. Last summer a Stanford undergrad developed a touchscreen Braille writer
that stands to revolutionize how the blind negotiate an unseen world by replacing devices costing up to 10 times more. Thanks to a group of University of Houston students, the hearing impaired may soon have an easier time communicating with those who do not understand sign language. During the past semester, students in UH’s engineering technology and industrial design programs teamed up to develop the concept and prototype for MyVoice
, a device that reads sign language and translates its motions into audible words, and vice versa.
Save the Words:
Adopt words that have been abandoned by the English language.
— Emotions and their sound can invade our digital messages. Our words become flexible and vibrate according to the volume of our voices, transforming their written form into an expressive and resonating language. Without the help of body language, words can sometimes fall short in our digital conversations. However, sound, volume and rhythm can influence the spelling of our words, helping to translate our emotions hidden behind our screens.
"Niggas" in Practice
Jay-Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, and when white people can say the word. [more inside]
My father-in-law Jerry is great at word puzzles. Over the holidays, I showed him SpellTower on my iPad. By the time I took my iPad back at the end of the trip, he had already broken the SpellTower “Puzzle Mode” record on the Game Center leader board by almost 100,000 points. So I asked Jerry if he would share his strategy
...it's true that the progressive passive first appeared in the English language in the second half of the 18th century, replacing what historians of English grammar call the passival.
The myth of English as a global language One would have to say that English, far from being a pure maiden, looks like a woman who has appeared out of some distant fen, had more partners than Moll Flanders, learned a lot in the process, and is now running a house of negotiable affection near an international airport
A well-illustrated guide to heraldry
. Want more? There's England's College of Arms
, or the heraldry of the US Army
. Notre Dame has a heraldic dictionary
, and the internet at large is happy to provide you with heraldry clip art
from (electronic) ages past. (And then there's always wikipedia
Ben Zimmer, the alternate-weeks author of the Boston Globe's language column, The Word, has a column today ("Dude, this headline is so meta") about the drift in the meaning of the prefix "meta"
over the past few decades, from “above or beyond” (the metaphysical realm is beyond the physical one) or “at a higher level of abstraction” (metalanguage is language used to describe other language)
to “consciously self-referential” ... a perfect meta-commentary on the consciously self-referential age we live in. [more inside]
We are the artistically creative authors of the truths we live by. We must then, if we are honest, live more tentatively in relation to the security and consistency we achieve through language. The effect of this conclusion, at least for me, at least most of the time, is bracing.
It is not bracing for everyone.
Scott Abbott examines the violent, funny, and philosophically distressing fictions
of Brian Evenson
, one of our most accomplished dark fantasists and genre-bending authors. [more inside]
Beanplating on The Fifth Element
from architecture students at the University of Waterloo. [more inside]
Tim Doner is a 16 year old polyglot
from New York city who currently speaks 23 languages.
(warning: video) He uses flash cards on his iPhone and posts youtube videos to get feedback from native speakers. [more inside]
How do we have insights, and where does inspiration come from? Jonah Lehrer goes inside Bob Dylan's brain to find out
...the "neural correlate of insight": the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG). This small fold of tissue, located on the surface of the right hemisphere just above the ear, became unusually active in the seconds before the epiphany
. [more inside]
As you can see, the [Chinese] typewriter is extremely complicated and cumbersome. The main tray — which is like a typesetter's font of lead type — has about two thousand of the most frequent characters. Two thousand characters are not nearly enough for literary and scholarly purposes, so there are also a number of supplementary trays from which less frequent characters may be retrieved when necessary. What is even more intimidating about a Chinese typewriter is that the characters as seen by the typist are backwards and upside down! [more inside]
If you use Americanisms
just to show you know them, people may find you a tad tiresome, so be discriminating.
You may have to think harder if you are not to use jargon
, but you can still be precise.
Use all metaphors
, dead or alive, sparingly, otherwise you will make trouble for yourself.
Some words add nothing but length
to your prose.
(Notes from The Economist
's style guide
Shit Burqueños Say
(and part two
) are twin odes to New Mexican idiosyncrasies. The videos (created by ABQ's own Blackout Theatre
troupe) went viral and made the front page of the Albuquerque Journal
this week, to the general amusement of most
, though they're not entirely free of controversy
. Watch and you too may exclaim eeeeee, this is all funny!
The makers of Downton Abbey
take great care to recreate the look and feel of the period in which it is set. But occasionally anachronisms
in the dialogue
I ﬁnd that speakers of languages with little to no grammatical distinction between the present and future (weak-FTR ["Future Time Reference"] language speakers) engage in much more future-oriented behavior. Weak-FTR speakers are 30% more likely to have saved in any given year, and have accumulated an additional 170 thousand Euros by retirement. I also examine non-monetary measures such as health behaviors and long-run health. I ﬁnd that by retirement, weak-FTR speakers are in better health by numerous measures: they are 24% less likely to have smoked heavily, are 29% more likely to be physically active, and are 13% less likely to be medically obese. [more inside]
After years of work, New Zealand scholar Sally-Ann Lambert just released volume 2 of her 9-volume linguistics series. “Hlingit Word Encyclopedia: The Origin of Copper”
is a 630-page encyclopedia of the SE Alaskan native language Tlingit. She traveled to Sitka for a mid-January book release and found one little problem: none of the Tlingit native speakers or scholars there recognized the language in it. [more inside]
The Lonely Planet
has come up with a list of thirty travel terms
that aren't in the dictionary.