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Well, nobody's perfect. But at least we have cameras.

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]
posted by iamkimiam on Aug 15, 2012 - 65 comments

"Grief bacon."

Wonderful words with no simple English equivalent.
posted by mudpuppie on Aug 13, 2012 - 231 comments

Beizhing or Bei Jing?

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]
posted by beisny on Aug 13, 2012 - 301 comments

10 years of language hat

languagehat looks back on ten years of Languagehat: I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X.
posted by nangar on Jul 31, 2012 - 28 comments

Fearing cacodemonomania from jettatura, the acersecomic leptosome set off a biblioclasm of his scripturient neogenesis on ktenology, unwittingly bringing about hamartia.

The Project Twins have created bold illustrative posters of unusual words from A to Z. (via)
posted by divabat on Jul 25, 2012 - 19 comments

Dictionary, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.

Collins Dictionary is seeking suggestions for popular new words that deserve official definitions. Most recent suggestions: blurge, wammocky, dingbat, sloading, and many more.
posted by Fizz on Jul 19, 2012 - 29 comments

Dette er en pisse dårlig måde at forstå et sprog, men det er alt hvad jeg har fået

Momo and Andrew realized that no one else could pronounce Danish either and finally did something about it. [more inside]
posted by twoleftfeet on Jul 17, 2012 - 31 comments

What is that? Is that a red pen? No, that's not a red pen. That's a rock.

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]
posted by The demon that lives in the air on Jul 16, 2012 - 7 comments

Technology Enhancements for Sensory Impaired

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.
posted by netbros on Jul 3, 2012 - 4 comments

"Words -- so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."

Save the Words: Adopt words that have been abandoned by the English language.
posted by Fizz on Jul 3, 2012 - 83 comments

EYYyyyWWWww

Sound-Word Index — 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.
posted by netbros on Jun 25, 2012 - 1 comment

"Niggas" in Practice

"Niggas" in Practice Jay-Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, and when white people can say the word. [more inside]
posted by modernnomad on Jun 12, 2012 - 297 comments

How I Scored A Million Points In SpellTower

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
posted by growabrain on Jun 10, 2012 - 17 comments

His tooth was pulling out

...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.
via Slate
posted by ancillary on Jun 3, 2012 - 18 comments

False Fronts in the Language Wars

"Not since Saturday Night Live’s Emily Litella thundered against conserving natural racehorses and protecting endangered feces has a polemicist been so incensed by her own misunderstandings." - Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker responds to Joan Acocella's New Yorker piece, The English Wars [more inside]
posted by beisny on Jun 1, 2012 - 60 comments

As she is spoked

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
posted by infini on May 26, 2012 - 76 comments

Heraldry

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)
posted by curious nu on May 11, 2012 - 22 comments

Ceci n'est pas un meta

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]
posted by beagle on May 6, 2012 - 25 comments

“How do you know the moment when you cease to be human?"

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]
posted by Idler King on May 2, 2012 - 6 comments

Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element"

Beanplating on The Fifth Element from architecture students at the University of Waterloo. [more inside]
posted by Trurl on Apr 25, 2012 - 198 comments

Gathering the pieces of the tower of Babel

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]
posted by double block and bleed on Apr 23, 2012 - 72 comments

Tower of Babelfish - A Language Learning Method

Tower of Babelfish - A Language Learning Method [via mefi projects]
posted by aniola on Apr 19, 2012 - 12 comments

Aha! The anatomy of insight, like a rolling stone.

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]
posted by nickyskye on Apr 7, 2012 - 22 comments

A Database of Metaphor

The Mind is a Metaphor. A database of thousands of metaphors organized by category, like 18th century, Liquid, or Jacobite. It's maintained by University of Virginia English Professor Brad Pasanek.
posted by shivohum on Mar 27, 2012 - 19 comments

The Chinese Typewriter

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]
posted by Trurl on Feb 27, 2012 - 43 comments

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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.)
posted by Joey Bagels on Feb 24, 2012 - 126 comments

What Would Babbage Do?

If PHP Were British. (via an Ars comment.)
posted by veedubya on Feb 22, 2012 - 95 comments

That's like, French for "eeeeee"

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!
posted by vorfeed on Feb 17, 2012 - 46 comments

Yo Lady G, wassup?

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 slip through.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Feb 13, 2012 - 123 comments

The Greeks have no word for "Sovereign Default" OR timeo danaos et linguas quae futurum tempus habent dicentem.

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]
posted by gauche on Feb 11, 2012 - 70 comments

You say Tlingit, I say Hlingit

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]
posted by msalt on Feb 8, 2012 - 97 comments

Need a word for it?

The Lonely Planet has come up with a list of thirty travel terms that aren't in the dictionary.
posted by gman on Feb 5, 2012 - 70 comments

The First Word

The First Word. A new Electric Sheep comic by Patrick Farley on the psychedelic origins of language. [NSFW, Via]
posted by homunculus on Jan 29, 2012 - 37 comments

Of Particular Interest to Mefites

A history of "pearl clutching." Apparently, it originated on In Living Color.
posted by mokin on Jan 23, 2012 - 50 comments

The Mimic Method

The only way to become fluent in a language is to actively mimic the speech sounds of native speakers. Idahosa (ee-DAO-ssah) Ness has developed a language learning system based on music and mimicry.
posted by unliteral on Jan 17, 2012 - 49 comments

Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot

“Most of the languages I’ve studied I’ve never spoken, and I probably never will,” he told me. “And that’s okay with me. That’s nice if you can do that, but it’s rare that you have an interesting conversation in English. Why do I think it would be any better in another language?
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Jan 12, 2012 - 70 comments

Read all about it

Hubii is a map based newspaper browser. Filter by category, language, time or region or use the heatmap. [blog]
posted by unliteral on Jan 9, 2012 - 10 comments

My Word

The Corpus of American Historical English is a searchable index of word usage in American printed material from 1810 to 2009. Powerful complex searches allow you to trace the appearance and evolution of words and phrases and even specific grammatical constructions, see trends in frequency, and plenty more. Start with the 5-Minute Tour.
posted by Miko on Jan 7, 2012 - 23 comments

Geography and Science Fiction

GeoCurrents is blog dedicated to "map-illustrated analyses of current events and geographical issues", run by Martin W. Lewis, a Stanford senior lecturer. For the past week, they've been posting a series of articles on imaginary geography. See below for a list of the posts so far: [more inside]
posted by daniel_charms on Jan 6, 2012 - 8 comments

Because MeFites love proving that they are better than 90% of [X]

"If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world. After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud."
posted by Phire on Jan 3, 2012 - 236 comments

You shall Hear things, Wonderful to tell

A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Dec 22, 2011 - 107 comments

Christopher Alexander

A Pattern Language explores the living structure in good and bad buildings, human artifacts, and natural systems, discussing the presence of the same living order in all systems. [Christopher] Alexander proposes that the living order depends on features which make a close connection with the human self. The quality of works of art, artifacts, and buildings is defined not merely in terms of living structure, but also in their capacity to affect human growth and human well-being.
posted by Trurl on Dec 15, 2011 - 38 comments

Blame Brit for pitch shift!

American Woman: Vocal fried. On the partial glottalization of speech in young English speaking American women.
posted by emilycardigan on Dec 12, 2011 - 181 comments

"For many tiny, endangered languages, digital technology has become a lifeline."

Everyone Speaks Text Message: [NYTimes] "Is technology killing indigenous languages or saving them? Well, you may soon be able to text in N’Ko."
posted by Fizz on Dec 11, 2011 - 6 comments

Apparently so.

Are sex offenders and lads’ mags using the same language? [more inside]
posted by cmoj on Dec 10, 2011 - 37 comments

Playing with both cats and language

I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak. A presentation by Jill Vaughan and Lauren Gawne of the University of Melbourne at the Australian Linguistics Society annual conference 2011.
posted by bjrn on Dec 10, 2011 - 29 comments

The History of English

How new words are created - just one section of a site that charts 'How English went from an obscure Germanic dialect to a global language'.
posted by unliteral on Dec 1, 2011 - 37 comments

Phenomenology of Error

It has long been noted that style manuals and other usage advice frequently contain unintended examples of the usage they condemn. (This is sometimes referred to as Hartman's law or Muphry's law - an intentional misspelling of Murphy.) Starting from this observation, Joseph Williams' paper The Phenomenology of Error offers an examination of our selective attention to different types of grammatical and usage errors that goes beyond the descriptivism-prescriptivism debate. (alternate pdf link for "The Phenomenology of Error") [more inside]
posted by nangar on Nov 28, 2011 - 17 comments

Ashta

Gullah—the African-influenced dialect of Georgia’s Sea Islands—has undergone few changes since the first slave ships landed 300 years ago, and provides a clear window into the shaping of African-American English. This classic PBS program traces that story from the west coast of Africa through the American South, then to large northern cities in the 1920s. Studying the origins of West African pidgin English and creole speech—along with the tendency of 19th-century white Southerners to pick up speech habits from their black nursemaids—the program highlights the impact of WWI-era industrialization and the migration of jazz musicians to New York and Chicago.
posted by cthuljew on Nov 15, 2011 - 12 comments

Stories made from: microspores, fog maps, infected bass samples, mathematics, patterns of decay, broken machines, blood, code bugs…

Sparkletown, the twitter stories of Jeff Noon.
posted by Artw on Nov 10, 2011 - 19 comments

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