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Can a double positive ever make a negative?

Repetition needn't be redundancy. Contrastive focus reduplication (also lexical cloning, the double construction) is a little studied type of syntactic reduplication found in some languages. The first part of the reduplicant bears contrastive intonational stress, hence the name. [Via]
posted by Obscure Reference on Oct 9, 2010 - 42 comments

Another brick off the tower of Babel

As part of National Geographic's Enduring Voices project, Gregory Anderson, K. David Harrison and Ganesh Murmu travelled to Arunachal Pradesh to document the Aka and Miji languages - and in the process, they found a previously undocumented language, Koro (not to be confused with Koro, Koro or Koro). The NG site has a video and gallery; you might also be interested in this interview given by Harrison to NPR, which includes a small audio selection of Koro words and phrases.
posted by Dim Siawns on Oct 7, 2010 - 5 comments

The English Language In 24 Accents

Twenty-four different accents in just over eight minutes. (NSFW SLYT)
posted by gman on Oct 1, 2010 - 82 comments

"Geh raus nach deinem, deinem Haus..."

The Beatles in German: "Sie liebt dich" ("She Loves You"); "Komm gib mir deine Hand" ("I Want to Hold Your Hand"); "Geh raus" (quick and dirty rendering of "Get Back"); "Mein Herz ist bei dir nur" (Tony Sheridan and the Beat Boys' version of "My Bonnie".) [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 30, 2010 - 62 comments

Motivated Grammar

I’m not advocating the abolition of grammar, but rather its justification. I’m not quite sure what that will entail in the end, but I’m starting out by pointing out grammar rules that just don’t make sense, don’t work, or don’t have any justification. All I want is for our rules of grammar to be well-motivated.
posted by Joe Beese on Sep 10, 2010 - 90 comments

The Victor Borge Website Inflniner

Victor Borge (previously, gtwo but not fivegoteleven) was well known five his "inflationary language" routine. The fivemula: number sounds in ordinary language are "inflnined" to the next-highest numbers -- "twoderful" becomes "threederful," "threelips" become "fourlips," "fivefathers" become "sixfathers," and so on. Here is a twoderful web toy that will inflnine arbitrary text, or inflnine the language of any website. An example, using a story Borge crenined five this purpose. [more inside]
posted by grobstein on Sep 2, 2010 - 24 comments

Not "It"

The Gender-Neutral Pronoun: 150 Years Later, Still an Epic Fail. Wordsmiths have been coining gender-neutral pronouns for a century and a half, all to no avail. Coiners of these new words insist that the gender-neutral pronoun is indispensable, but users of English stalwartly reject, ridicule, or just ignore their proposals. [Via].
posted by amyms on Aug 28, 2010 - 122 comments

Your other North!

What language obliges us to think about. The NYTimes has a fascinating article on how language affects thought, from the gender-specificity of many European languages to the pure geographic directions of Guugu Yimithirr.
posted by bitmage on Aug 27, 2010 - 59 comments

Beware the Electronic Automatic Sound-Spectrograph Computing Digit Translator Playback Recognizer Machine

Telephoneme: Even if your Alphabet Conspiracy succeeds and you destroy the books, machines have no minds of their own. They are easily confused by different voices and different accents. It is the brain of man that tells them what to do. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 20, 2010 - 10 comments

Tambal byuyun, no es fácil!

Linguistics Challenge Puzzles! (Difficulty ranging from green circles to double black diamonds...Friday fun for all!) [more inside]
posted by iamkimiam on Aug 20, 2010 - 34 comments

"Impossible is a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools."

Climate change and the vuvuzela leave mark on Oxford Dictionary of English. Other words and phrases introduced for the latest edition include 'toxic debt', 'staycation', 'cheesebal' and 'national treasure'. To balance them out among the 2,000 or so new items there are a few more left-field choices. Among them are 'cheeseball', which refers to someone or something lacking taste, style or originality, and the more disturbing phenomenon of 'hikikomori', the Japanese word for the acute social withdrawal that occurs in some teenage boys.
posted by Fizz on Aug 19, 2010 - 18 comments

Game theory and hangman.

'Jazz' is the best word to use in hangman.
posted by shakespeherian on Aug 19, 2010 - 96 comments

Learning Resources (things to make you look like you are working)

The first time I met ERIC, I fell in love. Maybe you will, too. The Education Resources Information Center is a project of the US Department of Education. Some of you may especially be interested in the wide variety of language learning materials, journal articles, and more, that go way beyond even the public domain Foreign Services Institute offerings, from Aymara for Spanish speakers (English, too) to Uzbek study for Peace Corps volunteers. There is also non-language stuff of all kinds like World Myths and Legends in Art and teaching (or learning) buckyballs. Best results when using advanced search for their full-text links only.
posted by whatzit on Aug 17, 2010 - 11 comments

A tall post about Starbucks, anger and language

Even though Starbucks was founded by an english teacher, history teacher and writer, the company has grown to have a particular relationship with language, especially with its drink menu. Notably, the sizes of drinks defies commonly understood usage as it attempts to engage customers on multiple levels while providing a new experience. Said experience has resulted in a glossary of terms and even step by step instructions on how to order and decode the lingo.

All of this helps to explain the recent trouble English professor Lynne Rosenthal had at a Starbuck's on New York City's Upper West Side when she ordered a plain multigrain bagel. [more inside]
posted by nomadicink on Aug 17, 2010 - 341 comments

Don Ringe on Indo-European

The Linguistic Diversity of Aboriginal Europe (and what happened to it) [more inside]
posted by nangar on Aug 15, 2010 - 35 comments

The Language of Food

The Language of Food is a blog with only four entries, but each one is an excellent, well-researched essay on, yes, food and language: ketchup, entrée, dessert, and ceviche. The author, Dan Jurafsky, teaches a parallel course at Stanford, the syllabus for which you can peruse here. via (mefi's own) honestengine.blogspot.com
posted by Rumple on Aug 14, 2010 - 10 comments

They're connected because of what we've called them.

Words can change the way we think and feel. An exploration of how language connects our inner thoughts to the outside world. [more inside]
posted by Narrative Priorities on Aug 11, 2010 - 24 comments

Signing Bohemian Rhapsody while driving

Using sign language to rock out to Bohemian Rhapsody while driving down the freeway.
posted by crapples on Aug 7, 2010 - 34 comments

Grawlixes (aka obscenicons) past and present

"By 'grawlixes', I mean icons representing unprintable words, occurring within speech balloons belonging to characters who are agitated." – Gwillim Law. Via Ben Zimmer's post at Language Log on Obscenicons a century ago.
posted by Stan Carey on Jul 17, 2010 - 18 comments

Hindi Urdu Flagship Program

The Hindi Urdu Flagship Program at the University of Texas, Austin has a number of freely available online resources on Hindi and Urdu, including vocabulary exercises for beginners, video interviews with native speakers discussing various aspects of their language, a Hindi-language podcast on various topics and the ways one can discuss them in Hindi, and several downloadable books in PDF format. [more inside]
posted by skoosh on May 31, 2010 - 18 comments

Don't Worry. I Will Survive. I'm Just Singin' In The Rain.

What do Singing in the Rain, Live Is Life, Don't Worry, Be Happy, I Will Survive and Ça fait rire les oiseaux have in common? In a study, French-speaking Internet users identified these five pop songs out of 100, as the most pernicious earworms. Here are their top 25 picks from BRAMS, including audio clips. [more inside]
posted by zarq on May 27, 2010 - 58 comments

Wie tanzt man denn eigentlich in einer Mediathek?

Es gibt viele Quellen überall im Internet, wo man Deutsch hören und sehen kann. There are countless German TV channels, great podcasts, and news outlets online. Here are some of the best. Not fluent? Es geht weiter! [more inside]
posted by vkxmai on May 26, 2010 - 45 comments

To say Twitter is colloquial is putting it lightly.

Lexicalist attempts to be 'a demographic dictionary of modern American English.' Here's how it works. Lexicalist's developer David Bamman goes into greater detail at Language Log. [more inside]
posted by shakespeherian on May 20, 2010 - 28 comments

INTERCAL - Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym

Everything you ever wanted to know about history's most abusive programming language. INTERCAL: Its history, reference manual and a style guide.
posted by serazin on May 15, 2010 - 44 comments

Liquid Hills

For Sale: Rural Italian countryside, Priced to MOVE! A landslide (mud flow?) splits a hillside apart in the southern Italian town of Maierato.
posted by thisisdrew on May 12, 2010 - 24 comments

Que chupe, Montañas de Pastillas de Goma!

Having zombie problems again? Perhaps a bloodless coup has installed you as dictator of your HOA? Don't worry - Spanish for Everyday Situations has you covered. (NSF lovers of correct Spanish grammar.)
posted by freshwater_pr0n on Apr 23, 2010 - 15 comments

"What do we want? English! When do we want it? Now!"

"Yes, we want" -- Who owns global English? Post on The Web of Language by Dennis Barron, Professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois. Barron writes about the linguistic control of English playing out on the global stage. Included among the topics is the perception of "error" and Engrish. (Previously)
posted by la_scribbler on Apr 21, 2010 - 86 comments

Guardian of Language

Born 88 years ago in a bear cave in Eastern Oregon, Virginia Beavert now teaches a language with no textbooks, no study abroad programs, and no dubbed TV shows. The only surviving elder of the Yakama who knows the sacred songs and parables of the "Dreamer Religion", Waashat, Beavert researches and teaches Sahaptin (Ichiskíin Sínwit). [more inside]
posted by fraula on Apr 16, 2010 - 12 comments

Why do people use 'bad'words?

A web debate on cursing in private, public and online, part of a series of multiple perspective posts on the NYT called Room for Debate, has several experts, including Georgetown U. Professor and author of You just don't understand, Deborah Tanner, yet no one mentions George Carlin and his take on the seven words you can't say. Some claim we've always cursed, while others claim we curse on the web about as much as we do in real life and there is data people, on average, swear .3% to .7% of the time and frequency per person has more to do with personality than class.
posted by Berkun on Apr 13, 2010 - 118 comments

If it's not Pictish, it's crap!

Information-age math finds code in ancient Scottish symbols. "The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843. The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland."
posted by homunculus on Apr 2, 2010 - 24 comments

Google Translate for Animals

Google Translate for Animals, a new Android app. [more inside]
posted by memebake on Mar 31, 2010 - 37 comments

Reverse Engineering Na'vi

Learn Na'vi The large Na'vi reverse engineering project. (via). See also.
posted by OmieWise on Mar 26, 2010 - 53 comments

The maven is dead, long live the maven.

The late William Safire left behind a language-column vacancy that the NY Times has been filling with a rotating crew of language experts, some better than others. Now they've announced their choice for a permanent replacement, and it could hardly be better: Ben Zimmer, an actual linguist. Reading "On Language" will be slightly less enjoyable for us nitpickers but a lot more informative.
posted by languagehat on Mar 12, 2010 - 30 comments

The writing on the cave wall

A graphic code uncovered by researchers at the University of Victoria suggests that written communication may have started 30,000 years ago. At least 19 of the symbols were used frequently in far-flung caves over thousands of years, which suggests they represent abstract ideas such as life, love, higher power and death. It also suggests that Ice Age humans – who fall in the range of modern humans – agreed on some common meaning for the code. [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on Feb 23, 2010 - 32 comments

Music and the Brain

Music and the Brain The Library of Congress' Music and the Brain podcasts offer lectures and conversations about new research at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and music. Sufi rituals, Wednesday is Indigo Blue (synaesthesia), Your Brain on Jazz, The Music of Language and the Language of Music, and more.
posted by carter on Feb 15, 2010 - 13 comments

The Montreal Gazette? Me, I love it!

Anglophone Montrealers open and close lights, fall pregnant, get a coffee, go to vernissages, eat on the terrasse, and get cash at the guichet. Francophone Montreals, if they are lucky, have un chum or une blonde who is not only smooth but also le fun. Basically English (and its three main 'ethnolects' here, British, Jewish, and Italian) and French get all interestingly mixed up. [more inside]
posted by Salamandrous on Feb 14, 2010 - 55 comments

Are you happy to see me or is that just a dictionary in your pocket?

In search of the world’s hardest language
posted by Gyan on Jan 3, 2010 - 148 comments

Na'vi

Paul Frommer explains the Na'vi language he created for Avatar
posted by Dumsnill on Dec 19, 2009 - 51 comments

Native Esperanto speakers

Google's logo today commemorates the 150th birthday of Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, an artificial language designed as an international auxiliary communication mode. Perhaps surprisingly, approximately 1,000 people worldwide are native Esperanto speakers, the most famous of which is George Soros. Many of these are children born into households with parents who met at the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto. [more inside]
posted by Morrigan on Dec 15, 2009 - 48 comments

The Next Big Breakout

An Omnivorous Google Is Coming. "Imagine what it would be like if there was a tool built into the search engine which translated my search query into every language and then searched the entire world’s websites," she says. "And then invoked the translation software a second and third time – to not only then present the results in your native language, but then translated those sites in full when you clicked through.” Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president for search products and user experience, shares her unparalleled insights into the future of internet search engines. [more inside]
posted by netbros on Dec 14, 2009 - 65 comments

Arcangel and the future of digi/net art

Corey Arcangel is perhaps the internet's most infamous hack, masher-upper, digi/net artist. His work stands for a growing culture of artists who run wildly through animated GIF landscapes populated with corrupted data-compressed bunny rabbits and tinny, MIDI renditions of Savage Garden ballads. As the Lisson Gallery, London, opens its archives to Arcangel's curatorial eye, could digi/net art be set to infect the real, fleshy world, like a rampant Conficker Worm? Has YouTube become the truest reflection of our anthropological selves? Are we destined to roam the int3erw£bs like the mythic beasts of yore, hoping, in time, that digi art can free us from the confines of this fleshy void? [...previously]
posted by 0bvious on Dec 8, 2009 - 20 comments

That's what they said

The Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English is a searchable collection of almost 2 million words of transcribed spoken English from the University of Michigan, including student study groups, office hours, dissertation defenses, and campus tours. Researchers use the Michigan corpus to investigate questions about usage, like "less or fewer?" (cf. this contentious Ask Meta thread) and more general topics, like "Vague Language in Academia." Browse or search MICASE yourself.
posted by escabeche on Nov 21, 2009 - 20 comments

Ask the Editors @ Merriam-Webster's

Merriam-Webster's Ask the Editors blog is the centerpiece of the Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary site. It is an excellent source of sensible advice about English language and usage. Editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski also has a Twitter feed where he highlights various interesting things about words. Finally, Merriam-Webster has started producing Ask the Editor videos, four so far, where they've tackled the subjects of i before e, classical roots, affect vs. effect and how news stories affect what words people look up online, in this case focusing on the effect of the coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Incidentally, Merriam-Webster have released their top ten words of 2009 list, which is based on what words people looked up.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 20, 2009 - 15 comments

Dell Hymes, 1927-2009

Dell Hymes, a giant of sociolinguistic theory, has died. "He didn't have much patience for wasting your time in academic endeavors that wouldn't have a direct relevance for the world and for righting some of the inequalities in the world," [Dr. Nancy] Hornberger said. Or as Dr. Hymes himself put it, describing his approach to anthropology: "I am always interested in combating elitism and narrowness. . . . The justification for the existence of anthropology is to find out about the world, not produce third-rate philosophers." [more inside]
posted by fourcheesemac on Nov 20, 2009 - 13 comments

Python + C = Go. Google's Programming Language

Say hello to googles new concurrent programming language Compiles faster than c/c++ and runs just as fast. Garbage collection + concurrency included
posted by FusiveResonance on Nov 11, 2009 - 58 comments

Voices from WWI speak again in British Library

"It is the business of educated people to speak so that no-one may be able to tell in what county their childhood was passed." Despite efforts by Victorians to eradicate them, dialects of English in Great Britain continue to vary greatly, much to the consternation of many traditionalists. But a recently acquired archive is giving new insight into old dialects--some of which no longer exist. Recorded in a WWI prisoner of war camp on shellac disks, the archive was part of an effort by German linguists to study regional variation in the English language. A report by PRI's The World includes a brief synopsis--and a powerful rendition of a beloved Scottish ballad by a homesick soldier.
posted by jefficator on Nov 11, 2009 - 10 comments

Is this survey OK by you?

The Survey of American Jewish Language and Identity reports on the results of an online survey of 25,179 American Jews and 4,874 American Gentiles. Non-Jews say "klutz" but not "schmutz." The more Orthodox you are, the more likely you are to say "Good Shabbos" instead of "Shabbat Shalom." And so much more you'll plotz.
posted by escabeche on Nov 10, 2009 - 87 comments

Flatpots, Fire Corals, and Four Blasters

A Common Nomenclature for Lego Families.
posted by Iridic on Nov 5, 2009 - 49 comments

I say potato, you say...potato!

Would it be inherently evil if there were not 6,000 spoken languages but one?
posted by Gyan on Oct 29, 2009 - 148 comments

Hasta la vista, Gertrude Chataway.

Veto is a four-letter word (google quickview, here's the PDF):.Governor Schwarzenegger of California, at odds with the state legislature but ever the poet, vetoes Assembly Bill 1176 with a nice little acrostic.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Oct 28, 2009 - 72 comments

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