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"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

Goodbye, "Leih Hou Ma," Hello "Ni Hao Ma!"

"Chinatown" communities across the United States (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco) are undergoing a shift in linguistic identity, as recent immigrants are more likely to natively speak Mandarin (the official spoken language of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan,) instead of Cantonese. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 22, 2009 - 56 comments

Hen Kerlien

Hen Kerlien (or, hěn​ kě​ lián​). For when an anglophone needs a phrase that suggests a child walking alone in the world.
posted by Greg Nog on Oct 14, 2009 - 25 comments

With a little persistence... and Verner's Law!... you can tackle most any problem.

Verner's Law. Ari Hoptman (his website) explains early Germanic sound laws to his young friend Frankie, who has tossed aside his copy of Braune’s Gothic grammar in disgust. If you want to know what makes historical linguists tick, this is a great way to find out. Warning: links to seven-minute YouTube with two sequels; disclaimer: I myself have a copy of Braune’s Gotische Grammatik within arm’s reach and I have spent time reading the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung, so I may be especially susceptible to jokes about William Jones, the Brothers Grimm, and Danish linguists. [more inside]
posted by languagehat on Oct 9, 2009 - 16 comments

감사합니다, 세종대왕!

October 9th is 한글날, or Hangul Day. Hangul is the Korean alphabet, and it has a fascinating history, so let's celebrate! (YT). Better yet, here are some videos that will help you learn Hangul for yourself: [Introduction] [Advanced] [Hangul Rap!] [Beginner's Vocabulary]
posted by bardic on Oct 9, 2009 - 15 comments

INFORMATION; SEASPEAK

INFORMATION; SEASPEAK IS A RESTRICTED LANGUAGE USING SIMPLE STANDARD PHRASES FOR CLEAR COMMUNICATION AT SEA; OVER.
ADVICE; BEGIN EACH PHRASE WITH MESSAGE MARKERS SUCH AS INSTRUCTION, ADVICE, WARNING, INFORMATION, QUESTION, ANSWER, REQUEST, INTENTION; OVER.
QUESTION; ARE THERE RELATED LANGUAGES; OVER.
ANSWER; YES AIRSPEAK, TUNNELSPEAK; OUT.
posted by TheophileEscargot on Sep 23, 2009 - 79 comments

Please Call Me Hararie

Japanese Element Symbols is an introduction for non-Japanese to the Japanese language through Kanji symbols, its alphabet, elements of Japan's culture, and what to expect on the culinary front.
posted by netbros on Aug 6, 2009 - 12 comments

Rebranding Redux

Pecsi, or Pepsi it doesn't matter, as long as you drink our sugar water. Want to sound like a native? Which one? This article can help you achieve that. That's the quick version, if you want something more academic, try this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny on Aug 6, 2009 - 19 comments

You say poe-TAY-toe.

Forvo: All the words in the world, pronounced by native speakers. At the time of this post, the tally stands at: 327,492 words; 239,165 pronunciations; in 220 languages; with 25,040 users submitting.
posted by not_on_display on Aug 4, 2009 - 26 comments

The Lithuanian Press Ban, 1864-1904

From 1864 to 1904, the Russian Empire tried to quelch the nationalism of Lithuanians by ordering all Lithuanian texts to be printed with Cyrillic characters instead of in the Latin-derived Lithuanian or Polish alphabets. But they didn't count on the Knygnešiai - the Booksmugglers. [more inside]
posted by mdonley on Jul 12, 2009 - 18 comments

500 constructed languages.

Amabil amico, Con grand satisfaction mi ha lect tei letter de le mundolingue. Arika Okrent, author of the new book In The Land of Invented Languages, lists 500 constructed languages, from the well-known (Esperanto, Volapuk, Loglan) to the utterly obscure (Neulatein, Rosentalographia, Mundolingue.) MetaFilter's own languagehat reviews the book. Okrent writes about Klingonophones in Slate. Alternatively, you might choose to learn not to speak Esperanto. Previously on MetaFilter, all you wanted to know about Loglan/Lojban but were too syntactically ambiguous to ask.
posted by escabeche on Jul 7, 2009 - 30 comments

languages and thought

How does our language shape our thinking? :"What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world."
posted by dhruva on Jun 25, 2009 - 101 comments

"It's a Secret to Everybody"

"It's a secret to everybody" -- an unbelievably comprehensive blog post about the etymologies of the names of famous (and not-so-famous) video game characters.
posted by empath on Jun 20, 2009 - 26 comments

The Linguists

A film (1 hour) about disappearing languages: The Linguists [more inside]
posted by idiomatika on Jun 11, 2009 - 23 comments

Base 26

Java Demo: "four-letter words have a special status in the english language and culture. counting in at over 1650 words,...this small project is an attempt to give a spacial overview of the entirety of this part of english language heritage, as well as to explore and visualize relations between all those words."
posted by hortense on Jun 4, 2009 - 18 comments

'Critique' is a noun. If you want a verb, try 'criticise'.

Some common solecisms (grammatical absurdities) from the Style Guide of The Economist
posted by blasdelf on Jun 1, 2009 - 127 comments

Mi Vida Loca

Courtesy of the BBC, an award-winning mystery masquerading as a language education program. [more inside]
posted by skoosh on May 25, 2009 - 15 comments

Glyphs...in...spaaaaaaace!

What 13,500 pages micro-etched into nickel looks like. [more inside]
posted by googly on May 22, 2009 - 35 comments

O! Mesopotamia!

Rev. George Whitefield, an 18th century preacher much admired by Benjamin Franklin, was an astonishing orator. According to a contemporary source, he "could make his audiences weep or tremble merely by varying his pronunciation of the word Mesopotamia. Garrick once said, 'I would give a hundred guineas if I could only say 'O!' like Mr. Whitefield.'"
posted by lolichka on May 18, 2009 - 32 comments

Look at all the pretty words

A few weeks from now, English will have it's millionth word. Or will it? [more inside]
posted by Dumsnill on May 12, 2009 - 54 comments

The Neurobiology of Birdsong

The universal grammar of birdsong is genetically encoded. "A new study, published online in the journal Nature, shows that the songs of isolated zebra finches evolve over multiple generations to resemble those of birds in natural colonies. These findings show that song learning in birds is not purely the product of nurture, but has a strong genetic basis, and suggest that bird song has a universal grammar, or an intrinsic structure which is present at birth."
posted by homunculus on May 5, 2009 - 23 comments

Antarctica: It's a Cool Place!

Cool Antarctica is a site dedicated to all things Antarctic. There are pictures (penguins), videos (including, among much else, an old documentary about Edmund Hillary's and Vivian Fuchs' Transantarctic Expedition), a history section focusing on the famous explorers (e.g. Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Charcot and de Gerlache) and a fact file, which includes what may be my favorite section, an Antarctic slang dictionary (degomble: removing snow that's stuck to clothing before going inside - monk-on: a term for being in a bad, usually introspective mood, "he's got a monk-on" - poppy: alcoholic beverage that is chilled with natural Antarctic ice). All this is but a taster of what's on the website.
posted by Kattullus on Apr 29, 2009 - 20 comments

Entropic Evidence for Linguistic Structure in the Indus Script

Scholars at odds over mysterious Indus script. The Indus script is the collection of symbols found on artifacts from the Harappan civilization, which flourished in what is now eastern Pakistan and western India between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. A new analysis using pattern-analyzing software suggests that the script may constitute a genuine written language. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Apr 23, 2009 - 20 comments

American Stonehenge

The Georgia Guidestones - Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse.
posted by Artw on Apr 21, 2009 - 44 comments

"I notice the 'wank' has remained fairly constant."

"The editor's guidelines are as follows: First, remember the reader, and respect demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend. Second, use such words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes. Third, the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it.Finally, never use asterisks, which are just a cop-out." - Swearing in The Guardian: A chart
posted by Artw on Apr 3, 2009 - 31 comments

Learn Hebrew with Pictures and Audio

Learn Hebrew with Pictures and Audio.
posted by Effigy2000 on Mar 30, 2009 - 20 comments

What language is music?

Western musical intervals are derived from speech tendencies, according to Duke scientists. Specifically, "most of the 12 chromatic scale intervals correspond to peaks of relative power in the normalized spectrum of human vocalizations." A somewhat more layperson-friendly summary of the study is here. [more inside]
posted by univac on Mar 15, 2009 - 42 comments

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