They don’t borrow from English or French.[...] The word they use for automobile means “that it has wrinkled feet,” which is, incidentally, an example of how the words you have reflect your culture. If you’re a tracker, you’re going to be noticing the tire tracks—the focus of that particular word.Language Leakage: An Interview with Sarah Thomason
The language of Chaucer and Malory, Middle English can be surprisingly approachable for modern English speakers even 800 years later (although knowing a little French or German doesn't hurt). Let's dive in! [more inside]
NativLang, brainchild of linguist Joshua Rudder, has a series of videos dealing with various aspects of language, orthography, and so forth. For example: What Latin Sounded Like and How We Know. Kanji Story - How Japan Overloaded Chinese Characters... The Tribe That Cursed Too Much ... How Korea crafted a better alphabet... India's awesome hybrid alphabet thing... Semitic's vowel-smuggling consonants... The Hardest Language To Spell [more inside]
Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath of Teaneck finishes her father’s Yiddish dictionary: Yiddish has a word for it
In China: Chinese dialects fight for survival. Outside China: Meet the Hong Kong academics fighting to safeguard the Cantonese language (Hong Kong); Taiwanese: a doomed language? (Taiwan); Do you speak Singlish? || The Death of Dialects in Singapore (Singapore); Penang Hokkien will be ‘dead’ in 40 years if people stop using it (Malaysia) [more inside]
You may be familiar with JSFiddle and CodePen, but there are similar tools for a variety of languages, some more practical than others. [more inside]
Thinking about learning a new programming language? How about a functional language with support for test-driven development and a snazzy visual interface, already deployed on millions of computers around the world? I'm speaking, of course, about Excel. In a 2014 Strange Loop talk, Felienne discusses the virtues of the Excel programming language (which is Turing complete, if you were wondering).
There are at least three emoji-based programming languages: 🍀 (aka 4Lang; bubblesort example), Emojinal, and HeartForth (stack-based, for extra obscurity; factorial example). [more inside]
Martin Gusinde documented the life and rituals of the Selk'nam people of Tierra del Fuego, off the southern tip of South America from 1918-24. They had been nearly wiped out by a genocide led by Julius Popper, the Tyrant of Tierra del Fuego, their numbers reduced from an estimated four thousand to only a few hundred. Now a book has been published containing hundreds of Gusinde's photos. Forty-five photos are available on the National Library of Chile's website. The last native speaker of Selk'nam, Herminia Vera Illioyen, died in 2014. That same year, linguist Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia completed a reference grammar of Selk'nam. His friend Joubert Yanten Gomez, a young Selk'nam, has taught himself the language. Selk'nam and efforts to preserve it are one of the languages profiled in Judith Thurman's A Loss for Words, an essay about whether dying languages can be saved.
"Pajubá is one of the many queer anti-languages of the world. People study them in 'Lavender Linguistics'. It's hard to study those languages because their usefulness vanishes if they are not secret anymore. Pajubá is a moving target, evolving so rapidly that it can't be documented." — Pajubá: The secret language of Brazilian trans women [via mefi projects]
[T]his is what we were dealing with: We were located in two places, and between us there were three laptops and one stenography machine. We were working in two languages (English and American Sign Language, or ASL) and across three communication channels (voice, sign, and text). They were sitting at a rectangular table, all on the same side: first Hilaria, then Kate, then Lynn, then Rabin´. That made five of us, four of whom brought constraints to the situation, ranging from the permanent to the temporary: Lynn is deaf, Hilaria is a non-native speaker of English, Rabin´ is supposed to be silent and invisible, and I couldn’t see, because I had no video on my Skype.A factchecking session for "young sign languages" turns into an exploration on communication across barriers and needs of accessibility, language, and technology.
Learn how to read Sanskrit, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian, Classical Greek, Latin, Koine Greek, Gothic, Classical Armenian, Tocharian, Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Old French, Old Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Albanian in ten lessons apiece.
Please enjoy this smattering of Word of the Day sites and pages: OED (RSS), Wordsmith (RSS), Wordnik, The Free Dictionary (RSS), Merriam-Webster (RSS), WordThink (RSS), Urban Dictionary (RSS), Macmillan (RSS), NY Times Learning Network Blog (RSS), Scrabble, Wordsmyth (RSS), Easy Speak (Toastmasters), Wiktionary, Wiktionary "Foreign", OLDO (RSS: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, all in OLDO), Arabic (RSS), Japanese (RSS), Nahuatl, ASL, History, Geology, Theology (RSS), and Sesame Street (not daily, unfortunately).
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]
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]
At One Minute Languages you can learn greetings, talking about names, counting, and more in Catalan, Danish, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian.
Wordchamp lets you view foreign-language web pages with definitions in your language as mouseovers (registration-only). [more inside]
Mango is a new beta service offering free online language lessons. 11 languages available (each with 100 lessons). For English speakers there are lessons in French, German, Italian, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese and Pig Latin. For Polish and Spanish speakers, lessons in English.
Que would happen if, wenn Du open your Metafilter, finde eine message in esta lingua? No est Englando, no est Germano, no est Espano, no est keine known lingua - aber Du understande! Wat happen zo! Habe your computero eine virus catched? Habe Du sudden BSE gedeveloped? No, Du esse lezendo la neue europese lingua: de Europanto!
New analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- the past is ahead of them and the future behind. The morphologically-rich language, of which you can hear samples here, may also prove useful to computer scientists due to its unique ternary logic system.
Losing Languages. It's estimated that between one and four languages are lost every year, the result of the only remaining speakers dying off. Many have been actively surpressed in the past, such as the Mayan and Ryukyu languages - some of which are said to be further from Japanese than English is from German. Is it worth the effort to preserve languages? Are languages and culture intristically linked?
The Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture features everything from Acadiana to Zydeco. Two of the more interesting entries I've found are the Un-Cajun Committee and the unknown to me genre of Swamp Pop
Do Most Of You Yanks Really Understand What The Brits Here Are On About? Although the cultural mistranslations are probably more a question of tone and habits of irony and understatement, Jeremy Smith's online American·British British·American Dictionary, to be published next September, might be of some assistance. Although I still prefer Terry Gliedt's older but pithier United Kingdom English For The American Novice and even Scotsman Chris Rae's English-to-American Dictionary. Here's a little BBC quiz to test your skills. It seems that Canadians, Australians and [another cute quiz coming up!] New Zealanders are the only Metafilterians to completely capture all the varieties of English usage here. Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that non-U.S. users know much, much less about England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand et caetera than vice-versa? Does anyone else get the occasional feeling we're not exactly speaking the same language here?
Linguistic competency Do you speak Arabic or Farsi? If you meet certain other qualifications, you can now spy for the FBI, whose homepage takes more care than news reports did and specifically lists Pashto, spoken in Afghanistan, as one of the desired language proficiencies.