Europe's oldest language?
Kalevi Wiik makes the argument that most of Europe may have spoken a proto Finno-Ugric language before the appearance of Indo-European speakers in the region. It's still controversial a few years after the paper was published (and likely always will be).
Modern European derivitives of the language in question are Hungarian
, the Ugric branch's sole representative in Europe, (although it has relatives in central Asia), as well as the Finnic Finnish
(which is considered by some to be a dialect of Finnish and not a separate language), Izhora
(which are both disputed in language v. dialect and are nearly dead), Vod
(which is dead), Liv (which is dead and doesn't Google well), and the Saami languages
, which have about 10 dialects and a sufficiently different grammar and lexicon that it gets the "strange cousin" title.
posted by Mayor Curley
on Jun 15, 2004 -
If you don't like dictionary posts, look away, NOW!
But if you like to play with words, the dictionarians at Merriam-Webster
have announced the winners in their poll for the Ten Favorite Words for 2004
Also, a list of runners-up with more of my personal faves: oxymoron, copacetic, curmudgeon, conundrum,
euphemism, superfluous, and of course, Smock! Smock! Smock!
posted by wendell
on Jun 12, 2004 -
have been around for centuries, and this website attempts to collect them all (2,295 so far) and explain their origins. May not be SFW if someone is reading over your shoulder.
posted by whoshotwho
on May 27, 2004 -
to capitalize a deity? As far as I know Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and the modern descendants of Sanskrit use no capital letters, so for those languages the point is moot. I can’t speak for too many of the other language families
, but I don’t know of any syllabaries
that use majuscules
, so the question seems to be most relevant to the alphabetic languages that use capitals such as the Latin, Greek and Germanic families (including English). Some people
even completely capitalize the name of their deity, apparently disdaining minuscules
posted by snarfodox
on Apr 8, 2004 -
Dictionary of the Scots Language.
The two major historical dictionaries of the Scots language, the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue
(DOST) and the Scottish National Dictionary
(SND), have been combined into one searchable online edition:
Thus, information on the earliest uses of Scots words can be presented alongside examples of the later development and, in some cases, current usage of the same words. In this way, we hope that the DSL will allow users to appreciate the continuity and historical development of the Scots language. By making the DSL freely available on the Internet, we also aim to widen access to the source dictionaries and to open up these rich lexicographic resources to anyone with an interest in Scots language and culture.
posted by languagehat
on Apr 2, 2004 -
Sowing One's Wild Oats And Postponing Last Straws:
Some things never change the world over and the gist of this amusing language lesson (be sure to listen to the sountrack too
) seems familiar and even easy to guess. However, different cultures allow for different rates of growing up - and out of
things. Regarding the sowing of wild oats
, is the West really the most lenient and generous, in terms of age-limits? What part does religion play? In other words, what's the maximum you can get away with nowadays? At a pinch, I'd say Southern European Catholic countries will extend a woman's visa till she's 35 and a man's till he's 40 but certain *cough* other cultures seem to be even more favourable towards eternal adolescence.
posted by MiguelCardoso
on Jan 31, 2004 -
Say it twice -- don't it feel nice? Most people think of the enigmatic maoi
when they think of Easter Island but an equally vexing mystery is found in twenty-six wooden objects which contain pictographic symbols comprising...what
? A language? A mnemomic system for recording stories now long forgotten? A resource for modern primitives' tribal tatoos? We could ask, but the authors are long-gone
-- the victims of hard times -- leaving only a few tablets and a bunch of carved stone to puzzle over.
posted by Ogre Lawless
on Jan 19, 2004 -
ass-hat: noun, a thoughtless or stupid person.
cliterati: collective noun, feminist or woman-oriented writers or opinion-leaders.
flexitarian: noun, a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.
freegan: noun, person who eats only what they can get for free.
Some winners from the American Dialect Society's 2003 Words of the Year
posted by y2karl
on Jan 16, 2004 -
So we put a number of differently colored letters on the tray that we use, put the tray in front of Alex, and asked, ''Alex, what sound is blue?'' He answers, ''Ssss.'' It was an ''s'', so we say ''Good birdie'' and he replies, ''Want a nut.'' Well, I don't want him sitting there using our limited amount of time to eat a nut, so I tell him to wait, and I ask, ''What sound is green?'' Alex answers, ''Ssshh.'' He's right, it's ''sh,'' and we go through the routine again: ''Good parrot.'' ''Want a nut.'' ''Alex, wait. What sound is orange?'' ''ch.'' ''Good bird!'' ''Want a nut.'' We're going on and on and Alex is clearly getting more and more frustrated. He finally gets very slitty-eyed and he looks at me and states, ''Want a nut. Nnn, uh, tuh.'' - That Damn Bird
- A Talk with Irene Pepperberg. Referential Communication with an African Gray Parrot
. Irene Pepperberg says that Arthur, an African Gray parrot, is so smart that she and a group of students at the Media Lab are teaching him to go online
. A more subjective take on some more African Grey parrots here
. The Alex Homepage
. Alex interviewed
. languagehat on talking parrots
posted by y2karl
on Nov 29, 2003 -
LA County, leading the charge: Equipment vendors who do business with Los Angeles County received a message in November 2003 from the county's Internal Services Department (ISD) informing them that "based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County," labeling or describing equipment with the term 'master/slave' is no longer acceptable.
the slashdot comments
posted by sixtwenty3dc
on Nov 25, 2003 -
McDonalds CEO Puts McJob in Mainstream.
By taking Merriam-Webster to task for including McJob
("low paying and dead-end work") in its latest Collegiate Dictionary, McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo has ensured that yet another disparaging fast-food web-fed meme joins the venerable "You want fries with that?" If this had been Fox, I would have said it was intentional.
posted by mischief
on Nov 8, 2003 -
Clay Shirky smacks syllogism around.
Nice criticism of the semantic web
and the present (and increasing) hype of the "semantic web revolution"
. The most damning part of the essay is the part about languages and categories being deeply intertwined with worldview and with culture—if there's no good definition for the word "bachelor"
), how can there be an encoding of "friend"
(see article for the classic AI example of "John loves Mary"
) or anything else that isn't zipcode?
posted by zpousman
on Nov 8, 2003 -
BBC journalist John Humphrys bemoans the abuses suffered by the English language. At the risk of becoming a Grumpy Old Man before my time I can't help but agree with him, in particular about the Management Speak. I recently came across the verb "to hero" which set my teeth on edge. And just what the hell does "to leverage" mean?
posted by jontyjago
on Oct 20, 2003 -
See the evolutionary progression of alphabets through time and cultures. Examples include Cuneiform, Phoenician, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, modern Cyrillic and the Latin character sets. The Latin is the best documented character set and requires a wide screen to see all the evolutionary events (especially Y and Z)
posted by Irontom
on Oct 7, 2003 -
It’s not what you say, it's the way you say it--Part 2.
This observation was cleverly illustrated by Prof. Howard L. Chace in Anguish Languish
, an exercise to demonstrate to his French Language students that intonation is key to understanding spoken language. Here
is the complete text. You can read
his best known Furry Tell about a Wicket Woof and a Ladle Gull or hear
it read.(Warning-has sound.)
I first found out about Howard Chace from an article
in The Whole Earth Catalog and certain phrases have rattled around my head ever since. Here
is a discussion of Anguish Languish if you want to write your own. Like this version
of Gender Cyst
from the Homely Babble
posted by lobakgo
on Sep 22, 2003 -
It's Not What You Say, It's The Way That You Say It:
George Bernard Shaw famously remarked that every time an Englishman opens his mouth it's guaranteed that another Englishman will despise him. This website offers a motley and unintentionally hilarious collection of the many, ever-growing pronunciations of the English language. The variety is so wide you could almost be listening to different languages. But is a particular accent still an anti-democratic barrier, strictly revealing your position on the socio-geographic ladder, as it was in the days Nancy Mitford discussed U and non-U vocabulary
? Or have upper-class accents
in the U.K. and U.S. (note the Boston Brahmin
samples), once coveted and preferred, now become the opposite: unforgivable impediments? Does posh speech exist in Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand as it does in the U.K. and U.S.? In other words: Does it still matter?
(Quicktime Audio for main and fourth link; Real Audio for third.
posted by MiguelCardoso
on Sep 20, 2003 -
The First Rule of Multibabel Club is you do not talk about MultiBabel Club (French & back:) The first rule of the club of Multibabel is you do not speak about the club of Multibabel.
(German & back:) The first guideline the association of Multibabel is not you speaks about the association of Multibabel.
(Italian & back:) Before the guide of reference that the association of Multibabel is not you speaks about the association of Multibabel.
(Portuguese & back) Before the guide of the reference that the association of MultiBabel is not you speak on the association of MultiBabel.
(Spanish & back:) Before the guide of the reference that is not the association of MultiBabel you speak in the association of MultiBabel.
(Japanese & back:) Multibabel club without having expressed, there is a first rule of Multibabel club.
(Chinese & back:) The Multibabel club has not been expressed, has the Multibabel club first rule.
(Korean & back:) The Multibabel the club under expressing is highland Anh and a Multibabel club first rule.
posted by me3dia
on Sep 7, 2003 -
"Hello, Neo. I am the Architect."
For those of us who liked The Matrix Reloaded but got lost shortly after the Architect opened his mouth, here's a handy annotated transcript of his entire scene. Great for people who want to delve into the deeper meanings of what he's going on about, and also great for people (like me) who are interested in the way
he talks. [Warning: Geocities site. Mirrored here if it goes down]
posted by Monster_Zero
on Aug 22, 2003 -