Interactive map of pronunciation and use of various words and phrases differs by region in the US. Based on Bert Vaux's online survey of English dialects, the program allows you to see results for individual cities, as well as nationwide (though inexplicably it does not include Alaska or Hawaii).
After more than 25 years of studying the calls of prairie dog in the field, one researcher managed to decode just what these animals are saying. And the results show that prairie dogs aren't only extremely effective communicators, they also pay close attention to detail.
"In 1872 two men began work on a lexicon of words of Asian origin used by the British in India. Since its publication the 1,000-page dictionary has never been out of print and a new edition is due out next year. What accounts for its enduring appeal? Hobson-Jobson is the dictionary's short and mysterious title." [more inside]
"What was most perplexing of all to me was that, although I was certain that the ads contained Chinese phrases and sentences, every Chinese person to whom I showed them emphatically maintained that they could not understand a single word."
Many languages have "high" and "low" layers of vocabulary. But in most other languages, the two sets are drawn from the same source. By contrast, contact between Old English and French, Dravidian languages and Sanskrit, Japanese and Chinese, Persian and Arabic, and other pairings around the world have created fascinatingly hybrid languages. These mixed lexicons are, for linguistic and social historians, akin to the layers of fossils that teach paleontologists and archaeologists so much about eras gone by. Some people even think English is descended from Latin, or Kannada from Sanskrit. That’s frustrating not only because it’s wrong, but also because the reality is far more interesting. - The Economist, Unlikely parallels (via)
The various Star Wars movies have been translated into at least 39 languages (as also seen here in a set of 16 international logos for Attack of the Clones), but the Navajo Nation is set to be the first Native American tribe to officially dub the original Star Wars film. [more inside]
"The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. " - Triple Canopy magazine on why do artists' statments and press releases sound so utterly odd and confusing.
Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore - Anne Curzan writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a new slang word that she learned from her undergraduate students in a History of English course slash analyzes how it fits with traditional parts of speech.
The Complicated Chinese Family Tree - Cantonese Version! Or, if you like, the original in putonghua. (This previous post may be of some assistance.)
"What happens if you repeatedly run Kafka's Metamorphosis through YouTube's auto-transcription? Structure emerges!" via Sean Roberts
The Language Council of Sweden has been the semi-official arbiter of the Swedish language since World War II. It monitors "the development of spoken and written Swedish" and publishes a list of new words each year to ensure consistency of spelling and make sure that Swedish is a "complete language, i.e. [is] possible to use in all areas of society." This year, for the first time, the Council has taken a word off the list: ogooglebar, which literally meant "ungoogleable" but was defined as "a thing or person that does not produce relevant results when typed into a search engine." [more inside]
The Expression of Emotions in 20th Century Books. March 20, 2013. Fear Factor Increases, Emotions Decrease in Books Written in Last 50 Years. 'We find evidence for distinct historical periods of positive and negative moods, underlain by a general decrease in the use of emotion-related words through time. Finally, we show that, in books, American English has become decidedly more “emotional” than British English in the last half-century, as a part of a more general increase of the stylistic divergence between the two variants of English language.' [more inside]
As lexicographers revel in the capabilities of online dictionaries, one person notes the death of print encyclopedias.
Check out yo down in Baltimore enriching American English.
"I want to say here that it can never be our job to reduce anything to anything, or to explain anything. Philosophy really is 'purely descriptive.'" --Wittgenstein. Apart from a small and ignored clique of hard-core supporters the usual view these days is that his writing is self-indulgently obscure and that behind the catchy slogans there is little of intellectual value. But this dismissal disguises what is pretty clearly the real cause of Wittgenstein’s unpopularity within departments of philosophy: namely, his thoroughgoing rejection of the subject as traditionally and currently practiced; his insistence that it can’t give us the kind of knowledge generally regarded as its raison d’être. [more inside]
"The discovery advances UC Berkeley’s mission to make sense of big data and to use new technology to document and maintain endangered languages as critical resources for preserving cultures and knowledge. [...] it can also provide clues to how languages might change years from now."
How To Speak Minnesotan [slyt]
"The name "bLogicarian" may be one of the the most pretentious conglomerations of philhellenic puns I could concoct." A blog on language, poetry and translation. [more inside]
International Art English (IAE) with its pompous paradoxes and plagues of adverbs is not to be confused with actual English.
We've all been there: you need a portentous motto for your new liberal arts college, crack military unit, or world-encompassing secret society, but you just don't speak Latin. No problēma! If the grand list of Latin phrases doesn't have what you're looking for, there's always the Latin Motto Generator. [more inside]
Rhiannon Lucy Coslett, one of the women behind The Vagenda, writes on the phenomenon of the trigger warning.
To the Best of Our Knowledge does a program on assholes. Much bleeping/blanking ensues, along with a lot of use of "a-word" to describe both word and the persons it names. [more inside]
First noticed on tumblr but now available to all, Alex Clayden's paper "Same-Sex Desire in Pharaonic Egypt" which, among other things, tells you about the connection between lettuce and semen and the Ancient Egyptian for "You have a nice ass."
"Almost a decade since the end of the hit American TV series Friends, the show — and, in particular, the fictitious Central Perk cafe, where much of the action took place — is enjoying an afterlife in China's capital, Beijing. Here, the show that chronicled the exploits of New York City pals Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey is almost seen as a lifestyle guide."
Complex scientific concepts explained using only the thousand most used words in the English language. In the spirit of xkcd's Up-Goer Five comic. (Previously.) Use the Up-Goer Five Text Editor to make your own contributions.
The Whole Nine Yards: Seeking a Phrase’s Origin
When people talk about “the whole nine yards,” just what are they talking about? For decades the answer to that question has been the Bigfoot of word origins...But now two researchers using high-powered database search tools have delivered a confident “none of the above,” supported by a surprise twist: Before we were going the whole nine yards, it turns out, we were only going six.(SLNYT)
I grew up in Minnesota, home of a particular passive-aggressive communication style which is summed up nicely by this chart and subsequent comments. Of particular import is the difference between "that's different" and "that's sure different" (though there isn't mention of "that's real different," which I think means just about the same thing) and examples of Minnesota Enthusiastic Neutral. Also worth noting is the classic book by sometime A Prairie Home Companion regular Howard Mohr, How to Talk Minnesotan. [more inside]
Approximately 375 million people speak English as their first language, and 470 million to over a billion people speak it as a second language (to varying degrees). Even so, there are some words that do not exist in English, even with new word entries periodically being added to the Oxford Dictionary. 25 words that do not exist in English. [more inside]
New letter and word frequency counts Peter Norvig has used Google books data to generate new lists of letter frequency, the most common English words and their frequencies, and lots of other fun stuff (though I don't know if forschungsgemeinschaft is really an English word, unless it means forcing a mine shaft). [more inside]
"So what is an asshole, exactly? How is he (and assholes are almost always men) distinct from other types of social malefactors? Are assholes born that way, or is their boorishness culturally conditioned? What explains the spike in the asshole population?" -- The Chronicle talks to two professors, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg and philospher Aaron James, about their recent work on, well, assholes. [more inside]
21 emotions English has no word for. Some things "light us up". Some things "leave us cold". Such dim metaphors only hint at the unspoken universe of feeling, dimensions we can only guess that we share. A new infographic explores "untranslatable" feeling-words from other languages.
Historically, the city states of the Malay Peninsula often paid tribute to regional kingdoms such as those of China and Siam. Closer relations with China were established in the early 15th century during the reign of Parameswara, founder of Melaka, when Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) sailed through the Straits of Malacca. Impressed by the tribute, the Yongle Emperor of China is said to have presented Princess Hang Li Po* as a gift to Mansur Shah, then Sultan of Malacca (+/-1459 AD). Tradition claims the courtiers and servants who accompanied the princess settled in Bukit Cina, intermarried with the locals and grew into a community known as the Peranakan. Colloquially known as Baba-Nyonya, the Peranakan or Straits Chinese, they retained many of their ethnic and religious customs, but assimilated the language and clothing of the Malays. They developed a unique culture and distinct foods. Nyonya cuisine is one of the most highly rated in the South East Asian region, considered some of the most difficult to master but very easy to love and enjoy.
"Mele Kalikimaka" (Ukelele cords) is a Hawaiian-themed Christmas song written in 1949 by Robert Alex Anderson. The phrase is borrowed directly from English but since Hawaiian has a different phonological system - Hawaiian does not have the /r/ or /s/ of English and doesn't have the phonotactic constraints to allow consonants at the end of syllables or consonant clusters - "Merry Christmas" becomes "Mele Kalikimaka". Enjoy the canonical version with Bing Crosby And The Andrew Sisters (lounge remix) or by KT Tunstall or Bette Milder or Jimmy Buffet or Gianni And Sarah or The Puppini Sisters or Reel Big Fish or Country Western style or pared down instrumental or Celtic Rock style or performed on the Metro by Pokey LaFarge or ..whatever the hell this is.
Polish names are hard for Germans. The Danish language is hard for the Danes. Singing in French is hard for New Zealanders. (MLYT) (Previously: An English-esque song that is hard for English speakers.) [more inside]
[LydiaCallisFilter] Signing Science
Meta: word-forming element meaning 1. "after, behind," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond;" from Gk.
Are you enthusiastic ("pertaining to possession by a deity," from Gk. enthousiastikos "inspired," from enthousiazein ) about Etymology? ( ethimolegia "facts of the origin and development of a word," from O.Fr. et(h)imologie (14c., Mod.Fr. étymologie), from L. etymologia, from Gk. etymologia, properly "study of the true sense (of a word)," Then why not explore ( 1580s, "to investigate, examine," a back formation from exploration, or else from M.Fr. explorer (16c.), from L. explorare ) the vast resources (1610s, "means of supplying a want or deficiency," from Fr. resourse) of the ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY [more inside]
Some are strong, and some are weak. The weak, as is well known, are easily mastered—completely regular and, frankly, pathetic. But it doesn't have to be that way! The Society for the Strengthening of Verbs labors at its noble cause of strengthening verbs and nouns (in English too, though with less Sprachgefühl), increasing the stock of causatives, and generally messing around with German (excuse me, with Neutsch).
Shakespeare: Globe to Globe was a series of 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 37 different languages presented at the reconstructed Shakespeare Globe theatre in London this summer. [more inside]
The universe (which others call The Twitter) is composed of every word in the English language; Shakespeare's folios, line-by-line-by-line; the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, exploded; Constantine XI, in 140 character chunks; Sun Tzu's Art of War, in its entirety; the chapter headings of JG Ballard, in abundance; and definitive discographies of Every. Artist. Ever... All this, I repeat, is true, but one hundred forty characters of inalterable wwwtext cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. [more inside]
Researchers think that the late beluga whale named NOC had been trying to speak with a human accent – or at least talk to its keepers. Current Biology has more (PDF link).