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The Metaphor Program

Daniel Soar on the militarisation of metaphor: Spies aren’t known for their cultural sensitivity. So it was a surprise when news broke last month that IARPA, a US government agency that funds ‘high-risk/high-payoff research’ into areas of interest to the ‘intelligence community’, had put out a call for contributions to its Metaphor Program, a five-year project to discover what a foreign culture’s metaphors can reveal about its beliefs.
posted by jack_mo on Jun 27, 2011 - 41 comments

Whole narratives can be compressed into a single word or familiar phrase.

Liz Collini makes fantastic wall drawings using typographic techniques. [via]
posted by shakespeherian on Jun 21, 2011 - 3 comments

New 'Solaris' translation locked in Limbo

Solaris, Stanislaw Lem's 1961 masterpiece, has finally been translated directly into English. The current print version, in circulation for over 4 decades, was the result of a double-translation. Firstly from Polish to French, in 1966, by Jean-Michel Jasiensko. This version was then taken up by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox who hacked together an English version in 1970. Lem, himself a fluent English speaker, was always scathing of the double translation. Something he believed added to the universal misunderstanding of his greatest work. After the relsease of two film versions of the story, and decades of speculation, a new direct English translation has been released. Translated by American Professor Bill Johnston 'The Definitive Solaris' is only available as an audiobook for the time being. Copyright issues, hampered by several, widely available, editions of the poor English translation may mean it is some time yet before a definitive print edition makes it onto our bookshelves.
posted by 0bvious on Jun 19, 2011 - 64 comments

ScriptSource: Pretty much every form of human writing, all documented on one site

Scriptsource: Pretty much every form of human writing, all documented on one site. Simon Ager’s Omniglot.com, which went online circa 1998, documents the many writing systems in use through history and in the present day. Now SIL International’s ScriptSource packs an even more boggling array of information on scripts and writing into one site, drilling all the way down to pages for individual letters.
posted by joeclark on Jun 16, 2011 - 8 comments

The Dirty Talk Of The Town

The Awl compiles a history of profanity at The New Yorker. Padgett Powell once said that the usage rules used to be so restrictive, he was forced to change "big-butt sheriff" to "big-bubba sheriff" in "The Winnowing of Mrs. Schuping" (1991; great story).
posted by maud on May 31, 2011 - 13 comments

Simulated Language

In the recent MIT symposium "Brains, Minds and Machines," Chomsky criticized the use of purely statistical methods to understand linguistic behavior. Google's Director of Research, Peter Norvig responds. (via) [more inside]
posted by nangar on May 28, 2011 - 95 comments

Norms and Peeves

Language Log lists all their previous articles about prescriptivism vs. descriptivism (or at least a lot of them), plus a link to Geoffrey Pullum's Ideology, Power, and Linguistic Theory [pdf].
posted by nangar on May 16, 2011 - 29 comments

English Language and Usage

Linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts, check out free Q&A site English Language and Usage. [more inside]
posted by Foci for Analysis on May 11, 2011 - 20 comments

Troll Food

WOODEN COCK
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese on May 10, 2011 - 87 comments

The Gostak: An Interofgan Halpock

Finally, here you are. At the delcot of tondam, where doshes deave. But the doshery lutt is crenned with glauds.
Glauds! How rorm it would be to pell back to the bewl and distunk them, distunk the whole delcot, let the drokes uncren them. But you are the gostak. The gostak distims the doshes. And no glaud will vorl them from you.

Delcot
This is the delcot of tondam, where gitches frike and duscats glake. Across from a tophthed curple, a gomway deaves to kiloff and kirf, gombing a samilen to its hoff. Crenned in the loff lutt are five glauds.
>_ [more inside]
posted by JHarris on Apr 30, 2011 - 65 comments

Some holoalphabetisms - in Japanese

Inspired by a recent AskMe, a search for videos featuring the 'Iroha Uta' turned up a number of interesting versions. The iroha is a pangram based on the Japanese syllabary, and thus uses each of the 48 characters once and only once (Wikipedia explanation). Let's start with the 'lovely' Hatsune Miku singing it. (Bonus: she includes hand symbols for each character - used by this young lady for her version.) [more inside]
posted by woodblock100 on Apr 19, 2011 - 8 comments

Write Your Name In Japanese

ヘヤ メタフィテレ! ヰテ ヨウ ナメ イン ジャパネセ! [more inside]
posted by Effigy2000 on Apr 18, 2011 - 50 comments

In the country of blinds, the one eyed men are kings.

"English As She Is Spoke is a broken Portuguese-to-English phrasebook written by two translators, José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino. Sort of. You see, in reality, translator Pedro Carolino wanted to create a phrasebook on his own. Not knowing English, he took José da Fonseca’s French-to-English phrasebook and then used a Portuguese-to-French phrasebook to translate that. It’s sort of like what you and your friends do on Google Translate, but with a poor, mislead Portuguese man doing it by hand in candlelight." [more inside]
posted by item on Apr 18, 2011 - 52 comments

The Origin of All Language

In the current issue of Science, a New Zealand researcher, Quentin Atkinson has published his findings there was a single origin of human language. (abtract only: article behind paywall) Using the phoneme as the unit of analysis, Atkinson investigated whether phonemes demonstrated a serial founder effect, analogous to the genetic process. Results support an African origin of human language. [more inside]
posted by palindromic on Apr 16, 2011 - 30 comments

J programming language

The J programming language is kind of like a super calculator (it’s been described as executable mathematical notation). It was developed by Ken Iverson and Roger Hui and is a successor to APL (and there’s no need to buy a new keyboard). The language is free and open source, and works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. A series of books and articles on using J are also available to download. To whet your appetite, here’s an article on using J to find the eighth ten-digit prime number that appears among the digits of pi.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear on Mar 26, 2011 - 79 comments

Real life imitates art?

Pontypool is Canadian director's Bruce McDonald zombie (?) flick about language virus. In real life, Toronto's Global News Mark McAllister suffers a bizarre on-air episode on Wednesday, reminiscent of the CBS Serene Branson.
posted by SylviaAspevig on Mar 24, 2011 - 35 comments

Fully (sic): linguists down under.

Fully (sic) is "Crikey’s very own language blog for discerning word nerds. Sit back and enjoy the spectacle of Australian linguists getting all hot and bothered about the way we communicate." It's the Aussie equivalent of Language Log, frequently linked here on the Blue. To get you started, Does Moomba really mean ‘up your bum’? (Answer: Nobody knows for sure, but the search is lots of fun.)
posted by languagehat on Mar 21, 2011 - 9 comments

Don't shit in the blue cabinet!

International Color Idioms. Hundreds of international idioms that mention color, with literal English translations as well as meanings. From this page, which also has an interesting essay on colors and language. (via)
posted by kmz on Mar 10, 2011 - 20 comments

The Ashtray: A Series on Incommensurability

The Ashtray: The Ultimatum. Part one of a series by Errol Morris on meaning, truth, intolerance and flying ashtrays. [more inside]
posted by homunculus on Mar 9, 2011 - 20 comments

#$%!*&

An essay in two parts on the pilcrow (¶) kicks off a new blog called Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation.
posted by Horace Rumpole on Mar 6, 2011 - 17 comments

Time worms, Blitzscribe and Cognitive Science

From the day cognitive scientist Deb Roy and his wife brought their son home five years ago, the family's every movement and word was captured and tracked with a series of fisheye lenses in every room in their house. The purpose was to understand how we learn language, in context, through the words we hear. [more inside]
posted by cashman on Mar 4, 2011 - 22 comments

Direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.

The "King of English", H.W. Fowler wrote A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Although "modern linguists are almost by definition incapable of understanding the function of a book like Fowler’s Dictionary", the "half-educated Englishman of literary proclivities" who just wants to know: "Can I say so-&-so?’" may now buy the classic first edition of the Dictionary again. An earlier book, The King's English, is free for anyone seeking advice on Americanisms, Saxon words, the spot plague, archaism or split infinitives.
posted by TheophileEscargot on Mar 3, 2011 - 27 comments

Aye Can

Can you speak Scots? As part of this year's census people in Scotland will be asked to say if they can understand speak, read and / or write Scots. [more inside]
posted by Lezzles on Feb 28, 2011 - 101 comments

In the beginning was the Word

Canadian horror flick Pontypool (trailer) is a modern zombie tale quite unlike any other. Loosely based on a dense, complicated novel by Tony Burgess and inspired by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, it tells the story of Grant Mazzy, a grumbling yet likable radio host (played by veteran character actor Stephen McHattie) whose penchant for philosophical ramblings gets him booted from Toronto to the sleepy winter pastures of Pontypool, Ontario. One bleak morning, as the outspoken Mazzy chafes against no-nonsense producer Sydney Briar, disturbing news begins rolling in of a series of bizarre and violent incidents sweeping the town. Trapped in their church basement broadcasting booth, Mazzy, Briar, and intern Laurel-Ann Drummond struggle to understand the odd nature of the crisis and warn the wider world before it's too late. But this is no ordinary virus, and they find their efforts may be causing far more harm than good. You can watch the film on YouTube horror channel Dead By Dawn (1 2 3 4 5 6 7), but if you're pressed for time you can also experience it in its more logical form: as a one-hour BBC radio drama voiced by the original cast. And after the credits, make sure not to miss the film's playful non-sequitur coda.
posted by Rhaomi on Feb 25, 2011 - 49 comments

Contains very strong language

The Royal Society has a great video that animates one of Steven Pinker’s lectures on ‘Language as a Window into Human Nature’. View the full lecture at the RSA. (via Mindhacks)
posted by Lezzles on Feb 19, 2011 - 10 comments

All righty then!

How 'OK' took over the world. 'It crops up in our speech dozens of times every day, although it apparently means little. So how did the word "OK" conquer the world, asks Allan Metcalf', author of OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word. 'On 23 March 1839, OK was introduced to the world on the second page of the Boston Morning Post, in the midst of a long paragraph, as "o.k. (all correct)". How this weak joke survived at all, instead of vanishing like its counterparts, is a matter of lucky coincidence involving the American presidential election of 1840.' [more inside]
posted by VikingSword on Feb 18, 2011 - 69 comments

We Make Cameras See Things

Yangsky's cognitive vision solutions cover the spectrum from applications that allow end users to use webcams for visual tasks such as flame detection, bar code reading, home security, and allow enterprisers to use industrial video cameras for visual tasks such as traffic monitoring, fire alarm, and visual tracking. [more inside]
posted by chavenet on Feb 18, 2011 - 6 comments

whistling wonders

Geert Chatrou is a whistling maestro. Mozart's Queen of the Night | Czardas Monti. Other amazing whistling and whistlers inside. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Feb 13, 2011 - 11 comments

TL;DR? Book Shrink.

Book Shrink tries to pick out the sentences of an input text that are most representative of the text as a whole; that is to say, find the essence of a text. [more inside]
posted by Foci for Analysis on Feb 10, 2011 - 39 comments

Language of Numbers in Nicaraguan Sign Language

Nicaraguan Sign Language is a unique language, created by school children in the late 1970s and early 1980s, who previously had minimal success at being taught to lip-read and speak Spanish. This community has been studied as an example of the birth of a language from its beginning (PDF). A recent study has investigated the ability for those who speak Nicaraguan Sign Language to express exact, large numbers. Unlike the Pirahã people of the Amazon (previously) who may not have the need for specificity in large numbers, the deaf in Nicaragua are surrounded by a culture that interacts in specific numbers, yet it appears they lack accuracy with numbers higher than three or four. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 10, 2011 - 21 comments

One Language, Many Voices

Evolving English: The British Library's Evolving English exhibition runs until 3rd April but if you can't make it to London you can view the English language timeline, map your voice, or try this quiz on the website.
posted by Lezzles on Feb 8, 2011 - 12 comments

Online Corpora

Online Corpora. In linguistics, a corpus is a collection of 'real world' writing and speech designed to facilitate research into language. These 6 searchable corpora together contain more than a billion words. The Corpus of Historical American English allows you to track changes in word use from 1810 to present; the Corpus del Español goes back to the 1200s.
posted by Paragon on Jan 24, 2011 - 11 comments

Say What?

Seeing this article today about a defendant in a drug trafficking trial who if deaf, mute and without any language skills reminded me of this question from 5 years ago. One of the answers to that question linked to the Straight Dope which had this question and answer. [more inside]
posted by AugustWest on Jan 12, 2011 - 59 comments

Sharing, Celebrating and Enhancing the World's Visual Language

The Noun Project collects, organizes and adds to the highly recognizable symbols that form the world's visual language, so they may be shared in a fun and meaningful way. The goal is to collect and organize all the symbols that form our language into one easy-to-use online library that can be accessed by anyone. All the symbols on their site are completely free to download, and can be used for design projects, architecture presentations, art pieces — just about anything.
posted by netbros on Jan 11, 2011 - 23 comments

Merry Christmas to All!

It is late on Christmas Eve in Hong Kong; scarcely an hour to go before the 25th. I'm unsure how accurate some of these are, but no matter, it's the spirit that counts: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
posted by bwg on Dec 24, 2010 - 5 comments

"It is of such stiff stuff that the upper lip of the British phonetician should be fashioned, giving short shrift to chauvinism."

Howjsay.com is a unique online speaking dictionary that offers clear pronunciations of English words, phrases, slang terms, technical terms, brand names, proper names, profanity, and many foreign words, including common variations and alternatives. Astoundingly, the sound files are not computer-generated -- every single one of the site's 138,152 entries are enunciated in the dignified tones of British academic and polyglot Tim Bowyer, who has steadily expanded its glossary over the years using logs of unsuccessful searches and direct user suggestions. The site is part of Bowyer's Fonetiks.org family of language sites, and is also available as a browser extension and as a mobile app for iPhone/iPod and Blackberry.
posted by Rhaomi on Dec 23, 2010 - 27 comments

Word Lens

Word Lens REPLACES text viewable in your iPhone camera with its translation, in real time, with formatting intact. Be sure to watch the demo video. Pretty much straight up magic. The app itself is free, but Spanish->English or English->Spanish dictionaries are $5 each, via in-app purchase. It's been a while since my jaw has dropped like this from any piece of software.
posted by 3rdparty on Dec 16, 2010 - 95 comments

Does the language we speak shape our thoughts? - An online debate

Does the language we speak shape our thoughts? The Economist is hosting an interactive online debate running all this week. Lena Boroditsky, a Stanford psychologist, supports the motion that it does, while Mark Liberman, a linguist from the Univ of Pennsylvania opposes it. Elsewhere you can read a WSJ article in which among other things Boroditsky argues that Japanese and Spanish speakers have a different sense of blame, and listen to a lively in-depth seminar at the Long Now Foundation. All her articles and papers are available in PDF online.
posted by philipy on Dec 15, 2010 - 72 comments

And a little child will lead them

Do you use Boy Words or Girl Words? My point is that kids get it. That this world is changing and that kids GET it. There are kids being raised to simply ask about gender if they are uncertain. Have you ever heard a person refrain from using a pronoun for an entire conversation instead of asking? It’s one of the most awkward things ever. Kids aren’t OK with that nonsense. They just ask. Via.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero on Dec 15, 2010 - 188 comments

"Toity poiple boids / Sittin on da koib / A-choipin an’ a-boipin / An’ eatin doity woims."

"Toity poiple boids / Sittin on da koib / A-choipin an’ a-boipin / An’ eatin doity woims." From Atlantic Avenue to Zerega Avenue (map), the kinds of New York City accents made famous by the likes of Archie Bunker, Jimmy Breslin and Travis Bickle are disappearing. But though you may not often hear “foath floah” for "fourth floor" in Manhattan anymore, documentary filmmaker Heather Quinlan knows you can still hear strains of the old mellifluous tones in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx, and that's exactly what she's setting out to document in her film If These Knishes Could Talk.
posted by ocherdraco on Dec 6, 2010 - 51 comments

"Poetry is still beautiful, taking me with it."

A memoir of living with a brain tumour: "For art critic Tom Lubbock, language has been his life and his livelihood. But in 2008, he developed a lethal brain tumour and was told he would slowly lose control over speech and writing. This is his account of what happens when words slip away." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Nov 13, 2010 - 11 comments

The Wonderful World of Babel

Unlike many cinematic exports, the Disney canon of films distinguishes itself with an impressive dedication to dubbing. Through an in-house service called Disney Character Voices International, not just dialogue but songs, too, are skillfully re-recorded, echoing the voice acting, rhythm, and rhyme scheme of the original work to an uncanny degree (while still leaving plenty of room for lyrical reinvention). The breadth of the effort is surprising, as well -- everything from Arabic to Icelandic to Zulu gets its own dub, and their latest project, The Princess and the Frog, debuted in more than forty tongues. Luckily for polyglots everywhere, the exhaustiveness of Disney's translations is thoroughly documented online in multilanguage mixes and one-line comparisons, linguistic kaleidoscopes that cast new light on old standards. Highlights: "One Jump Ahead," "Prince Ali," and "A Whole New World" (Aladdin) - "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Luau!" (The Lion King) - "Under the Sea" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid) - "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast) - "Just Around the Riverbend" (Pocahontas) - "One Song" and "Heigh-Ho" (Snow White) - "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (Cinderella) - Medley (Pinocchio) - "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2) - Intro (Monsters, Inc.)
posted by Rhaomi on Nov 12, 2010 - 31 comments

Leopardi's "Infinity"

"L'infinito": Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity...
posted by Iridic on Nov 12, 2010 - 8 comments

plants in sanskrit poetry

Seasonal Poetry in Sanskrit : The blog Sanskrit Literature has been running an excellent series on plants that appear in sanskrit poetry. Some examples : Jasmine (malati), Lotuses and Water Lilies, Mango.
posted by dhruva on Nov 2, 2010 - 6 comments

Could you really care less?

"I couldn't care less" vs. "I could care less"... A letter to Ann Landers in October 1960 is credited with starting the debate over "one of the great language peeves of our time." Via. [more inside]
posted by amyms on Oct 31, 2010 - 167 comments

Language, culture, society and the frameworks used to define experiential reality; living a good life, pathways of decolonization

An internationally recognized Kanien'kehaka (Mohwak) intellectual and political advisor, Taiaiake Alfred is well known for his incisive critiques and groundbreaking work in the fields of Indigenous governance and political philosophy. In the past, Taiaiake has served as an advisor on land and governance and cultural restoration issues for many indigenous governments and organizations, and he has authored several important books including Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom and Peace, Power, Righteousness. Currently, Taiaiake serves as a Professor of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria. Recorded March 23, 2009 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, University of Victoria Professor of Indigenous Governance; a broad, deep, and beautiful discussion of pathways toward the future for indigenous people, Gerald Taiaiake Alfred talks about the “Resurgence of Traditional Ways of Being: Indigenous Paths of Action and Freedom” [more inside]
posted by infinite intimation on Oct 26, 2010 - 14 comments

Greatest Hungarian Iranologist

Sándor Kégl, master of languages (via mr)
posted by kliuless on Oct 26, 2010 - 15 comments

word: /wɜrd/ -noun 1. a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.

Words of the World is a site dedicated to the exploration and life of words and language. [more inside]
posted by Cat Pie Hurts on Oct 24, 2010 - 8 comments

“When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.”

Words I love, not to be confused with Words I hate.
posted by Fizz on Oct 24, 2010 - 32 comments

þǣre cwenes Ænglisc

The BBC presents a wee Flash gubbins that discusses the history of the English language in ten parts.
posted by Dim Siawns on Oct 19, 2010 - 15 comments

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