Words of the World
is a site dedicated to the exploration and life of words and language. [more inside]
Words I love
, not to be confused with Words I hate
The BBC presents a wee Flash gubbins
that discusses the history of the English language in ten parts.
"Voice of San Diego
reporter Adrian Florido set out to find a family, he writes
, "whose experience could illustrate the day-to-day challenge for Burmese refugees
" in San Diego, since "more than 200 Burmese families have arrived [in that city] since 2006." In the process, Florido met a 24-year-old man named Har Sin" who was unable to hear, speak, read, write or use sign language, and wound up writing a two-part story about him: In a New Land, Hoping to Hear
and Breaking Free of a Life Without Language
. The story is available as a downloadable pdf: A Silent Journey Series. / Via The Kicker, the daily blog of the Columbia Journalism Review [more inside]
The next day, Sunday, I spent almost nine hours immersed in Robert Lepage’s marathon play, Lipsynch, at the Bluma Appel Theatre, which was part of Luminato. You tell people you’ve just spent nine hours watching a play conducted in four languages (with projected sur-titles) and they think you’ve undergone an endurance test, made a heroic sacrifice for art. On the contrary. There was no suffering(5 minutes of [enthusiastic] standing and clapping)
. The time flew by. It was like taking your brain on a luxurious cruise. Or spending the day in an art spa, basking in mind massages and sensory wraps. Maybe it was high art but the ascent was effortless: because Lepage did all the work for you, it was experienced as pure entertainment. [more inside]
Repetition needn't be redundancy. Contrastive focus reduplication
(also lexical cloning, the double construction) is a little studied type of syntactic reduplication found in some languages. The first part of the reduplicant bears contrastive intonational stress, hence the name. [Via]
As part of National Geographic's Enduring Voices project
, Gregory Anderson, K. David Harrison and Ganesh Murmu travelled to Arunachal Pradesh to document the Aka and Miji languages - and in the process, they found a previously undocumented language, Koro
(not to be confused with Koro
). The NG site has a video and gallery; you might also be interested in this interview given by Harrison to NPR
, which includes a small audio selection of Koro words and phrases.
Twenty-four different accents
in just over eight minutes. (NSFW SLYT
I’m not advocating the abolition of grammar, but rather its justification. I’m not quite sure what that will entail in the end, but I’m starting out by pointing out grammar rules that just don’t make sense, don’t work, or don’t have any justification. All I want is for our rules of grammar to be well-motivated.
Victor Borge (previously
, gtwo but not fivegoteleven
) was well known five his "inflationary language"
routine. The fivemula: number sounds in ordinary language are "inflnined" to the next-highest numbers -- "twoderful" becomes "threederful," "threelips" become "fourlips," "fivefathers" become "sixfathers," and so on.
is a twoderful web toy that will inflnine arbitrary text, or inflnine the language of any website. An example
, using a story Borge crenined five this purpose. [more inside]
The Gender-Neutral Pronoun: 150 Years Later, Still an Epic Fail
. Wordsmiths have been coining gender-neutral pronouns for a century and a half, all to no avail. Coiners of these new words insist that the gender-neutral pronoun is indispensable, but users of English stalwartly reject, ridicule, or just ignore their proposals. [Via].
What language obliges us to think about.
The NYTimes has a fascinating article on how language affects thought, from the gender-specificity of many European languages to the pure geographic directions
of Guugu Yimithirr
: Even if your Alphabet Conspiracy succeeds and you destroy the books, machines have no minds of their own. They are easily confused by different voices and different accents. It is the brain of man that tells them what to do. [more inside]
Linguistics Challenge Puzzles! (Difficulty ranging from green circles to double black diamonds...Friday fun for all!) [more inside]
Climate change and the vuvuzela leave mark on Oxford Dictionary of English.
Other words and phrases introduced for the latest edition include 'toxic debt', 'staycation', 'cheesebal' and 'national treasure'. To balance them out among the 2,000 or so new items there are a few more left-field choices.
Among them are 'cheeseball', which refers to someone or something lacking taste, style or originality, and the more disturbing phenomenon of 'hikikomori', the Japanese word for the acute social withdrawal that occurs in some teenage boys.
The first time I met ERIC
, I fell in love. Maybe you will, too. The Education Resources Information Center
is a project of the US Department of Education. Some of you may especially be interested in the wide variety of language learning materials, journal articles, and more, that go way beyond even the public domain Foreign Services Institute offerings
, from Aymara for Spanish speakers
) to Uzbek study for Peace Corps volunteers
. There is also non-language stuff of all kinds like World Myths and Legends in Art
and teaching (or learning) buckyballs
. Best results when using advanced search for their full-text links only.
Even though Starbucks was founded by an english teacher
, history teacher
, the company has grown to have a particular relationship with language, especially with its drink menu. Notably, the sizes of drinks defies commonly understood usage
as it attempts to engage customers on multiple levels
while providing a new experience
. Said experience has resulted in a glossary of terms
and even step by step instructions on how to order
and decode the lingo
All of this helps to explain the recent trouble English professor Lynne Rosenthal had at a Starbuck's on New York City's Upper West Side when she ordered a plain multigrain bagel. [more inside]
The Language of Food
is a blog with only four entries, but each one is an excellent, well-researched essay on, yes, food and language: ketchup
, and ceviche
. The author, Dan Jurafsky, teaches a parallel course at Stanford, the syllabus for which you can peruse here
. via (mefi's own) honestengine.blogspot.com
Words can change the way we think and feel.
An exploration of how language connects our inner thoughts to the outside world. [more inside]
"By 'grawlixes', I mean icons representing unprintable words
, occurring within speech balloons belonging to characters who are agitated." – Gwillim Law. Via Ben Zimmer's post at Language Log on Obscenicons a century ago
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]
What do Singing in the Rain
, Live Is Life
, Don't Worry, Be Happy
, I Will Survive
and Ça fait rire les oiseaux
have in common? In a study, French-speaking Internet users identified these five pop songs out of 100, as the most pernicious earworms
. Here are their top 25 picks
, including audio clips. [more inside]
attempts to be 'a demographic dictionary of modern American English.' Here's
how it works. Lexicalist's developer David Bamman goes into greater detail
at Language Log
. [more inside]
Everything you ever wanted to know about history's most abusive programming language
: Its history
, reference manual
and a style guide
"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.
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]
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."
The large Na'vi reverse engineering project. (via
). See also
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.
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]
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.
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]
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]
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]
is perhaps the internet's most infamous hack
, 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?
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
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.
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]
Say hello to googles new concurrent programming language
Compiles faster than c/c++ and runs just as fast.
Garbage collection + concurrency included