"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]
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]
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.
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.
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.)
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)
The Ashtray: The Ultimatum. Part one of a series by Errol Morris on meaning, truth, intolerance and flying ashtrays. [more inside]
An essay in two parts on the pilcrow (¶) kicks off a new blog called Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation.
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]
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.
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]
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.
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)
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]
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]
Geert Chatrou is a whistling maestro. Mozart's Queen of the Night | Czardas Monti. Other amazing whistling and whistlers inside. [more inside]
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]
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]
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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]
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.)
"L'infinito": Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity. Infinity...
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.
"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]
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]
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]
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, Koro or 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)
The Beatles in German: "Sie liebt dich" ("She Loves You"); "Komm gib mir deine Hand" ("I Want to Hold Your Hand"); "Geh raus" (quick and dirty rendering of "Get Back"); "Mein Herz ist bei dir nur" (Tony Sheridan and the Beat Boys' version of "My Bonnie".) [more inside]
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. Here 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.
Beware the Electronic Automatic Sound-Spectrograph Computing Digit Translator Playback Recognizer Machine
Telephoneme: 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]