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Goodbye, "Leih Hou Ma," Hello "Ni Hao Ma!"

"Chinatown" communities across the United States (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco) are undergoing a shift in linguistic identity, as recent immigrants are more likely to natively speak Mandarin (the official spoken language of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan,) instead of Cantonese. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Oct 22, 2009 - 56 comments

Hen Kerlien

Hen Kerlien (or, hěn​ kě​ lián​). For when an anglophone needs a phrase that suggests a child walking alone in the world.
posted by Greg Nog on Oct 14, 2009 - 25 comments

With a little persistence... and Verner's Law!... you can tackle most any problem.

Verner's Law. Ari Hoptman (his website) explains early Germanic sound laws to his young friend Frankie, who has tossed aside his copy of Braune’s Gothic grammar in disgust. If you want to know what makes historical linguists tick, this is a great way to find out. Warning: links to seven-minute YouTube with two sequels; disclaimer: I myself have a copy of Braune’s Gotische Grammatik within arm’s reach and I have spent time reading the Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung, so I may be especially susceptible to jokes about William Jones, the Brothers Grimm, and Danish linguists. [more inside]
posted by languagehat on Oct 9, 2009 - 16 comments

감사합니다, 세종대왕!

October 9th is 한글날, or Hangul Day. Hangul is the Korean alphabet, and it has a fascinating history, so let's celebrate! (YT). Better yet, here are some videos that will help you learn Hangul for yourself: [Introduction] [Advanced] [Hangul Rap!] [Beginner's Vocabulary]
posted by bardic on Oct 9, 2009 - 15 comments

INFORMATION; SEASPEAK

INFORMATION; SEASPEAK IS A RESTRICTED LANGUAGE USING SIMPLE STANDARD PHRASES FOR CLEAR COMMUNICATION AT SEA; OVER.
ADVICE; BEGIN EACH PHRASE WITH MESSAGE MARKERS SUCH AS INSTRUCTION, ADVICE, WARNING, INFORMATION, QUESTION, ANSWER, REQUEST, INTENTION; OVER.
QUESTION; ARE THERE RELATED LANGUAGES; OVER.
ANSWER; YES AIRSPEAK, TUNNELSPEAK; OUT.
posted by TheophileEscargot on Sep 23, 2009 - 79 comments

Please Call Me Hararie

Japanese Element Symbols is an introduction for non-Japanese to the Japanese language through Kanji symbols, its alphabet, elements of Japan's culture, and what to expect on the culinary front.
posted by netbros on Aug 6, 2009 - 12 comments

Rebranding Redux

Pecsi, or Pepsi it doesn't matter, as long as you drink our sugar water. Want to sound like a native? Which one? This article can help you achieve that. That's the quick version, if you want something more academic, try this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny on Aug 6, 2009 - 19 comments

You say poe-TAY-toe.

Forvo: All the words in the world, pronounced by native speakers. At the time of this post, the tally stands at: 327,492 words; 239,165 pronunciations; in 220 languages; with 25,040 users submitting.
posted by not_on_display on Aug 4, 2009 - 26 comments

The Lithuanian Press Ban, 1864-1904

From 1864 to 1904, the Russian Empire tried to quelch the nationalism of Lithuanians by ordering all Lithuanian texts to be printed with Cyrillic characters instead of in the Latin-derived Lithuanian or Polish alphabets. But they didn't count on the Knygnešiai - the Booksmugglers. [more inside]
posted by mdonley on Jul 12, 2009 - 18 comments

500 constructed languages.

Amabil amico, Con grand satisfaction mi ha lect tei letter de le mundolingue. Arika Okrent, author of the new book In The Land of Invented Languages, lists 500 constructed languages, from the well-known (Esperanto, Volapuk, Loglan) to the utterly obscure (Neulatein, Rosentalographia, Mundolingue.) MetaFilter's own languagehat reviews the book. Okrent writes about Klingonophones in Slate. Alternatively, you might choose to learn not to speak Esperanto. Previously on MetaFilter, all you wanted to know about Loglan/Lojban but were too syntactically ambiguous to ask.
posted by escabeche on Jul 7, 2009 - 30 comments

languages and thought

How does our language shape our thinking? :"What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world."
posted by dhruva on Jun 25, 2009 - 101 comments

"It's a Secret to Everybody"

"It's a secret to everybody" -- an unbelievably comprehensive blog post about the etymologies of the names of famous (and not-so-famous) video game characters.
posted by empath on Jun 20, 2009 - 26 comments

The Linguists

A film (1 hour) about disappearing languages: The Linguists [more inside]
posted by idiomatika on Jun 11, 2009 - 23 comments

Base 26

Java Demo: "four-letter words have a special status in the english language and culture. counting in at over 1650 words,...this small project is an attempt to give a spacial overview of the entirety of this part of english language heritage, as well as to explore and visualize relations between all those words."
posted by hortense on Jun 4, 2009 - 18 comments

'Critique' is a noun. If you want a verb, try 'criticise'.

Some common solecisms (grammatical absurdities) from the Style Guide of The Economist
posted by blasdelf on Jun 1, 2009 - 127 comments

Mi Vida Loca

Courtesy of the BBC, an award-winning mystery masquerading as a language education program. [more inside]
posted by skoosh on May 25, 2009 - 15 comments

Glyphs...in...spaaaaaaace!

What 13,500 pages micro-etched into nickel looks like. [more inside]
posted by googly on May 22, 2009 - 35 comments

O! Mesopotamia!

Rev. George Whitefield, an 18th century preacher much admired by Benjamin Franklin, was an astonishing orator. According to a contemporary source, he "could make his audiences weep or tremble merely by varying his pronunciation of the word Mesopotamia. Garrick once said, 'I would give a hundred guineas if I could only say 'O!' like Mr. Whitefield.'"
posted by lolichka on May 18, 2009 - 32 comments

Look at all the pretty words

A few weeks from now, English will have it's millionth word. Or will it? [more inside]
posted by Dumsnill on May 12, 2009 - 54 comments

The Neurobiology of Birdsong

The universal grammar of birdsong is genetically encoded. "A new study, published online in the journal Nature, shows that the songs of isolated zebra finches evolve over multiple generations to resemble those of birds in natural colonies. These findings show that song learning in birds is not purely the product of nurture, but has a strong genetic basis, and suggest that bird song has a universal grammar, or an intrinsic structure which is present at birth."
posted by homunculus on May 5, 2009 - 23 comments

Antarctica: It's a Cool Place!

Cool Antarctica is a site dedicated to all things Antarctic. There are pictures (penguins), videos (including, among much else, an old documentary about Edmund Hillary's and Vivian Fuchs' Transantarctic Expedition), a history section focusing on the famous explorers (e.g. Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton, Charcot and de Gerlache) and a fact file, which includes what may be my favorite section, an Antarctic slang dictionary (degomble: removing snow that's stuck to clothing before going inside - monk-on: a term for being in a bad, usually introspective mood, "he's got a monk-on" - poppy: alcoholic beverage that is chilled with natural Antarctic ice). All this is but a taster of what's on the website.
posted by Kattullus on Apr 29, 2009 - 20 comments

Entropic Evidence for Linguistic Structure in the Indus Script

Scholars at odds over mysterious Indus script. The Indus script is the collection of symbols found on artifacts from the Harappan civilization, which flourished in what is now eastern Pakistan and western India between 2,600 and 1,900 B.C. A new analysis using pattern-analyzing software suggests that the script may constitute a genuine written language. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Apr 23, 2009 - 20 comments

American Stonehenge

The Georgia Guidestones - Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse.
posted by Artw on Apr 21, 2009 - 44 comments

"I notice the 'wank' has remained fairly constant."

"The editor's guidelines are as follows: First, remember the reader, and respect demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend. Second, use such words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes. Third, the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it.Finally, never use asterisks, which are just a cop-out." - Swearing in The Guardian: A chart
posted by Artw on Apr 3, 2009 - 31 comments

Learn Hebrew with Pictures and Audio

Learn Hebrew with Pictures and Audio.
posted by Effigy2000 on Mar 30, 2009 - 20 comments

What language is music?

Western musical intervals are derived from speech tendencies, according to Duke scientists. Specifically, "most of the 12 chromatic scale intervals correspond to peaks of relative power in the normalized spectrum of human vocalizations." A somewhat more layperson-friendly summary of the study is here. [more inside]
posted by univac on Mar 15, 2009 - 42 comments

Death of the dirty word

Why would an evolutionary biologist study words? It turns out there is an astonishing parallel between the evolution of words in a lexicon and the evolution of genes in an organism. The word two, for example, has been around much longer than most, and will likely be with us for millennia, whereas the comparatively rare and recent word dirty has undergone many mutations, and will probably be extinct in a few hundred years. Professor Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, UK, tells us why on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's program As It Happens. Pull slider to 16:00 to start the seven minute interview.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium on Mar 7, 2009 - 49 comments

I had always wanted to do this

Make your handwriting into a font with Yourfonts. Download the PDF, draw your alphabet, scan and upload, then download the finished result. Examples. Via Drawn!
posted by Rinku on Feb 2, 2009 - 31 comments

Speaking of sports...

The Guardian is knocked for six by American sport references in British media Creeping cultural imperialism? The effect of internet media from foreign news outlets? Or just Guardian handwringing about something no one else notices? Is British media alone in this trend?
posted by Grrlscout on Jan 20, 2009 - 111 comments

A blame game of language and depth-first search.

"It's all {Greek -> Chinese -> Heavenly Script} to me." Mark Liberman, on Language Log, recently did some quick research on how other languages would say "It's Greek to me." And created a directed graph of his findings, which were then supplemented with reader comments.
posted by shadytrees on Jan 15, 2009 - 49 comments

80 Million Tiny Images

A visualization of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. [NSFW words included!] [more inside]
posted by carsonb on Jan 15, 2009 - 40 comments

European and American hand fans

"It became an accessory of fashion. Status symbol like jewels, the fan had some additional advantages: you could hide behind, spy through tiny holes in the fan, swirl the fan coquettishly, or move the fan according to difficult fan language conventions, a kind of early telecommunication." [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Jan 14, 2009 - 20 comments

a selcouth galimatias

International House of Logorrhea, at The Phrontistry, a free online dictionary of weird and unusual words to help enhance your vocabulary. Generous language resources, 2 and 3 letter Scrabble words l The Compass DeRose Guide to Emotion Words l all kinds of glossaries for color terms, wisdom, love and attraction, scientific instruments, manias and obsessions, feeding and eating, carriages and chariots, dance styles and all kinds of fun word stuff. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Jan 11, 2009 - 12 comments

Fridge magnets in seven scripts

Fridge magnets in seven scripts – Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic, Korean, Arabic, Devanagari. [more inside]
posted by joeclark on Jan 11, 2009 - 12 comments

English as a Shouted Language

"Conquer English to Make China Stronger!" is the philosophy of Li Yang, founder of the Crazy English school (and style) of language, described by some as "English as a Shouted Language" for its main method of shouting English words in public to overcome shyness. Li Yang has achieved Elvis-like popularity in China, not just through his public lectures but also through the sales of books, media, teaching materials, and a memoir titled "I am Crazy, I Succeed". Li Yang's unorthodox methods - which include encouraging students to "lose face" and cope with embarrassment on the way to success - have earned him fame and fortune, including headlining the 5th Beijing Foreign Language Festival and being the main English teacher for China's Olympic volunteers. Li Yang's secret to success: "... to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached."
posted by divabat on Dec 31, 2008 - 10 comments

"It's all caviar and ballons until someone backhands a cop!"

The Cliche-o-Matic: Never be at a loss for banal words again!
posted by Navelgazer on Dec 20, 2008 - 46 comments

Everything you wanted to know about pre-Columbian Central America but were afraid to ask lest your heart get ripped out and offered to Quetzalcoatl

The Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies is your one-stop shop for pre-Columbian Central America awesomeness. There are so, so many wondrous things on that site, I don't quite know where to begin. I suppose John Pohl's scholarly introduction is a natural place to start. But maybe you just don't have time to read anything and just want to dive into pretty, pretty pictures. Perhaps the most user-friendly databases are Justin Kerr's photographs Maya Vases (e.g. 1, 2, 3) and Pre-Columbian Portfolio (e.g. 1, 2a, 2b, 3). From there you can delve into the collection of Linda Schele's photographs (e.g. 1, 2) and drawings (e.g. 1, 2, 3). There are more image databases but let me direct you to the collection of old Maya, Aztec and Mixtec books which are simply stunning (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4 [last link pdf]). You can read more about Mayan and Mixtec codices and download high resolution versions of the entire books. There are also Maya dictionaries, glyph guides, linguistic maps and a who's who. There is also classic Mayan and Aztec poetry in translation. I'm telling you, that's not even half of what this amazing site has to offer.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 29, 2008 - 19 comments

The Economist: The World in 2009

In 2009, a remarkably gifted politician, confronting a remarkably difficult set of challenges, will have to learn to say "No we can't", Guantánamo will prove a moral minefield, economic recovery will be invisible to the naked eye, governments must prepare for the day they stop financial guarantees, we will judge our commitment to sustainability, scientists should research the causes of religion, we will all be potential online paparazzi, English will have more words than any other language (but it's meaningless), Afghanistan will see a surge of Western (read: American) troops, Iran will continue its nuclear quest while diplomacy lies in shambles, the sea floor is the new frontier, we should rethink aging, (non-)voters will continue to thwart the European project -- but cheap travel will continue to buoy it -- though it has some unfinished business to attend to, and a Nordic defence bond will blossom.

The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Nov 27, 2008 - 31 comments

Meh

Meh. (Previously).
posted by swift on Nov 17, 2008 - 61 comments

One Minute Languages

At One Minute Languages you can learn greetings, talking about names, counting, and more in Catalan, Danish, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Russian.
posted by sveskemus on Nov 11, 2008 - 25 comments

Long Term Thinking

How far do you plan ahead? Are we careering towards another Dark Age? The Long Now Foundation (subject of many previous posts on Metafilter), has finally solved the technical problems in producing a modern day Rosetta Stone. Orders are now shipping. [more inside]
posted by Homemade Interossiter on Nov 8, 2008 - 37 comments

metaphors be with you

Link found between physical and emotional warmth l Metaphors of the Mind: Why Loneliness Feels Cold and Sins Feel Dirty. "Our mental processes are not separate and detached from the body". Sensory metaphors l The Metaphor Observatory, top 10 metaphors of 2007.
posted by nickyskye on Oct 27, 2008 - 45 comments

Stephan Kinsella's rulings on term coolness

Annoying and/or pretentious terms: "jejune", "pyjamas", "piping hot", "social justice". Cool terms: "cogitate", "cul-de-sac", "high dudgeon", "orangutan".
posted by colinmarshall on Oct 17, 2008 - 112 comments

From the original Greek, meaning 'I like big donuts'

A Brief History of English, with Chronology by Suzanne Kemmer is one of many articles at Words in English, a website designed as "a resource for those who want to learn more about this fascinating language – its history as a language, the origins of its words, and its current modern characteristics."
posted by blue_beetle on Oct 4, 2008 - 37 comments

Circus Slang for Gauchos.

Every trade has a history, a culture and secrets, all most vividly expressed in the special terms used by its workers. The circus is, of course, no different as this handy dictionary of circus slang shows. It contains entries for both American and European circuses, and has a handy list of vaudeville slang words as well. These unique words used on the carnival lot around the world demonstrate a language that defines a world of wonders, and now you can use them to impress your friends and insult your enemies!
posted by Effigy2000 on Sep 25, 2008 - 14 comments

Convey your heartworm feelings

"I love Chinglish: it constantly surprises and delights me. It refreshes our view of language, and reminds native English speakers of our own deficiencies in other languages. It also sometimes defines a wonderful characteristic of Chinese matter-of-fact-ness".
posted by flapjax at midnite on Sep 15, 2008 - 41 comments

Negating a frame activates that frame

Don't Think of a Maverick! George Lakoff offers some tips on framing to the Obama campaign.
posted by homunculus on Sep 12, 2008 - 57 comments

“The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.” –Ben Okri

"Political content aside, the discussion provided a lovely example of how a term from literary theory has established itself in American political discourse." via Language Log

"We may expect the following. Language will be carefully crafted. Advertisements will focus on personal narratives. The campaign will employ “attack” advertisements that emotionally sway voters. Policy will be sketchy with vague descriptions that emotionally satisfy Americans while offering scant details. The emphasis will be on creating narratives that resonate with the values, beliefs, and identities of prospective voters."
– Literary Gulag, on Lakoff, Nunberg, Westen, and the narrative of the 2008 presidential election. [more inside]
posted by iamkimiam on Sep 9, 2008 - 26 comments

Whatever "a good walk spoiled" would be in Korean

English, Motherduffersdo you speak it?
posted by emelenjr on Aug 27, 2008 - 34 comments

When celebrities and language collide. In Japan!

Puzzled by sugary J-Pop bands and their eccentric (and failed) TV shows? Frustrated and confused by the complexity of Japanese and want to see what your inchoate blustering looks like from the other side? Then join "perennially unpopular" gaijin celebrity Thane Camus (grand-nephew of Albert Camus), as he walks a class of fellow pop star clichés through an endearingly awkward English conversation class.
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 21, 2008 - 22 comments

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