279 posts tagged with linguistics.
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Helen Zaltzman milks the udders of language

The Allusionist is a language podcast with a etymological focus by podcaster and linguist Helen Zaltzman. The episodes are about fifteen minutes long and the ones so far have focused on political terms, spaces between words, crosswords, fake dictionary entries, museum display text, latin, curse words [explicit], the term viral, bras, but perhaps it's best to start with the first episode, where Zaltzman interviews her brother Andy on the subject of puns. The Extra Allusionism blog is also worth reading.
posted by Kattullus on May 16, 2015 - 13 comments

Hahaha vs. Hehehe

The New Yorker investigates the differences between "e-laughter" in its latest cultural commentary. [more inside]
posted by ourt on May 1, 2015 - 109 comments

WhyTheName

"libcaca pretends to be an acronym for 'Color AsCii Art', but really it's self-deprecating code: 'caca' means 'poo' in French."

The etymology of Debian package names .
posted by swift on Apr 4, 2015 - 25 comments

Try, try again? Study says no

Neuroscientists find that trying harder makes it more difficult to learn some aspects of language.
In a new study, a team of neuroscientists and psychologists led by Amy Finn, a postdoc at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, has found evidence for another factor that contributes to adults’ language difficulties: When learning certain elements of language, adults’ more highly developed cognitive skills actually get in the way. The researchers discovered that the harder adults tried to learn an artificial language, the worse they were at deciphering the language’s morphology — the structure and deployment of linguistic units such as root words, suffixes, and prefixes.
[more inside]
posted by Lexica on Mar 22, 2015 - 10 comments

If you can read this sentence, you can talk with a scientist.

Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?
posted by standardasparagus on Mar 15, 2015 - 45 comments

The Indo-European Wars

Over the past few years, some researchers have been arguing using mathematical tree-building and dating techniques, that the Indo-Europeans originated in Anatolia. In an article [.pdf] in the latest issue of Language, a group of historical and computational linguists using similar techniques say otherwise . [more inside]
posted by damayanti on Mar 10, 2015 - 17 comments

Hither and Jawn

New research examines the spread (or not) of local dialectical terms on Twitter. [PDF] [more inside]
posted by me3dia on Feb 18, 2015 - 24 comments

Uh...

Um, here’s an, uh, map that shows where Americans use 'um' vs. 'uh.' "Every language has filler words that speakers use in nervous moments or to buy time while thinking. Two of the most common of these in English are 'uh' and 'um.' They might seem interchangeable, but data show that their usage break down across surprising geographic lines. Hmm." And these lines may give evidence of the so-called Midland dialect. [more inside]
posted by wintersweet on Feb 8, 2015 - 44 comments

In short, in matters lexical, semantic, and homologous ...

I Am the Very Model of a Biblical Philologist. (h/t Language Log)
posted by benito.strauss on Jan 24, 2015 - 12 comments

When proto-Russians met a bear, a dessert was born

In 1952, a group of Belgian-Jewish investors founded the first modern popsicle factory in Israel. They called their brand artik, a corruption of the French word for the frozen Arctic. (Hebrew doesn’t abide with consonants placed in a row without a vowel between them, thus the ‘c’ had to go.) (Cache for the subscription-free). [more inside]
posted by bq on Jan 15, 2015 - 16 comments

The place of Saussure’s Memoire in historical linguistics

You may be familiar with Ferdinand de Saussure as the founder of structuralism or as one of the defining contributors to semiotics but did you know that he also did ground-breaking work in Proto-Indo-European linguistics at the age of 20? Welcome to the Laryngeal Theory. [more inside]
posted by bq on Jan 13, 2015 - 16 comments

The OED in two minutes

The OED in two minutes is a visualisation of the change and growth of the English language since 1150, showing the frequency and origin of new words year by year. Notes and explanations about the project. [more inside]
posted by dng on Jan 8, 2015 - 18 comments

A sweary blog about swearing

Strong Language is a new blog about profanity, cusswords, vulgar fuckin' language. Started just a week ago by James Harbeck and (MeFi's own) Stan Carey after discovering their shared frustration at not having a place to talk (swearily) about swearing, it already has ten posts by various authors covering such topics as the phonology of cusswords, whether shit is a contronym, the effectiveness of swearing in John Carpenter's The Thing, and a post reviving the cult classic linguistics article "English sentences without overt grammatical subjects" (previously).
posted by narain on Dec 18, 2014 - 38 comments

a "disjoined, incoherent stream of historical tidbits."

This would not make Chipotle the first major American chain restaurant to decorate with death iconography from another culture (that distinction may go to P.F. Chang's, with their terracotta soldiers), but I'm of the opinion "death by burrito" should be about portion size, and not about inadvertently invoking the wrath of an ancient deity.
So it turns out those "Mayan" glyphs at Chipotle restaurants are indeed of Mayan origin, explains Taylor Jones in Slate. (Via Languagehat)
posted by MartinWisse on Nov 20, 2014 - 36 comments

Continually Hearing Asinine Vernacular

"The endurance of "chav" reflects the new meanness of the UK, a hardening of the so-called squeezed middle while the safety net of the welfare state is stripped." Chav - slur, social descriptor, element of nostalgia, or fodder for trend forecasters?
posted by mippy on Nov 10, 2014 - 25 comments

Essays in English yield information about other languages

Essays and longer texts written in English can provide interesting insights into the linguistic background of the writer, and about the history of other languages, even dying languages, when evaluated by a new computer program developed by a team of computer scientists at MIT and Israel’s Technion. As told on NPR, this discovery came about by accident, when the new program classified someone as Russian when they were Polish, due to the similarity in grammar between the languages. Researchers realized this could allow the program to re-create language families, and could be applied to people who currently may not speak their original language, allowing some categorization of dying languages. More from MIT, and a link to the paper (PDF, from the 2014 Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics).
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 1, 2014 - 6 comments

Radical Linguistics in an Age of Extinction

Modern linguistics is founded on a radical premise: the equality of all languages. “All languages have equal expressive power as communication systems,” writes Steven Pinker. “Every grammar is equally complex and logical and capable of producing an infinite set of sentences to express any thought one might wish to express,” says a recent textbook. … Where native speakers are concerned, no language, dialect, or accent can meaningfully be described as primitive, broken, or inferior.
posted by nebulawindphone on Sep 13, 2014 - 23 comments

> implying I can't even

Are There Internet Dialects?
posted by Sticherbeast on Aug 8, 2014 - 48 comments

Shouldn't that second one be "xyr", not "xyrs"?

Practice with Pronouns is a site that lets you practise subject, object, possessive, and reflexive forms of English third person pronouns. It comes with a few of the most common options, but you can also fill in whatever pronouns you like. Useful for both English learners and people wanting to practise using nonbinary pronouns.
[more inside]
posted by Lexica on Jul 28, 2014 - 22 comments

I’m really grateful that one of my first speakers was badass Jason Momoa

"I had been creating languages for 10 years. But everybody else applying was equally skilled. So I figured the edge that I had was pretty much an endless amount of time—I was unemployed. I just decided: Well, let's just try to create the whole thing. In those rounds of judging, I created about 90 percent of the grammar—which is ridiculous for two months. Then I created 1,700 words of vocabulary—which is equally ridiculous for two months. Overall, I produced about 300 total pages of material. I figure that was probably what put it over the top."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 10, 2014 - 23 comments

Fear and Loathing of the English Passive

Geoffrey Pullum talks about the passive voice [pdf]. (via) [more inside]
posted by nangar on Jul 10, 2014 - 37 comments

"A and not-A are mutually exclusive. That’s negation."

Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems. All Things Linguistic considers how MeFi favorite Welcome to Night Vale  (previously) achieves its humor through violating certain deeply-held beliefs.
posted by Lexica on Jul 2, 2014 - 52 comments

'Whoa… big brain huh… cool!'"

Lovatt reasoned that if she could live with a dolphin around the clock, nurturing its interest in making human-like sounds, like a mother teaching a child to speak, they'd have more success. - stories from the NASA- funded project to teach Dolphins to talk using LSD (among other methods. )
posted by The Whelk on Jun 29, 2014 - 37 comments

Reel, real, rial

The Articulatory IPA: voiced bilabial plosive, voiceless alveolar fricative, onset r coda l, and more [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jun 7, 2014 - 7 comments

Why is gender ever a thing?

A Linguist on the Story of Gendered Pronouns. Gretchen McCulloch talks about why we have pronouns, why gender is a thing in English, and how gender is a thing in other languages. [more inside]
posted by clavicle on Jun 4, 2014 - 111 comments

Anthropology, Archaeology and SETI

Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication is a free book (PDF) from NASA. The premise is that communication with alien lifeforms will have some (cautious) analogues to interpreting past cultures, and to the work that anthropologists and linguists do cross-culturally. Among the 16 chapters are: Beyond Linear B - The Metasemiotic Challenge of Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence; Learning To Read - Interstellar Message Decipherment from Archaeological and Anthropological Perspectives; and, Mirrors of Our Assumptions: Lessons from an Arthritic Neanderthal.
posted by Rumple on May 23, 2014 - 27 comments

Nuclear Semiotics: Conveying Danger Across Eons (Possibly Via Cats)

26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico and 2,150 feet underground, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) brings new meaning to the phrase "built to last". The world's third deep geological nuclear waste repository, WIPP was designed to house radioactive material for 10,000 years. The primary challenge (keeping hazardous waste IN) was tackled by engineers. But for the secondary challenge - keeping living creatures OUT - the goverment recruited a team of geologists, linguists, astrophysicists, architects, artists, and writers. The job description included the words "the knowledge necessary to develop a marker system that will remain in operation during the performance period of the site - 10,000 years". Stymied by inevitable linguistic and orthographic drift, the group has discussed a wide array of ideas, some more fabulously demented than others (artificial moons, a nuclear containment-centric priesthood, a landscape of massive granite thorns). They intend to submit their final plan by 2028. [more inside]
posted by julthumbscrew on May 23, 2014 - 87 comments

German animal names: Does it look like a pig? No? Are you sure?

A number of different languages utilize compounded words, but German has a number of fun examples in the animal kingdom: how to name animals in German (Compounding German words, previously)
posted by filthy light thief on May 22, 2014 - 77 comments

Genie.

Genie (born 1957) is the pseudonym of a feral child who was the victim of extraordinarily severe abuse, neglect and social isolation. Her circumstances are recorded prominently in the annals of abnormal child psychology. Born in Arcadia, California, United States, Genie's father kept her locked alone in a room from the age of 20 months to 13 years, 7 months, almost always strapped to a child's toilet or bound in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized.
"Secret of the Wild Child" - A 1997 NOVA episode.
posted by azarbayejani on May 18, 2014 - 45 comments

Figure N is an isometric view of the middle finger of his right hand.

Tranform any text into a patent application
posted by Jpfed on May 12, 2014 - 11 comments

The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop

Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever (average people have a vocab of 5,000 words). I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

posted by cthuljew on May 3, 2014 - 79 comments

Math or Maths?

Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
posted by R. Mutt on Apr 30, 2014 - 116 comments

Hygge, Danish for cozy, comfort, community, warmth and so much more

"Hygge" is a Danish word often associated with being cozy in winter, with candles, family and friends, but even if Christmas is the high hygge season, there is hygge in warmer months, too. Pronounced "hoo-gah" or "hYOOguh" or something like that, it may be as hard for non-Danes to pronounce as it is to define, but one thing is for sure: money can't buy you hygge (an academic article on Danish middle-class consumption, egalitarianism, and the sanctity of inner space, by Jeppe Trolle Linnet).
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 24, 2014 - 23 comments

The Ket had seven souls, unlike animals, who had only one.

The Ket from the Lake Munduiskoye (2008, 30 min.) The Ket people are an indigenous group in central Siberia whose population has numbered less than two thousand during the past century. Although mostly assimilated into the dominant Russian culture at this point, a couple hundred of them are still able to speak the Ket language, the last remaining member of the Yeniseian language group. Recent scholarship has proposed a link between Ket and some Native American language groups.
posted by XMLicious on Apr 16, 2014 - 7 comments

Like, Degrading the Language? No Way

We may not speak with the butter-toned exchanges of the characters on “Downton Abbey,” but in substance our speech is in many ways more civilized.... We are taught to celebrate the idea that Inuit languages reveal a unique relationship to snow, or that the Russian language’s separate words for dark and light blue mean that a Russian sees blueberries and robin’s eggs as more vibrantly different in color than the rest of us do. Isn’t it welcome, then, that good old-fashioned American is saying something cool about us for once? - John McWhorter on colloquial American English (SLNYTIMES) [more inside]
posted by beisny on Apr 6, 2014 - 53 comments

"Nuh-uh, I talk *normal.*"

In Defense of Talking Funny: an examination of dialects and how people deal with them.
posted by flatluigi on Mar 8, 2014 - 60 comments

THE LIFE OF A PEOPLE IS PICTURED IN THEIR SPEECH.

This book deals with the Dialect of the English Language that is spoken in Ireland. As the Life of a people—according to our motto—is pictured in their speech, our picture ought to be a good one, for two languages were concerned in it—Irish and English. ... Here for the first time—in this little volume of mine—our Anglo-Irish Dialect is subjected to detailed analysis and systematic classification.
P.W. Joyce's 1910 work, "English as We Speak it in Ireland," is a fascinating chronicle of a language's life, and no mistake. [more inside]
posted by MonkeyToes on Mar 6, 2014 - 8 comments

If Inuit have 100 words for snow, linguists must have many for this idea

Linguistic relativity is the idea that the language people use affects or even limits the way that they can think. This idea was developed in the early 20th century, and continues to be a matter of disagreement among linguists and cognitive scientists. The Cambridge and Oxford university presses are even publishing dueling upcoming books on the subject, The Bilingual Mind, which examines linguistic relativity in the context of people who speak more than one language, and The Language Hoax flatly denies that it exists.
posted by grouse on Mar 5, 2014 - 50 comments

Die Kuh ist über die Fence gejumpt.

Sure, it's unfortunate that the Philadelphia accent is fading away a bit, but on the other hand, have you ever even heard of the Texas German accent?
posted by DoctorFedora on Mar 2, 2014 - 43 comments

Raags To Riches

But if Urdu is the refined language of power and privilege, Punjabi is the powerful words of the streets. And the streets are where lyrics overwhelmingly situate rap. Pakistani rap positions Punjabi as Ebonics is positioned in the U.S.
posted by reenum on Feb 25, 2014 - 12 comments

A linguist explains the grammar of doge. Wow.

"...In this sense, doge really is the next generation of LOLcat, in terms of a pet-based snapshot of a certain era in internet language. We’ve kept the idea that animals speak like an exaggerated version of an internet-savvy human, but as our definitions of what it means to be a human on the internet have changed, so too have the voices that we give our animals. Wow."
posted by forza on Feb 14, 2014 - 61 comments

Last Words

If you think that reading 1,400 suicide notes would be disheartening, you’d be right.
posted by MoonOrb on Jan 8, 2014 - 35 comments

Hickory Dickory Dock

"We began the present study by asking, as some linguists have asked before us, why the ordering of certain conjoined elements is fixed." -Cooper and Ross, 1975 (pdf) Siamese twins in linguistics: examples are "here and there (and everywhere)" and "peas and carrots." Siamese twins are also known as "binomial freezes," "irreversible binomials," or "freezes," and they can change over time, too. And that can lead to fossil words! Speaking of fossil words, did you know about cranberry morphemes? [more inside]
posted by aniola on Dec 10, 2013 - 40 comments

Turn the lights out and say Benadryl Cumbia three times in front of a

A Linguist Explains the Rules of Summoning Benedict Cumberbatch. The same linguist elaborates.
posted by Rustic Etruscan on Dec 2, 2013 - 333 comments

You're reading this because procrastination.

English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet. The word "because," in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, "because" has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I'm reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I'm reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which "because" lends itself. I mention all that ... because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use "because." Linguists are calling it the "prepositional-because." Or the "because-noun."
posted by scody on Nov 19, 2013 - 163 comments

Best Boston Accent Evah?

"In linguistic circles, there is a bit of excitement over the election of Marty Walsh as Boston’s next mayor. Not only does he have a strong Boston accent — perhaps the strongest in the city’s mayoral history — but his speech is a perfect example of the modern dialect, where the broad “a” sound is gone. He’s from Dohchestah. Not Dawchestah. And when it comes time to say pronounce his new job title, he shows the variability of the dialect, which is what actors who drop every R get wrong. Sometimes he’s a may-uh. Sometimes he’s a mare. And a lot of times, he skips both the Y and the R and he’s just a maeh..."
posted by anelsewhere on Nov 17, 2013 - 62 comments

Sugar-shamed

"There are times when we should feel shame, like when we’re tempted to hunt for Communists. But nowadays one suspects that Joe McCarthy would have just accused his critics of “red-shaming.” On shaming.
posted by mippy on Oct 22, 2013 - 28 comments

Hab SoSlI' Quch! (Your mother has a smooth forehead!)

Are Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na'vi real languages?

Dictionaries: Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki [pdf] and Na'vi
Phrases: Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na'vi
posted by desjardins on Sep 27, 2013 - 41 comments

A History of Meh, from Leo Rosten to Auden to The Simpsons

The problem with tracing meh over time, as with so many fleeting interjections, is that it’s terribly underrepresented in the linguistic and lexicographical literature. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Sep 8, 2013 - 13 comments

Tom Scott's Language Files

For several years now, Tom Scott, a young man in Britain, has mostly done silly, entertaining things on YouTube, things like, "Two Drums and a Cymbal Fall off a Cliff," "The Matt Gray High Five Face Off," "Robocoaster Challenge: Reciting Shakespeare while attached to a giant robot arm," "Google Glasses: A New Way to Hurt Yourself," and "Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers" (previously). But recently, he's done a series of videos that are interesting more than they're silly: eight videos which introduce linguistic concepts like phonotactics, clusivity & evidentiality, and the contrast between descriptivism and prescriptivism (he's decidedly the former, fyi).
posted by ocherdraco on Jul 17, 2013 - 11 comments

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