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After 24 years in isolation, learning to communicate

"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]
posted by zarq on Oct 13, 2010 - 5 comments

Can a double positive ever make a negative?

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]
posted by Obscure Reference on Oct 9, 2010 - 42 comments

Another brick off the tower of Babel

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.
posted by Dim Siawns on Oct 7, 2010 - 5 comments

Justice Department Seeks Ebonics Experts

The Smoking Gun has come into possession of an unusual RFP from the DEA: they want 'Ebonics experts' to help decipher wiretaps.
posted by reenum on Aug 24, 2010 - 76 comments

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]
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 20, 2010 - 10 comments

Tambal byuyun, no es fácil!

Linguistics Challenge Puzzles! (Difficulty ranging from green circles to double black diamonds...Friday fun for all!) [more inside]
posted by iamkimiam on Aug 20, 2010 - 34 comments

Don Ringe on Indo-European

The Linguistic Diversity of Aboriginal Europe (and what happened to it) [more inside]
posted by nangar on Aug 15, 2010 - 35 comments

The Language of Food

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, entrée, dessert, 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
posted by Rumple on Aug 14, 2010 - 10 comments

I Write Like

I Write Like... Check what famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them to those of famous writers.
posted by swift on Jul 14, 2010 - 376 comments

The Social Psychology of Linguistic Naming and Shaming.

Although people have been worried about correct speech for thousands of years, it's apparently the status anxieties of modern societies that create the market for usage advice in which artificial "rules" can spring up and spread, independent of the genuine norms of speaking and writing. [via]
posted by rebent on Jun 18, 2010 - 78 comments

I'm from Red River Land. And you?

The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World, Europe, the British Isles and the United States. For example, Britain = Great Land of the Tattooed, New Jersey = New Island of Spears, and Chicago = Stink Onion. There's now an iPhone app. However, at least one linguistic historian takes issue with some of their methodology. Mefi's own languagehat responds.
posted by desjardins on Jun 17, 2010 - 67 comments

The Best Batman Comic Ever Made

The best Batman comic ever made. [more inside]
posted by battlebison on Jun 10, 2010 - 58 comments

Hindi Urdu Flagship Program

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]
posted by skoosh on May 31, 2010 - 18 comments

To say Twitter is colloquial is putting it lightly.

Lexicalist 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]
posted by shakespeherian on May 20, 2010 - 28 comments

danger + opportunity ≠ crisis

How a misunderstanding about Chinese characters has led many astray. The explication of the Chinese word for crisis as made up of two components signifying danger and opportunity is due partly to wishful thinking, but mainly to a fundamental misunderstanding about how terms are formed in Mandarin and other Sinitic languages... Among the most egregious of the radical errors in this statement is the use of the exotic term “Ideogram” to refer to Chinese characters. Linguists and writing theorists avoid “ideogram” as a descriptive referent for hanzi (Mandarin) / kanji (Japanese) / hanja (Korean) because only an exceedingly small proportion of them actually convey ideas directly through their shapes... [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on May 6, 2010 - 83 comments

"What do we want? English! When do we want it? Now!"

"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. (Previously)
posted by la_scribbler on Apr 21, 2010 - 86 comments

Guardian of Language

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]
posted by fraula on Apr 16, 2010 - 12 comments

The last speaker of the Bo language has died

"The last speaker of an ancient language in India's Andaman Islands has died at the age of about 85." Boa Sr was the last person to speak the Bo language (or Aka-Bo), a part of the Great Andamanese language family, which is nearly extinct. For more on Andamanese languages here is Niclas Burenhult's paper Deep Linguistic Prehistory, with particular reference to Andamanese and Anvita Abbi's phenomenal Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese. Both Vanishing Voices and the BBC report have recordings of the Bo language.
posted by Kattullus on Feb 5, 2010 - 17 comments

Breakfast destruction

Daily life of the jihadis: rants, the usual aggressive posturing, murderous threats, and dreams of paradise. Also, problems with frying eggs.
posted by four panels on Jan 28, 2010 - 9 comments

Na'vi

Paul Frommer explains the Na'vi language he created for Avatar
posted by Dumsnill on Dec 19, 2009 - 51 comments

That's what they said

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 yourself.
posted by escabeche on Nov 21, 2009 - 20 comments

Dell Hymes, 1927-2009

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]
posted by fourcheesemac on Nov 20, 2009 - 13 comments

Ethnic groups of China

Ethnic groups of China – that is, the officially recognized ones, in their respective finery. (Photo essay, text mostly in Chinese. Via.)
posted by joeclark on Nov 18, 2009 - 47 comments

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

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

Keeping Celtic languages alive on TV and the Web

Since 1980, the Celtic Media Festival has brought together people who broadcast, and now Webcast, in Celtic languages. Videoblog Gwagenn.TV provides a report (with autoplaying video) from the 2009 festival whose clips and interviews are spoken and subtitled variously in Breton, French, English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish, Catalan, and Basque, not all of which are actually Celtic. [more inside]
posted by joeclark on Sep 15, 2009 - 5 comments

Keeping it real

Linguists and Missionaries often find themselves in similar situations. The Jesus Film Project. [more inside]
posted by fcummins on Jul 24, 2009 - 17 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

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

On language and locations.

The Dictionary of American Regional English is nearing completion.
posted by sarabeth on Mar 22, 2009 - 43 comments

The linguistics of color-blind racism

As the Jim Crow overt style of maintaining white supremacy was replaced with “now you see it, now you don’t” practices that were subtle, apparently non-racial, and institutionalized, an ideology fitting to this era emerged... -The Linguistics of Color-Blind Racism.
posted by lunit on Mar 9, 2009 - 191 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

Michael Jackson, Manu Dibango, Rihanna in copyright infringement?

“Mamase mamasa mamamakusa” or “Mamaku mamasa makumakusa”? Michael Jackson is sued for copyright infringement – again – by Cameroonian singer Manu Dibango (Flash homepage with autoplaying audio). Dibango’s Duala-language original phrase mutated into something else (Swahili?) in “Wanna Be Starting Somethin’.” They settled out of court – but then Jackson licensed that phrase to Rihanna, a right that Dibango claims Jackson never had. [more inside]
posted by joeclark on Feb 15, 2009 - 40 comments

The Gawain Project

The Gawain Project is an ongoing translation of the late 14th century anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (originally written in Middle English) into Modern English, for the amusement of Arthurians and anyone who likes a good story. [via mefi projects]
posted by Effigy2000 on Feb 13, 2009 - 18 comments

Digital Research Tools PayDiRT

Digital Research Tools (DiRT) is a wiki created by Lisa Spiro, director of Rice University's Digital Media Center. Tons of "snapshot reviews of software that can help researchers" are categorized by what you're trying to accomplish ("Analyze Statistics," "Network With Other Researchers," "Search Visually"), as well as by general topic ("Authoring," "Linguistic Tools," "Text Analysis"). Via
posted by Rykey on Feb 4, 2009 - 5 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

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

John Lee Hooker and the fine art of translation

You know, I want you to pick up on this. You know, these lyrics are something else. Just dig this. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Nov 21, 2008 - 20 comments

A three-thousand-year-old ruin with its own web site

Archaeologists find a pottery fragment with the oldest known example of written Hebrew at the Elah Fortress(YT) in Israel - or maybe not [more inside]
posted by XMLicious on Oct 31, 2008 - 8 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

“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

John Curran posts Great Diagrams in Anthropology, Linguistics, and Social Theory

Who said structuralism was dead? John Curran posts Great Diagrams in Anthropology, Linguistics, and Social Theory - an illustrated assortment of sociology's greatest hits, arranged neatly for your viewing pleasure.
posted by puckish on Aug 21, 2008 - 15 comments

What's nu?

A linguist and a sociologist at Hebrew Union College have teamed up to track the inroads made into American English by words and idioms from traditionally Jewish languages, including Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), and Hebrew. They've created an online survey and are looking for people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds to answer a few questions about their word choices, phrasing, and pronunciation. They're also trying to determine whether certain linguistic quirks usually attributed to Yiddish's influence are actually carried over from Jewish ancestors' speech patterns and accents, or whether they're merely an artifact from growing up in or near New York City. [via]
posted by Asparagirl on Jul 23, 2008 - 65 comments

Ancient, Medieval and Classic Works

In Parentheses is a collection of many ancient, medieval and classic texts from all over the world, many of whom are hard to find anywhere, let alone on the internet. There are translations from Greek, Old Norse, Medieval Irish, Japanese, Incan, Old French, Medieval Latin and many more! As well as all that they have papers in medieval studies and vaguely decadent and orientalism series. Adding to that there's a linguistics section with wordlists and language flash cards in languages such as Icelandic, Quechua, Basque, Classical Armenian and a whole bunch more. [flashcard links go to pdf files]
posted by Kattullus on Jul 10, 2008 - 18 comments

Word Nerds

Silence! It's the opposite of speech. But that doesn't mean it communicates nothing. [more inside]
posted by sluglicker on Jun 5, 2008 - 34 comments

Errin' USA

Immediately, Herson spotted an offense—a second-floor awning outside a tarot shop that advertised "Energy Stone's." They climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached a middle-age women with a quizzical expression. "We happened to notice the sign for energy stones," Deck said, "and there happens to be an extra apostrophe. 'Stone's' doesn't need the apostrophe."

"And?" she asked, her voice flat with annoyance.

"And we wanted to bring it to your attention," Deck said.


A look inside the daring lives of Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, vanguards of the Typo Eradication Advancement League.
posted by Rhaomi on May 21, 2008 - 84 comments

Gab Zamgrh?

Harmanz ha haz b bargan ahn za MMARBG Ahban Bahb [brahbazazzah ] ar zambahz. Zambahz haz AAGHZ g!bz gab azzar zambahz: a, b, g, h, m, n, r, z. Zambahz maz hab gab, za Zambahz zgrabbarh Zamgrh, a gab grh a gab bag, a grammah, n zhranzazzaz. Habganna barbaga zaarz grh za bra!nz?
posted by xthlc on May 8, 2008 - 33 comments

it tore me up every time I heard her drawl

100% is pure Dixie. Someone has taken the Harvard Computer Society Dialect Survey to task in a vital area.
posted by plexi on May 2, 2008 - 190 comments

Linguistics Humor in The Simpsons

Heidi's Fourth Annual Simpsons Linguistic Jokes posting. Previously.
posted by jonson on Mar 17, 2008 - 38 comments

Hear and Compare Accents of English from Around the World

Sound Comparisons is a database of different accents in English from all over the world. It provides soundfiles and IPA transcriptions of 110 words in 110 separate dialects and Germanic languages closely related to English. Most dialects and languages are current but there are also reconstructions of older stages of English, Scots and Germanic. That makes for 12100 soundfiles that load directly into your browser. The site can be navigated either by dialect or individual word and there's also a handy Google map of all the different dialects and languages. If you've ever wondered what the difference was between a Somerset and a Norwich accent, New Zealand and Australian, Canadian and American or Indian and Glaswegian, Sound Comparisons is the site to go to.
posted by Kattullus on Mar 5, 2008 - 44 comments

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