Swarthmore Professor David Harrison traveled to Siberia to learn about Chulym
, a previously undiscovered
local language that reflects its population's culture of hunting, animastic belief system, and bear worship. [More Inside]
posted by gregb1007
on May 21, 2006 -
Living without Numbers or Time...
The Pirahã people have no history, no descriptive words and no subordinate clauses. That makes their language one of the strangest in the world -- and also one of the most hotly debated by linguists.
posted by moonbird
on May 10, 2006 -
Merrian-Webster open dictionary
"Have you spotted a new word or a new sense for an old word that hasn't made it into the dictionary yet? Well, here's your chance to add your discovery (and its definition) to Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary"
posted by robbyrobs
on Dec 11, 2005 -
Charming and unexpected vocabulary from many languages.
Why did Persians need a word, alghunjar
, to express 'the feigned anger of a mistress'? Could there really have been that many insincere mistresses in Persia? Why does Russia need a word meaning, 'dealer in stolen cats'? Or 'someone with six fingers'? And who can resist the Chinese xiaoxiao
, meaning, 'the whistling and pattering of rain or wind'? "These are more than funny foreign vocabularies; they are tiny windows into the way other people live, and the obsessions that drive them." [via]
posted by Slithy_Tove
on Oct 2, 2005 -
was the 17th century's Jesuit version
of the über
geek. His scholarly attentions were drawn to egyptology, astronomy, magnetism, languages, optics, music, geology, mathematics and many many other pursuits. The "dude of wonders"
invented novel machines such as the mathematical organ
and magnetic clock
, established one of the first museums, published about 40 academic works (with beautiful accompanying illustrations
) and was globally revered as one of his time's greatest intellectuals. He is also the main link in the Voynich manuscript mystery
posted by peacay
on Aug 7, 2005 -
: A small language for design grammars. These grammars are sets of non-deterministic rules to produce images. The images are surprisingly beautiful
, often from very simple grammars. And you can download
and play on your own.
posted by signal
on Jul 7, 2005 -
How do you say "aunt"?
There was a spirited thread
a couple of years ago on the pop/soda/Coke division in our nation, but this survey is on the actual pronunciation of words. Ant? Ahnt? Aint? (My father used to say "bum" for "bomb" and "my-o-naiz" for "mayonnaise," and it drove me nuts. I also wondered why I didn't say it the same way.)
posted by ancientgower
on May 28, 2005 -
For your friday flash fun, a game about...linguistics? Learn a language, have some fun. Now if only I could figure out how to work that damn oven....
posted by jearbear
on Mar 25, 2005 -
The study of extraterrestrial languages is rather impractical in this day and age, but potentially useful in the future. That didn't stop Bowling Green State University from offering a course
in it. The course website has many interesting links to sites discussing such invented tongues as ilish
. [Note: Some of the links on the course website are broken]
posted by Kattullus
on Mar 6, 2005 -
Linguists Gone Wild
Linguists from The American Dialect Society and the Linguistic Society of America recently met to vote for the Words of the Year, in various categories—Most Useful, Creative, Unnecessary, Outrageous, and Euphemistic; Most and Least Likely To Succeed; and an overall Word of the Year... no one really cares unless we pretend that These Are Important Words That Define Us as Americans. Still, that's marginally better than the alternate interpretation: This Is How Scholars Waste Their Time When They Could Be Doing Real Work.
posted by weepingsore
on Jan 12, 2005 -
Twisting Tongues in Other TonguesThis page was originally created to give a good group of tongue twisters to people in speech therapy, to people who want to work on getting rid of an accent, or to people who just plain like tongue twisters. I hope you enjoy them.
posted by miss lynnster
on Dec 30, 2004 -
A linguist from the University of Pittsburgh has published a scholarly paper
deconstructing and deciphering the word "dude," contending it is much more than a catchall for lazy, inarticulate surfers
. An admitted dude-user during his college years, Scott Kiesling
said the four-letter word has many uses, all of which express closeness between men in a safely heterosexual manner. How about you? Do you do the dude? If so, does that mean you're white
posted by owenville
on Dec 8, 2004 -
Language started with emotional signaling.
That's the thesis of a new book, The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, And Intelligence Evolved From Our Primate Ancestors To Modern Humans
, by Stanley I. Greenspan and Stuart G. Shanker.
Lived emotional experience is key to language learning, the authors suggest. "Mathematicians and physicists may manipulate abstruse symbols representing space, time, and quantity, but they first understood those entities as tiny children wanting a far-away toy, or waiting for juice, or counting cookies. The grown-up genius, like the adventurous child, forms ideas through playful explorations in the imagination, only later translated into the rigor of mathematics."
The book is very ambitious, and I don't think we'll ever know
where language came from, but this sounds like a more fruitful line of thinking than Chomsky's deus ex machina
"language gene" mutation.
posted by languagehat
on Sep 29, 2004 -
Experts Study New Sign Language System A new system of sign language developed by deaf children in Nicaragua may hold clues about the evolution of languages. When the country's first school for the deaf was established in 1977, children were not taught sign language but developed a system of signs to communicate. Childhood learning may determine linguistic rules ...They found that older students used hand signals resembling the gestures employed by hearing people, mimicking the entire event physically. But younger pupils - who had interacted with other deaf children from an early age - used a more complex series of signs. They split the scene into component parts and arranged these sequentially to convey the incident. The constructions resemble the way words and sentences are built in verbal languages, using segments structured in a linear fashion. This indicates that way the younger children learnt the sign language helped reshape it according to these linguistic rules.
posted by y2karl
on Sep 18, 2004 -
Sapir/Whorf raises its head again in study of the Piraha tribe.
I can't stop thinking about this article
which appeared in the Globe and Mail Friday.
A study appearing today in the journal Science reports that the hunter-gatherers seem to be the only group of humans known to have no concept of numbering and counting.
Not only that, but adult Piraha apparently can't learn to count or understand the concept of numbers or numerals, even when they asked anthropologists to teach them and have been given basic math lessons for months at a time ... the Piraha are the only people known to have no distinct words for colours.
They have no written language, and no collective memory going back more than two generations. They don't sleep for more than two hours at a time during the night or day.
Even when food is available, they frequently starve themselves and their children, Prof. Everett reports.
They communicate almost as much by singing, whistling and humming as by normal speech.
They frequently change their names, because they believe spirits regularly take them over and intrinsically change who they are.
They have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art.
Can any of our anthropologists or linguists comment? I had thought that narrative was the common link in all human cultures....
posted by jokeefe
on Aug 21, 2004 -
Dictionary of the Scots Language.
The two major historical dictionaries of the Scots language, the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue
(DOST) and the Scottish National Dictionary
(SND), have been combined into one searchable online edition:
Thus, information on the earliest uses of Scots words can be presented alongside examples of the later development and, in some cases, current usage of the same words. In this way, we hope that the DSL will allow users to appreciate the continuity and historical development of the Scots language. By making the DSL freely available on the Internet, we also aim to widen access to the source dictionaries and to open up these rich lexicographic resources to anyone with an interest in Scots language and culture.
posted by languagehat
on Apr 2, 2004 -
George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics
"Why do conservatives appear to be so much better at framing? - Because they've put billions of dollars into it
. Over the last 30 years their think tanks have made a heavy investment in ideas and in language. In 1970, [Supreme Court Justice] Lewis Powell wrote a fateful memo
to the National Chamber of Commerce....He outlined the whole thing in 1970. They set up the Heritage Foundation in 1973" "So if you go on Fox News....and the question is, 'Are you in favor of the President’s tax relief program or are you against it?' -- it doesn't matter what you say. If you say, 'I’m against tax relief,' you're still evoking that framing. you're still in their frame..."
"George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at the University of California Berkeley, is a specialist in the technique of "framing," a communication tool that creates a "frame" for a message that defines the terms of the debate." (Interview with Lakoff
posted by troutfishing
on Jan 14, 2004 -
Clay Shirky smacks syllogism around.
Nice criticism of the semantic web
and the present (and increasing) hype of the "semantic web revolution"
. The most damning part of the essay is the part about languages and categories being deeply intertwined with worldview and with culture—if there's no good definition for the word "bachelor"
), how can there be an encoding of "friend"
(see article for the classic AI example of "John loves Mary"
) or anything else that isn't zipcode?
posted by zpousman
on Nov 8, 2003 -