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Backs to the future?

New analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- the past is ahead of them and the future behind. The morphologically-rich language, of which you can hear samples here, may also prove useful to computer scientists due to its unique ternary logic system.
posted by youarenothere on Jun 12, 2006 - 42 comments

 

Discovering Chylum

Discovering Chylum: 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 - 17 comments

Live here and now.

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. [via aldaily.com]
posted by moonbird on May 10, 2006 - 43 comments

Govoreet Dobby, Droog?

An index to 1,696 constructed languages. (or just look at the top 200) From the Nadsat of a Clockwork Orange and Tolkein's Quenya to Star Trek's Darmonk, a language based solely on parables (though Gene Wolfe got there first) and Borges's language of Tlon, there is plenty here for science fiction fans and language geeks alike. And, yes, for all you fanatics, Esperanto is listed, as is your source for news in Special English, limited to a 1500 word vocabulary.
posted by blahblahblah on Mar 5, 2006 - 35 comments

[six + fish] [man] [rings] [head of a cow?]

The Indus Script Mystery: The ancient people of the Indus Valley left behind a mystery in their trash heaps -- the Indus script: a set of stylized characters (possibly a logophonetic script), which may or may not have been recently deciphered. (Probably not.) Some now believe (.pdf file) it is not even a written 'language' as we understand the term.
posted by anastasiav on Jan 11, 2006 - 11 comments

Dissecting Humor

Nothing is funnier than an academic or scientist explaining humor.
posted by Falconetti on Dec 11, 2005 - 10 comments

Dictionary

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 - 22 comments

Why does Albanian need 27 words for 'moustache'?

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 - 89 comments

Greek wav files

Greek as it was spoke. Mrs. Jones thinks they sound like a cross between French and Chinese. You decide. Alternatively, Latin wav files, mostly poetry. Or, for those into the bestseller circuit, there’s this (narrator rolls the r’s a bit - Jim Dale he ain’t).
posted by IndigoJones on Oct 1, 2005 - 34 comments

A Sub by any other name....

A Sub by any other name.... Professor Vaux has put together a little survey of American as she is spoke. The survey covers a myriad of areas and the results wind up on some really interesting maps. It's on going, so feel free to take the challenge
posted by IndigoJones on Sep 23, 2005 - 15 comments

The World is Bound With Secret Knots

Athanasius Kircher was the 17th century's Jesuit version of the übergeek. 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. [MI]
posted by peacay on Aug 7, 2005 - 12 comments

Context Free

Context Free: 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 - 21 comments

Say what?

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 - 73 comments

The Little Prince in a 100 Languages

If listening to sound of different languages is something you may be interested in, visit the multimedia language project website hosted by the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. It features the sound files of a small blurb from Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince read outloud in a 100 different languages. The blurbs are also textually transcribed. [See more inside]
posted by gregb1007 on May 17, 2005 - 22 comments

Learn Brit-Speak

Learn Brit-Speak British Airways wants to help Americans understand "Brit-Speak". Of course you've always wanted to know what pants, snog, squiz and lurgy mean, but as a marketing strategy? annoying flash interface, but all 72 items inside
posted by quiet on May 7, 2005 - 81 comments

The word unblowupable is thrown around a lot these days.

HeiDeas' “Beyond embiggens and cromulent” explores the linguistic humour that appear in The Simpsons.
posted by riffola on Apr 5, 2005 - 32 comments

What are they saying!?

TORK! 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 - 31 comments

Maishuno!

Simlish as 21st-century Grammelot? I love Simlish. Never heard of Grammelot, before now, but, well, as they say "Hoh! Abba Da No!"
posted by WolfDaddy on Mar 18, 2005 - 13 comments

"who'd bother naming something as shortlived as a cat?"

Xenolinguistics primer. 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, fith, ro and kebreni. [Note: Some of the links on the course website are broken]
posted by Kattullus on Mar 6, 2005 - 17 comments

Take this with a grain assault

The Eggcorn Database. A previous post noted the lack of a "proper repository" for examples of these bemusing, off-repeated folk etymologies. Until now, finding the latest news in eggcorns has merely been a French benefit of pouring over the new posts at LanguageLog. The Eggcorn Database puts them all at your beckoned call. Another words, the days of getting balked down in other stupid ideas while looking for the latest finds are over. The Eggcorn Database already catalogs over 100 examples, replete with antidotal usages and collaborating evidence for eggcorn status. An overview for the lame man is here.
posted by casu marzu on Feb 24, 2005 - 15 comments

Favorite Words of 2004

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 - 23 comments

Rats Perception Elvis

If rats can distinguish between Japanese and Dutch, why would Elvis have looked like this at age 70?
posted by mcgraw on Jan 9, 2005 - 21 comments

That's some voiceless epiglottal fricative you've got there.

Hear the International Phonetic Alphabet. Voiced by one Paul Meier. One of the coolest things ever. [via languagehat]
posted by kenko on Jan 7, 2005 - 27 comments

Is this your sister's sixth zither, sir?

Twisting Tongues in Other Tongues
This 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 - 32 comments

A need for new punctuation?

Josh Greeham argues on Slate that we're in need of the Sarcasm point. In this new internet world of smilies and bad grammar there seems to be a need for new ways to express oursleves. So much so, that people are even patenting the questioning comma. Even the humorists are getting in on the act.. And whatever you do, don't tell interrobang.
posted by seanyboy on Dec 22, 2004 - 48 comments

Dude, where's my safely heterosexual intimacy?

Deconstructing Dude 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, slackers and teenagers. 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 [PDF]?
posted by owenville on Dec 8, 2004 - 32 comments

Losing Languages

Losing Languages. It's estimated that between one and four languages are lost every year, the result of the only remaining speakers dying off. Many have been actively surpressed in the past, such as the Mayan and Ryukyu languages - some of which are said to be further from Japanese than English is from German. Is it worth the effort to preserve languages? Are languages and culture intristically linked?
posted by borkingchikapa on Nov 28, 2004 - 57 comments

It all starts by looking a baby right in the eyes

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 - 32 comments

English to English

The Internet's Most Accurate English-to-English Dictionary This internet service will translate any English word, phrase or passage into English, or vice versa. Your original grammar, style, and spelling are left intact!
posted by adampsyche on Sep 29, 2004 - 21 comments

The birth of a [sign] language

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.
............... Fascinating... /Mr. Spock
posted by y2karl on Sep 18, 2004 - 20 comments

Native Languages of the Americas

Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and promoting American Indian languages.
posted by Ufez Jones on Sep 2, 2004 - 13 comments

Eggcorn-ucopia

Just a hand-few of eggcorns grows a forest? Among the pursuits of linguistics blog Language Log is the examination of certain quasi-spelling errors appropriately dubbed eggcorns. Not quite results of folk etymology, they nonetheless possess a certain inner logic that invites their recurring use as well as their analysis.

No proper repository exists yet; enter 'eggcorn' into the site's search engine to view the growing harvest.
posted by LinusMines on Aug 26, 2004 - 31 comments

one-ish, two-ish, lots

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 - 61 comments

Sex At Noon Taxes

Palindromes
::shamelessly stolen from plep::
posted by anastasiav on Jul 24, 2004 - 20 comments

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. -- Mark Twain

Oxymorons
posted by anastasiav on Jul 23, 2004 - 36 comments

Blissymbolics ~ Handywrite ~ Teeline ~ Gregg ~ Pitman

A Guide to Alternative Handwriting and Shorthand Systems
posted by anastasiav on Jul 5, 2004 - 8 comments

The Hills Are Alive With The Semantics of Music

Tunes create context like language : "musical notes are strung together in the same patterns as words in a piece of literature". Full paper. On a related note, hone your musical comprehension by playing with Impromptu. Better yet, co-ordinate it with this MIT OpenCourse - Developing Musical Structures.
posted by Gyan on Jun 22, 2004 - 21 comments

One person’s gaffe is another’s peccadillo

Common Errors In English :: an internet guide
posted by anastasiav on Jun 20, 2004 - 117 comments

The Limerick packs jokes anatomical ...

Wordcraft, an on-line community of linguaphiles, best known for its extensive collection of eponyms, has taken on a new and fairly ambitious project -- they're trying to rewrite the entire Oxford English Dictionary -- in limerick form. So far they're only on the a's, but they do seem optimistic.
Shamelessly stolen from languagehat's blog
posted by anastasiav on Jun 18, 2004 - 7 comments

The Web's #1 Axe In My Head Page

"Oh my god! There's an axe in my head"
posted by anastasiav on Jun 15, 2004 - 21 comments

Here's one for Languagehat

Double-Tongued Word Wrester :: Words from the fringes of English
posted by anastasiav on Jun 4, 2004 - 5 comments

Forthright's Phrontistery

Forthright's Phrontistery: English word lists and language resources.
posted by hama7 on May 3, 2004 - 4 comments

Muckle bonnie wirds

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 - 13 comments

What's in a frame? well........

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 - 75 comments

Here's one for Languagehat!

Ask A Linguist is designed to be a place where anyone interested in language or linguistics can ask a question and get the response of a panel of professional linguists. Be sure to browse their archived questions (with answers, of course).
posted by anastasiav on Jan 12, 2004 - 10 comments

the language boom

Language tree rooted in Turkey.
posted by the fire you left me on Dec 7, 2003 - 28 comments

Linguists Dismissed

Knack for language? Great! Gay? No thanks. Interesting WaPo story of how DoD desparately needs linguists trained in Arabic, but dismisses linguists when it comes out that they are gay.
posted by cpfeifer on Dec 3, 2003 - 34 comments

... Shenanigans ... Antidisestablishmentarianism ... Medulla Oblongata ... Zog ...

Dave's List of Words That Are Fun To Say
posted by anastasiav on Nov 25, 2003 - 141 comments

Semantic web : Lost in Translation

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" (see), how can there be an encoding of "friend", "lover" (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 - 62 comments

I just can't think of a witty title, sorry!

Need an Idiom? Check out The Idiom Connection. Think certain phrases are such cliches that they should be banned? Before you condemn or mock them, take a moment to learn more about the origin of some of these phrases.
::via The Tower of English::
posted by anastasiav on Oct 7, 2003 - 8 comments

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