318 posts tagged with linguistics.
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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

Performative utterances

To the august company of "I now pronounce you man and wife" and "I bet you sixpence it will rain tomorrow," artist Sean Landers adds a new utterance for study, albeit one that perhaps he alone is capable to perform: "I am vastly underappreciated . . . as an artist . . . in my time." [MP3]
posted by electric water kettle on Jan 26, 2008 - 3 comments


"Hundreds of thousands of Americans have endured tours of duty in Iraq. They are returning home with a new word on their lips. It will have an impact on the American Experiment, inshallah."
posted by Firas on Dec 7, 2007 - 52 comments

A Theory of Humor | Why something is funny, why it sometimes is not, and when it crosses a line.

Theory of Humor. A scientific paper, written by Tom Veatch, describes his Theory of Humor. When is something funny? When is it not funny? When does it cross the line? Why are puns generally shitty? And the mysterious and magical powers elephant jokes have on children, revealed! A great data set to use for practice in applying the theories presented in the paper can be found here.
posted by iamkimiam on Nov 20, 2007 - 57 comments

Bilingual Homophonic Translations

Bilingual homophonic translations
posted by fermezporte on Nov 11, 2007 - 33 comments

That hokum recording of Bruckner's

pronunciationguide - for aspiring classical radio announcers
posted by Gyan on Aug 16, 2007 - 9 comments

Homo Sapiens Metaluecus

White! White! White!


posted by nilihm on Jul 29, 2007 - 74 comments

The story of the strange language of the Pirahã

The story of the strange language of the Pirahã is just as much a story about the state of the field of linguistics. Professor Dan Everett of Illinois State University, who lived for decades with the Pirahã, first as a missionary, then as a linguist, believes Pirahã casts serious doubt upon Chomsky's theory of universal grammar. Chomskyites have started to fight back with a reassessment of Everett's famous paper on the Pirahã, where he claimed that the Pirahã "have no numbers, no fixed color terms, no perfect tense, no deep memory, no tradition of art or drawing, and no words for “all,” “each,” “every,” “most,” or “few”—terms of quantification believed by some linguists to be among the common building blocks of human cognition." He also claims that it doesn't have recursion, a feature of language Chomsky recently claimed was the defining feature of human speech. Dan Everett has rebutted the Chomskyite reassessment of his work. Video interview with Professor Everett. [Pirahã previously covered on MetaFilter in 2004 and 2006]
posted by Kattullus on Jun 18, 2007 - 60 comments

Metafilter has a front page. This is a post. Post is on the front page. Post is about language.

Recursion and Human Thought - Why the Piraha don't have numbers
posted by Gyan on Jun 13, 2007 - 47 comments

Language thing this well is working now us let invent grammar.

Speculative Grammarian is the premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field of satirical linguistics. Don't miss: Re-Rating the World's Languages, Hunting the Elusive Labio-Nasal, The Endangered Languages Armamentation Programme, New speech disorder linguists contracted discovered! and of course Choose Your Own Career in Linguistics.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Mar 7, 2007 - 17 comments

the ability to write literate English has a market value about one-third as great as the ability to install Windows on a PC

"A language is a dialect with an army and navy":
A linguistic summery of African American Vernacular English also known as Ebonics. (Mostly framed through the lense of a Nationwide debate on the subject sparked 10 years ago by the Oakland School Board.) previously...
posted by serazin on Feb 28, 2007 - 48 comments

Lakoff 1, Pinker 0

George Lakoff responds to Steven Pinker’s review of Whose Freedom?. Highlights include charges of deception and incompetence on both sides.
posted by anotherpanacea on Oct 27, 2006 - 27 comments

'That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?'

Aesopica: Aesop's Fables in English, Latin & Greek
posted by anastasiav on Oct 25, 2006 - 17 comments

The variability in the written length of phatic interjectives




Ah, the variability in the written length of phatic interjectives...
posted by y2karl on Oct 14, 2006 - 22 comments

How Deadly Was My Parsley

Holding up sprigs of parsley, Trujillo's men queried their prospective victims: What is this thing called? The terrified victim's fate lay in his pronunciation of the answer. Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo spearheaded an anti-Haitian massacre in which armed thugs killed every Creole speaker who couldn't pronounce the trilled R in the Spanish word for parsley. (Using pronunciation to make ethnic distinctions is called a shibboleth, a tactic often used in wars.) The murders inspired Edwige Danticat's The Farming of Bones and Mario Vargas Llosa's Feast of the Goat, as well as a poem recited for Bill Clinton by poet laureate Rita Dove. Ironically, Trujillo's desire to "whiten" Hispaniola not only led him to order the 1937 massacre, but to lobby in 1938 for the settlement of Jews fleeing Hitler.
posted by jonp72 on Aug 5, 2006 - 9 comments

¡Soy loco por McDonald's!

NJ Mayor calls Spanish-language ad "offensive." Linguistics professor Geoffrey Pollum says "Wtf, mate?"
posted by Bizurke on Jul 23, 2006 - 63 comments

Scots' speech for the glaikit

Losh! That's a stoater of a web site!
posted by persona non grata on Jul 21, 2006 - 20 comments

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


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


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

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