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Category: Linguistics

  • Apr 20, 2012
  • 01:35 AM

Linguists grapple with lack of formal major, a blessing and a curse

Elizabeth Sun / CU Columbia Spectator
Columbia is one of only two Ivy League schools, along with Princeton, that does not offer a linguistics major, although undergraduate interest in the field has been growing. Columbia’s program has been suspended since 1991, but students can petition for an independent major in linguistics or graduate with a special concentration in the discipline.
  • Apr 18, 2012
  • 06:09 PM

Graduate students in linguistics leaving legacy for speakers of endangered and quirky language of Garifuna

Kathleen Maclay / UC Berkeley
Garifuna hasn’t been studied extensively, and Michael said its quirkiness presents challenges. It features a vocabulary split between terms used only by men and terms that are marked for common use, and used by women, children and men. But the split doesn’t affect the entire vocabulary, and the terms used by men tend to come from the Carib language influence while the common forms are largely from Arawak.
  • Apr 10, 2012
  • 05:28 PM

Daniel Everett: lost in translation

William Leith / The Telegraph
It’s hard to describe Daniel Everett, so here are some facts about him. He’s American. He was a Christian missionary. His goal in life was to tell people about Jesus. He spent 25 years, on and off, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, talking to a tribe of hunter-gatherers called the Pirahã. This is one of the most remote, undeveloped places on earth.
  • Apr 04, 2012
  • 01:28 AM

Doctoral student travels to Madagascar to document dialect

Ann Manser / University of Delaware
Betsimisaraka is practically undescribed, said O'Neill, whose research indicates that the dialect is not as related to standard Malagasy as has been believed. Although Betsimisaraka is not considered endangered, children in the region are increasingly being taught the standard dialect, and the number of Betsimisaraka speakers is declining.
  • Mar 27, 2012
  • 09:20 AM

A Picture of Language

Kitty Burns Florey / New York Times
The curious art of diagramming sentences was invented 165 years ago by S.W. Clark, a schoolmaster in Homer, N.Y. [1] His book, published in 1847, was called “A Practical Grammar: In which Words, Phrases, and Sentences Are Classified According to Their Offices and Their Various Relations to One Another.” His goal was to simplify the teaching of English grammar.
  • Mar 26, 2012
  • 08:11 PM

An In-depth Examination Of The Phrase "I Dunno"

Martin Gardiner / Science 2.0
Dr. Lynn Grant, who is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Languages and Social Sciences at the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand ('The University for Changing the World') has recently completed a study which examined the linguistic properties of ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I dunno’. Finding that the phrases often find use as 'hedges', markers of uncertainty, and as politeness devices.
  • Mar 26, 2012
  • 08:08 PM

Does This Language Make Me Look Fat?

Daisy Sindelar / RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty
One of the first things Regiina Nohova had to learn when she moved to the Czech Republic was how to open her mouth wider when she spoke. As a native-born Estonian, she simply wasn't in the habit. "In Estonia, we speak slowly," she said. "We almost don't open our mouths when we speak. We don't have to articulate the words. It's our nature. It's colder there, and people spend more time inside, and that's why we're like this.
  • Mar 24, 2012
  • 03:19 PM

Olympic flame burns for young linguists

The Yorker
School students from across the UK will gather at the University of York this weekend to take part in an Olympiad with a difference. They will compete in the third UK Linguistics Olympiad (UKLO) in which school students compete to solve linguistic data problems.
  • Mar 23, 2012
  • 07:14 PM

Angry Words: Will one researcher's discovery deep in the Amazon destroy the foundation of modern linguistics?

Tom Bartlett / The Chronicle
And what if the Pirahã don't have recursion? Rather than ferreting out flaws in Everett's work as Pesetsky did, Chomsky's preferred response is to say that it doesn't matter. In a lecture he gave last October at University College London, he referred to Everett's work without mentioning his name, talking about those who believed that "exceptions to the generalizations are considered lethal."
  • Mar 22, 2012
  • 02:11 AM

How Do You Say 'Disagreement' in Pirahã?

Jennifer Schuessler / New York Times
...His life among his fellow linguists, however, has been far less idyllic, and debate about his scholarship is poised to boil over anew, thanks to his ambitious new book, “Language: The Cultural Tool,” and a forthcoming television documentary that presents an admiring view of his research among the Pirahã along with a darkly conspiratorial view of some of his critics.
  • Mar 21, 2012
  • 01:50 AM

Emotional Expression in Music and Speech Share Similar Tonal Properties

Music is a very strong emotional communicator, and different cultures have different emotional associations for different musical "modes". Now, a new cross-cultural study shows that tonal trends used to express feelings in music are consistent in different cultures and are similar to those used in speech.
  • Mar 20, 2012
  • 02:17 PM

When Your Mouth Betrays You: The Science and Psychology Behind Slips

Sydney Levin / Huffington Post
Dr. Michele Miozzo, language scientist at Johns Hopkins University and author of Biological Foundations of Language Production: A Special Issue of Language and Cognitive Processes, doesn't see errors as deeply personal puzzles to be solved. Rather, he says it comes down to sound and meaning.
  • Mar 18, 2012
  • 07:35 PM

Mother tongue is essential for language learning

A new study from the University of Bergen (UiB) shows the importance of mother tongue for teaching of Norwegian as a second language. The research which was conducted in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland was focusing on the use of propositions "in" and "on" ("i" and "på" in Norwegian).
  • Mar 16, 2012
  • 12:23 PM

History of the English language celebrated at University of Leicester

Loughborough News
Three linguistics experts from the University of Leicester will give readings from their latest books – which together span the history of the English language - on March 22. The evening, 'Røk, Paper, Tweeters: Changing modes in the transmission of English,' is open to the public and will celebrate the launch of the School of English’s new MA in English Language and Linguistics.
  • Mar 16, 2012
  • 02:32 AM

Language: The Cultural Tool by Daniel Everett – review

Tim Radford /
Language, in the Everett formula, is the sum of cognition plus culture plus communication. There is no need for a language instinct to set a three-year-old suddenly talking nineteen to the dozen. The infant's ambient culture compels the order of subject, verb and object, the potency of individual words and phrases (such as "nineteen to the dozen"), and the precise choice of phonemes.
  • Mar 15, 2012
  • 10:16 PM

Seminar on 'linguistics sans languages' at QAU

Pakistan Daily Times
ISLAMABAD: The Department of Linguistics in Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) organised a seminar on the topic of ‘Linguistics Sans Languages’ on Wednesday at the Seminar Hall of the School of Politics and International Relations. The main objective of the seminar was to raise awareness on the issues of linguistics and to break the misperception that linguistics is part of English literature.
  • Mar 15, 2012
  • 08:23 PM

Digital spell-checking may be killing off words

Charles Choi /
The death rate of words has apparently increased recently while new entries into languages are becoming less common, both perhaps because of digital spell-checking, according to a Google-aided analysis of more than 10 million words. More than 4 percent of the world's books have now been digitized, a trove that includes seven languages and dates back to the 16th century. All of this text offers new opportunities to study how language evolves.
  • Mar 12, 2012
  • 07:32 PM

Understanding place and space in a decreasingly English world

David Sims / O'Reilly Radar
For some languages, the future is in front of us, but for others it is behind us. Some languages use length is a metaphor for time (a long time) while some prefer volume (a large amount of time). Some languages will prefer relative directions (turn left) while others will only permit absolute directions (turn north).
  • Mar 07, 2012
  • 12:13 AM

Through the Language Glass [Book Review]

The Guardian
The first section of the book, entitled "The Language Mirror", provides an overview of the practical reasons why words for individual colors appear in a consistent order across human languages. Words for black and white appear first since night and day are the most obvious events in a human's daily life and they present the strongest contrasts.
  • Mar 05, 2012
  • 11:29 PM

#Soda or #Pop? Regional Language Quirks Get Examined on Twitter

Kate Springer / TIME
A study presented by Brice Russ, a graduate student at Ohio State University, at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting in January demonstrates how Twitter can be used as a valuable and abundant source for linguistic research. With more than 200 million posts each day, the site has allowed researchers to predict moods, study the Arab Spring and now, map out regional dialects.
  • Mar 02, 2012
  • 08:41 PM

Trouble saving money? Drop English, speak German

Frances Woolley / Globe and Mail
Linguists have found that language shapes our perception of colour, our awareness of social status and hierarchy, even the way that we describe everyday objects such as bridges or forks. Now a new study by Keith Chen of Yale University argues that language has a profound impact on economic behaviour, influencing savings rates and wealth accumulation.
  • Feb 28, 2012
  • 07:12 PM

They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve

Douglas Quenqua / New York Times
The latest linguistic curiosity to emerge from the petri dish of girl culture gained a burst of public recognition in December, when researchers from Long Island University published a paper about it in The Journal of Voice. Working with what they acknowledged was a very small sample — recorded speech from 34 women ages 18 to 25 — the professors said they had found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a guttural fluttering of the vocal cords they called “vocal fry.”
  • Feb 28, 2012
  • 04:38 PM

Unique languages, universal patterns

Peter Dizikes / MIT News
In turn, the similarities between English and Japanese underscore a larger point about human language, in Miyagawa’s view: All its varieties exist within a relatively structured framework. Languages are different, but not radically different. Dating to the 1950s, in fact, much of MIT’s linguistics program has aimed to identify the similar pathways that apparently unrelated languages take.
  • Feb 28, 2012
  • 03:04 PM

Kone Foundation grants EUR 6 million for language programme

Helsingin Sanomat
The Kone Foundation has granted a total of EUR 6 million in funding for a language programme aimed at supporting the documentation and status of the Finno-Ugric languages and Finnish minority languages.
  • Feb 23, 2012
  • 08:29 PM

3-day National Seminar on Structure of Contemporary Urdu begins at AMU
Aligarh: Inaugurating a three-day national seminar on “Structure of Contemporary Urdu & Tracing the Footsteps of Urdu Grammatical Traditions”, the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Prof. Sibghatullah Farooqui on 2nd February said that Urdu occupies a unique unusual position in the Indian linguistic scenario.
  • Feb 22, 2012
  • 02:45 PM

Prof seeks key to language fluency

Marian Scott / Montreal Gazette
Quebecers are North America's bilingualism champions. But when it comes to how fluent we are in our second official language, well, we're all over the map. Why is it that some of us slip effortlessly between French and English - not to mention third and even fourth languages - while others still can't get "le" and "la" straight?
  • Feb 22, 2012
  • 09:22 AM

Speech Fillers Actually Improve Listener Recall

Steve McGaughey / Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Could generations of speech coaches been wrong all these years? New research is showing that speakers shouldn’t discard those “ums” and “ahs” and other speech fillers if they want to be understood by listeners.
  • Feb 20, 2012
  • 05:17 PM

Young children show gift for multiple languages, says U of C study

Clara Ho / Calgary Herald
Multilingual parents needn’t worry about confusing their children with multiple languages spoken at home, as new research findings out of the University of Calgary reveal children can acquire and switch between languages effortlessly as long as they start young and interact regularly in those tongues.
  • Feb 17, 2012
  • 08:51 PM

The advantage of ambiguity

Emily Finn / MIT news
Given the disambiguating power of context, the researchers hypothesized that languages might harness ambiguity to reuse words — most likely, the easiest words for language processing systems. Building on observation and previous studies, they posited that words with fewer syllables, high frequency and the simplest pronunciations should have the most meanings.
  • Feb 16, 2012
  • 12:33 PM

Canadian researchers study text messages as language form

Gillian Shaw / Montreal Gazette
Guilbault said researchers hope to see how text messages change with languages and dialects. Just as there are differences between Quebec French and that spoken in France, researchers expect to see significant differences between different dialects of English used in texting.