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5 Languages That Could Change the Way You See the World
Riffs on Sapir-Whorf, via Rita Tan

"Linguist Roman Jakobson described this line of investigation thus: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” In other words, the primary way language influences our minds is through what it forces us to think about—not what it prevents us from thinking about."

"Guugu Ymithirr, ... use cardinal directions to express spatial information ... speakers of languages that use cardinal directions to express locations have fantastic spatial memory and navigation skills"

"For the Kuuk Thaayorre speakers, the passage of time was intimately tied to the cardinal directions"

"Yélî Dnye, ... speakers talk about color as part of a metaphorical phrase, with color terms derived from words for objects in the islander’s environment."

"the Matses people speak with what seems to be great care, making sure that every single piece of information they communicate is true as far as they know at the time of speaking. . . The language has a huge array of specific terms for information such as facts that have been inferred in the recent and distant past, conjectures about different points in the past, and information that is being recounted as a memory"

"The Pirahã speak a language without numbers, color terms, perfect form, or basic quantity terms like “few” or “some”—supposed by some, like color, to be an universal aspect of human language"
14 hours ago by pierredv
Why widely spoken languages have simpler grammar - Johnson
" tend to find that “big” languages—spoken by large numbers over a big land area—are actually simpler than small, isolated ones. This is largely because linguists, unlike laypeople, focus on grammar, not vocabulary"

"... is not entirely foreigners and their sloppy ways that are to blame for languages becoming simpler. Merely being bigger was enough"

"Neither the more systematic nor the more idiosyncratic languages were “better”, given group size: the small and large groups communicated equally well"

"As groups grow, the need for systematic rules becomes greater; unlearnable in-group-speak with random variation won’t do. But languages develop more rules than they need; as they are learned by foreign speakers joining the group, some of these get stripped away"
TheEconomist  language 
14 hours ago by pierredv
BBC - Travel - Why the French love to say no - aug 2019
via Rita Tan

"Although the default answer to almost every question, request or suggestion is a disheartening ‘non’, a ‘oui’ is often hiding in the context of what is being said."

"Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau, co-authors of The Bonjour Effect, the Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed, agree with Giraud about non and its roots in the French obsession for protests. "

"Countries like the US and Australia are low-context cultures where people generally say what they mean and mean what they say. However, France, like Russia and Japan, tends to be a high-context culture, where “good communication is sophisticated, nuanced and layered. Messages are both spoken and read between the lines,” she writes."

"Meyer suspects one of the factors leading to this divide can be found in the numbers: according to her book, there are 500,000 words in the English language, but only 70,000 in French. This means that Anglophones are more likely to have the exact word to say what they want, whereas Francophones must often string together a series of words to communicate their message."
language  French  BBC  culture 
6 days ago by pierredv
Chinese class comes to South Africa. How do you say 'No thanks'? - May 2019
"Learning another language can feel adventurous, or even liberating. But in South Africa, where generations of students were forced to study colonizers’ languages, new Mandarin classes have sparked debate. The country has 11 official languages of its own. Should schools focus on those first?"
CSMonitor  Chinese  language  South-Africa 
7 days ago by pierredv - alles oor gekruide taal
Via Taaldinge, RSG 16 Jul 2019

"Ek is Gerhard van Huyssteen, 'n taalkundige aan die Noordwes-Universiteit, Potchefstroom, Suid-Afrika.

Vloek, swets en skel is besonder interessante sosiale, sielkundige, neurologiese en les bes taalkundige verskynsels. Op hierdie webblad deel ek en ander kenners allerlei interessante navorsing oor vloek. Lees meer by Oor in die menu."
Afrikaans  language 
9 days ago by pierredv
(1) Why “No Problem” Can Seem Rude: Phatic Expressions - YouTube
""Hello!" "Thank you!" "You're welcome!" These are all phatic expressions, and people can argue about them. "
Tom-Scott  language  culture  video  YouTube 
14 days ago by pierredv
FACT CHECK: Did Facebook Shut Down an AI Experiment Because Chatbots Developed Their Own Language?, Aug 2017
"Facebook's artificial intelligence scientists were purportedly dismayed when the bots they created began conversing in their own private language."

Snopes  Facebook  AI  language  bots 
22 days ago by pierredv
Ludwig • Find your English sentence
"Ludwig is the first sentence search engine that helps you write better English by giving you contextualized examples taken from reliable sources."
search  language  tools  grammar 
4 weeks ago by pierredv
BBC - Capital - Sitzfleisch: The German concept to get more work done
"Literally translated, sitzfleisch means 'sitting meat' or 'sitting flesh' – in other words, a term for one’s behind or bottom. But this German word has strong connotations in the working world, where it implies a great deal more than just the physical part of the body you sit on"
BBC  language  productivity  German 
6 weeks ago by pierredv
How to Say ‘Orgasm’ in 27 Different Languages By Leigh Cowart, Dec 2017
How we name things can reveal secrets about how we feel, while giving insight into the deeper recesses of our own psychology. This rings especially true when it comes to language that’s used to describe sex.
TheCut  language  metaphor  sex 
6 weeks ago by pierredv
writing - Capitalisation of nouns in English in the 17th and 18th centuries - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange

It seems to have been common practice in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain to capitalise the first letters of nouns in English, e.g.
Most original sources I can find on the net have used modern rules for capitalisation, so what I'd like to know is:
was the practice used for all nouns (note mouth in my quotation above isn't capitalised)?
when did this practice begin?
when did it end, and why?
orthography  language  English 
10 weeks ago by pierredv
A Talk With Marvin Minsky [2.26.98], introduction by John Brockman

Alerted to this by "An AI conference warns us why we need to mind our language" New Scientist Jan 2019, "In his 2007 book, The Emotion Machine, computer scientist Marvin Minsky deplored (although even he couldn’t altogether avoid) the use of “suitcase words”: his phrase for words conveying specialist technical detail through simple metaphors. Think what we are doing when we say metal alloys “remember” their shape, or that a search engine offers “intelligent” answers to a query."

I haven't thought about this enough, but it seems to me that every important word, sufficiently closely examined, is a suitcase...

Here are some quotes from the interview:

"Most words we use to describe our minds (like "consciousness," "learning," or "memory") are suitcase-like jumbles of different ideas. Those old ideas were formed long ago, before "computer science" appeared. It was not until the 1950s that we began to develop better ways to help think about complex processes."

"Let's get back to those suitcase words (like intuition or consciousness) that all of us use to encapsulate our jumbled ideas about our minds. We use those words as suitcases in which to contain all sorts of mysteries that we can't yet explain. This in turn leads us to regard these as though they were "things" with no structures to analyze. I think this is what leads so many of us to the dogma of dualism—the idea that "subjective" matters lie in a realm that experimental science can never reach. "

"Consciousness, instead, is an enormous suitcase that contains perhaps 40 or 50 different mechanisms that are involved in a huge network of intricate interactions. "

"We shouldn't be so involved with those old suitcase ideas like consciousness and subjective experience. It seems to me that our first priority should be to understand "what makes human thought so resourceful." That's what my new book, The Emotional Machine is about."

"But "consciousness" is only a name for a suitcase of methods that we use for thinking about our own minds. Inside that suitcase are assortments of things whose distinctions and differences are confused by our giving them all the same name."
neuroscience  mind  consciousness  language  words  interviews  Marvin-Minsky  meta 
11 weeks ago by pierredv
An AI conference warns us why we need to mind our language | New Scientist issue 3212, Jan 2019
"We’re using the wrong words to talk about artificial intelligence."

"Language is at the heart of the problem. In his 2007 book, The Emotion Machine, computer scientist Marvin Minsky deplored (although even he couldn’t altogether avoid) the use of “suitcase words”: his phrase for words conveying specialist technical detail through simple metaphors. Think what we are doing when we say metal alloys “remember” their shape, or that a search engine offers “intelligent” answers to a query."

"Without metaphors and the human tendency to personify, we would never be able to converse, let alone explore technical subjects, but the price we pay for communication is a credulity when it comes to modelling how the world actually works. No wonder we are outraged when AI doesn’t behave intelligently. But it isn’t the program playing us false, rather the name we gave it."

"Earlier this year in a public forum [Turkish-born Memo Akten, based at Somerset House in London] threatened to strangle a kitten whenever anyone in the audience personified AI, by talking about “the AI”, for instance."
NewScientist  language  quotes  metaphor  thinking  cognition  AI  anthropomorphism  culture 
11 weeks ago by pierredv
The sci.lang FAQ: 21 - 29, 28 How did genders and cases develop in IE?
"Early stages of proto-Indo-European (PIE) didn't have feminine gender. This is attested in Hittite, the oldest recorded IE language; it had only masculine and neuter genders, divided basically between animate and inanimate objects."

"Earlier historical linguists cheerfully reconstructed eight cases for PIE, on the model of Sanskrit; but the IE languages with many cases are now considered to be innovative, not conservative."
language  proto-Indo-European  gender  Hittite 
april 2019 by pierredv
Who Wins in the Name Game? - The Atlantic - Pocket
Not being able to pronounce a name spells a death sentence for relationships. That’s because the ability to pronounce someone’s name is directly related to how close you feel to that person. Our brains tend to believe that if something is difficult to understand, it must also be high-risk.

In fact, companies with names that are simple and easy to pronounce see significantly higher investments than more complexly named stocks, especially just after their initial public offerings when information on the stock’s fundamentals are most scarce. People with easier to pronounce names are also judged more positively and tend to be hired and promoted more often than their more obscurely named peers.
theAtlantic  names  language 
march 2019 by pierredv
A Renaissance fruit has its climacteric moment -, Dec 2018
Researching medlars I discovered that there’s a wonderful old word, dating back to Shakespeare as well, that’s still employed by botanists to categorize fruit: climacteric. From the 16th to 19th centuries, this word referred to a period of great change or upheaval, usually for the worse. It comes from the Greek klimakte-r, literally “rung of the ladder”; the Merriam-Webster dictionary explains that “English speakers have long used climacteric for those inevitable big moments encountered on the metaphorical ladder of life.” According to ancient Greek and early modern astrology, “climacteric years” were multiples of seven or nine and were full of potential pitfalls. The 63rd (seven times nine) year of a person’s life, the “grand climacteric,” was thought to be especially dangerous, and anyone who “passed his Grand Climacteric” unscathed was fortunate.
language  words  ageing 
january 2019 by pierredv
South African additions to the OED | Oxford English Dictionary, Dec 2018
Here you can find a list of the new South African words and senses added to the OED in the December 2018 update
OED  words  South-Africa  language 
january 2019 by pierredv
Voice of a nation: How Juba Arabic helps bridge a factious South Sudan - Nov 2018
"Juba Arabic isn’t just the language spoken by more South Sudanese than any other. It is a tongue that has grown up alongside the country, the witness and stenographer to its difficult history."
language  politics  Africa  CSMonitor 
december 2018 by pierredv
What Does “Tai Chi Chuan” Mean, and Why is It Also Spelled as “Taijiquan?” | Internal Gardens
"The Taoists explained that before the universe came into existence, everything (nothing?) was in a state of “wu chi.” ... “Wu chi” 無極 means “no polarity.” ... It’s somewhat the non-existence of nothingness… space… void… When there was a “change” in the state of wu chi, then there was a differentiation – the original wu chi part, and, the changing part. That state of differentiation is a phase called “tai chi.” It literally means “great polarity.” The opposite poles on of this polarity are referred to as yin and yang. Just like plus and minus, each opposite exists because of the existence of the other. The Taoists say that the yin and yang (born from the state of tai chi) give rise to all things and processes in the universe."

"So what does “chuan” mean? It means “fist.” It implies the martial arts practice and discipline of something."
tai-chi  language  words  Chinese  Taorism 
november 2018 by pierredv
Appreciator | Define Appreciator at
"To appreciate is to exercise wise judgment, delicate perception, and keen insight in realizing the worth of something. To esteem is to feel respect combined with a warm, kindly feeling."

"Examples from the Web for appreciator - Historical Examples" see especially "The Gate of Appreciation", Carleton Noyes"
"For the artist it is creation by expression; for the appreciator it is creation by evocation."
"Art exists not only for the artist's sake but for the appreciator too."

British Dictionary definitions for appreciator: "to feel thankful or grateful for, <i>to appreciate a favour</i>"
words  language  quotations 
july 2018 by pierredv
Beware the Pogonip! - EPOD - a service of USRA
"When ice crystals form and fall like snow in such a fog, the phenomenon is often poetically called diamond dust. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary etymologically reports that 19th-century English-speaking settlers of the interior valleys of the West experienced these sometimes frighteningly cold and dangerous conditions, and needed a word for it. Modifying the Shoshone word payinappih, for cloud, they came up with pogonip."
EPOD  words  language 
january 2018 by pierredv
Russian blues reveal effects of language on color discrimination
English and Russian color terms divide the color spectrum differently. Unlike English, Russian makes an obligatory distinction between lighter blues (“goluboy”) and darker blues (“siniy”). We investigated whether this linguistic difference leads to differences in color discrimination. We tested English and Russian speakers in a speeded color discrimination task using blue stimuli that spanned the siniy/goluboy border. We found that Russian speakers were faster to discriminate two colors when they fell into different linguistic categories in Russian (one siniy and the other goluboy) than when they were from the same linguistic category (both siniy or both goluboy). Moreover, this category advantage was eliminated by a verbal, but not a spatial, dual task. These effects were stronger for difficult discriminations (i.e., when the colors were perceptually close) than for easy discriminations (i.e., when the colors were further apart). English speakers tested on the identical stimuli did not show a category advantage in any of the conditions. These results demonstrate that (i) categories in language affect performance on simple perceptual color tasks and (ii) the effect of language is online (and can be disrupted by verbal interference).
language  Russian 
september 2017 by pierredv
asset & resource | WordReference Forums
What is the difference between "asset" and "resource"?
language  resources 
september 2017 by pierredv
The Millions : Trope is the New Meme - The Millions
A few years ago it felt like one could scarcely read a think-piece in any newspaper or magazine without coming across some mention of the word “meme.” Now it seems as though the new meme is the word “trope.” Trope is everywhere.
language  metaphor 
september 2017 by pierredv
Emotions are not universal – we build them for ourselves | New Scientist, Mar 2017
"The more emotion concepts you know – not just one anger but many angers, each one fitting a particular situation – then the better you will be at regulating your emotions. Concepts are tools for living."

"Research shows that teaching kids emotion words expands their vocabulary of concepts and improves academic performance. This may be in part because a larger vocabulary tunes emotions more finely to the situation – being “frustrated” or “irritated” instead of just “angry” – and that improves self-control."
NewScientist  emotion  vocabulary  language  education  self-control  interviews 
may 2017 by pierredv
Ge'ez Revisited | College of Arts and Sciences - University of Washington
Ge’ez dates back to at least the second century and belongs to the only part of Africa that was never colonized by a European power, a fact that Zafer points out in class. He also emphasizes the language’s formative impact on Christianity and Islam. “The field of early Islamic studies has always been oriented towards Europe and Western Asia, which are seen as the cradle of Jewish and Christian thought," says Zafer. "Africa is never seen as part of the equation. But east African Judaism and Christianity had just as much, if not more, of a formative impact on early Islam. The fact that a lot of Christological vocabulary in the Quran is in Ge’ez tells us that the Christianity that the earliest Muslims encountered was an African Christianity.” 
language  UW  religion 
may 2017 by pierredv
Language Log: Hed, dek, lede, graf, tk: live with it
"What do you call an apology for future behavior? Whatever the expression is, this post is an example. But it's also an educational experience, I hope, for those of you who don't know the meta-journalistic terms of art in the title"
abbreviations  journalism  language 
april 2017 by pierredv
Language Course Reviews | Effective Language Learning
Speed Learning Languages
Michel Thomas
Rosetta Stone
language  reviews  education 
december 2016 by pierredv
You are what you speak: How your mother tongue shapes you -- New Scientist 19/26 Dec 2015
great discussion of Sapir-Whorff (though they're not mentioned). Seem to make the argument that influence of language on individuals is through the concepts that social use of language validates/or not.
linguistics  language  culture  German  NewScientist 
february 2016 by pierredv
Buzz words: How language creates your emotions - New Scientist issue 3039, Sep 2015
Close link between emotional and linguistic brain region => value of sophisticated semantic systems to describe and thus process feeling/sensation, cf. Abhidhamma "Brain imaging studies, for example, show a strong link between language and emotions: when the parts of the brain linked to emotion are aroused, so are those parts associated with semantics and language." "Once we learn to link that word to a particular network of sensations, our brains find it easier to seek out experiences which are consistent with it and filter out those which aren’t."
NewScientist  language  emotion  Buddhism  meditation  sensation 
december 2015 by pierredv
Diane Ponterotto, HAPPINESS IS MOVING UP: Conceptualizing emotions through motion verbs
via Nina Nel Abstract: "This paper reports an investigation into the role of motion verbs in representing emotional states by means of a cross-linguistic observation of English and Italian. The study selects the emotion HAPPINESS for observation and presents empirical data which reveals the metaphorical extension of movement constructions to conceptualize emotions. It posits a Conceptual Metaphor framework which can account for the use of verbs encoding manner of physical movement to conceptualize a cognitive/psychological state of emotion."
linguistics  metaphor  language 
march 2015 by pierredv
"Encyclo is een met de hand samengestelde zoekmachine voor definities. Je zoekopdracht wordt opgezocht in meer dan 1000 Nederlandstalige woordenlijsten waaronder Wikipedia en het ANW. We tonen je de eerste 250 letters van elke definitie. Voor de volledige definitie klik je door naar de gevonden woordenlijsten. "
dictionary  reference  language  Dutch 
march 2015 by pierredv
40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally | TED Blog
Some of my favorites: “To slide in on a shrimp sandwich” (Swedish) “When a lobster whistles on top of a mountain" (Russian) “To swallow grass snakes.” (French) “You can sharpen with an ax on top of this head.” (Russian)
TED  language  idioms  translation 
january 2015 by pierredv
Interrupters? Linguist says it's Jewish way | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California
"The next time someone accuses you of interrupting, you might want to explain that you are not being rude: You're actually engaging in "high-involvement cooperative overlapping." Cooperative overlapping -- talking as another person continues to speak -- is typical of Jewish conversational style, according to linguist Deborah Tannen, and can be a way of showing interest and appreciation."
language  dialect  conversation 
january 2014 by pierredv
Engine: The History of a Concept, From 14th-Century Poetry to Google - Rebecca J. Rosen - The Atlantic
"The word comes from the Latin ingenium, related to our own word, ingenious. ... Over time, as we know, this abstract concept of inventiveness or cleverness came to refer to a complicated, powerful piece of machinery. This, Holden says, is a great example of something that is quite "common in English nouns: the transferral of what was once an abstract concept to something very concrete.""
TheAtlantic  words  language 
august 2013 by pierredv
The voices within: The power of talking to yourself - life - 03 June 2013 - New Scientist
Piece on inner speech research, inspired by "theories of L. S. Vygotsky... Starting with observations of children talking to themselves while playing, Vygotsky hypothesised that this "private speech" develops out of social dialogue with parents and caregivers. Over time, these private mutterings become further internalised to form inner speech." Possible link to meditation: "our internal monologue is not always beneficial to our well-being. When we worry and ruminate, we often do it in words, and our inner speech may contribute to anxiety and depression by keeping thoughts in the head that would be better off discarded." "It will also be interesting to note the consequences when people try to suppress their inner speech (and indeed all conscious thought) through varieties of meditation."
rumination  speech  consciousness  meditation  NewScientist  language 
july 2013 by pierredv
Luciferous Logolepsy
"Welcome to Luciferous Logolepsy, a collection of over 9,000 obscure English words. "
words  via  SPT  language 
may 2013 by pierredv
Inside the topsy-turvy world of contronyms -
"the looking-glass world of “contronyms” — words that are their own antonyms"
via  GMSV  words  language 
april 2013 by pierredv
Fake Eskimo Snow Words
tongue-in-cheek list of Eskimo snow words by Phil James
words  language  linguistics  satire 
february 2013 by pierredv
25 Handy Words That Simply Don’t Exist In English | So Bad So Good
" We look at 25 words that simply don’t exist in the English langauge (and yet after reading this list, you’ll wish they did!)"
language  words  via:gmsv 
january 2013 by pierredv
[1212.1709] Evolution of the most common English words and phrases over the centuries
Abstract: "By determining which were the most common English words and phrases since the beginning of the 16th century, we obtain a unique large-scale view of the evolution of written text. We find that the most common words and phrases in any given year had a much shorter popularity lifespan in the 16th than they had in the 20th century. By measuring how their usage propagated across the years, we show that for the past two centuries the process has been governed by linear preferential attachment. Along with the steady growth of the English lexicon, this provides an empirical explanation for the ubiquity of the Zipf's law in language statistics and confirms that writing, although undoubtedly an expression of art and skill, is not immune to the same influences of self-organization that are known to regulate processes as diverse as the making of new friends and World Wide Web growth."
power-law  power  Zipf-law  complex-systems  n-grams  Google  evolution  language 
december 2012 by pierredv
The Evolution of English Words and Phrases Since 1520 | MIT Technology Review
"Matjaz Perc at the University of Maribor in Slovenia uses this [Google n-gram] data to examine the evolution of the most common English words and phrases since 1520"
evolution  via:arXivblog  Google  language 
december 2012 by pierredv
Oxford Dictionaries USA Word of the Year 2012: ‘to GIF’
"The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier. GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace."
graphics  humor  via:gmsv  language 
november 2012 by pierredv
WCIT and the tower of Babel « The ITU Blog
"A key reason for the heated debate in relation to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) at the next World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) is the problem that different parties are talking about different elements while using the same words."
regulation  language  wcit  itu 
october 2012 by pierredv
Words: The Democratic and Republican Conventions » Sociological Images
The New York Times ran these graphics showing the word frequencies of the Republican and Democratic conventions.
words  politics  language 
october 2012 by pierredv
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