How People Talk Now Holds Clues about Human Migration Centuries Ago

What can a modern-day Creole language tell us about its first speakers in the 1600s? M M,    By Dr. Nicole Creanza (left) and Dr. André Ché Sherriah (right) / 03.02.2018 Creanza: Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University Sherriah: Postdoctoral Associate in Linguistics, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus Often, you can tell where someone[…]

Decoding Languages in the Lab

New linguistics facility applies scientific tenets to understanding how we communicate. By Jill Radsken / 02.21.2018 Dorothy Ahn stood behind a video camera, recording a fellow researcher reading simple sentences — “One girl is my friend. That girl plays soccer”— while pointing for emphasis. The filming was part of a research experiment comparing speech gestures[…]

The Peoples, Languages, and History of the Pyrenees Region

Sainte-Cecile Cathedral overlooking the Tarn River, Albi, France. Midi- Pyrénées / Encyclopedia Britannica  By Dr. Friedrich Edelmayer / 05.31.2012 Professor of Austrian and Medieval History Universität Wien Abstract The Pyrenees region encompasses areas from the Kingdom of Spain, the Republic of France and the Principality of Andorra. It is also linguistically heterogeneous. In addition to[…]

Language and Its Development

Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 02.15.2018 Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief 1 – Introduction to Language 1.2 – Introduction 1.1.2 – Overview Language is the ability to produce and comprehend both spoken and written (and in the case of sign language, signed) words. Understanding how language works means reaching across many branches of psychology—everything from basic[…]

The Term “Reich” in the Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern Worlds

Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Joachim Whaley / 05.11.2015 Professor of German History and Thought University of Cambridge Abstract The term “Reich” is found in a variety of European languages and has several applications in German. “Das Reich” is different, however, and it derives its suggestive force from a combination of secular and religious sources. This[…]

The Polyglot of Bologna

Mezzofanti as pictured in the frontispiece to The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti; with an introductory memoir of eminent linguists, ancient and modern (1858) by Charles William Russell Michael Erard takes a look at The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti, a book exploring the extraordinary talent of the 19th century Italian cardinal who was reported to be able to speak[…]

Trüth, Beaüty, and Volapük

Johann Schleyer on a harp given to him as a 50th birthday present by his colleagues at Sionsharfe, a magazine devoted mainly to Catholic poetry, which Schleyer edited and in which he first published on Volapük in 1879 / Bayerische StaatsBibliothek Arika Okrent explores the rise and fall of Volapük – a universal language created in[…]

Porridge is Funnier than Oatmeal, and Booty is Funnier Still

Ha! Photo by Getty Images    By Dr. Thomas Hills (left) and Tomas Engelthaler (right) / 11.20.2017 Hills:  Professor of Psychology Engelthaler:  PhD Candidate in Psychology University of Warwick ‘Which word is funnier: porridge or oatmeal?’ This is the question one of us recently posed to the other. Clearly, the notion was insane. Surely finding something funny requires context[…]

The Language of the Undead: Zombie Narrative and Linguistics, Who Knew?

Jamie Thomas, AB ’06, studies zombies, language, race and othering at Swarthmore College. Photo by Jennifer Weisbord By Alana Hauser / 10.16.2017 In 2003, bestselling author Max Brooks published the Gray’s Anatomy of survival guides. The Zombie Survival Guide took readers on a journey through the anatomy of the living dead: their physical attributes, behavioral patterns and historical origins.[…]

The Unexpected Benefits of Getting Lost in Translation

‘You can never, in American public life, underestimate the advantages of complete and total incomprehensibility.’ Kissinger meets Anwar Sadat in 1976. / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Edward Gibson / 09.25.2017 Professor of Cognitive Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology About 20 per cent of the United States population (60 million out of 300 million people) are[…]

Languages don’t All have the Same Number of Terms for Colors – Scientists have a New Theory Why

Everyone sees them all, but we don’t all give them the same distinct names. lazyllama/   By Dr. Ted Gibson and Dr. Bevil R. Conway / 09.18.2017 Gibson: Professor of Cognitive Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Conway: Investigator at the National Eye Institute’s Sensation, Cognition, Action Unit, National Institutes of Health People with standard vision can see[…]

The Reawakening of Hebrew as a Mother Tongue

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in 1905 / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Lewis Glinert / 09.06.2017 Professor of Hebrew Studies and Linguistics Dartmouth College In a Jewish section of Jerusalem, in 1885, a young couple, Eliezer and Devora Ben-Yehuda, were fearful for their child: they were rearing him in Hebrew, an unheard-of idea. They had taken in a[…]

Combatting Stereotypes about Appalachian Dialects

The small city of Hazard, Kentucky, rests in the heart of Appalachia. AP Photo/David Stephenson By Dr. Kirk Hazen / 07.13.2017 Professor of Linguistics West Virginia University During the 2016 presidential election, broad support for Donald Trump came from most communities in Appalachia, where he received 63 percent of the vote. A great deal of national attention was[…]

The Bilingual Brain: Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Image by futureatlas/Flickr By Dr. Angela Grant / 03.14.2017 Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience Research Over the past few years, you might have noticed a surfeit of articles covering current research on bilingualism. Some of them suggest that it sharpens the mind, while others are clearly intended to provoke more doubt than confidence, such as Maria Konnikova’s[…]

What is Language?

Image from ACME Squares, Creative Commons By Dr. Carlos Gray Santana Assistant Professor of Philosophy University of Utah Abstract Linguists (and philosophers of language) have long disagreed about the ontology of language, and thus about the proper subject matter of their disciplines. A close examination of the leading arguments in the debates shows that while[…]

‘Anumeric’ People: What Happens when a Language has No Words for Numbers?

A Pirahã family. / Photo by Caleb Everett By Dr. Caleb Everett / 04.25.2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellow Professor of Anthropology University of Miami Numbers do not exist in all cultures. There are numberless hunter-gatherers embedded deep in Amazonia, living along branches of the world’s largest river tree. Instead of using words for precise quantities, these[…]

Written Greek but Drawn Egyptian: Script Changes in a Bilingual Dream Papyrus

Figure 1: P.Cairo 30961 recto. Photograph Ahmed Amin, Egyptian Museum, Cairo. By Dr. Stephen Kidd / 12.18.2013 Robert Gale Noyes Assistant Professor of Classics Brown University Introduction In a 3rd-century bce Greco-Egyptian letter inscribed on papyrus, a man writes to his friend about a recent dream. He is writing in Greek, but in order to[…]

Revisiting the Question of Etymology and Essence

By Dr. Gregory Nagy / 03.13.2015 Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University Classical Inquiries Center for Hellenic Studies Helen and Menelaus on a vase / Louvre Museum, Paris When I say etymology here, I mean the procedure of reconstructing a form[…]

Prehistory through Language and Archaeology

Language families of the world (click image to enlarge) By Dr. Paul Heggarty / 03.24.2015 Department of Linguistics and Cultural Evolution Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History Abstract This is not about the histories of languages themselves. Rather, it explores what those histories can tell us of the populations and societies that[…]

What’s in a Name? Linguistic Considerations in the Study of ‘Karian’ Religion

Karian rock tombs, near Marmaris, Turkey / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Naomi Carless Unwin / 11.01.2016 Senior Fellow, Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations Koç University, Istanbul CHS Research Bulletin 4:2 (2016) Introduction The history of Karia is entangled with that of the Greek-speaking world; the cultural and religious character of the region was shaped by[…]

When the Telling is the Text: Literacy, Performance, and the Traveling Performer in Pre-Colonial Maharashtra

Veda Performance at TACO Diwali, 2016 / YouTube Screen Capture By Dr. Christian Lee Novetzke / 10.01.2015 Professor of South Asia, Comparative Religion, and International Studies University of Washington In modern scholarship on non-modern, and especially non-Western, subjects, we tend to treat the dialectic between orality and literacy as if all theoretical and historical questions[…]

Making it Vernacular in Agra: The Practice of Translation by Seventeenth-Century Jains

Jain monks in Gujarat, India By Dr. John E. Cort / 10.01.2015 Professor of Asian and Comparative Religions Denison University From Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature, and Performance in North India[1] Language and Translation The 17th century Digambar Jain temple and the 18th century Gauri Shankar Hindu temple in Delhi / In one sense,[…]

The Extraordinary Story of an Italian Peasant Who Taught Himself 100 Rare and Extinct Languages

02.27.2017 86-year-old Riccardo Bertani is an exceptional man. Born to a family of farmers in Caprara, a small settlement in Reggio Emilia, Italy, he abandoned his study right after elementary school and dedicated his life to translating and documenting over 100 extinct and rare languages from all around the world. “It was castrating, I quit,”[…]