‘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 / 123RF.com 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,”[…]

Yiddish and Judeo-Spanish, a European Heritage

Judeo-Spanish: A Dying Language By Dr. Haïm Vidal Séphiha / 1997 Professor Emeritus of Linguistics Université Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages Institut Sépharade Européen Origins On 31 March 1492, the Spain of three religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) followed the example of other European nations. After the fall of Grenada, which[…]

The Divine Riches of the Latin Language

Roman city gate of the CCAA, imaginatively inscribed with “CCAA”. / Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne. – Photo: PK, 2014 By Dr. Peter Kruschwitz / 05.08.2014 From The Petrified Muse Professor of Classics Fellow of the Pontifical Academy for Latin (Pontificia Academia Latinitatis) University of Reading My son’s interest in the Latin language, fuelled by his engaging[…]

Languages Still a Major Barrier to Global Science, New Research Finds

Over a third of new conservation science documents published annually are in non-English languages, despite assumption of English as scientific ‘lingua franca’. Researchers find examples of important science missed at international level, and practitioners struggling to access new knowledge, as a result of language barriers. 12.29.2016 English is now considered the common language, or ‘lingua[…]

The Past in the Present

Ancient Sanskrit carving on a golden background By Dr. Thomas R. Trautmann Professor Emeritus of Anthropology University of Michigan Volume 1, 2011 Abstract The theory-deadness of antiquity under the ideology of modernism, the theory-deadness of Asia under Eurocentrism, and the theory-deadness of the precolonial under post-colonial theory converge to hide the aliveness of ancient Indian[…]

The Zamenhof Legacy

L.L. Zamenhof By Dr. Romeo Vitelli / 09.30.2016 Psychologist Providentia It was a noble idea.  Who knew that such tragedy would spring from it? When L._L._Zamenhof developed the artificial language known as Esperanto, he intended it as a method of international communication to promote peaceful coexistence among nations (the name of the language stems from[…]

Red, Yellow, Pink, and Green: How the World’s Languages Name the Rainbow

How many colors in your language’s rainbow? / Shutterstock By Dr. Claire Bowern / 11.16.2016 Associate Professor of Linguistics Yale University It is striking that English color words come from many sources. Some of the more exotic ones, like “vermilion” and “chartreuse,” were borrowed from French, and are named after the color of a particular[…]

Four-Year-Old Russian Girl Speaks Seven Different Languages, Stuns the World

Bella Devyatkina 10.24.2016 At first glance, Bella Devyatkina, from Moscow, Russia, is your typical carefree, playful four-year-old, but ask her a question in Russian, English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese or Arabic, and you will be shocked by her articulate response. Bella made headlines in Russia a few days ago, when she appeared on a TV talent show, where[…]

Do We Swear Too Much?

Go ahead, just let off some steam. / Shutterstock By Dr. Michael Adams / 10.10.2016 Professor of English University of Indiana, Bloomington Some people love to swear and can’t get enough of it. But you’ll occasionally hear complaints that if we’re not careful, we might overuse profanity and wear it out, forcing us then to[…]

Why Being Bilingual Helps Keep Your Brain Fit

Most people in the world speak more than one language, suggesting the human brain evolved to work in multiple tongues. If so, asks Gaia Vince, are those who speak only one language missing out? By Gaia Vince / 08.07.2016 All illustrations © Nadine Redlich In a café in south London, two construction workers are engaged[…]

Evolutionary Theory and the Ultimate–Proximate Distinction in the Human Behavioral Sciences

Wikimedia Commons      By (left-to-right) Dr. Thomas C. Scott-Phillips, Dr. Thomas E. Dickins, and Dr. Stuart A. West Scott-Phillips:  Senior Research Fellow in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, Durham University Dickins:  Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, University of East London West:  Professor of Evolutionary Biology, University of Oxford Abstract To properly understand behavior, we must obtain both[…]

Francis van Helmont and the Alphabet of Nature

Frontispiece to Jan Baptista van Helmont’s The Origin of Medicine (1648), showing the younger Van Helmont partially obscured by the elder — Source: Wellcome Library, London Largely forgotten today in the shadow of his more famous father, the 17th-century Flemish alchemist Francis van Helmont influenced and was friends with the likes of Locke, Boyle, and[…]

At a Loss for Words: Modern Lessons From a Lost Language

Wikimedia Commons By Krystal D’Costa It’s hard to imagine that knowledge could be lost today. Technology seems to have put the ability to know almost everything within our grasp. So when researchers announced that they had “found” a previously unknown Peruvian language earlier this year, it was strangely tantalizing. Here was knowledge that we couldn’t[…]