Samuel Johnson’s Monument to the Mother Tongue in the 18th Century

Englishman Samuel Johnson’s work helped define the English language for readers on both sides of the Atlantic. Last year, without much fanfare, Yale University Press completed one of the longest-running literary projects in American publishing, bringing out the last of a 23-volume edition of the works of Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century Englishman renowned for his essays,[…]

Proto-Languages: Ancestral Trees with Numerous Descendant Branches

A proto-language is a linguistic reconstruction formulated by applying the comparative method to a group of languages featuring similar characteristics. Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate Introduction In the tree model of historical linguistics, a proto-language is a postulated once-spoken ancestral language from which a number of attested languages are believed to have descended by evolution, forming a language family. Proto-languages are usually[…]

Extinct Languages: Not Just ‘Dead’ but Truly Gone

As of the 2000s, a total of roughly 7,000 natively spoken languages existed worldwide. Curated/Reviewed by Matthew A. McIntoshPublic HistorianBrewminate Introduction An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers,[1] especially if the language has no living descendants.[2] In contrast, a dead language is “one that is no longer the native language of any community”, even if it is still in use, like Latin.[3] Languages[…]

Talk to Me: The Origins and Evolution of Speech

Research into the development of human language. By Matt Phillips Introduction Picture a human being before the dawn of language. They are returning to camp one afternoon. Walking along the beach, they stop to listen to the sounds of waves. Maybe they’ve never stopped like this before, or maybe it’s the tenth or the hundredth time,[…]

The Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet and the Siloam Inscription

The inscription hence records the construction of the tunnel in ancient Jerusalem. Introduction The Siloam inscription or Shiloah inscripti, known as KAI 189, is a Hebrew inscription found in the Siloam tunnel which brings water from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, located in the City of David in East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shiloah or Silwan. The inscription records the construction of the tunnel, which has been dated to the 8th century[…]

Grammar: From the Ancient Greeks to the Middle Ages

English sentence structure or grammar has been extraordinarily impacted by the ancient Greek and Latin models. By Dr. R GnanasekaranAssistant Professor, Department of EnglishKarpagam University Abstract In view of the fact that grammar is a central phase of instructing a language, many techniques have been adopted to instruct it effectively over the time. Right from[…]

Historical Linguistics: Tracing the Roots of Speech and Language

Western modern historical linguistics dates from the late-18th century. It grew out of the earlier discipline of philology, the study of ancient texts and documents dating back to antiquity. Introduction Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time.[1] Principal concerns of historical linguistics include:[2] to describe and account for observed changes in[…]

What You Should Know About An English Course Before Taking One Up

English has been portrayed as the language of opportunity. It has more advantages than other languages in terms of profession, industry, technology, research, schooling, etc. If you’re taking an English class in middle school, high school, or graduate school, you might wonder why English matters, particularly if you’re planning to study or look for jobs[…]

Writing as a Method to Express Yourself: From Ancient Times to Our Days

Writing is one of the activities that makes us humans so unique. For thousands of years, the human race has been attempting to record its thoughts and experiences with various forms of the written word. From its beginnings, the written word has become one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to[…]

How Did the Ancient School of Writing Develop?

Writing is the most important invention because it makes all the other innovations possible. While researching a 99papers review, I started to think about the craft itself and how it developed. With all living things, every generation is a blank slate. When an elephant or a wolf dies, everything he experienced, all that he learned,[…]

Ancient Egyptian Words for Towns and Cities

The Abbott Papyrus from ancient Thebes / British Museum The Egyptians used a variety of terms to refer to their settlements. By Dr. Steven Snape Reader in Egyptian Archaeology University of Liverpool The Egyptians used a variety of terms to refer to their settlements. Like our own terms (‘city’, ‘town’, ‘village’) they are useful in suggesting[…]

Mediatization and the Language of Journalism

Creative Commons At the intersection of applied linguistics and journalism studies lies media linguistics.    By Dr. Tom Van Hout (left) and Dr. Peter Burger (right) Hout: Lecturer in Journalism and New Media Burger: Lecturer in Journalism and New Media Leiden University Abstract At the intersection of applied linguistics and journalism studies lies media linguistics.[…]

Linguistics: Impacts of the Loss of Native American Languages

Dance is a unique way of passing on cultural stories to a younger generation. Aaron Hawkins/ Many Native languages are dying, and their loss has deep and profound implications for our world. By Dr. Rosalyn R. LaPier / 06.15.2018 Associate Professor of Environmental Studies The University of Montana Alaska has a “linguistic emergency,” according to the Alaskan Gov. Bill Walker. A report warned earlier this year that all[…]

The Origins and Dialects of Old English

First lines of Beowulf from the damaged Nowell Codex Old English arose from the set of varieties of West Germanic which the early settlers spoke. By Dr. Raymond Hickey Professor for General Linguistics and Varieties of English Universität Duisburg-Essen Origins The Germanic settlers, who according to the Venerable Bede arrived in England in 449, brought[…]

Multilingualism Along the Nile in Ancient Egypt

This bilingual papyrus containing magical spells and recipes dates from the early third century A.D. and is written in both Greek and Demotic. In some passages, the Greek text is also transliterated into Demotic, and vice versa. London Magical Papyrus, A.D. 200–225, Romano-Egyptian. Papyrus and ink, 9 7/16 × 33 5/8 in. The British Museum,[…]

Recreating Language’s Big Bang through a Game of Vocal Charades

To communicate is human – but how did language originally get started? Scott Johnson, CC BY-NC-ND What can a bunch of people grunting in a lab teach us about our capacity to create language systems? A lot about the gesture- or vocalization-based origins of language. By Dr. Marcus Perlman / 08.04.2015 Postdoctoral Research Associate in Psychology University of Madison-Wisconsin Roughly 7,000 languages are used around the world, and many[…]

The Elusive Foolproof Theory of the Origin of Language

It is nearly impossible for us to know or be sure about the earliest human language ever used. There have been many theories that try to explain where language came from. None prevailed or even came close to the position of the Darwinism theory in biology or the Big Bang theory in physics. By Dr. Ignatius Tri Endarto / 05.02.2018 Lecturer in Linguistics and Language Education Universitas[…]

Willies, Ghillies, and Horny Highlanders: Scottish Gaelic Writing has a Filthy Past

Cheeky. Tim Large Most people’s shortbread-tin ideas about the Highlands and Islands are missing a key traditional ingredient. By Dr. Peter Mackay / 10.24.2017 Lecturer in Literature University of St. Andrews Think of Scotland’s Highlands and islands and you probably think hills, glens, tartan, shortbread, bagpipes, caber-tossing, whisky, haggis, stags in the mist, grandiose aristocrats, bearded ghillies and high-kicking kilted dancers. Or[…]

The Americanization of the English Language: A Frightfully Subtle Affair

The terribly good Brief Encounter (1945). The BFI/Eagle Lion Distributors Is British English being swallowed up by American English – or are both versions simply following the same path to a more informal language? By Dr. Paul Baker / 11.08.2017 Professor of Linguistics and English Language Lancaster University Brits can get rather sniffy about the English language – after all, they originated it. But a Google[…]

Combining Linguistics, Archaeology, and Ancient DNA Genetics to Understand Deep Human History

TonelloPhotography/ Each discipline tells us only part of the story. And so the truest picture of prehistory comes from triangulating these independent lines of evidence.    By Dr. Michael Dunn (left) and Dr. Annemarie Verkerk (right) / 03.29.2018 Dunn: Professor in Linguistics and Philology, Uppsala University Verkerk: Postdoctoral Research Associate in Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for the[…]

Thinking the Unthinkable: Tracing Language Back 15,000 Years

Linguistic controversy: could ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia? Sharon Mollerus Looking at language in prehistory. By Dr. Michael Dunn / 05.22.2013 Professor in Linguistics and Philology Uppsala University Just about everyone has a personal stake in language, and many people — expert and amateur — feel entitled to an opinion. But linguists care more[…]

Studying Chimpanzee Calls for Clues about the Origins of Human Language

Nisarg Desai observes wild chimps known as Sandi, Ferdinand and Siri in Tanzania. Michael Wilson, CC BY-ND Do chimpanzee talk to each other? Scientists follow and record chimpanzees in the wild to find out – and to fill in details about how human language might have evolved. By Dr. Michael Wilson / 05.08.2018 Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior University of Minnesota Freud, Wilkie and the[…]

Languages Being Revived in Native Language Schools

In the 19th century, federal policy shifted from a policy of extermination and displacement to assimilation. The passage of the Civilization Fund Act in 1819 allocated federal funds directly to education for the purpose of assimilation, and that led to the formation of many government-run boarding schools. / Photo by Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images. More than a century ago, the last[…]

Bringing a Dying Language Back to Life

Harvard instructor Sunn m’Cheaux worked with 30 Vassal Lane Upper School seventh-graders, teaching them the origin of the Gullah language as part of Harvard’s Project Teach program. / Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer Harvard instructor introduces seventh-graders to the world of Gullah By Brigid O’Rourke / 04.16.2018 It’s unlikely that many of his grade-school classmates would have[…]

The Recovery of Cuneiform, the World’s Oldest Known Writing

A relief at the ancient Persian city of Persepolis (now in modern Iran), including inscriptions in cuneiform, the world’s oldest form of writing. Diego Delso/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA Cuneiform was used for over 3,000 years in the Ancient Near East, but was only decoded in the 19th century. The writing form is still revealing amazing stories, from literature to mathematics. By Dr. Louise Pryke / 10.05.2017 Lecturer,[…]

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[…]