Talkin’ Like a Pirate? It Be a Linguistic Treasure Trove

No one in history has ever, based on their adopting a sea-going profession, talked like Robert Newton’s Long John Silver in Treasure Island. The people we think of when we talk about “pirates” would’ve talked mostly like the people they grew up around, just like the rest of us do. Many of them wouldn’t have[…]

How Language and Climate Connect

While we’re losing biological diversity, we’re also losing linguistic and cultural diversity at the same time. This is no coincidence. The world is getting uncomfortably warm. At present, much of Europe is suffering under a heat wave of record-breaking temperatures. It’s so hot that piles of manure are spontaneously combusting and setting off wildfires in Spain. Across the[…]

Noah Webster’s Civil War of Words over American English

Webster saw himself as a saviour of the American language. In the United States, the name Noah Webster (1758-1843) is synonymous with the word ‘dictionary’. But it is also synonymous with the idea of America, since his first unabridged American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828 when Webster was 70, blatantly stirred the young[…]

An Overview of Ancient Mesopotamian Languages

Remaining examples include religious, mathematical, musical and astronomical texts. Key Points The principal languages of ancient Mesopotamia were Sumerian, Akkadian (i.e. Babylonian + Assyrian), Amorite, and – later – Aramaic.  They have come down to us in the “cuneiform” (i.e. wedge-shaped) script, deciphered by Henry Rawlinson and other scholars in the 1850s.  The subject which[…]

The Phoenician Alphabet and Language

Phoenician is a Canaanite language closely related to Hebrew. Introduction Very little is known about the Canaanite language, except what can be gathered from the El-Amarna letters written by Canaanite kings to Pharaohs Amenhopis III (1402 – 1364 BCE) and Akhenaton (1364 – 1347 BCE). It appears that the Phoenician language, culture, and writing were[…]

A History of Language, Script, and Symbol in West Africa

West Africa is a place of great diversity – in language, in writing, in the hugely varied means of recording information and passing it on. By Dr. Marion Wallace (left) and Dr. Janet Topp Fargion (right)Wallace: Lead Curator, Africa CollectionsFargion: Lead Curator, World and Traditional MusicBritish Library Introduction West Africa is home to well over[…]

Why Americans Think British Words Are Silly and Adorable

Although brolly is British, bumbershoot is surprisingly American. Me: Hi English person: You mean you don’t have SNELLYDORF HUFFLEDAMS? WHERE DO YOU PUT YOUR BROOKENSHIRES? Me: Aight man have a good day                                                                                                   —@minifiliawarde Since 2011, University of Delaware professor Ben Yagoda has been writing Not One-Off Britishisms, a blog that tracks British turns of phrase that are infiltrating[…]

Linguistic Understanding and the Philosophy of Language

What is it to understand a language, hence others? By Dr. Paul TomassiFormer Professor of PhilosophyUniversity of Aberdeen Introduction Current understanding of the nature of language[1] owes much to two authors: Noam Chomsky and the later Wittgenstein. What is interesting is that the conceptions of language proposed by each appear to conflict. The key question[…]