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In Portugal, Mirandese Spoken Here -- and Only Here

In Portugal, Mirandese Spoken Here -- and Only Here | General linguistics | Scoop.it
In an isolated corner of Portugal, searching for Mirandese, the country’s second official language, means a new — and frugal — reason to travel.

An old woman in a plain gray dress and a shopping bag full of oblong orange squashes called out to me from down the street. I had no idea what she was saying – and that couldn’t have made me happier. After all, I had come to her rural village – Malhadas, in the northeast corner of Portugal – with the specific hope of not understanding anyone.
A local woman in Malhadas, who thought the author was in town to read the electric meters.Seth KugelA local woman in Malhadas, who thought the author was in town to read the electric meters.

“Ah, you don’t speak Mirandese,” she said, switching to Portuguese, a language I speak fluently after living for several years in Brazil. “I thought you were the guy who comes to read the electric meters.”

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[See the full article here: http://nyti.ms/1a0nT26]

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Tribal and nomadic languages extinct in Andhra Pradesh

Tribal and nomadic languages extinct in Andhra Pradesh | General linguistics | Scoop.it
 

Hyderabad, Aug 20: According to a study carried out by Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, about 20 languages have gone extinct in Andhar Pradesh (AP). The study titled The People's Linguistic Survey of India says that in the past 50 years AP has lost 20 languages.

The study, states that languages like Reli became extinct due to the threats to their livelihood and pressure on the tribes to mingle with the society. Most of the languages that have become extinct were spoken either by the coastal or the nomadic tribes, the report states.

As these tribes tried to mingle with the mainstream society, they gave up on their cultural and linguistic identity. However their tribal counterparts are doing relatively well in the northern part of the state where they face lesser threat.

Some of the languages on the verge of extinction are Gutaba Gadaba, Manda, Mannadona and Gormati of the Banjaras.

The report also mentions that certain scheduled languages that are spoken in the pockets of a state is relatively different from those spoke in the parent state, such as adivasi oriya spoken in AP is different from Oriya.

The survey was conducted with more than 3,000 volunteers that spanned across four year.

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source: http://bit.ly/12EMHr8

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Treasure trove of Indigenous language documents unearthed at NSW State Library - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Treasure trove of Indigenous language documents unearthed at NSW State Library - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) | General linguistics | Scoop.it

A treasure trove of Indigenous language documents from across Australia has been discovered in the New South Wales State Library.

The accounts of early contact between Aboriginal people and European settlers were unearthed during a forensic search of the unpublished papers filed away in the basement of the colonial building. 

The operation was led by Dr Michael Walsh from Sydney University's Linguistics Department, who spent two years combing the stacks. 

"I found it quite exciting in the midst of a lot of drudgery, because some of the material was buried in boxes and boxes of papers, so you get two pages out of 2,000," he said.

"It's the agony and the ecstasy, you might say." 

Dr Walsh is one of only a few people to have seen the documents, which have gone on public display for the first time today as part of an international Indigenous language symposium at the library. 

The NSW State Library is the oldest in Australia. Opened in 1827, it stands as a monument to colonial settlement. 

So it is appropriate that it holds the records of many of those who helped establish the colony: the explorers, surveyors, government officials, settlers, soldiers and police.

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Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography - Language

Kinetic typography—the technical name for "moving text"—is an animation technique mixing motion and text to express ideas using video animation. This text is presented over time in a manner intended to convey or evoke a particular idea or emotion.

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See more videos about Kinetic Typography: http://www.creativebloq.com/typography/examples-kinetic-typography-11121304

 

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The origins of abc | I love typography, the typography and fonts blog

The origins of abc | I love typography, the typography and fonts blog | General linguistics | Scoop.it

We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of (agricultural) civilisation itself.

Robert Bringhurst wrote that writing is the solid form of language, the precipitate.[1] But writing is also much more than that, and its origins, its evolution, and the way it is now woven into the fabric of civilisations makes it a truly wonderful story. That story spans some 5,000 years. We’ll travel vast distances, meet an emperor, a clever Yorkshireman, a Phoenician princess by the name of Jezebel, and the ‘purple people’; we’ll march across deserts and fertile plains, and sail across oceans. We will begin where civilisation began, meander through the Middle Ages, race through the Renaissance, and in doing so discover where our alphabet originated, how and why it evolved, and why, for example, an A looks, well, like an A.

SUMER

Cuneiform

The Sumerians began to experiment with writing at the close of the fourth millennium BC, in Mesopotamia between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (roughly modern-day Iraq). Like most writing systems, Cuneiform, initially scratched — later impressed by a stylus — into soft clay, started out as a series of pictograms — pictures representing words. The word for bird, for example, existed at first as a simple pictorial representation of a bird. The figure below demonstrates this process of abstraction or rationalization. In time, the pictures of things came to represent, not only things but, sounds. It is clear that a written language with signs that represent sounds requires fewer characters than a language in which a sign stands for a thing or an idea. We use 26 letters (and the Romans used only 23 to create some of the most outstanding literature the world has ever known) while the Chinese, for example, have to learn thousands of characters to express themselves. Even early cuneiform comprised some 1,500 pictograms. A language in which a picture or grapheme represents a thing or an idea has its advantages: people may speak any language while the written form stays the same. So a Chinese from the Southern provinces can speak a totally different dialect than his compatriot in Beijing, who would not understand him when he speaks, but can read what he writes.

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[Click on the image to keep reading]

 

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Pop Song Covers in the Inuktitut Language

Kelly Fraser, an Inuit student and singer, has been covering pop songs after translating them into the Inuktitut language.

 

Can popular culture and indigenous languages coexist? Students at the Inuit college Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa, Canada seem to think so.

For a school project, students enrolled in a Inuktitut language course sang a parody version of the global hit “Gangnam Style,” with the lyrics in the Inuit language being about the school and the cultural activities offered on campus. They also filmed a video as a fun way to promote the school, but more importantly, so that the students can practice the native language.

Following that experience, 19-year-old Kelly Fraser from Nunavut continued to experiment with translating pop songs into the Inuktitut language. One of the first songs she translated was the song “Diamonds” by Rihanna, which was then recorded, filmed, and uploaded to YouTube, where it has received more than 65,000 views.

 

More info: http://bit.ly/12m9zh4

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Bonnie Bassler: How bacteria "talk" | Video

Bonnie Bassler discovered that bacteria "talk" to each other, using a chemical language that lets them coordinate defense and mount attacks. The find has stunning implications for medicine, industry -- and our understanding of ourselves.

 

In 2002, bearing her microscope on a microbe that lives in the gut of fish, Bonnie Bassler isolated an elusive molecule called AI-2, and uncovered the mechanism behind mysterious behavior called quorum sensing -- or bacterial communication. She showed that bacterial chatter is hardly exceptional or anomolous behavior, as was once thought -- and in fact, most bacteria do it, and most do it all the time. (She calls the signaling molecules "bacterial Esperanto.")

The discovery shows how cell populations use chemical powwows to stage attacks, evade immune systems and forge slimy defenses called biofilms. For that, she's won a MacArthur "genius" grant -- and is giving new hope to frustrated pharmacos seeking new weapons against drug-resistant superbugs.

Bassler teaches molecular biology at Princeton, where she continues her years-long study of V. harveyi, one such social microbe that is mainly responsible for glow-in-the-dark sushi. She also teaches aerobics at the YMCA.

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The World's Most Mysterious Manuscript

The World's Most Mysterious Manuscript | General linguistics | Scoop.it

Written in Central Europe at the end of the 15th or during the 16th century, the origin, language, and date of the Voynich Manuscript—named after the Polish-American antiquarian bookseller, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912—are still being debated as vigorously as its puzzling drawings and undeciphered text. Described as a magical or scientific text, nearly every page contains botanical, figurative, and scientific drawings of a provincial but lively character, drawn in ink with vibrant washes in various shades of green, brown, yellow, blue, and red.

 

To this day this medieval artifact resists all efforts at translation. It is either an ingenious hoax or an unbreakable cipher. The manuscript is named after its discoverer, the American antique book dealer and collector, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who discovered it in 1912, amongst a collection of ancient manuscripts kept in villa Mondragone in Frascati, near Rome, which had been by then turned into a Jesuit College (closed in 1953).

  

Based on the evidence of the calligraphy, the drawings, the vellum, and the pigments, Wilfrid Voynich estimated that the Manuscript was created in the late 13th century. The manuscript is small, seven by ten inches, but thick, nearly 235 pages. It is written in an unknown script of which there is no known other instance in the world.

It is abundantly illustrated with awkward coloured drawings of::

unidentified plants; what seems to be herbal recipes; tiny naked women frolicking in bathtubs connected by intricate plumbing looking more like anatomical parts than hydraulic contraptions; mysterious charts in which some have seem astronomical objects seen through a telescope, some live cells seen through a microscope; charts into which you may see a strange calendar of zodiacal signs, populated by tiny naked people in rubbish bins.

There is no other example of the language in which the manual is written.
It is an alphabetic script, but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nineteen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any relationship to any English or European letter system. The text has no apparent corrections. There is evidence for two different "languages" (investigated by Currier and D'Imperio) and more than one scribe, probably indicating an ambiguous coding scheme.

 

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voynich_manuscript

http://www.ciphermysteries.com/the-voynich-manuscript/voynich-codicology

http://aenigmaunveiled.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/undeciphered-language-voynich-manuscript/

 

 

 

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China discovers primitive, 5,000-year-old writing that may be among oldest in the world

China discovers primitive, 5,000-year-old writing that may be among oldest in the world | General linguistics | Scoop.it
Archaeologists say they have discovered a new form of primitive writing in markings on stoneware excavated from a relic site in eastern China dating about 5,000 years back. The inscriptions are about 1,400 years older than the oldest known written Chinese language and around the same age as the oldest writing in the world. Chinese scholars are divided on whether the etchings amount to actual writing or a precursor to words that should be described as symbols, but they say the finding will help shed light on the origins of Chinese language and culture. The oldest current known Chinese writing has been found on animal bones — known as oracle bones — dating to 3,600 years ago during the Shang dynasty. The inscriptions have not been reviewed by experts outside of the country, but a group of Chinese scholars on archaeology and ancient writing met last weekend in Zhejiang province to discuss the finding. They agreed that the incisions — found on more than 200 pieces dug out from the Neolithic-era Liangzhu relic site south of Shanghai — are not enough to indicate any developed writing system. But lead archaeologist Xu Xinmin said they include evidence of words on two broken stone-ax pieces. One of the pieces has six word-like shapes strung together to resemble a short sentence. The pieces are among thousands of fragments of ceramic, stone, jade, wood, ivory and bone excavated from the Liangzhu relic site between 2003 and 2006, Xu said. "They are different from the symbols we have seen in the past on artifacts," Xu said of the markings. "The shapes and the fact that they are in a sentence-like pattern indicate they are expressions of some meaning."
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Mark Townsend's curator insight, February 17, 2014 8:38 PM

This article gives the reader details on a new finding of what seems to be a 5,000 writing piece that was found in China. This finding can be one of the oldest, not just in China, but in the whole world. However, they couldn't conclude to this to be a legit writing system.

Joshua Lefkowitz's curator insight, February 21, 2014 7:23 PM

Archaeologists seem to have very difficult jobs. I do not understand how you could find that somewhere and think to keep it. It practically looks like someone just threw other rocks at it. 

 

however this is looking like, at least, this is a promising find and at best a significant find for the worlds of archaeology and anthropology.

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Language May Have Evolved Way Earlier Than We Thought

Language May Have Evolved Way Earlier Than We Thought | General linguistics | Scoop.it

Far from the traditional view of Neanderthals as heavy-grunting prehumans, a new theory suggests that our extinct relatives may have been chattier than we assumed.

Humans and Neanderthals share a common ancestor, likely Homo heidelbergensis, a species we diverged from as many as 400,000 years ago. We survived, while Neanderthals died out, though at a certain point, interbreeding likely contributed to the similarities we've found between our genomes. We probably interacted and swapped certain cultural aspects with our Neanderthal cousins, perhaps language included.

Dan Dediu and Stephen Levinson, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argue in a recent review study that rather than language being the result of a single genetic mutation, it evolved more gradually, starting sometime between the emergence of Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis about a million years ago.

They write:

[T]he genetic story so far suggests that Neandertals and Denisovans [another relative] had the basic genetic underpinnings for recognizably modern language and speech, but it is possible that modern humans may out-strip them in some parameters (perhaps range of speech sounds or rapidity of speech, complexity of syntax, size of vocabularies or the like).

They examine previous scientific literature for the physical and cultural capacities that would have been necessary to produce early speech. Analysis of fossils from Neanderthals and earlier ancestors suggests that both humans and Neanderthals could have had modern hearing capabilities in the range of frequencies that we have now, as well as the ability to moderate breathing for speech, for example. The authors argue that these capabilities indicate that Homo heidelbergensis, the evolutionary link between us, would have been articulate. Current estimates of linguistic development assume that language evolved after we diverged from Homo heidelbergensis, but if our ancestors were already talking, this would shift our understanding of when language first appeared from 50,000 years ago to as early as a million years ago.

The researchers speculate that because it seems Neanderthals lived in small, isolated groups, they would have had language features typical of small traditional societies we see today: "sizable phoneme inventories, complex morphosyntax, high degrees of irregularity, and vocabularies in the tens of thousands."

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Ancient Scripts: Why Languages Change

Ancient Scripts: Why Languages Change | General linguistics | Scoop.it

Why do languages change? Well, there's been many theories about why languages change. This has intrigued people since time immemorial and it seems that almost everybody has an idea. One early example can be found in Bible in the form of the Tower of Babel, where God decided humans got a little too much hubris (oops...wrong mythology) and so made their lives miserable by giving everybody different languages.

As science became a more dominant force in society, scientific explanations to language change were proposed. Here's a few through the years:

Language Decay?

The 18th century view of language is one of decay and decadence. Their reasoning is that the old Indo-European languages like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin all have complex declension and conjugation schemes, where as the modern Indo-European languages have far fewer cases for declension and conjugation. This "loss" of declension and conjugation cases was a result of speakers of the language getting increasingly careless about their speech (read "lazy"), so the modern speakers are "decadent" as they have allowed the once complex language to decay into such a "simple" language.

Obviously, this "decadence" argument has one major flaw. Even though the number of declensions and conjugations has dwindled, other parts of speech such as particles and auxiliary verbs have evolved to take their place. Anything that can be expressed in the ancient tongue can still be expressed today. Ultimately, this theory is highly subjective, as it relies on personal opinions, not scientific facts, of what is "highly evolved" and what is "decadent". Therefore this is not science.

Side note here: Even though linguistics has moved beyond this 18th century theory of language decay, many self-appointed pundits are still using this excuse to stamp out dialectal variations throughout the world by justifying the dialects as "decadent". This is, of course, complete nonsense, as even the most weird sounding dialect has regular grammatical structure and works perfectly to express ideas as well as the standard language.

Natural Law?

The next theory, proposed by the Neogrammarians (Junggrammatiker) in the late 19th century, is one of natural process. The Neogrammarians stated that changes are automatic and mechanical, and therefore cannot be observed or controlled by the speakers of the language. They found that what sounds like a single "sound" to a human ear is actually a collection of very similar sounds. They call these similar sounds "low-level deviation" from an "idealized form". They argue that language change is simply a slow shift of the "idealized form" by small deviations.

The obvious problem here is that without some kind of reinforcement, the deviation might go back and forth and cancel out any change. Then the Neogrammarians patched this theory by adding reasons for reinforcing the deviation such as simplification of sounds, or children imperfectly learning the speech of their parents.

The simplification of sounds basically states that certain sounds are easier to pronounce than others, so the natural tendency of the speakers is to modify the hard-to-say sounds to easier ones. An example of this would be the proto-Romance word /camera/ "room" changing into early French /camra/. It is hard to say /m/ and /r/ one after another, so it was "simplified" by adding /b/ in between, to /cambra/ (hence leading to modern French "chambre"). A more recent example is the English word "nuclear", which many people pronounce as "nucular". The problem with this patch is that since not everything in a language is hard-to-pronounce (unless you're speaking Klingon), the process would only work for a small part of the language, and could not be responsible for a majority of sounds changes. Secondly, it is highly questionable to determine whether "nucular" or "nuclear" is easier to pronounce. You'll get different answers from different people. Simplification no doubt exists, but using it as a reason (not a symptom) of language change is too subjective to be scientific

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What Happens When a Language Dies?

What Happens When a Language Dies? | General linguistics | Scoop.it

India is extraordinary for its linguistic and cultural diversity. According to official estimates, the country is home to at least 400 distinct tongues, but many experts believe the actual number is probably around 700.

But, in a scenario replicated around the globe, many of India's languages are at risk of dying out.

The effects could be culturally devastating. Each language is like a key that can unlock local knowledge about medicinal secrets, ecological wisdom, weather and climate patterns, spiritual attitudes, and artistic and mythological histories.

In rural Indian villages, Hindi or English are in vogue with younger generations, and are often required travelling to larger towns for work.

In big cities, colonization, as well as globalization, has also spurred a switch to English and other popular languages.

A group of linguists working on language revitalization have identified "hotspots" where local tongues are at risk of disappearing. These are places with rich linguistic diversity, but high risk of language extinction due to relatively few remaining speakers and a lack of recordings or texts that would help with language preservation.

In India, the latter is it most pressing, according to David Harrison, a linguistics professor at Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College and a member of the Enduring Voices Project—a joint initiative of the National Geographic Society and the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages in Oregon.

Enduring Voices works with local communities around the world to document and help prevent languages from becoming extinct. Among their tools: sound recordings, digital video, and the internet to connect one speaker with another or a digital dictionary of their language. "India has this incredible wealth of languages but many have not even been described at a basic level", said Harrison.

[keep reading: http://bit.ly/13GYA1g]

 

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Are dying languages worth saving?

Are dying languages worth saving? | General linguistics | Scoop.it

"Language is the dress of thought," Samuel Johnson once said.

About 6,000 different languages are spoken around the world. But the Foundation for Endangered Languages estimates that between 500 and 1,000 of those are spoken by only a handful of people. And every year the world loses around 25 mother tongues. That equates to losing 250 languages over a decade - a sad prospect for some.

This week a conference in Carmarthen, west Wales, organised by the foundation, is being attended by about 100 academics. They are discussing indigenous languages in Ireland, China, Australia and Spain.

"Different languages will have their quirks which tell us something about being human," says Nicholas Ostler, the foundation's chairman.

"And when languages are lost most of the knowledge that went with them gets lost. People do care about identity as they want to be different. Nowadays we want access to everything but we don't want to be thought of as no more than people on the other side of the world."

Apart from English, the United Kingdom has a number of other languages. Mr Ostler estimates that half a million people speak Welsh, a few thousand Scots are fluent in Gaelic, about 400 people speak Cornish, while the number of Manx speakers - the language of the Isle of Man - is perhaps as small as 100. But is there any point in learning the really minor languages?

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Popular Linguistics » Whorf was right: Language influences world view after all

Popular Linguistics » Whorf was right: Language influences world view after all | General linguistics | Scoop.it

New evidence is beginning to emerge that idea of linguistic relativity, which rose to prominence in the 1930s due to the efforts of early linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf, might not have been wrong after all. The Whorfian hypothesis, as it has come to be known, suggests that what language you speak influences how you see and understand the world. Originally dismissed by linguists in the 1970s due to a lack of evidence, and in favor of a more “modern” idea of language equality, the hypothesis is now experiencing resurgence of support.

Researchers Lera Boroditsky and Alice Gaby conducted a study of speakers of languages native to Australia. These speakers were shown to have an understanding of time and space that relied on absolute compass directions (such as “north” or “south”), rather than the relative directions (like “left” or “right”) that English speakers tend to use.

In one task, Boroditsky and Gaby gave subjects a set of cards that depicted a passage of time. (For example, one set of cards showed a man aging, with each card showing him at a different point in his life.) They then asked the subjects to arrange the cards chronologically, so that the man started as a baby and progressed into old age. In another task, subjects were asked to draw dots to represent different abstract concepts of time. For example, the experimenter would draw a dot representing “today” and the subject would be asked to draw dots representing “yesterday” and “tomorrow”. In a third task, subjects were asked to point in the four cardinal directions. [Click on the picture to keep reading]

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Sociolinguistics

Sociolinguistics | General linguistics | Scoop.it
KennisTranslations's insight:

Check out our other topic about sociolinguistics and endangered cultures here: http://www.scoop.it/t/kennistranslations

 

Stories like Tristan Da Cunha, The World’s Loneliest Isle. History, People, Language ; "No Word for Worry": The Moken, The Sea Gypsies;Click Language and the San Bushmen People... and many others.

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Do Dolphins Use Whistles to Call Themselves by Unique Names?

Do Dolphins Use Whistles to Call Themselves by Unique Names? | General linguistics | Scoop.it
Audio experiments show that the marine mammals each have their own whistle, and respond to hearing their distinct whistle by calling right back
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Online indigenous dictionary launched by CIP

Online indigenous dictionary launched by CIP | General linguistics | Scoop.it

An online aboriginal language dictionary was launched Aug. 5 by the ROC Council of Indigenous Peoples as part of central government efforts preserving the cultural heritage of Taiwan’s 14 indigenous peoples.

“Language is a key indicator of the existence of a culture,” a CIP official said. “We expect the platform to serve as an important channel for the promotion, teaching, research and acquisition of different indigenous languages and dialects, further attracting public interest in learning more about Taiwan’s aboriginals.”

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Video -- "Talking Dictionaries" to Document Vanishing Languages -- National Geographic

Linguists from National Geographic's Enduring Voices project unveil a new digital tool called talking dictionaries, which will be used to document and preserve vanishing languages from around the world. The dictionaries contain word entries, audio recordings of native speakers, and photographs of cultural objects from endangered-language communities.
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Epigraphs of ancient Turkic people discovered in Mongolia - AJW by The Asahi Shimbun

Epigraphs of ancient Turkic people discovered in Mongolia - AJW by The Asahi Shimbun | General linguistics | Scoop.it
OSAKA--Two massive slabs of stone inscribed in ancient Turkic script have been found on the steppes of eastern Mongolia, the first such discovery in over a century, a Japanese researcher said July 16.

Via Wednesday Thursday Friday
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What will you have: tea or chai?

What will you have: tea or chai? | General linguistics | Scoop.it

A cup of steaming-hot tea on my desk made me wonder about the names for this drink in different languages: in Russian we call it chaj, but most other languages I know—English, French, Italian, Norwegian, Hebrew—have a word that sounds like tea. Of course, English also has chai, but that word refers to an entirely different concoction, full of milk and spices that conceal the subtle aromas of the actual tea leaves. But then again, Starbucks and other companies sell so-called “chai tea” (see image) or even “chai tea latte”.

And while traveling on the road to Hana on the island of Maui, at a small fruit stand in the middle of tropical rainforest I saw a sign for “Chai banana bread” (see my photo on the left), spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves—with no actual tea involved. So since linguistics is “my cuppa tea”, I decided to follow up on the earlier GeoCurrents post on hot caffeinated beverages by exploring the fascinating world of tea and chai words.

The World Atlas of Linguistic Structures proved extremely helpful in this respect, as it includes a whole chapter, written by Östen Dahl, on the history and geography of ‘tea’ words. Here, I quickly discovered that the words for ‘tea’ in some 230 languages illustrate in a somewhat peculiar way the spread of words together with material culture. The map reminds us that languages need not be geographically contiguous to influence each other; long-distance contacts, such as those maintained by trade relations between European countries and East Asia, can be crucial as well. Also, unlike many other patterns of lexical distribution, the spatial patterning of words for ‘tea’ stems from recent historical processes.

[Read more: http://bit.ly/14YnzLM]

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Another voice in another language

Another voice in another language | General linguistics | Scoop.it

In our times translation has become an absolute necessity — in many places the translated version comes to supplement the original and the text gets replaced. Whether recognised as classical or not each language has enough to claim its own heritage and thus seeks to revel in being translated into another. Raji Narasimhan’s Translation as a Touchstone moves between translated versions in Hindi, Tamil, English and Malayalam. She is a translator herself and thus reveals traces of expertise to theorise from her own experience. Her gut feeling as she states at the beginning is that a translation ought not to read like its original. It is an enterprise in itself and should make itself transparent and explicit as a translated text.

Translation is both an art and a craft. On the one hand, it is a wonderful tool to give the reader a glimpse into another culture and perhaps another way of life. The space of translation is always flexible: it brings the farthest nearer and holds forth the too close in suitable distance to be appreciated and enjoyed.

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How the world communicates in 2013 - Strata

How the world communicates in 2013 - Strata | General linguistics | Scoop.it
By Robert Munro

 

Plain text is the world’s largest source of digital information. As the amount of unstructured text grows, so does the percentage of text that is not in English. The majority of the world’s data is now unstructured text outside of English. So unless you’re an exceptional polyglot, you can’t understand most of what’s out there, even if you want to.

Language technologies underlie many of our daily activities. Search engines, spam filtering, and news personalization (including your social media feeds) all employ smart, adaptive knowledge of how we communicate. We can automate many of these tasks well, but there are places where we fall short. For example, the world’s most spoken language, Mandarin Chinese, is typically written without spaces. “解放大道” can mean “Liberation Avenue” or “Solution Enlarged Road” depending on where you interpret the gaps. It’s a kind of ambiguity that we only need to worry about in English when we’re registering domain names and inventing hashtags (something the folk at “Who Represents” didn’t worry about enough). For Chinese, we still don’t get it right with automated systems: the best systems get an error every 20 words or so. We face similar problems for about a quarter of the world’s data. We can’t even reliably tell you what the words are, let alone extract complex information at scale.

 

The infographic accompanying this article shows the breakdown of what languages people are using for face-to-face communication, relative to phone-based communication and internet-enabled communication. By word count, almost 7% of the world’s communications are now mediated by digital technologies:

Every three months, the world’s text messages exceed the word count of every book ever published.Text is cheap: every utterance since the start of humanity would take up less than 1% of the world’s current digital storage capacity (about 50 exabytes, assuming 110B people have averaged 16,000 words a day for 20 years each).The Twitter ‘firehose’, outside the processing capacity of most organizations, would be about the size of dot above the “i” in “English”.There are more than 6,000 other languages: only the top 1% are shown.Not one language from the Americas or Australia made the cut.Also omitted, email spam would be larger than every block except spoken Mandarin (官話).Short messages (sms and instant messaging) account for nearly 2% of the world’s communications. This makes short message communication the most popular and linguistically diverse form of written communication that has ever existed.If the Facebook ‘like’ was considered a one-word language, it would be in the top 5% most widely spoken languages (although still outside the top 200).Your browser probably won’t show Sundanese script (ᮘᮞ ᮞᮥᮔ᮪ᮓ), even though the world’s Sundanese speakers out-number the populations of New York, London, Tokyo and Moscow, combined.You misread that last point as “Sudanese” which is a variety of Arabic (العربية) and were surprised at the difference: we have a blind-spot when it comes to knowing about the existence of languages.Is a picture worth a 1,000 words? If so, shared pictures would double the size of the “social networks” block.Across all the world’s communications, 5 in every 10,000 words are directed at machines, not people: mainly search engines.

 

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Speaking Bonobo

Speaking Bonobo | General linguistics | Scoop.it
Bonobos have an impressive vocabulary, especially when it comes to snacks

To better understand bonobo intelligence, I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to meet Kanzi, a 26-year-old male bonobo reputedly able to converse with humans. When Kanzi was an infant, American psychologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh tried to teach his mother, Matata, to communicate using a keyboard labeled with geometric symbols. Matata never really got the hang of it, but Kanzi—who usually played in the background, seemingly oblivious, during his mother’s teaching sessions—picked up the language.

Savage-Rumbaugh and her colleagues kept adding symbols to Kanzi’s keyboard and laminated sheets of paper. First Kanzi used 6 symbols, then 18, finally 348. The symbols refer to familiar objects (yogurt, key, tummy, bowl), favored activities (chase, tickle), and even some concepts considered fairly abstract (now, bad).

Kanzi learned to combine these symbols in regular ways, or in what linguists call"proto-grammar."Once, Savage-Rumbaugh says, on an outing in a forest by the Georgia State University laboratory where he was raised, Kanzi touched the symbols for"marshmallow"and"fire."Given matches and marshmallows, Kanzi snapped twigs for a fire, lit them with the matches and toasted the marshmallows on a stick.

Savage-Rumbaugh claims that in addition to the symbols Kanzi uses, he knows the meaning of up to 3,000 spoken English words. She tests his comprehension in part by having someone in another room pronounce words that Kanzi hears through a set of headphones. Kanzi then points to the appropriate symbol on his keyboard. But Savage-Rumbaugh says Kanzi also understands words that aren’t a part of his keyboard vocabulary; she says he can respond appropriately to commands such as"put the soap in the water"or"carry the TV outdoors."

About a year ago, Kanzi and his sister, mother, nephew and four other bonobos moved into a $10 million, 18-room house and laboratory complex at the Great Ape Trust, North America’s largest great ape sanctuary, five miles from downtown Des Moines. The bonobo compound boasts a 13,000-square-foot lab, drinking fountains, outdoor playgrounds, rooms linked by hydraulic doors that the animals operate themselves by pushing buttons, and a kitchen where they can use a microwave oven and get snacks from a vending machine (pressing the symbols for desired foods).


Read more: http://bit.ly/16VYQbv
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Does language make humans distinct from other animals?

Does language make humans distinct from other animals? | General linguistics | Scoop.it

Up for consideration this time is the extent to which language makes the human species distinct from other species of animal. Firstly, a distinction between language and communication is required; language can be defined as ‘a system for the expression of thoughts, feeling, etc., by the use of spoken sounds or conventional symbols,’ whereas communication can be defined as ‘the imparting or exchange of information, ideas or feelings’ [McLeod, 1991]. It is worth noting that animal communication is most frequently referred to as such: communication. Most research has used the terms animal communication and human language, which suggests from the outset of researching this question a previously established difference between species’ modes of communicative interaction. This essay intends to discuss whether our forms of communication are actually all that different from those of other animals. The main difference between the above definitions seems to be regarding the use in language of speech and ‘conventional symbols,’ which surely, albeit perhaps under different guises, is necessary for the exchanges in any communication.

In 1960 Hockett identified thirteen design features of language, which were refined by Aitchison in 1983 to ten. Aitchison specified that four criteria were particular to the human species: displacement, semanticity, structure dependence and creativity. These four criteria, in summary, indicate that humans are capable of talking about things, people and instances, true or false, outside of the here-and-now spatial and temporal environment by using a formalized, abstract set of words, symbols and intonations each of which can have many different meanings when used within different contexts and between different individuals.

Communication in animal species can be very varied, ranging from vocalisms to behavioural gestures and movements. Researchers have cited many different instances of animal communication. Some examples are; bees can communicate distances to pollen to other bees using different types of dance [Von-Frisch, 1950]; vervet monkeys use different calls to warn other monkeys about the locations of predators, peacocks use sound as well as visual communication through the rustling of their feathers, some aquatic species [for example Mormyrid fish] use electricity, moths use pheromones and ants can also use chemical signals to communicate with one another [Davies, 1997]. However, the different systems of communication between animals cannot necessarily be qualified as language in the same sense that human communication can and has still not been successfully proven to have in the same variable depths as human language.

[Read more http://bit.ly/11T1aM8]

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Vanishing US Prairie Dogs May Speak the Most Complex Animal Language

Vanishing US Prairie Dogs May Speak the Most Complex Animal Language | General linguistics | Scoop.it
In our charming-but-fascinating animal news of the day, scientists believe that they've found an animal with even more sophisticated speech than dolphins: the US burrowing prairie dog. Yes, after recording the species' calls, they've determined that the animals have different "words" that correspond to different predators. An approaching coyote ushers forth one call, while a badger inspires another. And, of course, the prairie dogs--now thought to be the speakers of the most complex language in the animal kingdom--are declining rapidly in numbers.I say of course because it seems that every time a discovery further proing how wondrous the natural world is made these days, it's paired with news that we're doing something or other to destroy it. Guess that's nothing new. These burrowing prairie dogs, found in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, are currently considered pests by ranchers, who've been exterminating them whenever possible for decades. They used to number in the billions (!) but their numbers have "plummeted" in recent years. The species is in a rapid decline.
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