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Metaglossia: The Translation World
News about translation, interpreting, intercultural communication, terminology and lexicography - as it happens
Curated by Charles Tiayon
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How to Treat Postpositive Adjectives

Nearly a thousand years ago, the Norman Conquest had a profound effect not only on the English nation but also on the English language. One of the manifestations of this event is the survival of the postpositive adjective.

In many languages, including French, a modifying word follows the word it modifies, such as in the phrase ressource naturelle(“natural resources”). Because of Norman French’s influence on law, politics, and other matters sovereign, we still sometimes use this form in the mongrel melange that is the English language.

Thus “attorney general” (as well as “secretary general” and “postmaster general”), which refers not to a military rank but to the office holder’s generic scope of responsibility. Thus court-martial, which literally pertains to a court of a martial, or warlike, nature but practically applies to a military court in wartime or peacetime. Thus “heir apparent” and knight-errant, artifacts of feudal system. (Note that compound form is inconsistent: Open compounds prevail, but some hyphenated forms persist. When in doubt, look the term up. If certain, look the term up anyway.)

This form reaches even into the quotidian vocabulary of business, with “accounts payable” and “accounts receivable,” as well as “notary public,” and in terms that apply to government but have entered general use, such as “body politic.” There’s even a pair of ordinary words that sometimes take postpositive adjectives in some contexts; I used one earlier in this post, in the phrase “matters sovereign.” Another is things, as in “things unsaid.”

And how are such terms pluralized? Generally — as shown in the first two examples in the paragraph above — the noun, not the adjective, logically takes the plural form: for example, “attorneys general” (but attorney-generals in British English), courts-martial, and “notaries public.”

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Punctuation Matters

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Sharena Hamilton's curator insight, February 13, 2014 12:28 PM

Grammar do make a difference. With out grammar the whole message of the letter can be ruined and read wrong.  So now I know grammar is meaningful.

LINGUIST List 23.5364: Calls: Computational Linguistics, Lexicography, Morphology, Psycholinguistics/ Verbum (Jrnl)

Full Title: Verbum 


Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics; Lexicography; Morphology; Psycholinguistics

Call Deadline: 30-Jan-2013 

Neoclassical Compounding

Special issue of the Verbum journal

Guest Editors: Stéphanie Lignon and Fiammetta Namer

Among all the available morphological processes for lexical creation in languages, the neoclassical compounding involves specific models. Compounding is a constructional process during which at least two base lexemes are combined in order to construct a new lexeme (tea bag). Two types of compounding may be distinguished: standard compounding (also called popular) on the one hand which involves the modern vocabulary (porte-bagage), and neoclassical compounding on the other hand which involves lexemes borrowed from ancient languages, often Greek and Latin (anthropophage).

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En Suède, le troisième sexe a son pronom

En Suède, le troisième sexe a son pronom
Créé le 08-10-2012 à 11h25 - Mis à jour à 11h25
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Nouvel Observateur
STOCKHOLM (AFP) - En Suède, la question de la parité dépasse la simple égalité des salaires, de la représentation et même des rôles assignés aux sexes: elle est entrée dans la langue, où un pronom, le neutre "hen", tente de s'imposer entre "il" et "elle".

"Il n'y a presque rien de plus à faire sur le terrain de la parité alors on lance des idées de plus en plus bizarres", affirme à l'AFP, mi-amusée, mi-irritée, la journaliste indépendante Elise Claesson.

Dans le royaume scandinave, où les femmes ont obtenu le droit de vote dès 1921, deux des 16 mois du congé parental sont réservés à l'autre "parent" afin que l'homme aussi puisse s'impliquer dans l'éducation des nouveaux-nés.

L'utilisation du "hen" est devenue plus fréquente en 2012, après la sortie d'un livre pour enfants, "Kivi och Monsterhund" ("Kivi et le chien monstrueux"), qui a supprimé "han" (il) et "hon" (elle) afin, selon son auteur Jesper Lundqvist, de s'adresser aux enfants et non pas aux petits garçons et aux petites filles.

Le "hen" a été inventé par des linguistes dans les années 60, en pleine vague féministe, alors que la référence à un "il" hypothétique devenait politiquement incorrecte. Il s'agissait de "simplifier la langue" et d'éviter d'écrire "il/elle", indique à l'AFP la linguiste Karin Milles.

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Del excesivo trato de "usted" entre los bogotanos - Guía literaria

Hasta los amigos más cercanos se tratan de usted. Nadie ha sabido la razón. Ni el gran lingüista Rufino José Cuervo quien en ninguna de sus cartas trata a nadie de "tú", ni a sus amigos de la infancia como Miguel Antonio Caro o Rafael Pombo. Fernando Vallejo es el primer sorprendido de que que la mayoría de bogotanos (pero también la mayoría de boyacenses, santandereanos, nortesantandereanos, llaneros) solo hablen de usted y se dirijan así al papá, a la mamá, a los hermanos, a los hijos. "Quítese de ahí, niño, que va a quebrar el jarrón". ¿Por qué en otras regiones del país es distinto? "En Antioquia le habrían dicho de vos: Quitate de ái, mocoso. Y en la costa de tú: Quítate de ái, pelao. "Los idiomas son caprichosos -sentencia Vallejo-: varían según la altura de las montañas y con el transcurrir de los años". De suerte que es inútil la empresa de las academias de la lengua al fijar normas al idioma. "¡Cuál norma puede haber en un idioma que tiene mil años y está repartido en veinte países díscolos, cada uno con la suya!" En últimas, "el idioma no es lógico ni ilógico, racional o irracional: es eficaz".

De estas y otras cosas divaga Fernando Vallejo en su nuevo libro sobre el lingüista colombiano Rufino José Cuervo, cuya obra podrá ser muy delirante y todo lo que se quiera pero cuya vida fue sumamente aburrida. No sé por qué a Vallejo le dio por escribir la biografía de un ocioso que se pasó la vida en inutilidades. La biografía de Rufino José Cuervo, "EL CUERVO BLANCO", es una ociosidad al cuadrado. Nada tiene de la vida trepidante de Porfirio Barba Jacob o de José A. Silva, a quienes Vallejo les dedicó 14 años de investigación en "El mensajero" y "Chapolas negras", respectivamente.
Su biografía de Cuervo se me antoja una excusa para hablar de los misterios del lenguaje, para tomarle el pelo a las pretensiones de los lingüistas, despotricar de la tradición retrógrada de Colombia y "mamar gallo", como solo él lo sabe hacer.
De Rufino José Cuervo mucho se habla pero poco se lee, tal vez porque los títulos de sus libros no son los más exactos ni los más llamativos y parecen dirigirse al especialista y a lo mejor porque, más de 100 años después, carecen de actualidad. Básicamente el aporte de este Cuervo colombiano fue dotar de rigor científico al estudio de esta lengua. Su interés no fue la literatura, pues nunca escribió un poema ni un cuento ni se dejó llevar por el gusto de ninguna escuela literaria. Su interés fue el estudio científico del lenguaje como fenómeno en sí, como herramienta de la vida y del pensamiento. Suplantó sus energías poéticas por las filológicas; extinguiendo el valor de la poesía, hizo nacer en él la conciencia lingüística. Y la aplicó a la vida cotidiana. De escuchar atentamente el habla popular de la capital colombiana, el acento y el vocabulario de cultos e incultos, Cuervo fraguó sus amenas "Apuntaciones críticas sobre el lenguaje bogotano (1867-1872)", que no eran apuntaciones ni se limitaban a Bogotá sino que abarcaban varias áreas de Hispanoamérica. Alfonso Reyes dijo que este libro volvió a zambullir la gramática en la vida diaria.
Su obra cumbre fue el "Diccionario de construcción y régimen de la lengua castellana", cuyo título también es inexacto. Para Fernando Vallejo no se trata de un diccionario sino de una gramática genial, "como no ha habido otra, con ocho mil doscientas cincuenta y siete páginas en sus ocho tomos en vez de unos cuantos centenares en uno o dos, y divididas en tres mil monografías de palabras ordenadas alfabéticamente en vez de las dos partes tradicionales de la Morfología y la Sintaxis divididas en capítulos (el del artícul

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La Revanche des nuls en orthographe

Les spécialistes du dictionnaire Robert et de la grammaire ont validé sa méthode. Elle est déclinée dans plusieurs ouvrages. Certains se sont vendus à des centaines de milliers d'exemplaires.
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Linguistique et langues africaines: Initiation à la grammaire tem. Chapitre 3 : Le nom. Leçon 9 : Le pronom dans tous ses états

Initiation à la grammaire tem. Chapitre 3 : Le nom. Leçon 9 : Le pronom dans tous ses états
Dans le discours, l’unité grammaticale spécialisée dans la reprise du nom est le pronom. Il n’y en a qu’un par langue. Mais tel un caméléon, il se couvre de robes différentes pour s’adapter à certains contextes, sémantiques ou syntaxiques. En tem, les contextes qui contraignent le pronom à changer de robe sont le genre, le pluriel et l’autonomie morphosyntaxique.
1. Le contexte du genre
Dans une langue sans genres, le pronom a la même forme pour tous les noms du lexique. Dans une langue à genres, il doit refléter le genre du nom repris. Pour cela il prend une forme spécifique propre à ce genre. Généralement, le pronom, tel ce mollusque des plages qui squatte le coquillage vide à sa portée, prend la forme du marqueur de genre. On sait que le tem a quatre genres : le genre humain dont le marqueur est ʋ, le genre dérivé dont le marqueur est ɖ, le genre menu dont le marqueur est ka et le genre neutre dont le marqueur est k. Les formes de ces marqueurs sont autant de refuges pour le pronom. Ainsi, il prend la forme ʋ pour le genre humain, la forme ɖ pour le genre dérivé, la forme ka pour le genre menu et la forme k pour le genre neutre. Dans le tableau qui suit G1, G2, G3 et G4 représentent respectivement le genre humain, le genre dérivé, le genre menu et le genre neutre.

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Nos représentations, les rapports femmes-hommes et les langues évoluent : stop aux règles sexistes !

Julien Cart : Les féministes et linguistes dénoncent depuis longtemps le machisme de la langue. La langue est un miroir des rapports sociaux de sexe de l'époque en question, un miroir des représentations mentales des sociétés à un moment donné.
En effet, la langue est en constante évolution, comme d'ailleurs nos représentations sociales et les rapports sociaux de sexe. Il est donc normal lorsqu'on se bat pour plus d'égalité, et que l'on obtient des avancées, que celles-ci se matérialisent dans le langage. Ce fut d'ailleurs le cas dans les siècles passés, comme on va le voir.

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Linguistique et langues africaines: Initiation à la grammaire tem Chapitre 3 : Le nom Leçon 7 : Les propriétés du marqueur de pluriel

Les marqueurs de genre sont des unités discrètes. Ils permettent de distinguer des genres tout aussi discrets. Le marqueur de pluriel, quant à lui, est une unité discrète mais unique. Au moment de se substituer à un marqueur de genre, il prend un aspect particulier de façon à permettre de reconnaître le genre du substantif dont il chasse l’indicateur de genre. Soit x tout marqueur de genre et y le marqueur de pluriel. Les quatre marqueurs de genre du tem peuvent donc être représentés ainsi : ‹x1›, ‹x2›, ‹x3› et ‹x4›. Unique, le marqueur de pluriel n’offrent que des formes qui varient d’un genre à l’autre, soit [y de x1], [y de x2], [y de x3] et [y de x4]. Présenter les propriétés du marqueur de pluriel revient donc à présenter les propriétés des formes de ce marqueur.
Outre les quatre formes, substituts des quatre marqueurs de genre, il y une forme spécifique aux noms dépourvus de marqueur de genre et une autre, elle aussi spécifique, pour les noms désignant des êtres denses. Voici donc les six formes.

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Euro guide to the use of hyphens - Views - livemint.com

People who are learning English generally consider the dictionary their most important learning aid. Many dictionaries are presented as learner’s dictionaries. Then there are text books of English grammar, which deal with parts of speech, parsing and analysis.

The European Union (EU) has brought out its own English style guide for authors and translators. The writing is clear, concise and direct. Here is a sample entry: “Words in -ise/-ize. Use -ise. Both spellings are correct in British English, but the -ise form is now much more common in the media.”

The opening chapter deals with spellings and its last section with the use of the hyphen. Hyphens do not seem to enjoy much popularity today. Churchill said the hyphen is a blemish to be avoided wherever possible. Woodrow Wilson said it is the most un-American thing in the world. A major Oxford dictionary is reported to have removed the hyphen from 16000 words resulting in forms such as fig leaf, test tube, crybaby, logjam and pigeonhole.

The opening chapter of the style guide deals with spellings and its last section with the use of the hyphen. Photo: AFP

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Fundéu BBVA: El plural de “plus” es “pluses”

La Fundación del Español Urgente (Fundéu BBVA), en una nota difundida ayer, señala que el plural del término "plus" es pluses, tal y como se indica en el "Diccionario panhispánico de dudas".

Sin embargo, suele usarse como si su plural fuera invariable: "A ese dinero mencionado anteriormente hay que sumarle los plus por asistir a comisiones", "La medida afecta también a los plus por horario nocturno".

La Fundéu BBVA, que trabaja con el asesoramiento de la Real Academia Española, señala que los sustantivos monosílabos o polisílabos agudos que terminan en "s" o "x" forman el plural añadiendo "-es".

De este modo, en los ejemplos citados lo adecuado habría sido escribir: "A ese dinero mencionado anteriormente hay que sumarle los pluses por asistir a comisiones", "La medida afecta también a los pluses por horario nocturno".

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Study: Students’ Grammar Skills Suffering, Texting Is 2 Blame |

Technapex readers, I have a confession to make: like many English teachers before me, I am a grammar Nazi. Mix up “your” and “you’re” in a text message to me and I’ll likely correct you or silently judge you. Use “who” when you should have used “whom,” write “affect” when you meant “effect,” or say “off of” in any context and I’ll bemoan the misuse of the English language in modern society and rue the day I became an English major.

While I was still teaching, I mainly feared for my students. What with all their texting and tweeting, I worried about their spelling and grammar skills and made it my personal mission to expose them to proper grammar. My poor students found me to be a nightmare and dreaded getting their papers back, knowing all too well their essays would be filled with red marks and notations such as “It was she!!!!!!!!” when the offending student made the grave error of writing “It was her.”

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Linguistique et langues africaines: Initiation à la grammaire tem Chapitre 3 : Le nom Leçon 6 : Les propriétés du marqueur de genre

Initiation à la grammaire tem Chapitre 3 : Le nom Leçon 6 : Les propriétés du marqueur de genre
Le nom commun tem est composé au minimum d’un radical et d’un affixe. L’affixe représente deux sortes de marqueur : un marqueur de genre et un marqueur de pluriel. Le marqueur de genre présente quatre propriétés : son schème phonématique, son schème accentuel, sa position par rapport au radical et sa sensibilité par rapport au contexte d’insertion.
1. LE SCHÈME PHONÉMATIQUE

Les quatre marqueurs de genre s’expriment à travers trois schèmes phonématiques : le schème V, le schème CV et le schème C. Les schèmes V et CV sont représentés, chacun, par un marqueur de genre. Le schème C, quant à lui, est représenté par deux marqueurs de genre.

En structure de base, comme le montrent les schèmes de marqueurs, on peut trouver des structures à syllabe finale ouverte (finissant par V) ou à syllabe finale fermée (VC). En structure de surface la langue reformate la structure de base afin de la transformer en structure à syllabes ouvertes exclusivement. Un radical de schème CV par exemple peut accueillir un marqueur de schème C. La structure /CVC/ qui en découle est acceptable comme structure de base. Mais en réalisation de surface, /CVC/ doit devenir [CVCV]. Au stade de la réalisation le schème C du marqueur se voit attribuer une voyelle épenthétique. Les deux marqueurs de schème C sont /ɖ/ et /k/. Au marqueur /ɖ/ il est affecté la voyelle de soutien [ɛ] et au marqueur /k/, la voyelle de soutien [ʋ]. En surface donc, les marqueurs /ɖ/ et /k/ deviennent [ɖɛ] et [kʋ], respectivement. Les voyelles [ɛ] et [ʋ] sont des soutiens apportées à la forme suffixée. En position de préfixe la voyelle de soutien est unique pour les deux marqueurs ; elle est [ɩ]. Donc en préfixe et en surface /ɖ/ et /k/ deviennent [ɖɩ] et [kɩ], respectivement.

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Grammar and the Common Core | Pennington Publishing Blog

Does language research invalidate grammar instruction? Why can't students transfer what they have learned to their speaking and writing?

I hear the same two comments at English-language arts conferences all the time: 1. “I’ve heard that research has proven grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary instruction doesn’t work.” 2. “I teach grammar and they seem to get it. They pass my tests and do okay on the standardized tests, but they don’t transfer the learning to their writing or speaking. And they just don’t retain what we’ve covered. Their next-year teacher always asks why I don’t teach grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling.”

So, should we bother teaching grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling? Some would say “No.” This is what Dr. Stephen Krashen recommends, at least until high school. Dr. Krashen finds that students learn grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary most efficiently through free voluntary reading, not explicit instruction or even writing, as my old National Writing Project colleagues would advocate. Now, to be fair, Dr. Krashen does see the value of teaching some usage issues and grammatical terminology. And he advocates teaching students how to use language resources, such as language handbooks, to correct errors and improve writing style. But he, and others of his ilk, certainly support the overall position described in the first comment listed above. My view is that the collective jury is still out on this research question.

Irrespective of the research into the effectiveness of explicit grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling instruction, the writers of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) certainly affirm the need for instruction in these skill and content areas. In fact, grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary now have their own CCSS Language Strand in the English Language Arts Standards. Apparently, language instruction is back in style.

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Data are? Revisited

WHETHER "data" is singular or plural is one of those hardy perennials of usage debate in which both sides have impossibly entrenched positions. Or so I had thought, but the Wall Street Journal has, as of today, taken an unusually fence-sitting position:

Most style guides and dictionaries have come to accept the use of the noun data with either singular or plural verbs, and we hereby join the majority.As usage has evolved from the word’s origin as the Latin plural of datum, singular verbs now are often used to refer to collections of information: Little data is available to support the conclusions.Otherwise, generally continue to use the plural: Data are still being collected.(As a singular/plural test, try to substitute statistics for data: It doesn’t work in the first case — little statistics is available — so the singular is fails to pass muster. The substitution does work in the second case — statistics are still being collected – so the plural are passes muster.)
I admire the attempt to satisfy both tradition and change, but it does leave some leeway that I can imagine many writers having a hard time handling. People crave hard and fast rules: they don't have time to make judgments all the time, like the suggested route of substituting "statistics". (This is the first time I've heard of this remedy, for what it's worth.)

But hard-and-fast doesn't always work, as I noted in my last submission on "data". We don't use the foreign morphology of every word brought from a foreign language. But we do sometimes. Since that last post, I have found this excellent one supplying some new counterarguments against always-plural "data". Among them: we certainly don't use "agenda" and "stamina" in the plural, though they have come to us the same way "data" has. (If your boss ever does say "moving on to the next agendum", let us know.) The "media" question remains mixed: some have it singular, others have it plural.

We have a strong urge to just have language behave, but regular readers of this column know that, as the original Johnson knew, it just won't. He famously said that "to enchain syllables, and to lash the wind, are equally the undertakings of pride". Less well known, but perhaps more to the point, he pointed to the unruliness of language as the sign of a healthy culture constantly enriching itself:

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‘Conlleva’ se construye sin la ‘a’ - Artes y Letras - ElNuevoHerald.com

La Fundación del Español Urgente (Fundéu BBVA) señala que el verbo “conllevar” se construye sin la preposición “a”.
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Expressing ontological categories in Brazilian languages and elsewhere | Diversity Linguistics Comment

The paper by Hengeveld et al. (2012) in Functions of Language on “Semantic categories in the indigenous languages of Brazil” was probably written by Kees Hengeveld (with his characteristically clear style), but there are many “al.”: eleven additional coauthors! So it beats Bickel et al. (2007), which with its nine coauthors seems to be the record for papers in Language so far. In the natural sciences, of course, papers with many authors are now commonplace (sometimes even with hundreds of authors), so linguistics seems to be catching up with a wider trend. With so many authors, one may wonder what the contributions of the individual authors were, and the present paper doesn’t say, but from various indications it is obvious that Hengeveld was responsible the theoretical background, while the eleven coauthors (mostly from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) provided the data on the sample of 24 Brazilian languages from 23 different families.

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Grammars: where Linguistics meets Computer Science

Noam Chomsky is a celebrity in many fields. Some translators get surprised when I mention that he is also well known in Computer Science.
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Underfunded Schools Forced To Cut Past Tense From Language Programs

WASHINGTON—Teaching students how to conjugate verbs so that they can describe events that have already occurred is a luxury many schools cannot afford.
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Sweden Adopts a Gender-Neutral Pronoun

Swedes are shaking up their language with a new gender-neutral pronoun. The pronoun, “hen”, allows speakers to refer to a person without including reference to gender.

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Craige: Language is about more than grammar

Cosmo just said to me: “Come here! I wanna kiss feathers.”

Cosmo is my 10-year-old African grey parrot. She is referring to her own feathers, not mine.

For a good while after she learned that she had feathers, doggies had fur, and Betty Jean had clothes, Cosmo would ask, “Betty Jean wanna kiss feathers?”

I always did. I’d kiss her gently on the head and on the back.

But then Cosmo started saying: “I wanna kiss feathers.” Since Cosmo certainly knew what “I” meant, I was puzzled until I put myself in her mind. From her perspective, “kiss-feathers” is like “go-to-kitchen,” “go-to-bed,” “cuddle,” “peanut” and “water-for-cage.” They are all things she wants.

In her birdy grammar, “kiss-feathers” is a noun. So is “kiss-a-beak.” And “doggy-bark.”

I remind myself that Cosmo is not literate. She belongs to an oral culture, in which, like a young child, she learned to talk by listening to me. She learned the meanings of the words I uttered by the context in which I used them, and she differentiated those words from each other by their context as well.

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‘Language: The Cultural Tool,’ by Daniel L. Everett

Language isn’t innate, Daniel L. Everett argues. It’s a tool that can be reinvented, or lost.

....

How humans learn language is much more easily accounted for by psychologists than the Chomskyans claim. Surely our brains and bodies have evolved to optimize our language abilities. However, no one supposes that our skill on bikes indicates a “bicycling organ.” Rather, language piggy­backs on vocal apparatuses and regions of the brain that evolved for other purposes in our animal forebears. Everett makes a case for language having arisen as a combination of three elements: “Cognition + Culture + Communication.”

“Language: The Cultural Tool,” full of intellectually omnivorous insights and reminiscences about Everett’s years with the Pirahã (which he memorably described in “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes”), is that rare thing: a warm linguistics book. The quiet smile perfusing his writing is all the more admirable given the criticisms he has endured from linguists wedded to the He-jumping school of thought. This nonconfrontational quality has its disadvantages, though. Everett covers Chomskyan syntax largely in passing, referring to it as “highly technical” and choosing not to dwell on its machinery, even to the extent I have here. This saps his argument of a certain force. To the uninitiated, “technical” alone may sound innocuous and even attractive, not like something to argue against for 300 pages.

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Lexical Priming » priming hypotheses

Every word is primed for use in discourse as a result of the cumulative effectives of an individual’s encounters with the word. Primings can nest, in that the resulting word sequences from initial primings are themselves the object of further priming.

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English – Just an Operating System?

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has changed, not least my teaching. Over recent months, I’ve found I’ve been focusing more heavily on cultural and pragmatic aspects of language...
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Who Speaks for the Words? - Lingua Franca - The Chronicle of Higher Education

I blog weekly about the nuts, bolts, and idiosyncrasies of language. We’ve been up and running for almost five months, and our readers are starting to take stock. Some of you love what we write; some of you hate some of it; some express sorrow or confusion. You can’t please all the people all the time, but I wonder if what we have here is not just the old argument between prescriptivists and descriptivists, but a deeper unease as to who ought to discuss the language we all, in one way or another, use.

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