background preloader

Linguistic Evolution

Facebook Twitter

The Idiolect of Donald Trump. I was recently invited to give a lecture on my research in Washington, DC.

The Idiolect of Donald Trump

As a sociolinguist, I study the science of language in its social context. I began my lecture by describing the different ways that linguists subcategorize languages. Where does swearing get its power – and how should we use it? In 2012, The Sun newspaper reported that the British MP Andrew Mitchell, then a prominent member of the UK government, had called a group of police officers ‘fucking plebs’.

Where does swearing get its power – and how should we use it?

According to that story, the police thought about arresting him, but decided against it. In the wake of ‘plebgate’ (as this incident has become known), several journalists pointed to a double standard: Mitchell managed to escape arrest, but among the rest of us, arrests for swearing at the police are far from unheard of. These arrests have happened under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. The evidence is in: there is no language instinct — ... Imagine you’re a traveller in a strange land.

The evidence is in: there is no language instinct — ...

A local approaches you and starts jabbering away in an unfamiliar language. Why is English so weirdly different from other langu... English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Everyone Speaks Text Message. Illustration by The Heads of State Illustration by The Heads of State.

Everyone Speaks Text Message

Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents? In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same.

Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents?

At that time, American and British accents hadn't yet diverged. What's surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen's English. It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly. Siletz Language, With Few Voices, Finds Modern Way to Survive. The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese. 21 March 2012Last updated at 20:22 ET By Michael Bristow BBC News, Beijing Mr Zhou has remained optimistic about life despite going through tough times Students struggling to learn Chinese might not know it, but their task has been made easier because of the work of one man.

The man who helped 'simplify' Chinese

Zhou Youguang helped invent Pinyin, a writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using letters from the Roman alphabet. This makes it easier to learn how to pronounce Chinese words, and is credited with helping raise literacy rates in China. Despite his achievements, Mr Zhou remains largely unknown in his home country. Evolution of Language Takes Unexpected Turn. It’s widely thought that human language evolved in universally similar ways, following trajectories common across place and culture, and possibly reflecting common linguistic structures in our brains.

Evolution of Language Takes Unexpected Turn

But a massive, millennium-spanning analysis of humanity’s major language families suggests otherwise. Instead, language seems to have evolved along varied, complicated paths, guided less by neurological settings than cultural circumstance. If our minds do shape the evolution of language, it’s likely at levels deeper and more nuanced than many researchers anticipated. “It’s terribly important to understand human cognition, and how the human mind is put together,” said Michael Dunn, an evolutionary linguist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute and co-author of the new study, published April 14 in Nature. Untitled. Language Evolution. Simulated Linguistic Evolution In The Laboratory.

About a week ago, I read and posted on a summary piece on cultural evolution research in PLoS Biology.

Simulated Linguistic Evolution In The Laboratory

The reviewer introduced me to Simon Kirby‘s work, which I found remarkable. Kirby and colleagues setup an experiment, one that observed the evolution of an artificial language from a set of random terms to an ordered, naturally adapting system in ways that assured its reproduction. I didn’t know when Kirby was to publish his work, but lo and behold in this week’s issue of PNAS, I saw “Cumulative cultural evolution in the laboratory: An experimental approach to the origins of structure in human language,” by Simon Kirby, Hannah Cornish, and Kenny Smith. The experiment involved showing subjects illustrations that were associated with nonsense words. The subjects were asked to play a game of Memory, by trying to recall the terms with the illustrations. Transmission Error & Measure of Structure versus the Number of Generations Clearly there’s some pattern forming. Every language evolved from 'single prehistoric mother tongue first spoken in Africa'

By David Derbyshire Updated: 00:25 GMT, 17 April 2011 500 languages traced back to Stone Age dialectThe further away from Africa a language is spoken, the fewer distinct sounds it hasEnglish has around 46 sounds, while the San bushmen of South Africa use a staggering 200Study finds speech evolved 'at least 100,000 years ago' Every language in the world - from English to Mandarin - evolved from a prehistoric 'mother tongue' first spoken in Africa tens of thousands of years ago, a new study reveals.

Every language evolved from 'single prehistoric mother tongue first spoken in Africa'

After analysing more than 500 languages, Dr Quentin Atkinson found compelling evidence that they can be traced back to a long-forgotten dialect spoken by our Stone Age ancestors. The findings don't just pinpoint the origin of language to Africa - they also show that speech evolved at least 100,000 years ago, far earlier than previously thought. Fame for 23 Words is 15,000 Years Overdue - Issue 5: Fame. Remember when everything was “2.0?”

Fame for 23 Words is 15,000 Years Overdue - Issue 5: Fame

Michelle Obama was Jackie Kennedy Onassis 2.0? Facebook was considered an example of Web 2.0? We all got what it meant and it hung in the air, or in “cyberspace,”—another faddish word—for half a decade until it was displaced from daily word usage by “3.0” and the “net.” Feast Your Eyes on This Beautiful Linguistic Family Tree. 552K 18.4KShare337 When linguists talk about the historical relationship between languages, they use a tree metaphor. An ancient source (say, Indo-European) has various branches (e.g., Romance, Germanic), which themselves have branches (West Germanic, North Germanic), which feed into specific languages (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian). Prehistoric language boundaries discovered « EvoAnth. It’s Europe, 30,000 years ago. In a cave in France, a tribe of Homo sapiens have gathered around a fire for the evening. By the harsh yellow glow they repair and rework their tools, ready for another hard day’s hunting.

One sets down his stone point, unfinished, and begins to drill holes in shells, threading them onto a string to make a necklace. His friend, worried that the tool is unfinished turns to him and says…. Indo-European Languages Originated in Anatolia, Biologists Say. The family includes English and most other European languages, as well as Persian, Hindi and many others. Despite the importance of the languages, specialists have long disagreed about their origin. Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea about 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, about 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.

The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and colleagues have taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and computationally walked them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin. Dr. Dr. » Language may be much older than previously thought. A recent study brings together archaeological, biological and linguistic research to posit that spoken language may be much older than previously thought.

How to raise a language from the dead. Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales in Middle English, not Old English. Iif it had been written in Old English, it would be almost unreadable to the average student: Did Stone Age cavemen talk to each other in symbols? HISTORY OF LANGUAGE. Discover Sanskrit. The 13 Most Mysterious Unsolved Writing Systems. The history of writing is a long and interesting one. Without living users and comparison examples, an archaeologist that unearths a new script is probably going to spend the rest of their life scratching their head and trying to translate it. Without the equivalent of a Rosetta stone, it's almost impossible to reconstruct a dead writing system. These 13 examples have defied the best efforts of cryptographers, scientists and translators to pick them apart. 13.

Magazine: Language. Omniglot - the guide to languages, alphabets and other writing systems. Linguistic evolution - EvoWiki.