Here’s How Words Get Removed from the Dictionary

The dictionary isn’t forever. Here’s the lowdown on what happens to a word when its popularity starts to wane. You can’t call someone a frutescent snollygoster anymore—at least not officially. Those words have been deleted from the dictionary, so you’ll have to come up with alternate terms to describe a shrubby, unscrupulous politician. And those [...]

By |2019-10-17T17:13:28+00:00October 17th, 2019|Dictionaries and Lexicography, Language, Words|0 Comments

Here’s How Words Get Added to the Dictionary

Just look it up—or look here to check out the dish on dictionaries that logophiles will love! (Logophile means word lover!) What’s the deal with new words? Where do they come from and how do they go from obscure to official? First, new words have to circulate in culture to make it into the dictionary. [...]

By |2019-10-13T16:57:14+00:00October 13th, 2019|Dictionaries and Lexicography, Language|0 Comments

Why larger communities create more systematic languages

The differences between the 6,800 or so languages that currently exist in the world are remarkable. From Cantonese, in which a speaker must perfect six different tones each of which change the meaning of a single word, to Georgian, in which verb endings vary not just according to the tense or plurality (as in English), [...]

By |2019-10-08T12:14:06+00:00October 8th, 2019|Language|0 Comments

Gesture as language: why we point with a finger

Pointing at an object… in one sense you might say that this simple gesture doesn't just replace a word, but that it is a word—perhaps the first word. We know that it and other such gestures play a fundamental role in human language, but until now, we have not known where these gestures come from. [...]

By |2019-10-07T17:37:20+00:00October 7th, 2019|Gesture, Language|0 Comments

Why Red Means Red in Almost Every Language

When Paul Kay, then an anthropology graduate student at Harvard University, arrived in Tahiti in 1959 to study island life, he expected to have a hard time learning the local words for colors. His field had long espoused a theory called linguistic relativity, which held that language shapes perception. Color was the “parade example,” Kay [...]

By |2019-10-06T23:59:27+00:00October 6th, 2019|Colors, Language|0 Comments

Why the language-ready brain is so complex

The capacity for language is distinctly human. It allows us to communicate, learn things, create culture, and think better. Because of its complexity, scientists have long struggled to understand the neurobiology of language. In the classical view, there are two major language areas in the left half of our brain. Broca's area (in the frontal [...]

By |2019-10-04T12:19:47+00:00October 4th, 2019|Brain, Language, Neurobiology|0 Comments

Mumbai’s many tongues and linguistic swagger

It is possible to speak any language peppered with some broken English or Hindi-like words to get one’s way around in Mumbai. It is possible to live, work and play here without knowing Marathi, the language spoken by the largest number of Mumbaiites. Some would call it the mother language of the city. It is [...]

By |2019-09-21T19:13:50+00:00September 21st, 2019|Language, Mumbai|0 Comments

Why We Love to Learn Klingon: The Art of Constructed Languages

In 1996, linguist D’Armond Speers became notorious for attempting to raise his baby son Alec as the world’s first native speaker of Klingon, an invented language from the Star Trek universe. Speers eventually abandoned the experiment when his son showed a marked reluctance, at the tender age of five, to use the language, but that [...]

By |2019-09-14T11:20:49+00:00September 14th, 2019|Conlang, Constructed languages, Klingon language, Language|0 Comments

Want to build a language from scratch? Start with the question who will speak it, and why

It’s well known that JRR Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings cycle to create people to speak the languages he had invented. But, in the television age, artificially created or invented languages – we call them conlangs – have been gaining increasing attention with the popularity of television series such as Star Trek and [...]

By |2019-09-13T20:08:20+00:00September 13th, 2019|Conlang, Constructed languages, Language|0 Comments

Machines Might Not Mind Your Accent Anymore

For speech recognition systems, a change in the accent can be confusing. Words under the influence of local languages sound different and a typical homepod device can mistake an Asian speaking English or even something as native as a thick Irish accent. Deep Learning algorithms are the work horses behind these devices. The training data [...]

By |2019-09-12T13:35:27+00:00September 12th, 2019|Accent, Language, Machine learning|0 Comments