The Little-known Language Spoken by Jews Across the Medieval Arab World

When it was suggested to Joshua Blau, at the start of his professional career, that he study the letters of Maimonides, there were those who warned him not to undertake the task. The three scholars who had previously begun dealing with the letters had died unnatural deaths. The first was found deceased at his desk [...]

By |2018-09-27T21:47:36+00:00September 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Can genes change the way languages evolve?

Languages are dynamic. After just a few hundred years, the English of Chaucer looks bizarre to today’s readers. The factors that drive language changes are familiar. Interaction with other languages: Roman conquest spread the influence of Latin across Europe. Metaphor: The description of a circle as “round” came to refer to a “well-rounded” individual. New [...]

By |2018-04-30T14:12:29+00:00April 29th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The words that change what colours we see

The human eye can physically perceive millions of colours. But we don’t all recognise these colours in the same way. Some people can’t see differences in colours – so called colour blindness – due to a defect or absence of the cells in the retina that are sensitive to high levels of light: the cones. [...]

By |2018-04-24T12:29:49+00:00April 24th, 2018|Language, Uncategorized, Words|0 Comments

Revitalising endangered languages

Languages are considered endangered when their last fluent speakers reach old age and when children are no longer learning it as their primary tongue. The UNESCO Atlas of World Languages in Danger reveals that 18 of the world’s 2,464 officially ‘endangered’ languages have just one living speaker (Bishuo, spoken in Cameroon, for instance). With the [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:21:50+00:00August 2nd, 2017|Endangered Languages, Languages, Uncategorized|0 Comments

First Nations take to designing their own apps to preserve their languages and cultures

Byron Bates is meticulously adding more than 100 Cree words about medicine, pain and doctors into the mobile app he created, called ATC Cree. The app developer and Athabasca Tribal Council member built his app in an effort to maintain the languages of his community, made up of about 5,000 Cree and Dene people in [...]

Arrival, the movie: How linguistics saved the world

Imagine this: strange spacecraft, under alien command, hover in the sky in strategic locations around the globe. Little is known of their intent. National governments and international organizations struggle to determine what comes next. They marshal equipment, military hardware and a bevy of top researchers to scientifically analyze everything that can be known about the [...]

By |2018-02-22T00:22:13+00:00February 9th, 2017|Film, Language, Linguistics, Movies, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Only Scotland’s diaspora can save the dying native language

Traveling through Scotland is obviously not a linguistic experience limited to the Scottish accent alone. Last year, Christine De Luca was appointed as Edinburgh’s poet laureate. She often writes in a Shetlandic dialect, and you can hear her work here. And not only is there Scots—think of “Auld Lang Syne”—but there is, of course, Scots [...]

By |2015-09-16T14:03:45+00:00September 16th, 2015|Scotland, Scots language, Uncategorized|0 Comments

A million bucks to save vanishing languages

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage this week received the largest gift in its history — $1.24 million — to support research into sustaining and revitalizing endangered languages in Europe. The five-year project will evaluate different approaches to keeping languages healthy, taking into account social, cultural, political and economic influences, said [...]

By |2015-08-26T12:54:21+00:00August 25th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Cadillac? Jail? Prisoners’ dictionary explains how words change meaning behind bars

Prisoners have produced a Prison Dictionary that records more than 60 words that prisoners, and even some guards, use regularly. The project came from a workshop led by Paul Lynch, 44, associate professor of English, as part of Saint Louis University’s Prison Program. The dictionary shows how day-to-day English words take on different meanings inside [...]

By |2015-08-14T02:00:19+00:00June 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

‘Cisgender’ has been added to the OED

The compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary might have viewed it as just another word, but for people who have spent their lives fighting for the equal treatment of transgender people, it represents much more than that. The term “cisgender” has entered the pages of the historic dictionary for the first time, meaning that the [...]