The grammars of English, Latin, and Spanish are all taught as relatively general principles (families of declensions, verb tenses, etc.). In contrast, I'm now on my third attempt at learning Chinese, and this program like both before it apparently expects me to learn the grammar by memorizing a vast library of fill-in-the-blank templates. Why the difference? And is there anybody teaching Chinese with less reliance on rote memorization? [more inside]
I majored in linguistics in undergrad and I've been hankering after a reasonably accessible and entertaining linguistics-related book for personal enjoyment -- even better if it catches me up on developments in the field in the last ~15 years, but that's not a requirement. [more inside]
I want to write a program to generate new, realistic-sounding and -looking words. I want to programmatically create strings like 'bik', 'clible', 'aunstic', and 'cranoak', (if these words don't already exist), and avoid strings like 'bblejkm', 'aunstrbl', and other things that don't look pronounceable. Looking for a database of word parts to feed into this program, possibly with a set of accompanying rules. English or any other language (ideally with phonetic representations). [more inside]
So I'm looking for a text that provides a good summary / overview of the Linguistics and Philosophical (and Psychological?) debates, conflicts, theoretical models of the relations between words, concepts, and things. A good overview that covers the range from Abelard, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, Fodor, etc.. Does such a book exist? [more inside]
Is there a word in English (or any other language) for anticipating nostalgia for events that have not yet happened? [more inside]
I love listening to old newscasters and radio shows on youtube, and I've noticed that the different decades have very distinct sounds. I'm working on a performance bit that uses 1920s diction, but there's something I'm missing. What are the elements of the popular radio voice that make it distinctive? Clipped syllables? Longer "o" sounds? Help!
What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of certain languages? I'm most interested in English and French but if you have knowledge of another that would also be fascinating! [more inside]
"Après moi, le deluge" is a famous phrase. Literally it means "After me, the deluge." Idiomatically it essentially means "I don't care what happens after I'm gone, even if the world ends." I get all that. But what is missing from the Wikipedia page I linked to is the historical/cultural context; "the deluge" figuratively refers to the biblical flood described in Genesis 6-9. Is there a specific word for this sort of context for a phrase or term of art? [more inside]
Is there any sort of dictionary or text corpora that outline which of a number of synonyms are the most universally understood by other language speakers or the least colloquial? [more inside]
In words like normcore, krishnacore, and all the words on this list, what do you think the meaning of the suffix -core is? What do you think people are trying to signify by adding -core to the end of words? Also, can you think of other examples of words that end in -core? [more inside]
Is there a system that describes and measures appearances of humans precisely? [more inside]
What's it called when people write like they talk, or don't? What's it called when people hear the voice of the writer when they read the words?
Tell me about what cultures, cultural practices, arts, religions, languages, lifestyles, hobbies, habits, fashion, unconventional individuals/families, or any other aspects of human life in the U.S. still remain severely underdocumented; or are at risk of fading away before they can be properly or meaningfully documented. [more inside]
In Japanese there is only a tenuous relationship between the way something is written, and the way it's pronounced. This is particularly true of names. I'm wondering if Japanese is the only language like this. For example, the simple name 一 can be read something like 7 ways, each of which sounds nothing like the others (Ichi, Kazu, Hajime, etc.). [more inside]
I was reading this comment by KathrynT about men's perceptions of women in groups being equal in number when the no. of women is 17%, women having to comprise over 80% of group members to get equal speaking time with men. I'd really like to know where this came from, about gender and language more widely, gender and misperceptions generally. I'm looking for book recommendations but am also interested in anything else you think is a good resource - blogs, articles etc. [more inside]
Twelve is the largest number whose English name has one syllable. I'm wondering what the largest number is whose name in some spoken language has one syllable.
Are there resources or just tried-and-true methods to improve my Russian reading ability? Difficulty: I know zero Russian. [more inside]
Is it possible to hear a glottal stop at the beginning of an utterance? [more inside]
Sometimes, on restaurant menus or in other media that I'm not recalling at the moment, the text styling will reflect the meaning of the word. Examples off the top of my head: sizzling, hot, chilly. Here's an example in an advertisement. What would you call this phenomenon? The most apt description I can come up with is visual onomatopoeia, but is there a better word for this?
Can any animal understand a rhyme? Different animals can process different things that we consider part of normal cognition. What about rhymes? Have there been studies done to see which species agree with humans that certain human words rhyme? Can my cats appreciate that I rap for them
In other words, I'm looking for a list of adjectives that could complete the sentence "I am feeling __." This is actually a fairly extensive group of adjectives, and I'm wondering whether this type of adjective is identified formally as a certain type of adjective (which would make it easier to find the set) or whether anyone has assembled such a list.
I have been speaking English for 2/3 of my life, yet I still think my English sucks. Care to enlighten me why? [more inside]
Japanese demonstratives follow the こそあど pattern, such as with これ/それ/あれ/どれ and この/その/あの/どの, so why does the pattern change with ここ/そこ/あそこ/どこ? Logically, shouldn't あそこ be あこ? Why isn't this the case? [more inside]
Mr. sixswitch and I both have a common experience of precocious kids: trying out words that we've learned from reading in conversation, with tragic results. I pronounced disheveled as dis-heveled (because obviously you could also be heveled), he said 'doicksiem' instead of 'deuxième', and so on right up til yesterday (chassiss for chassis). Is there a linguistics term or nickname for this type of thing? [more inside]
Has there ever been any real linguistic exmamination of Christian Vander and Magma's constructed Kobaian language? It seems odd that the Zeuhl style would prove influential enough to have other bands adopt the style and language and yet never have any sort of official lexicon.
Linguistics: Can the beginning of a sentence or phrase be a conditioning environment for sound variation? [more inside]
I am trying to write a story that takes place in 1660s Massachusetts. I have a great plot and characters, but the action stops when they open their mouths. I simply don't know how they spoke. How can I find examples of 17th century English as spoken by ordinary people? [more inside]
Where you live, or where you grew up, do people commonly refer to their parents as "my folks"? Would that phrasing sound odd to you, or stand out in any way, if, say, a coworker used it? [more inside]
Are there any languages that have words that disambiguate the various possible meanings of the English 'we'? In English the 1st person plural pronoun 'we' (and its object counterpart 'us') can refer to groups 1) including only the speaker and the addressed person or persons, 2) including only the speaker and some further person(s) neither speaking nor being addressed but with whom the speaker claims a sort of representative power, and *not* including the addressee(s), or 3) including the speaker, the addresse(s) and some other people too. Are there any languages that have separate words for these distinct referential uses? [more inside]
There's no shortage of articles online that take the basic form "here are awesome non-English words and phrases that are hilarious and/or that English doesn't have a direct translation for". Examples: A German slang term for low-back tattoos is "Aarsgewei", which translates to "ass antlers". Also in German, the term for eating because you are sad is "Kummerspeck", which is literally "grief bacon". The Finnish word for pedant, pilkunnussija, translates as "comma fucker". I'm curious about the flip-side, like a non-English-speaker being amused that low back tribal tattoos are called "tramp stamps" in the US. What English words or slang terms are amusing to speakers of foreign languages in the same way that I find some of their terms amusing and/or awesome?
When did enslaved Africans in the US stop speaking African languages? [more inside]
In the early 1990s, the boys in my middle school used to threaten to "steal" each other, meaning hit/punch/sock/pop/smack. It was most commonly heard as, "I'mma steal you in your eye!" or "I'm gonna steal him upside the head!" I found it strange even then, and I haven't heard or seen reference to it since. Have you heard "steal" used like this before? Where could it have come from? Relevant details: This was in Nash County, North Carolina. I recall hearing it exclusively from white boys. The couple times I asked someone who was self-aware enough to discuss it, they were adamant that it was "steal" and not "steel."
I'm on a dating site and I've noticed that in the profiles and messages of some non-native English speakers there's a pattern of irregular spacing around commas. I don't believe that it is a random typographical error, as I have seen it repeatedly by different writers. Here's an example: "I like to go to the party ,park,movies ,I like to go hike ,swimming ,travel " The above example is from a native Arabic speaker. Is this related to the grammatical construction of a particular language, differences in keyboards, or something else?
Linguistics filter: Are there languages with an inflection of whatever type that denotes indeterminacy in its category? [more inside]
Kind of curious about this. I know Shadowrun does/did well in Germany, and has/had at least a nominal presence in Japan. One of the (for good or ill) characteristics of the setting is the jargon and street slang. How are these translated into other languages? What are some examples?
I'm looking for lines of dialogue from movies, novels, or elsewhere, in which someone says that something is not an X, even though it is an X, just not a mere X or typical X. An example of the type of exchange I'm looking for: "Wow, you spent a year's salary on a car?" "A car? This is isn't a car. It's a Lamborghini!" The second person knows that their Lamborghini is a car, but means to express that it isn't just a car. (It's important for my purposes that the person doesn't say 'just'.) There must be some recognizable instances of this type of speech, but I'm drawing a blank. Any ideas?
Has anyone come across good sources on the history and evolution of the term "tax haven"? I am looking for sources detailing at least its first appearance in written or spoken English, and if possible the date in which it was (wrongly) translated into French as "tax heaven" (paradis fiscal). [more inside]
I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
In English, scientists customarily use the word "significant" or "statistically significant" to refer to an effect that is distinguished from zero at a p < .05 confidence level. On the other hand, the word "significant" in non-technical English carries a connotation of being meaningful, important, or substantial; this creates confusion when researchers write about "a significant effect," since the effect might be significant in the statistical sense while being so small as to be insignificant in the common-English sense. In your native language, what word is used for "signficance" in the statistical context? Is the same word used outside the technical context, and if so, is it a word whose common meaning is something more like "detectable," more like "important," or something else entirely? In particular, does the confusion that arises in English also take place in your language?
How come that various forms of the verb "to be" have different degrees of similarity across German/English/Romance languages? The third person singular ist/is/est seems to have an obvious common root, whereas I don't see it jump out on me for bin/am/suis at all, and in other forms it seems like German and French are close with English the odd one out (sind/sommes/are), which I found puzzling given that I usually think of English as the bastard child of these two.
Actor Clark Gregg (our beloved Agent Coulson) has a voice that I really enjoy. One feature I like a lot is the way he says R sounds, especially in the middle or ends of words. For an example, at around 0:35 in the trailer for Much Ado About Nothing (http://www.muchadothemovie.com/), it is especially apparent in the way he says "merry war" and "skirmish." (Also notable in the interrogation scene in "Thor" when he says "That's hurtful.") It's not a burred or rolled or flipped R, it's just sort of... liquid-sounding? I think it sounds really neat. In the past, I have noticed this in other actors and I always really like the way it sounds. My question: is this a feature of a certain kind of regional accent? Is there an official/proper term for the sound I mean? Or is it just an individual thing that certain people have that isn't tied to anything in particular? Linguists of MeFi, help me out!
'Think tank' and 'thought leader' not 'thought tank' and 'think leader'. Can you help me construct a good argument for why we have settled on the first two and not the second? [more inside]
I found some stone tablets written in a strange alphabet amongst a bunch of graves from different eras at the city museum of Tire, Turkey. The guy working the desk at the museum didn't know what they were. Pictures in extended. [more inside]
I teach for a living but have a lot of linguistic baggage that I'd like to get rid of. Specifically, I have some weird pronunciation/accent issues and would like to speak "General American" or newscaster English. Is this something I can do on my own? What resources should I use? [more inside]
What are the best automata (formal language theory) simulators? This is mainly for teaching purposes. I have used JFLAP in past iterations of the class in question, and my google searches suggest this is still the best option, but I was wondering if there is anything newer and better that I'm not finding. Details below. [more inside]
Here's an European writing a book/thesis about storytelling in journalism. What texts (linguistics, literary theory etc – preferably *not* mass communication theory) might help in analysing contemporary changes in that field? [more inside]
Does anyone have any resources to find historical forms of Ebonics? [more inside]
Are grammatical genders, as a rule, consistent across the Indo-European languages which use them? [more inside]
How can I find a passion for language learning? [more inside]
How do you pronounce "Long Island"? Think for a second and then join me inside. [more inside]