Whistled language

In “Transcendent Tonality” (11/5/15), we examined this topic a couple of years ago.  That post focused more on the philosophical and ethereal aspects of this type of communication, although it also introduced some of the basics of interhuman whistling and its congruence with melodic musicality.

Additional research takes us further toward understanding the linguistic, neuroscientific, and evolutionary biological dimensions of articulate whistling, as reported in this BBC article:

The beautiful languages of the people who talk like birds:  Their unusual whistled speech may reveal what humanity’s first words sounded like. (David Robson, 5/25/17)

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Greeter skillz

Today’s Zits:

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“Intelligent transportation communication systems”?

This morning’s email brought an invitation to contribute to a “Special Issue on Intelligent Transportation Communication Systems” (for this journal). It took me a little while to figure out that conversing with cars (which I’m definitely in favor of) was not what they had in mind. And this process  reminded me of how difficult it can be for humans — never mind machines — to figure out how to parse complex nominals in English. (See “The Stress and Structure of Modified Noun Phrases in English” for some antique thoughts on the subject…)

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Yay us

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Resisting reunification

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Donald Trump: Cognitive decline or TDS?

Sharon Begley, “Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change?“, STAT 5/23/2017:

STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable.  

Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.

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Chinese emoji, with a twist

Adrienne LaFrance has an eye-opening article about “The Westernization of Emoji” in The Atlantic (5/22/17).  Here’s the summary statement at the beginning:

The takeout box and the fortune cookie are perceived as emblems of Chinese culture, when they’re actually central to the American experience of it.

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Homonyms

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“Little Man” the eating machine

There’s a curious article by Kathy Chu and Menglin Huang in the Wall Street Journal (5/21/17):

How a Toddler Who Loves Eating Transfixed China:  2½-year-old Xiaoman is an online sensation, bringing fame, a Pampers ad and questions about her weight”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-toddler-who-loves-eating-transfixed-china-1495387268

If you have difficulty reading the whole article via the embedded link, try this TinyURL, which should lead you to a complete preview.

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Siri can you hear me?

Wired.com has some perfect linguaphile clickbait: “Watch People With Accents Confuse the Hell Out of AI Assistants.”  By “accents” they mean, non-American ones (e.g., Irish English). The AI Assistants were Siri, Amazon Echo, and Google Home. I’m curious about how well the voice recognition systems in these devices work with varieties of spoken English, so I clicked. Sucker! Can’t tell anything from the video except that it’s fun to say “Add Worcestershire sauce to my shopping list” to a machine.  This definitely beats asking Siri “What is the meaning of life?”

Mainly I was impressed by how poorly I understood the speakers.  I have a bad time understanding other people’s accents  but that’s only one data point.  How well do people understand speech that is in the same language as their own but spoken with a different accent?

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Study the linguistics of Game of Thrones

At the instant of posting this, there are only 18 places remaining out of the 40 maximum in Linguistics 183 001, David Peterson’s summer session course at UC Berkeley on “The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention.” 3 to 5 p.m., Mon/Tue/Wed/Thu, May 22 to June 30.

It’s not a ‘Structure of Dothraki’ course; it’s about how you go about inventing languages (Peterson has done this for film and TV several times, and has been paid money for it).

Hurry to sign up. And don’t ever let me hear you saying that linguistics doesn’t provide fun things to do.

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-ist vs. -ic in Riyadh

During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump was repeatedly insistent that everyone should use the term “radical Islamic terrorism”. For example, his reaction to the Orlando massacre, from Inside Edition 7/13/2016:

Announcer: Trump spoke out about the massacre today, saying the president is afraid to call it an act of Islamic terrorism.
Donald Trump: He won’t even use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” which I think is insulting to our country and it’s insulting to everybody. And if you don’t use the term, if you don’t describe what’s happening, you’re never going to solve the problem.

So like many others, I was curious how he would handle the issue in his speech to the “Arab Islamic American Summit” yesterday in Riyadh.

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Schrödinger’s pundit

Today’s SMBC:

Mouseover title: “On second thought, let’s just leave them in the box.”

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