Language development

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Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "The worst is the Terrible Twos, when they're always throwing things and shrieking, "forsooth, to bed thou shalt not take me, cur!""


  1. milt boyd said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 7:54 am

    reminds me of the old theory that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, or that the development of organs in an individual repeats the development of organs in the history of a species.

  2. GH said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 8:45 am

    Progeny recapitulates philology.

  3. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 8:50 am

    According to the internet (with some typos fixed): "On the title page of Word and Object, Quine quotes an epigram from James Grier Miller: 'Ontology recapitulates philology', obviously fashioned after the well-known epigram, 'Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny', meaning that the development of the individual reduplicates the development of the species."

  4. David Marjanović said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 9:53 am

    'Ontogeny recapitulates philogeny'

    Phylogeny: the genesis of the tribe (phyle).

  5. Andreas Johasson said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 10:18 am

    Yesterday, I noted a sign at my 1yo daughter's kindergarten saying "The child has 100 languages". I couldn't help but think that I wished one of them were Swedish.

  6. Scott P. said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:05 am

    Anyone reminded of Herodotus' story of the Egyptian scholars who wanted to see what was the world's original language, so they raised two children with d no exposure to language? The children's first word was supposedly 'bekos', which meant 'bread' in Phrygian, so they decided that must be the oldest language.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:21 am

    What's the little tyke saying in Proto-Indo-European?

  8. Tom Dawkes said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:33 am

    Victor, the little terror is asking for MILK < *melg.

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:42 am

    And saying "please".

  10. ktschwarz said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:42 am

    Yes, I'm sure *MELG- is supposed to be *h₂melǵ- 'milk' (in the notation used at Wiktionary). Also, *PL(E)HK- was probably meant to be *pleh₁- or *pelh₁ 'to fill'. Thus, "fill (my cup or bottle) with milk."

    Too bad Munroe doesn't seem to know anything about notation of laryngeals. He's probably using very outdated sources.

  11. Victor Mair said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:47 am

    @Tom Dawkes, Jerry Friedman, and ktschwarz:

    I'm glad I asked!

  12. Roscoe said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:48 am

    Feels vaguely reminiscent of the "Oxen of the Sun" chapter from "Ulysses."

  13. ktschwarz said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:55 am

    I thought *pleh₁-, but I see now that Jerry got it: it was *pleh₂k‑, which is given as "earliest form" of plāk-(1) 'to be flat' in the AHD appendix. Derivatives include "possibly suffixed (stative) form *plak-ē‑, to be calm (as of the flat sea)", whence Latin placēre, English please.

  14. Julian Hook said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 11:58 am

    The iambic pentameter in the mouseover is a nice touch.

  15. Chris Button said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 4:15 pm

    I love how the Indo-European words come with the asterisk in front and the hyphens at the end.

  16. Olaf Zimmermann said,

    January 13, 2022 @ 5:28 pm

    Since, as we all know, ontology recapitulates philology, this may be a relevant addition to the debate.

  17. Aristotle Pagaltzis said,

    January 14, 2022 @ 3:47 am

    I just love the rhythmicality of the exclamation from the mouseover text.

  18. Philip Taylor said,

    January 15, 2022 @ 5:38 am

    Odd how those who recycle others words so often link to completely unrelated web sites from their forum names …

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