Tom Hine

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Why is English Spelling So Messed Up?

If you're a kid learning how to write, or an adult speaker of a language with sensible spelling, English spelling can seem like a cruel prank. And …

The Ideas of Noam Chomsky: An Introduction to His Theories on Language & Knowledge (1977)

We've featured the linguist and polemicist Noam Chomsky here before, and not two weeks ago we posted about philosopher-broadcaster Bryan Magee. <i>The</i> …

8 Symbols That We Turned Into Words

The symbols we use also have names: dollar sign, treble clef, asterisk, etc. But sometimes the name for a symbol takes on a different sort of …

Infographic: 19 Emotions For Which English Has No Words

Love and sadness are far more nuanced than the English language permits.<p>We’ve all heard that the Inuit people have countless words for snow. That’s a bit of a misnomer, but the sentiment is powerful all the same: Some cultures have rewritten language itself in order to better express the things …

Scandal, Censorship, Science: How Darwin Shaped Our Understanding of Why Language Exists

<i>“Words belong to each other,”</i> Virginia Woolf memorably proclaimed in the only surviving recording of her voice. But even in this beautifully aphoristic observation lies an unsolvable chicken-or-egg mystery: Where did words come from in the first place?<p><b>Charles Darwin</b> — man of routine, graphic novel …

The Grammar Rules of 3 Commonly Disparaged Dialects

Linguists are always taken aback by the overwhelmingly negative and sometimes virulently expressed reaction they get when stating something that …

53 Slang Terms by Decade

Every generation has its slang -- new words and phrases that allow kids to communicate without their parents understanding. Read on to learn some of …

Opinion

Letters to the Editor<p>On this day

Do You Speak American . What Speech Do We Like Best? . Sociolinguistics . Labov | PBS

How I got into linguistics, and<br>what I got out of it .... <br>Noted sociolinguist William Labov of the University of Pennsylvania shares this personal …

Linguistics

How Complex Was Neanderthal Speech?

<i>This question originally appeared on Quora.</i> <b><br>Answer by Marc Ettlinger, Ph.D., linguistics, UC-Berkeley:</b><p><b>The challenge</b>: Unlike pottery shards, arrowhead …

Is There a Word for That?

We have long invented language to fill gaps in our vocabulary, but not all coinages are created equal<p>By Ralph Keyes<p>September 5, 2013<p>Soon after they …

Linguistics

Listen to what our ancestors' language sounded like 6,000 years ago

Linguists have recently reconstructed what a 6,000 year-old-language called Proto-Indo-European might have sounded like. This language was the …

11 Suffixes That Gave Us New, Often Terrible Words

People love coining new words. And they love making good use of them—for a while anyway. Bromance, adultescence, and Frankenstorm are just a few of …

Huh? Scientists find a version in each of 10 languages studied

Humans speak many languages, but we may be united in our confusion. A new study examined languages from around the world and discovered what they say could be a universal word: "Huh?"<p>Researchers traveled to cities and remote villages on five continents, visiting native speakers of 10 very different …

Language Learning

Animated history of the English language

If you've got 10 minutes, you can learn the history of English — including some interesting background on where specific words and phrases came from. …

4 Subtle Changes to English People Hardly Notice

Everyone knows that language changes. It's easy to pick out words that have only been recently introduced (bromance, YOLO, derp) or sentence …

How Language Seems To Shape One's View Of The World

Lera Boroditsky once did a simple experiment: She asked people to close their eyes and point southeast. A room of distinguished professors in the U.S. pointed in almost every possible direction, whereas 5-year-old Australian aboriginal girls always got it right.<p>She says the difference lies in …

How 10 Colors Got Their Names

<b>By Onna Nelson, University of California, Santa Barbara</b><p>1. English red<p>The Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word for red, <i>reudh</i>, remained largely unchanged for …

Great Depression

15 Words That Don't Mean What They Used To

Want to make conversations more fun? Consider the former meaning of these everyday words.<p>1. Ejaculate<p><b>Used to mean:</b> To utter suddenly and …

Early Indo-European Online: Introduction to the Language Lessons

Recent advances in determining the origin of western civilization and the settlement of Europe are based especially on findings in genetics, …

Language Learning

The Evolution of Facebook's Pronoun Problem

Remember when you had to talk about yourself as some sort of outside observer of your own thoughts on Facebook? In the early days, the status update …

Social Media

Scientists Map What Your Brain Looks Like on English

Ever wonder how your brain distinguishes all the sounds in a language? How does it know “b” is different from “z”?<p>Researchers may now be closer to …

What We Mean When We Say Hello

The curious geography of American greetings<p>Reinvention and resilience across the nation<p>Last week I wrote about conversation starters that follow “Hello” and “How do you do.” Many dozens of you have written in and generously included your comments and interpretations of what you think people …

The Sound of Difference

People often describe German, my native language, as hard and aggressive. They relish criticizing its guttural sounds, long compound words, and the …

Language

8 pronunciation errors that made the English language what it is today

Think hyperbole rhymes with Super Bowl? Don't worry, it could be the start of something beautiful<p>Someone I know tells a story about a very senior academic giving a speech. Students shouldn't worry too much, she says, if their plans "go oar-y" after graduation. Confused glances are exchanged across …

What's The Most Beautiful Word In The English Language?

Surveying more than 7,000 English speakers in 46 countries, the British Council decided on "mother" — an unglamorous word, yet one that conveys comfort and the deepness of human relationships. Others on their list include concepts, like "liberty" and "tranquility," or expressions, as in "smile."<p>But …

Language

The origins of abc — I Love Typography

August 7, 2010<br>John Boardley<p><b>Where does our alphabet come from?</b> We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, …