Linguists have recently reconstructed what a 6,000 year-old-language called Proto-Indo-European might have sounded like. This language was the forerunner of many European and Asian languages, and now you can listen to how it may have sounded. Proto-Indo-European (PIE) was spoken by a people who lived from roughly 4500 to 2500 B.C. The question became, what did PIE sound like? As linguists have continued to discover more about PIE, this sonic experiment is periodically updated to reflect the most current understanding of how this extinct language would have sounded when spoken some six thousand years ago. Since there is considerable disagreement among scholars, no one version can be considered definitive.
Tag Archives | Language
The Atlantic speaks with Con Slobodchikoff, a professor of animal behavior at Northern Arizona University, who has spent 30 years decoding animal communications and believes we are approaching the point of breaching the human-animal language divide:
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A computer science colleague of mine and I are using artificial intelligence techniques to keep a computer record of the call that prairie dogs were making, analyze it with these AI techniques, and then spit back the answer to us, which potentially could be in English. And then we could tell the computer something that we wanted to convey to the prairie dogs. And the computer could then synthesize the sounds and play it back to the prairie dogs.
The [prairie dogs] have word-like phonemes, combining those into sentence-like calls. They have social chatter. They can distinguish between types of predators that are nearby — dogs, coyotes, humans — and seem to have developed warnings that specify the predators’ species and size and color.
Apparently a few phrases here and there get through, most of them profanities. You’re welcome, world.
WTF? Tell us yr thoughts in the comments. Steven Poole defends the corruption of the Queen’s English for the Guardian:
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The internet might be a historic boon for kitten-fanciers and steaming-eared trolls, but it’s not all good news. Online writing, you see, is destroying the purity of English as we know it and threatening to dumb us all down into a herd of screen-jabbing illiterates. Or so runs one regular technophobic complaint, the latest version of which has been offered by Robert McCrum. He is worried about what he describes as “the abuse and impoverishment of English online (notably, in blogs and emails)” and what he perceives as “the overall crassness of English prose in the age of global communications”. The remedy, as so often for such linguo-pessimists, is George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language“, about whose loopy prescriptions I have previously recorded my own reservations.
Alan Moore interviews are always worth reading. Here he discusses psychogeography as it applies to various of his works.
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What exactly, in your not unlimited understanding, is Psychogeography?
In its simplest form I understand psychogeography to be a straightforward acknowledgement that we, as human beings, embed aspects of our psyche…memories, associations, myth and folklore…in the landscape that surrounds us. On a deeper level, given that we do not have direct awareness of an objective reality but, rather, only have awareness of our own perceptions, it would seem to me that psychogeography is possibly the only kind of geography that we can actually inhabit.
What books and writers ignited your interest in psychogeography?
The author that first introduced me to the subject was the person I regard as being its contemporary master, namely Iain Sinclair, with his early work Lud Heat.
If social media is what you did while alive, does this mean you are living forever? CNET News on the app Liveson, which continues to generate tweets based on your personality and syntax, in a sense preserving you into eternity:
You might think your online fans will lose interest when you kick the bucket, but an upcoming app says it will let you keep tweeting from beyond the grave.
LivesOn will host Twitter accounts that continue to post updates when users [die]. Developers claim the app’s artificial-intelligence engine will analyze your Twitter feed, learn your likes and syntax, and then post tweets in a similar vein when you’re gone. You’ll become an AI construct, a proverbial ghost in the machine.
The app will launch in March. People who sign up will be asked to appoint an executor who will have control of the account.
The BBC reports on an almost-musical language:
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On a Spanish island, an ancient whistling language that once seemed to be dying out is now undergoing a revival. Silbo gomero or Gomeran whistle is an ancient language the locals have assured me is still in use.
This method of communication, in which the Spanish language is replaced by two whistled vowels and four consonants, has a peculiarity perfectly suited to this landscape of deep valleys and steep ravines. It has the ability to travel up to two miles, much further and with less effort than shouting.
It is known that when the first European settlers arrived at La Gomera in the 15th Century, the inhabitants of the island – of North African origin – communicated with whistles. The arrival of the Spanish, the locals adapted the whistling language to Spanish. So the most likely theory is that the whistle came with the settlers from Africa, where there are records of other whistled languages.
Ever feel as if you might accomplish far more in a deep, dreamless sleep than awake and walking around? The Telegraph reports:
Alun Morgan, 81, was evacuated to Wales during the Second World War but left 70 years ago. During his time there he was surrounded by Welsh speakers but never learned the language himself. He left the country aged 10 and lived his life in England and recently suffered a severe stroke.
But when Mr Morgan regained consciousness three weeks later, doctors discovered he was speaking Welsh and could not remember any English. It is thought that the Welsh Mr Morgan heard as a boy had sunk in without him knowing and was unlocked after he suffered the stroke. Mr Morgan is now being taught to speak English again.
We all know people who can’t stop themselves using the word “like” in virtually every sentence. It’s a word virus and not going away anytime soon per Marist Poll:
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It’s that time of the year, again! It’s time for The Marist Poll to reveal the word or phrase considered to be the most annoying in casual conversation. And, for the third consecutive year, “whatever” receives the dubious honor.
Nearly four in ten adults nationally — 38% — say “whatever” grates on their nerves the most. “Like” one in five — 20% — say that verbal filler is the most irritating while 19% despise “you know.” “Just sayin’” gets on the nerves of 11% of the population compared with 7% who report “seriously” should be banned from casual conversation. Five percent are unsure.
Last year, 39% told the Marist Poll “whatever” is the most bothersome word in casual conversation while 28% thought “like” was the epitome of irritating.
Grammar police, start your engines. The Internet is corrupting the English language at an alarming rate per this report from the BBC News Magazine:
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Online, English has become a common language for users from around the world. In the process, the language itself is changing…
There are now thought to be some 4.5 billion web pages worldwide. And with half the population of China now on line, most of them are written in Chinese.
Still, some linguists predict that within 10 years English will dominate the internet – but in forms very different to what we accept and recognise as English today.
That’s because people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers. And increasingly they use it to communicate with other non-native speakers, particularly on the internet where less attention is paid to grammar and spelling and users don’t have to worry about their accent.