Tag Archives | Language

A Future Of Fewer Words

Today we use an ever-shrinking pool of shorter, simpler words as image-based communication eats up word-based language. Not long from now, we’ll be grunting and sending each other extremely complicated emoticons. Lifeboat writes:

An ongoing “survival of the fittest” may lead to continuing expansion of image-based communications and the extinction of more than half the world’s languages by this century’s end. Not only is the world using fewer languages, but also fewer words. Consider the rich vocabulary and complex sentence constructions in extemporaneous arguments of politicians in earlier centuries against the slick, simplistic sound bites of contemporary times.

The cell phone has become a ubiquitous, all-purpose communications tool. However, its small keyboard and tiny screen limit the complexity, type, and length of written messages. Because no sane person wants to read streams of six-point font on a three-inch video screen, phones today are built with menus of images up to the presentation point of the messages themselves.

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Chris Hayes: Glamorizing and Justifying War with the Term ‘Hero’

Decoration DayVia Alternet:
It's sure to be a little bit controversial but it's an extremely salient point: Chris Hayes, when discussing the meaning of Memorial Day, admitted that he feels "uncomfortable" calling deceased soldiers heroes. Not because they're not heroes, but because the term lionizes and glamorizes war. Hayes discussed how he feels "uncomfortable" with the term: I feel … uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
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Now You Can Be Aquaman: “Dolphin Speaker” Produces Full Range of Dolphin Sounds

DolphinI wonder if the military will discover any conscientiousness objectors using this technology with the dolphins they have been training. While it is public knowledge they are used to rescue naval swimmers and locate underwater mines, the speculation remains on how many are used kamikaze-style to attack ships. As Rebecca Boyle reports in Popular Science:

Communication with dolphins is getting better all the time — they’ve been using iPads, for one thing, and humans have been working on a type of Rosetta Stone-like two-way translation device. A new gadget could improve matters even further, by allowing humans to produce the full range of dolphin sounds. The acoustics researchers who developed it call it the Dolphin Speaker.

Plenty of work is being done with dolphin sounds, but they have mostly focused on dolphin vocalizations and their hearing anatomy. Dolphins can not only hear and produce clicks, whistles and burst pulses well outside of the range of human hearing, but they can vocalize at several different frequency ranges at once.

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Dotsies: Language Of The Future?

Dotsies is a minimal, dot-based alternate version of the Latin alphabet. Why have we not evolved past using a 3,000-year-old character system?

Since latin letters (a, b, c, etc.) are optimized to be written by hand, they take up a lot of unnecessary space. Your eyes have to move at a frantic pace from left to right to read. Get more screen space! Save paper!

It’s easier than you think. There are only 26 letters. It takes only about 20 minutes at memorize.com/dotsies to get them into your short term memory. Each letter has five dots that are on or off (black or white). You’ll be very slow at first, but will noticeably speed up over time. As you progress, words start to look like shapes.

DOTSIES

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Why Nobody Cares What You Think (And What You Can Do About It)

Electro-CollarLet me start off by stipulating that I am TOTALLY in your corner, homes. I completely feel your pain, the frustration of having to repeat even the simplest proposition over and over and over (and over) again and just not being heard. It’s a real cross to bear, no?

But we can’t just drop it because some lunkhead refuses to see sense. We’ve got a point here, and even if we personally are not inclined to waste our time on trying to educate some feeble-minded half-wit, the integrity of our position is at stake. It’s not like we can just abandon ship in midstream here. Not without seeming to concede our point to some feckless, illiterate buffoon, anyhow.

I’m sure that’s what most of the problem is here. These people just don’t have the smarts or technical background or personal experience to see things our way. After all, they say, “No sense, no feeling.” That HAS to be why they seem to absorb round after round of our impeccably crafted logical salvos and still keep coming back parroting the same tired old chestnuts in response, as if they hadn’t heard a think we’ve said.… Read the rest

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Sweden To Use New Gender Neutral Pronoun, ‘Hen’

A70-13940If the language and words we use determine the frameworks within which we think, the newest edition to Swedish may have an enlightening effect. Slate explains:

For many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal, but gender-neutral. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

Earlier this month, the movement reached a milestone: Just days after International Women’s Day, a new pronoun, ‘hen’ (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon].” The announcement came amid heated debate that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites. It was sparked by the publication of Sweden’s first ever gender-neutral children’s book, Kivi och Monsterhund.

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NYC Schools Want to Ban ‘Loaded Words’ From Tests … Like ‘Dinosaur’

Stegosaurus

Illustration: Hgrobe (CC)

Great job, NYC! Brian Vitagliano reports on CNN:

Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.

The banned word list was made public – and attracted considerable criticism – when the city’s education department released this year’s “request for proposal” on March 8, 2010. The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.

The Department of Education’s says that avoiding sensitive words on tests is nothing new, and that New York City is not the only locale to do so. California avoids the use of the word “weed” on tests and Florida avoids the phrases that use “Hurricane” or “Wildfires,” according to a statement by the New York City Department of Education …

Read More: CNN

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Government Or Regime? The Language Guide

Via Parapolitical, a compare and contrast exercise in how the news media describes our world. Nations which do business with the United States, even those among the most brutally oppressive, are led by “governments”. If arms money is not flowing, the countries are ruled by “regimes”. What does “regime” imply? It sounds villainous and evil, less legitimate, more tenuous — as though overthrow (or invasion) is inevitable and warranted:

tumblr_m0abx9D25r1qb5aavo1_r4_500

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Left-Handed? You May Be Truly Different …

Via ScienceDaily:
We like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, absorbing information, weighing it carefully, and making thoughtful decisions. But, as it turns out, we're kidding ourselves. Over the past few decades, scientists have shown there are many different internal and external factors influencing how we think, feel, communicate, and make decisions at any given moment. One particularly powerful influence may be our own bodies, according to new research reviewed in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Cognitive scientist Daniel Casasanto, of The New School for Social Research, has shown that quirks of our bodies affect our thinking in predictable ways, across many different areas of life, from language to mental imagery to emotion ...
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Kids Show Cultural Gender Bias

Tabarnak graffitiVia ScienceDaily:

Talk about gender confusion! A recent study by University of Alberta researchers Elena Nicoladis and Cassandra Foursha-Stevenson in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology into whether speaking French influenced how children assigned gender to objects yielded some interesting observations. Nicoladis and Foursha-Stevenson found some differences between the unilingual English children and the bilingual French-English children they surveyed. Some of the more startling results from the Anglo crowd? Cows are boys. Cats and stars are girls.

Le culture or la culture: our bias

The researchers showed objects or images to the children participating in the study and asked them whether the objects seemed to be masculine or feminine in nature. While the unilingual children seemed to identify most objects as masculine, many younger bilingual children were willing to consider that, globally speaking, some objects could be feminine in nature even though, Nicoladis says, “their categorizations didn’t correspond very well to whether the objects were masculine or feminine in French.”

As to how Bessie may have inadvertently became Bernie, Nicoladis says that there is an explanation as to why the children may have chosen masculine more often than feminine, even for cows: it reveals a bias embedded in the language.

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