Tag Archives | Language
Can you read proto-Elamite? Soon, maybe you can, explains Sean Coughlan for BBC News:
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The world’s oldest undeciphered writing system, which has so far defied attempts to uncover its 5,000-year-old secrets, could be about to be decoded by Oxford University academics.
This international research project is already casting light on a lost bronze age middle eastern society where enslaved workers lived on rations close to the starvation level.
“I think we are finally on the point of making a breakthrough,” says Jacob Dahl, fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and director of the Ancient World Research Cluster.
Dr Dahl’s secret weapon is being able to see this writing more clearly than ever before.
In a room high up in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, above the Egyptian mummies and fragments of early civilisations, a big black dome is clicking away and flashing out light.
This device, part sci-fi, part-DIY, is providing the most detailed and high quality images ever taken of these elusive symbols cut into clay tablets.
Depressed Copywriter is a collective comprised of four copy editors who correct the propaganda of print advertising with their harrowing, truth-seeking revisions. Their reasoning:
Every time I see an example of corporate happiness I can only see the reality of life. I can’t help myself anymore. I can’t stop rearranging their copy.
The French composer Claude Debussy is quoted as saying that, “Music is the space between the notes”. I think that’s a very apt recognition of the shared responsibility between artist and audience in unearthing the latent content of any piece of art, and I very much like it. Make your work too overtly programmatic, and you end up with stale self-parody, a la Norman Rockwell. Overburden it with too many layers of obscure, self-referential ciphers, like Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake”, and risk alienating your most enthusiastic audience.
But if you have a lot to say, it can really be difficult to avoid the “Finnegan” trap. The very fact that you are capable of generating enough observations worthy of communication, of making very fine distinctions in kind and degree, springs from a hypersensitivity that can seem emotionally overwhelming, and very much at odds with one of the inviolable principles of effective communication itself: clarity.
This is where a solid understanding of the rhetorical ecology will come in handy. In order to be truly effective, you need to be able to “play the music between the notes”, which is to say, have an appreciation for the various types of person who will read your work the context in which it will be read, today, tomorrow and 200 years from now, and what they will be looking to draw from it. And you need to accept the fact that some of your strongest, most affecting points will not be articulated by you, but by your critics.… Read the rest
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:
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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.
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.
I 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:
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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.
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.
Let 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
If 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:
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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.