Tag Archives | Language

Internet English Is Blur

Photo: chrislb (CC)

Grammar police, start your engines. The Internet is corrupting the English language at an alarming rate per this report from the BBC News Magazine:

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.

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Engraved Stone Discovered in China May Suggest Complex Language Existed 30,000 Years Ago

Picture: "The Tower of Babel" by Bruegel the Elder (PD)

An artifact unearthed in north China may suggest that complex language systems may have existed in the area as early as 30,000 years ago. The item is a stone engraved with a series of lines deliberately carved by human hands. Dr. Fei Peng, a postgraduate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences had this to say concerning the stone, as well as an ostrich egg bead also discovered at the site:

Via Sci-News:

“Furthermore, creation of such an engraved object may indicate the possible existence of complex communicative systems such as language,” he said.

“In addition to the engraved stone artifact, one ostrich egg bead was unearthed from Locality 1. The lithic assemblage of this locality includes blade production and elongated tool blanks. The blade technology was probably introduced from the Altai region of Russian Siberia, according to comparison between lithic assemblages.

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Linguist Says Tapes Reveal Bigfoot Speaking

In the early 1970s, a group of hunters in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains captured sounds of an alleged encounter with Bigfoot. Now a professor and former Navy crypto-linguist says he has analyzed the strange audio recordings, and claims that they not only are legitimate, but reveal a primitive, grunt-based language. Decide for yourself -- either way, the Sasquatch sounds on the tape are disturbing:
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Decoding The World’s Oldest Undeciphered Writing

Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen (CC)

Can you read proto-Elamite? Soon, maybe you can, explains Sean Coughlan for BBC News:

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.

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Sh*t I Personally Guarantee You Will Never, EVER Hear Said Aloud, Even If You Live to Be One Thousand Years Old

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.… Read the rest

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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.


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