Tag Archives | Language

Inability to Detect Sarcasm & Lies May Be Early Sign of Dementia, Study Shows

Groucho MarxVia ScienceDaily:

By asking a group of older adults to analyze videos of other people conversing — some talking truthfully, some insincerely — a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco has determined which areas of the brain govern a person’s ability to detect sarcasm and lies.

Some of the adults in the group were healthy, but many of the test subjects had neurodegenerative diseases that cause certain parts of the brain to deteriorate. The UCSF team mapped their brains using magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, which showed associations between the deteriorations of particular parts of the brain and the inability to detect insincere speech.

“These patients cannot detect lies,” said UCSF neuropsychologist Katherine Rankin, PhD, a member of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and the senior author of the study. “This fact can help them be diagnosed earlier.”

The finding was presented April 14, 2011, at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Hawaii, by Rankin and her postdoctoral fellow Tal Shany-Ur, PhD.

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Last Two Fluent Speakers of Dying Language Refuse To Speak To Each Other

AyapanecoJo Tuckman writes in the Guardian:

The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, seen off wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now, like so many other indigenous languages, it’s at risk of extinction.

There are just two people left who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other. Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other’s company.

“They don’t have a lot in common,” says Daniel Suslak, a linguistic anthropologist from Indiana University, who is involved with a project to produce a dictionary of Ayapaneco.

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“Liberals” Take Over The Media

zine diagram-DAs far as memes go, “liberals control the media” seems pretty prevalent. People who long for the days of school spankings shriek it at the top of their lungs – actual liberals believe it if only so they can believe they control something. But as we slowly descend back to Earth we realize The Media is a business.

And the point has been made that you could look long and hard through the board of directors of any of the media giant(s) before you find an honest-to-God Liberal. Liberals are tolerated in the media to the extent that they can make their bosses money.

All these points became clear to me in light of a new propaganda film (made by Citizens Against Government Waste) making the rounds where we see a group of Chinese circa 2030 cackling over America’s demise. Maybe you’ve seen it too – where some communists attribute America’s immanent doom to our use of socialism.… Read the rest

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Genpatsu-Shinsai: The Language of Disaster That Stalked Japan

Japan Earthquake 03/11/2011Interesting article from Leo Lewis in the Times from 2007, about how Japan nearly avoided a “nuclear power-quake disaster” back then. It always seems when these great disasters happen there was the one lone expert who no one took seriously. Leo Lewis writes"
Japan’s turbulent history of war and natural catastrophe has already given the world a terrifying vocabulary of death: tsunami, kamikaze, Hiroshima. But the country now stands on the brink of unleashing its most chilling phrase yet: genpatsu-shinsai — the combination of an earthquake and nuclear meltdown capable of destroying millions of lives and bringing a nation to its knees. The phrase, derived from the Japanese words for “nuclear power” and “quake disaster”, is the creation of Katsuhiko Ishibashi, Japan’s leading seismologist and one of the Government’s top advisers on nuclear-quake safety. He said that the world may never know how close it came to its first genpatsu-shinsai this week. Luck, as much an anything else, helped to avert it.
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How Anything May Signify Anything: William Friedman And The Biliteral Cipher

FriedmanNYPL2_FINALCabinet Magazine has a fascinating and mysterious article on William F. Friedman, perhaps the greatest code-breaker in modern history. Friedman became a hero of World War II by breaking Japan's PURPLE code and inventing the Army's best cipher machine. He did it all using the 'biliteral cipher', a simple but powerful encoding technique invented in the sixteenth century, which allows for hidden messages to be conveyed by anything from flower petals to musical notes to faces in a photograph:
It is unlikely that Bacon’s cipher system was ever used for the transmission of military secrets, in the seventeenth century or in the twentieth. But for roughly a century from 1850, it set the world of literature on fire. A passion for puzzles, codes, and conspiracies fueled a widespread suspicion that Shakespeare was not the author of his plays, and professional and amateur scholars of all sorts spent extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and money combing Renaissance texts in search of signatures and other messages that would reveal the true identity of their author. Even after the recent publication of James Shapiro’s comprehensive history of the authorship controversy, Contested Will, it is difficult for us to appreciate the depth of conviction — among writers as diverse and as distinguished as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Henry Miller, and even Helen Keller — that Shakespeare’s texts contained the secret solution to what was widely considered to be “the Greatest of Literary Problems.”...
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‘Democracy’, ‘Extremism’, ‘Stability': Decoding The Code Words In News Media

2960235713_9c5c610b98Terms such as "stability", "democracy", and "religious extremism" in political discourse are generally used in a way that is different or opposite to their generally understood meaning. Metadeniz presents a quick, amusing, and insightful primer on what Noam Chomsky calls "words with a technical meaning." Including:
Promoting Democracy verb installing a government friendly to our interests in another country. Freedom Fighters noun a proxy terrorist army that we support National Interest noun the interests of the ultra-rich, particularly those in the U.S.A. Stability noun (used referring to other countries) subordination to US power interests -> Usually achieved through war against the population. Example: "We should promote democracy by supporting the freedom fighters in Nicaragua because it is in America's national interest to promote stability in Central America." Translation: "We should send weapons to a proxy terrorist army that murders civilians to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua, for the benefit of U.S investors and to intimidate other countries into doing what we say."
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How ‘OK’ Took Over The World

OKBBC News reports:

It crops up in our speech dozens of times every day, although it apparently means little. So how did the word “OK” conquer the world, asks Allan Metcalf.

“OK” is one of the most frequently used and recognised words in the world.

It is also one of the oddest expressions ever invented. But this oddity may in large measure account for its popularity.

It’s odd-looking. It’s a word that looks and sounds like an abbreviation, an acronym.

We generally spell it OK – the spelling okay is relatively recent, and still relatively rare – and we pronounce it not “ock” but by sounding the names of the letters O and K.

Visually, OK pairs the completely round O with the completely straight lines of K.

So both in speech and in writing OK stands out clearly, easily distinguished from other words, and yet it uses simple sounds that are familiar to a multitude of languages.

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Experts Determine The Age of A Book That ‘Nobody Can Read’ — The Voynich Manuscript

Voynich ManuscriptReally fascinating. I think the conventional wisdom is the book is a prank, but a truly elaborate one. Daniel Stolte writes on PhysORG:

While enthusiasts across the world pored over the Voynich manuscript, one of the most mysterious writings ever found — penned by an unknown author in a language no one understands — a research team at the UA solved one of its biggest mysteries: When was the book made?

University of Arizona researchers have cracked one of the puzzles surrounding what has been called “the world’s most mysterious manuscript” — the Voynich manuscript, a book filled with drawings and writings nobody has been able to make sense of to this day.

Using radiocarbon dating, a team led by Greg Hodgins in the UA’s department of physics has found the manuscript’s parchment pages date back to the early 15th century, making the book a century older than scholars had previously thought.

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Hidden Messages Woven Into Birds’ Nests

kitenestJust more evidence that non-human animal species have deeper intelligence than we give them credit for, and communicate in ways to which we are oblivious. Wired Science discusses a secret form of bird-language, which we should probably learn if we hope to foil the coming avian takeover:

The discovery of messages in raptors’ nests has raised the possibility that many bird species encode signals into these structures, with seemingly decorative flourishes actually full of meaning.

Among black kites, scraps of white plastic are used to signal territorial dominance. To other kites, the scraps are a warning sign. To humans, they hint at an unappreciated world of animal communication.

“It’s probably very common that other bird species decorate their nests in ways compatible with what we found,” said Fabrizio Sergio, a biologist at the Doñana Biological Station in Spain. “And not only birds, but fish and mammals.”

A few species, such black wheateaters and bowerbirds, are already known to use nest design in courtship displays.

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The Personal Is Not Political

Personal is PoliticalVia The First Church of Mutterhals:

The phrase ‘the personal is political’ always bugged me, but I could never articulate why. There’s just something off about it, like conflating religious belief and science, or the mixture of church and state. I was recently reading the Christopher Hitchens autobiography and I came by this quote regarding the inception of the phrase:

“At the instant I first heard this deadly expression, I knew as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was — cliché is arguably forgivable here — very bad news.”

He goes on to say that now you only needed to flout your attachment to whatever arbitrary delineation (as he brilliantly puts it, “a member of a sex, or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic “preference,”) to be considered a revolutionary. This is coming from a person who wears his arrest record proudly, having been done in for numerous protests and rallies and the kind of rabble rousing people my age and younger can’t even imagine.… Read the rest

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