Monkey grammar, similar to humans?


This 2014 video says about itself:

How to speak monkey: The language of cotton-top tamarins – Anne Savage

The cotton-top tamarin is a very vocal monkey — the species communicates using a sophisticated language of 38 distinct and grammatically structured calls! Anne Savage teaches a few of these chirps and whistles, taking us through a day in the life of Shakira the tamarin (using sounds pulled from the wild) as Shakira signals to her family, talks to her food and warns against potential predators.

Lesson by Anne Savage, animation by Avi Ofer.

By Bruce Bower, June 26, 2020, at 2:00 pm:

Monkeys may share a key grammar-related skill with humans

A capacity for recursion evolved early in primate evolution, a contested study suggests

An aptitude for mentally stringing together related items, often cited as a hallmark of human language, may have deep roots in primate evolution, a new study suggests.

In lab experiments, monkeys demonstrated an ability akin to embedding phrases within other phrases, scientists report June 26 in Science Advances. Many linguists regard this skill, known as recursion, as fundamental to grammar (SN: 12/4/05) and thus peculiar to people.

But “this work shows that the capacity to represent recursive sequences is present in an animal that will never learn language,” says Stephen Ferrigno, a Harvard University psychologist.

Recursion allows one to elaborate a sentence such as “This pandemic is awful” into “This pandemic, which has put so many people out of work, is awful, not to mention a health risk.”

Ferrigno and colleagues tested recursion in both monkeys and humans. Ten U.S. adults recognized recursive symbol sequences on a nonverbal task and quickly applied that knowledge to novel sequences of items. To a lesser but still substantial extent, so did 50 U.S. preschoolers and 37 adult Tsimane’ villagers from Bolivia, who had no schooling in math or reading.

Those results imply that an ability to grasp recursion must emerge early in life and doesn’t require formal education.

Three rhesus monkeys lacked humans’ ease on the task. But after receiving extra training, two of those monkeys displayed recursive learning, Ferrigno’s group says. One of the two animals ended up, on average, more likely to form novel recursive sequences than about three-quarters of the preschoolers and roughly half of the Bolivian villagers.

Chimpanzee and human speech, new research


This 9 May 2014 video from England says about itself:

How to Speak Chimpanzee | Extraordinary Animals | BBC Earth

Dr Katja Liebal is at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire to study the chimps in their enclosure. She believes that the chimps have their own complex system of communication and hopes to compile the world’s first chimpanzee dictionary.

From the University of Warwick in England:

Chimpanzees help trace the evolution of human speech back to ancient ancestors

May 27, 2020

One of the most promising theories for the evolution of human speech has finally received support from chimpanzee communication, in a study conducted by a group of researchers led by the University of Warwick.

The evolution of speech is one of the longest-standing puzzles of evolution. However, inklings of a possible solution started emerging some years ago when monkey signals involving a quick succession of mouth open-close cycles were shown to exhibit the same pace of human spoken language.

In the paper ‘Chimpanzee lip-smacks confirm primate continuity for speech-rhythm evolution’, published today, the 27th May, in the journal Biology Letters, a consortium of researchers, including St Andrews University and the University of York, led by the University of Warwick, have found that the rhythm of chimpanzee lip-smacks also exhibit a speech-like signature — a critical step towards a possible solution to the puzzle of speech evolution.

Just like each and every language in the world, monkey lip-smacks have previously shown a rhythm of about 5 cycles/second (i.e. 5Hz). This exact rhythm had been identified in other primate species, including gibbon song and orangutan consonant-like and vowel-like calls.

However, there was no evidence from African apes, such as gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees — who are closer related to humans, meaning the plausibility of this theory remained on hold.

Now, the team of researchers using data from 4 chimpanzee populations have confirmed that they too produce mouth signals at a speech-like rhythm. The findings show there has been most likely a continuous path in the evolution of primate mouth signals with a 5Hz rhythm. Proving that evolution recycled primate mouth signals into the vocal system that one day was to become speech.

African great apes, the closest species to humans, had never been studied for the rhythm of their communication signals. Researchers investigated the rhythm of chimpanzee lip-smacks, produce by individuals while they groom another and found that chimpanzees produce lip-smacks at an average speech-like rhythm of 4.15 Hz.

Researchers used data across two captive and two wild populations, using video recordings collected at Edinburgh Zoo and Leipzig Zoo, and recordings of wild communities including the Kanyawara and the Waibira community, both in Uganda.

Dr Adriano Lameira, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick comments:

“Our results prove that spoken language was pulled together within our ancestral lineage using “ingredients” that were already available and in use by other primates and hominids. This dispels much of the scientific enigma that language evolution has represented so far. We can also be reassured that our ignorance has been partly a consequence of our huge underestimation of the vocal and cognitive capacities of our great ape cousins.

“We found pronounced differences in rhythm between chimpanzee populations, suggesting that these are not the automatic and stereotypical signals so often attributed to our ape cousins. Instead, just like in humans, we should start seriously considering that individual differences, social conventions and environmental factors may play a role in how chimpanzees engage “in conversation” with one another.

“If we continue searching, new clues will certainly unveil themselves. Now it’s a matter of mastering the political and societal power to preserve these precious populations in the wild and continue enabling scientists to look further.”

In humans, warfare and territoriality have traditionally been considered male “business.” Chimpanzees, with whom we share this propensity for out-group hostility and territoriality, are thought to follow the same gender difference. This vision may be too simplistic, as suggested by an international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They extensively studied several neighboring groups of western chimpanzees and their findings reveal that females and even the entire group may play a more important role in between-group competition than previously thought. They found that even though adult males seem important in territory increase, territory maintenance and competitive advantage over neighbors act through the entire group in this population of chimpanzees in the Taï National Park: here.

Amazon attacks Yiddish language


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

Back to the Future of Endangered Languages | Colleen Fitzgerald | TEDxUTA

Rapid globalization and technology that brings majority world languages into minority language homes threatens the survival of the estimated 6,000 to 7,000 languages worldwide. Whether in Africa, Australia, the United States or beyond, tiny languages are endangered, with their survival often depending on the last elderly speakers. Europe’s endangered Irish language is a great story of a language reviving its prospects, but success stories of languages renewed and reclaimed abound, such as the Wampanoag language, spoken by the tribe reputed to have celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. The human spirit craves a connection to ancestors and the past, and heritage languages do just that, while breathing new life into the future.

By Zackary Sholem Berger in the USA:

Amazon Is Dooming New Yiddish Publications. Can It Be Stopped?

January 21, 2019

This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.

In 2005, Internet giant Amazon swallowed up yet another smaller fish, the self-publishing company CreateSpace, which made it possible to market titles in dozens of languages. Last year, in a decision that you would be forgiven for missing, Amazon announced that CreateSpace was merging with another division: Kindle Direct Publishing, now known as KDP. One Amazon province cannibalizes another. Nothing new there.

But it turns out that this move might endanger the important and unique realm of new Yiddish prose — a forum particularly important to Hasidim since a book released by CreateSpace can be publicized affordably, and sold on Amazon without the author giving his real name. (In the Hasidic community, anonymity is useful and even necessary online). Hasidic blogger Katle Kanye, one of the Forward 50 and often mentioned in the Yiddish Forward, chose CreateSpace to publish his sharp critique of what he says is the failed Chasidic education system.

Another Hasidic forum for self-expression in Yiddish is the online journal Der Veker, or The Alarm, a publication aimed at Hasidim who want to read about sensitive topics. In other Hasidic publications these topics might be censored or not discussed at all. (Full disclosure: I read each issue of Der Veker eagerly and am an occasional contributor.)

Moving CreateSpace to KDP has made it impossible to self-publish titles on Amazon in a number of languages that used to be available, including Yiddish and Hebrew. Without CreateSpace, it becomes prohibitive for small periodicals written in minority languages, like Der Veker, to keep publishing. So Der Veker took to social media. In a call for help published in the chat rooms of the liberal-leaning Haside forum Kave Shtiebel, members of which actually publish Der Veker, the editors informed readers that it would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to replicate CreateSpace’s convenience and affordability elsewhere. Readers were enjoined to email Amazon, asking them to reinstate Yiddish among the choices for new titles on KDP.

Why did the language selection change when CreateSpace merged with KDP? It’s not clear. Even years ago, when there were several separate divisions of Amazon devoted to self-publishing, each had its list of permissible languages which were technically possible. One should also note that other languages written right-to-left, like Arabic, are still publishing options on KDP. Why Arabic and not Yiddish, Hebrew, or other languages? It seems plausible that larger languages are economically and culturally valued by Amazon, while minority languages are left in the dust.

Reached by the Forverts, an Amazon spokesperson responded: “We are aware that because certain CreateSpace languages are not yet available on KDP, some authors and readers will be unable to publish and read new titles in those languages (all previous titles remain available). We are actively reviewing author and reader feedback to evaluate which features and services we offer in the future, including expanding KDP’s supported languages.”

So it seems that Der Veker’s strategy was the right one. That journal is among the most important cultural institutions now existing in Yiddish, and gives the opportunity for self-expression to Hasidim who might otherwise be shut out of establishment publications. For those who want to support Jewish culture, Chasidic expression, diversity, and Yiddish literature, we join in their call. Let Amazon know that Yiddish – and Hebrew – ought to be reinstated onto the list of languages, in which one can publish new titles on KDP.

Zebra finch song and human speech


This video says about itself:

15 November 2012

A zebra finch male sings to a female that he thinks is attractive. She’s just not that into him though. Better luck next time fella.

From McGill University in Canada:

Do birdsong and human speech share biological roots?

Experiments with zebra finches suggest songbirds also have ‘universal grammar’

November 22, 2017

Do songbirds and humans have common biological hardwiring that shapes how they produce and perceive sounds?

Scientists who study birdsong have been intrigued for some time by the possibility that human speech and music may be rooted in biological processes shared across a variety of animals. Now, research by McGill University biologists provides new evidence to support this idea.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that young zebra finches — a species often used to study birdsong — are intrinsically biased to learn to produce particular kinds of sound patterns over others. “In addition, these sound patterns resembled patterns that are frequently observed across human languages and in music”, says Jon Sakata, Associate Professor of Biology at McGill and senior author of a paper published online in Current Biology on Nov. 22.

On the shoulders of Chomsky

The idea for the experiments was inspired by current hypotheses on human language and music. Linguists have long found that the world’s languages share many common features, termed “universals.” These features encompass the syntactic structure of languages (e.g., word order) as well as finer acoustic patterns of speech, such as the timing, pitch, and stress of utterances. Some theorists, including Noam Chomsky, have postulated that these patterns reflect a “universal grammar” built on innate brain mechanisms that promote and bias language learning. Researchers continue to debate the extent of these innate brain mechanisms, in part because of the potential for cultural propagation to account for universals.

At the same time, vast surveys of zebra finch songs have documented a variety of acoustic patterns found universally across populations. “Because the nature of these universals bears similarity to those in humans and because songbirds learn their vocalizations much in the same way that humans acquire speech and language, we were motivated to test biological predisposition in vocal learning in songbirds,” says Logan James, a PhD student in Sakata’s lab and co-author of the new study.

A buffet of birdsong

In order to isolate biological predispositions, James and Sakata individually tutored young zebra finches with songs consisting of five acoustic elements arranged in every possible sequence. The birds were exposed to each sequence permutation in equal proportion and in a random order. Each finch therefore had to individually “choose” which sequences to produce from this buffet of birdsong.

In the end, the patterns that the laboratory-raised birds preferred to produce were highly similar to those observed in natural populations of birds. For example, like wild zebra finches, birds tutored with randomized sequences often placed a “distance call” — a long, low-pitched vocalization — at the end of their song.

Other sounds were much more likely to appear in the beginning or middle of the song; for example, short and high-pitched vocalizations were more likely to be produced in the middle of song than at the beginning or end of song. This matches patterns observed across diverse languages and in music, in which sounds at the end of phrases tend to be longer and lower in pitch than sounds in the middle.

Future research avenues

“These findings have important contributions for our understanding of human speech and music,” says Caroline Palmer, a Professor of Psychology at McGill who was not involved in the study. “The research, which controls the birds’ learning environment in ways that are not possible with young children, suggests that statistical learning alone — the degree to which one is exposed to specific acoustic patterns — cannot account for song (or speech) preferences. Other principles, such as universal grammars and perceptual organization, are more likely to account for why human infants as well as juvenile birds are predisposed to prefer some auditory patterns.”

Sakata, who is also a member of the Centre for Research on Brain, Language and Music (CRBLM), says the study opens up many avenues of future work for his team with speech, language, and music researchers. “In the immediate future,” he says, “we want to reveal how auditory processing mechanisms in the brain, as well as aspects of motor learning and control, underlie these learning biases.”

Denise Klein, Director of the CRBLM and neuroscientist at the Montreal Neurological Institute, says James’ and Sakata’s study “provides insights on universals of vocal communication, helping to advance our understanding of the neurobiological bases of speech and music.”

A new study of zebra finch songbirds may reveal how people learn complex behaviors, including speech, suggests a new report: here.

Birds create songs by moving muscles in their vocal organs to vibrate air passing through their tissues, and new research shows that these muscles act in concert to create sound. Scientists describe how zebra finches produce songs: Using electromyographic signals, they tracked the activity of one muscle involved in creating sound, the syringealis ventralis. They then used the data from this muscle to create a synthetic zebra finch song: here.

Songbirds [eg, zebra finches] can acquire new abilities both through observation and through trial and error. However, skills acquired with the latter method are more easily adapted to new situations, as scientists have been able to demonstrate. The researchers also see parallels to how children learn: here.

New research shows zebra finches engage in socially guided vocal learning, where they learn their songs by watching their mothers’ reactions to their immature songs: here.

A new songbird [zebra finch] study that shows memories can be implanted in the brain to teach vocalizations — without any lessons from the parent: here.

A group of neurons called the corticobasal ganglia projecting neurons are important for vocal learning in young [zebra finch] birds, but not in adult birds, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): here.

Polari, language against homophobia


This video says about itself:

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia 2015

15 mei 2015

A short film celebrating the work Diversity Role Models has done to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools since IDAHOBIT [International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia] 2014.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Polari: the language born from prejudice

Wednesday 17th May 2017

On International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, PETER FROST remembers a once secret gay dialect

HOMOSEXUALITY was illegal in Britain until 1967. No wonder many gay men chose to avoid making public their sexual orientation.

One way was to adopt a secret language with which to communicate with other gay men. It’s what linguistic scholars call an anti-language.

Over history many stigmatised subcultures have developed their own secret languages. Examples of this are the rhyming slang and backslang of Cockney London.

Gay men and some lesbians adopted their own anti-language. It was called Polari. Strong influences in the language were Parlyaree, the Italian-derived language used by travelling entertainers, fairground people, costermongers and beggars.

Polari drew on many other tongues including Italian; Spanish; Yiddish; Occitan — a language in its own right, spoken in southern France and now almost killed off by the French government language police — various Gypsy languages; backslang; Cockney rhyming slang as well as various slangs used by circus folk, canal boaters and sailors.

Other strong input came from Cant, the secret age-old language of thieves and outlaws and an ancient pidgin language of Mediterranean traders and seafarers played its part too.

Before we take a closer look at the Polari language, let’s look at one word that isn’t actually Polari at all.

How did the use of the word “gay” for homosexual become so ubiquitous?

Some claim it has its origins around the 12th century in England, derived from the Old French word “gai” meaning happy, joyful, carefree.

By the mid-17th century, the word had gained an additional meaning — addicted to pleasures and dissipations. Still its main meaning was happy.

By the 19th century, the word “gay” was being used for a female prostitute or a man who used prostitutes. The phrase “gay it” meant to have sex.

Even with these new meanings, the original definitions of happy still remained widespread.

Around the 1920s and 1930s, however, the word started to gain a new meaning.

“Gay man” no longer just meant a man who had sex with a lot of women, but now described men who had sex with other men.

By 1920 gay men were using the word to describe themselves and by the 1950s it was so widely used that it started to drive out the other uses of the word gay.

Now let’s get back to Polari. It flourished in the years between the 1895 trial of Oscar Wilde and the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.

It was a kind of code which enabled one gay man to identify another, allowing them to express themselves publicly without fear of arrest or reprisal and providing a vocabulary for talking about gay sex and sexuality.

It was particularly well known in London and was often associated with chorus boys who danced and sang in West End theatres, and among male prostitutes who worked around Piccadilly and Soho.

Another Polari stronghold was among merchant navy sailors, particularly those working as stewards on liners and cruise ships. Gradually Polari spread to the wider gay community.

Polari was a necessity in a world where homosexuality was stigmatised by law, medicine and religion. It was a way to express yourself without making your sexual orientation too public. Dropping the odd Polari word into a conversation was one way of working out if another man might also be gay.

One indication of Polari’s value in a world where homosexuality was illegal was the number of names for the police. They included “Betty bracelets,” “charpering omi,” “sharpy” and “Hilda handcuffs.”

By the 1970s, the much healthier atmosphere of gay liberation politics encouraged many gay men and lesbians to come out and be proud of their sexuality.

Polari was popularised in the 1960s by the BBC radio comedy show Round the Horne. In sketches two gay actors, Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, played Julian and Sandy, two camp out-of-work actors who used Polari.

BBC brass either missed the point or, more likely, looked the other way. Today Polari is experiencing a minirevival due to recent stage shows of Round the Horne.

You can find entire films on the internet with Polari dialogue. There is a Polari app for mobile phones that gives instant translation.

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have even published a Polari translation of the Bible on the internet.

Here are a few examples of Polari with translations. Try them for yourself.

Bona to varda your dolly old eek! (How good to see your dear old face!)

Vada the dolly dish, shame about his bijou lallies. (Look at the attractive man, shame about his short legs.)

Can I troll round your lally? (Can I have a look around your house?)

Here is one from the folk who produce the Oxford English Dictionary: Nellyarda, zhoosh the riah, titivate, schlumph your Vera down, and palare that omee for the bevvies because I’ve nanti dinarli.

Here is a translation if you need it: Listen, style your hair, make yourself look pretty, drink up your gin, and talk to that man to get a drink because I’m skint.

A few Polari words have entered mainstream English but I’m not sure how people would react if they knew the origins. “Camp” meaning effeminate comes from the abbreviation Kamp: Known As Male Prostitute.

Even better is the popular “naff,” meaning rubbish. Gay men first used it to judge and then reject a potential partner. It is well-known as Princess Anne’s favourite judgement.

I wonder if she realises it is an abbreviation for “not available for fucking.” Sorry, Your Royal Highness.

Here is a short glossary of Polari words so that you can start to speak it yourself:

– Bona: good.

– Cake the eke in slap: apply makeup.

– Carsey or khazi: toilet.

– Dolly: pretty, nice, pleasant.

– Drag: women’s clothes.

– Fantabulosa: wonderful.

– Jarry: food.

– Joggering omee: an entertainer.

– Kaffies: trousers.

– Lallies: legs.

– Lattie: room, house or flat.

– Lattie on wheels: a taxi.

– Mary-Ann: a gay Catholic man.

– Naff: bad, drab.

– Oglefakes: glasses.

– Omi-polone: homosexual.

– Polone: woman.

– Palone-omee: a lesbian.

– Riah shusher: hairdresser.

– Zhoosh the riah: style your hair.

– Strillers omee: a pianist.

– Shietel: a wig.

– Schlumph your Vera down: drink up your gin.

– Vada/varda: see.

If you practise a bit I am sure you will turn your spoken Polari from naff to fantabulosa.

Oldest alphabet Hebrew, derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs?


This video says about itself:

How Egypt invented the alphabet – History of Writing Systems #7 (Abjad)

25 September 2015

From Egyptian hieroglyphs to your alphabet, watch these miners turn fancy symbols into simple scratches that were all about the sounds.

First marvel at hieroglyphic inscriptions in the shadow of the great pyramids. Once you grasp how those work (or dismiss their archaic complexities), travel to a cave in the Sinai desert. See those old ornate consonants and determinatives turn into a rushed, simplified alphabet before your very eyes!

But this isn’t where the story of writing ends. A Phoenician merchant asks you to pack up the alphabet and help her trade it around the ancient Mediterranean. See the results of that next time!

From Science News:

Oldest alphabet identified as Hebrew

Controversial claim argues that ancient Israelites turned Egyptian hieroglyphics into letters

By Bruce Bower

8:00am, November 19, 2016

SAN ANTONIO — The world’s earliest alphabet, inscribed on stone slabs at several Egyptian sites, was an early form of Hebrew, a controversial new analysis concludes.

Israelites living in Egypt transformed that civilization’s hieroglyphics into Hebrew 1.0 more than 3,800 years ago, at a time when the Old Testament describes Jews living in Egypt, says archaeologist and epigrapher Douglas Petrovich of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. Hebrew speakers seeking a way to communicate in writing with other Egyptian Jews simplified the pharaohs’ complex hieroglyphic writing system into 22 alphabetic letters, Petrovich proposed on November 17 at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

“There is a connection between ancient Egyptian texts and preserved alphabets,” Petrovich said.

That’s a highly controversial contention among scholars of the Bible and ancient civilizations. Many argue, despite what’s recounted in the Old Testament, that Israelites did not live in Egypt as long ago as proposed by Petrovich. Biblical dates for the Israelites’ stay in Egypt are unreliable, they say.

Scholars have also generally assumed for more than 150 years that the oldest alphabetic script Petrovich studied could be based on any of a group of ancient Semitic languages. But not enough is known about those tongues to specify one language in particular.

Petrovich’s Hebrew identification for the ancient inscriptions is starved for evidence, said biblical scholar and Semitic language specialist Christopher Rollston of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. There is no way to tell which of many Semitic languages are represented by the early alphabetic system, Rollston contended.

The origins of writing in different parts of the world — including that of the alphabet carved into the Egyptian slabs — have long stimulated scholarly debates (SN: 3/6/93, p. 152). A German scholar identified the ancient Egyptian writing as Hebrew in the 1920s. But he failed to identify many letters in the alphabet, leading to implausible translations that were rejected by researchers.

Petrovich says his big break came in January 2012. While conducting research at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, he came across the word “Hebrews” in a text from 1874 B.C. that includes the earliest known alphabetic letter. According to the Old Testament, Israelites spent 434 years in Egypt, from 1876 B.C. to 1442 B.C.

Petrovich then combined previous identifications of some letters in the ancient alphabet with his own identifications of disputed letters to peg the script as Hebrew. Armed with the entire fledgling alphabet, he translated 18 Hebrew inscriptions from three Egyptian sites.

Several biblical figures turn up in the translated inscriptions, including Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his half-brothers and then became a powerful political figure in Egypt, Joseph’s wife Asenath and Joseph’s son Manasseh, a leading figure in a turquoise-mining business that involved yearly trips to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt, is also mentioned, Petrovich says.

One inscription, dated to 1834 B.C., translates as “Wine is more abundant than the daylight, than the baker, than a nobleman.” This statement probably meant that, at that time or shortly before, drink was plentiful, but food was scarce, Petrovich suspects. Israelites, including Joseph and his family, likely moved to Egypt during a time of famine, when Egyptians were building silos to store food, he suggests.

A book by Petrovich detailing his analyses of the ancient inscriptions will be published within the next few months. Petrovich says the book definitively shows that only an early version of Hebrew can make sense of the Egyptian inscriptions.

Volkswagen pollution software, Dutch Word of the Year


This video from the USA says about itself:

Steve Berman Investigates VW, Audi for Diesel Emissions-Cheating Software

18 September 2015

Hagens Berman has filed a national class-action lawsuit against Volkswagen for allegedly sidestepping emissions rules and cheating pollution tests, in violation of state laws and consumers’ rights. Federal and California environmental regulators have accused Volkswagen of using software to cheat emissions standards in its diesel Audi and Volkswagen automobiles years 2009-2015.

Read more

NOS TV in the Netherlands reports today about the Dutch linguistic society Onze Taal. This society year after year chooses a Word of the Year. This year, ten new Dutch words were nominated.

The ‘winner’ for 2015 is ‘sjoemelsoftware’, fraudulent software: meaning the software of Volkswagen cars, cheating about the level of pollution these cars cause.

ICYMI: Porsche and Audi are added to the list of cars caught in VW’s pollution scheme. here.

William Shakespeare and the English language


This video says about itself:

Shakespeare – The History of English (3/10)

1 July 2011

Frpm daily The Independent in Britain:

These are all the words that William Shakespeare is credited with inventing

by Evan Bartlett

24 August 2015

Despite passing away nearly four centuries ago, William Shakespeare has left an indelible mark on the English language.

The likes of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth have seen Shakespeare regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.

While those plays are still widely read and celebrated, the Bard has arguably left a far greater legacy in all the words and phrases that he is credited with inventing, or at least first popularising through his work.

Here is a list of 117 words credited to Shakespeare (just try and having a conservation without using any of them):

  • academe
  • accused
  • addiction
  • advertising
  • amazement
  • arouse
  • assassination
  • arch-villain
  • backing
  • bandit
  • barefaced
  • beached
  • bedazzle
  • bedroom
  • besmirch
  • bet
  • birthplace
  • blanket
  • bloodstained
  • blushing
  • bump
  • buzzer
  • caked
  • cater
  • champion
  • cheap
  • circumstantial
  • cold-blooded
  • compromise
  • countless
  • courtship
  • critic
  • dauntless
  • dawn
  • deafening
  • discontent
  • dishearten
  • drugged
  • dwindle
  • elbow
  • embrace
  • epileptic
  • equivocal
  • excitement
  • exposure
  • eyeball
  • fashionable
  • fixture
  • flawed
  • frugal
  • generous
  • gloomy
  • gnarled
  • go-between
  • gossip
  • green-eyed
  • grovel
  • gust
  • hint
  • hobnob
  • honey-tongued
  • hurried
  • impartial
  • impede
  • inauspicious
  • invulnerable
  • jaded
  • label
  • lacklustre
  • laughable
  • lonely
  • lower
  • luggage
  • lustrous
  • madcap
  • majestic
  • marketable
  • metamorphise
  • mimic
  • monumental
  • moonbeam
  • mountaineer
  • negotiate
  • nimble-footed
  • noiseless
  • obscene
  • obsequiously
  • ode
  • olympian
  • outbreak
  • panders
  • pedant
  • premeditated
  • puking
  • radiance
  • rant
  • remorseless
  • sanctimonious
  • savagery
  • scuffle
  • secure
  • skim milk
  • submerge
  • summit
  • swagger
  • time-honoured
  • torture
  • tranquil
  • undress
  • unearthly
  • unreal
  • varied
  • vaulting
  • vulnerable
  • well-bred
  • worthless
  • zany

Citations for where the majority of these words can be found in Shakespeare’s plays can be seen here.

Oldest Frisian language text discovery


Oldest Frisian text

Translated from the Leeuwarder Courant daily in Friesland province in the Netherlands:

June 23, 2015, 13:45

Leeuwarden – On a few scraps of parchment, almost 900 years old, notes in Frisian have been found. Linguists have never seen before such old written Frisian.

“It’s a great find”

‘Lesa mi’ [Save me] ,’helpe mi’ [Help me] is written in neat letters under a Latin text. Was here perhaps a Frisian youth at work who wanted to become a priest? The words are a translation from the Latin. From the shape of the letters experts can deduct that the text must have been written between 1100 and 1125.

,,It’s a great find”, said former Frisian language researcher Han Nijdam of the Fryske Akademy. ,,So far we had only written Frisian from the thirteenth century and now suddenly we go back a century in time. We already suspected that Old Frisian had already been written then, but now we really have it.”

See also here.

Inuit of northern Greenland and global warming


This video says about itself:

Living with the Inugguit

In 2010, Dr Stephen Leonard embarked on a year-long trip to live with the Inugguit of north-west Greenland, the northernmost settled people on Earth. His aim was to record the language, stories and songs of these communities. The traditional life of the community and its future is potentially threatened by a number of factors, one of which is climate change. Dr Leonard lived as a member of those communities, travelled on hunts, and recorded and filmed as he went. Here he talks about some of his experiences and reflects on a year spent in the midst of a fading culture.

By Gwyn Griffiths in Britain:

Book review: The Polar North

Monday 17th November 2014

A new book on the Inugguit people, who are struggling to survive in the face of environmental catastrophe, is a warning to us all, says GWYN GRIFFITHS

The Polar North
by Stephen Pax Leonard
(Francis Boutle Publishers, £20)

THE POLAR North is a remarkable story of tiny Inugguit communities with a culture and a language spoken by less than 1,000 people struggling to survive in the hostile environment of west Greenland and in a world that is changing culturally and environmentally.

The book’s two main concerns are the effects of global warming and globalisation on a precarious way of life and it is no small feat of endurance that Stephen Pax Leonard was able to survive the harsh environment and be accepted by a close-knit, often claustrophobic, society for a whole year during his research.

The immediacy of the writing makes for a gripping narrative and although Leonard at times hints at depression in the dark period of the year as well as discomfort during that of 24-hour daylight, he does not dwell on it. What he has produced is a scrupulously honest but hugely sympathetic view of these communities.

The book has stark warnings, primarily of climate change. Since the early 1990s it has not been possible to travel by dog sledge to Canada because the Smith Sound is now partly open all year round.

In January 2011, the sun rose two days earlier than normal over Ilulissat and the best explanation for this is a shocking one. The ice cap is melting, lowering the horizon.

As the sea ice, fundamental to the Inugguit way of life, contracts so does the culture. The transmission of stories, through which vital survival information was transferred, is dying out and the young people of north-west Greenland have only a fraction of the knowledge of the old hunters.

Empty minds become glued to Danish children’s television and violent video games. Alcohol abuse and suicide are major social problems.

The passing of a language and culture of fewer than 1,000 speakers may be irrelevant to many but if the polar Inugguit are the canary in our cultural coal mine, then such a loss may have more relevance than we realise.

There is never any opposition to biodiversity but language activists, linguists and anthropologists are constantly being asked to defend linguistic and cultural diversity.

Fifty per cent of the world’s languages will not exist by the end of this century and we are on the road to the fastest rate of linguistic and cultural destruction in history, driven by the forces of globalisation and consumerism.

The book examines with fascinating detail the links between language and the environment, along with the subtleties and nuance of Inugguit communication.

An excellent introduction to the subject and, in providing a wider context of concern, an essential read.

Wildfires have raged for weeks in Greenland, the massive Arctic island known principally for its vast quantities of ice. The fires are unprecedented in size and duration, marking an ominous new stage in the warming of Greenland and the entire Arctic: here.