A Momentary Flow

Updating Worldviews one World at a time

What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Lose an Accent
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..Overcoming an accent is difficult, even for people who have lived in a foreign country most of their lives, or actors who have spent years training themselves to sound authentic in a second language. And studies have shown that accents can often be a burden. Sure, some accents can be adorable and others can make people sound smarter. But in some places, people with certain accents (mostly foreign, but some regional ones as well) are sometimes seen as unintelligent, uneducated, incompetent, and flat out unpleasant to converse with.While our brains are pretty good at picking up (and on) even very subtle accents, we struggle to transfer that insight to our own speech. Why is that? Scientists say it may come down to the first few months of our lives, before we’ve spoken our first word. For over two decades, researchers at the University of Washington have been figuring out how our brains learn language. Many of their experiments have involved measuring how babies from different parts of the world respond to sounds over time. In one study, they played a reel of sounds common in both Japanese and English to children from each culture. At around 6 months, all of the babies responded equally to sounds from both languages. But by the time they reached 10 months, babies failed to notice sounds that don’t exist in their mother’s tongue. For instance, at 10 months, the Japanese babies were ignoring the “r” and “l” sounds that are nonexistent in Japanese, but common in English. (via What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Lose an Accent | WIRED)

What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Lose an Accent
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..Overcoming an accent is difficult, even for people who have lived in a foreign country most of their lives, or actors who have spent years training themselves to sound authentic in a second language. And studies have shown that accents can often be a burden. Sure, some accents can be adorable and others can make people sound smarter. But in some places, people with certain accents (mostly foreign, but some regional ones as well) are sometimes seen as unintelligent, uneducated, incompetent, and flat out unpleasant to converse with.While our brains are pretty good at picking up (and on) even very subtle accents, we struggle to transfer that insight to our own speech. Why is that? Scientists say it may come down to the first few months of our lives, before we’ve spoken our first word. For over two decades, researchers at the University of Washington have been figuring out how our brains learn language. Many of their experiments have involved measuring how babies from different parts of the world respond to sounds over time. In one study, they played a reel of sounds common in both Japanese and English to children from each culture. At around 6 months, all of the babies responded equally to sounds from both languages. But by the time they reached 10 months, babies failed to notice sounds that don’t exist in their mother’s tongue. For instance, at 10 months, the Japanese babies were ignoring the “r” and “l” sounds that are nonexistent in Japanese, but common in English. (via What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Lose an Accent | WIRED)

Source Wired

go read :The Linguistics of LOL - What Internet vernacular reveals about the evolution of language  - When two friends created the site I Can Has Cheezburger?, in 2007, to share cat photos with funny, misspelled captions, it was a way of cheering themselves up. They probably weren’t thinking about long-term sociolinguistic implications. But seven years later, the “cheezpeep” community is still active online, chattering away in lolspeak, its own distinctive variety of English. lolspeak was meant to sound like the twisted language inside a cat’s brain, and has ended up resembling a down-South baby talk with some very strange characteristics, including deliberate misspellings (teh, ennyfing), unique verb forms (gotted, can haz), and word reduplication (fastfastfast). It can be difficult to master. One user writes that it used to take at least 10 minutes “to read adn unnerstand” a paragraph. (“Nao, it’z almost like a sekund lanjuaje.”) To a linguist, all of this sounds a lot like a sociolect: a language variety that’s spoken within a social group, like Valley Girl–influenced ValTalk or African American Vernacular English. (The word dialect, by contrast, commonly refers to a variety spoken by a geographic group—think Appalachian or Lumbee.) Over the past 20 years, online sociolects have been springing up around the world, from Jejenese in the Philippines to Ali G Language, a British lingo inspired by the Sacha Baron Cohen character. There’s also Padonkaffsky, an aughts-era slang beloved by Russia’s self-described “scum” (they call themselves Padonki—a garbling of podonok, the actual Russian word for “scum”), with phonetic spellings, offensive language, and a popular meme involving outdoor sex and an inopportune bear. Israel has Fakatsa, a sociolect beloved by teen girls—terms from which have popped up on baby clothes and menstrual-pain products. (via The Linguistics of LOL - Britt Peterson - The Atlantic)

go read :The Linguistics of LOL
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What Internet vernacular reveals about the evolution of language
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When two friends created the site I Can Has Cheezburger?, in 2007, to share cat photos with funny, misspelled captions, it was a way of cheering themselves up. They probably weren’t thinking about long-term sociolinguistic implications. But seven years later, the “cheezpeep” community is still active online, chattering away in lolspeak, its own distinctive variety of English. lolspeak was meant to sound like the twisted language inside a cat’s brain, and has ended up resembling a down-South baby talk with some very strange characteristics, including deliberate misspellings (teh, ennyfing), unique verb forms (gotted, can haz), and word reduplication (fastfastfast). It can be difficult to master. One user writes that it used to take at least 10 minutes “to read adn unnerstand” a paragraph. (“Nao, it’z almost like a sekund lanjuaje.”) To a linguist, all of this sounds a lot like a sociolect: a language variety that’s spoken within a social group, like Valley Girl–influenced ValTalk or African American Vernacular English. (The word dialect, by contrast, commonly refers to a variety spoken by a geographic group—think Appalachian or Lumbee.) Over the past 20 years, online sociolects have been springing up around the world, from Jejenese in the Philippines to Ali G Language, a British lingo inspired by the Sacha Baron Cohen character. There’s also Padonkaffsky, an aughts-era slang beloved by Russia’s self-described “scum” (they call themselves Padonki—a garbling of podonok, the actual Russian word for “scum”), with phonetic spellings, offensive language, and a popular meme involving outdoor sex and an inopportune bear. Israel has Fakatsa, a sociolect beloved by teen girls—terms from which have popped up on baby clothes and menstrual-pain products. (via The Linguistics of LOL - Britt Peterson - The Atlantic)

Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene
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Neuroscientists have found that a gene mutation that arose more than half a million years ago may be key to humans’ unique ability to produce and understand speech. Researchers from MIT and several European universities have shown that the human version of a gene called Foxp2 makes it easier to transform new experiences into routine procedures. When they engineered mice to express humanized Foxp2, the mice learned to run a maze much more quickly than normal mice. The findings suggest that Foxp2 may help humans with a key component of learning language — transforming experiences, such as hearing the word “glass” when we are shown a glass of water, into a nearly automatic association of that word with objects that look and function like glasses, says Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor, member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and a senior author of the study. “This really is an important brick in the wall saying that the form of the gene that allowed us to speak may have something to do with a special kind of learning, which takes us from having to make conscious associations in order to act to a nearly automatic-pilot way of acting based on the cues around us,” Graybiel says. Wolfgang Enard, a professor of anthropology and human genetics at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany, is also a senior author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The paper’s lead authors are Christiane Schreiweis, a former visiting graduate student at MIT, and Ulrich Bornschein of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. All animal species communicate with each other, but humans have a unique ability to generate and comprehend language. Foxp2 is one of several genes that scientists believe may have contributed to the development of these linguistic skills. The gene was first identified in a group of family members who had severe difficulties in speaking and understanding speech, and who were found to carry a mutated version of the Foxp2 gene. In 2009, Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and his team engineered mice to express the human form of the Foxp2 gene, which encodes a protein that differs from the mouse version by only two amino acids. His team found that these mice had longer dendrites — the slender extensions that neurons use to communicate with each other — in the striatum, a part of the brain implicated in habit formation. They were also better at forming new synapses, or connections between neurons. (via Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene — ScienceDaily)

Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene
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Neuroscientists have found that a gene mutation that arose more than half a million years ago may be key to humans’ unique ability to produce and understand speech. Researchers from MIT and several European universities have shown that the human version of a gene called Foxp2 makes it easier to transform new experiences into routine procedures. When they engineered mice to express humanized Foxp2, the mice learned to run a maze much more quickly than normal mice. The findings suggest that Foxp2 may help humans with a key component of learning language — transforming experiences, such as hearing the word “glass” when we are shown a glass of water, into a nearly automatic association of that word with objects that look and function like glasses, says Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor, member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and a senior author of the study. “This really is an important brick in the wall saying that the form of the gene that allowed us to speak may have something to do with a special kind of learning, which takes us from having to make conscious associations in order to act to a nearly automatic-pilot way of acting based on the cues around us,” Graybiel says. Wolfgang Enard, a professor of anthropology and human genetics at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany, is also a senior author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The paper’s lead authors are Christiane Schreiweis, a former visiting graduate student at MIT, and Ulrich Bornschein of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. All animal species communicate with each other, but humans have a unique ability to generate and comprehend language. Foxp2 is one of several genes that scientists believe may have contributed to the development of these linguistic skills. The gene was first identified in a group of family members who had severe difficulties in speaking and understanding speech, and who were found to carry a mutated version of the Foxp2 gene. In 2009, Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and his team engineered mice to express the human form of the Foxp2 gene, which encodes a protein that differs from the mouse version by only two amino acids. His team found that these mice had longer dendrites — the slender extensions that neurons use to communicate with each other — in the striatum, a part of the brain implicated in habit formation. They were also better at forming new synapses, or connections between neurons. (via Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene — ScienceDaily)

That’s this notion that we get from high-school English class that metaphors are imprecise or evocative. And what we’re finding is that metaphors are highly precise," Marghetis told me. "They allow you to take precise reasoning and the understanding that you have of concrete domains and then export them to be used in more abstract domains. So in a way, metaphor actually allows you to think precisely about things that otherwise … you might have trouble getting a grip on.

The Power of Mental Pictures - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Take “kick the bucket.” Lakoff offers a theory of what it means using a scene from Young Frankenstein. “Mel Brooks is there and they’ve got the patient dying,” he says. “The bucket is a slop bucket at the edge of the bed, and as he dies, his foot goes out in rigor mortis and the slop bucket goes over and they all hold their nose. OK. But what’s interesting about this is that the bucket starts upright and it goes down. It winds up empty. This is a metaphor—that you’re full of life, and life is a fluid. You kick the bucket, and it goes over.”

Your Brain on Metaphors - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Lakoff and Johnson’s program is as anti-Platonic as it’s possible to get. It undermines the argument that human minds can reveal transcendent truths about reality in transparent language. They argue instead that human cognition is embodied—that human concepts are shaped by the physical features of human brains and bodies. “Our physiology provides the concepts for our philosophy,” Lakoff wrote in his introduction to Benjamin Bergen’s 2012 book, Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning. Marianna Bolognesi, a linguist at the International Center for Intercultural Exchange, in Siena, Italy, puts it this way: “The classical view of cognition is that language is an independent system made with abstract symbols that work independently from our bodies. This view has been challenged by the embodied account of cognition which states that language is tightly connected to our experience. Our bodily experience.”

Your Brain on Metaphors - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Economic success ‘drives language extinction’ -Economic development is driving the extinction of some languages, scientists believe.  - A study has found that minority languages in the most developed parts of the world, including North America, Europe and Australia, are most at threat. The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The researchers say that efforts to protect these languages need to be focused on these areas. Lead author Tatsuya Amano, from the University of Cambridge, said: “World languages are now rapidly being lost. This is a very serious situation. “We wanted to know how the extinction is distributed globally and what are the main drivers of this.” Vanishing voices Dr Amano, who usually looks at extinction rates in animals, said that about 25% of languages around the world were under threat. The researchers found that the more successful a country was economically, the more rapidly its languages were being lost. They said that in North America, languages such as Upper Tanana, were now spoken by fewer than 25 people in Alaska, and were at risk of vanishing forever. In Europe, languages such as Ume Sami in Scandinavia or Auvergnat in France are fading fast. Dr Amano said: “As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation’s political and educational spheres. “People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.” The team also found that languages in the Himalayas are at risk, such as Bahing in Nepal, which has an estimated eight speakers. In the tropics, too, voices are disappearing. “These countries are experiencing rapid economic growth, so in the near future these languages will face risk of extinction.” The scientists call for conservation efforts to focus on these regions. Dr Amano said that work undertaken to protect languages such as Welsh in the UK was a good example a successful strategy. (via BBC News - Economic success ‘drives language extinction’)

Economic success ‘drives language extinction’
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Economic development is driving the extinction of some languages, scientists believe.
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A study has found that minority languages in the most developed parts of the world, including North America, Europe and Australia, are most at threat. The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The researchers say that efforts to protect these languages need to be focused on these areas. Lead author Tatsuya Amano, from the University of Cambridge, said: “World languages are now rapidly being lost. This is a very serious situation. “We wanted to know how the extinction is distributed globally and what are the main drivers of this.” Vanishing voices Dr Amano, who usually looks at extinction rates in animals, said that about 25% of languages around the world were under threat. The researchers found that the more successful a country was economically, the more rapidly its languages were being lost. They said that in North America, languages such as Upper Tanana, were now spoken by fewer than 25 people in Alaska, and were at risk of vanishing forever. In Europe, languages such as Ume Sami in Scandinavia or Auvergnat in France are fading fast. Dr Amano said: “As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation’s political and educational spheres. “People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.” The team also found that languages in the Himalayas are at risk, such as Bahing in Nepal, which has an estimated eight speakers. In the tropics, too, voices are disappearing. “These countries are experiencing rapid economic growth, so in the near future these languages will face risk of extinction.” The scientists call for conservation efforts to focus on these regions. Dr Amano said that work undertaken to protect languages such as Welsh in the UK was a good example a successful strategy. (via BBC News - Economic success ‘drives language extinction’)

About four thousand years ago, somewhere in the Middle East — we don’t know where or when, exactly — a scribe drew a picture of an ox head. The picture was rather simple: just a face with two horns on top. It was used as part of an abjad, a set of characters that represent the consonants in a language. Over thousands of years, that ox-head icon gradually changed as it found its way into many different abjads and alphabets. It became more angular, then rotated to its side. Finally it turned upside down entirely, so that it was resting on its horns. Today it no longer represents an ox head or even a consonant. We know it as the capital letter A. The moral of this story is that symbols evolve.

The origin of laughter, smiles and tears – Michael Graziano – Aeon
Yolo and binge-watch added to online dictionary - Yolo, an acronym for ‘you only live once’, is among the latest new words added to the Oxford online dictionary. The phrase, along with ‘adorbs’ - meaning cute or adorable, and ‘binge-watch’ - which means to avidly watch something - has been added to oxforddictionaries.com. The website is a catalogue of current definitions of English words as they are used today. Other new inclusions include “tech-savvy” and “clickbait”. The words have been revealed as part of the latest quarterly update of the online dictionary, and give an insight for linguists into current language usage trends. The words will not, for now, appear in the paper-version of the Oxford English Dictionary, which is a more historical account of words, but they could do in the foreseeable future if they continue to be frequently used for years to come. According to the online dictionary’s language monitoring programme, use of the word ‘binge-watch’ increased fourfold in February and tripled in June, based on its average use over the last two years. There were notable spikes in its usage recorded around the latest releases of political drama House Of Cards in February and the US comedy Orange Is The New Black in June 2014. Other informal terms entered into the online dictionary: bank of mum and dad - a person’s parents regarded as a source of financial assistance or support bro hug - another term for ‘man hug’ and is used to describe two males embracing cray - crazy hench - often used to describe a man who is strong, fit, and having well-developed muscles hot mess - a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered: mansplain - (Of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising side-eye - a sidelong glance expressing disapproval or contempt spit-take - an act of suddenly spitting out liquid one is drinking in response to something funny or surprising (via BBC News - Yolo and binge-watch added to online dictionary)

Yolo and binge-watch added to online dictionary
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Yolo, an acronym for ‘you only live once’, is among the latest new words added to the Oxford online dictionary. The phrase, along with ‘adorbs’ - meaning cute or adorable, and ‘binge-watch’ - which means to avidly watch something - has been added to oxforddictionaries.com. The website is a catalogue of current definitions of English words as they are used today. Other new inclusions include “tech-savvy” and “clickbait”. The words have been revealed as part of the latest quarterly update of the online dictionary, and give an insight for linguists into current language usage trends. The words will not, for now, appear in the paper-version of the Oxford English Dictionary, which is a more historical account of words, but they could do in the foreseeable future if they continue to be frequently used for years to come. According to the online dictionary’s language monitoring programme, use of the word ‘binge-watch’ increased fourfold in February and tripled in June, based on its average use over the last two years. There were notable spikes in its usage recorded around the latest releases of political drama House Of Cards in February and the US comedy Orange Is The New Black in June 2014.
Other informal terms entered into the online dictionary: bank of mum and dad - a person’s parents regarded as a source of financial assistance or support bro hug - another term for ‘man hug’ and is used to describe two males embracing cray - crazy hench - often used to describe a man who is strong, fit, and having well-developed muscles hot mess - a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered: mansplain - (Of a man) explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising side-eye - a sidelong glance expressing disapproval or contempt spit-take - an act of suddenly spitting out liquid one is drinking in response to something funny or surprising (via BBC News - Yolo and binge-watch added to online dictionary)