A Momentary Flow

Updating Worldviews one World at a time

More recently and perhaps most importantly, it’s been found that people who learn a second language, even in adulthood, can better avoid cognitive decline in old age. In fact, when everything else is controlled for, bilinguals who come down with dementia and Alzheimer’s do so about four-and-a-half years later than monolinguals. Dr. Thomas Bak, a lecturer in the philosophy, psychology, and language sciences department at the University of Edinburgh, conducted the study and found that level of education and intelligence mattered less than learning a second language when it came to delaying cognitive decline. “It’s not the good memory that bilinguals have that is delaying cognitive decline,” Bak told me. “It’s their attention mechanism. Their ability to focus in on the details of language.”
Polyglots tend to be good at paying attention in a wide variety of ways, especially when performing visual tasks (like searching a scene or a list for a specific name or object) and when multitasking, which, according to Bak’s theory, is likely improved thanks to the practice of mentally switching between one’s native and foreign language while learning the foreign language.

For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language - The Atlantic

“Cognitive traps,” or simple mistakes in spelling or comprehension that our brains tend to make when taking linguistic shortcuts (such as how you can easily read “tihs senetcne taht is trerilby msispleld”), are better avoided when one speaks multiple languages. Multi-linguals might also be better decision-makers. According to a new study, they are more resistant to conditioning and framing techniques, making them less likely to be swayed by such language in advertisements or political campaign speeches. Those who speak multiple languages have also been shown to be more self-aware spenders, viewing “hypothetical” and “real” money (the perceived difference between money on a credit card and money in cold, hard cash) more similarly than monolinguals.

For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language - The Atlantic
For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language - The cognitive benefits of multilingualism  - There’s a certain sinking feeling one gets when thinking of the perfect thing to say just a moment too late. Perhaps a witty parting word could have made all the difference. There is no English word to express this feeling, but the French have the term l’esprit de l’escalier—translated, “stairwell wit”—for this very phenomenon. Nor is there an English word to describe the binge eating that follows an emotional blow, but the Germans have kummerspeck—“grief-bacon”—to do just that. If we had the Swedish word lagom—which means something is just right—the English explanation of Goldilocks’ perfectly temperate soup could have been a lot more succinct. Or the term koi no yokan, a poetic Japanese turn of phrase that expresses the feeling of knowing that you will soon fall in love with the person you have just met. It’s not love at first sight so much as an understanding that love is inevitable. Keats and Byron could have really used a word like that. There are many words that English speakers don’t have. Sometimes Anglophones take from other languages, but often, we have to explain our way around a specific feeling or emotion that doesn’t have its own word, never quite touching on it exactly. “The reason why we borrow words like savoir faire from French is because it’s not part of the culture [in the United States] and therefore that word did not evolve as part of our language,” says George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. (via For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language - The Atlantic)

For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language
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The cognitive benefits of multilingualism
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There’s a certain sinking feeling one gets when thinking of the perfect thing to say just a moment too late. Perhaps a witty parting word could have made all the difference. There is no English word to express this feeling, but the French have the term l’esprit de l’escalier—translated, “stairwell wit”—for this very phenomenon. Nor is there an English word to describe the binge eating that follows an emotional blow, but the Germans have kummerspeck—“grief-bacon”—to do just that. If we had the Swedish word lagom—which means something is just right—the English explanation of Goldilocks’ perfectly temperate soup could have been a lot more succinct. Or the term koi no yokan, a poetic Japanese turn of phrase that expresses the feeling of knowing that you will soon fall in love with the person you have just met. It’s not love at first sight so much as an understanding that love is inevitable. Keats and Byron could have really used a word like that. There are many words that English speakers don’t have. Sometimes Anglophones take from other languages, but often, we have to explain our way around a specific feeling or emotion that doesn’t have its own word, never quite touching on it exactly. “The reason why we borrow words like savoir faire from French is because it’s not part of the culture [in the United States] and therefore that word did not evolve as part of our language,” says George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. (via For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language - The Atlantic)

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