Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Let's get weird!

Let's get weird!! (Not Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic, we need to get less WEIRD remember?) "Normal weird" if you get what I mean, i.e. if we take a sample of something, find a normal distribution and then outliers that differ a lot from that said distribution.
Ivan Derzhanski has recently revisited Tyler Schnoebelen's experiment on finding the most typologically unusual language, but with some different conditions. You can read more about the experiment and the results here. (Thanks Natasja for the tip!!) Using WALS-data he's calculated that from that data, that sample of languages (WALS 200 set) and from those conditions: the weirdest language is Iraqw and the blandest Koyraboro Senni and Yaqui.

Always, always keep in mind that:
  • when linguists talk about weirdness and complexity we're not passing value judgements ("good", "bad")
  • linguistics is often euro-centric, if not in sampling then in the kinds of topics we describe. WALS tries not to be, but it's always good to keep that in the back of your head when reading comparative work
Ivan Derzhanski is besides a theoretical and computational linguist also one of the founders of the modern International Olympiad of Linguistics. Among other things is manages the multilingual editing of the problem set, it's a very complicated business and you can read more about it here

If you know/are a student of secondary school (high school) interested in linguistics, do advise them/yourself to come and check the olympiad out!!

If you like to get weird and/or complicated, you might wanna follow this link and read more about the exhibition of rare things in languages and some other tips.


(P.S. I have 20 Swedish kronor that says that Jan Wohlgemuth, blogger on linguisten and editor of Rara & Rarissima: documenting the fringes of linguistic diversity and Rethinking Universals How Rarities Affect Linguistic Theory is gonna be the first one to reblog this on the tumblrs.. ^^!)


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