Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Languages of Nerdfighteria - help me reach John and Hank!

I tried to figure out how many languages are spoken in the online community of Nerdfighteria once, and now I'd like to see if I can get a hold of John and Hank Green with your help. Wanna join?

How is this interesting to a non-nerdfighter reader of this blog? Well, this is a good example of young people's enthusiasm for language and by encouraging it we're making the world better and possibly also linguistics better - just like the Olympiads of Linguistics or all the tumblrs, blogs, youtube-channels etc on linguistics out there on the interwebs. We in academia need to connect with the surrounding world, and enthusiastic young people are a great place to start.

Imma nerdfighter, this means that I form a part of the community around the vlogbrothers, brainscoop, scishow, the Art Assignment, crashcourse and many other excellent youtube-channels. It's an interactive community formed by nerds interested in knowledge and the world in general - that's the brief and simple way of putting it. The originators are Hank and John Green. Nerdfighteria is an environment that suits many geeks, nerd and academics very well. They've even done a very good video on linguistics that I highly recommend.

Anyway, a long time ago Hank Green asked the question "How many languages does nerdfightera speak?" in a video, which quickly lead to a forum thread where everyone started listing what languages they know. Since I'm a big fan of systematicity (being a scientist and all) I tried to bring some order into it all quickly by introducing a large collaborative spreadsheet with an accompanying section on how to deal with the spreadsheet since things quickly became chaotic there too.

This is by far not the best way of doing it, but I had to act quickly to ride the wave of what was going on. Had I done it today I woulda done things differently for sure. As you can tell when you enter the spreadsheet, there's been a lot of people there editing and I've "let" them enter things such as programming languages, conlangs, "unclear things" etc. However, I've not officially counted those entities as "languages". Needless to say, a more well-constructed survey would be in its place.

Anywho, there are still interesting facts one can derive from the information in the spreadsheet. In Nerdfightera, a community made up of nerdy (predominately) young people from all over the world, there are at least 127 languages spoken by at least one person. That is roughly 1,79 % of the languages of the world, but it means that we as a community could communicate to 66.99% of the population of our planet. This is because a few languages are spoken by many, you can read more about this distribution here. We can also learn that we have such interesting things as Australian Sign Language, Hawaiian Creole English and Chickasaw among our midst. Jay, go us!

Now at the time of all of this I tried to get in contact with Hank, John and their crew, but it proved very hard. They're constantly bombarded with messages I'm sure and a well-meaning timid linguist who wants to suggest a new survey and possible contribute with some linguistics to the crash courses isn't always gonna cut through the noise.

What I want to tell them is this:
  • this is what happened after Hank asked the question
  • these are some of the things we can learn from that forum thread and the collaborative spreadsheet (more than what is brought up in this post)
  • in the next census of nerdfighteria, would you like some assistance in figuring this out in a better way?
  • would you like to include linguistics and other non-natural sciences more often in scishow and crashcourse? If so, I'd be happy to help with linguistics ^^!
Can y'all help me reach John and Hank? You can retweet this (click here), reblog it on tumblr (click here), whatever you like. Let's see if we can get their attention and try and provide an answer to Hank's old question. If they want to get in touch, or if you or anyone else wants to pose a question about languages and/or linguistics, you're all very welcome to do so here :)!

When exploring the languages of Nerdfighteria one mustn't forget the non-English part of the forum, please redirect people there if they're asking to get to know non-English nerdfighters. There are also lots of non-English nerdfighter facebook groups, I cannot list them all. And there's also the linguistics-forum thread.

Alright, let's do this!

p.s I do realize that Project for Awesome is coming up, one of the most busy times of the year for Nerdfighteria. I have reasons to think that this is going to become relevant..

Ping @fishingboatproceeds (Johnh Green) @edwardspoonhands (Hank Green) and @scishow

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