Showing posts from May, 2015

Support your local linguistic olympiad

Dear linguists of the world, 
My name is Hedvig Skirgård and I’m a member of the board of the International Linguistics Olympiad (IOL) and PhD student of linguistics at ANU, Canberra. I’d like to tell you about linguistic olympiads and invite you all as linguists to participate in creating interesting linguistic puzzles for our participants and help spread linguistics to the youth of the world. You can contact us through this form
Linguistic Olympiads are arranged all over the world and started back in 1965 in Moscow. The goal is to make secondary school students interested in linguistics and languages by solving linguistic problems and getting training in linguistics. The contests look quite different in the different countries, but every year we come together for the international contest. The problems our participants solve in the contests are based on real phenomena in the world of languages and linguistics, and from all areas of our field of study. The participants are seconda…

Excellent educational video about language history/evolution

The American Museum of Natural History has created a video series about their collections, it's called Shelf Life. In this most recent episode, the 7th, the deal with language history - the trees they form and new methods investigating it that are borrowed from computational biology. They focus particularly on the Uto-Aztecan language family of North America and using very pedagogical illustrations among other things explain edit-distance in trees. This is great, if you're interested in historical/evolutionary linguistics you should tots watch it.
Here below is the actual video, you can also get more material related to the episode here.

I personally am a big fan of museums making their collection of knowledge more accessible to the public, and as a fan of the Brain Scoop and the Field Museum, I was of course particularly delighted that the American Museum of Natural History has decided to create this series, it seems great and I hope you'll like it too!
If you feel like …

Best Linguist Meme Ever (if I may say so myself)

I must admit, I'm inappropriately satisfied with this meme from the previous post so I'l repost it again in its own post so it can be spread more easily.

When I have to deal with irrealis

Irrealis is a grammatical term that covers a range of functions that are in the non-realised, imagined sphere of events, states and actions, such as future, negation, subjunctive, optative etc. It's most often described as a mood or modality, but not always. (This is related to whether future is a tense or a mood.) Typically, if the marker in question only marks future it is not called "irrealis" but "future" or "non-past" if applicable, but it might be called "irrealis" because neighbouring languages use a cognate to encode other irrealisy functions and such is the convention in that descriptive tradition (which does make sense). And of course, irrealis, future and related functions tend to grammaticalise into each other over time, and create nice fuzzy stages that we linguists can tear our hair out over (finally admitting to ourselves that while we love natural languages, they also drive us crazy).
Basically, there is a lot of different a…

Help us make our game on linguistic diversity more linguistically diverse (it's easy!)

Dear HWRG-readers.

I'm involved in creating a game about linguistic diversity within the Language In Interaction-consortium. We'd like to make this game itself available in as many languages as possible,  if you'd like you can help us doing that by translating a few phrases into a language that you master. You can do so here.

The game is called "LingQuest". You listen to several recordings of people talking and have to match the ones who are speaking the same language. It’s quite similar to the Great Language Game by Lars Yencken, but we’re also using many lesser-known languages from the DOBES archive.

Here’s a screenshot of the App in development:

We'd like for as many people as possible to be able to play the game, irrespective of if they know English or not. A lot of information today is primarily available in English, it's the working language of most conferences, publications and blogs of linguistics - also those on linguistic diversity. This is un…

When someone lumps together all linguists as belonging to the same theoretical school

You know when someone who's not in linguistics think of all linguists as belonging to the same theoretical school of thought? Isn't it frustrating? It's just bad and annoying, as are all needless and incorrect generalisations.

It's also surprisingly common - in my experience especially in fields that overlap with linguistics like psychology and neurology. A good friend, Petter, sent me a link to a fun blog about rap. (I really liked it, go read it - it's good stuff). However, it also contained an example of this phenomena:

In closed-off, inaccessible academic circles, linguist brohs openly hate on computer brohs for creating models of language that are based on “probability” and that don’t take into account the “underlying structure of language”.

This quote does not have to mean "all linguist bros", but it kinda seems like it. Not all linguist bros hate on probabilities. That is a major misunderstanding. Many of us are quite big fans of 'em even.


The Closing Conference of the MPIEVA Linguistics Department - Diversity Linguistics: Retrospects and Prospects

This week was the closing conference of the linguistics department of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig - Diversity Linguistics: Retrospects and Prospects. (Written about before with much excitement by Hedvig here and here.)
The talks were wonderful, presenting results of work done over many years.This is a partial and idiosyncratic summary of my experience there, which has to leave out talks that I couldn't get to due to schedule clashes in the program.  They are listed here roughly by chronology, or by theme. You can see the list of all talks and access their abstracts here.  A set of photos of the conference is here.
Bernard Comrie summarized the achievements of the department over the past seventeen years, probably the main one being the World Atlas of Language Structures first proposed and built by Martin Haspelmath and David Gil.This database set the precedent for linguistic databases that followed, including the ones that Russell Gray has now a…

Goodies from grammar reading returns - also: wallabies!

I've noticed that there are way too few posts with Goodies from Grammar reading on this blog nowadays. When we posted only on tumblr, that tag was quite common, but since we've moved to blogger, we've only got one post tagged (goodiefromgrammar-tag). Let's do something about that, after all we are humans who read grammars!
For newcomers: we're interested in systematic cross-linguistic comparison (aka linguistic typology). To get at some of the information needed for that kind of research, one needs to consult already existing descriptions of language, preferably grammars. Of the 7000+ languages in the world, more than 4000 have at least a grammar sketch or even a longer grammar. There's tons to read.

We're humans who read grammars because one could also have computers reading grammars or get similar information from comparing parallel texts. We're less interested in large languages like Swahili, Hindi, Spanish, Punjabi Arabic and Russian and more intere…