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Showing posts from March, 2017

Half of the world's languages are not Indo-European (but almost half of the population speak an Indo-European language)

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Big Think recently published an article titled "Half of All Languages Come from One Root Language. How it Spread Is Something of Debate" by Philip Perry. This is a nice article that provides an introduction to the stormy debate on the origins of the Indo-European languages family to the public. It is always appreciated to see current research debate covered in popular press!
The article informs the reader that "half of the languages spoken today by some 3 billion people come from a single root language".  This is unfortunately misleading, I'll provide some context here. 

TL;DR Only 6% of the 7,000-ish languages alive today are Indo-European. However, 46% of people speak an Indo-European language. Languages are not evenly distributed across the population, i.e. not half of the world's languages are Indo-European even if almost half of people speak it.

The writer is referring to the Indo-European language family, the most studied and well-known language family i…

Neat map illustrations from new internet friend

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We've made a new friend on the Internets (yes, the internet can be a great place to make new friends, it's not just arguing with Drunk Uncles and cats). The new friend is Stephan Steinbach from the blog Alternative Transport. His blog does very interesting work on data visualisations, in particular maps, go check it out.

He recently made a post in relation to our old post about illustrating questions about linguistic diversity. For other posts from us with data visualisation/illustration, go here.

While we're on the topic of visualising geographic data (i.e. data somehow tied to a place, such as number of languages etc), go check out Speckman's lab in Eindhoven. They've made a neat kind of map visualization called "necklace maps". If you're really into map visualisation you can even play their game on making cartograms!

Podcasts of linguistic seminars from CoEDL

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Happy news, it is possible to access lectures from the Centre of Excellence for Language Dynamics (CoEDL) on any podcasting app! Now you can also look this smart while listening to lectures about linguistic diversity on your normal podcast app!
The centre has long had lectures up at iTunes U, but it wasn't until now that I figured out how to get them out of the apple-bubble and into podcasting apps for android etc (i.e the RSS URL)*. I tried it out yesterday, I ended up listened to Russell Gray's talk on grand challenges of linguistics while grocery shopping at Aldi - a throughly pleasant experience that I wish you all! (I'm a podcast freak, every alone moment spent not working is spent listening to podcasts.)

The centre has several different programmes and projects, and the lectures are organised into different "courses" or "podcasts" accordingly. Below, I've included links to them all and some information about each podcast. 

In order to subscribe to…

International Women's Day 2017

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Last year, Hedvig wrote a post about the extremely prolific Joan Bresnan, co-founder of the formal grammatical framework Lexical Functional Grammar. Since the 8th of March is over in Hedvig's time zone, I thought I would make a small post with a few grammar goodies about mothers. Just because I happen to be one and being a mother is one of the important roles women take on.

from Bàsáá
híɣìí  m-ùràá      ɲ´ɛn               à-ŋ-gwés              wèè       mán.
every 1-woman 1EMPH.PRO 1.AGR-PRS-love 1.POSS 1-child
'Every woman loves her child.'

Hamlaoui, Fatima, and Emmanuel-Moselly Makasso. (2015). Focus marking and the unavailability of inversion structures in the Bantu language Bàsàá (A43). Lingua 1:35-64. p. 50.

from Tadaksahak
barr-én     i=yyasáf     s(a)        i=tǝ-keen(í)
child-PL  3p=prefer   COMP   3p=FUT-sleep
i=n           nan-én         ǝn       áaṣi-tan           ka. 
3p=GEN  mother-PL  GEN   belly.side-PL   LOC
'children prefer to sleep against the belly of the…

Spurious correlations

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*apologies for pay-walled links ahead*

I was first confronted by spurious correlations in language and culture during the EVOLANG 10 conference in Vienna in 2014, where I think I saw a poster on the relationship between tense marking and economic behaviour. If I remember correctly, this poster build on the famous findings of Keith Chen, who publisheda paper in 2013 on the relationship between obligatory future tense marking and various types of social and economical decisions people take.

The paper was very controversial before it was even published, with posts on Language Log (see links at bottom of the page for more posts) a reply on Language Log by Keith Chen and a variety of media coverage that can be found here and here and here and here.

Chen found that languages lacking a distinct future tense: "save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese" (abstract). He explains his findings as follows "[...] being required to speak in …

Listen to the world's languages pt 4!

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There's a lot of website around where you can literally listen to the diversity of the world's spoken languages, we've covered a few of them before under the tag Listen To The World's Languages.

Since we last made a post, we've found some more sites for you to enjoy. Just to reiterate here's a list of the sites we already mentioned before:
Language Landscape (global coverage, crowdsourced, you can add)Phonemica (mainly languages of China)Sound Comparisons (created for historical linguistics purposes)The Wide Language Index(the audio samples of the Great Language Game)The language Familiarization Game (from Maryland's "Langscape")Algonquian Language atlas (Cree, Ojibwe etc)Now, to new additions in this category. We've got six for you this time, all quite spectacular! 

*** Radio garden
Website. Article from The Verge about it.
Radio Garden is a Transnational Radio Knowledge Platform traveling online exhibition designed by Amsterdam-based Studio Monike…