Posts Tagged ‘language’

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Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning

September 14, 2016

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The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

Read HERE

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How do people lose their native language?

June 10, 2014

Sgt Bowe Bergdahl spoke English for 23 years until he was captured by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan five years ago. But since his release, he has trouble speaking it, says his father. How can you lose your native language, asks Taylor Kate Brown.

Some people have gone decades without speaking or hearing their first language but they retain the ability to speak it easily, says Dr Monika Schmid, a linguistics professor at the University of Essex in the UK. But others begin losing fluency within a few years of not speaking it.

It’s rare to totally lose command of a first language, she says. Instead people have “language attrition” – trouble recalling certain words or they use odd grammar structures. Age is a factor. Once past puberty, Dr Schmid says, your first language is stable and the effects of attrition can reverse themselves if you are re-immersed. But children as old as 10 don’t necessarily retain the language they were born into. In a study of French adoptees who left South Korea in childhood, when asked in their early 30s to identify Korean, they did no better than native French speakers with no exposure to the language.

The difficulties in recalling your first language are greater the more immersed you are in a second language, says Dr Aneta Pavlenko at Temple University in Philadelphia, because cognitive resources are limited. Despite teaching Russian at university in the US, she herself returned to her Russian-speaking community in Kiev to realise she had forgotten how to start a conversation at the post office.

It’s well known that brain injuries can have an impact on language loss, but emotional trauma can also affect it. Among German Jews who fled the country during the Holocaust, Dr Schmid says the loss of language was far more dramatic the greater their trauma.

All text and Image via BBC News

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Tears Served as a Means of Communication Before the Evolution of Language

August 2, 2013

Leading expert in neurology Michael Trimble, British professor at the Institute of Neurology in London, examines the physiology and the evolutionary past of emotional crying.

Trimble explains that biologically, tears are important to protect the eye. They keep the eyeball moist, flush out irritants and contain certain proteins and substances that keep the eye healthy and fight infections. He explains that in every other animal on planet Earth, tears seem to only serve these biological purposes.

However, in humans, crying or sobbing, bawling or weeping seems to serve another purpose: communicating emotion. Humans cry for many reasons- out of joy, grief, anger, relief and a variety of other emotions. However, our tears are most frequently shed out of sadness. Trimble said that it was this specific communicative nature of human crying that piqued his interest.

“Humans cry for many reasons,” he told Scientific American. “But crying for emotional reasons and crying in response to aesthetic experiences are unique to us.”

Continue at Medicaldaily

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Gender in Twitter: Styles, stances, and social networks

February 14, 2013

We present a study of the relationship between gender, linguistic style, and social networks, using a novel corpus of 14,000 users of Twitter. Prior quantitative work on gender often treats this social variable as a binary; we argue for a more nuanced approach. By clustering Twitter feeds, we find a range of styles and interests that reflects the multifaceted interaction between gender and language. Some styles mirror the aggregated language-gender statistics, while others contradict them. Next, we investigate individuals whose language better matches the other gender. We find that such individuals have social networks that include significantly more individuals from the other gender, and that in general, social network homophily is correlated with the use of same-gender language markers. Pairing computational methods and social theory thus offers a new perspective on how gender emerges as individuals position themselves relative to audiences, topics, and mainstream gender norms.

Study by a trio of linguists and computer scientists (David Bamman, Jacob Eisenstein, Tyler Schnoebelen) that looks at the gendered expression of language online. PDF HERE
Image above via

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HOW TO SING (Meine Gesangskunst) by Lilli Lehmann

December 4, 2012

How to Sing is one of the most influential of all singing guides by Lilli Lehmann, one of opera’s first international superstars. Explores how to breathe correctly, produce a ringing head tone and execute a proper trill as well as important nuances of vocal expression, language, and role interpretation. Features recommended vocal exercises and guidelines for proper care of the voice.

Read for free HERE thanks to Project Gutemberg.

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The Rosetta Disk

August 7, 2012

The Rosetta Disk fits in the palm of your hand, yet it contains over 13,000 pages of information on over 1,500 human languages. The pages are microscopically etched and then electroformed in solid nickel, a process that raises the text very slightly – about 100 nanometers – off of the surface of the disk. Each page is only 400 microns across – about the width of 5 human hairs – and can be read through a microscope at 650X as clearly as you would from print in a book. Individual pages are visible at a much lower magnification of 100X. The outer ring of text reads “Languages of the World” in eight major world languages. We have now engineered a special numbered edition of the Rosetta Disk, shown in the image below, that can be yours as a gift for joining The Long Now Foundation as a Lifetime Member. Proceeds support the Rosetta Project and our work to build the largest open, publicly accessible collection of resources on the world’s languages.

Text and Image via Rosseta. More info HERE


A film by by Scott Oller.

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The SKOR Codex

July 23, 2012

The SKOR Codex is a printed book which will be sent to different locations on earth in the year 2012. It contains binary encoded image and sound files selected to portray the diversity of life and culture at the Foundation for Art and Public Domain (SKOR), and is intended for any intelligent terrestrial life form, or for future humans, who may find it. The files are protected from bitrot, software decay and hardware failure via a transformation from magnetic transitions on a disk to ink on paper, safe for centuries. Instructions in a symbolic language explain the origin of the book and indicate how the content is to be decoded. La Société Anonyme noted that “the package will be encountered and the book decoded only if there will be advanced civilizations on earth in the far future. But the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about art on this planet.” Thus the record is best seen as a time capsule and a statement rather than an attempt to preserve SKOR for future art historians. The SKOR Codex is a project by La Société Anonyme.

Text and Image via La Société Anonyme