linguistics

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How the Words We Use Changed Over 200 Years

'This is an indicator that happiness may be on the decline'

(Newser) - It is well established that humans across languages and cultures have a tendency to use more positive words than negative ones. This is called linguistic positivity bias (LPB), but why the phenomenon exists remains unclear. Now researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that their big... More »

Term of Endearment That Was Big in 1870 Is Back

Anecdotally, some fathers think 'papa' is more hip, cute and feminist than 'dad'

(Newser) - With the name "mama" on the rise in the US, the Daily Beast proposes anecdotal evidence that "papa" is now also in vogue—at least among Brooklyn hipsters with offspring, that is. But will it make its way back across the rest of the country, where it reached... More »

Our Languages May Have More in Common Than We Thought

New findings challenge long-held theories about languages forming independently

(Newser) - About 100 years ago, one of the founders of modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure, wrote that the relationship between the sounds we make and the concepts they signify are arbitrary. Many have long agreed. But now the inherent randomness of human language is being challenged by a large new study... More »

Why People in Hot Climates Use Fewer Consonants

Linguists see link between language and weather, landscape

(Newser) - It turns out there might be a simple reason why native Hawaiians have a word like "luau," whereas mainlanders say words like "spritz" or "Cumberbatch." And its the same reason you'd probably rather sunbathe on Oahu than in Svalbard. Discover Magazine reports two linguists... More »

10 Words Deciphered From Mysterious 600-Year-Old Text

Stephen Bax has figured out 14 characters from the Voynich manuscript

(Newser) - What has been called the most mysterious manuscript in the world has at last given up a tiny handful of its secrets. An applied linguistics professor thinks he's deciphered 14 characters from the famous Voynich manuscript, and with them 10 complete words, LiveScience , the BBC , and the Independent report.... More »

Our Ancestors May Have Sounded Like This

Prof records story in millenia-old language

(Newser) - Recording studios were hard to find 6,500 years ago, but thanks to centuries of scholarship, we may now be able to get a sense of how our ancient ancestors sounded. A linguist at the University of Kentucky has recorded a short story in Proto-Indo-European, or PIE, a language probably... More »

New Language Born in Outback Town

Nobody over 35 speaks Light Warlpiri

(Newser) - Linguists more accustomed to dealing with dying languages have been thrilled to witness the birth of an entire new language in one of Australia's most remote communities, the New York Times finds. Nobody over 35 speaks "Light Warlpiri," which is spoken only in Lajamanu, an isolated village... More »

Rare Dialect Dying in US: Texas-German?

Last speakers in their 60s, as professor tries to preserve it

(Newser) - Another unique American dialect is fading into obscurity, and it's a safe bet that most never knew it existed in the first place: "Texas German." It's so unusual that University of Texas linguist professor Hans Boas tells the BBC he has "found no two speakers... More »

These 23 Words Have Survived 15K Years

Linguists discover 'ultraconserved words'

(Newser) - Plants and animals aren't the only things that go extinct: Most words are replaced every few thousand years, with a maximum survival of roughly 9,000 years, say linguists. But in a new study published yesterday, four British researchers say they have found 23 words that have persisted for... More »

'Me, Me, Me': Book Analysis Shows the Fall of 'We'

New study finds individualistic words on the rise

(Newser) - A new study of more than 750,000 American books from the past half-century shows that Americans have become more focused on individualism since the 1960s, researchers say. The study found that individualistic words like "I" were used more than communal words like "we," USA Today reports.... More »

Young Women: Our Linguistic Pioneers?

Their speech patterns set trends the rest of us follow, say experts

(Newser) - Girls often get mocked for their uptalking—ending sentences at a higher pitch—or frequent use of "like." But it's time to give them credit for leading the way when it comes to language patterns, linguists tell the New York Times . "If women do something like... More »

'Uhs' and 'Ums': Among the Verbal Tics of Psychopaths

They interrupt speech to mask their madness: study

(Newser) - Know someone who uses "uh" and "um" a lot, and cause-and-effect conjunctions like "because" and "so that"? Well, not to exaggerate, but your friend may be a psychopath. Researchers recently interviewed 52 convicted murderers in an effort to suss out the linguistic tendencies of psychopaths—... More »

Scientists Create 'That's What She Said' Algorithm

Millions of sentences analyzed for 'sexiness' potential

(Newser) - For fans of The Office, Michael Scott's leaving was a hard but enjoyable climax—and that's what she said, of course. And for fans of the "that's what she said" joke, two scientists at the University of Washington have created a computer program for identifying the... More »

Sorry Kids, No 'Booty' in New Bible

US bishops replace chuckle-inducing word with 'spoils'

(Newser) - No longer will young Catholics snicker in Sunday school every time the word "booty" comes up in a Bible verse: In the newest translation of the New American Bible, Catholic bishops have ordered the word "booty" replaced with the word "spoils." It's just one of many... More »

Scientists Discover New Language

But India's Koro is in danger of becoming obsolete

(Newser) - Two linguists have discovered a language new to science, spoken by only about 1,000 people in the foothills of the Himalayas, the LA Times reports. Koro, as it has been named, was found among residents in a remote area of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Instead of being... More »

Ancient Mystery 'Language' Unearthed in Scotland

What are they trying to tell us?

(Newser) - Carvings discovered on more than 200 stones in Scotland have stumped linguists striving to decipher the ancient code. Some linguists believe the symbols carved by an ancient people known as the Picts are a lost language, and others say the carvings could be drawings with a message rather than writing.... More »

Thousands of Avatar Fans Learning Na'vi

Educational website even has study guides

(Newser) - If you’ve already mastered Klingon, you might want to turn your language learning talents onto Na’vi next. Yes, obsessive Avatar fans are learning the fictional language, most notably at the appropriately named learnnavi.org , where 4,300 people have already contributed to the discussion forums. One commenter, during... More »

Finally! A Sarcasm-Specific Punctuation Mark

Experts not sure you need to pay $1.99 to get it across

(Newser) - Sarcastic people around the world, rejoice—a father-son team has finally developed a punctuation mark purpose-built to make sarcasm clear in written and electronic communication. “Questions have the question mark, exclamations have the exclamation point,” reasons the elder creator. The SarcMark is “the 21st century’s punctuation.... More »

'Housemade' the Latest Word in Fine Dining

Artisanal flavor sets cuisine apart from mom's 'homemade'

(Newser) - A word that isn’t yet in the dictionary has been cropping up on menus across America: “housemade” is the new trend. Don’t confuse it with “homemade,” which has lost its buzz and now suggests an unprofessional cook or a hokey menu-writer. “Housemade has more... More »

Top 10 Most Irritating Phrases

Absolutely a nightmare, 24/7

(Newser) - At the end of the day, it's not rocket science, but the Guardian reports that researchers at Oxford University have been working absolutely 24/7 to compile a fairly unique list of phrases which, with all due respect, are some of the most irritating in popular use. You’ve just read... More »

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