Tags: linguistics

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Friday, September 28th, 2018

Letterform Archive – From the Collection: Blissymbolics

The fascinating story of Charles K. Bliss and his symbolic language:

The writing system – originally named World Writing in 1942, then Semantography in 1947, and finally Blissymoblics in the 1960s – contains several hundred basic geometric symbols (“Bliss-characters”) that can be combined in different ways to represent more complex concepts (“Bliss-words”). For example, the Bliss-characters for “house” and “medical” are combined to form the Bliss-word for “hospital” or “clinic”. The modular structure invites comparison to the German language; the German word for “hospital ” – “krankenhaus” – translates directly to “sick house”.

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Insult Generator

Testing the theory that putting the word “total”, “complete”, or “absolute” in front of any noun automatically makes for an excellent insult.

Thursday, July 5th, 2018

Preserving mother tongues

Hui Jing describes her motivation for creating the lovely Penang Hokkien site:

People who grew up their whole lives in a community that spoke the same mother tongue as themselves would probably find this hard to relate to, but it really was something else to hear my mother tongue streaming out of the speakers of my computer.

She ends with an impassioned call for more local language websites:

If the Internet is meant to enhance the free flow of information and ideas across the world, then creation of content on the web should not largely be limited to English-speaking communities.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Notes on `lang` by Taylor Hunt on CodePen

A really deep dive into the lang attribute, and the :lang() pseudo-class (hitherto unknown to me). This is all proving really useful for a little side project I’m working on.

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

A typeface is not a tool · Klim Type Foundry

Conceding that a typeface is a tool sounds dangerously close to an excuse: toolmakers cannot be held responsible for things made with their tools, or the tasks leading up to those things. They are only responsible for the making of the tool itself. If a person decides to use a hammer to drive home a screw, then so be it. The hammer was only designed for nails. It’s not our fault the typography doesn’t look good. The typeface is just a tool — you’re using it wrong.

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Exploring the Linguistics Behind Regular Expressions

Before reading this article, I didn’t understand regular expressions. But now, having read this article, I don’t understand regular expressions and I don’t understand linguistics. Progress!

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Teaching and Brainstorming Inclusive Technical Metaphors - Features - Source: An OpenNews project

Some great ideas here about using metaphors when explaining technical topics.

I really like these four guidelines for good metaphors:

  • Complete
  • Memorable
  • Inclusive
  • Accessible

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Even Racists Got the Blues – The Geeky Gaeilgeoir

The perils of self-translation.

I’m often baffled by the number of people who seem to think that you can translate from one language to another simply by pulling the words of one language from a dictionary and plugging them into the syntax of the other. It just doesn’t work that way, friends.

Read to the end for a wonderfully delicious twist in the tale.

Amadán.

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Malaphors | Unintentional blended idioms and phrases – It’s the cream of the cake!

Some of these really tickle my fancy bone.

That’s the icing on the iceberg

You let the horse out of the cart

What planet are you living under?

That opens a whole other kettle of fish

The cat’s out of the barn

Patience comes to those who wait

That’s right up my cup of tea

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Words

I like words. I like the way they can be tethered together to produce a satisfying sentence.

Jessica likes words even more than I do (that’s why her website is called “wordridden”). She studied linguistics and she’s a translator by trade—German into English. Have a read of her post about translating Victor Klemperer to get an inkling of how much thought and care she puts into it.

Given the depth of enquiry required for a good translation, I was particularly pleased to read this remark by John Le Carré:

No wonder then that the most conscientious editors of my novels are not those for whom English is their first language, but the foreign translators who bring their relentless eye to the tautological phrase or factual inaccuracy – of which there are far too many. My German translator is particularly infuriating.

That’s from an article called Why we should learn German, but it’s really about why we should strive for clarity in our use of language:

Clear language — lucid, rational language — to a man at war with both truth and reason, is an existential threat. Clear language to such a man is a direct assault on his obfuscations, contradictions and lies. To him, it is the voice of the enemy. To him, it is fake news. Because he knows, if only intuitively, what we know to our cost: that without clear language, there is no standard of truth.

It reminds me of one of my favourite Orwell essays, Politics and the English Language:

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

But however much I agree with Le Carré’s reprise of Orwell’s call for clarity, I was brought up short by this:

Every time I hear a British politician utter the fatal words, “Let me be very clear”, these days I reach for my revolver.

Le Carré’s text was part of a speech given in Berlin, where everyone would get the reference to the infamous Nazi quote—Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning—and I’m sure it was meant with a sly wink. But words matter.

Words are powerful. Words can be love and comfort — and words can be weapons.

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Can These Pornographers End ‘MILFs,’ ‘Teens,’ and ‘Thugs’? | The Nation

A fascinating look at an attempt to redefine the taxonomy of online porn.

Porn is part of the ecosystem that tells us what sex and sexuality are. Porn terms are, to use Foucault’s language, part of a network of technologies creating truths about our sexuality.

Reminds of the heady days of 2005, when it was all about tagging and folksonomies.

The project, at its most ambitious, seeks to create a new feedback loop of porn watched and made, unmoored from the vagaries of old, bad, lazy categories.

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

English as she is spoke

This is truly a book apart.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages Alex Dally MacFarlane | Interfictions Online

A fascinating look into the challenges encountered translating Anne Leckie’s excellent Radchaai novels into Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Hungarian.

What is clear in all of these responses is that by examining the notions of ‘neutral’ and ‘feminine’ in grammar and gender through the lens of translation, we reveal their complexity – and some of their possible futures in languages, in both literature and speech.

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Avoiding ‘words to avoid’ | Inside GOV.UK

I love the thinking behind this plugin that highlights the weasel words that politicians are so found of.

Monday, December 16th, 2013

xkcd: Syllable Planning

This is called expletive infixation.

I’ll always remember the “Phila-fucking-delphia” example from Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct:

If you said “Philadel-fucking-phia”, you’d be laughed out of the pool hall.

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Benedict Cumberbatch Name Generator

I bet you’re going to just keep clicking and clicking and clicking…

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Not click. Not tap. Select. : Cennydd Bowles

Cennydd uses the word “select” as an input-neutral term for what we might be tempted to call clicks or taps. Personally, I like the term “choose”, although that word might have too much intent bundled with it.

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Rosetta on Vimeo

A beautiful short film about The Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project.

Rosetta

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

ishida >> blog » HTML5 adds new translate attribute

Richard gives the lowdown on the new translate attribute in HTML.

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Metaphors we Program By: Space, Action and Society in Java

Linguistics and programming collide in this paper from the 18th Workshop of the Psychology of Programming Interest Group, University of Sussex, September 2006: Lakoffian analysis of the mental models of Java programmers.