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Category: General Language
Is it mathematically possible to create a language where terms describing complex ideas can be made up starting from simpler ideas, with simple logical reasoning in real time, so that knowing vocabulary is not necessary?
I’m sceptical to what extent mathematics enters into any reasoning about human language (and Lojbanists actually highlight that language is not reducible to truth-conditional logic). But much of what you’re saying is the bet behind Natural semantic metalanguage, which tries to define every concept ever in a language that looks like English, but that has […]
Do linguists think that teaching prescriptive grammar should be banned at school? It bombards students with controversial statements they can’t evaluate yet and gives them a wrong idea of what linguistics is about.
You may be surprised to hear me say this, given the debate I’ve just had on a related question, but not quite. Kids have to learn how to speak Job Interview. Linguistics, as a science, dispassionately observes the fact that there is such a variant of the language as Job Interview. Linguistics knows that native […]
What are some of the must know linguistic theories for any linguistics student?
Add to Andrew Noe’s answer: For historical linguistics, Uniformitarianism. (Yes, I know the link describes the geological version of that hypothesis.) The notion that human language in the past worked pretty much the same way as human language works now. For structuralism, as an underpinning of how we do linguistics in general: the Arbitrariness of […]
What would a living natural language that couldn’t change or evolve look like?
Well, what drives language change? Whatever needs drive language change would not be met by such a language. And speakers of such a language would get very frustrated. They’d be bored to death with each other. A major driver is the pursuit for novel and vivid ways of expressing a concept. You would not have […]
Why do I not appear to have a regional accent?
Without knowing anything whatsoever of your circumstances, OP, I’ll guess you’ve picked up some supraregional dialect koine somehow. Like, I dunno, RP, or whatever has replaced RP in England these days. It’ll have a lot to do with your upbringing and your socialisation, as others have said. This kind of accent mixup is very commonplace […]
Was Mario Pei the greatest linguist of the 20th century? How many languages could he speak?
Yeah. I read his popularisations too back in the day, and they were good. But I’m struggling to think of what he contributed to the discipline. Wikipedia: Mario Pei. He was an old school philologist, I see. And I have all the respect in the world for that. But I suspect that, if you’re not […]
Why do many languages have both grammatical genders and declensions?
Your insight is correct, Riccardo: declensions and genders are both classes of nominals. The difference in Indo-European is that gender, not declension, is what governs the agreement of non-nouns with nouns, while declension is how the morphology of nouns themselves works. So in Ancient Greek, gender only affects the ending of the noun in patches—a […]
How is it possible that we perceive irony?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony Grice. Grice Grice Grice Grice Grice. Paul Grice did seminal work in the philosophy of language, on how we recover meaning from an interlocutor’s words. It is clear that we routinely understand more—or less—than what our interlocutor says. To make sense of this, Grice developed a notion of conversational implicature. This is what we […]
Does the use of line breaks in text incentivize (critical) thinking?
I think you could argue the reverse, if anything, though I still think that linebreaks are preferable anyway. Let me take an historical approach to this. We use space and punctuation and typography to chop up written discourse into digestible units. Once we have these units, we use our thinking to build up a model […]
If languages are best learned from immersion, how is it possible to revitalize dead languages?
Through immersion. Please read Daniel Ross’ answer and Jens Stengaard Larsen’s answer, which address the bulk of this. The language you’re reviving is likely not going to be identical to the original language, as Jens points out; and that’s ok. I have a friend involved in language revival; she’s helping indigenous Australians reclaim their languages, […]