Sounding out ideas on language, vivid sensory words, and iconicity

Category: Linguistics

  • Unlocking the potential of the spoken word?

    An intriguing article in Science two months ago suggests that advances in speech processing ‘may soon place speech and writing on a more equal footing, with broad implications for many aspects of society’. It reminds us that most of humanity’s approximately 50,000 years1 with language was dominated by the spoken word, and that the balance […]

  • Visualizations

    Via Language Log, a nice tutorial titled Interactive Visualization for Computational Linguistics [PDF, 13,1 Mb] by Christopher Collins, Gerald Penn, and Sheelagh Carpendale. Includes not only lots of wonderful visualizations, but also a lot of background information on Gestalt perception, visualizations as ‘external cognition’, preattentive processing, info on a case study (slide 196ff.), and ample […]

  • On playthings and tools

    Let me draw your attention to the newly added quote at the top right of this page: “…they are playthings, not the tools of language.” The quote comes from Max Müller’s Lectures on the Science of Language (I’m citing the 1862 edition). I wrote a little about the historical context of that quote recently but […]

  • Wordle now does Extended Latin and diacritics

    Great news for those who are into visual corpus linguistics but don’t work on SAE languages: since July, Wordle handles alphabets in the Extended Latin ranges; and today its maker, Jonathan Feinberg, added support for combining diacritics. That means that you can now feed Wordle texts from languages that use tone marks and other diacritics […]

  • Three misconceptions about ideophones

    In a previous post I have outlined the history of the term ideophone. This post takes on three common misunderstandings about the nature of ideophones. As an added bonus, if you read all three, you get one for free. The working definition I adopt for ‘ideophones’ is the following: Marked words that depict sensory imagery. […]

  • Le Ton Beau de Ta Hio

    Reading about the two translations of the Confucian Ta Hio by Ezra Pound, the earlier one first published in 1928 and the later one created in 1945, I was reminded of Hofstadter’s Le Ton Beau de Marot. Though Hofstadter’s book on the problem of translation is personal and impressive, I also found it annoyingly ignorant […]

  • Semantic cookies

    Semantic cookies are sold in Akpafu-Mempeasem, central Volta Region, Ghana (among other places) Fieldwork sessions on lexical semantics have become a lot easier since I found these cookies. I came across them in a small and dusty store in Akpafu-Mempeasem, my fieldwork hometown of all places. Semantic cookies are made in Turkey by a company […]

  • More visualizations

    A visualization of the previous two posts on Many Eyes and Siwu ne Because recursivity is a Good Thing, here is a visualization of the previous two posts on visualizing linguistic data with Many Eyes. The astute reader will note that the strange loop is not perfect since I didn’t use Many Eyes for the […]

  • Many Eyes on Siwu ne

    Lots of readers looked at the challenge I posted last week (my blog statistics say more than 450 views for the post alone, so that’s many eyes indeed). A few of you were even daring enough to come up with a story on the various functions of Siwu ne. The challenge was probably a bit […]

  • Visual corpus linguistics with Many Eyes

    I recently came across Many Eyes, a nifty data visualisation tool by IBM’s Visual Communication Lab. It has lots of options to handle tabular data, but —more interesting to linguists— it can also handle free text. The two visualization options it currently offers for text are a tag cloud and a so-called ‘word tree’. The […]

  • Adjectives and the gospel in Ewe

    Previously, we’ve looked at a perceptive account of ideophones in nineteenth-century Ewe by Joh. Bernard Schlegel. But Schlegel was not just a keen observator of the synchronic structure of Ewe, he also had clear ideas on where the language came from (damned primitivity) and where it was going (blessed enlightenment). A Pietist missionary above all […]

  • Done well: WALS Online

    Note: An updated version of this review has been published in eLanguage on July 15th, 2008. A common dashboard sticker in Ghanaian taxi’s has it that “If it must be done, it must be done well”, where ‘done well’ cleverly doubles as a brand name. This is largely irrelevant except by way of introducing WALS […]

  • The etymology of Zotero

    If you’ve read yesterday’s post (Zotero, an Endnote alternative) or come across Zotero elsewhere, you may have been wondering about its name. I believe most Anglophones pronounce the word [ˌzɔˈtɛɹoʊ] (zoh-TER-o), but the term itself actually derives from the Albanian verb zotëro-j [zɔtərɔj] ‘master, acquire’.1 The final -j marks the 1st person indicative (the regular […]

  • We need Simpler Syntax, but we can do without a Grammar of the Gaps

    Recently I picked up Simpler Syntax in the library. It is a good read on a very complex topic, and I’m afraid that in this posting I am not going to do justice to the full breadth of the book. These are just some doubts that crept up while reading it. Simpler Syntax, as far […]