November, 2011

Steven Pinker Interview

Tweet An interview with Steven Pinker on the nature of language, and the window it provides into the human psyche and mind, is available on The New York times website.  It would be an interesting short video to show to classes.

Wampanoag Comes Home for Thanksgiving

Tweet Wampanoag is the language of the tribe that coexisted with the Pilgrims. Their language disappeared in the 19th century, but has recently been reconstructed by a Wampanoag woman, Annie “Little Doe” Baird, who won a MacArthur “genius” Award for her work.  A whole fascinating article can be found here. A film about  Baird and the […]

What’s Your Name?

Tweet There is a naming website,, established by author Pam Satran, which gets tens of thousands of visits every year.  Names are fascinating, and naming things is an important undertaking.  I remember after September 11th, nobody knew what to call either the kind of attack or the day itself, and we still don’t have […]

The End of English?

Tweet Below is a comment I sent in response to a post on Professor Dennis Baron’s ever-interesting blog, The Web of Language. In this post, he suggests that English may be on its way out.  It’s a bit far-fetched at this moment, at our apogee (or slightly post-apogee), but worth considering.  The level of discourse, […]

Language Planning & Policy

Tweet You probably are not aware of the amount of language planning that is going on around you.  This posting is simply a list of the questions which language planners try to resolve. The policies are devised out of your view, unless there is reason for activism or intervention in the discussion. What languages will […]

Lexicography exercise

Tweet We often think of dictionaries as definitive in their definitions, without questioning their authority, yet there are many different kinds of dictionaries, and students should be encouraged to use them with discretion and sophistication. An example: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 5th ed. (WNCD) aims its definitions at the “college student and general reader,” while […]

Creating new languages

Tweet From time to time, new languages develop in response to local needs.  For example, a deaf sign language was developed in Central America by a small community which was isolated from other deaf communities. A new kind of sign language is developing in the Occupy protests.  To read about it, here is the link: […]

Talking to dolphins

Tweet A previous post discussed Stephen Frye’s new tv series, in which he dismissed the language abilities of apes.  The excerpt from a longer article below gives more respect to animals’ abilities. “It was a childhood fascination with astronomy which drove him to where he is today and resulted in him joining SETI, an independent, […]