The language of guns

Tweet We should watch our gun language. The New York Times has an article today, “In Gun Debate, Even Language Is Loaded,” documenting the pervasive gun references in our language.  I speak six languages, and in thinking about each, I believe the article is correct — we have far more expressions, verbs, and nouns which […]

More on the beginning of language

Tweet At the end of the 19th century, a Xam/San man (we call them “Bushmen”) in South Africa looked at a figure in a prehistoric rock painting and said “That’s a shaman!” (This account taken from The Mind in the Cave, by David Lewis-Williams, published by Thames & Hudson in 2002.) Nobody knows for certain […]

Virtual reality

Tweet Years ago, a friend said he thought that young people today were blurring the distinction between real and virtual relationships.  I said that was ridiculous, that human beings would always need the sights, smells, and touch of other human beings. A relationship based on language alone would never prove gratifying. Now I wonder.  My […]

Bilingualism makes us smarter longer

Tweet An article in The New York Times today makes the case that not only does bilingualism make us smarter as children, it also wards off mental deterioration in older people. I might add my own two cents on this subject. There is no time in life when bilingualism is anything less than a great bonus […]

Area X: The Genes of song

Tweet I learned something new today — yes, our genetic makeup influences how we  behave, but our behavior also changes or enhances our genetic makeup.  It’s a two-way street. That is somehow hopeful. As reported in the journal Neuron, a UCLA team of researchers “discovered that some 2,000 genes in a region of the male zebra […]

Where do ideas come from?

Tweet One area of linguistics, Psycholinguistics, concerns itself with how the mind creates the matter which produces ideas.  Ideas are a precursor to the words which express them — a Chinese speaker and an English speaker can view a work of art or a car accident and have the same “idea,” but the words which […]

More meditation in the writing classroom

Tweet Here is another way of using meditation in the writing classroom.  Yesterday’s meditation was useful in that it provides students a break, gives them an extra tool, and allows them to access deeper levels of thinking.  Today’s exercise teaches them something else — everyone’s mind works differently.  It is common but unreasonable to imagine […]

Meditation in the writing classroom

Tweet There is no exercise that my students have enjoyed more than meditation.  They say they are under a lot of pressure, and to have a few minutes of utter quiet, with the lights low, is refreshing and calming, and gets their minds settled.  They rarely have moments to sit and think unmolested, and some […]

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.

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 […]