Beyond Words - Language Blog

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While ad hoc versions of sign language have existed throughout the course of human civilization, it was not until the 17th century that the Western world saw a systematic study of the teaching and learning of sign language.  In 1620, a Spanish priest by the name of Juan Pablo Bonet […]

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Read on to find out the fascinating and unexpected etymologies of ten of our country’s largest cities. Albuquerque: Named for its founder, Francisco Fernandez de la Cueva, Duke of Albuquerque, the original word is derived from the Latin albus, meaning “white”, and quercus, meaning “oak.” Atlanta:          Having undergone numerous name-changes […]

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Despite all the technological advances of the computer age, sometimes it’s most convenient to fall back on old practices. Palatography – demonstrated here my good friend in the video – is not an art form but a method of scientific inquiry. Linguists researching articulatory phonetics – how we physically make sounds […]

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When the Eurozone was forged in 1999, it brought with it the promise of more mobility, cooperation, and comradery in Europe. The global economic downturn that followed shortly after generated a sense of urgency, especially among young people, to seek employment outside of their home countries. Spain – one of […]

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Scientific investigation is a slow process. Rarely are long-established ideas smashed with one individual research paper that causes everyone to turn their heads. The study of sound symbolism (also called phonosemantics) follows suit. One of the founding principles of modern linguistics, as put forward by Saussure, is the idea that […]

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What if I was to tell you that Mandarin is far from alone in being a tonal language? What if I was to tell you that, in fact, most of the world’s languages are tonal, including some entire language families? I suspect you’d either be surprised, confused as to what […]

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Continued improvements in machine translation technology have made a big splash in the news lately. The launch of Skype Translator in 2015, as well as the advent of wearable devices for sign language interpretation, are indicative of an exciting new age in global communication. Some people may think that machines […]

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The United States has long attracted many of the world’s brightest minds – from scientists and engineers to linguists and educators.  While the country’s universities and businesses benefit from such a dazzling array of experts, foreign professionals and students often find themselves careening headlong into cultural and linguistic barriers that […]

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You’d think that one of the fundamental questions linguists would have sorted out by know is how many languages there are. I thought that too before I studied to become one. Quantifying languages is much more complicated than it initially sounds, with the result that we can never truly count […]

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Rio de Janeiro’s time in the global spotlight is nearly over. Rio, one of Brazil’s jewels — world heritage site, protected by Christ the Redeemer, so named for its grand river that … wait, what? Yes, its explorers mistook its harbor for a river mouth, and their mistake is now […]

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