Archive for the Category: Linguistics

The Language Myth: Why Language Is Not an Instinct

According to an article I came across yesterday the idea that language is an instinct or that there is some kind of language organ in the brain is unlikely to be true. Vyvyan Evans, Professor of Linguistics at Bangor University, argues that, “Our brains really are ‘language-ready’ in the following limited sense: they have the […]

Also posted in English, Language 1 Comment

When is a language not a language?

One perennial problem in linguistics is how to decide whether a language is a language or dialect. In the fascinating book, Speak: A Short History of Languages, which I read recently, Tore Janson argues that a language can be considered a language when those who speak it decide that it is one, and they give […]

Also posted in English, Italian, Language, Latin 2 Comments


I spent last weekend at my mum’s house, along with my brother, sister-in-law and their one-year old daughter. The last time I saw my niece was at Christmas, when she was making some sounds, but not really babbling much. Now she is babbling away all the time and sometimes says recognisable words, or at least […]

Also posted in English, Language, Language acquisition, Russian 1 Comment

Sound instincts

According to an article I came across today, humans possibly have innate preferences for the sound patterns found in languages which might help babes to distinguish language from non-language and to acquire language. An experiment undertaken by the National Academy of Sciences found that even new born babies show a preference for combinations of phonemes […]

Also posted in Language, Language acquisition 11 Comments


I found an interesting article today about the origins of Native American and Siberian languages. Researchers have found links between the Yeniseian languages of Siberia and the Na-Dene languages of North America, and believe that these two groups share a common ancestor. Their findings also suggested that these languages might have developed in Beringia, the […]

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Babbling and motherese

Over the past few days I’ve been observing, and to some extent participating, in my niece’s language acquisition. She is 8 months old and babbles a lot to herself and to others. Some of her babbling can sound like possible words, like dada, but they don’t seem to be associated with anything yet. She is […]

Also posted in English, Language, Language acquisition, Russian, Words and phrases 1 Comment

The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics

The good people at the Speculative Grammarian, the premier scholarly journal in field of satirical linguistics, sent me a review copy of their book, The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics, and asked me if I could write a review. This is what they said: “Of course, we think the book is quite funny, though […]

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I learned a new word today – apocope [əˈpɒkəpiː], which is the loss of phonemes from the ends of words, particularly unstressed vowels. It comes from the Greek word ἀποκόπτω (apokoptein), which means ‘cutting off’ and comes from ἀπό (apo-), ‘away’ and κόπτω (koptein), ‘to cut’. Apocope is a mechanism which erodes some inflections and […]

Also posted in English, Etymology, Greek, Language 12 Comments

Tlingit revitalisation

I came across an interesting article today about efforts to revitalise Tlingit in Alaska. It mentions how some Tlingit speakers are unwilling to speak their language to their children and grandchildren because they were punished for speaking it when were at school. This resulted in feelings of shame for the Tlingit language and culture which […]

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Linguistic landscape

Last Saturday I went to a study day about the Isle of Man put on by the Centre for North-West Regional Studies at Lancaster University. One of the talks was about the Manx language and used quotes from my dissertation – it was great to be recognised like that, and the speaker was quite surprised […]

Also posted in Language 13 Comments