Monthly Archives: May 2007

Tones and genes

According to an article in the New Scientist, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have demonstrated using statistical analysis that two genes, ASPM and Microcephalin, that govern aspects of brain development tend to differ between regions where tonal languages are spoken, and regions where non-tonal languages are spoken. The article also mentions that there are […]

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Evolution, Language, Language acquisition 3 Comments

The pictures are better on the radio

There’s a saying that “the pictures are better on the radio”. I think there’s a lot of truth in this. You construct mental pictures of the radio presenters and other people you hear, and of the events and places they describe or evoke with sound effects. There are no actual pictures to distract you and […]

Language 7 Comments

Music and speech

Researchers at Duke University, North Carolina, have recently discovered that 12 tone intervals of the (Western) musical scale correspond closely to the sounds of speech, according to an article on ScienceDaily. The researchers analysed recordings of spoken English and Mandarin using spectrum analysers and compared them to musical scales. They found that 70% of the […]

Language, Music 7 Comments

Language switching

According to an article I found today, a study at the University of British Columbia found that babies as young 4 months old can tell when someone has switched from one language to another just from visual clues, such as the shapes and rhythm of the speaker’s mouth and face movements. Babies aged 4, 6 […]

Language, Language acquisition 2 Comments

Where in the world?

Here’s a photo of a mystery city. Do you know where it is and which languages are spoken there?

Language, Quiz questions, Travel 7 Comments

Name the language

Here is a recording of a mystery language. Can you work out which one if is? This is not a language you’re likely to hear very often.

Language, Quiz questions 25 Comments

Names and faces

According to an study at Miami University in Ohio, we tend to associate particular names with particular face types. If a name ‘matches’ a face, we tend to find it easier to remember, while face and names that are not perceived as ‘matching’ are more difficult to remember. In the study, 150 college students were […]

Language, Memory 8 Comments

Bilingual novels

The other day, someone mentioned that large chunks of French dialogue appear in War and Peace without any translation into Russian. In the 19th century, when the novel was written, knowledge of French was widespread among the Russian aristocracy and they tended to speak French to each other. So they would have been able to […]

Language, Literature 15 Comments

Word of the day – isogram

isogram, noun – a word in which the letters turn up an equal number of times. There are different types of isograms depending on how many times each letter appears: In a first-order isogram, each letter appears just once, as in dialogue, lexicography, ambidextrously and uncopyrightable. In a second-order isogram, each letter appears twice, as […]

English, Language, Words and phrases Comments Off

Māori spelling

This post was inspired by an email I received today from someone who wanted to know why the f sound in Māori is written wh, as in Whangarei. According to a number of sites I found, Māori was first written down by missionaries who had little or no training in phonetics or phonology, and there […]

Language, Maori 3 Comments