🎧 Lecture 23 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lecture 23: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 23: Language Develops Beyond the Call of Duty
A great deal of a language's grammar is a kind of overgrowth, marking nuances that many or most languages do without. Even the gender marking of European languages is a frill, absent in thousands of other languages.

🎧 Lectures 20-22 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lectures 20-22: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 20: Language Mixture—Words
The first language's 6,000 branches have not only diverged into dialects, but they have been constantly mixing with one another on all levels. The first of three lectures on language mixture looks at how this process applies to words.

Lecture 21: Language Mixture—Grammar
Languages also mix their grammars. For example, Yiddish is a dialect of German, but it has many grammatical features from Slavic languages like Polish. There are no languages without some signs of grammar mixture.

Lecture 22: Language Mixture—Language Areas
When unrelated or distantly related languages are spoken in the same area for long periods, they tend to become more grammatically similar because of widespread bilingualism.

👓 Robert Lowth | Wikipedia

Read Robert Lowth (Wikipedia)
Robert Lowth FRS (/laʊð/; 27 November 1710 – 3 November 1787) was a Bishop of the Church of England, Oxford Professor of Poetry and the author of one of the most influential textbooks of English grammar.

An interesting character with an outsize influence on modern English grammar. Dave Harris is sure to appreciate this.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Lowth seems to have been the first modern Bible scholar to notice or draw attention to the poetic structure of the Psalms and much of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament.  

October 16, 2018 at 10:55AM

Lowth’s grammar is the source of many of the prescriptive shibboleths that are studied in schools,  

October 16, 2018 at 10:56AM

His most famous contribution to the study of grammar may have been his tentative suggestion that sentences ending with a preposition—such as “what did you ask for?”—are inappropriate in formal writing.  

October 16, 2018 at 10:56AM

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🎧 Lectures 17-19 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lectures 17-19: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 17: Dialects—The Standard as Token of the Past
When a dialect of a language is used widely in writing and literacy is high, the normal pace of change is artificially slowed, as people come to see "the language" as on the page and inviolable. This helps create diglossia.

Lecture 18: Dialects—Spoken Style, Written Style
We often see the written style of language as how it really "is" or "should be." But in fact, writing allows uses of language that are impossible when a language is only a spoken one.

Lecture 19: Dialects—The Fallacy of Blackboard Grammar
Understanding language change and how languages differ helps us see that what is often labeled "wrong" about people's speech is, in fact, a misanalysis.

Interesting to hear about the early “canonization” of English grammar by Robert Lowth and Lindley Murray.

🎧 Lectures 15-16 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lectures 15-16: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 15: Dialects—Where Do You Draw the Line?
Dialects of one language can be called languages simply because they are spoken in different countries, such as Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The reverse is also true: The Chinese "dialects" are distinctly different languages.

Lecture 16: Dialects—Two Tongues in One Mouth
Diglossia is the sociological division of labor in many societies between two languages, with a "high" one used in formal contexts and a "low" one used in casual ones—as in High German and Swiss German in Switzerland.

🎧 Lecture 14 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lecture 14: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter John McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 14: Dialects—Subspecies of Species
The first of five lectures on dialects probes the nature of these "languages within languages." Dialects are variations on a common theme, rather than bastardizations of a "legitimate" standard variety.

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🎧 Lecture 13 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lecture 13: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 13: The Case For the World’s First Language
Despite the hostility of most linguists to the Proto-World hypothesis, there is increasing evidence that many of the world's language families do trace to "mega-ancestors," even if evidence for a Proto-World remains lacking.

🎧 Lectures 10-12 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lectures 10-12: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 10: Language Families—Diversity of Structures
Semitic languages assign basic meanings to three-consonant sequences and create words by altering the vowels around them. In Sino-Tibetan languages, a sentence tends to leave more to context than we often imagine possible.

Lecture 11: Language Families—Clues to the Past
The distribution of language families shows how humans have spread through migration. We trace the Austronesian language family to its origins on Formosa. Similar work sheds light on the history of Africa and North America.

Lecture 12: The Case Against the World’s First Language
A few linguists have claimed to reconstruct words from the world's first language, but this work is extremely controversial. Professor McWhorter presents the case against this theory, called the "Proto-World" hypothesis.

🎧 Lecture 9 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lecture 9: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 9: Language Families—Tracing Indo-European
Linguists have reconstructed the proto-language of the Indo-Europeans by comparing the modern languages. Applying this process, we learn the Proto-Indo-European word for sister-in-law that was spoken 6,000 years ago.

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🎧 Lectures 6-8 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to Lectures 6-8: The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 6: How Language Changes—Many Directions
The first language has evolved into 6,000 because language change takes place in many directions. Latin split in this way into the Romance languages as changes proceeded differently in each area where the Romans brought Latin.

Lecture 7: How Language Changes—Modern English
As recently as Shakespeare, English words had meanings different enough to interfere with our understanding of his language today. Even by the 1800s, Jane Austen's work is full of sentences that would now be considered errors.

Lecture 8: Language Families—Indo-European
The first of four lectures on language families introduces Indo-European, which probably began in the southern steppes of Russia around 4000 B.C. and then spread westward to most of Europe and eastward to Iran and India.

 

 

🎧 Lectures 4 and 5 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 4: How Language Changes—Building New Material
Language change is not just sound erosion and morphing, but the building of new words and constructions. This lecture shows how such developments lead to novel grammatical features.

Lecture 5: How Language Changes—Meaning and Order
The meaning of a word changes over time. Silly first meant "blessed" and acquired its current sense through a series of gradual steps. Word order also changes: In Old English, the verb usually came at the end of a sentence.

Some great examples of words changing over time:
eke name – nick name
(my) mine Ellie – Nellie and (my) mine Edward – Ned
brid (bird) / fowl
silly (blessed)
verb endings and conjugations
n’est verb pas in French in which pas means literally “step”

🎧 Lectures 2 and 3 of The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter

Listened to The Story of Human Language by John McWhorterJohn McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics

Lecture 2: When Language Began
We look at evidence that language is an innate ability of the human brain, an idea linked to Noam Chomsky. But many linguists and psychologists see language as one facet of cognition rather than as a separate ability.

Lecture 3: How Language Changes—Sound Change
The first of five lectures on language change examines how sounds evolve, exemplified by the Great Vowel Shift in English and the complex tone system in Chinese.

Interesting to hear him describe Chomsky first for his politics. I’ve always thought of him as a linguist first and only secondarily for his politics.

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🎧 The Story of Human Language | The Great Courses

Listened to The Story of Human Language by John McWhorter from The Great Courses: Linguistics
Language defines us as a species, placing humans head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators. But it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries, allowing us to ponder why different languages emerged, why there isn't simply a single language, how languages change over time and whether that's good or bad, and how languages die out and become extinct. Now you can explore all of these questions and more in an in-depth series of 36 lectures from one of America's leading linguists. You'll be witness to the development of human language, learning how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years ago evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today and gaining an appreciation of the remarkable ways in which one language sheds light on another. The many fascinating topics you examine in these lectures include: the intriguing evidence that links a specific gene to the ability to use language; the specific mechanisms responsible for language change; language families and the heated debate over the first language; the phenomenon of language mixture; why some languages develop more grammatical machinery than they actually need; the famous hypothesis that says our grammars channel how we think; artificial languages, including Esperanto and sign languages for the deaf; and how word histories reflect the phenomena of language change and mixture worldwide.

I had started this some time in the past, but starting over again from the beginning.

Listened to the first 15 minutes tonight.

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👓 Shavian alphabet | Wikipedia

Read Shavian alphabet (Wikipedia)
The Shavian alphabet (also known as the Shaw alphabet) is an alphabet conceived as a way to provide simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of conventional spelling. It was posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw set three main criteria for the new alphabet: it should be (1) at least 40 letters; (2) as "phonetic" as possible (that is, letters should have a 1:1 correspondence to phonemes); and (3) distinct from the Latin alphabet to avoid the impression that the new spellings were simply "misspellings".

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