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.
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.
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
verb endings and conjugations
n’est verb pas in French in which pas means literally “step”
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.
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.
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".
hat tip to
Quotes in #Shavian writing. This one, from Christopher Hitchens:
— William Borix (@boricensis) September 30, 2018
As the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger puts it, Squamish is a ‘severely endangered’ language. However, the picture is not so gloomy. Current efforts to revitalize the Skwxwú7mesh language, and culture, include the amazing work by Kwi Awt Stelmexw, which has been collaborating with SFU for a full-time immersion program that produces fluent native speakers. Obviously, the venerable goal of this initiative it to ensure future Squamish generations speak their language and live their culture, as their natural, historical right.
I like where this piece is going, but at the rate we’re losing languages, it’s awfully difficult to know where to start… Sometimes just picking one and going with it can be of immense value.
This also reminds me of a powerful infographic about languages.
President Donald Trump has "turned words into weapons" -- and journalists are providing additional ammunition.
That's according to Trump critic George Lakoff, a renowned linguist and professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley. Lakoff wrote in a recent article for the Guardian that the president manipulates language to control the public narrative. The press, he said, functions as a sort of "marketing agency for [Trump's] ideas" by repeating his claims, even when trying to fact-check or debunk his statements.
"By faithfully transmitting Trump's words and ideas, the press helps him to attack, and thereby control, the press itself," he writes.
As the guest on this week's Reliable Sources podcast, Lakoff spoke to Brian Stelter about Trump's linguistic frames, what the press should do differently, and why journalists need to tackle Trump's words like a "truth sandwich."
The English language presents itself to students and non-native speakers as an almost cruelly capricious entity, its irregularities of spelling and conjugation impossible to explain without an advanced degree.
Many of us now use the word hobo to refer to any homeless individual, but back in the America of the late 19th and early 20th century, to be a hobo meant something more.
A snackronym is simply my term for a ‘word acronym’: a prounceable initialism of a term. These variations on a phrase are much more appealing to the author. (In a way, they recall the mood of cryptic crosswords, where skills and disciplines collide, not willy-nilly, but with blissful meaning and grammar punning.)
today i asked my class to come up with a pair of terms that share a denotative meaning but whose connotative meanings differ and one student offered BUTT DIAL and BOOTY CALL anyway that student's the professor now— Sarah Osment (@sm_osment) August 27, 2018
The political scientist argues that the desire of identity groups for recognition is a key threat to liberalism.
I’m also reminded here of Mark Granovetter’s ideas that getting a job is more closely tied to who you know. One’s job is often very closely tied to their identity, and even more so when the link that got them their job was through a friend or acquaintance.
I suspect that Fukuyama has a relatively useful thesis, but perhaps it’s not tied together as logically and historically as Menand would prefer. The difficult thing here is that levels of personal identity on large scales is relatively unknown for most of human history. Tribalism and individuality are certainly pulling at the threads of liberal democracy lately. Perhaps it’s because of unfulfilled promises (in America at least) of the two party system? Now that we’ve reached a summit of economic plenty much quicker than the rest of the world (and they’re usurping some of our stability as the rest of the world tries to equilibrate), we need to add some additional security nets for the lesser advantaged. It really doesn’t cost very much and in turn does so much more for the greater good of the broader society.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
Fukuyama’s argument was that, with the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, the last ideological alternative to liberalism had been eliminated. ❧
“Last” in the sense of a big, modern threat. We’re still facing the threats of tribalism, which apparently have a strong pull.
August 27, 2018 at 10:26AM
There would be a “Common Marketization” of international relations and the world would achieve homeostasis. ❧
Famous last words, right?!
These are the types of statements one must try very hard not to make unless there is 100% certainty.
I find myself wondering how can liberal democracy and capitalism manage to fight and make the case the the small tribes (everywhere, including within the US) that it can, could and should be doing more for them.
August 27, 2018 at 10:29AM
But events in Europe unfolded more or less according to Fukuyama’s prediction, and, on December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union voted itself out of existence. The Cold War really was over. ❧
Or ostensibly, until a strong man came to power in Russia and began its downturn into something else. It definitely doesn’t seem to be a liberal democracy, so we’re still fighting against it.
August 27, 2018 at 10:32AM
This speculative flourish recalled the famous question that John Stuart Mill said he asked himself as a young man: If all the political and social reforms you believe in came to pass, would it make you a happier human being? That is always an interesting question. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:33AM
George Kennan, who was its first chief. In July of that year, Kennan published the so-called X article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” in Foreign Affairs. It appeared anonymously—signed with an “X”—but once the press learned his identity the article was received as an official statement of American Cold War policy. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:33AM
Fukuyama’s article could thus be seen as a bookend to Kennan’s. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:36AM
The National Interest, as the name proclaims, is a realist foreign-policy journal. But Fukuyama’s premise was that nations do share a harmony of interests, and that their convergence on liberal political and economic models was mutually beneficial. Realism imagines nations to be in perpetual competition with one another; Fukuyama was saying that this was no longer going to be the case. ❧
And here is a bit of the flaw. Countries are still at least in competition with each other economically, at least until they’re all on equal footing from a modernity perspective.
We are definitely still in completion with China and large parts of Europe.
August 27, 2018 at 10:38AM
Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). ❧
Get a copy of this to read.
August 27, 2018 at 10:39AM
The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept” ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:40AM
Fukuyama covers all of this in less than two hundred pages. How does he do it? Not well. ❧
Now I have to read it.
August 27, 2018 at 10:41AM
Fukuyama gives this desire for recognition a Greek name, taken from Plato’s Republic: thymos. He says that thymos is “a universal aspect of human nature that has always existed.” ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:43AM
To say, as Fukuyama does, that “the desire for status—megalothymia—is rooted in human biology” is the academic equivalent of palmistry. You’re just making it up. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:45AM
Rationality and transparency are the values of classical liberalism. Rationality and transparency are supposed to be what make free markets and democratic elections work. People understand how the system functions, and that allows them to make rational choices. ❧
But economically, we know there isn’t perfect knowledge or perfect rationality (see Tversky and Khaneman). There is rarely even perfect transparency either which makes things much harder, especially in a post-truth society apparenlty.
August 27, 2018 at 10:48AM
Liberalism remains the ideal political and economic system, but it needs to find ways to accommodate and neutralize this pesky desire for recognition. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:50AM
Enrollment was small, around twenty, but a number of future intellectual luminaries, like Hannah Arendt and Jacques Lacan, either took the class or sat in on it. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:52AM
For Kojève, the key concept in Hegel’s “Phenomenology” was recognition. Human beings want the recognition of other human beings in order to become self-conscious—to know themselves as autonomous individuals. ❧
This is very reminiscent of Valerie Alexander’s talk last week about recognizing employees at work. How can liberal democracy take advantage of this?
August 27, 2018 at 10:53AM
Kojève thought that the other way was through labor. The slave achieves his sense of self by work that transforms the natural world into a human world. But the slave is driven to labor in the first place because of the master’s refusal to recognize him. This “master-slave dialectic” is the motor of human history, and human history comes to an end when there are no more masters or slaves, and all are recognized equally. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 10:55AM
Kojève’s lectures were published as “Introduction to the Reading of Hegel,” a book that went through many printings in France. ❧
Maybe it was Kojève and not Covfefe that Trump was referencing?! 😛
August 27, 2018 at 10:56AM
Encouraged by his friend Saul Bellow, he decided to turn the article into a book. “The Closing of the American Mind,” which Simon & Schuster brought out in February, 1987, launched a campaign of criticism of American higher education that has taken little time off since. ❧
August 27, 2018 at 11:00AM
In 1992, in the essay “The Politics of Recognition,” Taylor analyzed the advent of multiculturalism in terms similar to the ones Fukuyama uses in “Identity.” ❧
August 27, 2018 at 11:03AM
Fukuyama acknowledges that identity politics has done some good, and he says that people on the right exaggerate the prevalence of political correctness and the effects of affirmative action. ❧
There’s a reference to voting theory about people not voting their particular views, but that they’re asking themselves, “Who would someone like me vote for?” Perhaps it’s George Lakoff? I should look this up and tie it in here somewhere.
August 27, 2018 at 11:05AM
He has no interest in the solution that liberals typically adopt to accommodate diversity: pluralism and multiculturalism. ❧
Interesting to see an IndieWeb principle pop up here! How do other parts dovetail perhaps? What about other movements?
August 27, 2018 at 11:06AM
Fukuyama concedes that people need a sense of national identity, whether ethnic or creedal, but otherwise he remains an assimilationist and a universalist. ❧
Is it a “national” identity they need? Why not a cultural one, or a personal one? Why not all the identities? What about the broader idea of many publics? Recognition and identity touch on many of these publics for a variety of reasons.
August 27, 2018 at 11:08AM
He wants to iron out differences, not protect them. He suggests measures like a mandatory national-service requirement and a more meaningful path to citizenship for immigrants. ❧
What if we look at the shrinking number of languages as a microcosm of identity. Are people forced to lose language? Do they not care? What are the other similarities and differences.
Cross reference: https://boffosocko.com/2015/06/08/a-world-of-languages-and-how-many-speak-them-infographic/
August 27, 2018 at 11:10AM
Wouldn’t it be important to distinguish people who ultimately don’t want differences to matter, like the people involved in #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, from people who ultimately do want them to matter, like ISIS militants, Brexit voters, or separatist nationalists? And what about people who are neither Mexican nor immigrants and who feel indignation at the treatment of Mexican immigrants? Black Americans risked their lives for civil rights, but so did white Americans. How would Socrates classify that behavior? Borrowed thymos? ❧
Some importatnt questions here. They give me some ideas…
August 27, 2018 at 11:12AM
History is somersaults all the way to the end. That’s why it’s so hard to write, and so hard to predict. Unless you’re lucky. ♦ ❧
This is definitely more of a Big History approach…
August 27, 2018 at 11:12AM
Julia Strand is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Carleton College. She holds a B.A. in Psychology & English from Tufts University, an M.A. and PhD. from Washington University in St. Louis, program Brain, Behavior, & Cognition, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Sensory Neuroscience and Neuroengineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.
She teaches courses including Introduction to Psychology, the Psychology of Spoken Words, Sensation & Perception, and Perceptual & Cognitive Expertise. Her research focuses on how humans are able to turn sensory information about speech into meaningful representations. Topics of research include how cognitive abilities influence language perception, what traits of words promote easy recognition, how word recognition abilities change with age, and how visual information (seeing the talker) influences language processing.