Category Archives: Language

Eastern Ukrainians reject their Russian birth language

The Observer reports: Gamlet Zinkivskyi grew up speaking Russian in the city of Kharkiv, just like his parents. But when Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, it was the final push for him to switch fully to Ukrainian. “Unfortunately, I grew up speaking Russian, but it’s not pleasant to speak the… Read More »

Chimpanzees combine calls to form numerous vocal sequences

Science Daily reports: Humans are the only species on earth known to use language. We do this by combining sounds to form words and words to form hierarchically structured sentences. The question, where this extraordinary capacity originates from, still remains to be answered. In order to retrace the evolutionary origins of human language, researchers often… Read More »

Mushrooms communicate with each other using up to 50 ‘words’, scientist claims

The Guardian reports: Buried in forest litter or sprouting from trees, fungi might give the impression of being silent and relatively self-contained organisms, but a new study suggests they may be champignon communicators. Mathematical analysis of the electrical signals fungi seemingly send to one another has identified patterns that bear a striking structural similarity to… Read More »

How to pronounce and spell ‘Kyiv’, and why it matters

The Guardian reports: Kiev or Kyiv? As Russian forces menace the Ukrainian capital and thousands flee, the very least onlookers around the world can do is learn how to say the name of the city under siege. The short answer is simple: Ukrainians call their capital “Kyiv” (kee-yiv), the spelling, a transliteration of the Ukrainian… Read More »

Some parallels between birdsong and human speech

Betsy Mason writes: In our quest to find what makes humans unique, we often compare ourselves with our closest relatives: the great apes. But when it comes to understanding the quintessentially human capacity for language, scientists are finding that the most tantalizing clues lay farther afield. Human language is made possible by an impressive aptitude… Read More »

The therapeutic value of swearing

Stephen Tuffin writes: When I was a kid, swearing was taboo – except for that one time when my dad, a hulking great navvy of a man, took me down the yard where they kept all the equipment road workers used out on the roads, and I witnessed the cutting down of a tree. An… Read More »

The brain processes speech in parallel with other sounds

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: Hearing is so effortless for most of us that it’s often difficult to comprehend how much information the brain’s auditory system needs to process and disentangle. It has to take incoming sounds and transform them into the acoustic objects that we perceive: a friend’s voice, a dog barking, the pitter-patter of rain.… Read More »

Being Persian before nationalism

Mana Kia writes: At the end of the 19th century, under the looming shadow of European colonial encroachment, political and intellectual elites in Iran began to draw on nationalist forms of belonging as a way to unify the various ethnic and religious groups that lived within its territory. The nation was gaining ground at this… Read More »

What misspellings reveal about cultural evolution

Helena Miton writes: Something about me must remind people of a blind 17th-century poet. My last name, Miton, is French, yet people outside of France invariably misspell it as “Milton”—as in the famed English author, John Milton, of the epic poem Paradise Lost. It is not uncommon for people to misspell an unfamiliar name—yet 99… Read More »

Tools and voyages suggest Homo erectus invented language

Daniel Everett writes: What is the greatest human technological innovation? Fire? The wheel? Penicillin? Clothes? Google? None of these come close. As you read this, you are using the winning technology. The greatest tool in the world is language. Without it there would be no culture, no literature, no science, no history, no commercial enterprise… Read More »

Time for humans to learn what other animals are saying

Michelle Nijhuis writes: Bryony Lavery’s 2018 play Slime revolves around seven young interns at the Third Annual Slime Crisis Conference, which takes place at an unspecified time in a not-too-distant future. It is a multispecies gathering, convened in response to a toxic slime that is taking over the world’s oceans. The interns’ job is to… Read More »