Thursday, May 1, 2014

Enthralled yet?

Ragnarok, the Viking Apocalypse, is said to bring about the end of the world on 22 February (International Business Times)
A little bit of Viking history, anyone? There might be a nugget of linguistic treasure waiting to be discovered in this article from The New York Times, which just came out today.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Gothic to me!

"There is a great scene [in Ocean's Twelve] where Danny and Rusty are talking code burglar talk with a prospective client and Linus is completely confused and starts spouting off Zeppelin lyrics. Class today [reminded] me of that scene, since we were having to basically make up whatever the hell those notes said that you passed out." --Tori Watson

Old English

Click here to hear the Lord's Prayer in the West Saxon dialect of Old English.

Fæder úre, ðú ðe eart on heofonum,
Sí ðín nama gehálgod.
Tó becume ðín rice.
Gewurde ðín willa
On eorþan swá swá on heofonum.
Urne dægwhamlícan hlaf syle ús tódæg.
And forgyf ús úre gyltas,
Swá swá wé forgyfaþ úrum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd ðu ús on costnunge,
Ac álýs ús of yfele. Sóþlice.

Gaelic is not an English Dialect

If King Arthur was an actual historical figure (scholars are unsure about this), he probably spoke a Celtic language (Gaelic is a Celtic language) and fought against Germanic invaders whose Anglo-Saxon language evolved into English.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


So you've read the essay by Fromkin et al.
Share and respond!


According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the following 16 species are critically endangered:

Friday, April 11, 2014

How the magic happens

So you've read "The Form of the Message" by Nancy Bonvillain.

Share and respond.

On the left:  Francisco Domingo Joaquin.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Multiple Hamlets

So you're read Bohannan's "Shakespeare in the Bush."

Share and respond!

Kelsea's Twins

Kelsea: "Here are the twins again. Still talking!"

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cliquez ici?

Click here if you want to see something "French, and ridiculous and . . . awesome" that made Tori think of Linguistics class.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

Language and the Brain

Broca's aphasia.

Wernicke's aphasia.

When the left hemisphere doesn't know what the right hemisphere is doing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Talk to the animals?

So you've read the assigned essay by Kemp and Smith.

What did you learn?

Share and respond.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Linguistics Lab

Have a schizophrenic poem to share? Reflections on an experience you've had complimenting others more than you usually do? An illustration of the importance of pragmatics and utterance pairs?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pragmatics, anyone?

So you've read the essay on pragmatics by Elaine Chaika.

Share and respond.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Acquiring Language

So you've read the essays by Moskowitz and Lenneberg.

Share and respond.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Go Global!

So you've read the essay by David Crystal, "Why a Global Language?"

Share and respond.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Deutscher, Pinker, Sapir, Whorf

Edward Sapir
Benjamin Lee Whorf
o you've read Deutscher, and you've read Pinker.

What did you learn?

Share and respond.

And if you can make a poem that starts with the title of this post, I'd like to hear it.

Make it official?

There are about 322 languages spoken in the United States. English is not the official language of the country.  Should it be?

According to the U.S. Census, in 2007, 16.3% spoke English "not well" and 8.1% or "not at all."
So almost one in four Americans spoke English less than "well."

States have declared English as their official language, in order to receive federal financial assistance those states still have to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Documents Required in 322 Languages?
What does current federal Law require? 
According to John W. Carlin, Archivist of the United States,
"Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d, et seq. and its implementing regulations provide that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin under any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. Language for LEP [Limited English Proficient] individuals can be a barrier to accessing important benefits or services, understanding and exercising important rights, complying with applicable responsibilities, or understanding other information provided by federally funded programs and activities.

"In certain circumstances, failure to ensure that LEP persons can effectively participate in or benefit from federally assisted programs and activities may violate the prohibition under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000d and Title VI regulations against national origin discrimination."
President John F. Kennedy, who advocated civil rights legislation before his death, said: 'Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination.'" (source)
MLK &LBJ,after LBJ signs Civil Rights Act of 1964
Occasions when interpreters may be required:
Trials:  Federal civil and criminal trials that involve parties or witnesses who are not proficient in English – 28 U.S.C. 1827.

Voting Rights: Bilingual ballots and voter information must be provided in jurisdictions where speakers of Spanish, Native American, and Asian American languages exceed 5 percent of the population or number more than 10,000 and have below average rates of voter turnout and English proficiency – 42 U.S.C. 1973aa-1a.

Education: Federal civil rights law requires schools to take "appropriate action to overcome language barriers" that bar full access to the curriculum for children who are limited in English (20 U.S.C. 1703f). This was also the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols. Yet there is no federal mandate for bilingual education.

Employment Discrimination: President William J. Clinton signed Executive Order 13166 into law on August 11, 2000. "The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them. It is expected that agency plans will provide for such meaningful access consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency. The Executive Order also requires that the Federal agencies work to ensure that recipients of Federal financial assistance provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and beneficiaries (source)."

To assist Federal agencies in carrying out these responsibilities, the U.S. Department of Justice has issued a Policy Guidance Document, "Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited English Proficiency" (2002 LEP Guidance). This LEP Guidance sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI's prohibition.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

¿Que aprendisteis?

Stephen J. Caldas (couldn't find a photo of Suzanne)
So you've read "Rearing Bilingual Children in a Monolingual Culture: A Louisiana Experience" by Stephen J. Caldas and Suzanne Caron-Caldas.

What did you learn?

Share and respond.

Words shape thoughts and feelings

Click here for some examples.

Saving a disappearing language

Linguistic anthropologist Stephen Pax Leonard (see image at left) lives as Inuit for a year to save disappearing language

Click here to read more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Discussion as Sharing

So you've read "Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (that's Johnson on the left and Lakoff on the right).

What did you learn?

Share and respond.

Chickasaw Greetings

Josh's Chickasaw name is "Lokosh," which means "gourd"
In February 2012, I visited with Joshua D. Hinson, Director of Cultural Education and Outreach for Chickasaw Language Revitalization Program at his office here in Ada in anticipation of his visit to my linguistics class here at ECU. While I was there, I asked him if wouldn't mind pronouncing a few Chickasaw phrases for us so that we could practice them before his visit. Fortunately for us, he was happy to help.

The specific phrases I asked for were: "chukma," which means "hello;" "[Name] se-holhchifo-ut" (My name is); and "Chipitsaliket Chukma" (or "Chukma chipitsaliket", either of which translates as "It's good to see you").

After I spoke with Joshua, he introduced me to JoAnn Ellis, a native speaker of Chickasaw, who teaches Chickasaw language classes here at ECU (enroll, guys!). She also generously agreed to help us out.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Native Tongues

So you've read Nancy Lord's "Native Tonuges" (480-486).

What did you learn?

Share and respond.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Are you following the script?

Gender Norms in Language and Communication Style
1. Take the lead in the conversation
2. Change the subject rather than dwelling too long on one thing
3. Challenge what others say (as opposed to reinforcing it)
4. Keep a straight face
5. Interrupt to keep the conversation moving at a brisk pace
6. Talk about the facts and reasons as opposed to feelings
7. Assume a body posture that suggests confidence

1. Let others take the lead
2. Don’t change the subject—focus on going into depth on the current subject
3. Reinforce what others say (rather than challenging what others say)
4. Smile and laugh, especially when saying something that might be perceived as threatening
5. Step on the end of someone else’s line to support what they’re saying
6. Talk about your feelings as opposed to facts and reasons
7. Assume a body posture that suggests deference to others

Coming attractions: Lisa Sheffield

Lisa Sheffield, the Director of ECU's Interpreter Services Program for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students, will be visiting our class on Friday, February 14th to talk to us about ASL.  In the comment box below, please post any questions you have for her.

Here are some questions I have for her:
1. What got you interested in ASL?
2. What is the biggest misperception people have about ASL?


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Wanna start learning ASL?

Click here.  Thanks for the link, Charlynn!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Close Talker

Friday, February 7, 2014

What does George A. Miller's body language say to you?

So you've read  "Nonverbal Communication" by George A. Miller (pp.52-59). What did you learn?

Share and respond.

A Cochlear Story

Amanda Johnson writes:  "I definitely had an emotional response to["American Sign Language: It's Not Mouth Stuff--It's Brain Stuff" by Richard Wolkomir (pp. 672-681)]. I have two first cousins that are deaf. Jacob is eight, and Joseph is three. They are brothers, and both have the same two parents. My aunt and uncle were genetically tested after Joseph was born to see why both of their sons were born deaf, but their oldest daughter was not. With Jacob, we just assumed it was a coincidence and really random that he was born deaf, but when Joseph ended up with hearing loss as well, we began to seek answers. Turns out, my aunt and uncle both carry a deaf gene, which is only effective in the male chromosome. The doctors told us that had Jessica (their oldest daughter) been a boy, she would have been deaf too.

"Being around deaf children on a daily basis, reading this chapter just really got to me. People who oppose sign language are just extremely narrow minded. Point blank. Jacob is profoundly deaf, which is the highest level of deafness. That means he can't hear anything whatsoever without his cochlear implants in. Yes, I said cochlear implants. Thankfully (after almost a year of fighting with the insurance company), Jacob was able receive cochlear implants (1 at age one and a half and the other at age 2). Joseph is only moderately deaf, which means he is able to fully function with hearing aids. However, if his hearing continues to digress like it has been, he will end up needing implants as well.

"You're probably wondering why this chapter spoke to me as it did if neither of the boys have to use sign language. And the reason for that is, because we simply got lucky. Whenever our family was in such a debacle with my aunt and uncle's insurance company not wanting to fund Jacob's implants, we truly thought we were all going to have to learn sign language and become extremely fluent in it because that would have been our only way of communicating with Jacob. Thank God we won the case and his implants were covered by insurance... but what if they hadn't been? What if these precious little boys weren't so fortunate? What if my family had been one of the others out there who can't afford implants but their insurance won't cover it? THAT's why I care so much.

"Sign language IS a language. I don't care what anyone says. People can dispute about it til the cows come home, and I will never waver with my opinion. The people of the deaf community basically hate anyone who has implants or uses any type of hearing aid, simply because they don't believe in correcting what God gave you. My family also sees that as a bunch of bologna. Are you going to just never get glasses or contacts, even if you need them? Yeah, exactly. You wouldn't. You would correct your vision. So with that being said, "implant havers" and "sign languagers" (as we call them) will never get along, but that doesn't mean I won't continue to stand up for them because that could have been us. My cousins and our family could have ended up having to learn sign language, which means I will ALWAYS defend the people of the deaf community and their language.

"If you're interested, [here are] two links from K10 News who covered their story [one and two]. Hearts for Hearing (Jacob's doctors) made the video showing clips from when he first got his implants turned on, to about a year ago. It will melt your heart. I cry every time. I also attached a picture of the boys, to where you can see both of their devices."

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Thanks for contributing this link, Leslie.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mann vs. Wolkomir

Horace Mann
Richard Wolkomir

So you've read Wolkomir's article "American Sign Language: 'It's Not Mouth Stuff--It's Brain Stuff'" by Richard Wolkomir (pp. 672-681). What did you learn?
Share and respond.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Uncooperative Principle

Paul Grice (1913-1988)
Violate a maxim--without damaging a relationship!--and let us know how it went.

More Games People Play

Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker
So you've read pages 388-408 of the chapter titled "Games People Play" in Steven Pinker's How The Mind Works.  What did you learn?

Share and respond.

And click here to read a whole lot more about conversational implicature.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Politeness or deception?

Can anyone make a case for the value of this way of communicating with someone, described here as British politeness?  Would the world be a better place if we all just said exactly what we mean?  (Stay tuned for Steven Pinker's views on this question.)


Thanks for sending this in, Tori.

Although I'm an SNL fan, I'm a "Wh-" snob, and Mr. Samberg blows it by pronouncing "will" and "weird" and at least one other "w" word with a "wh" sound. It did not get past me. In short, he is clearly a "wh" faker, and he needs to raise his game.

"May I have one crack please?"

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dictionary Drama

Think the life of a dictionary writer is devoid of controversy?  Click here and here to disabuse yourself of this notion.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Where are ya'll from?

Click here to find out what your word choice says about where you are from.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Click it

Monday, January 20, 2014

How do you do?

"Famine" by Ivan Vladimirov (1869-1947)
Don't like the vacuousness of this daily hallway and sidewalk exchange:  "How are you?" "Fine."
Move to Russia. Or read this Op Ed in today's New York Times.