Posts Tagged ‘Linguistics’
I’m always reading and doing research for any number of projects, and occasionally something sticks with me that just continues to be fascinating.
This post is about one of those fascinating things … but prepare yourself.
The more you think about this one, the more interesting it gets.
Apparently, babies are tuned in to language from the moment they’re born, and possibly earlier. A recent study suggests that even if they can’t understand or form specific words, newborns recognize the intonation of their parents’ tongue and try to replicate its peculiar melody.
Here’s the article at NPR, which also includes the original broadcast audio and demonstrations of the differences between French and German babies’ intonation.
And just in case you’re still curious, here’s a fairly in-depth analysis of that same study from the Language Log blog at University of Pennsylvania.
After a post focusing on advertising and marketing, it’s nice to have a segue back into linguistics. In the comments from that post, one person recommended checking out the show “Mad Men.” Though I’ve never seen it, it apparently centers around advertising in the 1960s and comes highly recommended. Then I found this article from The New Republic. Author and linguist John McWhorter questions whether the speech patterns affected by the characters in “Mad Men” are really genuine, and whether people really talked the way we think they talked fifty years ago.
Is reality the same for everyone?
Some people think the language you speak may influence how you view the world. It may inform your prejudices, your beliefs and how you relate to everything around you.
For instance, what if your language had no concepts of time? How different would your world-view be? Kind of nice to think you could never be late for work, isn’t it?
This seemingly timeless aspect of one language is precisely what prompted a linguist studying the Hopi language to propose the idea of linguistic relativity. Also known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, linguistic relativity says that because we use language to define our world, our world-view is defined by our language.
What’s that really mean?
There’s a really easy way to make any word in any language mean absolutely nothing – even children can do it.
I remember one time when I was young, sitting in the back of my parents’ car as we drove to visit family out of state. As we passed a road sign that showed the direction to New York, I said those two words over and over again to myself.
“New York. New York. New York. New York.”
And suddenly, I had no idea what I was saying. My mouth was making the appropriate sounds for “New York”, but it meant nothing to me. It was a jumble of silly syllables. Read the rest of this entry »