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  • June 28, 2014
  • 10:48 AM

Children’s effect on language

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

  It seems that children can invent language, but adults cannot and they only invent ‘pidgins’. Languages once invented also are re-made by each generation’s learning of them. So it may be that languages carry the marks of how children think and communicate. A recent paper by Clay and others (citation below) investigates this idea. […]... Read more »

  • June 26, 2014
  • 10:26 AM

Why use fruit flies to study a gene involved in language?

by Björn Brembs in

This is the story behind our work on the function of the FoxP gene in the fruit fly Drosophila (more background info). As so many good things, it started with beer. Troy Zars and I were having a beer on […] ↓ Read the rest of this entry...... Read more »

Mendoza, E., Colomb, J., Rybak, J., Pflüger, H., Zars, T., Scharff, C., & Brembs, B. (2014) Drosophila FoxP Mutants Are Deficient in Operant Self-Learning. PLoS ONE, 9(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100648  

  • June 23, 2014
  • 07:10 AM

The errors in my answer to Darwin

by Michael Ramscar in The Importance of Being Wrong

How the humble lab rat can teach you to raise your kids smarter and grow old gracefully The importance of knowing how to look Today, Charles Darwin is largely known for his theory of natural selection. Yet although his status as a scientific legend is assured, the nature of his fame does him an injustice. Darwin was not a theorist in […]... Read more »

  • June 22, 2014
  • 10:46 PM

English in the Global Village

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

Tourism has been found to be beneficial for minority language maintenance in a number of contexts from around the world. For instance, Anand Torrents Alcaraz has recently shown here on Language on the Move that the growing tourism industry in … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • June 10, 2014
  • 07:59 PM

Bodies on the Move: Salsa, Language and Transnationalism

by Britta Schneider in Language on the Move

In my post on English in Berlin, I wondered what is required for a language to become ‘local’, and about the perhaps problematic tradition of defining languages on the basis of territory. Although it has been quite some time since … Continue reading →... Read more »

Schneider, Britta. (2014) Salsa, Language and Transnationalism. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. info:/

  • June 3, 2014
  • 08:06 PM

Superdiversity: another Eurocentric idea?

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

The current issue of Begegnung (“Encounter”), the magazine of German International Schools, has a feature about the German School in Montevideo, Uruguay. The school was founded in 1857, at a time when increasing numbers of German-speaking immigrants arrived in Uruguay, … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • June 2, 2014
  • 11:09 AM

Learning is not what you think it is

by Michael Ramscar in The Importance of Being Wrong

Why much of what you think you know about learning is likely to be wrong  Ever since Ivan Pavlov (an endocrinologist with a particular interest in dog drool) made his famous observations about bells and dog-food, we have known that animals can be conditioned to respond to pairings of cues and events. Ring a bell every time you feed your dog, […]... Read more »

  • May 26, 2014
  • 10:06 PM

Pallarès, Catalan, the Pyrenees and tourism in global times

by Anand Torrents Alcaraz in Language on the Move

When thinking of promoting tourism in a mountainous area of the Catalan Pyrenees it might seem as if using Pallarès, the local dialect of the Western Catalan type, with very specific vocabulary that visitors from other Catalan-speaking areas are not … Continue reading →... Read more »

Boyra, J. . (2013) Anàlisi dels instruments d’ordenació i dels recursos territorials i l’activitat turística a la comarca del Pallars Sobirà. GREPAT/ Escola Universitària Formatic Barna, Barcelona. info:/

  • May 14, 2014
  • 10:57 AM

Accents Can Carry Over When You Switch Between Languages

by amikulak in Daily Observations

Switching back and forth between two different languages presents a cognitive challenge that can trip up even the most fluent bilingual speakers. Researcher Matthew Goldrick of Northwestern University and colleagues […]... Read more »

Goldrick, M., Runnqvist, E., & Costa, A. (2014) Language Switching Makes Pronunciation Less Nativelike. Psychological Science, 25(4), 1031-1036. DOI: 10.1177/0956797613520014  

  • May 2, 2014
  • 10:02 AM

Going up and coming down

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

  Most people think of speaking as a top-down process and listening as a bottom-up one. So if I say something, the assumption is: I have an idea, it is put into words then commands to muscles, and the sounds of the words come out of my mouth. All is top-down, driven from a high-level […]... Read more »

  • April 23, 2014
  • 07:48 AM

Why are some syllables preferred?

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

 In a recent paper by Berent and others (citation below) they investigate language universals in syllable structure. Their argument goes: there is a preference for certain syllables over others across languages and even in people whose language does not include those syllables; a set of four syllables which do not occur in English shows this […]... Read more »

Berent, I., Pan, H., Zhao, X., Epstein, J., Bennett, M., Deshpande, V., Seethamraju, R., & Stern, E. (2014) Language Universals Engage Broca's Area. PLoS ONE, 9(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095155  

  • March 31, 2014
  • 12:28 AM

Linguistic penalty in the job interview

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

A common explanation for the un- and underemployment of migrants is that their English is not good enough. Despite the overuse of this explanation, we do, in fact, not have a particularly clear idea what “good English” for a particular … Continue reading →... Read more »

Roberts, Celia. (2013) The Gatekeeping of Babel: Job Interviews and the Linguistic Penalty. A. Duchêne, M. Moyer , 81-94. info:/

  • March 5, 2014
  • 03:15 PM

Communicating in sync

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

How do people coordinate their actions; how does communication work; how does it affect people; how do minds get in sync? When people communicate they do get in sync but there is no magical about this. We perceive the outside world including signals as well as scenery, we model this input and think about it, […]... Read more »

Hasson, U., Ghazanfar, A., Galantucci, B., Garrod, S., & Keysers, C. (2012) Brain-to-brain coupling: a mechanism for creating and sharing a social world. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16(2), 114-121. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2011.12.007  

  • March 2, 2014
  • 04:19 PM

Language, music and echolocation

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

In the immediately previous posting, the main idea was that linguistic and musical communication shared the same syntactic processing in the brain but not the same semantic meaning processing. How can they share syntax? We need to look at communication and at syntax.   The simplest type of human communication is non verbal signals: things […]... Read more »

  • February 27, 2014
  • 06:59 AM

The importance of communication

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

A recent paper (see citation below) has helped to clarify the relationship between linguistic and musical communication. The researchers used a standard type of communication between jazz players, called “trading fours”. The musicians alternate playing four bar phrases, each relating to the previous one, so that the players in effect answer one another. This back […]... Read more »

  • February 25, 2014
  • 09:37 PM

English at the Olympics

by Kimie Takahashi 高橋君江 in Language on the Move

Many people would agree that English is the language of globalization. English is almost always adopted as the official language of international events, including the Olympic Games. It does not mean, however, that the presumed global status of English is … Continue reading →... Read more »

Zhang, J. (2011) Language Policy and Planning for the 2008 Beijing Olympics: An Investigation of the Discursive Construction of an Olympic City and a Global Population. PhD thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney. info:/

  • February 17, 2014
  • 08:13 AM

Parent talk and child language

by Dorothy Bishop in bishopblog

Several studies have reported associations between the amount parents talk to their infants and subsequent language development. It is almost always assumed that this reflects a causal relationship and that children's language outcomes can be improved by encouraging parents to talk more to their babies and toddlers.
I argue here that other reasons for the association need to be considered. In particular, there is ample evidence that the association may in part reflect shared genetic risks........ Read more »

  • February 12, 2014
  • 11:28 PM

Inventing languages

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

An objection that is commonly raised against Esperanto and other auxiliary languages is that they are “invented.” Somehow, being “invented” is assumed to give Esperanto a shady character: it’s just not natural. The problem with this view is that – … Continue reading →... Read more »

Mühlhäusler, Peter. (2000) Language Planning and Language Ecology. Current issues in language planning, 1(3), 306-362. DOI: 10.1080/14664200008668011  

  • February 12, 2014
  • 01:45 PM

Three Seconds: Poems, Cubes and the Brain

by Jalees Rehman in Fragments of Truth

Temporal order can be assessed in a rather straightforward experimental manner. Research subjects can be provided sequential auditory clicks, one to each ear. If the clicks are one second apart, nearly all participants can correctly identify whether or not the click in the right ear came before the one in the left ear. It turns out that this holds true even if the clicks are only 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds) apart. The threshold for being able to correctly assign a temporal order to such brief........ Read more »

  • February 8, 2014
  • 08:40 AM

Retiring Procrustean Linguistics

by James Winters in A Replicated Typo 2.0

One example of where Procrustean Linguistics has seemingly led us astray is in the pervasive notion that ambiguity is dysfunctional for communication. Ambiguity exists at many layers of language. You have lexical ambiguity, syntactic ambiguity, scope ambiguity and many other types (see here). Broadly conceived, then, ambiguity corresponds to any state in which a linguistic code contains forms that are conventionally associated with more than one meaning (Hoefler, 2009). Why is ambiguity consider........ Read more »

Piantadosi ST, Tily H, & Gibson E. (2012) The communicative function of ambiguity in language. Cognition, 122(3), 280-91. PMID: 22192697  

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