All posts tagged: linguistics

Any Other Name

Every month my primary school would have an assembly to give awards to the achievers of the month. Those who were awarded the small yellow certificates signed by the principal would run straight to their parents after school, their grins essentially indestructible. The student assigned to read the names on the certificate would do so effortlessly, and one by one the students trotted out to the front of the stage. Then, he paused. The auditorium paused. “Staff-a…Stepha…Stefatina?” The only Stefatina in the school got up, looked at the certificate and shook her head. It wasn’t hers. I knew exactly who that certificate belonged to but I sat quietly waiting in the hope that they would eventually pronounce the nine letters in the name with ease. In a recent study by Laham et al, it was found that in general those with easy to pronounce names have things a bit easier. In the five studies conducted it was found that compared to those with difficult to pronounce names, people with simpler names are judged more positively, …

Professor Profiles: Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann

From the age of four and throughout his youth, Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann was considered a mathematical prodigy, but always felt that it did not have the soul, social interaction and emotional intelligence that languages have. “I might be wrong but I was certain,” said Professor Zuckermann from his Adelaide University office. He has always been interested in languages, both Language (with a capital L) and languages, and has always been ludic and playful with words. He used to write palindromic stories and bilingual homophonous poems, which are now widely found on the Internet. “Children’s writer Russell Hoban described language as an ‘archaeological vehicle’, full of the remnants of dead and living pasts, lost and buried civilisations and technologies. The language we speak is a whole palimpsest of human effort and history,” quoted Professor Zuckermann by heart. He shifted in his chair, gesticulating gently, and explained that palimpsest is a beautiful metaphor for language.Coming from Greek,it means ‘scraped again’, ‘re-scratched,’ referring to a text written on top of another text. “A language is multi-layered, it encodes …

20 Words That Don’t Exist

1. When something finally clicks, and everything just makes sense. 2. The exact time you remember that word that was on the tip of your tongue. 3. The very moment you open your eyes when you wake up. 3. The thought that leads you into a daydream and then realising that you were daydreaming. 4. When you read something written by someone else which exactly describes what you’re feeling. 5. When two people look at each other and just know what the other is thinking. This is often followed by a mutual action. 6. The feeling of having a feeling. 7. Finally realising that something you once found imperfect or flawed, is imperfectly perfect — is beautiful. 8. Wanting to express something but not knowing what. 9. To be happy for someone else’s success or good fortune. 10. Finding the right words at the right time, and saying the right thing at the right time. 11. A craving for a perfect cup of coffee. 12. The frustration of accepting something you don’t want to; accepting defeat. Not ceding, …