Possible Dangers of Computer-Generated Languages

Possible Dangers of Computer-Generated Languages

The idea of computer systems shortening their learning curve via artificial intelligence is really nothing new. For readers old enough to remember, people left theaters in awe back in 1968 when Stanley Kubrick released his box office sensation 2001: A Space Odyssey. The story adapted from an Arthur C. Clarke short story followed two American astronauts (and three others in suspended animation) who were sent on a mysterious mission that led to an intense confrontation between man and machine. In this epic sci-fi adventure, the ship's computer (HAL 9000) methodically took control of the spacecraft (Discovery One) as well as the men's lives.   Unfortunately, the vast majority of moviegoers only saw the story's entertainment value and dismissed the fact that Clarke and Kubrick may have been delivering a very intuitive warning. In a recent Forbes online article by Tony Bradley of TechSpective.net, the author revealed that Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence engine after d...

September 21, 2017

Do You Speak the Language of Love?

Do You Speak the Language of Love?

According to the ancient Greeks, love is the madness of the gods. Today, psychologists define love as a desire to communicate and form an emotional union with someone. In 2012, Google announced that "what is love?" was the most searched key phrase and produced the most traffic for search queries in that category. Author Gary Chapman theorized in his 1995 book, The Five Love Languages, that each of us has one primary love language and one secondary love language that we use to communicate and analyze expressions of love. Chapman states that people tend to give love in the same way they would prefer to receive love. The latter statement indicates there is a philosophical element involved in the language of love, as Chapman suggests following the "Golden Rule" in communicating love is often an obvious source of miscommunication. He goes on to recommend the better process for the language of love may be to follow the "Platinum Rule" to express fe...

September 20, 2017

Where Did All the Acronyms Come From?

Where Did All the Acronyms Come From?

In today's world, it is difficult to keep up with all the acronyms, abbreviated words and organizational initialism. Markings on sculpted stones take the earliest word abbreviations back to antiquity. This was mostly due to the fact that there was limited space to write on a stone, so artisans began to use the first letter of each word to abbreviate their inscription. Prior to the Christian era, the Roman Empire adorned doorways, military shields and government buildings with the abbreviation S.P.Q.R. for Senatus Populusque Romanus. From the practice of using abbreviations, the idea of shortening phrases or titles into acronyms was born. An acronym is a word formed by taking a letter (typically the first letter) from each of the words in a phrase to produce an abbreviation that can be pronounced as a word. For example, scuba (which stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) is an acronym since it is pronounced as a word and not by spelling out its letters. Initialism...

August 15, 2017

What Is the Difference Between Creole and Cajun?

What Is the Difference Between Creole and Cajun?

Most people asking this question would likely be referring to food. Ironically, both French-based terms also refer to languages that developed after settlers occupied the southern Mississippi delta region of Louisiana. In the mid-18th century, Louisiana became a melting pot for immigrants; and elements of French, Native American (mainly Choctaw), and African languages were tossed into the pot to melt. Creole is a language that reached America via slaves brought to the region from West Africa. Louisiana Creole French was one of many languages that evolved and spoken in City of New Orleans during the early days. Some African descendants still speak Creole French today. Cajun French evolved when Acadian exiles, who were French-speakers from The Maritimes of Eastern Canada, settled along the Louisiana plains. As was the case with the Creole languages, the Cajun dialects were highly influenced by the melting pot that now included Irish immigrants. Linguistically, this paved the way for ...

August 9, 2017

The Rise and Possible Fall of the Word "Well"

The Rise and Possible Fall of the Word

If you're old enough to rust, you might remember one of the first Kings of Comedy, Benjamin Kubelsky better known as Jack Benny. During his radio show, Benny became famous for playing the violin badly and his single word response, "Well!" It wasn't that the vaudevillian comedian used the word to begin a sentence, it was the sentence. Like many Asian languages, his intonation added meaning to his statement. Used in the traditional sense, well is most often an adverb that modifies a verb by telling "how". However, as a modifier, the word "Well" can be used as a predicate adjective. For example, "Bob was sick, but now he is well." In a recent article on the language of our 45th President, associate teaching professor at Georgetown University's Department of Linguistics, Jennifer Sclafani, pointed to the fact that Donald Trump virtually never began a response to a question with the word "Well". The author of a book due out later this ye...

July 19, 2017

Is Trump's Rhetoric Part of His Effort to Brand Himself?

Is Trump's Rhetoric Part of His Effort to Brand Himself?

Well, we can learn more this fall when the book titled "Talking Donald Trump: A Sociolinguistic Study of Style, Metadiscourse and Political Identity" hits the bookshelves. Although the 45th president of the United States may not have a traceable background in politics, we all know that he is very familiar with marketing, or more specifically branding. According to a theory posed by Jennifer Sclafani, an associate teaching profressor in Georgetown University's Department of Linguistics, "the Donald" may  have used language in a very effective way to create his political brand. The philosopher Plato called rhetoric the art of winning the soul by discourse. If that statement is true, then Donald Trump may be a master manipulator in his use of hyperbole, repetition and short phrases. One of his most famous stands during his campaign to become president was that Mexico must pay for the wall. In almost a blink of the eye, the saying "Build the Wall" was...

July 18, 2017

The Makeshift Lingua Franca of Formula One Racing

The Makeshift Lingua Franca of Formula One Racing

Since the inaugural season in 1950, the FIA Formula One World Championship has been the premier class of auto racing. Attracting one of the largest global television audiences, Formula One can be seen in almost every country and territory around the world. The racing sanction's digital "World Feed" attracted a global audience of 500 million viewers per season. The feed delivers a real-time digital television "super signal" with hundreds of camera angles from trackside to inside the car's cockpit. So, what's the global fuss all about. It's the drivers. They can come from India to Ireland and the racing circuits from China to Dubai. Over the past seven decades, it has been interesting to see how "English" developed as the makeshift Lingua Franca of Formula One and why. In the beginning, and to a lesser part today, most of the race teams from around the globe had headquarters in England. That was where the racing engineers and shops were. Drivers from Bra...

June 26, 2017

Does Linguistic Relativity Shape the World You Know?

Does Linguistic Relativity Shape the World You Know?

For most of us that speak English, we are actually the odd one out among the world of languages when it comes to how the language we speak shapes the world we know. If you studied French or Spanish as a second language in school, you likely remember that those languages actually require the speaker to consider the gender of the person they are referencing. If you've ever been out with a friend of the opposite sex and did not want your significant other to know, all you have to do in English is avoid using "he" or "she". On the other hand, that is a good example of how our mother tongue may limit our view of the world. Known in linguistic circles as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, this principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects a speaker's thoughts and actions as well as his or her cognition. First advanced by Edward Sapir in 1929, theories related to linguistic relativity were subsequently pursued by one of Sapir's students nam...

June 21, 2017

How Russian Developed as a Modern Language

How Russian Developed as a Modern Language

With all the talk in the news lately about Russia, we thought we'd jump on the bandwagon and dive into the Russian language. Russian is the eighth most widely spoken language on Earth and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. There are roughly 155 million native speakers and an additional 105 million who speak Russian as a second language. It is also spoken as a lingua franca throughout many parts of Europe and Asia. Russian is the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages. It, along with the other languages in its tree, all shared a common written language known as Old Church Slavonic, which could be read and understood by most Slavic speakers of the time. Today Russian is still written in Cyrillic script which was developed to write Old Church Slavonic. Several well-known Russian leaders were responsible for shaping the language into its current modern form. First was Peter the Great. During his rule, 1696 to 1725, he worked to simplify the orthography of ...

May 15, 2017

Dutch: A Widespread European Language

Dutch: A Widespread European Language

When most people think of Dutch, pictures of the Netherlands immediately come to mind with windmills, tulips, and wooden shoes. However, did you know that Dutch has 23 million native speakers around the world and about 5 million additional second language speakers? While it is most widely spoken in the Netherlands, other speakers live throughout Europe, South America, the Caribbean and Africa. Like English, Dutch is a West Germanic language with many linguists saying it sounds and reads right in the middle of German and English. Unlike other languages, the change from "Old Dutch" to "Middle Dutch" was not extremely dramatic. Plus, Modern Dutch speakers today can most often read older literature. This is a great thing because the Middle Dutch period from 1150 to 1500 CE was a rich literary period with many fascinating works. After standardization in the late 1400s, the first major Dutch Bible translation was published, called the "Statenvertaling." This...

May 15, 2017

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