Tag: language

  • The Numbers in Our Words: Words of Estimative Probability

    Toward the end of this month I will almost certainly post the traditional Lone Gunman Year in Review post. Exactly how likely am I to do this? Am I able to quantify the probability that I’ll do this? By using the phrase “almost certainly”, I already have. To provide unambiguous, quantitative odds of an event…

  • Languageā€™s Influence on Culture

    I’ve written before about Lera Boroditsky’s fascinating research into how language affects thinking, and a recent article by Boroditsky in The Wall Street Journal covers similar ground, asking Does language influence culture? The answer, it seems, is yes: Russian speakers, who have more words for light and dark blues, are better able to visually discriminate…

  • Foreign Accents Make Statements Less Trustworthy

    Due to the principles of processing fluency (also known as cognitive fluency, discussed here many times before), we know that information that is easier to process is perceived to be–among other features–more familiar, pleasant, truthful and less risky. A recent study has shown that this is also true for foreign accents: statements spoken by non-native…

  • Vowel Sounds and Price Perceptions

    How the vowels in words are pronounced has an influence on how we perceive the size of an item. This ‘phonetic symbolism’ has also been shown to effect how we perceive prices: Researchers have known for 80 years about a symbolic connection between speech and size: back-of-the-mouth vowels like the “o” in “two” make people…

  • Why Preserve Endangered Languages?

    With his book on “the politics of language” due to be published next year, international correspondent for The Economist, Robert Lane Green,Ā is interviewed in More Intelligent Life. The discussion I find mostĀ intriguingĀ is this onĀ the saving of threatened world languages: Half of today’s languages may be gone in a century. Is there a book that explains…

  • Bilingualism and Dementia

    I’ve noted previously how child bilingualism improves the “executive functions” and aĀ recent study has corroborated these findings while also discoveringĀ how bilingualism can stave off dementia in old age: [Psychologist Ellen Bailystok] wanted to explore whether enhanced executive control actually has a protective effect in mental agingā€”specifically, whether bilingualism contributes to the “cognitive reserve” that comes…

  • Things Every Programmer Should Know (Languages)

    As part of a continuing series*, O’Reilly requested “pearls of wisdom for programmers” from leading practitioners of the craft, publishing the responses. The end result is the O’Reilly Commons wiki, 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know. The contributions that appear in the final, published book are freely available as are sixty-eight further contributions that didn’t…

  • Accents and Second Language Comprehension

    When teaching a second language, it may be better to speak in the accent of the student’s first language rather than attempting toĀ imitateĀ the accent of the target language, suggests research looking at how accents may hinder or expedite language learning and comprehension. The study that discovered this looked at how much aural information speakers of…

  • E-Prime and the Retiring of ‘To Be’

    A form of constrained writing, E-Prime strives to completely restrict the use of the verb to be as a way to prevent implications of certainty and objectivity. As part of the This Column Will Change Your Life series, Oliver Burkeman discusses the merits of E-Prime andĀ unambiguousĀ language. To think about and function in the world, [Alfred…

  • Words and Phrases Lost in Translation

    Coming from the author’s confusion in relating to her German-speaking Balkan partner, the question is asked:Ā can phrases and words that we give great weight to in our native tongue truly be translated across cultural and language barriers. Could it really mean the same thing for him to say “I love you” in English if he…