I know I shouldn’t get in debates with strangers on Facebook (you know how dramatic these conversations can get). But, whenever I see public comments demonstrate harmful sociolinguistic notions, I always feel prompted to hop in. Letting our society continue to judge people for ill because of our backwards knowledge about language bothers me so much… and it hurts all of you, too, in how people will falsely judge you. From the perspective of linguistics as the real deal science, there is no reason why people should judge you for saying something like “adulting.”

If anyone starts speaking ill of your speech because you’re using words like “adulting” - congratulations, you are not doing anything that the English language hasn’t been doing for hundreds of years. You are not doing anything that many other languages haven’t been doing for thousands of years. What is happening with the word “adulting” is a very common, natural, beautiful, and legitimate process of the English language. 

The word “adult” is becoming a denominal verb. What this means is that the word started historically as a noun in the English language, but over time has transitioned to being accepted as a verb, too. I give plenty of examples above of what other denominal verbs are in this language, older denominal verbs that no one would deride you on if you used it as a verb in your daily language.

People should not bulldoze you for using language in new and awesome ways. Linguistic evolution is a natural process and it’s always happening. Linguistic evolution is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to ridicule. Linguistic evolution is not a sign that the English language (or any language) is “falling apart” and becoming “worse.” There is nothing agrammatical or illegitimate about saying words like “adulting.”

People, by judging the word “adulting,” are falling into a common sociolinguistic pattern of judging language for changing. There is no scientific reason to hold this negative stigma… it’s just people being unable to accept something that naturally always happens. Language is always changing, always morphing, always adapting to the next generation of speakers… and the latest changes are just as wonderful and grammatical as what was set in “stone” hundreds of years before.

Social theory has failed … to account for time as lived, not synchronically or diachronically, but in its multiplicity and simultaneities, its presence and absences, beyond the lazy categories of permanence and change beloved of so many historians.
—  Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony

One of the interesting ideas cognitive literary theory exposed to me was the extent to which our cognition is embodied; like, some of this is just trivially obvious, in that things like our sense of direction or our ability to solve physical puzzles are dependent on our perceptions of geometry and angles and proportions. But it does run deeper than that, with things like the method of loci using our spatial reasoning ability to enhance our memory, two things which are not obviously related to one another. Even that, however, is scratching the surface. When you try to delve into the mechanics of how language slices the world, both in the concrete and the abstract, you find that ultimately all human language is physical or sensory and only from there extended by analogy to the abstract and philosophical. There are words whose obvious meanings are both physical and abstract (network, bridge, impression, depth) but few or none that run in the other direction. (Words relating to time don’t count, since that’s something we perceive with our senses, even if it’s not directly physical–still part of embodied cognition. Likewise emotions, which we physically locate in our bodies even if they exist only in our mind.) The weak version of this statement would admit there are words for abstract concepts whose etymology is non-abstract (institution is a word that springs to mind), but arguments from the history of words don’t actually tell us much about how words work now (the language of individual persons is synchronic, not diachronic; language change has no memory). But I think the strong version holds as well: words like “institution” refer to groupings which naturally arise out of our sensory impressions, in the same way we look at a flock of birds and see it as one thing, albeit one with readily discerned components.

If you don’t mind rhetorically overblown statements, you could say that the human mind is dependent on far more than just the brain. Subjectively, at least, the mechanics of our cognition stretch out into the world around us.

All of that’s well and good when it comes to literary criticism, especially where it involves picking apart the minutiae of texts, but what really interests me about this is what it says for our ability to understand beings with cognition unlike our own. It’s not immediately obvious, for instance, why we should be able to, not translate, but actually understand the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is about as remote from our day-to-day experiences as you can get, culturally speaking, being written in a dead language by people with completely different day-to-day experiences and with virtually zero shared literary/religious references. But we do, because human cognition hasn’t changed much in the millennia since it was written, and there are common landmarks we can point to which structure our understanding of the world in the same way they structured Sin-Leqi-Unninni’s.

What if those referents don’t exist? What of creatures that had, not just differently organized brains, but different senses, different linguistic universals, a different relationship to their physical world–or, in the case of an intelligence implemented as a computer program, none at all? Does it follow that we would have much in common with them–indeed, does it follow that we could understand them at all?

I don’t think it does. In fact, I think it requires assuming a lot which is actually up for grabs. Even if trends in terrestrial evolution, like cephalization and an organized nervous system and cellular biology hold in other contexts, even if they’re as natural a consequence of the physical laws of the universe as breathing oxygen to run your metabolism, you could have fundamentally creatures whose languages are simply unlearnable for humans, who have nothing of interest in the realms of art or philosophy to share with us, nor us with them, simply for the reason that our experiences of the universe are too different. I’m not saying we couldn’t communicate at all. We would deduce the same physical laws; we would probably be able to work out a you-fish-on-your-side-of-the-lake-and-I-fish-on-mine-and-nobody-fishes-in-the-middle-type agreement to live and let live, and maybe even some basic forms of trade, but actual communion could remain forever out of reach.

(And is this the solution to Fermi’s paradox? That alien intelligence is so different from our own we can’t recognize it from here even if it *is* leaving footprints all over the universe? I don’t think it’s likely, but I do think it’s possible.)

But I also think this is why we can’t assume the possibility of an artificial intelligence that we can have any kind of meaningful communication with, never mind uploading a human mind. Even if you could implement a very good simulation of the human brain in a computer, a human mind unmoored from its body might not think the same way, might not have the same relationship with the world, might have a very different internal experience from anything the embodied human has, and the closer you got to bridging the gap the more you would just be simulating a physical world that was inhabited in the same way we already inhabit our world. If that mind could copy itself, merge itself, alter itself, then the differences would be even greater. If that mind was built from the ground up, intelligence developed on its own terms rather than those of DNA and cellular biology, why should it have anything in common with us at all? It would be as alien as any other kind of intelligence, and while perhaps we could customize it to do useful work for us, I’m still not sure its internal experience would ever be something comprehensible or of interest to us, and vice-versa.

I don’t think this means uploaded minds or entirely artificial intelligence are impossible, or even necessarily inadvisable. Just that there are aspects of discussions of the glorious post-scarcity transhuman future that remind me of people in 1950 predicting a society in 2020 with the same political and gender relations, or science fiction of the 1920s that predicts a universe populated with American-accented rubber forehead aliens whose societies are organized exactly like Earth’s. If the past has any lesson to offer, it is that the future is going to be a lot weirder than we imagine, or even than we can imagine.

studywithbuttons  asked:

heya haddock! hope you're having a good day. so, i was talking about the word "triggered" with someone who uses it casually, and i told them that they shouldn't use it as it trivialises mental illness, however they said that words develop new meanings over time, for example trigger wasn't originally a term that had to do with mental illness, so "triggered" has now developed the new meaning "offended". (1/2)

i wanted to ask you as you have a background in linguistics, and i was wondering what you think of this? i understand if you would prefer to not talk about this though. have a good day!

Hello and hope you are well, too! Thank you for being so thoughtful - yes, I am okay talking about this. And I do think it’s an important matter to discuss, too, so that we can understand the importance of our everyday word usage and how it impacts the people around us.

So it is always true that words constantly develop new meanings. For instance, back around the 1200s, the word “silly” used to mean “happy.” It could also, a little later, mean such things as “blessed,” “pious,” or “innocent.” By the late 1300s, it had undergone a semantic shift called pejoration, and developed the less flattering meanings of “pitiable” and “weak.” And since the 1500s, it’s been used along the lines of the empty-headed, foolish definition we’re more familiar with. That’s quite the shift over time! And yet we can trace the word “silly” through all these meanings.

But just because we can say “This word has meaning changes,” doesn’t always mean it’s fair to justify controversial usage of a word. The fact that “triggered” is controversial says something significant about the state of its current accepted meanings in society. The fact that you, many others, and I do find offense in the word “triggered” being used in the “offended” meaning… says something about how we should regard our choice of language.

The word c*nt, way back in the days, wasn’t obscene. It was a more general anatomical term. Now it is obscene, and contemporary usage of the word dictates we probably shouldn’t speak it freely. And r*tarded used to be neutral as well, but it’s certainly an offensive word today. You really shouldn’t use r*tard today because it’s that unpleasant of a slur! Just because words have had or have or will develop new meanings doesn’t mean we can say we’re in the clear when we use those words in our speech. We have to be sensitive to how the word takes place in our society today.

And the thing with “triggered” is that, in society today, it is not a word that can be thrown about respectfully. When used to mean “offended,” it’s not a neutral term in the same way that “insulted” is neutral. Sociolinguistics, semantics, connotations, and how words can be offensive to society… is a thing.

The use of the word “triggered” to mean “offended” is a very new phenomenon. VERY new phenomenon - as in, only the last few years. Not only that, but how the word became to mean “offended” is through an unkind jibe: by downplaying the psychological suffering of individuals who are triggered by circumstances, by almost suggesting these peoples’ triggerings are childish, not serious, or unreal. It’s a word suggesting that people are easily offended, flip out about things that aren’t actually a problem, etc. And while there are going to be some individuals who act that way by pretending to be triggered when they are not actually mentally ill, that doesn’t make the “offended” meaning of “triggered” any more respectful. It’s quite disrespectful. It’s ignoring those who truly do get triggered from their psychological struggles. As you say, it’s trivializing people with mental illness. In many ways, it’s mocking, disregarding, and disbelieving them. That’s the entire point of why the word “triggered” came to mean “offended” in the last few years!

This very recent history of how the word has been “changed” isn’t some neutral usage of “offended.” Me saying, “Oh, you’re offended!” in a jubilant manner is nowhere close to the shout-out, “LOL, TRIGGERED!!!” There is a huge difference between how people use “insulted” to mean “offended” versus how people use “triggered” to mean “offended.” The word “insulted” is neutral and can be used respectfully to mean “offended.” The offended definition of “triggered” is NOT neutral - it’s pejorative. It’s being used in an ableist, offensive manner - and making jokes about the word is by nature making fun of people who are triggered from their mental illness.

It’s not that “triggered” means “offended” nice and neutrally - it means “offended” in an offensive way.

Maybe three hundred years down the road, the word “triggered” will have gone through the somewhat rare process of amelioration and become a neutral term meaning “offended.” But that’s nowhere close to its meaning now. The raw meaning of where “triggered” got derived in an unkind way is extremely fresh and potent. 

If many people are telling you that a word is offensive - aka, what’s going on with “triggered” - then that word is, in fact, legitimately offensive.

Guess who found the book zie had been looking for in vain for YEARS?

I was at the Bodleian Library yesterday afternoon and there it was, on the shelf, looking inconspicuous!

I am a bit less than halfway through, due to how densely packed with information it is, but I can already tell that it is a lot more systematic than te Velde and goes over in detail about all the aspects of the Contendings in diachronic fashion, drawing from Pyramid Texts, Coffin Texts, Book of the Dead and other texts to complement the “Contendings” (P. Chester Beatty).

The legal proceedings have one whole chapter to themselves. The lettuce incident one subchapter of the larger “Injuries and Mutilations” chapter. Just so that you know, not all academics are as fixated on sex as H. te Velde.

I am hoping to be able to sneak to the library at least once more before the winter break, so I will be able to finish it and give a more complete report

In any case, I am taking notes, so if anyone wants them, I would be happy to post them on Penflip when I am done reading. Just let me know.

anonymous asked:

I have a theory that, the reason "you" survived but "thou" didn't, is because when the printing press became a thing, Y was used as a substitute for "thorn." Which is why we have things like Ye olde, which should be read as "the old." Since Y was being used for the "th," thou and you both ended up as "you."

Heya heya! :) While I was not a contributor to the post you’re responding to, I can make some responses to it! I can’t be too thorough given as life is terrible and busy, but hey, hopefully it’s still factual enough woot! And language is cool. It’s an interesting idea tying the word change into the printing press.

I’m not sure how familiar you are with linguistics, so hopefully I’m not saying stuff you already know, especially since you are familiar with the whole you-versus-thou history a bit… but here are my thoughts. Diachronic linguists have pretty thoroughly combed through “thou” and the reasons why it became obsolete in favor of “you.” 

The use of “you” being used as a polite form to address a single person started transitioning following the Norman conquest of England in the eleventh century. By 1600, “you” had become so popular that “thou” and “thee” were basically only used in intimate or rude contexts. By the end of the 1600s, “you” was normal in essentially all contexts while “thou” was almost exclusively seen in religious contexts or regional dialects.

For instance, if we look at Early Modern English writing, like the love letters of Dorothy Osborn (1627-1695) to William Temple, even in this setting to her beloved, talking to one person, she always uses “you”:

You bid me write every week, and I am doing it without considering how it will come to you. Let Nan look to that, with whom, I suppose, you have left the orders of conveyance. I have your last letter; but Jane, to whom you refer me, is not yet come down. On Tuesday I expect her; and if she be not engaged, I shall give her no cause hereafter to believe that she is a burden to me, though I have no employment for her but that of talking to me when I am in the humour of saying nothing. Your dog is come too, and I have received him with all the kindness that is due to anything you send; have defended him from the envy and malice of a troop of greyhounds that used to be in favour with me; and he is so sensible of my care over him, that he is pleased with nobody else, and follows me as if we had been of long acquaintance. ‘Tis well you are gone past my recovery. My heart has failed me twenty times since you went, and, had you been within my call, I had brought you back as often, through I know thirty miles’ distance and three hundred are the same thing. You will be so kind, I am sure, as to write back by the coach and tell me what the success of your journey so far has been. After that, I expect no more (unless you stay for a wind) till you arrive at Dublin.

Now, since the printing press was invented in 1440, technically that would be during some part of the transition period from “you” to “thou.” I also have tried to do hurried research on the historic pronunciations of both “you” and “thou” - after all, their similar spellings suggest a past rhyme. English spelling used to be more closely aligned to actual pronunciation, and part of the reason things got quirky was due to the Great Vowel Shift. The Great Vowel Shift basically had all of the vowels change pronunciations in English from what they were in the past. In this shift, a long “oo” vowel /u:/ shifted to the “ow” diphthong /aʊ/, as in how we now pronounce “house.” From some information I’ve seen in the Oxford English Dictionary, it looks like “you” could have undergone the shift to /aʊ/ as well, and was pronounced that way in the 1500s and 1600s during the time that the printing press would have started making its rounds into the English language, with Caxton introducing the printing press to England in 1476 CE (apparently in the later half of the 1600s pronouncing “you” like “yow” became uncool, and hence it never kept up with the lasting Great Vowel Shift splendor?). So all of this seems to line up initially with your idea.

Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t look like this printing press idea would be a likely scenario.

Language change tends to be driven through speech, not writing - makes sense, given as writing is not developed in every language culture, and until very recently literacy was not widespread in most populations. Language change also tends to be driven by certain demographics, notably young women. However, during the time the printing press was a new deal, illiteracy was extraordinarily high - it looks like 90% of English men in 1500 CE couldn’t read, and even by 1700, male literacy was only at 40%. Illiteracy in women is notably higher. The demographic most likely to build change from “thou” to “you” wouldn’t have been able to read the text on the printing press that used “y” instead of the thorn. Yes, people would have wanted to mimic the upper class, the people more likely to read, but spreading this pronunciation around to the masses would be pretty problematic.

I also thiiiiiiiink that, while “ye” for “the” certainly happened, the thorn was already fading away from English orthography, with “th” gaining popularity even in the 1300s, or something around there. I’m not sure about this as some other points I’m making here, though… I don’t tend to study orthography, cool as it is.

Last, what happened with “thou” versus “you” is actually a really common language change cross-linguistically. Theoretically it’s very strong to stick to patterns that we see across languages, notably even across unrelated languages. Using a plural form of a pronoun is a very common designation of respect. For instance, this occurs in Croatian with ti (singular & informal) versus vi (plural/formal), in Kannada with neenu (singular & informal) versus neevu (plural/formal), in Turkish with sen (singular & informal) versus siz (plural/formal), in French with tu (singular & informal) versus vous (plural/formal), and in Tamil regarding the use of niinka. There’s also the phenomenon of the royal plural (ex: Hebrew), where a plural pronoun is used as a sign of respect to a single person holding a high position of leadership. So when it comes to tracing back to what English did regarding “thou” versus “you,” it’s completely understandable to align with a theory that patterns after many of the world’s languages.

anonymous asked:

talk about the Byzantine empire pleaase

* Eastern Roman*

I’ve always loved brigde-like eras: times of transition from another religion, political regime and mentality to another. Most modern Greeks consider themselves direct descendants of ancient Greeks and overlook 1.000+ years of a unique cultural reign.Byzantium presents all the pillars Europe was founded upon: greek philosophy, roman law and an abrahamic religion, and I find it an inexhaustible chest of case studies that could help modern Europe introspect and confort its problems in a more diachronic, less beauroratic way. I by no means agree with the atrocities of Christians, the restrictions imposed on individuals’ lives and artistic expressions ( my country is still tortured by the consequences of Iconomachy), the absolute monarchy and other authoritarian  traits commonly found in empires. But one should not be blind to their midieval grandparetns and identify themselves to their glorified great- grandfathers. A nation ( or a continent) can choose their ancestors but these bonds are still alive and we better examine them critically and with empathy.

“The Byzantine Empire was a person of a triple nature: a roman body, a greek head and an oriental soul”.

anonymous asked:

what did you dissertate

Basically it grew out of thinking about Greenberg’s Universal 38, which I talked about in this old blog post. Universal 38 says that the case borne by arguments of intransitive verbs is the only one which may be marked by a zero morpheme. That means a language conforming to Universal 38 must have accusative alignment if the A-marking morpheme is zero and ergative alignment if the P-marking morpheme is zero. So that got me wondering to what extent alignment could be determined by whether it’s A or P that is zero-marked. Like, suppose a language doesn’t have any case markers, but then it innovates one by grammaticalizing some adposition. If it grammaticalizes an ablative as a marker of A, then you’d expect it to end up with ergative alignment (because P would be zero-marked); if it grammaticalizes an allative as a marker of P, then you’d expect it to end up with accusative alignment (because A would be zero-marked). And that could actually explain some funny things about this phenomenon of morphosyntactic alignment:

  • first off, it’d explain why you see this variation between accusative and ergative alignment, cross-linguistically, with both types of alignment being fairly common: they’d just be slightly different configurations arising from happenstance of what sort of lexeme grammaticalized into the case marker;
  • second, it’d explain why case alignment seems to be different from alignment in other domains (although people generally speak about “accusative languages” and “ergative languages” quite crudely, languages actually can and often do exhibit different alignments in different domains, people just take the domain they’re interested in as the most fundamental one). In the view of many linguists (although there’s some dispute abou this) ergativity is actually only common in the domain of case; there isn’t really any good example of a language with proper fully-fledged syntactic ergativity other than Dyirbal, and even morphologically we see ergativity much less often in indexing (indication of argument type on the head verb) than in flagging (indication of argument type on the dependent nouns, i.e. case marking). Ergativity might be more common in the domain of case because it’s possible for case ergativity to arise just by this sort of coincidence of which argument type is zero-marked, whereas the ‘deeper’ forms of ergativity only arise more rarely due to more momentous stuff like reanalysis of passives.

Now that’s just speculation, I don’t know if there are any attested diachronic developments that worked out that way. But then I thought you might be able to see a similar thing going by having English-speaking participants in an experiment learn an artificial language with overt marking of A and zero-marking of P, and by only teaching them what the grammar is like for transitive sentences, then sneakily asking them to generalize to intransitive sentences when testing their knowledge. If participants are inclined to conform to Universal 38, they’ll be inclined to conclude that the artificial language is ergative and zero-mark S, rather than just assuming the language is like English and has accusative alignment, which we can probably presume they’d do otherwise. A control condition where both A and P are overtly marked could be used to establish the baseline level of zero-marking you’d expect (i.e. without pressure to conform to Universal 38; Universal 38 says nothing about what alignment should exist in the case where both A and P are overtly marked), and then I could compare the level of zero-marking in the condition with zero-marked P and see if it’s significantly different.

So, I tried doing this experiment. Got data from 40 participants (alhough I could only use data from 19 of them because the others didn’t display evidence of learning the grammar in transitive sentences well enough), and there was a difference in the expected direction–4 people in the zero-marked P condition zero-marked S most of the time (admittedly this was still a minority of the 13 people in that condition in total), but none of the people in the overtly-marked P condition did that. But I suspected it might not test as significant, and it didn’t by any test I tried, although I didn’t actually know what sort of statistical analysis was appropriate to do. So I couldn’t draw any conclusions from my experiment results. Of course I could have asked people for help with the statistics and stuff if I had time but… I didn’t (I only started even looking at my results just this weekend, because procrastination). I think I had a good idea, maybe, but I haven’t executed it well by any means.

Explaining various linguistic fields using donuts

Comparative linguistics: Dunkin’ serves these flavors of donut, Krispy Kreme serves these other flavors.

Diachronic linguistics: Donuts are related to apple fritters by way of Dutch settlers in North America.

Sociolinguistics: Boston loves Dunkin’ Donuts because…

Generative linguistics: All donuts consist of the following ingredients…

Psycholinguistics: Donuts stimulate the taste receptors.

Cognitive linguistics: Define “donut.”

Developmental linguistics: Learn to make a donut.

Forensic linguistics: He scrawled “Don” on the floor in grape jelly.  Clearly he was killed with a donut.

Computational linguistics: Siri, where can I find donuts?

Prescriptive linguistics: Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.  We don’t serve that flavor of donut and we don’t owe you an explanation.

Internet linguistics: Wow.  Such donut.  Very taste.  Wow.

anonymous asked:

One of my favourite things about English is how we have words for incredibly specific things, like defenestration and cornobble (throwing people/things out of windows and slapping another person with a fish, respectively, though the latter is incredibly archaic) and I was wondering if you have any thoughts on why it is that words like this exist and/or arise? (I noticed that you mentioned the existence of the word "wedgie" in English and it brought the others to mind)

I adore how incredibly specific words can be in language. Basically any language has some absurd word in its vocabulary! The German word “Schadenfreude” means to take pleasure from another’s pain. Even worse, “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz,” means a law for the delegation of monitoring beef labeling. In the Inuit language, “Iktsuarpok” describes that feeling of anticipation you get that makes you want to keep looking outside to see if someone’s coming. Indonesian has the useful word “Jayus” to describe a joke that is so poorly told and so unfunny that you end up laughing at it. More fun overly specific words in various languages can be found here and here, if you are curious!

Then, of course, there’s also English, with words like “wedgie,” “cornobble,” “defenestration,” “triskaidekaphobia,” and “floccinaucinihilipilification,” which are just as ridiculous and over-specific. The question is: why in Odin’s name do we have words like this that enter language?

The base reason a word enters a language is because it has a function. We have the word “cat” in English because it describes something we feel is relevant to discuss. This makes sense for the majority of words, but it’s hard to see how overly specific words like “cornobble” ever had enough purpose and relevance to become a word of the language.

I’m not an expert in this area of linguistics, but I’ll provide several reasons about why these sorts of crazy, over-the-top, ridiculously specific words appear in languages including (but not limited to) English.

A Story of Social Relevance

To reiterate, every single word has to describe a relevant concept to enter a language. Overly specific words often have a story behind them about why people were talking about the concept in the first place. At one point in time, there was dialogue about the concept, hence why they came to be relevant enough to form words. It might seem ridiculous and overly specific, but in the context of when the word was developed, it suddenly starts to make sense.

Let’s backtrack to the ridiculously long German word “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.” Again, this word means a law for the delegation of monitoring beef. As explained here, this word became very relevant to the German community during the mad cow crisis at the end of the 1990s. People needed to talk about laws regarding the delegation and monitoring of beef because we were in the middle of a scare about what would happen if we ate the beef of infected cows. The word entered the language and dialogue of German speakers, and thus  “Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” became a relevant word - even if it is ridiculously over specific.

In English, other overly specific words have explainable backstories, too. Consider the word “Bushisms,” a term used to describe the infamously “muddled” manners of speech of the US’s forty-third president. Throughout the United States, dialogue arose about how George W. Bush phrased his speech, some people made jokes on it, and in the process, the word “Bushism” was coined. The word described a situation that had become relevant in the dialogue because the American people were talking about it.* 

In some cases, it’s only within a specific group of people who find an overly specific word relevant to dialogue. It’s jargon, essentially - but jargon, while overly specific, is still relevant to the group of experts who work in that field. Consider some medical terminology. “Gastroenteritis” is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This term is not going to be used by the public, but it will be more likely to appear in medical dialogue, where the specificity of the term is useful in understanding what is going on.

Languages Can Be Like Legos

Some of these overly specific words develop by piggybacking off of already-existing words in the language. This can occur in a number of ways. I’ll just talk about one. 

One of the most common ways is simply by assembling the “parts” of other words. Prefixes and suffixes and roots all have their own meanings. You can assemble small meaningful parts in a language (called morphemes) into different words. I can make the word “hopeless” by adding the suffix -less onto the word hope. Then I can make the word “hopelessness” by adding -ness onto the end of hopeless. In many languages, you can BUILD new words by attaching suffixes, affixes, and other meaningful parts onto other meaningful parts in specific ways. Like Legos, you can attach certain pieces to certain other pieces and build something bigger and more specifically shaped.

German is a great example of this. Based upon the structure of the language, German is a language where it’s really easy to make compound words. That means you’re going to get a lot of really specific words like “Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften” (insurance companies providing legal protection) or “Kaftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung” (motor vehicle reliability insurance).

Many other languages do this, too, of course, especially a class of languages that are called “agglutinating languages.” These languages often express very complex meanings in a single word - it’d take a whole phrase or sentence to describe that same meaning in English. There is a word in Turkish, “Çekoslovakyalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız,” which means, “You are said to be one of those that we couldn’t manage to convert to a Czechoslovak” (which became a popular word because of a cultural joke). In Bulgarian, the single word, “непротивоконституциослователствувайте,” means “don’t speak and act against the constitution.” Inuit has a single word, “Tusaatsiarunnanngittualuujunga,” which means, “I can’t hear very well.” This is just a normal thing in agglutinative languages - a large number of words just are very specific.

English isn’t an agglutinating language, but we still can mash together a bunch of meaningful parts into overly specific words, too. “Triskadecaphobia” mashes together Greek roots meaning “three” and “ten” and “fear of” to get a meaning of “fear of the number thirteen.”

Sometimes you even get long words being developed for silly reasons. There is a city in Wales called “Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysili­gogo­goch.” The place is more historically named the shorter “Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.” In the 1860s, they lengthened the name of the town for promotional purposes!

So it might seem really ridiculous for certain words to exist in a language’s vocabulary. It might seem downright absurd that we have a word like “defenestration” or “wedgie” or “Bushism.” When we get down to the history and the context of the word, it makes at least some sense why it was there. Even overly specific words were born with a relevance and function.

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One of the things people told me before I started teaching art history to senior citizens was: there’s no need to get too deep into the subjects like, going off on art theory, cause they don’t care and it’s too complicated. I went in anyway. I’ve been trying to structure my classes with a side of art theory and they’re liking it I think? I think people assume theory/philosophy is too complicated for certain people and it’s not as long as you explain it well enough?

it might be because I don’t tell stuff like “Wincklemann believed history was diachronic and a certain event could repeat itself thus giving way to the revivalism of art given the proper conditions”. But actually something like “this guy, boy he REALLY loved the greeks like, didn’t even know how GAY everyone was, but he thought, ‘democracy!!! and the weather is nice!! let us make TEMPLES again! it is the PERFECT condition for the doric order to be born again!’ well guess what, plot twist: the loser was looking at roman statue lmao and anyway thats how neo-classical got its name” 

and they just… understand me i guess

making fancy tags!

          disclaimer: all the tags included in this post were inspired by other role players but thrown together by myself; anything matching anyone else’s tags is entirely coincidental.  that being said, feel free to copy mine if you want!

          there are a lot of big pros and cons to having fancy tags.  the biggest upside, obviously, is that they’re really pretty!  they can add a lot of aesthetic flair to your posts, but they can also be a pain in the butt.  special characters and long quotes mean you have to either save them to a text document or do frequent tag-dumps so they’ll show up in your suggested tags.  you should also be sure to include a link to a page of your tags, especially if you want people to be able to easily search through your memes and open starters!

          i have a few blogs that utilize very simple tags, and some that have more complicated tags, and they usually reflect the character’s personality.  quotes can be fun, if you want to put the time and effort into finding them.  lyrics are a good way to start, or taking things that your character likes (books, movies, poetry), and if your character is part of a fandom, grabbing quotes from their books/movies is also a really good way to keep with the aesthetic feel of the character and their universe.

          examples below the cut!

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The Nature of Names in “The Croods”

There does not seem to be much meaning in a monosyllabic “Grug” or a sound effect word like “Thunk.” However, these are the nature of the names of characters within The Croods. These names evoke a sense of caveman and cavewoman-like gruffness, a lack of civilization, using short, gross non-words that are fairly stereotypically associated with prehistoric man. After all, it is more than just DreamWorks that uses words like this to christen a caveman - think of Homevester’s Ug, of whom they say, “Ug likes ugly houses.”

However, looking deeper, there appears to be far more than caveman caricature involved in the animated men and women’s seemingly simple appellations. Though all these names are basically non-word sounds to contemporary English speakers, each and every member in the Croods family has a very appropriate name.

The fact that these names are sound effects is in fact one very important point to consider. “Cavemen” names tend to be onomatopoeiac in nature, named after the sounds characters would emit. We envision that cavemen say “ug,” for instance, because they are not yet civilized speakers with a complex language. “Eep” is another clear instance of onomatopoeia, as is “Thunk.” And each of these sounds evoke their own sets of connotations in listeners’ minds… giving some interesting insight into the heart of each character.

The Family Name

The family’s surname alone speaks a lot to the characters in the movie. “Crood” is a homonym of “crude,” a real word in the English language. To be “crude” is to be crass, unpolished, unrefined, simple, vulgar, uncultured. To be “crude” is to be, at its base, what the Crood family shows in their day-to-day lives.

This family does not demonstrate lovely manners or any sense of refinement. They are vulgar, threatening to eat each other, growling and crawling on four limbs, constantly dirty, and rather quite a mess of a family. Social skills are tactless, too, shoving Guy in a log or telling stories about people dying for being curious. They are, in all senses of the word, extraordinarily crude.

Still, to be “crude” is one step short of being outright obscene. This family is not gross beyond relatability, nor is their crudeness meritless. They have heart and love for each other, even if they do live a rather down-to-earth, animalistic life. They are crude but they are not repulsive. This is what allows them to grow, develop, and become greater people throughout the story. If Guy had had to handle a family of “Repulsives,” instead, chances are he would have been working with a lost cause of people who would never be able to appreciate shoes, umbrellas, inventions, ideas, and the hope of Tomorrow.

After all, to be unrefined is to be undeveloped. But one who is unrefined or unpolished has the potential to become refined. Every single member of Eep’s family has the ability to become greater than how we first see them. They have the ability to adapt to circumstances rather than living in a cave all day. They have the ability to step out into the world… survive… and do more than simply “not dying.” 

They have the ability to truly live.


Grug’s name is probably the gruffest and least straightforwardly semantically “meaningful” of all the characters’ names. It is one syllable, which shows bluntness in itself. Every single sound is harsh, especially the two /g/ sounds that start and end his name. The vowel itself sounds a bit like a punch in the gut.

That is altogether fitting for who he is. Grug is the man who is the most mentally set on being a caveman. He is the one hardest to convince that ideas and change can be good things, that life can be more than hiding in a cave. His name alone paints that picture of a man very far from the life Guy encourages.

However, by the end, Grug’s name is not one of the harshest. It is one of the softest. Why? Because of an association of words that takes place at the end of the story. One of his greatest, most sentimental ideas he names after himself. A “hug.” Now suddenly the word “Grug” does not sound so harsh. It is the sound of a family man, a protective father, one who cares and will give everyone around him a loving “hug”.


“Ugga” also has a name befitting of the “older” generation in the Croods. “Ugga” is a feminized version of one of the most “common” caveman names given - Ug. The name sounds feminine because of the final soft vowel on the end of her name, that little “a”. The “a” softens the harshness of her name, makes it two syllables long and thus less gruff, and adds a level of familiarity to audiences who are used to women’s names ending in that sound.

All this together builds a picture of who Ugga is. She is definitely a cavewoman, as the “ug” part of her name makes evident. However, the second syllable characterizes her of a woman of some softness and love, as well as a little bit more of a modern perspective than her husband. Ugga is a bit more receptive to Guy’s ideas, just like her name is just slightly more sonically receptive to the film audience.


Gran is called nothing but her familial relation, marking her as Eep’s grandmother. The fact she is given no other name is almost a step back from the clunky caveman sounds Ugga and Grug receive for names. Still, her “name” also creates a sense of belonging for her in the family, something with which audience members who have their own grandparents totally understand. It also means that Grug, as much as he hates her, has to accept her in as a member of his cave.

Note that the single syllable really makes her name sound a little more harsh than something else like “Nanna” or “Grandma.” She may be a grandmother, but she is no coddling one. She is a lady in a lizard skin. To call her something with two syllables would be too soft and go against the strong nature this old woman displays.


Eep’s name is a sound effect. It is a loud, abrasive, high-pitched noise. In a way, it is feminine because it is a squeaky noise, but it is not at all fluffy - just like our firm-footed, broad shouldered protagonist. 

The sound “eep” is also one of surprise. And Eep is excitable to say the least! She is a young woman exploring out into the new world, eyes wide and curious, far more interested and excitable to the world beyond than either of her parents are. 

She is also the character who is the one most likely to run into surprises - the first being Guy himself. She is the one, not Grug, to charge out of the cave… and find all of its scream-worthy dangers. However, it is this very characteristic that leads her to see not only the frightful shocks of the world beyond, but also its hope.


Thunk’s name is totally appropriate. This meat-headed boy takes right after his father, a boy allegedly without a brain. He is someone who is going to act by cavemen instincts and bop creatures rather than talk to them. 

This is just like the word “thunk.” “Thunk” is a sound in the English language that is hard, depicting something being bashed or falling heavily. It is not a pretty sound but a harsh one, a blunt one, a rather non-academic and rather brutish one. 


Look at the progression of names from the first to youngest child in the Crood family. The first is “Eep,” a sound effect, but one not really considered a real English word. The next child is “Thunk.” That word is onomatopoeiac, but it is far more standardized in English and used more frequently as a verb in grammatical sentences. 

The last child, Sandy, is the first character who has a legitimate name in the sense it is a modern name used in English today. “Sandy” is not a common name in today’s English speaking world… but it is a name. It is a name that sounds close to an object - sand - but is more than that.

As the years have progressed, then, it almost sounds like there has been very small, subconscious changes in the parents. They start with a daughter named “Eep” and then go down to name a daughter “Sandy.” That is a change. It is the very progression that the characters go through in the movie itself.


This guy’s name is probably the biggest tip-off that there is a lot of meaning in the movie’s character names. He is given another modern human name, albeit one that is really rare. More commonly, English speakers use the word “guy” as a reference to a generic name of some male out there. “Just some guy,” we might say, when someone asks to whom you were speaking.

At the start of the story, this is exactly Guy. He starts as “just some guy,” the one person who is not a member of the Croods family. To Grug, he does not have the same significance as a family member. Just some “Guy” is not as important as the rest of the family, and he is not counted in the caveman’s early tallies. 

Furthermore, people who are “just those guys” are strangers, unpredictable, with unknown thoughts and unknown actions. Guy acts very differently than the family. He is a stranger with unpredictable actions and a far different outlook on life. Hey, DreamWorks even advertised this character by calling him, “The New Guy” in their ads!

It is at the end of the movie that Grug begins counting Guy as the seventh member of the family… rather than some unfamiliar stranger mingling about the Croods. He is a name with the name “Guy,” the modern name “Guy,” rather than a faceless chap stepping down the street.


“Belt” is such an entertaining name for the sloth. For Guy, the word “Belt” is a made-up word with no meaning except that it is the name of his pet. Modern audiences, of course, are familiar with the fact that a belt is an object used to keep pants up. And Belt does indeed do that favor for Guy throughout the movie.

This name immediately shows that Guy is different, for his animal is named off of a clothing part that is more sophisticated than the animal skins the Croods wear. It also hints that Guy is a man of ideas and inventions. And lastly, it also plays on an entertaining joke of diachronic linguistics, suggesting that the word “belt” began as a name, and then over time changed to acquire the meaning that we use today to refer to the clothing article. 


This animal’s name is glorious.

All other semi-”modern” names of characters in the Croods have also had other concrete connections. “Thunk” is onomatopoeia moreso than a grammatically “functioning” English word. “Guy” and “Sandy” are names, but not very much, and they have other attributes such as sounding like the word “sand” or doubling as a generic word for a male stranger. 

But “Douglas” has no such connotations. It is an English name and that is it.

Douglas’ name is so far away from caveman lingo that it is hysterical that Thunk named the creature such. 

Beyond the comedy of it, it also shows that the characters have been in flux. They are no longer cringing in caves. Most have started accepting Guy’s ideas, trying stilts and shoes on to navigate the world around them. They are starting to find out that there is hope in flying to tomorrow rather than dwelling, barely living, within darkened caves. 

At the start of the story, the Croods did not have pets, nor would conceive of them. Gran said that pets were basically children, for they did not eat their own children. But now Thunk has a pet, showing how he has been growing and changing in this new world. The name “Douglas” shows that. Beyond the comedy of the name, it shows that Thunk’s way of life is not the same, nor will it go back to the grunts of a lightless caveman existence.

All the names of the characters, from Guy to Eep to Gran to Belt, are given with a purpose. There is meaning and personality behind even monosyllabic non-words like “Grug”. And all these names work together to depict the theme of the movie… of the characters doing more than trying not to die… of the characters transitioning from one rather dismal, crude way of living… into something far more hopeful and satisfying.

We do not just hear sounds with the characters’ names. We get an even greater sense of what it means to reach Tomorrow.

The ‘people' — the very term is suspect to the cosmopolitan Left, which sees it as bordering on the politically incorrect — is not any statistical 'population’; it’s an organic community embracing a transcendent body made up of ancestors, the living, and their heirs. Though marked with a certain spirituality, a people is diachronically rooted in the past and projects itself into the future — it’s submerged in biological and genetic matter, but at the same time it’s a historical, and spiritual, reality.


The universalist ideology of the French Revolution confused the idea of the people with that of an 'ensemble of inhabitants who jurisdictionally possess nationality’, whatever their origin. Given the facts of mass immigration and naturalisation, the notion of the French people has been greatly diluted (as have the British or German peoples, for the same reason). This is why (without broaching the unresolvable issue of what constitutes a 'regional people’ or a 'national people’), it’s advisable to dialectically transcend semantic problems — and affirm the historic legitimacy of a single, European people, historically bound, whose different national families resemble one another in having, for thousands of years, the same ethno-cultural and historical origins.

Europe needs to think of herself as a community of destiny, one that will replace the nation-state in the Twenty-first century. Beside most people in the world see us more as Europeans than as Germans, Italians, Frenchmen, etc. The way others look at us in one sign that we’re not wrong. In a globalised world, prone to civilisational clashes, Europe —beset by demographic decline, threatened with life-threatening dangers — faces the overriding imperative of regrouping in order to survive, for the isolated nation state no longer bears any weight.

— Guillaume Faye, Why We Fight: Manifesto of the European Resistance

languagemoose  asked:

Can you talk a bit about what a historical linguist does?

A historical linguist usually sits and analyses dead languages in their basement because no one wants to give them a job.

No but seriously: historical linguistics is all about languages in the past. You can analyse them from the diachronic linguistics’ point of view which is concerned with comparing a language in its past and present states (or any state in two or more different points in time), or synchronically, that is, at one point in time.
You can also try to figure out where certain elements of the language come from, how it was pronounced, what is the etymology of this and that and why, and so on. Really cool field to be studying, not so great to try and make a career of, unfortunately.

we perceive things after they happen, according to any orthodox materialism. there is overwhelming evidence of this; the age of starlight might be an example (not quite, since even the eye physiologically registers the light belatedly in the instant of its shining). the problem with appealing to perceptual evidence is discerning when it becomes a reliance on empiricism, since it comes with a predetermined epistemology that a more cautious treatment of the phenomenon would wish to avoid.

but what is the effect on perception of being persuaded that we do not perceive things until some time after they happen? does this have some preconscious sway over our daily activities? does it ultimately structure our phenomenality?

the structure of sentences is said to be diachronic; this is because it is temporal pre-phenomenally. but then could it be said that phenomenality imitates the diachronic temporality of the sentence structure?


diachronous drawing no.1 (phase 1 of 2), 2015 / 96” x 144”
charcoal, eraser and their combined residue
/initial concept sketch

phase 2 will be performed MAR 12
the drawing will be erased, the eraser tailings encapsulating the charcoal and resting on the ledge beneath the drawing-
only a ghost will remain and the accumulated residue forms the new drawing, mirroring the the original form.