Evolutionary forces in language change depend on selective pressure, but also on random chance

english-language-evolution

A new interesting paper from Nature: Detecting evolutionary forces in language change, by Newberry, Ahern, Clark, and Plotkin (2017). Discovered via Science Daily.

The following are excerpts of materials related to the publication (written by Katherine Unger Baillie), from The University of Pennsylvania:

Examining substantial collections of annotated texts dating from the 12th to the 21st centuries, the researchers found that certain linguistic changes were guided by pressures analogous to natural selection — social, cognitive and other factors — while others seem to have occurred purely by happenstance.

“Linguists usually assume that when a change occurs in

Read the rest “Evolutionary forces in language change depend on selective pressure, but also on random chance”

About the European Union’s arcane language: the EU does seem difficult for people to understand

Mark Mardell asks in his post Learn EU-speak:

Does the EU shroud itself in obscure language on purpose or does any work of detail produce its own arcane language? Of course it is not just the lingo: the EU does seem difficult for people to understand. What’s at the heart of the problem?

His answer on the radio (as those comments that can be read in his blog) will probably look for complex reasoning on the nature of the European Union as an elitist institution, distant from real people, on the “obscure language” (intentionally?) used by MEPs, on … Read the rest “About the European Union’s arcane language: the EU does seem difficult for people to understand”

A simple FAQ about the “advantages” of Esperanto and other conlang religions: “easy”, “neutral” and “number of speakers”

This is, as requested by a reader of the Association’s website, a concise FAQ about Esperanto’s supposed advantages:

Note: Information and questions are being added to the FAQ thanks to the comments made by visitors.

1. Esperanto has an existing community of speakers, it is used in daily life, it has native speakers…

Sorry, I don’t know any native speaker of Esperanto, that has Esperanto as mother tongue – Only this Wikipedia article and the Ethnologue “estimations” without references apart from the UEA website. In fact, the only people that are said to be “native Esperanto speakers” … Read the rest “A simple FAQ about the “advantages” of Esperanto and other conlang religions: “easy”, “neutral” and “number of speakers””

How many words do we use in daily speech? A new study from the Royal Spanish Academy on language acquisition

According to the members of the Royal Spanish Academy (the Real Academia Española), humanities have experienced a decrease in importance for younger generations, English is becoming predominant, language in general is poorer in the Media and in all public speeches, classical languages disappear, people play less attention to reading, and computer terms are invading everything.

All involved in the research agree that language cannot be confined to any artificial limits, that it is mutable, it evolves and changes. However, they warn: it can also get sick and degrade. The mean Spaniard uses generally no more than 1000 words, … Read the rest “How many words do we use in daily speech? A new study from the Royal Spanish Academy on language acquisition”

WordPress Translation Plugin: ‘Indoeuropean Translator Widget’ – now also Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Greek, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, …

The latest upgrades are only available in the simpler WordPress Translation Widget Plugin.

You can download it from the official WordPress Plugin Repository site. New upgrades will automatically appear on your WordPress blog dashboard.

As always, this widget plugin, when activated from the Design tab of your WordPress blog dashboard, will put links – with the tag rel="nofollow", so that search engines don’t follow them – to automatic translations of that website by mainly Google Translation Engine language pairs, to and from (at least) all of these ones into each other, all in all 24×23 language pairs [more … Read the rest “WordPress Translation Plugin: ‘Indoeuropean Translator Widget’ – now also Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Greek, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, …”

How ‘difficult’ (using Esperantist terms) is an inflected language like Proto-Indo-European for Europeans?

For native speakers of most modern Romance languages (apart from some reminiscence of the neuter case), Nordic (Germanic) languages, English, Dutch, or Bulgarian, it is usually considered “difficult” to learn an inflected language like Latin, German or Russian: cases are a priori felt as too strange, too “archaic”, too ‘foreign’ to the own system of expressing ideas. However, for a common German, Baltic, Slavic, Greek speaker, or for non-IE speakers of Basque or Uralic languages (Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian), cases are the only way to express common concepts and ideas, and it was also the common way of expression for speakers … Read the rest “How ‘difficult’ (using Esperantist terms) is an inflected language like Proto-Indo-European for Europeans?”

Esperanto & other invented languages vs. Indo-European for Europe (and IV): Universal Law of Persistence of Error

A recent comment on the post about the so-called Grin Report – which explained the benefits of having one common language for Europe -, gives (unintentionally, I guess) still more reasons to support a natural language like Proto-Indo-European over Esperanto and similar inventions:

Le meilleur est l’ennemi du bien, ‘The best is the enemy of the good’; Ever since Ido tried to ‘improve’ on Esperanto, many other constructed languages have come along, but none has achieved anything near to what Esperanto has accomplished

I agree. No artificial (‘constructed’) language has achieved what Esperanto has, and no conlang is “better” … Read the rest “Esperanto & other invented languages vs. Indo-European for Europe (and IV): Universal Law of Persistence of Error”

WordPress Translator Plugin, now version 1.2 in English and Spanish – inglés y español

I’ve added some new pairs which seem to work well – but for the Thai version, which gives usually an error message.

Catalan and Polish languages are now translated automatically, as there is no need to copy and paste the text. New languages include Danish, Persian, Ukrainian, Indonesian, Malay, Thai, Hebrew, as well as experimental Latin and Esperanto options.

Remember you can ask for a translator that works with any language pair included in the English one, although some non-English alternatives include very (very) bad translations.

The Spanish version has been changed to … Read the rest “WordPress Translator Plugin, now version 1.2 in English and Spanish – inglés y español”