Archive for the ‘Language acquisition’ Category

Learning stuff

September 21, 2015

Passed on by John McIntyre, a Bloom County from some time ago about little kids and what they have to learn. And their mother and how she copes with their persistent inquiries:


Learning to tell jokes

March 2, 2015

Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie works at telling jokes:

Part of acquiring a language is acquiring a large assortment of social routines using that language — including joke patterns. Linguists studying conversation have looked at the acquisition of a number of different joke types, for example knock-knock jokes, where they see the gradual unfolding of the abilities involved in producing and appreciating jokes. For instance, many jokes turn on puns, so that a child has to learn that exact wording can be crucial to the joke; paraphrase won’t do. But children often fail to appreciate that, while still understanding that laughter is called for at a certain point in the joke.


Speaking late

September 28, 2014

Just now, New Yorker cartoons (from Zach Kanin and Joe Dator) on linguistic subjects. And along comes today’s Bizarro, on the development of language in the species and in the individual:

The strip shows the origin of language in male humans substantially lagging that in females, as if the sexes were different species — a preposterous idea when you examine it with any care. But the strip plays on a real phenomenon, that the acquisition of language in boys tends to lag somewhat behind that in girls. Boys speak later, and less, than girls, common wisdom has it. Well, common wisdom isn’t exactly wrong, but it treats, inaccurately, what is in fact a small statistical difference between the sexes (which largely overlap with one another) as an absolute gap.

And there’s certainly no reason to think that phylogeny recapitulated what we know of ontogeny.

Back from Memorial Day

May 28, 2014

Two cartoons from yesterday: in Doonesbury, the plants continue to talk; and in One Big Happy, Ruthie runs into the problems of correcting young language learners.


Sunday melange

March 23, 2014

Four recent cartoons, from several sources and of very different tones: a Bizarro, a Zits, a Doonesbury, and a Paul Noth New Yorker cartoon:


English-Klingon bilingualism

October 13, 2013

From a reader of this blog:

A linguist named d’Armond Speers has been in Colorado news lately because his wife is running for the school board in Denver. Some years ago, Speers decided to speak to his baby son only in Klingon, while his wife used English. This continued for five years until the kid refused to respond to Klingon. I am wondering what your opinion is of an experiment like this? Good for the kid, or just notorious for the dad?


Dinosaur language acquisition

August 26, 2013

Today’s Dinosaur Comics:

A tribute to babies: they poop and they invent language. How cool is that?

Cul de Sac

April 30, 2013

From Lynne Murphy on Facebook, this Cul de Sac cartoon, which reminded her of her daughter Grover:

The child in the cartoon, Alice, is 4; she’s at the stage of bargaining about the exact choice of words.


The Bayloo puzzle

March 1, 2013

Over in Facebook, in the midst of a rambling discussion of dialect differences, Arne Adolfsen presented a phonological puzzle:

My sister-in-law who’s from here (the capital of Nowhere in northwestern Georgia) has a cat whose name she pronounces “Bayloo”, but when I call it that she has no idea what I’m talking about since the cat’s name is spelled “Betty Lou”. It’s really peculiar. My brother and I have to pronounce the name as three syllables with the TT (sounded like DD) in there or she and her sister and son have no idea that we mean the two-syllabled “Bayloo” they talk about.

Two issues here: where “Bayloo” (roughly [béylù], though the phonetic details will depend on fine details of Arne’s sister-in-law’s dialect) comes from; and why Arne’s sister-in-law doesn’t recognize his reproductions of her pronunciation (I’ll assume that his reproductions are close enough to accurate). The first question is easy; the second has a more complex, and much cooler, answer.


(Re)name that book

February 5, 2013

Back in September, Michael Erard approached his Facebook friends with this query:

The UK publisher that’s putting out Babel No More [: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners] doesn’t like the title, “Babel No More,” so they want to change it, and “Superlinguists” is their suggestion. This presents a slight problem, as science-of-language linguists (to whom I have more than a small allegiance) often resent the other sense of the word (a person who speaks many languages, often professionally) because it muddies laypeople’s perceptions of what they do. What do you think?

The technical term Michael uses in his book is hyperpolyglots. I gather that the UK publisher found the American title too opaque (fully comprehensible only through the subtitle) and balked at Hyperpolyglots because of its technicality. Michael’s friends gave advice that was all over the map.

As of this morning, no decision had been made. Michael gave them alternatives and was concerned that they would try to get Superlinguists into the business somehow.



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