Archive for the ‘Language acquisition’ Category

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.



January 16, 2013

On Thomas Thurman’s Facebook page, passed on by Bert Vaux this morning, a linguistics cartoon:

The cartoon alludes to the Wug Test in psycholinguistics.


Alpacas on the march

December 4, 2012

It begins with this slogan/image, passed on to me on Facebook by Ruth Lawrence:

Though the reference of the term Alpacalypse isn’t clear here (in 18 days?), the term is very satisfying phonologically, whether seen as a portmanteau of alpaca and Apocalypse or as the suffixing of the libfix -alypse ‘(terminal) disaster’ (historically from Apocalypse) to alpaca ‘species of camelid’; Apocalypse and alpacalypse are very close indeed.


Foreign language learning software

July 12, 2012

A friend wrote me a few days ago about Paul Pimsleur’s language-learning schemes, which were on sale; he said that this guy sold language-learning tapes. I pointed out that Pimsleur died in 1979, and that Simon and Schuster now ran the franchise. (This is no reflection on the software, which I haven’t checked out.)

Then there’s a Berlitz program, started by Maximilian B., who died in 1921, and continued in the family (eventually on-line) through his grandson Charles, who died in 2003.

And then there’s Rosetta Stone, an indomitable lady, who lives quietly in Arlington VA, close to the cosmopolitan and multilingual precincts of D.C. She teaches many languages, all over the world. And advertises relentlessly.

Family Circus

June 24, 2012

A comment from Tané Tachyon on my last Zippy posting, in which Family Circus figured prominently:

A couple years back I had The Best American Comics 2008 out from the library, and just loved Lynda Barry’s intro comic about what the Family Circus had meant to her when she was growing up.

So: some words about Lynda Barry and Family Circus, and about language in Bil Keane’s strip.


Eggcorn to portmanteau

June 5, 2012

From Benita Bendon Campbell, a link to a recent One Big Happy strip, in which a child’s eggcorn becomes a portmanteau:

Ruthie has eggcornishly reanalyzed periodical on the basis of her knowing the word pterodactyl. Corrected, she then hopes to treat her word periodactyl as a portmanteau of periodical and pterodactyl.