Category: decipherment

Episode 300: Is Grammar Elitist?

Does grammar matter?

On one side: the language sticklers, who hold that good grammar is a necessity for communication, and even a matter of upholding standards and courtesy. But there’s another side: that grammar rules are often just made up, designed to reinforce social barriers, and that an insistence on good grammar is a form of elitism and snobbery. Which view is supported by the facts?

Kylie, Ben, and Daniel are watching their words on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Show notes

Voynich manuscript: the solution
https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/voynich-manuscript-solution/

Sravana Reddy and Kevin Knight: What We Know About the Voynich Manuscript (PDF)
http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/%7Esravana/slides/voynich_latex_slides.pdf

Indecipherable Voynich Manuscript Finally Decoded After a Century
https://www.inverse.com/article/36271-voynich-manuscript-decoded

The mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been decoded [UPDATED]
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/the-mysterious-voynich-manuscript-has-finally-been-decoded/

So much for that Voynich manuscript “solution”
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/experts-are-extremely-dubious-about-the-voynich-solution/

‘Devil’s letter’ written by 17th century possessed nun finally decoded thanks to dark web code
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/devils-letter-written-by-17th-century-possessed-nun-finally-decoded-thanks-dark-web-code-1638490

So Trump Makes Spelling Errors. In the Twitter Age, Whoo Doesn’t?
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/27/technology/donald-trump-twitter-spelling.html?_r=0

Why Kids Can’t Write
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/education/edlife/writing-education-grammar-students-children.html

No, Insisting on Proper English Grammar and Spelling Is Not ‘Elitist’
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451030/proper-english-grammar-spelling-are-not-elitist

It’s Finally Time To Stop Correcting People’s Grammar, Linguist Says
http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/accidence-will-happen-oliver-kamm-interview_us_576ae249e4b09926ce5d718e

Online Etymology Dictionary: typhoon
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=typhoon

The Word “Typhoon.” Its History and Origin. (1880)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/1798728?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Wiktionary: tornado (etymology)
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tornado#Etymology

Willy-Willy, Dust Devil or Cockeyed Bob?
https://pwlinfo.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/willy-willy-dust-devil-or-cockeyed-bob/

Bob Dixon: Australian Aboriginal words in English: their origin and meaning
Google Books link

Downburst Causes Damage, Closes Key U.S. Border Bridge in Laredo, Texas
https://weather.com/news/news/world-trade-bridge-downburst-damage-laredo-texas

WATCH: A “Rain Bomb” Drops on Queensland, Australia
http://www.sciencealert.com/watch-a-rain-bomb-drops-on-queensland-australia


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

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Episode 257: Alien Languages

What would an alien language be like?

The new trailer for the film Arrival has got us pretty excited, and there’s even a whole field of study called xenolinguistics. How will we know what to say when we make contact?

Linguist Daniel Midgley explores the final frontier on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with Kylie Sturgess


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Show notes

Try out problems from the International Linguistic Olympiad
http://www.ioling.org/problems/

Apple to replace gun emoji with water pistol when iOS 10 rolls out
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/08/03/apple-to-replace-gun-emoji-with-water-pistol-when-ios-10-rolls-out.html

Herhold: Apple got it right in changing emoji to water gun
http://www.mercurynews.com/scott-herhold/ci_30258541/apple-got-it-right-changing-gun-emoji

Microsoft replaced its toy gun emoji with a real revolver
http://www.theverge.com/2016/8/4/12382894/microsoft-emoji-toy-gun-revolver-update-apple

Finally, a Hollywood sci-fi alien movie with a linguist as the hero
http://qz.com/761363/finally-a-hollywood-sci-fi-alien-movie-with-a-linguist-as-the-hero/

‘Arrival’: First Full Trailer Further Reveals Denis Villeneuve’s Alien Encounter
http://collider.com/arrival-trailer-amy-adams-jeremy-renner/

Alien Linguists Like Amy Adams’s Character in ‘Arrival’ Exist
https://www.inverse.com/article/19803-arrival-alien-linguist-amy-adams

The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (PDF)
https://mathisgasser.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/ted-chiang_story-of-your-life_2000.pdf

Wittgenstein Light: Real Refreshment
https://wittgensteinforum.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/wittgenstein-if-a-lion-could-speak-we-could-not-understand-him-pi-p223/

Humpty Dumpty was a Wittgensteinian?
https://inferential.wordpress.com/2007/02/20/humpty-dumpty-was-a-wittgensteinian/

Why We Would Not Understand a Talking Lion (PDF)
http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1811&context=bts

Could We Understand Their Language?
http://personal.bgsu.edu/~swellsj/xenolinguistics/presentation.html

Languages without adjectives
https://linguistlist.org/issues/4/4-442.html

Driverless cars need Australia’s latitude and longitude coordinates to be corrected
http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-28/why-it-matters-that-australias-coordinates-are-moving/7668014

What is a Datum?
https://www.maptoaster.com/maptoaster-topo-nz/articles/projection/datum-projection.html

Australia’s GPS Was Off Because the Whole Country Moved
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a22125/australia-gps/

Australia moving up in the world… literally
http://phys.org/news/2016-07-australia-world-literally.html

Language is messy, part 2: Arabic script in “Arrival”
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=27588

Hong Kong netizens rage over Hollywood film ‘Arrival’ poster blunder
http://mashable.com/2016/08/22/arrival-movie-poster-blunder/


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

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Episode 215: Is Cantonese Endangered? (featuring Zoe Lam)

When we think of endangered languages, we tend to think of those with a small number of speakers in remote areas.

We don’t usually think of Cantonese.

And yet this language with millions of speakers on multiple continents is facing some big changes, and linguists are sounding the alarms.

Linguist Zoe Lam speaks with Daniel Midgley on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with Kylie Sturgess


Show notes

Oh, newspapers. https://t.co/ke2DBvGSW6

— Talk the Talk (@talkrtr) September 1, 2015

Fairfax leading jihad to bring down Abbott Government, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-01/fairfax-abc-trying-to-bring-government-down-dutton-says/6739158

Miley Cyrus goes undercover to find out what people really think of her
http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/71569568/miley-cyrus-goes-undercover-to-find-out-what-people-really-think-of-her

Dialect Blog: Yod-Dropping in American Accents
http://dialectblog.com/2011/09/06/yod-dropping/

Oliver Glain: How Traditional Yod Forms are Disappearing from Contemporary English (PDF)
http://www.cercles.com/n22/glain.pdf

Quartz: The British Library is crowdsourcing the translation of a mysterious 13th-century sword inscription
http://qz.com/478065/the-british-library-is-crowdsourcing-the-translation-of-a-mysterious-13th-century-sword-inscription/

Karen Stollznow: Deciphering Proto-Elamite
http://karenstollznow.com/deciphering-proto-elamite/

BBC News (from 2012): Breakthrough in world’s oldest undeciphered writing
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-19964786

About Proto-Elamite
http://cdli.ox.ac.uk/wiki/doku.php?id=proto-elamite#proto-elamite

CBC News: Cantonese language could disappear, says UBC linguist Zoe Lam
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/cantonese-language-could-disappear-says-ubc-linguist-zoe-lam-1.3053933

Zoe Lam’s profile at UBC
http://linguistics.ubc.ca/persons/zoe-lam/

TimeOut.HK: The Death of Cantonese?
http://www.timeout.com.hk/big-smog/features/73305/the-death-of-cantonese.html

International NYT: A Telling Language Lesson in Hong Kong
“A new chief executive took the oath of office in Hong Kong on Sunday morning, and then, somewhat astoundingly, he made his inaugural speech in Mandarin.”
http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/a-shocking-language-lesson-in-hong-kong/

81 Cantonese proverbs in one picture.
https://writecantonese8.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/cantonese-proverbs-in-one-picture/

UNESCO: Language Vitality and Endangerment (PDF)
http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CLT/pdf/Language_vitality_and_endangerment_EN.pdf

HKFP: Canadian university adds Cantonese course amid fears over its decline in Hong Kong
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/08/18/canadian-university-adds-cantonese-course-amid-fears-over-its-decline-in-hong-kong/

Wikipedia: Cantonese
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese

Can a language with millions of speakers be endangered? (the case of Javanese) (PDF)
http://pacling.anu.edu.au/series/SEALS-PDFs/Ravindranath&Cohn2014language.pdf

Prof Stephen Matthews commented that Cantonese may be on its way out after 50 years.
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/china/local-news/hong-kong/2012/06/11/343926/Cantonese-increasingly.htm

Mother tongue squeezed out of the Chinese classroom in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/07/22/mother-tongue-squeezed-out-of-the-chinese-classroom-in-cantonese-speaking-hong-kong/

Plonkable heliostats
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/24/south-african-team-may-have-solved-solar-puzzle-even-google-couldnt-crack

Wiktionary: plonk
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/plonk

Ngram chart for “plonk_VERB,plunk_VERB”

Logan Paul doing the splits around New York.
#plonkingisthenewplanking
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWNAXse1wYs

Wikipedia: List of English homographs
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_homographs


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

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Episode 205: Lost Writing

The written word lasts longer than speech, at least in principle.

But what happens when a writing system is lost in the mist of history? Lost writing can be deciphered, but these scripts have resisted all attempts.

Linguist Daniel Midgley makes it clear on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with Jane Hebiton


Show notes

NoForbiddenQuestions raises the Talk Signal

— NoForbiddenQuestions (@NFQblog) May 18, 2015

The venereal game
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1113761/

The Venereal Game: or, You Don’t Have a Dirty Mind, Do You…?
https://newsoutherngentleman.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/the-venereal-game-or-you-dont-have-a-dirty-mind-do-you/

50 Collective Nouns to Bolster Your Vocabulary
http://mentalfloss.com/article/33580/50-collective-nouns-bolster-your-vocabulary

Wikipedia: List of English terms of venery, by animal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_terms_of_venery,_by_animal

Oxford Dictionaries: What do you call a group of …?
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/what-do-you-call-a-group-of

Lehrer, 1986: English Classifier Constructions (PDF)
http://semantics.uchicago.edu/kennedy/classes/f11/na/docs/lehrer86.pdf

About waters and coffees: This countable/non-countabe thing is kind of recent.
Junichi Toyota: When the Mass Was Counted: English as Classifier and Non-Classifier Language (PDF)
http://www.skase.sk/Volumes/JTL13/pdf_doc/07.pdf

Twitter announces crackdown on abuse with new filter and tighter rules
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/apr/21/twitter-filter-notifications-for-all-accounts-abuse

Women, Action, and the Media: Twitter’s Abuse Problem: Now With Actual Solutions And Science
http://womenactionmedia.org/twitter-report/

Twitter’s new anti-harassment filter screens out online trolls and abuse
http://www.theage.com.au/comment/twitters-new-antiharassment-filter-screens-out-online-trolls-and-abuse-20150401-1mcjym.html

How Twitter’s New Abuse Filter Could Backfire
http://readwrite.com/2015/04/23/twitter-abuse-filter-backfire

Here’s how Twitter is finally attempting to cut down on harassment
http://bgr.com/2015/03/24/twitter-harassment-policy-feature/

Arika Okrent: 7 Ancient Writing Systems That Haven’t Been Deciphered Yet
http://mentalfloss.com/article/12884/7-ancient-writing-systems-havent-been-deciphered-yet

Omniglot: Undeciphered scripts
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/undeciphered.htm

Old European / Vinča / Danube script
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/vinca.htm

More about Vinča script
http://www.prehistory.it/ftp/winn.htm

Wikipedia: Phaistos Disc
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaistos_Disc

Huffington Post: Scientists Finally Crack The Code Of The Ancient ‘Phaistos Disk’
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/28/ancient-cd-rom-phaistos-disk-code_n_6055178.html

Omniglot: Linear A
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/lineara.htm

Ancient Scripts: Linear A
http://www.ancientscripts.com/lineara.html

Omniglot: Linear B
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/linearb.htm

Riddle of the script: how the world’s most fiendish language puzzle was solved
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/10158135/Riddle-of-the-script-how-the-worlds-most-fiendish-language-puzzle-was-solved.html

Why Girls Love The Dad Bod
http://theodysseyonline.com/clemson/dad-bod/97484

The “Dad Bod” Is In At The Moment And We Couldn’t Be Happier About It
http://www.theladbible.com/articles/the-dad-bod-is-in-at-the-moment-and-we-couldn-t-be-happier-about-it

Give me an easy-going ‘dad bod’ any day
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/17/vain-preening-men-versus-dad-bods-no-contest

The Dadbod: Why beer guts are hotter than 6-packs
http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/the-dadbod-why-beer-guts-are-hotter-than-6-packs-1.3058032

We need to talk about the Dad Bod
http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/we-need-to-talk-about-the-dad-bod-20150504-ggu0wc.html

The Real Problem With The Dad Bod Trend
http://elitedaily.com/life/problem-dad-bod-trend/1024023/

‘Dad Bod’ Is a Sexist Atrocity
http://time.com/3846828/dad-bod-is-a-sexist-atrocity/

Kristin Schaal on the Daily Show: ‘Dad Bod’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRcrHP4xmlg


Show tunes

Find the tracks we play on the RTRFM webpage for this episode.

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Episode 156: Emotional Language

Emotions are fleeting. But when they’re captured in language, we can study how they spread from person to person, and even through time.

What impact does the emotional language of others have on you? And how many emotions are there anyway?

Linguist Daniel Midgley lets it all out on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with James Hall


Show notes

Has the Voynich Manuscript been cracked? No, but another interesting teaser.
http://boingboing.net/2014/02/21/voynich-manuscript-partially-d.html
http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/176970-voynich-manuscript-most-mysterious-text-in-world-may-have-been-cracked
http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/news/has-the-most-mysterious-manuscript-in-the-world-finally-been-cracked-16532856

Sentiment analysis is an important subarea in computational linguistics.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentiment_analysis

When people post Facebook messages in rainy times, their posts have more negative emotion words — and so do those of their friends later.
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-03/uoc–caf031114.php

Corvillo, et al.: Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0090315

Also: Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0069841

Hard times means a decade of miserable literature.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004155.htm

How do you spot emotions in text anyway? You could try Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC).
http://www.liwc.net

One rather clunky but successful approach involves hand-built lists of positive and negative words.
http://www.slideshare.net/stevenkellyactor/positive-emotions-list
http://www.slideshare.net/stevenkellyactor/negative-emotions

Paul Ekman did research in PNG and found emotions were the same as for Americans (PDF)
https://www.uni-muenster.de/imperia/md/content/psyifp/aeechterhoff/wintersemester2011-12/vorlesungkommperskonflikt/ekman_friesen_constantsemofacialexpr_jpsp1971.pdf

More about his work
http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/ekmans-six-basic-emotions-list-definitions-quiz.html

Can you pick the emotions in this simple test?
http://www.cio.com/article/facial-expressions-test

People recognise four emotions rather than six.
http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_306019_en.html
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/uog-wao020314.php

And, contra Ekman, these expressions do not appear to be universal.
http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2014/03/barrett-gendron/

The OED has added a bracket of new words
http://time.com/23817/oxford-english-dictionary-adds-bestie-crap-shoot-bathroom-break/

Including four versions of cunt
http://jezebel.com/cunty-cuntish-cunted-and-cunting-added-to-oxford-engl-1543768870

Here’s the full list
http://public.oed.com/the-oed-today/recent-updates-to-the-oed/march-2014-update/new-words-list-march-2014/

Hondle?
http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/hondle


Show tunes

‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Eagles of Death Metal
from the album Death by Sexy

‘It All Feels Right’ by Washed Out
from the album Paracosm

Episode 150: The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript is 600 years old, written in a strange script, and it’s never been deciphered.

Is it a guide to the universe, a book of secrets, or is it just pages and pages of gibberish? Modern techniques are now shedding new light on this ancient mystery.

Linguist Daniel Midgley tries to piece it all together on this episode of Talk the Talk.


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Promo with James Hall


Show notes

Coca-Cola ran with a multicultural ad
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=10142

There were pages and pages of angry, and sometimes racist, tweets.
http://deadspin.com/dumb-people-mad-at-multilingual-america-the-beautiful-1514567876
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/02/coca-cola-america-the-beautiful-racists_n_4714931.html

Reminds me of last year, when kids at a Colorado high school wanted to recite a loyalty oath in Arabic.
http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/02/04/colorado-students-recite-pledge-of-allegiance-in-arabic-freakout-ensues/
http://www.9news.com/news/article/313505/0/Fort-Collins-students-read-Pledge-of-Allegiance-in-Arabic

There’s a Skeptoid article about the Voynich Manuscript. Start here.
http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4252

Is the Voynich Manuscript a huge hoax?
http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_voynich_manuscript

Or does it have a real meaning?
http://www.sci-news.com/othersciences/linguistics/science-voynich-manuscript-message-01195.html

A couple of botanists think it has links to the New World
http://phys.org/news/2014-02-botanists-voynich-similar-mexico.html

Earlier: Computational linguists find that the text is non-random.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23740-new-signs-of-language-surface-in-mystery-voynich-text.html?full=true#.UvReOHn7RRw

“What We Know About The Voynich Manuscript” by Sravana Reddy and Kevin Knight. A technical look at computational approaches to the VMS. Very complete. A must-read. (PDF)
http://www.isi.edu/natural-language/people/voynich-11.pdf

The VMS has the same letter patterns as Latin.
http://hurontaria.baf.cz/CVM/a26.htm

The word counts in human languages follows Zipf’s Law.
http://norvig.com/mayzner.html
So does the VMS.

The Codex Seraphinianus is also interesting.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Seraphinianus

Tetris as a verb? Sure; just check out My Kitchen Rules S5E7, at 11:00.
http://au.tv.yahoo.com/my-kitchen-rules/episodes/21246479/my-kitchen-rules-wed-5-feb-series-5-episode-7

The first instance I could find on the Net is the one from Urban Dictionary.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tetris’ed


Show tunes

‘Shit from an Old Notebook’ by the Minutemen
from the album Double Nickels on the Dime

‘Games’ by Hüsker Dü
from the album Flip Your Wig

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