Sapir, Whorf, and the hypothesis that wasn’t

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by Aneta Pavlenko, Temple University author of the upcoming book The Bilingual Mind and what it tells us about language and thought

One of the linchpins of human information-processing are the frames of expectation we apply to the constant flow of information. These frames allow us to impose meaning on the things we see, hear, or read and to position ourselves with regard to ideas and arguments. In the case of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (SWH), these frames require us to adopt one of the three recognizable positions: for (which may brand us as radicals), against (a marker of a skeptic or a rational thinker), or in-between (a sign of a temperate scholar willing to consider the . . . → Read More: Sapir, Whorf, and the hypothesis that wasn’t

Communication Disorders in an Age of Impact

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by Louise Cummings

Nottingham Trent University, UK

As academic researchers, linguists are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the impact of their work on the lives of individuals and on the growth of national economies. There is one field within linguistics where impact is more readily demonstrated than in any other. This is the study of the many ways in which language and communication can break down or fail to develop normally in children and adults with communication disorders. These disorders are the focus of a recently published handbook, the Cambridge Handbook of Communication Disorders, which brings together 30 chapters on all aspects of the classification, assessment and treatment of communication disorders. The chapters in this volume will speak for themselves. . . . → Read More: Communication Disorders in an Age of Impact

The origin of language in gesture–speech unity

How Language Began

Part 6. Gumbo: The thought–language–hand link, social interactive growth points, the timeline of Mead’s Loop, and bionic language.

David McNeill, University of Chicago

To end this series, I address four questions regarding Mead’s Loop: 1) what evidence is there for the thought-language-hand link that in theory it established; 2) how did it change face-to-face social interaction; 3) when did it emerge; and 4) how far can it be duplicated artificially? The questions, disparate as they are, are connected through the concept of the growth point, which is the linchpin of each.

The “IW case” reveals the thought–language–hand link

Natural selection of a thought-language-hand link, chiefly in Broca’s Area but also with links to the other “language areas” indicated in . . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity

The origin of language in gesture–speech unity

How Language Began

Part 4: Mead’s Loop (2). Wider consequences.

David McNeill, University of Chicago

As it evolved Mead’s Loop created “new actions,” as mentioned previously. New actions are one of the “wider consequences” of Mead’s Loop. Action itself was a target of natural selection, and the new actions emerged organically. They did not need a separate evolution. A second consequence is metaphoricity. A third is the emblem, a culturally established gesture with metaphoricity at the core. A fourth is how children acquire language – twice, the first of which goes through the equivalent of extinction. A fifth (many more can be identified) is what phenomenologist philosophy calls “being” – “inhabiting” gesture and speech, rather than only displaying them as elements of communication.

. . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity

The origin of language in gesture–speech unity

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Part 2: Gesture-first

By Professor David McNeill

This popular hypothesis says that the first steps of language phylogenetically were not speech, nor speech with gesture, but were gestures alone. In some versions, it was a sign language. In any case, it was a language of recurring gesture forms in place of spoken forms. Vocalizations in non-human primates, the presumed precursors of speech without gesture’s assistance, are too restricted in their functions to offer a plausible platform for language, but primate gestures appear to offer the desired flexibility. Thus, the argument goes, gesture could have been the linguistic launching pad (speech evolving later). The gestures in this theory are regarded as the mimicry of real actions, a kind of pantomime, hence . . . → Read More: The origin of language in gesture–speech unity

A Layman’s Guide to “Roots of English”

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by Professor Sali A. Tagliamonte University of Toronto

Have you ever wondered about the weird ways of speaking of someone you know? In 1995, I moved to England from Canada, taking up a position at the University of York in Yorkshire. My colleagues came from all over Britain, the south, the north, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as other parts of Europe. The topic of dialect differences was in the air all the time as we compared our varieties of English. Surprisingly, despite the obvious phonological differences in my speech compared to all my colleagues, there were unexpected correspondences between myself and my Scots, Northern Irish and Northern English colleagues. In some cases, we had . . . → Read More: A Layman’s Guide to “Roots of English”

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences

Have you lost track of developments in generative linguistics, finding yourself unsure about the distinctive features of minimalism?

Would you like to know more about recent advances in the genetics of language, or about right hemisphere linguistic operation?

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences addresses these issues, along with hundreds of others. It includes basic entries for those unfamiliar with a given topic and more specific entries for those seeking more specialized knowledge. It incorporates both well-established findings and cutting-edge research and classical approaches and new theoretical innovations. The volume is aimed at readers who have an interest in some aspect of language science but wish to learn more about the broad range of ideas, findings, practices, and prospects . . . → Read More: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences