language

Today’s theme: language

Not the dirty kind. Wow, I can’t believe it’s already September with no posting. And they’re only guaranteed to get more scarce once the school year begins.
But onto language:

Animals can speak in different tones, according to one study. As in, they can say the same thing but in a pissed off way. Can they do sarcasm, I wonder?

More and more linguists are finding holes in Noam Chomsky’s idea that language is wired in to all human brains. One is Lise Menn who studies baby’s language development, the other is a guy studying a group in the Amazon, the Piraha, who speak without recursion.

Finally, anyone who’s interested in how humans express ideas should check out the book Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer. The book looks at cognitive scientist through several authors who were exploring these concepts through literature and doing a very good job. I’ve only skimmed it so far, but definitely on my to read list.

family · language

Yelling’s not going to change anything (well, maybe)

This article discusses a study that finds oldest siblings really are disciplined the most sternly. Being an older sister, in some ways that makes me feel better, but not entirely.

This article is about a linguist at my university who has found close connections between indigenous languages here in the Pacific Northwest and indigenous languages in Asia. Language is awesome!

autism · cognition · language · psychology · youtube

Power of communication: "In My Language"

This video, which I found on the blog neuroanthropology, was created by a woman who is severely autistic. The first three minutes show the woman interacting with her environment, and then the woman, through typing on the computer, provides a translation of what she describes as her native language. She is severely critical of people who do not understand and appreciate how she views the world and who call her non-communicative.

This video is fascinating to me on so many levels (warning: possible spoilers). Watching her behavior from a psychologists’ standpoint is interesting with observing her self-stimulating behavior and how her mind is processing all this. But it also from a visual anthropology perspective. She chose to include these specific examples of her language in the movie, and even though she explicitly says they do not symbolize anything in particular, I wonder why these were chosen. Why did she choose to use a visual format to explain herself? Was this video made originally for Youtube, or some other audience? There is obvious editing, and not so much a storyline but definite parts to the movie. How did she decide on this structure, and who helped her, if anyone? Did anyone else film her (from what I can tell I don’t think so). How was she aided in this project? She gives credits at the end of her film, but they’re all thanks as opposed to assigned jobs.

From a communication studies and linguistics perspective, she’s challenging the definition of language. She argues that she has a discourse (several, actually) with her environment, with the objects in her house; they even get a credit at the end of the film. She also uses the “dominant language,” as she describes it, to explain herself and language and berate those who do not appreciate hers for what it is.

She also points out that most of us would probably not look at her on the street, or deliberately look away, which is absolutely correct, which makes a great statement about humans’ fear of the different, “disabled,” and unknown.
(end spoilers)

So a really interesting video on many levels, and I’m sorry my visual anthropology class is essentially over this quarter because I think it’d be great to show to the class and have them discuss it.