Link love: language (32)

Language-related links I liked lately, and you might too:

Encounters with biblio-amnesia.

An introduction to Blissymbols (PDF).

Nabokov on synaesthesia and the colours of the alphabet.

Railspeak should be terminated.

Spoken style correction: the iPeeve™.

Top punctuation boffins sort out the multiple shriek stop!!!!!

ScriptSource: documenting the world’s writing systems.

History of the ampersand, part 1, part 2, part 2½.

The linguistic history of Venice.

Swedish pre-school drops gendered pronouns (and Cinderella).

New research into how children learn their first words.

The 72-word door, or, the legacy of Webster’s Third.

Are swear words appropriate in the ‘sacred space’ of Russian theatre?

Glossary of new medical slang.

The evolution of English: an interactive timeline.


[Links archive]

12 Responses to Link love: language (32)

  1. johnwcowan says:

    Well, comments aren’t available at the piece on Venetian, but I feel I should point out for blog readers that while Venetian descends directly from Latin and is independent of Standard Italian, the same is true of all the dialetti (really separate languages) of Italy. Some of them aren’t even in the same subfamily of Romance as Italian!

  2. Stan says:

    Thanks for that elucidation, John. Readers might also be interested in this short history of the Italic language family.

  3. The etymology of the ampersand from “and per se and” was mentioned in one of the 1980s-edition Childcraft series books (“Look and Learn“) that I had as a child. Until now, I had never seen it mentioned anywhere else, and the blog post you link to (part 2.5) clarifies some things that the Childcraft account, in its brevity, omitted.

    (I have an old blog post about the Childcraft series here; did you ever read them?)

    It’s been a while since I last read your blog. Life has been interesting lately (in a good way) and every time I make it part way through my list of language blogs, I seem to get distracted before I get to ‘S’. :-) If you keep an occasional eye on my blog posts then you’ll know about some of my adventures, and there are more in the works.

    With reference to one of your other links, I’m not inclined to brag, exactly, but I do like to share the excitement. :-)

  4. Stan says:

    Adrian: Thanks for the link to your Childcraft post – it looks like a great encyclopedia. We had a different set. You might be interested in this post I wrote a couple of years ago after discovering how the ampersand got its name.

    Best of luck preparing for your trip to Europe!

  5. Joe McVeigh says:

    Thanks for another Link Love post, Stan. I’m a little late on this, but I wanted to make a comment about that “gender free” school in Sweden (without signing up for that site). The article didn’t mention if Sweden looked to their neighbor Finland and The Finnish language, which has only a gender-free third-person pronoun (hän). Even though the language is so “unbiased,” Finland still deals with gender stereotypes. Can you believe it? Shock! Awe!

    To make things even trickier, Standard Finnish has another third-person pronoun (se), which is used for non-human things. It’s basically the English “it.” In spoken Finnish, however, the Finns use this word instead of the one for humans (hän). To a foreigner, it sounds really weird. It sounds like they’re calling everyone “it.”

    Back to my original point, this aspect of the Finnish language has not made Finland any less biased than any of the other Nordic countries, all of which have gendered pronouns. Women still make less for than men for doing the same job, for example. If you ask me, the unbiased nature of the Nordic people (compared to the rest of the world), comes not from language, but from the ancient worship of Valkyries.

    And that right there is the nerdiest reason we should all be Vikings.

  6. Stan says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Finnish, Joe. You know, I think I could get used to calling everyone “it”. For a while, anyway, until the novelty wears off. You’re right, of course, to point out that chauvinism doesn’t hinge on the presence or lack of gendered pronouns. I’m still all for removing or minimising sexist usages, though. Turning firemen into firefighters etc. opens up worlds of possibility, one mind at a time.

    I’m not completely convinced by your argument for becoming a Viking, but I’ve filed it away for further consideration.

  7. Joe McVeigh says:

    Yes, Stan, my Viking treatise is still a work in progress. I think I need a twelve-step plan.

    But the sexist usage of words presents an interesting conundrum. While changing the spelling of “women” to “womyn” (or calling people “it”) doesn’t mean that people can’t still be chauvinistic, I think it would help remind men to not be chauvinists. But is messing with language in this way hopeless because we’re never going to cure people from their ability to be biased? Then again, getting rid of gendered pronouns, gendered suffixes, etc. would make thing better, right? I feel like I’m about to go down the rabbit hole here so I’ll stop.

    Interesting post. It would be interesting to survey those Swedish kids and compare their notions of gender and equality to other kids.

  8. Stan says:

    Joe: Yes, a lot of these changes might seem negligible to some parties, but they do in any case have the effect of drawing attention to the prior invisibility of certain assumptions. Raising awareness, as the popular phrase would have it. In an earlier post, I quoted the following lines from the excellent Words and Women by Casey Miller and Kate Swift:

    the response of purists [to gender-neutral terms] is sometimes so highly charged it is as though the male-is-norm assumption itself is what they are defending rather than the generic terms.

    “Fixing” the language is not a cure, and can never hope to be, but it can and should be part of a multipronged offensive against sexism.

  9. Joe McVeigh says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Stan. You and Miller and Swift put it a lot better than I could have. I’ll have to check out Words and Women. Raising awareness is what it’s all about. It makes me think of the change in use of racial terms. It also makes me think that maybe speakers of English and Swedish are at an advantage compared to Finnish speakers because by not using gendered pronouns, we can draw attention to sexism, which is something Finnish speakers cannot do so simply.
    And finally, I would like to note that our non-gendered third-person plural pronouns came from the Vikings (OK, Old Norse, same thing), so maybe – just maybe – we could take the Finnish third-person singular pronouns, all of which are non-gendered, to solve this whole mess.

  10. Joe McVeigh says:

    That last paragraph was a joke, by the way. Just reread it and realized it might have looked like I assumed a few things. Just trying to bring it back to the Vikings. I’ll let it go now.

  11. Stan says:

    I laughed, Joe! (But only because, deep down, Vikings make me nervous.)

  12. […] the deeply complex to the comparatively simple. In a links post last year I included an introduction to Blissymbols, an ideographic writing system invented by […]

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