The world is experiencing a state of unprecedented connectivity thanks to technology. But language remains a barrier. Even though technological devices can quickly and easily connect, humans from different parts of the world often can’t. Translation software may be the solution, but it isn't yet perfect—here's why.
https://youtu.be/zHYlNNV-etQ I've been enjoying watching The Miniaturist on PBS. You might well think that "miniature" has something ...
These interviews are always titled “Interview with a…”, but when it comes to language creation, David J. Peterson has been the person over the last decade bringing other worlds to life with his conlang skills. He’s behind the Dothraki, and Valyrian languages from Game of Thrones, Shiväisith from Thor: The Dark World and Trigedasleng from The 100. As well as being a very talented language creator and font maker, David is also an enthusiastic and supportive person who is always the first to point out the great work being done by other language creators. Check out his website for some of his favorites.
David is on Twitter (@Dedalvs), and here on Tumblr (@dedalvs). He also has a great book on constructing language called The Art of Language Invention (my review here), and supporting videos that go into more detail on YouTube.
What did you study at university?
began at UC Berkeley as an English major, then added Linguistics as a
second fun major. I finished both, and then went on to graduate school
in Linguistics at UC San Diego, where I received my Master’s degree.
What is your job?
work on a variety of different projects in film and television and
sometimes theater. What I do varies, depending on what stage of a
project I’m at, and what I’m working on that day. The longer the project
lasts, the more time I’ll be spending translating into my new conlang
than creating the language. Actual language creation is done during the
first stage; thereafter it’s just translation, recording, and general
consulting or voice coaching, depending on the project. Sometimes I also
create writing systems, which entails designing the system, and then,
if necessary, building a font for it, and then after that doing
translation as well as trouble-shooting. I’ve also written a few books,
so sometimes part of my day is spent working on a new book project.
How does your linguistics training help you in your job?
creating a language, nothing you learn about language is wasted, be it
actual linguistic education, language study, or work on a conlang, big
or small. Every single day of my life is spent engaging with language in
one capacity or another. Most useful in my day-to-day life is
coursework I did in phonetics, phonology, morphology, historical
linguistics, field work, cognitive science, and pidgin and creole
Do you have any advice you wish someone had given to you about linguistics/careers/university?
TAKE MORE LANGUAGE COURSES! However many you’re taking right now is not
enough. There will never be another time in your life that it will be
so easy or inexpensive to take courses in a second language, and the
variety afforded you at a university is so much greater than you’ll find
in your regular day-to-day life.
Any other thoughts or comments?
in linguistics is not the same thing as conlanging ability. Just
because you have a B.A. or M.A. or Ph.D. or equivalent in linguistics
doesn’t mean you can create even a mediocre conlang (and note that
“functional” is not the same thing as “good”. Functionality is a very
low bar to clear). Similarly, you don’t need any formal education in
linguistics to create a language—you can start right now! Linguistics
can definitely help, though. The best conlanger is one who has a solid
understanding of theoretical and practical linguistics, who has studied
many languages from many different language families, and who has spent a
good amount of time creating languages. This person will know when
linguistic theory can improve their work, and when it needs to be set
aside because the linguists haven’t figured out the theory is garbage
yet—or because the linguists must pay lip service to the theory for
political reasons. Conlangers are beholden to no one, which means
they’re ultimately responsible for all choices—and all mistakes. A
conlanger who comes to conlanging from academic linguistics will need to
unlearn some things to really get going, but they’ll already have a
pretty good handle on the multifariousness of language, and that’s key.
David J. Peterson on Tumblr
The Language Creation Society
My review of The Art of Language Invention
Interview with a Translator and Business Owner
Interview with a Conductor
Interview with an Accent Coach
Interview with two Communications Professionals
Interview with a university course coordinator
Check out the Linguist Jobs tag for even more interviews
(image credit: Wikipedia)
A thorough debunking of the myth that apes can learn language from Skeptoid podcast. Excerpt:
In June of 2018, the famous gorilla Koko died of natural causes. Koko had become famous around the world for her incredible ability to speak in sign language. Koko wrote books. She raised kittens. Koko developed friendships with visiting celebrities. Koko would tell jokes and be silly. Koko would hear things on the news, feel sad, and express her sadness, all using sign language. But it turns out that the field of ape linguistics has virtually evaporated. What evidence there is that apes have been able to sign comes to us not from the academic literature, but only from the mass media — feel-good stories written for the people, apparently devoid of much scientific validity. Today we’re going to point our skeptical eye at the field of apes who speak in sign language.
Here is the first thing that suggests not all is as it seems in the world of signing apes. If it works, and the ability to communicate with us can be instilled into apes, then why aren’t there signing apes everywhere? Why don’t we teach it to all of them — indeed, why don’t ape parents teach it to their own young? If apes had any meaningful ability to communicate at even a rudimentary level using sign language, you’d think many of those who interact with humans would do so. They would tell their zookeepers what they want (probably to be set free). They would accompany primatologists on expeditions and translate between the scientists and the native apes. Every animal research institution would have signing apes, and everyone in the world with a degree in primatology would have experience communicating with them. After all these decades, we’d have a deep understanding of ape communication and their thought processes. Signing with apes would be commonplace and widespread.
But none of these things has happened. Not one of them. Not only did signing apes never become common, the number of research programs studying ape signing has gone from a few to even fewer. At its peak in the 1970s, the field of teaching apes to communicate with humans never had more active research programs than you could count on your fingers and toes; today, there is not even a single program anywhere in the world making publishable claims. Backwards is not where promising directions in research tend to go. In every field of science, when we see researchers abandoning projects, the reason nearly always tends to be that the project was a dead end.
Read the rest of the article, listen to the podcast, or read the transcript.
I suppose it’s okay to admit after three years of linguistics blogging that I actually am one of those linguists who speaks quite a few languages, and I’ve studied even more at various levels. Here are some of my favourite posts about language learning:
Tips for learning another language
7 ways to fake-pronounce any foreign language
How to learn vocabulary in 12 steps (using science!)
Up-goer five, Taboo and language learning
How to learn a third language (while keeping your second one)
12 ways to stop freezing up when you try to speak a second language
Someone trying to switch into English on you is like them trying to pick up the cheque
How second language acquisition works
Why can’t adults learn languages like children? (video with Tom Scott)
Finding “lost” languages in the brain
Learning languages without conscious effort
How to teach old ears new tricks
Speaking to babies, pets, and language learners
How learning a new language improves tolerance
First lesson in modern versus classical languages
Learning languages linguistically (Lingthusiasm podcast episode)
Learning Indigenous languages
Should linguists or non-Aboriginal people learn Aboriginal languages?
Non-Indigenous people learning Australian Indigenous languages
Benefits of Indigenous language learning
Roadblocks to effective Indigenous language development
OLA - Oral Language Acquisition
CoLang and Breath of Life
Learning less popular and minority languages when resources are hard to find
How to teach when the teacher isn’t fluent
How to make learning materials for conversation and document at the same time
Sk̲wx̱wú7mesh language revitalization house
Europe has indigenous minority languages as well
Languages and linguistics
Why linguists get annoyed when you ask how many languages they speak
Will learning a second language help me learn linguistics?
Will learning linguistics help with learning a second language?
Using Gricean maxims to deflect the “how many languages do you know?” question in a way that leads to a better conversation
Bonus fun links: Now You’re Just A Language That I Used To Know (parody of that Gotye song) and Language Gothic.
Revised and updated with more links!
‘Haha and hehe denote laughter in both Latin and English, and they sound like laughing when you say them.’ So says my favourite part of the grammar textbook by Ælfric (d. c 1010), Old English author + teacher (Harley MS 3271, f. 90r). -A V Hudson on twitter
When the world turns completely upside down
The students in my class were arguing a question of semantics: is a hamburger a sandwich? One student noted that the menu designer at the restaurant where she worked couldn’t decide if a Chicken Burger should be listed under Hamburgers or Sandwiches.
Catherine Sangster brings us up-to-date with this year's Geek Dictionary Corner suggestions and reports back on the progress of past years' contributions:
One of the courses I teach is individual pronunciation tutoring for international students who are going to be teaching assistants here at Ohio State University. One of the resources I use a lot is…
The Swadesh list is a classic set of 100 vocabulary items that are collected by linguists in different languages to compare the similarities and differences of those languages. The Swadesh list is by no means perfect, but it’s a generally recognised set of basic vocabulary. For different languages you may find that there’s one of two things that don’t quite work, maybe there aren’t many animals with horns, or maybe there are several different words that are used for ‘all’.
So what happens when you try and do a Swadesh list of emoji?
Well, if you needed even more proof that emoji aren’t language, here it is.
Firstly, I was relatively fussy, but not too fussy. Some are great, some are not. For things like ‘bark (of a tree)’ I could have just put tree up again, but the part-whole relationship gets difficult. Colours are there, but on particular objects. There are also very few emoji of people just standing, full-bodied?
And verbs… well verbs are tough. Adjectives are difficult as well, because they’re pretty abstract until applied to something (we know what a ‘good dog’ is, but what’s a ‘good’?). Pronouns are a challenge for emoji because they require context for ‘me’ to mean the particular person speaking at the time, very easy to do with language, difficult to do with emoji.
Emoji updates might fill a few gaps. You might also think I missed some things? If so, you can leave a comment on the Google Sheet I used to make the list (bit.ly/emoji-swadesh).
I was very pleased to help @superlinguo a little bit with this Emoji Swadesh List!
It seems like “feather” would be a good candidate for inclusion in a future emoji update, as well as some more of the body parts.
From New York to Los Angeles, people everywhere develop speech patterns unique to their region; however, these varied dialects are discriminated against at
What’s a translator to do when the word just doesn’t exist? How do you handle translating invented terms?
A new study of K-12 STEM educators demonstrates how adding linguistic information into classroom teaching can help remove barriers to STEM achievement for African-American students. The article, 'Balancing the Communication Equation: An Outreach and Engagement Model for Using Sociolinguistics to Enhance Culturally and Linguistically Sustaining K-12 STEM Education,' by Christine Mallinson (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) and Anne H. Charity Hudley (University of California, Santa Barbara), will be published in the September, 2018 issue of the scholarly journal Language.
In episode 62 of #GloballySpeaking, Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, Founder and CEO of Archetype Discoveries, discusses how the meanings of words can deeply affect business, especially when multiple cultures are involved.
In the 17th Century, when the kingdom of Bohemia was under Habsburg rule, the Czech language almost disappeared.
The fascination with words that lack a single-word English equivalent has a downside.
By integrating your interpreter into your team, you can get deeper, more valuable insights in international and cross-cultural research. Here's how.
A few years ago, there was no American Sign Language sign for "verb," "prototype" or "Jay Gatsby," so a small team at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf created one, and hundreds more.
Have you been following our five-part series on how to assess your readiness to become a successful translator, inspired by ATA’s Self-Evaluation Questionnaire for Translators? If so, we hope your …
Be sceptical when it's claimed that a language has 'no word for X' or '50 words for Y'.
The Hamsa symbol, a hand with five fingers, is believed to bring good luck and keep away the evil eye. In Arabic, hamsa is the number five, which just happens to be the number of years we've been making our Streetwise Hebrew podcast!
Note: This article was published in the October 2016 issue of the Translation Journal Punctuation is generally seen as trivial by many people. It is not usually taught when learning a foreign langu…
Metropolitan State University graduate Tony Velasquez is on his way to Oxford to study socio-linguistics.
The following is Arundhati Roy’sÂ W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation, commissioned by the British Centre for Literary Translation and the National Centre for Writing. It was delivereâ¦