Experimental and Edgy Linguistics Somethingness: Sexy Syntax, Phenomenal Phonology, Phonetic Phenomenology, and Not Giving a Fuck

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 When Peter Bakker approached me to write a review of the first issue of Some Islands. A Journal of Linguistics and Art , edited by Joshua Nash, he made it quite clear why he approached me, of all people: “you do art and linguistics. Would you like to review this for Lingoblog? It is about art and linguistics”. When I saw the title page of this new experimental journal, it was difficult to say no. But little did I know what I was letting myself in for.  

Why islands? Why a chair? Why some islands? And why this sort of chair?  

 As I read on, I decided to stay open-minded, sit in it for a while and

Forced “yes” or “no” response as an interview format

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Many interviewers may pursue a “clear response” in political interviews by trying to enforce an interviewee to respond with either yes or no. Such yes-no-rounds are well established in Danish political interviews, and already on the first day of the current election, the second yes-no-round took place (as the prime minister had been interviewed with one the day before).

Yes-no-rounds build on the idea that politicians have difficulty providing a “clear” answer to questions, and that a response token like yes or no (Danish: ja and nej) is a “clear” answer. The actual worth is slightly more complex however, and both the interviewer and interviewee uses a number of resources to establish and circumvent the requirements of a …

Silencing the Vikings: Bureaucracy and The End of Old Norse at Aarhus University

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“Not perverts but bureaucrats will set things off, and we won’t even know if their intentions were good or bad. Things will go off by command; they will be carried through according to regulations, mechanically, down the chain of command, with human wills bent, abolished, overcome, in a task that ceases to have any meaning”.[1]

– Jacques Lacan

Old Norse is the language of the Vikings. It is the language carved laboriously into runestones all over Scandinavia, indeed even as far afield as Ukraine. It is the language of the Icelandic sagas of the High Middle Ages, and the language which preserves most of our knowledge of Scandinavian mythology: Gods such as Óðinn and Þórr, the vengeful Fenrisúlfr …

Book Review: ‘In the Land of Invented Languages’ by Arika Okrent

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Not so long ago, I was a stranger in a particularly strange land. The land was that of invented languages, and my guide was Arika Okrent, linguist and professional writer. My ticket was a bright red paperback with zany white lettering on the front. The journey lasted just over 800 years – the length of the recorded history of invented languages. Or perhaps that was the destination rather than the journey? I seem to have reached the outer border of this metaphor, so let’s cross over to a more tangible overview of Okrent’s book.

In the Land of Invented Languages was released in 2009 and is 293 pages long. The book is the result of five years of research into …

Conlang-week in Aarhus

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Increasing numbers of films and television series incorporate fictional languages to create authentic fantasy settings. But who makes these languages? Meet two language creators and hear about their work. There will be a workshop and two talks at Aarhus University. The events are free, and everyone is welcome, students and non-students alike!

Wednesday 14th september, 4-6 pm, 1441-112:

SOLIA-workshop with David J. Peterson and Jessie Sams: “From beginning to translation – a historical approach”

Thursday 15th september, 4-8 pm, 1482-105 (Nobel auditorium):

Talk by David J. Peterson & Jessie Sams

Friday 16th september, ViGør, 2-4 pm, 1481-264:

Talk by David J. Peterson & Jessie Sams

 

Read more about David J. Peterson (in Danish)

Derek Bickerton (1926-2018), the insular linguist, and his work

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Derek Bickerton was a world-famous linguist and author. He died in 2018, at the age of 91 years. He has written scholarly books about creole languages, human evolution, the brain, but also poetry and novels. Ten years before he died, he had written a kind of intellectual biography focusing on his research on creole languages and pidgins which he had called Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World’s Lowliest Languages. These (according to the public, not according to him or me) lowliest languages are pidgins and creoles.

When this book came out in 2008, published when he was 81 years old, I did not get to read it. For one thing, there …

A new book about the history of English

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More than 50 years ago, Barbara Strang published her highly innovative book A History of English (1970, Methuen £2.25) which, daringly, began its chronological treatment of the English language in the (then) present-day, with “Changes in living memory” (Strang was born in 1925), and then worked its way backwards. The first chapter in the chronological sequence was devoted to “1970-1770”, and the final chapter covered the period “Before 370”.

The obvious advantage of this strategy is that you can start readers off in a place they are familiar with, and then take them on a journey to increasingly remote and less familiar periods of time. Strang’s way of dealing with this material was an intriguing and attractive one, and in …