Linguists are looking to crowd-sourcing to solve the problem of translating lesser-known dialects. The plan is to use social networks to link human translators with groups like relief agencies — and even businesses. It’s a technique that worked after the Haitian earthquake.
Tagged with “language” (115)
The story of the discovery of the ancient language which gave rise to most of the languages of Europe, including English.
The year in language. Cronut. Vape. Twerk. Sharknado. We’ll look at the language that went large in 2013.
In this introductory episode, we look at the emergence of English as a global language and the evolution of the language from its Germanic origins.
Mark Pagel says early humans developed language as a tool to cooperate. But with thousands of different languages, Pagel says language also exists to prevent us from communicating outside our tribal groups.
Beauty and Brains.
Dramatizing the Internet.
A few hours north of San Francisco is the town of Boonville, nestled in the quaint Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. Like Silicon Valley, this place is known for its innovations in communication – but in a completely different way.
Boonville has its own homegrown language called Boontling and only a handful of people still speak it. Among them is Wes Smoot, 81, the unofficial king of Boonville.
Smoot and his cohorts meet at the Redwood Drive-In on the central drag practically every day at 4 p.m. Smoot says it’s one of the last places that feels like the town he grew up in. Outside, Smoot says, wine and tourism have turned the friendly, close-knit community into a place full of strangers.
For Smoot, Boontling is a connection to the past. It’s said to have emerged in the late 1800s and every word has a meaning related to a person or event in Boonville. For example, to work hard is ottin’, after a man named Otto who was the hardest worker in town.
But more often than not, Boontling is used to describe salacious words unfit for print. Former Chico State University professor Charles C. Adams published a dictionary of them in his book “Boontling: An American Lingo.”Today, Boonville residents refer to Adams’ publication as “the big book.”
The little book is a pamphlet Smoot prints and distributes around town with a more child-friendly glossary. It has the definitions and origins of words like zeese (coffee) and blue-tail (rattlesnake).
“In order to speak the language and understand the people you gotta know something about the history of the valley,” Smoot says.
That history has cycled from an isolated farming town, to a logging boomtown, to a winemaker’s paradise. But when Smoot returned after several years away from Boonville as a young man serving in the Korean War, and then traveling around the state for Caltrans, he already felt like his childhood home had changed.
Boontling has been documenting those changes word-by-word. Though there’s no recorded history of where the language itself came from.
Smoot’s favorite version of Boontling’s origin is about a young San Francisco woman who became pregnant out of wedlock and was sent up north by her high society parents to have the baby.
“There’s a number of stories, it’s very interesting,” says Robert Nimmons, a volunteer for the Anderson Valley Historical Society. “We’ve heard several stories that the adults developed it so they could talk but the kids didn’t know what they were saying.”
Regardless, there are just a few fluent Boontling speakers left. And even though Smoot and his pals are sure Boonville’s homegrown language will eventually die off, they’re still contributing to the lexicon.
“Another fella and I came up with a new word now, when the salmon go up the stream and spawn,” Smoot says. “Well when you get our age we’re downstreamers, we’re getting to go back down stream. We’re downstreamers now.”
Prof. Simon Horobin examines how the English language has changed over time, addressing such vexed questions as whether Jane Austen could spell, the fate of the apostrophe and whether people who ‘literally’ explode with anger are corrupting the language.
What do beat, bean, and leek all have in common with each other? Find out on this week’s episode A Taste of The Past where Linda goes into the history of food and culinary etymology with Ina Lipkowitz teacher of English literature and Biblical Studies at MIT and author of Words to Eat By. Discover the semantic shift in the word meat, the influence of the ancient Romans on plant breeds, and how much religious symbolism is based off food. Listen and become aware about how much food words have an impact on us. This episode is sponsored by The Hearst Ranch.
David Crystal is a world-renowned linguist. He’s the author of over 100 books, and an advocate of what he calls “Internet Linguistics" — an approach to understanding how we use language online. Nora Young interviewed David for Spark 220. This Q&A is a lightly edited version of that interview.
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