A Sacrifice Made to the Loss of a Mind

27/M/Boston/Engaged. I'm a Ph.D. student in computer science and linguistics. I run on metal, wordplay, and snark. Most of the languages I speak are dead. This blog is mostly language and science stuff, books and science fiction/fantasy media (when there's a TV show on I like), with the occasional post from my personal blog or video of me playing stuff on the guitar. I also write a lot, but I'm way too chickenshit to post any of it. Maybe some day. Follow for more.


25 Things You Had No Idea There Were Words For

Is it still denominalization when the non-verb you’re verbing is an adjective?

(via maskedlinguist)


Nine BLM Wilderness Areas Make Wilderness Society’s “15 of America’s Most Photogenic Wilderness Areas”

This year, the Bureau of Land Management and other land management agencies, non-government partners and the American public celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  For this anniversary, the Wilderness Society has been featuring beautiful wilderness areas across the United States.  Their latest feature, “15 of America’s Most Photogenic Wilderness Areas,” include nine BLM-managed wilderness areas, all a part of the BLM’s beautiful National Conservation Lands

(via carseatcomedian)

'The riot up at Dolly Sisters,' said Tilden. 'It was only a couple of hours ago.' I'm too close, Vimes thought, as the words sank in. All those things were just names, it all seemed to happen at once. Dolly Sisters, yeah. They were a right mob of hotheads up there … 'The lieutenant of the Day Watch called in one of the regiments,' said Tilden. 'Which he was duly authorized to do. Of course.'
‘Which one?’ said Vimes, for the look of the thing. The name was in the history books, after all.
‘Lord Venturi’s Medium Dragoons, sergeant. My old regiment.’ That’s right, thought Vimes. And cavalry are highly trained at civilian crowd control. Everyone knows that. ‘And, er, there were some, er, accidental deaths …’
Vimes felt sorry for the man. In truth, it was never proved that anyone was given an order to ride people down, but did it matter? Horses pushing, and people unable to get away because of the press of people behind them … it was too easy for small children to lose grip of a hand … ‘But, in fairness, missiles were thrown at the officers and one soldier was badly injured,’ said Tilden, as if reading the words off a card. That’s all right, then? Vimes thought.
‘What kind of missiles, sir?’ ‘Fruit, I gather. Although there may have been some stones as well.’ Vimes realized that Tilden’s hand was shaking. ‘The riot was over the price of bread, I understand.’
No. The protest was over the price of bread, said Vimes’s inner voice. The riot was what happens when you have panicking people trapped between idiots on horseback and other idiots shouting ‘yeah, right!’ and trying to push forward, and the whole thing in the charge of a fool advised by a maniac with a steel rule. ‘The feeling of the palace,’ said Tilden slowly, ‘is that revolutionary elements may attack the Watch Houses.’
‘Really, sir? Why?’
‘It’s the sort of thing they do,’ said Tilden.
‘As a matter of fact, sir, the men are putting up shutters and-’
‘Do whatever you feel necessary, sergeant,’ said Tilden, waving a hand with a scrawled letter in it. ‘We are told we must be mindful of the curfew regulations. That has been underlined.’
Vimes paused before answering. He’d bitten back the first answer. He contented himself with ‘Very well, sir,’ and left. The man wasn’t a bad man, he knew; he must have been badly affected by the news to give such a stupid, dangerous order. ‘Do what you feel necessary.’ Give an order like that to a man who’s liable to panic when he sees a bunch of people waving their fists and you got the Dolly Sisters Massacre. He walked back down the stairs. The squad were standing around looking nervous.
‘Prisoner in the cells?’ said Vimes. Corporal Colon nodded.
‘Yessir. Sarge, Snouty says that up at Dolly Sisters-’
‘I know. Now here’s what I feel is necessary. Take the shutters down, unbar the door, leave it open and light all the lamps. Why isn’t the blue lamp over the door lit?’
‘Dunno, sarge. But what if-’
‘Get it lit, corporal. And then you and Waddy go and stand guard outside, where you can be seen. You’re friendly-looking local lads. Take your bells but, and I want to make this very clear, no swords, right?’
‘No swords?’ Colon burst out. ‘But what if a bloody great mob comes round the corner and I’m not armed?’
Vimes reached him in two swift strides and stood nose to nose. ‘And if you have got a sword, what will you do, eh? Against a bloody great mob? What do you want ‘em to see? Now what I want ‘em to see is Fatty Colon, decent lad, not too bright, I knew ‘is dad, an’ there’s ol’ Waddy, he drinks in my pub. ‘cos if they just see a couple of men in uniform with swords you’ll be in trouble, and if you draw those swords you’ll be in real trouble, and if by any chance, corporal, you draw swords tonight without my order and survive then you’ll wish you hadn’t done either because you’ll have to face me, see? And then you’ll know what trouble is, ‘cos everything up until then will look like a bleedin’ day at the soddin’ seaside. Understand?’
The front door was open. There were a few people outside, just visible in the lamplight. There was also Sergeant Knock inside, and he was not happy. ‘Who said we open up like this?’ he was saying. ‘It looks nasty out on those streets! Very dangerous-’
‘I said we stay open,’ said Vimes, coming up the stairs. ‘Is there a problem, sergeant?’
‘Well … look, sarge, I heard on the way over, they’re throwing stones at the Dimwell Street House,’ said Knock, deflating. There’s people in the streets! Mobs! I hate to think what’s happening downtown.’
‘We’re coppers! We should be getting prepared!’
‘What? To bar the doors and listen to the stones rattle off the roof?’ said Vimes. ‘Or maybe we should go out and arrest everyone? Any volunteers? No?’
‘We’ll get into trouble!’ Knock shouted. Vimes let Knock wait until he’d lit a cigar.
‘We’re in trouble anyway, Winsborough,’ he said, shaking out the match. ‘It’s just a case of deciding what kind we want. Thanks, Snouty.’ He took the mug of cocoa from the jailer and nodded at Sam.
‘Let’s take a stroll outside,’ he said. He was aware of the sudden silence in the room. ‘What’re you all standing around for, gentlemen?’ he said. ‘Want to ring your bells? Anyone fancy shouting out that all’s well?’
With those words hanging in the room all big and pink, Vimes stepped out into the evening air. There were people hanging around out there, in little groups of three or four, talking among themselves and occasionally turning to look at the Watch House. Vimes sat down on the steps, and took a sip of his cocoa. He might as well have dropped his breeches. The groups opened up, became an audience. No man drinking a nonalcoholic chocolate beverage had ever been the centre of so much attention. He’d been right. A closed door is an incitement to bravery. A man drinking from a mug, under a light, and apparently enjoying the cool night air, is an incitement to pause.
‘We’re breaking curfew, you know,’ said a young man, with a quick dart forward, dart back movement.
‘Is that right?’ said Vimes.
‘Are you going to arrest us, then?’
‘Not me,’ said Vimes cheerfully. ‘I’m on my break.’
‘Yeah?’ said the man. He pointed to Colon and Waddy. ‘They on their break too?’
‘They are now.’ Vimes half turned. ‘Brew’s up, lads. Off you go. No, no need to run, there’s enough for everyone. And come back out when you’ve got it …’        
When the sound of pounding boots had died away, Vimes turned back and smiled at the group again.
‘So when do you come off your break?’ said the man. Vimes paid him some extra attention. The stance was a giveaway. He was ready to fight, even though he didn’t look like a fighter. If this were a bar room, the bartender would be taking the more expensive bottles off the shelf, because amateurs like that tended to spread the glass around. Ah, yes … and now he could see why the words ‘bar room’ had occurred to him. There was a bottle sticking out of the man’s pocket. He’d been drinking his defiance.
‘Oh, around Thursday, I reckon,’ said Vimes, eyeing the bottle. There was laughter from somewhere in the growing crowd.
‘Why Thursday?’ said the drinker.
‘Got my day off on Thursday.’
There were a few more laughs this time. When the tension is drawing out, it doesn’t take much to snap it.
‘I demand you arrest me!’ said the drinker. ‘Come on, try it!’
‘You’re not drunk enough,’ said Vimes. ‘I should go home and sleep it off, if I was you.’
The man’s hand grasped the neck of the bottle. Here it comes, thought Vimes. By the look of him, the man had one chance in five … Fortunately, the crowd wasn’t too big yet. What you didn’t need at a time like this was people at the back, craning to see and asking what was going on. And the lit-up Watch House was fully illuminating the lit-up man.
‘Friend, if you take my advice you’ll not consider that,’ said Vimes. He took another sip of his cocoa. It was only lukewarm now, but along with the cigar it meant that both his hands were occupied. That was important. He wasn’t holding a weapon. No one could say afterwards that he had a weapon.
‘I’m no friend to you people!’ snapped the man, and smashed the bottle on the wall by the steps. The glass tinkled to the ground. Vimes watched the man’s face, watched the expression change from drink-fuelled anger to agonizing pain, watched the mouth open … The man swayed. Blood began to ooze from between his fingers and a low, thin animal sound escaped from between his teeth. That was the tableau, under the light - Vimes sitting down with his hands full, the bleeding man several feet away. No fight, no one had touched anyone … he knew the way rumour worked, and he wanted this picture to fix itself in people’s minds. There was even ash still on the cigar. He stayed very still for a few seconds, and then stood up, all concern.
‘Come on, one of you help me, will you?’ he said, tugging off his breastplate and the chain-mail shirt underneath it. He grabbed his shirt sleeve and tore off a long strip. A couple of men, jerked into action by the voice of command, steadied the man who was dripping blood. One of them reached for the hand.
‘Leave it,’ Vimes commanded, tightening the strip of sleeve around the man’s unresisting wrist. ‘He’s got a handful of broken glass. Lay him down as gently as you can before he falls over but don’t touch nothing until I’ve got this tourniquet on. Sam, go into the stable and pinch Marilyn’s blanket for the boy. Anyone here know Doctor Lawn? Speak up!’ Someone among the awed bystanders volunteered that they did, and was sent running for him. Vimes was aware of the circle watching him; a lot of the watchmen were peering around the doorway now.
‘Saw this happen once,’ he said aloud, and added mentally ‘in ten years’ time’. ‘It was in a bar fight. Man grabbed a bottle, didn’t know how to smash it, ended up with a hand full of shards and the other guy reached down and squeezed.’ There was a satisfying groan from the crowd. ‘Anyone know who this man is?’ he added. ‘Come on, someone must …’
A voice in the crowd volunteered that the man could well be Joss Gappy, an apprentice shoemaker from New Cobblers. ‘Let’s hope we can save his hand, then,’ said Vimes. ‘I need a new pair of boots.’ It wasn’t funny at all but it got another of those laughs, the ones people laugh out of sheer frightened nervousness. Then the crowd parted as Lawn came through.
‘Ah,’ he said, kneeling down by Gappy. ‘You know, I don’t know why I own a bed. Trainee bottle fighter?’
‘Looks like you’ve done the right things but I need light and a table,’ said Lawn. ‘Can your men take him into the Watch House?’
Vimes had hoped it wouldn’t come to that. Oh well, you had to make the best of it… He pointed randomly at figures in the crowd. ‘You and you and you and you and you too, lady,’ he said. ‘You can help Fred and Waddy take this young man inside, okay? And you’re to stop with him, and we’ll leave the doors open, right? All you lot out here’ll know what’s going on. We’ve got no secrets here. Everyone understand?’
‘Yeah, but you’re a copper-’ a voice began. Vimes darted forward and hauled a frightened young man out of the crowd by his shirt.
‘Yeah, I am,’ he said. ‘And see that lad over there? He’s a copper, too. His name’s Sam Vimes. He lives in Cockbill Street with his mum. And that’s Fred Colon, just got married, got a couple of rooms in Old Cobblers. And Exhibit C there is Waddy, everyone round here knows Waddy. Billy Wiglet there, he was born in this street. Have I asked you your name?’
‘N-no …’ the man mumbled.
‘That’s ‘cos I don’t care who you are,’ said Vimes, letting the man go and looking round at the crowd. ‘Listen to me, all of you! My name’s John Keel! No one gets taken into this Watch House without me knowing why! You’re all here as witnesses! Those of you I pointed out, you come on inside to see fair play all round. Do the rest of you want to hang around to see what happens to Gappy? Fine, I’ll get Snouty to bring you out some cocoa. Or you can go home. It’s a cold night. You ought to be in your beds. I know I’d like to be in mine. And, yes, we know about Dolly Sisters and we don’t like it any more than you do. And we’ve heard about Dimwell Street and we don’t like that, either. And that’s all I’ve got to say tonight. Now … anyone who still wants to take a swing at a copper can step right up, if they want to. I’ve got my uniform off. We’ll have a go, here and now, fair and square, in front of everyone. Anyone?’ There was a pause, but nobody came forward.
‘Looks like it’s going to be a long night,’ he said, signalling Colon to take the body inside. ‘I’ve got to get on with my work, ladies and gentlemen. If anyone wants to stay, and frankly I’ll be obliged if you do, I’ll send some lads out to build a fire. Thank you for your patience.’
He picked up his mail and breastplate and went back inside. There were one or two muted conversations going on; he heard phrases like ‘bad business’ and ‘they say that-’ above the general noise. He’d played the cards well enough. Most of the lads here lived within a street or two. It was one thing to have a go at faceless bastards in uniform, but quite another to throw stones at old Fred Colon or old Waddy or old Billy Wiglet, who you’d known since you were two years old and played Dead Rat Conkers with in the gutter.

Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett

otherwise known as “how not to police brutality: a training manual” or aT LEAST IT SHOULD BE

figured this was pretty damn relevant to whats going on in ferguson

(via kinkygaynerd)

(via blackboardmonitor)







World’s languages traced back to single African mother tongue: scientists.

New Zealand researchers have traced every human language — from English to Mandarin — back to an ancestral language spoken in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.

Scientists say they have traced the world’s 6,000 modern languages — from English to Mandarin — back to a single “mother tongue,” an ancestral language spoken in Africa 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.

New research, published in the journal Science, suggests this single ancient language resulted in human civilization — a Diaspora — as well as advances in art and hunting tool technology, and laid the groundwork for all the world’s cultures.

The research, by Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, also found that speech evolved far earlier than previously thought. And the findings implied, though did not prove, that modern language originated only once, an issue of controversy among linguists, according to the New York Times.

Before Atkinson came up with the evidence for a single African origin of language, some scientists had argued that language evolved independently in different parts of the world.

Atkinson found that the first populations migrating from Africa laid the groundwork for all the world’s cultures by taking their single language with them. “It was the catalyst that spurred the human expansion that we all are a product of,” Atkinson said, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Atkinson traced the number distinct sounds, or phonemes — consonants, vowels and tones — in 504 world languages, finding compelling evidence that they can be traced back to a long-forgotten dialect spoken by our Stone Age ancestors, according to the Daily Mail.

Atkinson also hypothesized that languages with the most sounds would be the oldest, while those spoken by smaller breakaway groups would utilize fewer sounds as variation and complexity diminished.

The study found that some of the click-using languages of Africa have more than 100 phonemes, or sounds, whereas Hawaiian, toward the far end of the human migration route out of Africa, has only 13, the Times reported. English has about 45 phonemes.

The phoneme pattern mirrors the pattern of human genetic diversity as humans spread across the globe from sub-Saharan Africa around 70,000 years ago.

Source: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/science/110415/language-science-linguistics-mother-tongue-english-chinese-mandarin-africa

This gives me LIFE from people who insist all languages (ALL no matter what) derive from latin bases.

Reblogging this for three reasons:

1) It’s awesome and worth knowing

2) It makes sense when you think about, you know, the whole history of human development (from a NOT white supremacist perspective at least)

3) To add that if anyone ever tries to say that all languages are derived from Latin [insert choked sound of disbelief and anger] you can inform their ignorant (probably racist) asses of this: Latin, as far as languages go, is an INFANT. It’s part of a subset of Indo-European languages and MOTHERFUCKER EVEN ENGLISH ISN’T ONE OF ITS DERIVATIVES. (French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, and Portuguese are, as well as lots of their related languages and dialects, that’s it.) Latin isn’t even remotely old enough to be a mother language. It’s like saying alpacas were the original dinosaurs or some bullshit.



Not surprising, but this is cool information!

as a linguist I am rooting for african languages since they are one of the most if not actually the most diverse language families but I can also tell you that historical linguistics is very bad at knowing things for sure and atkinson has yet to prove that language isolates definitively come from anywhere. like this is a very attractive concept to me but as a student of linguistics he’s been reported to use a broad metric that doesn’t really make any sense in terms of theories of language mutation - also tones are not phonemes

would go more into depth as a syntax-oriented student but alas, mobile

tl;dr - my heart says yes but my knowledge of linguistics says we’re not ready for a commitment

Agreed.  I would add, though, that IF all languages were found to be from a single root, that root would almost certainly have been found in Africa for statistical reasons:

  1. In genetic dispersion models (genetic in the linguistic and biological sense), the area with the most diversity is usually located close to or correlated with the probable origin of the ultimate parent.
  2. How freaking likely is it that humanity migrated out of Africa mute for thousands of years only to invent language somewhere else and somehow send it back home despite the fact that extra-African genetic inflow to especially eastern and southern Africa is limited compared to the rest of the world?

That is, if Proto-World was actually a thing, it was probably an African thing.

That’s a big if, though.  A single-root world language family model would be correlated with, but not identical with a human genetic tree model, as language ≠ genes, and language is spread by mechanisms of privilege and prestige in a way that biological identifiers do not (e.g. the archeological record suggests that Germanic languages may have spread into Europe not by conquest and interbreeding as much as by patron-client relationships between chiefdoms).  In certain areas of the world, this correlation gets thrown off by knots where the people show relatively low genetic diversity compared to their linguistic diversity (e.g. the Balkans, the North Caucasus, Taiwanese aboriginals to name a few).  In a Proto-World model, these areas would seem to have been “staging areas” from which certain subfamilies of the world language might have branched off, and it becomes difficult to reason why this kind of “punctuated equilibrium” type of linguistic dispersion would have happened, whereas a multiple-origin model doesn’t have that problem.

The 50,000 to 70,000 YBP figure also doesn’t quite add up, as humans had spread as far as South and Southeast Asia by 50,000 years ago, and had made as to the Near East by 125,000 years ago.  If the first language appears, say, even at the Horn of Africa, it still had a lot of people who had spread out ahead of it, and it seems unlikely they would have picked up this language by contact with future waves of migrants.  If there was a single Proto-World, I would think it would have had to evolve earlier than that.

We should also keep in mind that the time elapsed since when Proto-World would have been a feasible concept is pretty mind-blowing in terms of historical linguistics.  Proto-Indo-European has been dated to about 5-6 thousand years ago, less than a tenth of the “Proto-World time,” and even the nature of that language is fraught with uncertainty and controversy.  It may be that even if there was a single Proto-World, we just don’t, in the absence of a time machine, have the tools to say anything about it.

(via fuckyeahmylanguage)


In honor of Shark Week and the irrational fear of being killed by a shark. It is estimated that 11,417 sharks are killed by humans every hour of every day or about 100,000,000 per year.

It’s time we all face up to the real threat: mosquitoes.

(via sagansense)

Did you get the Dutch letter solved?
science-of-noise science-of-noise Said:

Not yet, but I got about four individual offers to translate it, so I’m confident it will be.  :)


This is not a parody news article…

Someone needs to do a chart: GDP PPP$ vs bikinis per 100,000 people.

(via fuckyeahsouthasia)

Usa an olline dutch dictionary.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s really an option because there’s so much of the handwriting I can’t really make out.  If I just type words into an online dictionary based on what I think they are, I have no guarantee of getting it right.  However, a native speaker has a much better chance of being able to decipher the sometimes opaque handwriting.

So my soon-to-be wife received a stash of documents from her grandmother that relate to her great-great-grandfather who immigrated from the Netherlands to the US in the early 1900s, escaping the holocaust unlike most of his family.  Most of the docs are in English and have proven very enlightening, except for one letter.

It’s dated 1950 and it’s addressed to him (STBW’s great-great-grandfather) from someone in Amsterdam.  It’s in Dutch, about four handwritten pages, and kind of hard to read (for me, at least).  If anyone could translate it, it might tell us quite a bit.

I can’t really read it but I can make out some recognizable words here and there so I’m hopeful someone who actually knows the language could make sense of it.  I’m wary of trying to type it up since I don’t know enough about Dutch to say for sure what’s an actual word and what’s me mistaking a D for an L or whatever, but I have high-resolution scans in JPEG and PDF format.

I know I have some Dutch-speakers out there and I know there’s got to be more in the wider Tumblr language community, so if you think you might be interested in helping to translate this, or even a part of it (four pages can be a lot, I understand), please message me.  Even if you don’t know Dutch, please reblog this, since someone who follows you might.  You’d be doing us a big favor.  Thanks!