Why Campaigns to Change Language Often Backfire
Opponents of the phrase “car accident” argue that language is intertwined with accountability.Photograph by Alan Poulson Photography / Shutterstock In the first decades of the 20th century, people around the world began succumbing to an entirely new cause of mortality. These new deaths, due to the dangers of the automobile, soon became accepted as a […]
The Rise and Fall of the English Sentence
The surprising forces influencing the complexity of the language we speak and write.
A Linguist Responds to Cormac McCarthy
If language began as a virus, here’s how it spread.
Why Doesn’t Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings?
Literature’s evolution has reflected and spurred the growing complexity of society.
Is the Chinese Language a Superstition Machine?
How ambiguity in language can create unique taboos.
How Language Helps Erase the Tragedy of Millions of Road Deaths
In the first decades of the 20th century, people around the world began succumbing to an entirely new cause of mortality. These new deaths, due to the dangers of the automobile, soon became accepted as a lamentable but normal part of modern life. A hundred years later, with 1.25 million people worldwide (about 30,000 in […]
Is Multilingual Rap Eroding Canada’s French Language?
Recently a Quebec arts foundation required the Francophone rap group Dead Obies to give back an $18,000 grant they’d been awarded to record their newest album. The problem? A word count determined that the group had stirred too much English into their distinctive multilingual lyrics, falling short of the rule that 70 percent of the […]
This Is Why Americans Are Irrationally Anxious About Terrorism
Many of terrorism’s most profound consequences are felt from a distance.
Your Speech Is Packed With Misunderstood, Unconscious Messages
Imagine standing up to give a speech in front of a critical audience. As you do your best to wax eloquent, someone in the room uses a clicker to conspicuously count your every stumble, hesitation, um and uh; once you’ve finished, this person loudly announces how many of these blemishes have marred your presentation.This is […]
How Our Words Affect Our Thoughts on Race and Gender
Can a person who is biologically male really be female? What about someone who is born white but doesn’t feel that way—can she become black? Intelligent adults can disagree passionately on these questions of identity, as evident in the back-and-forth discussion over the recent cases of Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, and Rachel Dolezal, a […]