Should Scientists Use the Phrase “Quantum Supremacy”?
Forget for a moment that you know the meaning of “quantum supremacy,” the idea of a quantum computer outdoing its conventional counterpart. What does the phrase instantly bring to mind? Perhaps the idea that the quantum world, with its electrons, neutrons, and quarks, is, somehow, better than ours—more dazzling and awe-inspiring. Or perhaps it’s the […]
Should We Let English Eat the World?
Hideo Kojima is the Japanese creator of the 2015 video game, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He evidently chose “phantom pain” as a subtitle because he thought it captured the experience of being exiled, so to speak, from one’s first language. Kojima hints at its importance from the start of the game, with […]
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.
What Trump’s Simplified Language Means
On the last weekend in April, I was surprised that a panel called “The Press and President Trump,” held at the Columbia Journalism School, didn’t broach the subject of mental illness. Just over a week earlier, at a psychiatry conference at Yale, a group of the attendees announced that Trump has a “dangerous mental illness.” […]
God Created Consciousness in Fiction
Given his grandeur, pettiness, and complexity, and his capacity for introspection, he’s the major exception to the flatness of ancient characters—God.Illustration by Humphrey King / Flickr Many modern novels do something that the earliest literature sometimes seems incapable of doing—representing the inner life of the individual, in all its complexity. The history of literature has […]
Why Doesn’t Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings?
Literature’s evolution has reflected and spurred the growing complexity of society.
Is There Awareness Behind Vegetative States?
The answer to a simple question may show if someone’s really “home.”
Is the Chinese Language a Superstition Machine?
How ambiguity in language can create unique taboos.
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 […]