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Your search has returned 38 articles:
  • News

    The rise of farming altered our bite and changed how people talk

    Humankind’s gift of gab is not set in stone, and farming could help to explain why.

    Over the last 6,000 years or so, farming societies increasingly have substituted processed dairy and grain products for tougher-to-chew game meat and wild plants common in hunter-gatherer diets. Switching to those diets of softer, processed foods altered people’s jaw structure over time, rendering certain...

    03/14/2019 - 14:00 Language, Anthropology, Human Evolution
  • News

    Artificial intelligence is learning not to be so literal

    HONOLULU — Artificial intelligence is starting to learn how to read between the lines.

    AI systems are generally good at responding to direct statements, like “Siri, tell me the weather” or “Alexa, play ‘Despacito’.” But machines can’t yet make small talk the way humans do, says Yejin Choi, a natural language processing researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. When it comes...

    02/05/2019 - 06:00 Artificial Intelligence, Language, Technology
  • News

    Here’s what makes satire so funny, according to science

    HONOLULU — Good news for aspiring satirists: Scientific analysis of real and joke headlines has uncovered a hack for writing witty one-liners.

    To identify the secret ingredients of satire, researchers compared farcical headlines with nearly identical, but unfunny headlines. The investigation, presented January 31 at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, revealed a strategy for...

    02/01/2019 - 14:39 Language, Science & Society, Technology
  • News

    Huge ‘word gap’ holding back low-income children may not exist after all

    A scientific takedown of a famous finding known as the 30-million-word gap may upend popular notions of how kids learn vocabulary.

    Research conducted more than 20 years ago concluded that by age 4, poor children hear an average of 30 million fewer words than their well-off peers. Since then, many researchers have accepted the reported word gap as a driver of later reading and writing...

    09/04/2018 - 05:30 Psychology, Language
  • News

    The window for learning a language may stay open surprisingly long

    Language learning isn’t kid stuff anymore. In fact, it never was, a provocative new study concludes.

    A crucial period for learning the rules and structure of a language lasts up to around age 17 or 18, say psychologist Joshua Hartshorne of MIT and colleagues.

    Previous research had suggested that grammar-learning ability flourished in early childhood before hitting a dead end around...

    05/11/2018 - 11:02 Language, Psychology
  • News in Brief

    The southern drawl gets deconstructed

    BOSTON — Some aspects of speech are as Southern as pecan pie. Consider the vowel shift that makes the word pie sound more like “pah.” While that pronunciation is found from Florida to Texas, a new study reveals a surprising diversity in Southern vowel pronunciation that’s linked to a speaker’s age, social class, gender, race and geography.

    The research, presented June 29 at a meeting of...

    06/30/2017 - 15:14 Anthropology, Language
  • News

    Twisted textile cords may contain clues to Inca messages

    Animal-hair cords dating to the late 1700s contain a writing system that might generate insights into how the Inca communicated, a new study suggests.

    Researchers have long wondered whether some twisted and knotted cords from the Inca Empire, which ran from 1400 to 1532, represent a kind of writing about events and people. Many scholars suspect that these textile artifacts, known as...

    05/08/2017 - 09:00 Archaeology, Anthropology, Language
  • News

    Homo naledi’s brain shows humanlike features

    NEW ORLEANS — A relatively small brain can pack a big evolutionary punch. Consider Homo naledi, a famously puzzling fossil species in the human genus. Despite having a brain only slightly larger than a chimpanzee’s, H. naledi displays key humanlike neural features, two anthropologists reported April 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

    Those...

    04/25/2017 - 12:08 Human Evolution, Anthropology, Language
  • News

    Monkeys have vocal tools, but not brains, to talk like humans

    Macaque monkeys would be quite talkative if only their brains cooperated with their airways, a new study suggests.

    These primates possess the vocal equipment to speak much as people do, say evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist W. Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna and colleagues. But macaques lack brains capable of transforming that vocal potential into human talk. As a...

    12/19/2016 - 07:00 Anthropology, Language, Human Evolution
  • News

    Oldest alphabet identified as Hebrew

    SAN ANTONIO — The world’s earliest alphabet, inscribed on stone slabs at several Egyptian sites, was an early form of Hebrew, a controversial new analysis concludes.

    Israelites living in Egypt transformed that civilization’s hieroglyphics into Hebrew 1.0 more than 3,800 years ago, at a time when the Old Testament describes Jews living in Egypt, says archaeologist and epigrapher Douglas...

    11/19/2016 - 08:00 Language, Archaeology