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Your search has returned 38 articles:
  • Context

    Tom Wolfe’s denial of language evolution stumbles over his own words

    Language is a tricky thing to write about. You’re using it while dissecting it. That sort of recursion can trip you up. As a philosopher friend of mine once said, a zoologist studying tigers, while riding on the back of a tiger, should be very careful.

    Of all the writers who’ve ever taken on the task of writing about language, nobody of any consequence has ever tripped himself up quite...

    10/19/2016 - 08:00 Language, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    Cognitive scientist puts profanity in its place

    What the FBenjamin K. BergenBasic Books, $27.99

    Few of the expletives discussed in cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen’s new book can be spelled out in this review. But Bergen argues, in a bluntly engaging way, that the largely secret science of swearing reveals much about who we are.

    Based on surveys of what people in several Western nations regard as unacceptable, the...

    09/05/2016 - 07:00 Language, Psychology
  • News

    Dog brains divide language tasks much like humans do

    View the video

    Editor’s note: When reporting results from the functional MRI scans of dogs’ brains, left and right were accidentally reversed in all images, the researchers report in a correction posted April 7 in Science. While dogs and most humans use different hemispheres of the brain to process meaning and intonation — instead of the same hemispheres, as was suggested — lead author...

    08/30/2016 - 15:49 Animals, Language, Neuroscience
  • Television

    Documentary looks for meaning in Koko the gorilla’s life

    For the last four decades, Koko, the world’s most famous gorilla, has lived in a trailer in Silicon Valley, the subject of the longest-running project on ape sign language. With a reported vocabulary of hundreds of signs, Koko has appeared to express feelings almost anyone can relate to — a love of kittens, a desire to be a mother.

    A new PBS documentary argues that Koko’s remarkable life...

    07/10/2016 - 09:00 Animals, Anthropology, Language
  • News

    Words’ meanings mapped in the brain

    In the brain, language pops up everywhere.

    All across the wrinkly expanse of the brain’s outer layer, a constellation of different regions handle the meaning of language, scientists report online April 27 in Nature.

    One region that responds to “family,” “home” and “mother,” for example, rests in a tiny chunk of tissue on the right side of the brain, above and behind the ear. That...

    04/27/2016 - 13:07 Neuroscience, Language
  • News

    Gelada monkeys know their linguistic math

    The grunts, moans and wobbles of gelada monkeys, a chatty species residing in Ethiopia’s northern highlands, observe a universal mathematical principle seen until now only in human language.

    The new research, published online April 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on the evolution of primate communication and complex human language, the researchers...

    04/22/2016 - 13:10 Language, Animals, Evolution
  • News

    No fairy tale: Origins of some famous stories go back thousands of years

    “Beauty and the Beast” is practically “a tale as old as time.” So are a few other folktales, new research shows.

    Statistical ties between a set of folktales and languages from parts of Europe and Asia have helped researchers date the origins of some stories to thousands of years ago. The roots of the oldest one — a folktale called “The Smith and the Devil” — stretch back to the Bronze...

    01/19/2016 - 19:05 Ancestry, Language, Anthropology
  • Reviews & Previews

    An amusing romp through word histories

    Written in StoneChristopher StevensPegasus Books, $27.95

    All these words we speak arose somewhere. But what do acrid, acme and acrophobia have in common? They all derive from the ancient Indo-European word ak, which meant sharp, quick or high and pointy.

    Imagine such a language, sprinkled with onomatopoeia. Ak sounds sharp. Mei, the ancient word for smile, goes nicely with the...

    10/17/2015 - 08:00 Language, Science & Society
  • News

    Handed-down tales tell of ancient sea level rise

    Australian Aborigines relate some of the oldest memories in the world, a controversial new study suggests.

    Aboriginal groups from every part of Australia’s coastline tell stories of long-ago deluges that can be traced to real events caused by rising sea levels at various times between around 7,250 and 13,070 years ago, two Australian researchers report September 7 in the Australian...

    09/22/2015 - 12:45 Anthropology, Language
  • How Bizarre

    Whistled language uses both sides of the brain

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    Amid the mountains of northeast Turkey, people whistle messages that ring across valleys like ornate bird songs. Unlike with hearing spoken languages, listeners who understand this rare form of communication rely on both sides of their brains, a new study suggests.

    For most people, the left side of the brain does the heavy lifting in understanding speech. But when...

    08/21/2015 - 11:45 Neuroscience, Language