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"Rhetoric may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." That's Aristotle, writing in the fourth century BCE. Most of the wiles and schemes by which modern-day crafters of clickbait entice you to take the fateful step of clicking on a link were anticipated by the Master.  Continue reading...
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Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has recently written a book, Six Amendments, in which he proposes changes to the United States Constitution. I was curious to examine the language of Justice Stevens' book to get a better handle on what he perceives as the faulty connection between the Constitution's words and today's reality that may have arisen from the way we have interpreted those words.  Continue reading...
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Many popular Internet memes rely on a usually predictable manipulation of language as a part of their humor. Examining a number of popular memes suggests that they all in fact rely on theme and variation in order to proliferate, and the linguistic aspect of the meme is integral to its ability to spawn siblings and offspring.  Continue reading...
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Now that we're in the brave new world of the 21st century, there may be a challenger to the monopoly that human languages enjoy in complex and fully functional grammars, and the challenge may come from robots. There is no need for alarm, but if the hunch of robotic researchers is confirmed, it's possible that in due course, a natural grammar will emerge from the robots' linguistic interactions.  Continue reading...
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An intriguing new theory holds that Egyptian animal mummies were intended as messages to the gods. The theory is yet more fodder for an age-old problem: how do we reconcile our dependence as humans upon language to communicate to divine beings who in nearly all cases are thought to have pre-existed the emergence of languages that we use and who could never have learned them in the natural way that we do?  Continue reading...
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If you read the Visual Thesaurus Word of the Day you know that it often explores word origins. Even without keeping count, you are probably vaguely aware that the language mentioned more often than any other besides English is Latin. Statistics about the English lexicon reflect this.  Continue reading...
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Years ago, when the furniture in the Language Lounge was still spick-and-span, I wrote a column about reduplication. Not a day has passed since then that I did not use, hear, and delight in one or more reduplicative words; they constitute a reliable source of infotainment in English, and no speaker's lexicon can or should be without a ready supply.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 116 Articles