Monthly Archives: March 2012

Palindromist from Portland wins prize

If you’re a word geek, you probably already know all about the World Palindrome Championships, whose inaugural event was held a couple of weeks ago in Brooklyn. Held as part of the larger American Crossword Tournament, the Championships featured six expert palindromists facing off against each other to see who would be crowned the best. […]


Guaraní: A flourishing indigenous language?

A fascinating article in the New York Times takes a look at Guaraní, an indigenous language of Paraguay that is spoken by an estimated 90% of the population. We often hear of indigenous languages dying out because of lack of speakers, but Guaraní is different. It’s been supported by governments throughout history, including dictators who […]


Introducing the man who ‘simplified’ Chinese

Students trying to learn Chinese might be surprised to read this, but one man helped simplify the language by creating Pinyin. Pinyin is the writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using the Roman alphabet; it’s been credited with improving the literacy rate in China as well as making it easier for people across […]


The language of Mad Men

Mad Men returns for its fifth season this weekend; whilst we all wait to see what Don will do next, take a look at this article from The Atlantic on the historical accuracy of the language used. The show is lauded for its attention to period detail, particularly the costumes, but Benjamin Schmidt argues that […]


Dictionary untouched by human hands

Thought all dictionaries were hand crafted by old men in dusty basements working late into the night? Not this one. Wordnik, an online dictionary, uses automatic programmes to trawl the web and come up with definitions. It looks at “…the texts of news feeds, archived broadcasts, the blogosphere, Twitter posts and dozens of other sources […]


Your voice: different language

The aim of many language learners is to hear themselves speaking in another language. New technology could provide this – without having to actually learn the language! New software from Microsoft can ‘learn’ the sound of your voice, then use it to speak your target language. Apparently the software needs around an hour of training […]


How typing may shape meaning

In strange new research news, apparently the layout of your keyboard may have an affect on how we perceive meaning in the words we type. According to researchers from University College London, we may be “connecting the meanings of the words with the physical way they’re typed on the keyboard”, in what they’ve termed the […]