Category Archives: Language

Europe’s first farmers

EIGHT thousand years ago small bands of seminomadic hunter-gatherers were the only human beings roaming Europe’s lush, green forests. Archaeological digs in caves and elsewhere have turned up evidence of their Mesolithic technology: flint-tipped tools with which they fished, hunted deer and aurochs (a now extinct species of ox), and gathered wild plants. Many had dark hair and blue eyes, recent genetic studies suggest, and the few skeletons unearthed so far indicate that they were quite tall and muscular. Their languages remain mysterious to this day…

First farmer of the Linear Pottery Culture in Neolithic Central Europe. Illustration: Karol Schauer, State Museum of Prehistory in Halle (Saale), Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Scientific American. To continue reading, click here.

Tongue twisters

IN 1882, linguists were electrified by the publication of a lost language—one supposedly spoken by the extinct Taensa people of Louisiana—because it bore hardly any relation to the languages of other Native American peoples of that region. The Taensa grammar was so unusual they were convinced it could teach them something momentous either about the region’s history, or the way that languages evolve, or both…

George Catlin (American, 1796 – 1872 ), Chief of the Taensa Indians Receiving La Salle. March 20, 1682, 1847/1848, oil on canvas, Paul Mellon Collection

This article was first published in Slate on 30 October 2019. To continue reading, click here.

The AI composer

COMPUTER scientist Luc Steels uses artificial intelligence to explore the origins and evolution of language. He is best known for his 1999–2001 Talking Heads Experiment, in which robots had to construct a language from scratch to communicate with each other. Now Steels, who works at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), has composed an opera based on the legend of Faust, with a twenty-first-century twist. He talks about Mozart as a nascent computer programmer, how music maps onto language, and the blurred boundaries of a digitized world….

Luc Steels presents an extract of Fausto at the Gaîté Lyrique theatre in Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared in Nature on 14 September 2017. To continue reading, click here.

 

 

The shared past that wasn’t

STRANGE things have been happening in the news lately. Already this year, members of US President Donald Trump’s administration have alluded to a ‘Bowling Green massacre’ and terror attacks in Sweden and Atlanta, Georgia, that never happened…

By South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article first appeared in Nature on 7 March 2017. To continue reading, click here.