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Silly Linguistics The Magazine for Language Lovers

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We here at Silly Linguistics love language and linguistics. We discuss etymology and where words come from. We look at the social impact of words and how words shape the world around us. Languages are fundamentally human and they touch all parts of our lives. Discover all this and more in our magazine Silly Linguistics

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Issue 64
Issue 71

Issue 71 – April 2024

Excerpts from our articles

Silly Linguistics Trivia #2

“My name is Forest, and I’m a trivia writer and host of FWD Trivia and KLCC’s weekly radio show The Conundrum on the West Coast of the USA. Here I’ll be doing a regular quiz for all of you with the goal of sharing my love for both puzzles and language. This month’s quiz has a food theme. Feel free to let me know how you did and if you have any thoughts about this or for future quizzes”

By Forest

A Bird’s Eye View

“What Do Our Names for Birds Say About the English Language, It’s Spread, and Its Relationship to the Environment? In the mid-18th century, Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus, real name Carl Linne, recognizing the necessity and difficulty in naming nature’s huge variety of species, came up with what we today call binomial nomenclature. That is, each species is to be designated a two-part Latin-based name: the first part referring to the genus, which is to also be applied to closely related species, and the second part designating the species within that genus group.”

By Trevor Attenberg

Inscripts – Writing as Technology

“It’s important to highlight this idea that we create and develop this complexity of language and these linguistic features every single day as we interact with our environment. Reflect on how your use of language
has developed over the past five, ten, and fifteen years. Parallel that reflection with how your use of technology has developed, and remember that even rudimentary
things that we use every single day were once an innovation that was simultaneously loved and feared.”

By Reagan O’Brien

Be!rs: How Taboos Work Their Way into Our Language

“Social prohibitions of words work their way into our lives daily. Some topics we like to avoid in daily speech in this way might be death, menstruation, and blasphemy. Now, while ancient Germanic tribes may not have worried about the manner in which they spoke about death, they did worry about bears. Now, if we go back to the Proto-Indoeuropean (PIE) word for “bear,” it is reconstructed as *rkso- or *rtko-. We see this continued into Latin in their word “ursa,” and French “ours,” but what about English “bear/bruin,” German “baer,” and Dutch “beer”?”

By Skylar Millet

Arrival: The Lexicon of Aliens

“The aliens that arrive on earth in the film speak one of two languages. Heptapod A and Heptapod B. For this article, we’ll be focusing on Heptapod B, the written language of the extraterrestrials that have been introduced. The genius of the logograms in this particular dialect is that it isn’t linear. Instead, they are written in circular symbols that express their sentences. You do not read it from right to left or top to bottom, because their sentences appear fully formed as a whole since they do not experience time as we do.”

By Samantha Steyn

Language around Sognefjord in Western Norway: the Aurland dialect and ancient language

“Norwegian dialects are to me, a very interesting subject, which I have written about many times before. Whilst a few years ago I would have said that the Nordland dialects of Norwegian (in Northern Norway) are the prettiest, in my opinion; the more that I listen to the Sognefjord and other western Norwegian dialects, the more I think: “hmm, I like these a lot too.” Sognefjord is Norway’s longest fjord, as well as being the deepest fjord in Norway, with a maximum depth of 4,291 feet, or 1,308 metres. The local Norwegian dialects spoken around the fjord are collectively referred to as Sognemål, or Sognemaol in local pronunciation.”

By Linden Alexander Pentecost

Issue 70

Issue 70 – March 2024

Excerpts from our articles

ASL? “Sign” me up!

“Sign language, on the other hand, seems joyful, lyrical, colorful and passionate. What people don’t realize is sign language is enjoyed and eagerly utilized by the gifted as well as the “Average Joe’s” in society. These factors, from varying demands and requirements for proper execution, then, bring sign language to the forefront in terms of clear and concise communication.”

By Angela J. Olney

Star Trek – Would the Tamarian language actually work?

“In the second episode of season 5, the Enterprise meets a ship of a species called the Tamarians. Never before has the Federation made meaningful contact with this species, because they were in general believed to not very intelligent. Mostly, because they spoke in ways no one understood. Captain Picard is stranded with one of those Tamarians, and is exposed to a language that seems to only work with metaphors. From my point of view, such a language would never work out as the only option of communication for a humanoid species, and I will walk you through why.”

By Lydia Pryba

The Rich Salad of Pronouns in Indonesian Languages

“In Indonesian languages, the choice of pronouns is not merely about grammatical correctness but carries significant weight in expressing respect, politeness, and social standing. The choices made during communication give subtle yet essential information about the relationships between speakers.”

By Baihaqi Hakim

Identity

“I don’t want a box or a label, boxes were so confusing when I was coming to terms with who I was.” Her wife Liza agreed, saying that the words can be a huge problem, putting labels on something that doesn’t need a label. She felt labels were only useful for other people, such as her parents, not for herself; breaking her down into component parts it was easier for others to process the situation. “It’s more that they need labels to understand you, but it can be damaging for you.”

By MJ Buckman

Speak Like Yoda You Can. Like Yoda Speak Can You. Confused, I am

“When Master Yoda makes his grand debut in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), aside from his curious design – courtesy of motion picture make-up artist Stuart Freeborn –, it is his speech pattern that is certain to leave a lasting impact. If Star Wars internal lore frames Yoda’s manner of expression as a vestige of an ancient version of the Basic Galactic, most of these inconsistencies are explained by external cinematographic necessities – most notably, the need for emphasis and memorability for his pearls of wisdom.”

By Nicole Lorenzoni

Trivia

“Trivia Welcome to the first Silly Linguistics Quiz. My name is Forest, and I’m a trivia writer and host of FWD Trivia on the West Coast of the USA. Here I’ll be doing a regular quiz for all of you with the goal of sharing my love for both puzzles and language. This month’s quiz has a miscellaneous theme.”

By Forest

Issue 69

Issue 69 – February 2024

Excerpts from our articles

Of N9’s and marking time

“Since the advent of the first language ever to visit upon us as people, there has been ample opportunity to misinterpret said language. Communication is difficult
enough when we don’t adhere to cardinal rules, such as listening to hear, limiting distractions and assumptions and speaking clearly and concisely”

By Angela J. Olney

Slang

“Slang takes traditional words and phrases and manipulates them to convey coded messages within a group. It can be used to communicate in a unique and affirming way, even reclaiming old slurs, but it can also be used in a derogatory and divisive way by
one group about another.”

By MJ Brukman

Does Speaking A Language Matter?

“I can tell you some basic grammar points about Mandarin Chinese, introduce myself in Russian, and even count to 10 in Turkish. But I’m not fluent in those languages. I probably never will be. Fluency requires a lot of time and hard work. What am I fluent in? English, that’s a no-brainer, and Portuguese. I moved to Brazil where I didn’t understand anything and couldn’t say anything. That was okay because I learned. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy by any means. Most importantly, I learned HOW to learn.”

By Michael Simpson

Egbert’s Ineffable Taco Experience: The Inability of Language to Directly Describe Conscious, Sensory Experience

“I would like to discuss the problems language has with certain aspects of conscious, sensory experience. Nobody really knows what consciousness is, but for our purposes we can say that conscious experience probably requires a selfawareness on the part of the organism having the experience. Conscious senosry experience is central to our ways of being in the world (as well as for many living organisms). Human language has developed in such a way that it can describe so many different experiences and phenomena with a high degree of accuracy”

By Marc W. Cole

Out of the Mouth of Babes: How Babies Cry in different languages

“When I hear a baby cry, being a great-grandmother, I am always on alert. So are researchers in Würzburg, Germany, but for varied reasons. Researchers in Würzburg, Germany completed a study that determined that babies cry in different languages. According to The New York Times , Kathleen Wermke, Ph.D., a specialist in infant language, found “that baby cries reflect the rhythm and melody of the speech they heard” before they are even born. By recording the cries of various babies, it was discovered that German babies’ cries mimicked the sounds associated with the same speech patterns of the language they heard in the womb”

By Patricia Syner

The mysterious Béarlagair na Saor – an ancient language of Munster in Ireland?

“Béarlagair na Saor, “Jargon of the stone masons”, is a largely unknown, and very mysterious language, once spoken by stone masons in the province of Munster, in the southwestern corner of Ireland. It seems that, in recorded history, the language was found particularly in County Cork, in Irish: Contae Chorcaí. But Béarlagair na Saor, whatever it is, gives us a glimpse of another, possibly ancient language present within Munster, as well as the Ogham Irish language, and of course the dialects of Munster Irish spoken in Munster.”

By Linden Alexander Pentecost

Latest Issues Read & Download

Top Stories

Six Fun Dutch Words

By Michael Simpson I’ve always enjoyed the weird words in other languages that just make the language feel more unique. 

Language party

From Silly Linguistics Issue #5 October 2018 By Alexandra Gough The way I see it, French is a bit like

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Balancing Acts

By Georgie O’Mara One of my favourite hobbies is reading the Chinese translations of signs around my city. Mandarin, mostly.