Articles on Language

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One way to see the value of meaning is to share information and cooperate with others. Mario Purisic/Unsplash

What do we mean by meaning? Science can help with that

The self-help books are full of advice on how to get meaning in life, but it helps to understand what meaning actually is. Science may be able to provide some answers.
Milling grain meant less wear and tear on neolithic teeth, which had other effects on language. Juan Aunion/Shutterstock.com

Softer, processed foods changed the way ancient humans spoke

Considering language from a biological perspective led researchers to the idea that new food processing technologies affected neolithic human beings' jaws – and allowed new language sounds to emerge.
One of the ways we work out what proto-language might have been like is by looking at languages which have developed from nothing in recent times. One of the best examples is Nicaraguan Sign Language. Unsplash/Jo Hilton

Curious Kids: how did spoken language start?

In the space of a few short years, deaf Nicaraguan school children created their own language. This example may give us a clue about how spoken language developed over thousands of years.
Inflammatory words can prime a mind. Elijah O'Donnell/Unsplash

Hearing hate speech primes your brain for hateful actions

A new theory of language suggests that people understand words by unconsciously simulating what they describe. Repeated exposure – and the simulation that comes with it – makes it easier to act.
Afrikaner descendants representing Argentina, South Africa today and the country’s old flag. Richard Finn Gregory / GOODWORK

Language and identity: lessons from a unique Afrikaans community in Patagonia

A small community of Afrikaners has been living in Argentina since the early 1900s. Linguistic research has found they're like a time capsule, reflecting pronunciation and syntax from an earlier era.
The coastline of Sulawesi, Indonesia, where languages and cultures are threatened by climate change. Anastasia Riehl

The impact of climate change on language loss

Approximately 7,000 languages are spoken in the world today, but only about half are expected to survive this century. One factor contributing to this loss is climate change.

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