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Articles on Linguistics

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Words can have a powerful effect on people, even when they’re generated by an unthinking machine. iStock via Getty Images

Google’s powerful AI spotlights a human cognitive glitch: Mistaking fluent speech for fluent thought

Fluent expression is not always evidence of a mind at work, but the human brain is primed to believe so. A pair of cognitive linguistics experts explain why language is not a good test of sentience.
A view of the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

How ‘gate’ became the syllable of scandal

Many of the coinages fail to differentiate the mundane from the momentous. Has the suffix’s overuse rendered it essentially meaningless?
In Canada, the French and English languages generally peacefully coexist. Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Conflicts over language stretch far beyond Russia and Ukraine

It’s common for people to live near others who speak a different – but similar – language. But generally, they handle their differences without violence.
When you imitate the speech of others, there’s a thin line between whether it’s a social asset or faux pas. Franklin McMahon/Corbis via Getty Images

What makes us subconsciously mimic the accents of others in conversation

We often imitate styles of speech we hear – what’s known as ‘linguistic convergence.’ But a researcher wanted to see if we alter our speech based on the mere expectation of how someone will sound.
A woman holds a placard with the words ‘language is a weapon’ written in Ukrainian during a 2020 protest of a bill that sought to widen the use of Russian in Ukrainian public education. Evgen Kotenko/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Long before shots were fired, a linguistic power struggle was playing out in Ukraine

To Russian nationalists, if the Ukrainian language is classified as a derivative of the Russian language, the invasion looks less like an act of aggression and more like reintegration.

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