Linguistics

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Lest we forget is an expression with dignified origins, a rich history and a budding linguistic fossil. E-Maxx

Lest we forget lest: Anzac and the language of remembrance

This Anzac Day the words "lest we forget" will often be spoken. It's a usage that we don't otherwise hear. Why do linguistic fossils such as "lest we forget" linger – and how do they help us remember the fallen?
Greater cultural literacy – and a dash of linguistics – could go a long way to improving relations. EPA/Adi Weda

Indonesia and Australia? You’d better watch your language

Australian interests are intimately tied with those of Indonesia – how might a greater understanding of linguistics and cultural nuance help?
From left to right. Mandarin employs a different part of the brain. Chinese man via XiXinXing/Shutterstock

If you speak Mandarin, your brain is different

Language is traditionally associated with the left side of the brain. But Mandarin speakers are using the right side.
We could all pay better attention to what comes out our mouth. Emmanuel Szép

Mansplaining the word of the year – and why it matters

The Macquarie Dictionary last week named “mansplain” its word of the year for 2014. The Dictionary defines mansplain as: verb (t) Colloquial (humorous) (of a man) to explain (something) to a woman, in…
One thing’s clear, there’s a whole lot of duckspeak afoot. Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography/Flickr

Will Self, George Orwell and … what’s he newspeaking about?

Writer Will Self grabbed headlines earlier this week by referring to George Orwell as the “Supreme Mediocrity”. He wrote: The curious thing is that while during the post-war period we’ve had many political…
Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu speak the same language when distancing themselves from the killing of civilians in military operations. EPA/Haim Zach/Israeli government press office

MH17, Iraq, Gaza and the deadly verbal dance around killing people

Some years back, award-winning British journalist Robert Fisk wrote an article in which he stated the apparent tautology that “murder is murder”. Fisk was writing on Israel’s policy of “targeted killing…
Talk to me, Dad. Father and son via sashahaltam/Shutterstock

Talking to your babies could help them do better at school

The rate at which children learn language varies substantially from child to child. Some children show rapid vocabulary growth before they go to school, while others learn so slowly that they can end up…
Can the concept of a generation cover all the diverse people of a certain age cohort in an intellectually useful way? Artens/Shutterstock

Talkin' ‘bout a generation: understanding youth and change

Making sense of what is happening in our own time requires sharp thinking. Today, however, catch-phrases and clichés abound. More specifically we rely on cliches about generations. Journalists, bestselling…
Well-coined neologisms have the potential to go viral – but their survival isn’t guaranteed. possumgirl2

Will anyone bat for the frightbat, or is it destined to die?

As you may have seen, the Daily Telegraph blogger Tim Blair ran a much-tweeted-about poll yesterday asking: “Who is Australia’s craziest left-wing frightbat?”. Leaving aside the backlash, which was considerable…
Is using a vast vocabulary such a good thing anyway? Candice Albach/ Raul Pacheco Vega

Shakespeare had fewer words, but doper rhymes, than rappers

New York-based data scientist and designer Matt Daniels recently noted Shakespeare’s much touted vast vocabulary and charted how many different words Shakespeare used in comparison to contemporary hip-hop…
The two most prolific meanings for wink are those referring to sleep and that thing Tony did. lintmachine

One man’s wink is another’s winken – what did Abbott do?

Tony Abbott isn’t the first pollie to get into trouble with a wink. He’s now in good company with American Tea Party darling Sarah Palin. Palin’s notorious winks left voters in the 2008 American campaign…
Joe Hockey’s budget speech forgot the age-old rules of rhetoric, which he needed to observe if he wanted to control ‘the narrative’. Lukas Coch/AAP

In government, a mantra is not enough to control the narrative

The annual federal budget speech is the one required speech of the Australian political calendar. And it goes all the way back to Federation. It’s Australia’s equivalent of the State of the Union address…

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