American Sign Language 101

aslAmerican Sign Language (ASL) is a language that is distinctly different from English. It contains all the fundamental features of a language such as rules for pronunciation, word order and complex grammar.

Every language employs different strategies to distinguish when a question versus a statement is being raised. For example, English speakers ask a question by raising the pitch of their voices whereas ASL users ask a question by raising their eyebrows, widening their eyes, and tilting their bodies forward.

In addition to individual differences in expression, ASL has regional variations in the rhythm of signing, form, and pronunciation.

If you would like to learn some ASL take a look at this video

abletranslations.com

How to Overcome Common Linguistic Problems

LinguisticsThe interpretation process has many elements and can be
ineffective if not properly managed. Here are a few tips
to overcome possible linguistic barriers when using an
interpreter:

Technical Terms
It is always advisable not to use technical terms when speaking to a client
who may not understand them. However, if it is absolutely necessary, give the
interpreter an opportunity to look up the term in a dictionary, or accompany
the term with a description or an explanation of its purpose. The
interpreter should also be encouraged to show the client pictures
if available.

Idioms
An idiom is a figure of speech that expresses an idea in a way that is unique
to the language in question. It is usually hard to avoid using idioms, just
be mindful that it may take the interpreter a little longer to apply an
appropriate equivalent in the client’s language.

Inarticulate Clients
There are occasions where the client may not be the best at expressing his or
herself and therefore does not appropriately answer a question or provide
a complete thought. One should never assume that the interpreter is at
fault. Asking the client clarification questions is a good way to ensure that
the message is being delivered effectively.

Dialectical or Regional Differences
Some languages are spoken in several different countries and as a result
there may be regional variations in usage. A trained interpreter will be
able to deal with dialectical differences. But if you are aware that the
client and the interpreter are not from the same country, you can avoid
problems by giving the interpreter a little extra time to work around
regional variations and avoid misunderstandings.

abletranslations.com

What Makes a Word Profane?

George-CarlinLife is demanding, it may not always be but it has its moments, and from time to time that demand builds up and makes us feel stressed. This can because of too many things on the go or just something that needs to get done but you have been leaving on the backburner. There are many pervasive things that cause stress and then there are other things that are more individual, for some that is meeting the in-laws while for others it is doing a speech in front of a crowded room.

Generally speaking stress is exertion, mental or physical, that is overly demanding and if exposed to it for long periods of time can cause major health issues. HelpGuide.com says:

“Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process.”

Now all of this may sound stressful in of itself and albeit it somewhat is, but did you know that swearing can relieve stress and pain?

In a study performed by researchers at Researchers at Keele University, in Staffordshire, England it was shown that swearing or using offensive phrases while under painful or stressful situations reduced the pain or stress the individual was feeling. This is because, the researchers hypothesised, swearing sets in a type of flight or flight response within the brain reducing the effect that the pain or stress has and allowing people to increase their tolerance level.

One researcher, Dr. Richard Stephens, described the study’s results and its connection to human language thusly: ”Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon. It taps into emotional brain centres and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists.”

The relief one gets when using bad words is called Lalochezia and it comes from cathartic swearing. Cathartic swearing is the use of bad words for an emotional release of some kind and it is one of the five forms of swearing that were outlined by Stephen Pinker when discussing the topic of cursing in language in his book “The Stuff of Thought”.

Five Forms of Swearing:

  1. Abusive swearing – for abuse or intimidation or insulting of others. This is the usage that swearing is normally associated.
  2. Cathartic swearing – when something bad happens like coffee spilling, people curse. One evolutionary theory asserts it is meant to tell the audience that you’re undergoing a negative emotion.
  3. Dysphemistic swearing – Exact opposite of euphemism. Forces listener to think about negative or provocative matter. Using the wrong euphemism has a dysphemistic effect.
  4. Idiomatic swearing – swearing without really referring to the matter.. just using the words to arouse interest, to show off, and express to peers that the setting is informal.
  5. Emphatic swearing – to emphasize something with swearing.

Each type of swearing has its own purpose and is utilized to convey a specific meaning although some are more relevant and useful than others. Just like any other element of language it has its place within the language itself and is a recognized part of that language even if it is obscene and frowned upon.

It is because of this lack of social acceptance that swear words gain their power and their meaning. Every bad word has its socially accepted counterpart and yet we still need those words to convey a specific meaning which cannot be found in its counterpart.

How then does a word go from being a regular word that is used every day to something known as profanity?

This answer is different for every language as it is based in its history. For English it comes down to the original speakers of the language. During the infancy of the English language there were two major groups who were broken into classes. There was the Saxons who were in the lower class and talked with a Germanic language and then there was the upper class which was made up of Normans who spoke a Latin based language.

These two groups built the English language through their interactions and over time the two separate languages amalgamating into one. But while this was happening the two languages were still very much separate and because the lower class’ language was more Germanic in roots it gave birth to English words which were not as sophisticated and more guttural in nature. While on the other hand the words that came from the Latin roots, which were spoken by the ruling class, developed into more refined words which were treated as proper forms of their Germanic equivalents.

Both sides could develop a word that was defined in the very same way but because of its roots its connotation was established and denoted. Many if not all of the swear words we use today are the consequence of the separation of classes and come from the Germanic side of the fence while the words that represent the same thing but are socially acceptable are Latin in roots.

George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” is probably one of the most famous examples of swearing as it brings together seven of the most socially unacceptable words, but that was back in 1972 when you could be arrested for saying such words, which Carlin was when he performed the bit at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Today, most of those seven words can now be heard across all forms of media. On twitter alone, every second 22 of the words Carlin said could not be said on television are tweeted out into the world to frolic in all their glory.

Swearing is changing and evolving which makes logical sense as the English language itself evolves over time. The words we use today for swearing will more than likely change and we will more than likely see the rise of new swear words which do not exist in today’s language. We cannot say for certain whether or not a word will be viewed as profane in the future or what words will arise as profanities but one thing that is for certain is that swear words will always play an integral part in language.

The Confusing Words for Small Number Sets

question-mark-faceTechnology has taken hold of our lives and it is not letting go.

To some this statement may seem post-apocalyptical or at least a sign of when the robots rise up, laying siege to our society and eventually taking over our world, playing out the plot of the countless robot movies on the world stage. But, more rationally speaking this is not the case. We have been using technology ever since we became what we call man.

The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes is the definition of technology and as one can tell it is both very broad and vague. In other words all we can really say about technology is that it is the application of knowledge for practical purposes.

Technology started out as fire and the wheel but has now turned into cell phones loaded with apps and the internet. These advances have done a great many things for society but one new thing that has come into the fold is the idea of the quantified self.

The quantified self is the utilization of large amounts of aggregate data for the purposes of understanding ourselves in a numerical fashion. This practice gives us a new insight into ourselves that would not be otherwise available without us having to waste our day away recording all the information by hand. With devices like fitness bands and mobile apps which allow users to see numerical representations of their lives, individuals can both understand themselves in a different light and then compare themselves for the purpose of self-improvement.

At the end of the day you could take a look at your app and see you have walked this many steps, taken in this many calories, burned this many calories and so on. The result is a list of information on your life and who you are. Taking all that information over a year in order to find your daily average could be incredibly insightful as you would see what your average day is like in comparison to someone else’s average day, the countries average, or the world’s average over an entire year. Or you could go further and quantify all of your actions for your entire life and see how many steps you took in a lifetime.

This whole process of knowing exact numbers for representing our lives is handy to say the least and far easier than tracking it mentally or on paper which more than likely would turn into generalizations and guesses for  most people. The internal dialog would probably turn into something like this:

“We only had a couple French fries at lunch today”

“You know that a couple means 2 or 3, right?”

“Well we had a few then”

“So 5? We only had 5 fries? Or is it less than that?”

“Well it wasn’t many”

As you can see there is much more value in exact numbers than range values, it’s easier to understand a specific number rather than a range. But what are the actual definitions for words like couple, few, handful, several, some and many?

Word Range
A Couple 2-3
A Few More than a couple less than some
Some More than a few less than several
Several More than some less than many
Many More than several, large quantity
A Handful Quantity that fills the hand

 

While it would be nice to have exact numerical representations for each of these words the language has made them variable words which only represent as much as you want them to at the time when they are used. For the most part they could all be used to present three of something at any given time, which in of itself is perplexing.

Now imagine if we had no definitive numbers and only variable words like the ones we just went over?

It just so happens that there is a tribe in the Amazon called the Pirahã which has this exact element in their language system. They have no way of differentiating between certain number sets because the words they have are built around variable number words.

In 2008 Michael Frank published a set of experiments with the tribe.

For the first one he gathered groups of spool and placed them in ascending order from 1 to 10 and asked the Pirahã members to label each group. The single spool was given a unique word, another word was used to label the groups from 2 to 3 and then groups from 4 to 10 were all given the same word.

A second experiment was done in the opposite fashion; Pirahã members were asked to label the spool groups from 10 to 1 rather than 1 to 10. Surprisingly the same three words were used but this time to represent different things. This time the spools from 1 to 5 were all labeled using the word that had previously been reserved for a single spool, the spool groups from 6 to 8 were labeled using the middle value word and 9-10 were all given the large value descriptive.

In some ways this seems alien because we are so used to having exact values for specific quantities but the Pirahã tribe only represents things as small, medium or large. With all the languages in the world it is always fascinating to find a language that is so different than the rest of the world. While we find our general number set descriptors as confusing and clunky for the Pirahã tribe that is all they know.

The Explanatory Gap

hard-problem-by-jolyon-trosciankoImagine a world where everything is in black and white. From the green grass to the blue sky to the many colours of life that surround you, all of it and everything else, just a shade somewhere between black and white. You are a person that has just landed in this place of grey and you are the only one who has experienced a world of colour. None of the people around you has ever experienced the multi-coloured majesty that is a setting sun or the arching rays of colours that make up a rainbow.

Now imagine trying to explain to one of these people what colour is…

How would you do it? Do you even think you could?

No matter how hard you tried to put together an explanation you would fail to find words that are not exact representations of the colour itself.

We can explain a chair to someone who has never seen one by explaining its features and its purpose but we cannot find the same words that aptly describe a colour. Something is just red or blue. It can be a version of that colour by being lighter or darker but beyond that we rely on the visual cue itself and our past experiences to understand it.

We live in a world with colour. Our eyes are constantly taking in colours and other information that is around us and then processing it. Storing all the data up and building neural pathways based on the information and our experiences with it. This is how we learn and how we grow.

Say you are a experiencing some event with a group of friends, for example a concert. Even though you may be sitting side by side having a similar view and experiencing the exact same event your mind and their’s are processing the event in very different ways. While they may experience the same music at the same concert it is actually completely different. It is subjective. Each person at the concert is having their own experience and this individual instance of subjective, conscious experience that everyone is having is called qualia.

Qualia itself relates to the experience and how our perceptions of it are individual. Due to the fact that I cannot think the same way you, the reader, are thinking I cannot know how you view things or how you process them. I can only know my own mind and my own experiences and memories. But this doesn’t entirely segregate us from others and their mindsets. Using language we can communicate enough information to someone else to help them understand what is being experienced.

But have you ever tried to explain something and found that there were no words to describe it?

Well then you have experienced the explanatory gap. If we go back to the example of explaining colours to someone who only sees black and white we would experience the explanatory gap.

The explanatory gap also comes into play when you are at the hospital and a nurse asks how much pain you are feeling. Try as you might there is no way of really explaining the pain other than by describing its location, whether it is throbbing or not and how it started, even when asked to rate the pain on a scale of 1-10 is absurd as a 10 for me could be a 6 for you. Pain is completely subjective and based on my own experiences and because of that there are no words that can transfer my experience, or qualia, over to the nurse.

But why is it, that we cannot explain these things, what makes the explanatory gap occur?

There are a couple different explanations.

On the one hand it could be that there are words for that experience allowing us to describe the experience at hand but we are unaware of them, and if we pieced enough of these words together we could fill in the puzzle and create a perfect explanation letting someone else understand what we experienced.

This could be a possibility because, as we have previously discussed in “How Big is our Mental Vocabulary”, in the English language there are roughly 1.5 million words but the the average adult only has a mental vocabulary of around 30,000 words, only 2% of the entire Language. Therefore there could be a magic combination of words that do explain what we are feeling but we just lack the language skills.

Although, on the other hand there could plainly be a disconnect between the words we have and the emotions and other things that we are experiencing. While our language allows us to explain a great many things there could be limits to what we can put words to. There could be no way for us to really describe what a colour looks like to someone who has never seen one or tell a nurse about our pain. Our minds and our words may not line up past a certain point.

While this option is bleak and pessimistic it also means that there are things left for the individual. It would be nice to be able to explain anything to your best friend or your family but there is a beauty in the human experience and part of that comes from self-experience; grappling with life and learning without any books or guidelines or anyway to tell someone how past a certain point. What it does is leave room for the personal.

But when it comes down it, we just don’t know why the explanatory gap exists or if there is a way to breach it.

In some ways this shows us some of the follies of our language but it also shows us how much we rely on language for everything we do. While I may not be able to let someone experience an event that I just experienced I can explain to them what happened and tell them a story that resembles what happened. Using the literary tools we do have we can piece words after one another in seemingly limitless possibilities and when that is combined with the human imagination we can get pretty close to explaining many of life’s intricacies and nuances.

Words may fail us sometimes but more often than naught they are opening our eyes and our imaginations to things we could never experience.

The Dethroning of Awesome

awesome

Lists. We love them and we see them everywhere. Just scrolling through your social media feeds you will come across a multitude of them from “top ten new shows to watch” to “five ways to dress better for the fall”. They are a great way to organize things and are universally understood due to the simple sequential numbering system. They also play into our need for tidbits of information by telling us right from the get-go how much information is contained within the story or link which also gives us an immediate notion of how much attention and time the story will demand from us.

While we always wished to gain new knowledge the internet has given us a new medium which allows for a virtually limitless supply of information that is available instantaneously. In sense we have become the Sesame Street character the Cookie Monster but instead of cookies we want information to devour and we want it in neat little packets right now.

Given all that, it is only natural that there is a list published at the end of every year listing the most overused words. The entries range from newer words such as selfie to older words such as passion and it is here that we find the word awesome.

At first glance this entry seems to make complete sense as we hear and see it everywhere. “That’s awesome” is just a regular run of the mill expression nowadays, but when you think about it, does it make any sense that it is used that much?

The definition of the word awesome is supposed to be interrelated to something that leaves us in awe which in of itself means a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. So are we all just having years which are on the verge of fear and wonder which would make the use of the word fitting? Or is it that we have come to use the word in a lesser situation and to represent something of a different nature?

As you can probably tell it is the latter of the two.

We have come to use the word awesome in a less than awesome sense and more in a cool sense. And just like the word cool which used to mean something along the lines of calm or cold, we have expropriated the meaning to represent “great” but in a colloquial way.

The thing is we hijack the meaning of words all the time as we are constantly redefining the way language is used and what words mean through the organic evolution of language. Listed below are three examples.

3 words we use differently than what they actually mean.

1. Incredible

What we think it means: Amazing; extraordinary

Its original meaning: Not credible; unbelievable

2. Great

What we think it means: Very good

Its original meaning: Very large; of unusual size; remarkable.

3. Terrific

What we think it means: Very good

Its original meaning: Frightening; terrifying

If you take some time to think about many of the words that you say and use on a daily basis you would probably be surprised by how many of them are defined differently than how you are using them. But that does not mean we are using them wrong.

Languages evolve and change so it follows suit that word usage will change from one generation to the next. But this is not true in all cases as we can still use words wrong even though they are evolving into something different.

Going back to our discussion about the word awesome, it should be noted that this word used to reign as a supreme, penultimate sensation. Something awesome was something heavenly to the point of it creating fear. While most words can change meanings without any associated problems the adjectives that are reserved for the extremities cause issues when they are used incorrectly.

If you are to think of a circular spectrum of adjectives, normal would fall at its center and all the other words would radiate out in different directions until you hit the words on the extremity of the spectrum. Words like infinite, extreme and awesome would be at these end points with no other words following them. That is because by definition these words have no greater level. By our misrepresenting them we take away their power and their gravity but leave our vocabulary with no replacements for the void we have created.

So if you experience something is it really awesome or is it is just good? Or how would you describe something that is truly awesome once you have experienced it? The same questions could be asked for the usage of the words extreme and infinite and numerous others. We could make up new words but then we would fall into the same trap we are in now.

To help us all out the article “Awesome: The most overused word in English” has put together a list of alternatives to awesome and while this will not fix the dethroning of words we are currently responsible for it will help to curtail it. And it’s in all in a list.

35 Alternatives to Awesome

  1. Amazing
  2. Astonishing
  3. Beautiful
  4. Breathtaking
  5. Brilliant
  6. Clever
  7. Dazzling
  8. Exciting
  9. Excellent
  10. Exceptional
  11. Fabulous
  12. Fantastic
  13. Great
  14. Heart-stopping
  15. Humbling
  16. Impressive
  17. Incredible
  18. Ingenious
  19. Magnificent
  20. Majestic
  21. Marvelous
  22. Mind-blowing
  23. Momentous
  24. Moving
  25. Out of this world
  26. Outstanding
  27. Overwhelming
  28. Remarkable
  29. Righteous
  30. Spectacular
  31. Staggering
  32. Striking
  33. Stunning
  34. Wonderful
  35. Wondrous

Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.

And once again, thanks for reading.

What is a Conlang?

e1Each weekday on this very blog page we cover one of the world’s six thousand five hundred languages. We discuss the current state of the language, who are the speakers of the language and where they live. But with how many languages there are it would take approximately thirty one years for us to get through all the world’s languages. It’s safe to say, we have quite a bit of content to get through.

But in thirty one years a lot will have changed and there will also be far less languages to talk about.

It is estimated that every fourteen days a language dies. In thirty one years we will have lost eight hundred and eight languages, reducing the total by twelve percent. It would be conceited for us to say that this would affect our content because it is a sad day when we lose a language. As we have previously discussed languages give us many insights into the world and are a key aspect of our business.

But what about language creation?

A constructed language is called a conlang and its name comes from the combination of the two words which define it. Unlike something like Pig Latin (a reorganization of the letters in English words) a conlang is a full embodied language. For all intents and purposes it is a real language.

But what makes a language real?

To this we look to the elements of language. From German to Afrikaans or any other language for that matter there are five linguistic elements which define a language and make it unique from all the other languages.

The Five Linguistic Elements:

  1. Phonology: the sound and system of a language
  2. Morphology: the structure of words
  3. Syntax: the structure of sentences
  4. Semantics: the meaning in language
  5. Pragmatics: the appropriate use of language in different contexts

But more than those things there is also a little thing called grammar: how words are put together in order to make sentences. In order to actually put together this blog post I cannot just know English words I have to know where they belong and how they fit together in order to create the intended meaning. I could know every word in the English languages and I could still not know how or what I am saying.

Natural languages also evolve over time as they are passed down from generation to generation and adapted to fit the current times. Take English for example. If you compare Old English and the English that is used today there is a stark contrast between the two languages and that is just a difference of a couple hundred years. Furthermore, as we have discussed in previous posts, with new technologies comes new words. Try to think about having a conversation with someone prior the invention of the internet and you will see how much our language has changed in the span of a couple decades.

With all of that in mind it would almost seem momentous to create a language from scratch. And yet some people have done just that.

The Lord of the Rings is a staple of the fantasy genre and is world renowned. The trilogy has spawned a series of movies and a group of fans whose dedication can only be rivaled with that of Star Trek. But there is a commonality between these two franchises and that is that they both have a conlang.

For the world of Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien developed the language of the elves. He put together not only a master list of words and grammatical rules but also different dialects which developed over time as the people who spoke the language separated and their languages changed. For Star trek fans there is Klingon which has been developed in a similar fashion.

Although Tolkien did a superb job of developing the Elvish language it itself cannot be spoken unlike Klingon which has been developed enough to speak in conversation.

Conlangs are also gaining popularity and have gained a lot of steam since the release of Avatar and Game of Thrones. Many television shows are now hiring conlangs, professional language designers to build languages from the ground up for their worlds. These languages are developed not randomly but to match the people who speak it and therefore end up as unique as any other language.

But conlangs are not just in the realms of fantasy. In Europe, the language Esperanto which has about two million speakers is a constructed language. While it originally took its routes from a number of different natural languages Esperanto is constructed and its speakers represent the World’s largest contingent of conlang speakers. The language was first published in a book by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887 but it is the most prominent conlang success story.

Over the years there have been numerous attempts to create a conlang which can be called the perfect human language. But to this day none of them have taken off. The only conlang to really take off is Esperanto and it is limited.

Conlangs may not be able to replace the depth and history that goes along with a natural language which has been built up over many years and evolved to suit the people who speak it but it will be interesting to see how many new languages pop up in thirty one years. By then we may even end up writing a language of the day piece on a language that does not even exist today. That would be interesting.

What do you think? Could a conlang have the potential to take off? Let me know in the comment section below.

And once again, thanks for reading.

How Many Words Do You Know?

wordsThere is an old adage that says, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. The saying means that the older you get the less you are able to learn and yet it could not be further from the truth.

From the moment we are born we are learning and taking in information. Right now, in this very second while you are reading these words you are taking in new information and (hopefully) learning something new. This does not depend on your age or any other factor, the only determinant is that you are reading and using your mental lexicon which is like your personal dictionary to put meaning to each word and sentence.

Sometimes when reading you may come across words such as anathema (a cursed, detested person) or harangue (a ranting speech) which you have never come across before. These words are meaningless until you look them up and save the word’s meaning, what it sounds like and how it is spelled. This is the information that is stored in your mental lexicon.

But how many words do we actually have situated within our mental lexicon ready for use in talking with someone or when writing?

According to the Economist, who took aggregate data from a vocabulary testing website, most adult native English speakers have a mental vocabulary of twenty to thirty-five thousand words. At the age of eight it is estimated that we have a vocabulary of ten thousand words while at age four we already know four thousand words. For non-native speakers the average vocabulary is around four thousand five hundred words unless they live abroad in an English speaking country then that number increases to ten thousand.

Although these numbers pale In comparison to Shakespeare as he used more than thirty thousand different words in his written works and is estimated to have had a working knowledge of around sixty-six thousand words. More than two times that of the average native English speaker.

With those averages in mind it is astounding that there are more than five hundred thousand words in a standard English dictionary with a further one million words floating around the English language that are undocumented but in use. It would require nineteen people with vocabularies that have no overlap to complete an English dictionary and you would have to add another thirty-eight people to complete the entire language. Simply put there are a lot of English words.

Given that, how many words do we use day-to-day?

There are two answers to this question. First, how many total words are spoken and second, how many unique words are spoken.

To answer the first part of the question (how many total words are spoken) we look to the results of a recent study which found that on average people speak just over sixteen thousand words in any given day. That is just shy of seven hundred words per hour and just over eleven words a minute. But that is based on being awake for twenty-four hours. If we were to take off eight hours for sleep those numbers jump to a thousand words per hour and seventeen words per minute.

Now onto the second part of the question (how many unique words are spoken).  We now turn to a book entitled ‘The Reading Teachers Book of Lists’ which stated that around three thousand is the number of unique words we use on the average day. If we do some math what we find is that we only use eleven percent of our active vocabulary in each day. Most of the words that we know lay unused just awaiting their moment to shine.

Despite the fact that we are fast talkers, given that we use seventeen words per minute while awake, in a lot of our days we do not actually use that many different words. Only nineteen percent of the words we speak are previously unused words from that day while the other eighty-one percent are a repetition of previously used words.

What then is the purpose of all those other words filling up your mental dictionary?

While you may not personally say them or write them down you may need them to read an article or a book or understand something that someone else is saying. Or maybe this is just a sign that we all need to be more colourful in our language and try to spice up our conversations with words like anathema or harangue. With a plethora of delightful words to select from the question shouldn’t be why but why not.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post and visit us every Wednesday for a new post.

Want to test the vastness of your mental lexicon? Check out this site http://testyourvocab.com/ and then let us know your score in the comment section below.

A Pill to Learn a Language

Person Taking a Pill

How do you learn new things?

If you were to try and learn something new, let’s say a language how would you go about doing so? You could read a book or listen to people speak the language or you could formulate any number of other learning strategies. But at the end of the day you may not learn that language unless you are learning it in a style that best suits you.

People learn things differently and these different learning styles can be broken into 7 different groupings which describe your individual optimal learning situation. Listed below are the seven styles.

The Seven Learning Styles:

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Try and think about which one you are and maybe it will help you to create a strategy that fits your learning style the next time you want to learn something new.

But will learning always require the use of these seven groupings or will there be a new way to learn things?

In a recent Ted Talk, the founder of the MIT Media Lab Nicholas Negroponte discussed his personal journey in science and technology and how over the years he has made predictions as to what the future may hold in store for us in terms of technological advances. Almost all of which have come to fruition. During the talk he came to the thought provoking realization that he has lived in the future. He has seen things advance to new points that were unheard of a decade earlier and only a dream in the minds of many.

Unlike one of those raving people on the street with a billboard yelling at people passing by with the prediction of the coming end of days, Negroponte has used his extensive understanding of human development and technology to accurately predict technological breakthroughs. From the boom of touch screens and e-commerce to Google Maps and many others, he foresaw these things taking shape before they became a reality.

But at the end of his speech when asked what his current prediction for the future is, Nicholas Negroponte had this to say:

“My prediction is that we’ll be able to ingest information. You’re going to swallow a pill and know English. You’re going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare.” He then continued on to describe how it would work, “And the way to do it is through the bloodstream. So once it’s in your bloodstream, it basically goes through and gets into the brain…and the different pieces get deposited in the right places.”

Well that would make life a very different place now wouldn’t it? Whenever you want to learn something new or have the need for new knowledge you just pop a pill and the information is there in your brain ready for you to talk about. No more trivia night or Trivial Pursuit.

But is this possible? As accurate as Nicholas Negroponte’s predictions have been in the past is this one a little too farfetched?

It actually may not be as farfetched as you may initially think.

In the journal Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience a study was published by a team of researchers that hinted at the early possibilities of such a pill. While this pill did not allow for people to learn a specific skill it did allow for people who took the pill to learn more effectively by reverting parts of the brain back to when it a more elastic state such as when we were children.

As children we all could learn things rapidly and could pick up new languages and other massive undertakings without much consideration or effort because our brains were like sponges. We could take in information and process it and our brain would digest it all and organize it so it could be used. This is one of the reasons why many parents try to teach toddlers how to speak a second language.

The pill effectively allowed the brain to take on this sponge like nature which allows for better learning. But do not get too excited yet as these pills as of now are used for the treatment of behavioural issues and have just recently been discovered to have this side effect. It could be a while before a pill that safety increases learning capabilities is on the market and available to the public.

But even after such a pill is on the market it is still not what Negroponte has suggested will take shape in terms of pills allowing for a transference of a specific set of knowledge or skill. So how would it actually work then?

The answer is nanobots.

Nanorobitcs is a technology field that has emerged over the past dozen years with the emergence of new technologies that allow us to operate with smaller and more powerful computers. The field revolves are around the usage of tiny robots that are about the size of a nanometer, hence the name. But these robots are not the only scientific advancement that would be necessary in order for this to work because not only would we need to have the nanobots enter our brain through the blood stream they also need to know where to go and how to input the information that you ingested in order for it to be usable.

That is where psychology and neuroscience will come into play. What these fields will do is allow us to better understand the brain and human consciousness. We are already learning amazing things about the brain each day. With scientists dedicated to better understanding our brains and what makes us tick it is just a matter of time before we know the things necessary to reverse engineer the brain or in this case, learn a new language by taking a pill.

What we will need to see in order for this to become a reality is these two fields blending together and using the understandings of one and the advancements of the other to create little robots that go into our brains and have the wherewithal to go into the right places in our brains and deposit the information that we had ingested.

As you may guess, this is no simple task, but with all that Negroponte has gotten right in the past how much should we doubt his prediction?

What do you think about Nicholas Negroponte’s prediction? And what would you learn first if such a pill was on the market today? Please let us know in box below.

And once again, thanks for reading.

The Future of the English Language

future-city_1819612b-460x288It is a bright and sunny day as you ride the hover train to the space elevator which shoots up into the sky like something out of Jack and the Giant Beanstalk. Resting at the top is a space station which funnels the space ships that are constantly arriving and departing. The ships can come from any number of human colonize that have been set up on other planets or they could be returning from an exploration mission some from far off galaxy. As you take the space elevator up into the sky you see the massive super cities that cover earth’s surface, their giant buildings loom into the sky and make the cities seem closer than they actually are. But, you quickly lose sight of the cities as you pass through a layer of clouds and start to enter space. Normally there would be a loss of gravity at this point but with the artificial gravity machines almost anywhere can simulate the gravity of earth. The elevator slows to a halt and the artificial intelligence beams up from a side dock  and tells you that you have arrived and that you are to head to hanger 8 for your deep space mission.

It is the year 2114.  And you are on your way to an adventure.

Like the little story above and the tons of other science fiction stories that populate book stores there have been a great many ideas as to what the world will look like in 100 years. We could very well be living on other planets or have come into contact with alien life. Something that seems impossible today may be taken for granted in future days in the same way we take the technological inventions like the internet for granted.

Back in the year 1870 a novel was released by a French author named Jules Verne, the title “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”. The book was about people aboard a craft which could go underwater for extended periods of time allowing for deep sea adventures.  “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” was known as a Science Fiction novel when it first was released but now it looks more like an adventure story because engine driven submarines have been around for over a 100 years and are no longer a thing of the imagination.

When the Jules Verne classic was first translated over to English it was wrought with mistakes and errors. But, this version stood as the standard English edition for almost 100 years before it was finally fixed in the 1960s to better represent the original and to also update the English language.

While the original English edition did need fixing because of the translation errors (one reason why getting a certified translator is important) it was essential to update the English language that was used because the language had changed so much in a 100 years. So this begs the question, what will the English language look like in 100 years?

In 100 years from now when we are driving our hover cars or having them drive themselves (thank you Google) will be speaking the same English we speak today or will it sound like gibberish in the way that old English sounds to us today? The obvious answer is that it will not be the same language we know today, but let’s go further.

The American author Mark Twain had his own answer to our question In “A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling”

“For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.”

While his prediction is interesting it is more on the humorous side then on the possible forecast side. This is because the way the English language will change is not necessarily related to the way it is currently structured but rather who will speak it.

Since 2010 the number of native English speakers has been the minority of English speakers in the world with the majority of people speaking English know it as a second language. This trend of people learning English as a second language will continue as countries start implementing English classes at a younger and young age which they are already doing in many countries. This will have such a profound impact that experts estimate that by 2020 roughly 15% of the people who speak English will call it their native tongue.

With the emergence of English as the world’s second language what we will start to see is new English dialects popping up that reflect the native language of the speakers. The language will then diverge from having one set of grammatical rules to having a number of different rules and as this continues the language will start to separate into multiple different languages, which are incomprehensible from one another.

So when we reach the future of space elevators and flying cars the question should not be what will the English language look like but rather how many different languages will it become and what will they all look and sound like. But that is something that is almost impossible to answer because of the crowed sourced nature of the language. Every 98 minutes a new English word is invented and with it adapting to its new surroundings it is almost a certainty that if  we were to talk to someone from the future we would have a hard time understanding one another.

But in that lays the beauty of human language. It grows and adapts as the people who speak it change. It takes on a history of its own and represents not only just symbols or words but a people and their cultural journey.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post and visit us every Wednesday for a new post.

Do We Think in Words?

Molecular ThoughtsIn the known universe it is estimated that there are around a septillion stars which in numerical form looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and if we cut that number in half then we get the number of connections in our brain. Yes that is a lot of connections. The Human Brain is a mighty almost magic like piece of equipment that weighs in at around 3 pounds and is lit up with around 100 billion neurons. It takes a measly 12 watts to run the brain, a fifth of the power that is needed in order to run a standard lightbulb.

It is incredible efficient and incredible complex.

The brain is the source of our thoughts and it operates our whole body safety from within the confines of our skull. It is pulsing with activity because of the massive amount of processes that it undertakes on a second by second basis such as creating emotional responses to things we encounter while also allowing us to think about what we are going to make our family for dinner.

Although there is so much the brain is doing much of what it does is done under the radar and without our having to actively think about it, for example keeping our heart beating and our eyes blinking. We do not think about doing those things they are just done for us.

But there are still lots of things that we do actively think about and conceptualize throughout the day as we interact with the world around us. On average we have about 60,000 thoughts per day. Some thoughts are large while others are dismissed almost immediately.  But for all of these thoughts entering our mind are we thinking them in words and language?

Take a second to think about something. It can be any kind of thought. Now when you are thinking what do the thoughts seem to be within your mind? Are they words and language or something else? You probably would think words because that is how they appear to be within our minds, but when it comes to our thoughts we are actually thinking in ideas and meanings also called semantics. Semantics are the relationship between symbols and their intended meaning, in this case the words and their meaning.

But how do we know we don’t think in words?

If you think about a baby or another non-language creature like animals they both have higher thought and can perform tasks but neither has language at its disposal so they cannot be thinking in words. Their thoughts would be ideas which are not represented by words like ours because they do not have that faculty.

This can also go further by looking at the origins of language. Language itself has not always been in existence but was rather made and designed in order to facilitate communicate and interaction. Therefore, our long lost brethren would have needed thought processing separate from language in order to create and build a language from the ground up like they did.

From the moment we wake to the moment we sleep and everywhere in between our brains are putting on a light show with all the neurons and synapses firing away in the different parts of our brains. We are always thinking but not in words or in language but in ideas and semantics. These ideas help us do incredible things like imagine and then build what we imagine into reality. The brain is a magic and somewhat mysterious place but now we know a little more about it.

Thanks for reading this week’s post! What do you think is the most amazing fact about the brain? If you have any other comments or ideas for future topics please comment in the box below.

The Origin of Language: One or Many?

Visionary-Origin-of-LanguagTokyo, Japan is the largest city in the world boasting a population of 37 million. Just taking a look at pictures of the mega city is overwhelming. With its massive sky scrapers, intertwined highways and all the city lights that make it visible from space it’s a wonder in human growth and invention. It really shows you how far we have come.

If you walk through the streets of one of these mega cities or any city for that matter you will see and hear many different things. But one thing remains constant among all the world’s cities no matter which culture you are a part of or place you reside.

Language.

You can hear it in the mouths of the citizens or blaring out of radio on a passing car. You can see it on billboards, t-shirts and pieces of newspaper which have been taken on a ride via the wind. It is everywhere and it comes in so many different forms.

There are so many different languages that are spread throughout the world and all of them have their own unique attributes that make them different. Some languages are verbal, others are written and some are just gestures made with the hands and arms.

Where did all these languages come from?

Is the origin of languages similar to a lone tree where they all started from a single source and moved up towards the sky where they branched off in multitude, forming branches off of branches with some branches dying off from not enough nutrients while others flourished? More commonly called monogenesis.

Or was it more like multiple trees that sprouted up close to one another and as they grew, branches on one tree would affect another while others remained distant and distinct? Or called polygenesis.

Before we go right to the answer we need to understand language change which can be explained with the children’s game called telephone.

the game works like this: A number of children sit around a circle and one of them decides on a message which is relatively long. The child then whispers their message into the ear of the person on their left who in turn whispers the message to the person on their left, and so on. The message is passed from one person to the next until the message comes back to where it started and is then said out loud followed by the original message. Normally the message has become distorted and holds little resemblance to its original meaning.

Now imagine that each child sitting around the circle is a generation and the message is their language. It is spoken and taught from one generation to the next but with each new generation it changes and evolves. With each passing generation the language becomes more obscure from what originally was.

It’s time to go back, all the way to the start where languages are thought to have been conceived. The theories for where languages started are broken into five different theories with some being more legitimate then others. The Yo-He-Ho Theory states that our first words were created as a result from the sounds we make performing heavy physical labor. From the moo of the cow to the splash of water the Bow-Wow theory suggests that originally language began with people imitating the sounds they heard from beats and birds. If you ever hurt yourself you know the “Ouch!” sound, the Pooh-Pooh theory says that our first words started as the responses to pain and other emotions. You can tell from the name of the La-La theory that is proposes that we were singing creatures and so our words reflected that nature. The Ding-Dong Theory states that all things have a unique natural quality and that is where human words were developed.

But we have a problem, because the previous theories and all theories related to what happened after language was first conceived are undocumented territory with little or no evidence to support any theories. While these theories seem to be good explanations for the origin of languages there is not enough evidence to prove much of anything near the beginning of language so they remain theories and little else.

We are stuck in the unknown.

But not all is lost. In recent years academics from many different disciplines are coming together to answer this question. Maybe we will see an answer in the next couple years or maybe we won’t. But, what is guaranteed is that once we get an answer it will give incredible insight into human development and evolution.

Thanks for reading this week’s post. What do you think about the origin of human language? Do you think it came from one source or many different sources? Let us know in the comments below.

Language and its Effect on Decision Making

morals-and-ethics

Now it’s time to think, well at least a little.

There is a runaway train barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The train is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the train will switch to a different set of tracks. Unfortunately, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You cannot cause the train to derail or stop. You have two options:

(1)   Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.

(2)   Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Now before you start getting too deep into your inner thoughts (whether they are brooding, lackadaisical, or as empty as a desert with only a single tumbleweed floating on by) hold on a second.

We have all heard these weighty moral questions at some point in time. Whether it’s the one above known as the Train Problem or the many others that can be asked they all make you decide which choice is the best, if there is one. Sometimes the questions change in order to make them harder like replacing the single person on the track with a loved one.

Makes it harder to answer doesn’t it?

But now lets say you speak two languages and are asked the same question but in both languages. Would you respond in a different way based off of the language which you are asked?

Our days and lives are filled with decisions. Some are more substantial than others requiring more thought while other decisions are simple and require no thought at all. When we are making decisions that require more thought because of the gravity of the choice we turn to two major factors: intuitive processes and rational processes. Intuitive processes are spontaneous and emotionally based while rational processes are based off of conscious thought of potential outcomes.

So how does language play into this if it plays in it all?

When someone has to make a decision in their own language they can make a more immediate decision and can incorporate both aspects of decision making more evenly into their choice. But when someone is making a decision in their second or third language they have to translate the question in their mind in order to formulate a response. The more time spent processing the question the more the rational part of the decision making process can take hold and shape the response. Therefore if you are asked in your foreign tongue you are going to be more rational in your response then you would be when answering in your native language.

Not only are you going to be more rational if you are asked in your foreign tongue you are going to be more utilitarian (the ends justify the means) in your response as well. With the time your mind spends converting the thought into words and then into the the new language you are changing how you feel about the answer and will think with less emotion and will act in a more utilitarian way rather than deontologically (do what is right, though the world should perish). As you can tell both effects are created through similar means; more thought processing.

But there is an exception. Depending on the age at which you learn your second language will play into how much the rational and utilitarian part will play in the decision. When children learn languages at early ages they incorporate more of the language into their intuitive structure. This means that they will think more evenly with both sides of the decision making forces as both languages take on a similar role as a native language.

Now let’s go back to the Train Problem. You can tell quite easily that language can play a role in decision making. And while very few people have to deal with life and death decision making scenarios in their day to day life there are many other big choices that people have to make throughout their lives. Think about two people trying to make a business deal. If they are discussing in both of their native languages the result could end up being quite different then if one person was speaking in their second language and the other in their native tongue.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post. If you have any comments or questions you can put them in the comment box below.

The Global Sport

World Cup Logo

When tomorrow comes the biggest sporting event in the world will begin in Brazil. The FIFA World Cup brings the best soccer (football) players in the world together to represent their country and their home. Players that normally play apart will cast aside their club team colours for ones with their home country’s colours and will stand together.

This is one of those times when people wear their country’s colours with pride and are brought together for the love of their country more than ever. People will stand shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm all hoping and praying for their team to come out on top at the end of 90 minutes. The streets will be crowded and so will all the local places with a television. It will be a rush of emotions.

The World cup happens every four years and has been going on since 1930. It brings teams from 31 nations together in a competition for the World Cup and it is watched by a billion people from Botswana to Vanuatu.

But how many languages is it broadcast in?

If we take a look at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Media Rights Licensees we can see that there are 220 countries which have broadcasting rights and of those countries there is 53 in Africa, 57 in the Americas, 44 in Asia, 57 in Europe and 18 in Oceania. Throughout these countries there are many that share the same language and others which have multiple languages. All in all there are an estimated 150 languages represented when the World Cup hits the TV screens of the world.

With “he scores”, “goal”, these or some other variation being called in so many languages it cannot be questioned that soccer, sorry, football is the sport of the world.

What do you think about the World Cup? And do you have any other great goal calls? Let us know in the comments below.

The Loss of World Languages

tumblr_m66enubXzC1rqyge3A couple of weeks ago we posted an article about two men who were reunited after a long time apart and in the process they saved their native language, Ayapaneco. Cue the Peaches and Herb song “Reunited and It Feels so Good“. These two men refused to speak to one another for many years over a disagreement over the language and because of that their beloved language almost died out. But now it’s saved, being recorded and documented.

It’s a beautiful story where friendship prevails and it saves a dying language. But did you know that on average every 14 days a language becomes extinct?

Languages vanish for many reasons. There is language shift, which is when the speakers of a language switch over to a new language and stop teaching their original language. And then there is language death. This is when all the speakers of a language die out without the language being recorded or ever taught to the younger generations.

Because of these 231 known languages have become extinct and 2400 languages are in danger of becoming extinct. And that’s a lot. Remember that there are only an estimated 7000 languages in the world. So, if we do some math, 34% of the world’s languages are in danger of becoming extinct.

To better understand what that 34% looks like let’s look at it relative to the world population.

If we take the current world’s population and how it’s distributed throughout the world (http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/world_population.htm) the languages that are on the verge of extinction would cover all of Africa, the Americas, and half of Europe. That covers most of the populated landmass on earth.

Language extinction isn’t slowing down either. It is estimated that by the year 2100 half of the currently spoken world languages will no longer exist while remaining undocumented (http://mises.org/daily/5846/why-do-languages-die).

Now you’re probably at the stage where you are wondering what is being done to prevent this. For one there are groups like the Rosetta Project and Endangered Languages Project which are trying to do their part to record these languages before they cease to exist. But there are also the many people looking to save languages by themselves and the language speakers themselves.

The definition of a language is “the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.” But it does little justice to describe what a language means to the people who speak it. A language is the very soul of the people who speak it today and all of those who have gone before, it represents the life of the people just as much as the music they make or the art they leave behind.

Languages are the very essence of a people and they should be saved.

The Language of Colours

LargeColourEyeAs you walk out into a sunny summer day and take a look around at your surroundings you notice only a couple white puffy clouds plodding along the deep blue sky up above. The bright yellow sun warms your skin and lights up all the life that is around you. From the green of leaves on the trees and the grasses to the many polka dots of colours that fill up the gardens up ahead it seems that there are all the colours of the rainbow in your sights. There are the red roses and many coloured tulips, the blue forget-me-nots and the purple of the lavender. So many colours flooding in through your eyes there are even irises that match yours in colour.

The eye is a magnificent thing.

The eye itself is comprised of a many different parts that all work in conjunction to allow us to see the world. It is the most complex part of the human body and many would argue the most beautiful. And poets have described the eyes as a gateway to the soul. The different parts of the eye allow light in and allow us to perceive objects in our environment. With that perception we can determine the objects colour, distance, size and other differentiating details. After light has entered the eye and it has been processed into an image the mind uses that information to base actions and thoughts.

But did you know that the language you speak effects how you see colours?

In a journal titled; “Language, Learning, and Color Perception” by Emre Özgen the argument is made that language plays a role in colour perception and differentiation.

Colours themselves are processed categorically when they make their way through the mind and these categories are partially determined by the languages we speak. Some languages for example Russian and Greek have two colours for blue. They differentiate between light and dark blue and therefore perceive them as different. While on the other hand the Maldivian language has only one word for both green and blue meaning that they perceive the two colours as different forms of the same thing.

These colour names not only occur in the words in the language itself but also in the mental categories themselves. These categories effect our perceptions of colours. So when you step out into a sunny summer day like the one described think about all the colours that you see and try to imagine what someone else may see if they saw the same thing.

If you want to check out colour names in other languages click here: http://www.omniglot.com/language/colours/multilingual.htm

Vying for the Language Throne

If you are planning on doing business in some other country or just planning on some travelling and you can speak English you can be confident that there will be someone who understands the language. This is because English is the global language.

But will it always remain this way or will some other language take hold of the throne?

Before we look ahead at the potential new world language let’s first look back at how English got to occupy the throne.

There are a couple reasons why English became the world leader and most have to do with being in the right place at the right time. But the main reason has to do with the empires that spoke the language throughout history. Up until the 1920’s the British Empire was the largest empire in history and they pushed the English language as a way of assimilating their colonies into the British Commonwealth. As they took over more and more territory they taught people how to speak the language and this was later snowballed with the emergence of the United States as a world power. Over the next many years the United States grew to become the world’s financial powerhouse. This happened at a time when the world’s economies were becoming intertwined and globalization was starting to take the world by storm. Hence, right place right time.

In the end this resulted in what we have today; around a billion people who speak English in over a hundred countries. But even with all that, English is not the world’s largest language.  That honour goes to Chinese and the many dialects that comprise the language. While Chinese is not the global language does this mean that it may take over control as the world’s global language?

Probably not. The Chinese language, unlike the English language is made up of many different dialects that are more often than not referred to as different languages. But if we look strictly at the largest dialect, Mandarin the issue with this language is that it is not as widespread throughout the world as that of English. It is very centralized within its own base. But with the growth of the Chinese economy this could change

So what else is there?

French has some potential. In a study by Natixis it was shown that we may see a resurgence in the French language and that it may even retake the global language throne which it used to sit upon. The argument for this is that since French has found a home in many countries which are the fastest growing economies such as the many counties in sub-Saharan Africa when their economies grow the French language will also grow. Although the language will be growing in terms of total speakers it is unlikely that it will spread as far as the English language because of the strength of the many other languages that already have a large base throughout the world.

So nothing will change then?

While there are many other languages that could become the next global language it still seems that English is in pretty good standing. With many other countries starting to teach English at a younger age and pushing it as a second language it does not seem like it is going anywhere. But with all the factors that go into making a language go global, it is all speculation as to what language will hold the throne in the future. Maybe we will see a new language come into play that does not exist right now or maybe it will be some obscure language.

What do you think the language of the future will be?

The Ever Changing Face of Language

Let me set the scene for you:

Some people are going out on the town for a night and they are all ready to head out when one person says, “Hold on, let me take a selfie for Facebook real quick.” Now in today’s world that statement would not be viewed as odd or out of place at all. But, if we reverse the clock 14 years ago the same friends would respond not with words but a look that expresses utter confusion. This is because 14 years ago neither the word selfie nor Facebook existed.
If we take a quick look at the language we speak today we would quickly realize that the language that we speak has evolved to become something different then its former self. In a way it has become a new language within itself. The question is why?

The first and most obvious answer would be technology. As we have developed new technologies to meet the demands of the ever growing world population we have had to develop new words to express what the technology is. In some situations like the internet a snowball effect exists where one invention creates a landslide of new words that people have to incorporate into their word database which in turn creates other words.

Not only has technology added new words to our language but it has also changed what some words mean as discussed in a short article called, Has technology evolved our language beyond recognition?

Now what else affects our language? If we take a look at some new words that have been added to the dictionary you will see a lot of new words from a couple of distinct areas, technology (Which we have already discussed), modern culture, and social media

Although there are three supposed areas that represent the roots of the change in language they all fit together. Social media is the tie that brings both sides together. While there are names for technology and names for new cultural developments or shifts in colloquialisms, social media is a combination of the two and is the cause of such words as selfie and tweet. Words from social media come from the cultural application of new technologies.

So keep taking your selfies with your Galaxy or iPhone because the languages that we speak will continue to evolve as long as we keep developing new technologies and have cultures which change and adapt to the technologies.