WBEZ | language http://www.wbez.org/tags/language Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Language, Naming and Protesters in the Media http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-05/terminology-when-protester-called-thug-terrorist-or-patriot-media <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gage skidmore.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When <em>Washington Post </em>reporter Janell Ross woke up Sunday morning and started reading about<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ranchers-and-rancor-roots-armed-occupation-oregon-114353" target="_blank"> the situation in Oregon</a>, she was struck by the language used-or not used-in those stories to describe the men occupying the federal building and surrounding land.</p><p>Her column, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/03/why-arent-we-calling-the-oregon-militia-terrorists/">&ldquo;Why Aren&rsquo;t We Calling the Oregon Occupiers &lsquo;Terrorists&rsquo;?&rdquo;</a> looks at a series of examples, from the mass shootings in San Bernadino and Charleston, SC. to the protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago, and wonders why &ldquo;some Americans are presumed guilty and violence-prone while others are assumed to be principled and peaceable unless and until provoked-even when actually armed.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 05 Jan 2016 14:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2016-01-05/terminology-when-protester-called-thug-terrorist-or-patriot-media UPDATE: 'Go Home,' Sheriff Tells Armed Men Who Took Over Federal Compound http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2016-01-05/update-go-home-sheriff-tells-armed-men-who-took-over-federal-compound <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/militia.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/story_main/public/story/images/militia.jpg?itok=lgcrZCN1" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="Militia members keep watch at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, January 4, 2016. A group of self-styled militiamen occupied the headquarters of a U.S. wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon in a standoff with authorities, officials and local media reports said on Sunday, in the latest dispute over federal land use in the West. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div><p>Oregon authorities have two words for the armed men who took over federal buildings and land in rural Oregon: Go home.</p></div><p>In an afternoon news conference, Sheriff David Ward stressed that the reason the outside &quot;militia&quot; descended upon their community was already over: two ranchers had voluntarily turned themselves over to officials to begin serving a prison term for arson.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;&quot;It&#39;s time for you to leave our community, go home to your families and leave this community peacefully,&quot; the Harney County sheriff said.</p><p>&quot;You said you were here to help the citizens of Harney County,&quot; the sheriff&nbsp;said. &quot;That help ended when that protest became an armed occupation.&quot;</p><p>The armed group, led by&nbsp;Ammon Bundy &mdash; the son of anti-government activist Cliven Bundy, who has his own standoff with government officials in 2014 &mdash; says it is protesting federal land use policies, including the&nbsp;arson conviction of two the ranchers in Harney County.&nbsp;</p><p>Bundy&#39;s group says it has dozens of armed men &mdash; more than 100 &mdash; and food to outlast a long siege. But journalists who have visited the site of the standoff,&nbsp;the headquarters building at the US Fish and Wildlife Service&#39;s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, have reported seeing significantly fewer people, and just a small amount of supplies.</p><p>Still, local, state and federal law enforcement have taken a low-key approach to resolving the conflict, acknowledging it, saying they&#39;re monitoring the situation but not taking any overt actions to arrest or evict the militia.</p><p>For their part, the militia have vowed to resist any law enforcement intervention with force.</p><p>Amelia Templeton, a reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting who has been to the refuge, said local residents are still trying to figure out what&#39;s going on &mdash; and form an opinion on who&#39;s in the right.</p><p>Templeton emphasized that this is a remote part of the state &mdash; and this particular wildlife refuge is often deserted at this time of year. Outside the refuge, there are a handful of ranches in any direction, but not much else.</p><p>&quot;Many people here relate to the concerns that Ammon Bundy has raised about things like federal overreach or the inability of ranchers or loggers to access federal lands in the way they did in the &#39;70s and &#39;80s,&quot; she explained. &quot;That said, I have heard from a lot of people, &#39;we don&#39;t think they&#39;re doing this the right way.&#39; Or, &#39;this isn&#39;t the way you go about these things.&#39;&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-01-04/oregon-armed-standoff-between-militia-and-federal-officials-over-federal-land-use" target="_blank">via The Takeaway</a></em></p></p> Tue, 05 Jan 2016 14:12:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/takeaway/2016-01-05/update-go-home-sheriff-tells-armed-men-who-took-over-federal-compound Machines, Lost in Translation: The Dream of Universal Understanding http://www.wbez.org/news/machines-lost-translation-dream-universal-understanding-114285 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/unknown-1_custom-8db2bd914157af8a36837971c0b137f335355ab0-s800-c85.jpeg" alt="" /><p><div id="res460842971"><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Developing a universal translator means teaching a computer to think like a human." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/23/unknown-1_custom-8db2bd914157af8a36837971c0b137f335355ab0-s800-c85.jpeg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Developing a universal translator means teaching a computer to think like a human. (Annette Elizabeth Allen/NPR)" /></div><div><div><p>It was early 1954 when computer scientists, for the first time, publicly revealed a machine that could translate between human languages. It became known as the Georgetown-IBM experiment: an &quot;electronic brain&quot; that translated sentences from Russian into English.</p></div></div></div><p>The scientists believed a universal translator, once developed, would not only give Americans a security edge over the Soviets, but also promote world peace by eliminating language barriers.</p><p>They also believed this kind of progress was just around the corner: Leon Dostert, the Georgetown language scholar who initiated the collaboration with IBM founder Thomas Watson,&nbsp;<a href="https://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/701/701_translator.html">suggested that</a>&nbsp;people may be able to use electronic translators to bridge several languages within five years, or even less.</p><p>The process proved far slower. (So slow, in fact, that about a decade later, funders of the research launched an investigation into its lack of progress.) And more than 60 years later, a true real-time universal translator &mdash; a-la C-3PO from<em>&nbsp;Star Wars&nbsp;</em>or the Babel Fish from&nbsp;<em>The Hitchhiker&#39;s Guide to the Galaxy</em>&nbsp;&mdash; is still the stuff of science fiction.</p><p>How far are we from one, really? Expert opinions vary. Like with so many other areas of machine learning, it depends on how quickly computers can be trained to emulate human thinking.</p><p>Vikram Dendi says we&#39;re very close.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s cool to stand here and look back and say, &#39;We really turned science fiction into a reality,&#39; &quot; Dendi, the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/vikman">technical and strategy adviser</a>&nbsp;to the chief of Microsoft Research, tells All Tech.</p><p>Microsoft&#39;s translation work has produced apps that can translate voice to voice and voice to text in addition to the familiar text-to-text. The big rollout this year was the Skype Translator, which takes what you say over video chat and turns it into spoken or written translations, currently&nbsp;<a href="https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA34543/what-languages-are-available-in-skype-translator">in seven languages</a>.</p><p>Microsoft, of course, is far from alone. A company&nbsp;<a href="http://www.voxox.com/">called Voxox</a>&nbsp;does Internet calling and chat, and has a text-to-text translation service for its messaging app. Google, in addition to its familiar text translations, has introduced&nbsp;<a href="https://support.google.com/translate/answer/6142483?hl=en">a feature in its Translate app&nbsp;</a>that uses your phone camera to scan an image of a foreign text and display the translation.</p><p><strong>Stimulating Machines&#39; Brains</strong></p><p>After decades of jumping linguistic and technological hurdles, the technical approach scientists use today is known as the neural network method, in which machines are trained to emulate the way people think &mdash; in essence, creating an artificial version of the neural networks of our brains.</p><p>Neurons are nerve cells that are activated by all aspects of a person&#39;s environment, including words. The longer someone exists in an environment, the more elaborate that person&#39;s neural network becomes.</p><p>With the neural network method, the machine converts every word into its simplest representation &mdash; a vector, the equivalent of a neuron in a biological network, that contains information not only about each word but about a whole sentence or text. In the context of machine learning, a science that has been developed over the years, a neural network produces more accurate results the more translations it attempts, with limited assistance from a human.</p><p>Though machines can now &quot;learn&quot; similarly to the way humans learn, they still face some limits, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iro.umontreal.ca/~bengioy/yoshua_en/index.html">Yoshua Bengio</a>, a computer science professor at the University of Montreal who studies neural networks. One of the limits is the sheer amount of data required &mdash; children need far less of it to learn a language than machines do.</p><p>&quot;(Machine translation) takes huge quantities of computation and data; it doesn&#39;t make sense,&quot; Bengio says. But there&#39;s promise in the neural network method. &quot;It has the potential to reach human-level performance. It&#39;s focusing on the meaning of words, of dialogue.&quot;</p><p>This method builds off of previous approaches to machine translation.</p><p>Early on, scientists taught computers to translate by manually inputting every rule for every language pair they wanted translated. If an adjective, for example, came after a noun in Russian, the computer would know to flip it so that the adjective came before the noun in English.</p><p>A&nbsp;<a href="https://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/701/701_translator.html">press release</a>&nbsp;detailing the 1954 Georgetown-IBM experiment said that translating between two languages necessitated more computer instructions than required &quot;to simulate the flight of a guided missile.&quot;</p><p>In the face of multitudes of rules and exceptions in every language pair, the manual input approach quickly became tedious.</p><p>In the 1980s, scientists began moving toward a statistical-based model. The machines were fed lots of human-translated materials (for example, from the United Nations) and identified language patterns and rules themselves.</p><p>Words that came up multiple times within one text were a common focus, says Kevin Knight, a natural languages research professor at the University of Southern California. &quot;For example, by studying a large collection of English-Spanish documents, every time a computer sees &#39;banco&#39; on the Spanish side, you see either the (English) word &#39;bank&#39; or &#39;bench.&#39; &quot;</p><p>The computer would eventually deduce that every time it finds a &quot;banco de&quot; on the Spanish side, it can eliminate &quot;bench&quot; from its English options, because typically &quot;the bank of&quot; indicates the name of a financial institution.</p><p><strong>Testing The Neural Networks</strong></p><p>Neural networks, which became a popular tool for machine translation researchers in the 21st century, improved the quality of translations. Machines collect more information about each word and perform better probability analysis to avoid translations that sound unnatural.</p><p>How well does the approach work? I decided to take it for a test drive by testing Microsoft&#39;s Skype Translator, which is powered by neural networks.</p><p>I connected with Microsoft&#39;s Olivier Fontana, over a Skype video chat. Fontana greeted me in French &mdash; after a few seconds, a male robot began translating his voice into English. I brought NPR&#39;s resident French pro-Caroline Kelly along for reinforcement. She commented that Skype appeared to be more fluent at English-to-French translations than vice versa.</p><p>Ultimately, the results were surprisingly accurate, especially when we talked about the subjects one would typically discuss with relatives, like travel plans for the holiday.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="290" scrolling="no" src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/460743241/460841209" title="NPR embedded audio player" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>As with any video conferencing, this translation chat depended on a strong Internet connection, which helped with its ability to pick up laughter and weeding out of repetitions or &quot;ums&quot; and &quot;ahs.&quot; Where the translation became muddled was when we discussed &mdash; or rather, attempted to discuss &mdash; the science and technology behind Skype Translator. The machine refused to distinguish between French words for &quot;hip-hop&quot; and &quot;iPhone.&quot;<iframe frameborder="0" height="290" scrolling="no" src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/460743241/460834554" title="NPR embedded audio player" width="100%"></iframe>Dealing with the spoken word in a voice-to-voice translation adds another layer of complexity to machine translation because in addition to producing accurate results, the computer also needs to detect laughter, stutters, repeats and accents. But, as the scientists say, the more you use machine translators, the better they become. The neural network became a &quot;momentum creator,&quot; says Microsoft&#39;s Dendi. &quot;Without it, (Skype Translator) would still be a science fiction dream,&quot; Dendi says. In other words, there&#39;s no saying where machine translation can go when the electronic brain meets the human one.</p></p> Thu, 24 Dec 2015 12:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/machines-lost-translation-dream-universal-understanding-114285 I Asked a Computer to Be My Life Coach http://www.wbez.org/sections/science/i-asked-computer-be-my-life-coach-114278 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/watson-personality-analysis---sample-7d7249c8bbbf75ed453f4f4b751ee633d189c530-s800-c85.png" alt="" /><p><div id="res460602444" previewtitle="IBM's Watson analyzes a Twitter account of an unnamed user, breaking down needs, values and five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism (aka emotional range)."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="IBM's Watson analyzes a Twitter account of an unnamed user, breaking down needs, values and five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism (aka emotional range)." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/12/21/watson-personality-analysis---sample-7d7249c8bbbf75ed453f4f4b751ee633d189c530-s800-c85.png" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="IBM's Watson analyzes a Twitter account of an unnamed user, breaking down needs, values and five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, aka emotional range. (IBM)" /></div><div><div><p>The words you use betray who you are.</p></div></div></div><p>Linguists and psychologists have long been studying this phenomenon. A few decades ago they had a hunch that the number of active verbs in your sentences or what adjectives you use (lovely, sweet, angry) reflect personality traits.</p><p>They have painstakingly pinpointed various insights. For example,&nbsp;<a href="http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/homepage/faculty/pennebaker/reprints/SuicidalPoets.PDF" target="_blank">suicidal poets</a>, in their published works, use more first-person singular words (like &quot;me&quot; or &quot;my&quot;) and death-related words than poets who aren&#39;t suicidal. People&nbsp;<a href="http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/jhpee/vol5/iss1/6/" target="_blank">in positions of power</a>&nbsp;are more likely to make statements that involve others (&quot;we,&quot; &quot;us&quot;), while lower-status people often use language that&#39;s more self-focused and ask more questions. Comparing genders, women&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01638530802073712" target="_blank">tend to use</a>&nbsp;more words related to psychological and social processes, while men referred more to impersonal topics and objects&#39; properties.</p><p>(This&nbsp;<a href="http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Faculty/Pennebaker/Reprints/Tausczik&amp;Pennebaker2010.pdf">2010 paper</a>&nbsp;in the&nbsp;J<em>ournal of Language and Social Psychology</em>&nbsp;goes into great detail about the so-called &quot;psychometrics&quot; of words.)</p><p>This research suggests that Internet companies such as Facebook and Google, with their troves of written expressions, are sitting on powerful insights about us as people. But if you ask them, &quot;Hey, can you give me the take on me that you&#39;ve got in-house or that you&#39;ve built for advertisers, with my anonymized data?&quot; &mdash; they won&#39;t give it to you. I actually did ask, and they don&#39;t have that kind of offering.</p><p>But I&#39;ve found someone who does: IBM&#39;s Watson division. Researchers there have taken the personality dictionaries already created by scientists, dropped them into Watson (the computer that won Jeopardy), and sent it off to apply it to people on Twitter, Facebook, blogs. That forms a digital population of people and personality types. Over time, more text from more people will help Watson get smarter. (Yes, this is machine learning.)</p><p>In&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercloud/doc/personality-insights/science.shtml#researchMedia">its own studies</a>, IBM found that characteristics derived from people&#39;s writings can reliably predict some of their real-world behaviors. For instance, people who are less neurotic and more open to experiences are more likely to click on an ad, while people who score high on self-enhancement (meaning, seek personal success) like to read articles about work.</p><p>For IBM, these kinds of interpretations can become a business opportunity.</p><p>Understanding people in order to sell them things is obviously a very big business&nbsp;<a href="https://hbr.org/2015/11/quantifying-the-impact-of-marketing-analytics?utm_source=twitter&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=harvardbiz">for marketers</a>. IBM&#39;s senior researcher Rama Akkiraju suggests other uses: by public relations firms looking for journalists who sound friendly on a specific topic; by editors who want their writers to set a certain tone; by employers looking for a worker who fits their corporate culture.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re moving to make it easier for people to consume insights,&quot; she says.</p><p>This use of Big Data, of course, raises serious privacy concerns, which&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/tags/126394606/privacy" target="_blank">we have examined</a>&nbsp;in many stories. In this exploration, I decided to take a deep dive into Watson&#39;s personal insights &mdash; what they can teach me about my career choices and my love life (yep, really went there).</p><p><a href="http://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=460641423:460728815">You can listen to my story on NPR One</a>.</p><p>Not all of the tools I used are publicly available, but you can try out a couple of them. Click on &quot;<a href="http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercloud/tone-analyzer.html">view demo&quot; here</a>&nbsp;to test the tone analyzer that evaluated the tone expressed in my love letters. And here&#39;s a tool to analyze&nbsp;<a href="https://watson-pi-demo.mybluemix.net/" target="_blank">personality through writing</a>.</p><p>For now, Watson&#39;s personality analytics is a work in progress and not easy on the eyes. The pie chart it spits out from a person&#39;s social media posts, which you saw above, is a messy hodge-podge of about 50 traits. Plus, given how people curate their digital presence, the words we use online may be a highly biased indicator of who we are.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s very interesting as a general curiosity,&quot; says Sina Khanifar, a San Francisco-based technologist, &quot;but what would really get me excited is if it made a particular recommendation.&quot;</p><p>Khanifar says many tools exist to help you quantify yourself, track your running speed or breathing patterns. What few of them do is actually suggest how to improve your life. And, he says, people don&#39;t just want to pay for insight. &quot;When you go to see a therapist, it is about self-knowledge. But it&#39;s also about a change.&quot;</p><p>A friend recently mused about what this kind of tool could do for dating. People lie about themselves on dating sites chronically. What if Google developed a service to mine your mail and search and paired you with the perfect partner?</p><p>That could be amazing, or amazingly creepy.</p><div id="res460602444" previewtitle="IBM's Watson analyzes a Twitter account of an unnamed user, breaking down needs, values and five personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism (aka emotional range)."><p><em>Editor&#39;s Note: This post accompanies a story that you can hear on the&nbsp;NPR One&nbsp;app by&nbsp;<a href="http://one.npr.org/?sharedMediaId=460641423:460728815">following this link</a>.</em></p></div><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/12/22/459954667/i-asked-a-computer-to-be-my-life-coach?ft=nprml&amp;f=459954667" target="_blank"><em><u>via NPR</u></em></a></p></p> Wed, 23 Dec 2015 16:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/science/i-asked-computer-be-my-life-coach-114278 Did the language you speak evolve because of the heat? http://www.wbez.org/news/did-language-you-speak-evolve-because-heat-113687 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/worldlanguagehaet.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>English bursts with consonants. We have words that string one after another, like angst, diphthong and catchphrase. But other languages keep more vowels and open sounds. And that variability might be because they evolved in different habitats.</p><div id="res455002843"><div id="responsive-embed-map-language-20151105">&nbsp;</div><p data-pym-src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/map-language-20151105/child.html">&nbsp;</p><script src="http://apps.npr.org/dailygraphics/graphics/map-language-20151105/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script></div><p>Consonant-heavy syllables don&#39;t carry very well in places like windy mountain ranges or dense rainforests, researchers say. &quot;If you have a lot of tree cover, for example, [sound] will reflect off the surface of leaves and trunks. That will break up the coherence of the transmitted sound,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unm.edu/~ianm/index.html">Ian Maddieson</a>, a linguist at the University of New Mexico.</p><p>That can be a real problem for complicated consonant-rich sounds like &quot;spl&quot; in &quot;splice&quot; because of the series of high-frequency noises. In this case, there&#39;s a hiss, a sudden stop and then a pop. Where a simple, steady vowel sound like &quot;e&quot; or &quot;a&quot; can cut through thick foliage or the cacophony of wildlife, these consonant-heavy sounds tend to get scrambled.</p><p>Hot climates might wreck a word&#39;s coherence as well, since sunny days create pockets of warm air that can punch into a sound wave. &quot;You disrupt the way it was originally produced, and it becomes much harder to recognize what sound it was,&quot; Maddieson says. &quot;In a more open, temperate landscape, prairies in the Midwest of the United States [or in Georgia] for example, you wouldn&#39;t have that. So the sound would be transmitted with fewer modifications.&quot;</p><div id="res454932115"><div><div data-flash-url="anon.npr-mp3/npr/specials/2015/11/20151105_specials_georgian.mp3" data-html5-url="http://pd.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/specials/2015/11/20151105_specials_georgian.mp3" data-id="454932115" data-pause-metric-action="Pause Audio" data-pause-metric-category="Secondary Audio" data-play-metric-action="Play Audio" data-play-metric-category="Secondary Audio"><div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><h3><iframe frameborder="0" height="290" scrolling="no" src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/454853229/454932115" title="NPR embedded audio player" width="100%"></iframe></h3></div></div></div></div></div><div id="res454998084" previewtitle="The open, temperate terrain of eastern Georgia would make fast-changing sounds like 'str' in 'strength' easier to hear."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="The open, temperate terrain of eastern Georgia would make fast-changing sounds like 'str' in 'strength' easier to hear." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/06/georgia_wide-b3c9b5a78ab72913eafca3939990c5f46459984a-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="The open, temperate terrain of eastern Georgia would make fast-changing sounds like 'str' in 'strength' easier to hear. (Sebastian Preuber/Flickr)" /></div><div><div><p>Other scientists have noticed that habitats can affect the way different bird species sing. &quot;Say you&#39;re a bird in a forest, and some guy&#39;s going &#39;Stree! Stree! Stree!&#39; But because of the environment, what you hear is &#39;Ree! Ree! Ree!&#39; &quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://homepage.univie.ac.at/tecumseh.fitch/">Tecumseh Fitch</a>, a linguist at the University of Vienna in Austria who was not involved in the study. &quot;Well, because you&#39;re learning the song, you&#39;ll sing &#39;Ree! Ree! Ree!&#39; &quot;</p></div></div></div><p>Since bird species living in rain forests tend to sing songs with fewer consonant-like sounds, Maddieson thought maybe the same would apply to human languages. Over time, people living in different climates would adapt their speech to communicate more efficiently.</p><p>In a&nbsp;<a href="https://asa2015fall.abstractcentral.com/s/u/Se1Hr1xy6XQ">presentation</a>&nbsp;on Wednesday at the Acoustical Society of America fall meeting, Maddieson showed that consonant-thick languages like Georgian are more likely to develop in open, temperate environments. Meanwhile, consonant-light languages like Hawaiian are more likely to be found in lush, hot ecologies.</p><div id="res454997029"><div><div data-flash-url="anon.npr-mp3/npr/specials/2015/11/20151106_specials_hawaiiangreeting.mp3" data-html5-url="http://pd.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/specials/2015/11/20151106_specials_hawaiiangreeting.mp3" data-id="454997029" data-pause-metric-action="Pause Audio" data-pause-metric-category="Secondary Audio" data-play-metric-action="Play Audio" data-play-metric-category="Secondary Audio"><div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><h3><iframe frameborder="0" height="290" scrolling="no" src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/454853229/454997029" title="NPR embedded audio player" width="100%"></iframe></h3></div></div></div></div></div><div id="res454997955" previewtitle="A vowel sound like &quot;e&quot; can still sound clear through the dense vegetation in Hawaii."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="A vowel sound like &quot;e&quot; can still sound clear through the dense vegetation in Hawaii." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/06/hawaii_wide-a13dfd35d319530c2792c3276cddf3a5adfa6ee1-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px;" title="A vowel sound like &quot;e&quot; can still sound clear through the dense vegetation in Hawaii. (Daniel Ramirez/Flickr)" /></div><div><div><p>Fitch says it&#39;s a tantalizing hypothesis, but still unproven. People who live nearby are usually related, so their languages could be too. Hawaiian and Maori are light on consonants and developed in hot, tropical climates, but they also both came from an ancestor Eastern Polynesian language. That could confound the results of Maddieson&#39;s study. Until that&#39;s sorted out, Fitch says, it&#39;s hard to know how strong the data are.</p></div></div></div><p>And the environmental effect only accounts for some of the variation in birdsongs. That&#39;s probably true for our tongues too. &quot;There are many reasons why some languages have more vowels or more consonants, and this is just one of them,&quot; Fitch says.</p><p>Other researchers say this is just the beginning of a line of research into how nature rules our speech. &quot;This is the first of its kind, and there are several others coming now. It&#39;s becoming increasingly clear that the way we speak is shaped by external forces,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mpi.nl/people/roberts-sean">Sean Roberts</a>, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands who was not involved in the study.</p><p>In his own work, Roberts found that arid, desertlike places are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/112/5/1322.abstract">less likely to have tonal languages</a>&nbsp;like Mandarin or Vietnamese. And he once analyzed a decades&#39; worth of Larry King transcripts. &quot;I carried the proportion of consonants to vowels that he was using and matched that to the actual humidity on the day he recorded those things,&quot; Roberts says. The longtime TV pundit used a few more consonants on dry days.</p><p>And the language you&#39;re reading now evolved in a cold, gloomy climate prone to light mist and drizzle. Fitch says: &quot;English is quite a consonant-heavy language, and of course it didn&#39;t develop in a rain forest.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/06/454853229/did-the-language-you-speak-evolve-because-of-the-heat" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Fri, 06 Nov 2015 15:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/did-language-you-speak-evolve-because-heat-113687 Michigan tribes make efforts to save native language http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-12/michigan-tribes-make-efforts-save-native-language-113298 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1012_native-language-immersion-624x427.jpg" title="Two-year-olds at the Sasiwaans language immersion school in Mt. Pleasant get a lesson in the Native American tradition of smudging. (Emily Fox/Michigan Radio)" /></div><p>The language that was spoken by Native American tribes in Michigan is nearing extinction in the state. Some communities have no fluent speakers; others have one or two elders who still speak fluently.</p><p>But as&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/foxontheradio" target="_blank">Emily Fox</a>&nbsp;of&nbsp;<em>Here &amp; Now</em>&nbsp;contributor Michigan Radio reports, there are efforts to prevent the language &ndash; Anishinaabemowin &ndash; from going extinct, including an immersion school for young children.</p><p><strong><em><a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/what-some-tribes-michigan-are-doing-stop-their-native-language-going-extinct#stream/0" target="_blank">Read more via Michigan Radio</a></em></strong></p><p><strong><em>&mdash;</em></strong><em><a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/12/michigan-tribes-language"> via Here &amp; Now</a></em></p></p> Mon, 12 Oct 2015 14:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-12/michigan-tribes-make-efforts-save-native-language-113298 Scores of new 'awesomesauce' words added to Oxford Dictionaries Online http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-30/scores-new-awesomesauce-words-added-oxford-dictionaries-online <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/wine thirty Flickr Quinn Dombrowski.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;My fur baby is my best bruh. He&rsquo;s awesome-sauce.&rdquo; Does that sentence make any sense to you?</p><p>To some, yes. Others may be scratching their heads trying to decipher what it means. But now, you can look these words up in a dictionary. Fur baby, bruh, awesome-sauce, wine-thirty, and manspreading are just some of the words recently added to <a href="http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us">Oxford Dictionaries Online</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>So what does it mean when words like those suddenly find themselves in a dictionary and who decides? Katherine Martin, head of U-S Dictionaries for Oxford University Press, breaks it down for us.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 30 Sep 2015 12:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-09-30/scores-new-awesomesauce-words-added-oxford-dictionaries-online Woldview: Immigrant remittance making an impact in rural Mexico http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-03-24/woldview-immigrant-remittance-making-impact-rural-mexico-111761 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/casamichoacan.jpg" style="height: 533px; width: 620px;" title="Casa Michoacan in Pilsen is often visited by Mexicans planing their remittance projects. (Google Earth)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197498424&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><font color="#333333" face="Arial, sans-serif"><span style="font-size: 23.9999980926514px; line-height: 22px;">The effect of remittance on rural Mexico</span></font></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-9d619428-4d84-d1c5-39f2-16c40970292e">In 2012 Mexico received an estimated 22 billion dollars in remittances.&nbsp;</span><span id="docs-internal-guid-9d619428-4d84-d1c5-39f2-16c40970292e">Those remittance dollars, which have been flowing for decades from Mexicans living in the United States have altered just about every aspect of &nbsp;life in rural mexico. They&rsquo;ve changed the way new homes get built, paid for public works and infrastructure projects. At times, hey&rsquo;ve also changed the way life runs the village and altered the power structures and sometimes created divisions and envy that did not exist before those remittance dollars flowed in. Sarah Lynn Lopez explores those changes in her book </span><em>The Remittance Landscape Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA</em>.</p><p dir="ltr"><b>Guest:&nbsp;</b><em><span id="docs-internal-guid-9d619428-4d85-dcb8-6de2-db89f9e9180c">Sarah Lynn Lopez is the author of </span><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo17090075.html">The Remittance Landscape Spaces of Migration in Rural Mexico and Urban USA.</a></em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197498706&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe><span style="font-size: 23.9999980926514px; line-height: 22px; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif;">The dying languages of the world</span></p><p dir="ltr">There is a chance that as many as 50 percent of the world&rsquo;s languages will disappear by the end of this century.&nbsp; The data is imperfect but by some estimates, we lose a language about every four months. The internet and globalization are part of the reason that languages are dying out. At times political activism and legislation have helped to rescue a language on the brink. New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman examines efforts to save&nbsp; dying languages in&nbsp; her piece &quot;A Loss for Words,&quot; which appears in this week&rsquo;s edition of the New Yorker. She joins us to talk about some of the efforts.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Guest:&nbsp;</strong><em><a href="http://www.newyorker.com/contributors/judith-thurman">Judith Thurman</a> is a staff writer at the&nbsp;New Yorker and author of &nbsp;&quot;A Loss for Words.&quot;</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-03-24/woldview-immigrant-remittance-making-impact-rural-mexico-111761 Morning Shift: The constant evolution of our speech http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-22/morning-shift-constant-evolution-our-speech-111432 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/cover Calamity Meg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We discuss the ever-changing way words sound and how they are used in the English language. We get a former Chicago Bear&#39;s perspective on allegations of painkiller abuse on the &#39;85 team. And, we talk birth control in the Catholic Church.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-2017/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-2017.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-2017" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The constant evolution of our speech" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-01-22/morning-shift-constant-evolution-our-speech-111432 List: Genders for American words http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-06/list-genders-american-words-107622 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4896822030_e7fa872658.jpg" style="height: 401px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Flickr/kristin_a " />One of the reasons why Americans are so terrible at learning new languages is that other languages assign genders to nouns, while American English avoided this.&nbsp;</p><p>Well, that grand experiment failed.</p><p>It&#39;s time to start giving English words genders to help our children learn French, Italian, and even more useful languages than that. Here are a few to get you started.</p><p>Happy learning!</p><p>computer: boy</p><p>iPhone: girl</p><p>book: boy</p><p>magazine: girl</p><p>jeans: girl jean</p><p>shorts: boy</p><p>hand sanitizer: girl</p><p>Vaseline: boy</p><p>pencil: girl</p><p>pen: girl</p><p>eraser: boy</p><p>paper: boy</p><p>paper pulp: girl</p><p>toaster: girl</p><p>Kitchenaid mixer: boy</p><p>Tabasco sauce: girl</p><p>Sears Tower: girl</p><p>Willis Tower: boy</p><p>Blackhawks: boy</p><p>Bears: girl</p></p> Tue, 11 Jun 2013 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-06/list-genders-american-words-107622