Monday memo #11: Shakespeare Smokes Dope (copy 01)

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

Each day at the The Browser we recommend five or six pieces of outstanding new writing. In the Monday Memo we plunder our archives to bring you our all-time favourites on a current theme. This week: strange languages.
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Daniel Everett On Language and Thought (
Nigel Warburton | Five Books | 27th January 2015

Linguist talks about his favourite books on language, his eight years in the Amazon with the Pirahã, and the challenge they pose to Chomsky. "Recursion is the crucial proponent of grammar proposed by Chomsky to distinguish human communications from other communications. The language of the Pirahã not only lacks recursion but is what was considered to be an impossible human language: a finite state language" (5,550 words)
World’s Weirdest Languages (
Tyler Schnoebelen | Idibon | 26th June 2013

If you rank the world's languages by the structural features they share with other languages, the one most different from the majority of all other languages is Chalcatongo Mixtec, spoken by 6,000 people in Oaxaca, Mexico — in which, for example, there is no difference between statements and questions. English ranks 33rd. The English way of marking a question, by changing word order, is used in only 1.4% of languages (1,870 words)
How Do You Say Shaolin In Sign Language? (
Amy Nelson | Slate | 21st June 2013

Profile of Holly Maniatty, sign-language interpreter for rock and rap concerts. Translates hip-hop in real time. "Her prep work includes researching dialectal signs to ensure accuracy and authenticity. An Atlanta rapper will use different slang than a Queens one, and ASL speakers from different regions also use different signs, so knowing how a word like guns and brother are signed in a given region is crucial for authenticity" (1,450 words)
How To Translate Japanese (
Jay Rubin | Times Literary Supplement | 17th June 2015

The Japanese language is too complicated to flourish, worries Minae Mizumura in "The Fall of Language In The Age Of English". Schools teach written Japanese as a way to record the spoken language, disregarding the culture and history which the written language carries with it. Teachers worry more about their students' English than their Japanese. The effects can be seen in new Japanese fiction: "Everything is small and clamorous – just juvenile” (2,220 words)
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Duncan Brown, Publisher

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