Thursday, February 05, 2004

From the New Scientist

I treated myself to a copy of the New Scientist this morning. Here are a couple of snippets which made me sit up and take notice.

What's your favourite example of a big difference between languages?

In English I can tell my son: "Today I talked to Adrian", and he won't ask: "How do you know you talked to Adrian?" But in some languages, including Tariana, you always have to put a little suffix onto your verb saying how you know something - we call it "evidentiality". I would have to say: "I talked to Adrian, non-visual," if we had talked on the phone. And if my son told someone else, he would say: "She talked to Adrian, visual, reported." In that language, if you don't say how you know things, they think you are a liar.

This is a very nice and useful tool. Imagine if, in the argument about weapons of mass destruction, people had had to say how they knew about whatever they said. That would have saved us quite a lot of breath.

Interview with linguist Alexandra Aikhenvald

Many of man's primary diseases are transmitted by flies. These include typhoid, cholera, gangrene, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, bubonic plague, leprosy, diptheria, scarlet fever and amoebic dysentery. [my emphasis]
Gareth Lewis in Southampton's Southern Daily Echo (via "Feedback", New Scientist, 31 January 2004)

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