Speaking in Whistles: The Whistled Language of Oaxaca, Mexico

Whistled language is a rare form of communication that can be mostly found in locations with isolating features such as scattered settlements or mountainous terrain. This documentary above shows how Dr. Mark Sicoli, Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University, conducts field studies among speakers of a Chinantec language, who live in the mountainous region of northern Oaxaca in Mexico. The Summer Institute of Linguistics in Mexico has recorded and transcribed a whistled conversation in Sochiapam Chinantec between two men in different fields. The result can be seen and heard here.

The most thoroughly-researched whistled language however is Silbo Gomero, the language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands). In 2009, it was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The UNESCO website has a good description of this whistled language with photos and a video. Having almost died out, the language is now taught once more in schools.

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By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

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Forensic Linguistics: Finding a Murderer Through Text Messages

Malcolm Coulthard teaches Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, Birmingham. And, in case you’re wondering what this means, forensic linguistics is all about “taking linguistic knowledge, methods and insight, and applying these to the forensic context of law, investigation, trial, punishment and rehabilitation.” Or solving crimes, in short.  This may sound rather dry, but when Professor Coulthard talks about his work we get a fascinating glimpse into what forensic linguistics looks like in practice. In the video above, an excerpt from his inaugural lecture at Aston University (watch the full version here), Coulthard explains how the analysis of text messages helped solve a recent murder case. This puts him on the new frontier of police work.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the BBC, Tim Grant, Deputy Director at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University, explains how his team’s analysis of documents and writings can help police with their investigations. The video does not work in all regions, but there is a transcript below the video.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

DalíLinguistics

In this hilarious conversation, originally published in the short-lived ECHO Magazine in 1960, Salvador Dalí tries to teach Irish-born actor Edward Mulhare how to articulate English words in a more Dalían way. When this clip was recorded, Mulhare had already spent three years playing the role of Professor Higgins in the Broadway version of My Fair Lady. And as you’ll recall, it was Higgins’ job to teach Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, to speak as a proper English lady. How successfully does Dali manage to put some surrealist cool into this rather conservative Englishman? You can listen here to find out. And don’t forget to catch Salvador Dalí’s classic appearance on What’s my line?

MP3 via UbuWeb Sound.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

Stephen Fry Gets Animated about Language

For a brief time in 2008, Stephen Fry, the popular British author, writer and comedian, produced a series of podcasts – called “Podgrams” – that drew on his writings, speeches and collective thoughts. (Find them on RSS and iTunes here). During one particular episode, Fry meditated on language (the English language & his own language) and a little on Barthes, Chomsky, Pinker and even Eddie Izzard. Then Matthew Rogers took that meditation and ran with it, producing a “kinetic typography animation” that artfully illustrates a six minute segment of the longer talk. Watch it above, and if you’re captivated by what Fry has to say, don’t miss his popular video, What I Wish I Had Known When I Was 18.

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