European Language Tree

I love visualizations like this one, and I can imagine compiling more like this one — a good visualization of the new “tree of life” — as well as a really nice rendering of the periodic table into a *things you need to know* book/portfolio.

European Language Tree

EDIT: *I forgot to note that [Ethnologue]( is a great resource for language information.*

Mapping Metaphor

The [Metaphor Map of English][] is now available. It’s a fascinating labyrinth, especially if you have any interest in conceptual metaphors. Here’s what the map’s developers have to say:

> The Metaphor Map of English shows the metaphorical links which have been identified between different areas of meaning. These links can be from the Anglo-Saxon period right up to the present day so the map covers 1300 years of the English language. This allows us the opportunity to track metaphorical ways of thinking and expressing ourselves over more than a millennium; see the Metaphor in English section for more information.
> The Metaphor Map was built as part of the Mapping Metaphor with the Historical Thesaurus project. This was completed by a team in English Language at the University of Glasgow and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council from 2012 to early 2015. The Metaphor Map is based on the Historical Thesaurus of English, which was published in 2009 by Oxford University Press as the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary.

[Metaphor Map of English]:

The Winner of Eurovision

The big winner at Eurovision, again, was the English language. Well, that and the American pop ballad (mixed with the remnants of disco that Europe appears to hold so dear). Just scanning through the preview (see the video montage below) for the performance, English had at least the simple majority (over half).

I missed a few countries that stuck to their own language (and obviously England and Ireland don’t count in any of this), but my rough list is: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Italy, San Marino, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland.

Of those, France, Spain, and Italy were no surprise. Germany and Russia going English seemed interesting. Croatia and Serbia stayed native, but Slovenia went English.

Outside of language, the other curious thing was the countries that didn’t do the pop ballad: Iceland and Switzerland seemed more country, and Georgia sounded like they were from Georgia. (See what I did there?) But, to be honest, the boundary between the pop ballad and the country ballad is pretty fuzzy these days.

And for those who need a cheat sheet for Eurovision, [Buzzfeed has it all](

More Language News

Thanks to another network analysis of linguistic data — previous story [here]( — scholars seem to have traced the origin of language to … well, to the origin of human beings in eastern Africa. The Economist has a [write-up](

Some Possible Revisions to Generative Linguistics

While the Ars Technica article is rather superficial, and assumes that the work of several generation of linguists is rather easily overthrown, the research written up is quite interesting:

By treating language features like subject-verb order as a trait, the authors were able to perform this sort of analysis on four different language families: 79 Indo-European languages, 130 Austronesian languages, 66 Bantu languages, and 26 Uto-Aztecan languages. Although we don’t have a complete roster of the languages in those families, they include over 2,400 languages that have been evolving for a minimum of 4,000 years.

The results, according to the article itself: “most observed functional dependencies between traits are lineage-specific rather than universal tendencies.”


I can’t tell if this [set of photographs on Flickr]( is the work of one person or many, but it’s pretty amazing documentation of signs seen at recent Tea Party events, a number of which feature unfortunate, if not highly ironic, misunderstandings of grammar or spelling of the English language.