The specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication.

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Does learning Latin first dramatically improve the ability to learn more languages?

I was taught 2 semesters of cold Spanish, but forgot most of it. Does learning Latin first make learning Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, etc. a whole lot faster or easier as some claim. They all ...
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377 views

Did World War II propaganda posters tell people to “Speak American”, rather than languages of the enemy?

Wikimedia commons entry, claiming a citation to "Una Storia Segreta" by Lawrence Distasi. The licensing metadata from the picture claims that it is a "work prepared by an officer or employee of the ...
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179 views

Why is it said that “cellar door” a beautiful sounding word other than individuals personal opinions? [closed]

In the film Donnie Darko the English teacher states that "cellar door" is the most beautiful word in the English language. After doing some research, I believe the claim is more accurately stated as ...
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249 views

Was French spelling artificially altered for longer words?

There's a widespread belief that says that the reason for French having so many silent letters is that historically the authors were paid by the letter, so they were tempted to write longer words. ...
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282 views

Was the official language of the Union of India selected by a single tie-breaker vote?

This answer in Yahoo Answers claims: Hindi has been declared in the Constitution of India, as the official language of the Union of India. It is also one of the 23 languages recognised under the ...
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750 views

Does language acquisition become more difficult after a “critical period” linked to age?

The critical period hypothesis (from Wikipedia): The critical period hypothesis is the subject of a long-standing debate in linguistics and language acquisition over the extent to which the ...
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3k views

Is Polish the hardest language to learn?

I've recently been to Poland and I've heard the claim that Polish is the hardest language to learn. I've found this claim repeated again today, for example on this blog post: The hardest language ...
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3k views

Is the “i before e english” spelling rule not very useful?

This is a picture circulating right now, claiming that a huge majority of the words break the "i before e" rule, and that only a few actually follow it. Is the rule as useless as the picture claim? ...
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450 views

Do people tend to have a particular language representational system (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic representational)?

One of the primary claims of neuro-linguistic programming is that people possess a particular language system (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic representational). For example: For example, a ...
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435 views

Is a large percentage of human communication non-verbal?

The claim that 60, or 80, or 90 or 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal is endlessly repeated, not only in pop culture but in the professional worlds of education, business, and in some less ...
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1k views

Can Chinese people read the literature of 2,500 years ago as easily as yesterday's newspapers

Bill Bryson in his book The Mother Tongue: English And How It Got That Way, on page 110, writes: An equally useful advantage of written Chinese is that people can read the literature of 2,500 ...
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210 views

Can dolphins learn a symbol based language?

I recently stumbled across the following article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1240334/Dolphins-clever-humans--treat-like-people-say-scientists.html which makes the claim that ...
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815 views

Did Reverend Mezzofanti fluently speak thirty-four languages?

In the John England's book titled "The Works of Reverend John England, Volume 6" (page 172) I read: Reverend Joseph Mezzofanti, first keeper of the Vatican library, of whom Lord Byron had so high ...
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802 views

Did Japanese people misspell “We pray for MacArthur's election”?

The Internet is full of references to the same story: It was probably in 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was temporarily put in charge of running Japan, which was in tough shape after ...
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404 views

Does knowing Latin help learning English?

I have read that one who knows Latin has a good command over English. Is this correct or just a myth? If it is correct, how does it work?
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579 views

Was there ever a universal human language or mother-tongue?

In "Is this how Eve spoke? Every human language evolved from 'single prehistoric African mother tongue'" from the UK Daily Mail: Every language in the world - from English to Mandarin - evolved ...
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328 views

Are there banned words in New York standarized tests?

I just came across a random post on a random news blog saying that several words were banned from New York's standardized tests. This included common words, such as Christmas, dinosaurs, birthdays. ...
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782 views

Do number systems in native languages affect math performance?

This blog post said that Asians are good at math because Asian languages have less-confusing number systems: So if it’s not the schools, what accounts for Asians succeeding in math across different ...
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509 views

Are shorter lines easier to read?

People keep claiming that shorter lines are easier to read - especially when discussing user interfaces and fixed width layouts. I recall a stack overflow question years ago where someone essentially ...
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4answers
11k views

Are there 20,000 English words in the average adult's vocabulary?

Is there any consensus as to how many words are in the average adult's vocabulary? Over the years, I've come across various factoids and blurbs online and in magazine articles that have made ...
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794 views

Can someone have a “gift for languages”?

In Australia, although it has changed significantly in the past 30 years due to migration, it is quite common for people of Anglo background to only speak one language. I learned my second language ...
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2k views

Is passive listening useless when learning a language?

In an article on the blog Fluent in Three Months is a claim that listening to hours of a foreign language without really concentrating on it is "barely better than nothing". The shocking truth is ...
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2answers
6k views

Are there more English speaking people in China than in the USA?

I have heard there are more Chinese who speak English than there are Americans who speak English. Is this true?
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989 views

Is dyslexia unheard of in Spain?

I've been told that dyslexia is unheard of in Spain, and presumably other Spanish-speaking cultures, because Spanish is pronounced as it is spelt. Is this true? Example: Cases of dyslexia and ...
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734 views

Are people more likely to believe eloquent people?

Do a majority (e.g. >50%) of people form positive opinions about an individual's knowledge on the subject matter if the speaker/writer is more eloquent(well versed in grammar, clear and concise)? An ...
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504 views

Is Lojban completely unambiguous?

The description from Wikipedia: Lojban (pronounced [ˈloʒban]) is a constructed, syntactically unambiguous human language based on predicate logic, succeeding the project of Loglan. I understand ...
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Does using big words make people sound more professional?

I have read in several places that people use big, fancy, complicated, and little known words (such as Brobdingnagian) to give the impression that they are knowledgeable, smart, and professional. Does ...
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Churchill's quote: “This is just the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.”

Did Winston Churchill say, as some on the 'net claim, in response to being told he should not end a sentence with a preposition, something like "This is just the sort of nonsense up with which I will ...
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3k views

Do people think in a language?

I was discussing some things with a psychology major, and he insisted that people always use a language to think. This is quite opposed to my own experience. I agree that I am capable of formulating ...
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1k views

Did Shakespeare introduce over 1700 new words to the English language?

I was cruising the JREF forums, and while I am very familiar with many of the phrases he coined and popularized in the English language, a post makes the claim. Shakespeare coined about two ...