Tagged Questions

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

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33
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1answer
8k views

Is it against the law to mispronounce Arkansas?

There are many sources that claim that it is illegal to pronounce Arkansas incorrectly and you can be fined for doing so. My favorite law is one designed to get Northerners into trouble. That's ...
28
votes
2answers
3k views

Are Americans more likely to be monolingual?

From a comment on English Language & Usage, also mentioned in Wikipedia, and Chad Fowler's book The Passionate Programmer (Related blog post by the author: How Learning a Second Language Changed ...
4
votes
0answers
156 views

Can ultrasound be passed over the skin to be heard by the ear?

The company Skinlearning claims (in German), that one can learn "over the skin" with their uSonic device. Their site says: So können Sie Ihren Lernstoff permanent wiederholen und damit in Ihrem ...
5
votes
1answer
461 views

Does talking in another language actually change your personality?

So I found a photo on facebook: And while I usually don't believe in these facebook "Facts" I took a second to think about it myself since I'm a person that speaks a few languages (we have 4 national ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Did the head of the Joint National Committee on language claim Jesus spoke English?

In Bill Bryson's book The Mother Tongue, it is claimed, that Dr. David Edwards, head of the Joint National Committee on Languages once said: "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for ...
1
vote
1answer
140 views

Did the Kinki Nippon Tourist Company change its name?

From http://www.takingontobacco.org/intro/funny.html, a list of marketing "lost in translation" incidents: Foreign companies have similar problems when they enter English speaking markets. ...
3
votes
0answers
147 views

How correct are some dramatized documentaries about proto-humans?

There are some documentaries, e.g. by David Attenborough, that dramatize the life of proto-humans (e.g. Neanderthals, etc..) Some of these documentaries show/dramatize the proto-humans communicating ...
7
votes
1answer
297 views

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 ...
3
votes
1answer
804 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 ...
2
votes
0answers
231 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
317 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. ...
5
votes
0answers
386 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
874 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
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 ...
33
votes
1answer
2k views

Is xenoglossy a scientifically verified phenomenon?

It has often been said that people can speak in languages that were not formerly known to them. Arguably the most often recited example of this is in the context of demonic possession. For example ...
7
votes
1answer
4k 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? ...
9
votes
1answer
501 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 ...
8
votes
0answers
508 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 ...
46
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
242 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
911 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
2
votes
2answers
431 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?
6
votes
2answers
479 views

Is “Lord Privy Seal” a technical term in documentary film making?

Richard Dawkins has claimed many times in public speeches, especially in reference to the documentary “Expelled”, that documentary filmmakers use the expression “Lord Privy Seal” in a disparaging ...
8
votes
0answers
660 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
344 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. ...
11
votes
1answer
909 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 ...
19
votes
1answer
563 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 ...
38
votes
4answers
13k 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 ...
4
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
7k 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?
9
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
806 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
552 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

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 ...
13
votes
2answers
3k views

Do babies have their own language?

Is it true that when babies make their little noises, they are understood by surrounding babies? Is there a regular pattern in their actions and noises they make to signify their meaning?
14
votes
2answers
2k views

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 ...
44
votes
2answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
24
votes
4answers
968 views

Can toddlers learn sign language?

The other day came across a commercial of a 'course for sign language' for infants and toddlers. I was a bit sceptical from the start and my suspicions only rose, then I discovered that there is what ...
18
votes
1answer
953 views

Is “Your Baby Can Read” effective and helpful?

I have seen these videos advertised online and on TV, and they make some pretty fantastic claims, showing kids as young as 2 reading complicated words. From what I can find online, it uses a ...