Questions tagged [language]

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

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134
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2answers
27k views

Do the Finnish have a word for getting drunk alone in your underwear?

Urban dictionary (and many other articles on the internet) claim that the Finnish word "kalsarikännit" means: to drink by yourself at your house in your underwear with no intention of going out I ...
66
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3answers
7k 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 years ...
66
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3answers
11k 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 ...
44
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5answers
23k 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 ...
39
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2answers
30k 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 ...
39
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1answer
5k 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, ...
39
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1answer
1k views

Are LDS missionaries taught languages to a level of fluency in under three months which takes other schools years?

In How do Mormon missionaries learn foreign languages so quickly? it is claimed that LDS (Mormon) missionaries spend only up to ten weeks in languge learning, and that most are "fluent" within one ...
34
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2answers
4k 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 ...
28
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1answer
2k views

Did Germans receive corn instead of wheat and rye after WW2 due to a translation error?

After World War II, the U.S. army sent food supplies to Germany. There is a widespread legend that they delivered maize instead of wheat and rye because the Germans demanded "Korn" which means grain ...
27
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4answers
1k 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 ...
27
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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
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1answer
2k views

Is profanity correlated with trustworthiness and honesty?

This image can be found on 9GAG and Facebook: Profanity is defined by Merriam-Webster as "an offensive word" or "offensive language". It is also called bad language, strong language, coarse language, ...
23
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2answers
2k views

Does Arabic graffiti in “Homeland” criticise the show?

There are multiple reports that the show "Homeland" has Arabic graffiti that amongst other things criticise the show as racist. The news reports cite the graffiti artists commissioned by the show, ...
22
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2answers
11k 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?
22
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1answer
2k 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 ...
22
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1answer
898 views

Can speakers of Kuuk Thaayorre navigate much better than Western speakers inside unfamiliar buildings?

Lera Boroditsky writes in the Edge article How does our language shape the way we think?: Simply put, speakers of languages like Kuuk Thaayorre are much better than English speakers at staying ...
22
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2answers
2k 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 ...
20
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1answer
2k views

Did Native Americans call European people “pale-face”?

In lots of American Indian novels you can read that the native peoples of North America called European people "pale-face" or "pale-faced": “Young Randolph! war-chief among the pale-faces! You ...
20
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1answer
1k 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 ...
19
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1answer
20k views

Was the phrase “hello” popularized because of the name of Alexander Graham Bell's wife/girlfriend “Margaret Hello”?

This is a popular explanation of the etymology of the word hello, seen in many email forwards: When you lift the phone, you say "Hello". Do you know what is the real meaning of "Hello" It is ...
19
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3answers
3k 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 ...
19
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1answer
10k views

Is the “I before E” English spelling rule wrong more than it is right?

There are 923 words that break the "i before e" rule. Only 44 words actually follow that rule. This is a picture circulating right now, claiming that a huge majority of the words break the "i before ...
19
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1answer
724 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 ...
19
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1answer
2k 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 ...
18
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4answers
24k views

Was the word 'racist' coined by Trotsky in 1927?

According to the image below, "racist is a made up word by Leon Trotsky in 1927." I searched in the Online Etymology Dictionary and found that racist (n.) 1932 [as a noun], 1938 as an ...
18
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3answers
5k 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 ...
18
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1answer
1k views

Are people who love inspirational quotes less intelligent?

An article in the Daily Beast claims the following: A new study finds that people who love bullshit inspirational quotes have lower intelligence and more "conspiratorial ideations". Life ...
18
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1answer
895 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 ...
18
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1answer
5k 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 ...
17
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1answer
4k 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 ...
17
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1answer
1k views

Is the origin of the phrase “suck it up” referring to WWII pilots?

I was reading this New Statesman article and was surprised to read this: The origin of the phrase “suck it up” is quite gross. Allegedly, it’s what WWII pilots were instructed to do if they vomited ...
16
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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 ...
16
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2answers
5k 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?
15
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1answer
4k 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 ...
14
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1answer
748 views

Do 22% of Muslim women in the UK speak little or no English?

According to the BBC, the UK government claims: 22% of Muslim women living in England speak little or no English. It also quotes a former Superintendent of the Metro Police as disputing this ...
13
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0answers
1k 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 ...
12
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2answers
3k 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 ...
11
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2answers
896 views

Is Arabic the 4th most common language used on internet?

The Wikipedia page, Languages user on the Internet provides two different ways of ranking the most popular languages on the Internet. By content: Estimated percentages of the top 10 million ...
11
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1answer
1k 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 ...
10
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2answers
9k 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 ...
10
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1answer
2k 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 ...
10
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1answer
773 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 ...
10
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1answer
1k views

Does requesting a bilingual trial often result in dismissal?

Life hack sites like to claim that requesting a bilingual trial will cause minor cases to be dismissed. I have seen this on multiple sites, but it seems they have a tendency to shut down after a year ...
10
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1answer
979 views

Do the English eat “pork” instead of “pig” because they were servants of the French?

Many online sources make the claim that the strange quirk in the English language of having French-derived terms (pork, beef, veal, mutton) for the meat of the animal, and having German-derived terms (...
9
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1answer
465 views

Are North American children adopting British accents because of Peppa Pig?

Several news items have surfaced today which report that North American children are adopting British accents at a very young age due to watching Peppa Pig episodes. The only source quoted is Romper ...
9
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1answer
1k 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 ...
9
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1answer
2k 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 ...
9
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1answer
946 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. ...
9
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0answers
326 views

Does reading what you listen parallely improve your ability to speak English?

I can write English well, and can also understand it well (provided someone speaks i a known accent.) For improving my spoken English I have got audio books. I can understand what I am being told by ...
8
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2answers
964 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 ...