Some Links.

1) Jon Hamilton of NPR News has an interesting interview (audio and transcript) with researchers studying how the brain recognizes the sounds used to form words. I was particularly struck by this:

This let them see precisely what different brain cells, or neurons, were doing as each bit of sound passed by. And [Edward] Chang says they realized that some were responding specifically to plosives, like the initial puh-sounds in Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers. Meanwhile, other neurons were responding to a particular type of vowel sound.

2) Peter Pomerantsev has an excellent primer at LRBblog on the linguistic situation in Ukraine; if you’ve fallen for the simplistic “Russians in the east, Ukrainians in the west” cliché, you need to read and assimilate it. As he says, “The big winner from the conceptual division of Ukraine into ‘Russian’ and ‘Ukrainian’ spheres may well be the Kremlin.”

3) The AHD Tumblr has a guest post by Susan Steinway, Archivist Coordinator at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, about the original paper ballots from the early years of the American Heritage Dictionary’s Usage Panel, a subject of great interest to me; as I wrote Stan, who sent me the link, “I still remember the thrill I felt when I got the first edition of this magnificent dictionary and how I happily spent hours mentally arguing with the usage panel.” I rolled my eyes at the chest-thumping mini-rants (“Good God, No! Never!”) and appreciated the reservations expressed by Malcolm Cowley (“There is always the danger that we, the so-called authorities, should become too damned pedantic”) and Isaac Asimov (“My opinions are strong, but not necessarily authoritative”).


  1. Trond Engen says

    Very diverse, all very interesting. I want to know more about the brain scans.

  2. He has a point about “uncultured” language. I have an impression that Ukrainians nowadays speak very bad Russian (and their writing is even worse and full of mistakes).

    I wonder how many graduates of Ukrainian schools would pass entry exams in Russian universities.

  3. ” I have an impression that Ukrainians nowadays speak very bad Russian (and their writing is even worse and full of mistakes).”

    It depends. My impression is that educated Ukrainians from Kiev speak rather good, proper Russian. Writing is a different business.


  1. […] membership and Russian speakers in the East who want close ties with Russia. Peter Pomerantsev (via LH) thinks that theory is worse than an oversimplification, and Alexei K. also thinks the East/West […]

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