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Blog Posts by Subject: Linguistics

September Author @ the Library Programs at Mid-Manhattan

The centrality of sunshine… the most fascinating New York Times obits of the year… the riddle of the

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New Year's Resolution for 2012: Learn a New Language!

As 2011 slowly comes to an end, many of us are anxiously waiting for 2012 to arrive! Usually around this time — for some of the ambitious ones — we make New Year's resolutions. Can we actually keep them through the end of the year? Maybe. It depends on your resolutions and the goals you create to achieve them. Some have many resolutions for the year, such as creating and maintaining a 

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Language and Gender: A Reading List

Do you ever feel like people of the opposite sex just don't understand you, like you're speaking another language? You're not alone!  It is well documented that men and women have different styles of speaking and interacting, from conversations to their storytelling styles. 

In conversation, women typically try to make connections while males approach conversation as a contest.  Not surprising then, males typically tell stories involving competition, contests, and that are aggressive in 

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A Language of Our Own: America’s English and the Influence of Noah Webster

Most people are familiar with the name Noah Webster as the father of the American Dictionary, a book that we all grew up with and still use today.  What many people may not know is that besides being a lexicographer, he was also a dedicated orthographer and philologist, working in spelling reform and lingustics, and had a large influence on the early American language.

Webster began his career as a schoolteacher and recognized a need for a quality teaching tool for children learning grammar and 

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Candide, or Optimism, Dude: The Challenges of Translating Voltaire's Candide

In 2002, I revised Henry Morley's translation of Candide. What, you might ask, does it mean to revise a translation? Does one go back to the original French, or do you work solely from the translation? What, in fact, gets revised? As the editor of Barnes and Noble's Candide explained when he approached me, this would be a project of tightening up some of the translation work itself and updating the language that Morley had chosen for his nineteenth-century translation. And 

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Pangloss Regained

Dr. Pangloss Surveys the World (NYPL General Research Division)Thanks to Candide, the term "pangloss" has come to mean "overly optimistic fool." The Greek roots in the name, "pan-" and "gloss-" can be read as "all tongue" – an apt characterization of the tutor's speaking-without-thinking style. But I have another sense of the word in mind when I say that Candide was published in the hangover years of a nearly century-long panglossomania binge.

In the 17th century, 

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Don’t know? Make it up!

When I was a kid, I knew that grown-ups used big words with meanings I didn’t understand. There was always the assumption that as I got older, I’d learn these as a matter of course. In the meantime, however, I could always make up definitions based on other words I knew that sounded like the new one. Some of them still stick with me because, in my opinion, they’re better than the real things. For example…

I heard that someone had “matriculated”. This is a rather pompous way of saying that he or she had signed up for college, but I didn’t 

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