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  • turkey
    Why is it called a turkey if the bird is from North America, not the country of Turkey? (Prefer a video version of this post? Watch here!) Well it turns out it is from Turkey—sort of. Guinea fowl from Madagascar were imported into Europe through the Ottoman Empire, so most Europeans called the bird a Turkey bird, and later just turkey. When Europeans encountered turkeys in North America, they classified them as a type of guinea fowl, and used the same name. Over time, the meaning of the word turkey narrowed to refer to just the North American bird. Similarly,Continue reading “turkey”
  • azure
    During classical antiquity the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli was mined in a place called Lāžvard around modern Afghanistan. That’s also the name of the stone in Classical Persian (لاجورد‎). It comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *ǵʰelh₃- ‘to gleam, to shine’ + Proto-Iranian *varta- ‘stone’. (Watch a video version of this post below!) Other words that come from *ǵʰelh₃- include gold, yellow, felon, glow, and cholera! Medieval Greek and Medieval Latin borrowed this word as λαζούριον (lazoúrion) and lazurius respectively. Latin added the word lapis ‘stone’, yielding the phrase lapis lazulī, which English later borrowed. Now for the plot twist: ArabicContinue reading “azure”
  • Book List: The Linguistics Starter Pack
    Curious about linguistics but not sure where you can learn more? The Linguistics Starter Pack is for you! This is a curated list of my top recommendations for getting started in linguistics. Most of the items on this list are popular science books, aimed at a general audience, and written in a non-technical way. I’ve also included a few highly accessible introductory textbooks if you’re looking for something more structured instead. Note: The links on this page are Amazon affiliate links, which means I get a small commission from any book you buy through these links (at no additional costContinue reading “Book List: The Linguistics Starter Pack”
  • Language and thought: Talking about directions
    I love the movie Arrival but it perpetuates one of the biggest myths in linguistics: that language influences how we think about time.
  • Book List: Animal Communication & Cognition
    A curated list of books about animal communication and cognition.
  • Can animals talk to their owners with buttons?
    Many animals on TikTok are using audio buttons to communicate with their owners! But is this language?
  • Numbers are hard
    If Old English shows vestiges of a base-12 counting system, then when did “hundred” mean 120 instead of 144?
  • Grammaticalization in Somali and the development of morphological tone (Kaldhol & Stausland Johnsen)
    How do tones come to be used to mark grammatical features in a language? Here’s how it happened in Somali.
  • Review: Speaking American: How y’all, youse, and you guys talk (Josh Katz, 2020)
    Review of the book “Speaking American: How y’all, youse, and you guys talk” (Josh Katz, 2020).