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Author Archive

Klingon, Elvish and Esperanto — Linguist takes a serious look at Invented Languages

by Laura Welcher on June 1st, 02009

What do Klingon, Elvish and Esperanto have in common?  They are all explicitly constructed languages — some for fictional worlds, some for the real world.  Some are created to entertain, others have such lofty goals as achieving world peace.  Some have dictionaries, grammars and language academies.  All have a fair number of real world speakers, and. . .   Read More

FOXP2 human language gene changes mouse squeaks

by Laura Welcher on May 29th, 02009

What happens when you substitute the human FOXP2 gene for that of a mouse?  According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, not much, except this interesting result — it changes their vocalizations.

While the FOXP2 gene is important in the development of many different tissues, in humans it affects the development of. . .   Read More

Multi-millennial brain teasers

by Laura Welcher on May 27th, 02009

Put down your crosswords, cryptograms and sudoku.  Instead try boosting your brain power by deciphering an ancient script.  In case you have forgotten which ones are still available and want to stake your claim, here is a catalog with difficulty ranking based on two important criteria:  language (known/unknown) and script (known/unknown).  All have. . .   Read More

Historical Chinese characters – an endangered script?

by Laura Welcher on May 5th, 02009

Can a logographic script of a major world language survive its own government bureaucracy?  As reported in the NY Times:

“Seeking to modernize its vast database on China’s 1.3 billion citizens, the government’s Public Security Bureau has been replacing the handwritten identity card that every Chinese must carry with a computer-readable. . .   Read More

Modern code cracking adventures with ancient Indus Valley Script suggest it represents spoken language

by Laura Welcher on April 29th, 02009


In an article published in the April 24 issue of Sciences, researchers describe how they applied a computational process called “comparative entropy” to a corpus of ancient Indus Valley Script texts.  The results of the analysis show a kind of patterning they argue is only found in glottographic, or speech-based, writing systems.  The complex. . .   Read More

Frame your Google with Afaan Oromoo

by Laura Welcher on April 8th, 02009


Oromo, a language of Ethiopia with about 9,000,000 speakers, now joins languages like Mandarin, English and Spanish — languages with hundreds of millions of speakers — (and yes, Elmer Fudd-speak and Klingon) as the newest addition to Google’s multilingual interface.   This translation effort was made possible by over four years of work by. . .   Read More

Rosetta Disk 1.0 Browseable Archive – now available online

by Laura Welcher on March 23rd, 02009

A fully browseable version of the Rosetta Disk is now available online at The Rosetta Project website. Using this link, you can virtually browse and explore the contents of the disk, just as you would if you were looking at the micro-etched Rosetta Disk with a high-powered microscope.  The viewer for the digital version of […]

Whither our global linguistic future?

by Laura Welcher on February 24th, 02009

Two recent TED talks present a striking contrast in what the near-term future of human communication might be like — a multilingual world increasingly enabled by technology, or one where we all learn a lingua franca to participate in global public discourse.

Given that one out of every six people on the planet speak Mandarin. . .   Read More

Browseable DVD Version of the Rosetta Disk now available

by Laura Welcher on December 16th, 02008

A fully browseable version of the Rosetta Disk is now available on DVD from The Long Now store ($15).

The viewer on the DVD is powered by the OpenLayers 2.5 map visualization framework, which allows you to zoom all the way in to read even the microscopic text on both the front and back. . .   Read More

Adivasi Academy students work to save indigenous languages of India

by Laura Welcher on November 11th, 02008

In a remote region of India, students at the Adivasi Academy are working to save their tribal languages, and through their languages, their tribal cultures and knowledge as well. They certainly have their work cut out for them — many of the students have had to devise writing systems for their historically unwritten native tongues only. . .   Read More