Category Archives: Language

Language is based in threes. Sender, message, receiver. Subject verb object. A language involves a semantic system, a phonological system, and a syntactic system. Phonetics study the sounds of languages from three basic points of view.

Hebrew: The Metric System of Languages

Guest Post by Bob Canter

Created roughly a century apart, the advent of modern Hebrew and the creation of the Metric System bear several striking similarities.

Hebrew exhibits some of the same logical features as does the Metric System. The primary logical structure of Hebrew is the three-letter root system which forms the building blocks of most Hebrew words. Understanding these many roots is not only a fascinating exercise in linguistic exploration, but is a key step in building a Hebrew vocabulary.

For example, the three-letter root samech-fay-resh (ס פ ר) means “to recount,” or “telling,” as in the sense of telling a story. From this root Hebrew derives a delightful group of words:

ס פ ר = Book
ס ו פ ר = Author/writer/scribe
ס פ ר ו ת = Literature
ס פ ר י ה = Library
ס פ ר ן = Librarian
ס פ ר ו ן= Booklet/pamphlet
ח נ ו ת ס פ ר י ם = Bookstore
בּ י ת ס פ ר = School (lit., “House of [the] Book”
ס פ ו ר = Story
ל ס פ ר = To tell

Tetragrammaton
Tetragrammaton

And like the Metric System, Hebrew employs a series of prefixes that are attached to the words they modify:

ה for “The” “This” or “That”
ו for “And”/”And the”
ל for “To/”To the”
בּ for “In/”In the”/”At”
מ or מִן for “From”/”From the”

The logic of Hebrew is that if you can recognize the root in Hebrew, and learn its meaning, then even when you see a word with that three-letter root that you do not know, you can figure that it must have some logical relationship to the base meaning of that root; in the above case any Hebrew word with the three-letter root samech-fay-resh (ס פ ר) will have some relationship to “recounting” or “telling.”

Read the full article and learn Hebrew at https://blogs.transparent.com/hebrew/hebrew-the-metric-system-of-languages/

 

List-Construction as a Task and Resource

The occurrence of lists in natural conversation is examined to reveal some of the interactional relevances of such list productions.

The presence of three-part lists are first noted. Speakers and hearers orient to their three-part nature. The complete list can then constitute a turn at talk and the hearer can monitor the third component as a sign of turn completion.  List can thereby be a conversational sequential source.

By virtue of the three-part structure of some lists, members can orient to such matters as a “weak”, “absent”, or “missing” third part. Third items can be used to accomplish particular interactional work, such as topic-shifting and offense avoidance.

This report is a preliminary examination of lists occurring in natural conversation.

Read List Construction as a Task and Resource

 

3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet rewrites the history of maths – and shows the Greeks did not develop trigonometry

plimpton 322 tablet
plimpton 322 tablet

3,700-year-old clay tablet has proven that the Babylonians developed trigonometry 1,500 years before the Greeks and were using a sophisticated method of mathematics which could change how we calculate today.

The tablet, known as Plimpton 332, was discovered in the early 1900s in Southern Iraq by the American archaeologist and diplomat Edgar Banks, who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones.

The true meaning of the tablet has eluded experts until now but new research by the University of New South Wales, Australia, has shown it is the world’s oldest and most accurate trigonometric table, which was probably used by ancient architects to construct temples, palaces and canals. Continue reading 3,700-year-old Babylonian tablet rewrites the history of maths – and shows the Greeks did not develop trigonometry

Why Do We Have Middle Names?

BY THE MAG ,BY SEAN HUTCHINSON

AUGUST 26, 2014

Forename, middle name, surname. 

Middle names
Middle names

The phrase “middle name” first appeared in an 1835 Harvard University periodical called Harvardiana, but the practice dates back much further.

In ancient Rome, having multiple names was an honor usually bestowed upon the most important people—like Gaius Julius Caesar. The fad died out only to pick back up again in Western cultures in the 1700s, when aristocrats started giving their children lavishly long names to indicate their place in society. Similarly, lengthy Spanish and Arabic names adopt paternal or maternal names from previous generations to trace the individual’s family tree. (In other cultures, like Chinese, there are traditionally no middle names.)
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Enneagram

Enneagram
Enneagram

The enneagram figure is usually composed of three parts; a circle, an inner triangle (connecting 3-6-9) and an irregular hexagonal “periodic figure” (connecting 1-4-2-8-5-7). According to esoteric spiritual traditions, the circle symbolizes unity, the inner triangle symbolizes the “law of three” and the hexagon represents the “law of seven” (because 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 is the repeating decimal created by dividing one by seven in base 10 arithmetic). These three elements constitute the usual enneagram figure.
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Oxford comma

Why an extra comma matters

Comma
Comma
For those in need of a grammar refresh, the Oxford (or serial) comma is a comma placed between the last two items in a series of three or more. For instance, “I like cake, pizza, and ice cream.”

Proponents of the Oxford comma argue it’s necessary to avoid potential ambiguity.
In the example sentence, it’s clear I like three types of food in and of themselves. Remove it and the sentence reads, “I like cake, pizza and ice cream” — leading to the potential to read the last two items as one combination item. I no longer like pizza and ice cream on their own, one could argue; I like pizza and ice cream only when they’re together. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Continue reading Oxford comma

Number 3 in American Culture

THE NUMBER THREE IN AMERICAN CULTURE

By the late Professor Alan Dundes of the University of California at Berkeley

Allan Dundes

Professor Allan Dundes

Students undertaking professional training in anthropology are rarely, if ever, required to formally study their own cultures. They must demonstrate competence in various topics and areas, but these do not normally include materials from their own cultures. They may be told that the identification and careful delineation of native categories may be crucial to a fuller understanding of that culture which they investigate, but their own native categories, the identification of which is equally important for an understanding of another culture, may not be considered at all. With our present knowledge of the cultural relativity of perception and cognition, it seems clear that students of anthropology should be encouraged to analyze their own native categories with the same care and methodological rigor that is demanded of them in their fieldwork in other cultures. If the reduction of ethnocentric bias is truly an ideal of anthropological scholarship, then anthropologists should go into the field with as comprehensive an understanding of the nature of their own culture as possible.

Continue reading Number 3 in American Culture