From the CanIL Blog
Read below for recent articles of linguistic tidbits and news from CanIL.
Where does linguistic complexity come from?
It has often been claimed that all languages are equally complex. Simplification in one area of language is meant to be compensated for by increased complexity in another area – like squeezing a balloon: it shrinks in one place but bulges out elsewhere. This belief may be linked to the tendency to equate linguistic complexity with cultural or intellectual development. But now many linguists recognize what ordinary people have long suspected: some languages are more complex (and therefore difficult to learn) than others.
Have you ever focused so much on a word that it started to look and sound strange to you? As you repeated the word over and over, the association between the word and its meaning became weak, possibly even funny. Believe it or not this is an acknowledged phenomenon known as ‘semantic satiation,’ and it was first reported and studied around the turn of the century. In ‘A Beginner’s Psychology’ dating back to 1919 it is described this way: “Repeat aloud some word — the first that occurs to you; house, for instance — over and over again; presently the sound of the word becomes meaningless and blank; you are puzzled and a morsel frightened as you hear it.” The loss of meaning of a word is a subjective experience, yet some studies have shown that the rate of meaning loss patterns in a predictable manner, which is correlated with the frequency of repetition, along with other conditions.