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Can Artificial Intelligence really help us talk to the animals?

Can Artificial Intelligence really help us talk to the animals?

A California-based organisation hopes to use machine learning to decipher animal communication on a global scale. However, there are many who have their doubts about the initiative. Raskin is the co-founder and president of the Earth Species Project (ESP), a non-profit organisation with the audacious goal of deciphering non-human communication using machine learning, making all the knowledge available to the…

Designing a new language for cars

Designing a new language for cars

Lights, sounds or screens with messages: How can self-driving cars interact with humans to make their intentions clear? Autonomous driving promises to bring lots of benefits, ranging from more safety to increased mobility. However, the introduction of self-driving cars also means that we have to come up with means to communicate the intentions of these vehicles when there is no…

Our emotions and identity can affect the way we use grammar

Our emotions and identity can affect the way we use grammar

Study reveals how emotional context affects how we use and understand language at the neural level.   Language and social identity have been making headlines recently. Last month, Air Canada’s CEO Michael Rousseau faced scrutiny over not knowing French – his language deficit is helping support Bill 96 in Québec (which seeks to change the Canadian Constitution to affirm Québec as a nation and…

How the human talent for charades helps explain the origin of language

How the human talent for charades helps explain the origin of language

Language gives us the power to describe, virtually without limit, the countless entities, actions, properties, and relations that compose our experience, real and imagined. But what is the origin of this power? What gave rise to humankind’s ability to use words to convey meanings? Traditionally, scholars interested in this question have focused on trying to explain language as an arbitrary symbolic code.…

What is the Bouba/Kiki effect, and what does it mean for the evolution of language?

What is the Bouba/Kiki effect, and what does it mean for the evolution of language?

What shape do you think of when you hear the words Bouba and Kiki?   Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language? Exchanging frantic gestures and impossible-to-understand words as you both become more and more frustrated? It usually seems like an impossible situation. However, scientists who are interested to learn how sight and sound…

The rise of COVID ‘snowclones’ – the mother of all linguistic phrases

The rise of COVID ‘snowclones’ – the mother of all linguistic phrases

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an explosion of new words and phrases in English (for example, ‘covidiot’) and other languages, e.g. ‘Coronaspeck’ in German (to describe lockdown weight gain) that have helped us make sense of a period defined by social confusion and constant change, as well as global stagnation. The scope of language innovation in relation to…