Just a quick note: I’m now also blogging over at Gene Expression. It’s actually pretty worthless note, considering the vast body of my visitors are equally divided between those arriving from GNXP and those using the search term Titanoboa. Still, the main point is that I’ll still be updating the site alongside my writings over at GNXP. Sadly for you Titanoboa fans I will be keeping snake-related posts to an absolute minimum.
Now I’ve had a month-long break from blogging you may, or may not, have noticed a few changes to the blog, notably the inclusion of three additional features: Dissertation, Minifeed and Basic Concepts. So from now on in, I will definitely be adding a post every day, and hopefully a research-related post every week or so. But before all this happens, I really suggest you go over and visit Babel’s Dawn, as Mr Bolles is putting much of us slightly less prolific bloggers to shame with his coverage of the ways to protolanguage conference.
As for my own opinion of protolanguage: yes, it probably existed, but I really haven’t got any more to add at the moment. It is a topic I plan on returning to in another post, although I’m not really sure I can add anything extra to the current debate. There is one thing, though: I do find debates on concerning the transition of protolanguage into a fully fledged language a bit tiresome. I mean we’re not even fully sure as to the impact that writing systems have had on how we speak. Take Chomsky’s favourite topic of recursion. As far as I know, there is no evidence of complex recursion being present in languages prior to the emergence of writing systems. It may be the case that writing allowed for languages with no, or very circumscribed, recursion in their syntax to develop into a system that allows for embedding of indefinite complexity.
In truth, you can argue many features of language didn’t appear until the development of writing, as there is no solid record of languages existing prior to this invention. This is a problem all linguists face, and it does require a lot of assumptions to be made beforehand — some of which are reasonable (languages did exist before writing) and some of which may be construed as not reasonable (literate societies process language in the same way as non-literate societies).
If you’re part of science blogging community, then you’ll probably know that my festive title relates to the Yellowstone Caldera; and how it’s going to cause our impending doom (date tbc). Basically, earthquake activity around Yellowstone has increased, as you can see for yourself, which may or may not be indicative of your death. After all, if we’re to believe the BBC docudrama of the aforementioned caldera, dramatically dubbed a supervolcano, things won’t be so rosy if the lava starts flowing and the dust begins to rise. Still, it would be slightly ironic, and even poetic, if there are still some of us around to appreciate things, that our end comes from something unrelated to greedy bankers and global warming.
I was planning quite a lengthy post about schizophrenia to kick-start my latest attempt at blogging. Then I read this:
The option comes from culture secretary, Andy Burnhman, who envisions a future in which the Internet meets the high standards of decency embodied by British television – i.e. [feel free to insert your own witty remark equating some aspect of the BBC with this future internet]. Basically, the whole furore is over children (you know, that demographic unable to protect themselves) and their ability to use this internet thingy to view beheadings; and other material deemed not suitable for children. Burnhumans himself, had this to say:
This isn’t about turning back the clock. The internet has been empowering and democratising in many ways, but we haven’t yet got the stakes in the ground to help people navigate their way safely around it.
Look, we can all see the good intentions behind these proposals. But we don’t need the government to help us navigate – googlemaps is quite capable of this task. Seriously though, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how we can go from protecting children to full net censorship. Television and radio are already hotspots for such intense adherence to authoritarian rules, even if channel four believes itself to be the rebellious child of British television. The great thing about the net is that it allows us to roam freely in these information fields, consisting of porn, search engines (for porn) and everything else. Good times.