Scientifically Pedantic Movie Reviews…


I’ve written a review of the new Planet of the Apes film (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, ARGH! OH GOD THE PLANET IS RISING etc.). It concentrates on the linguistic abilities of apes a bit, but I hope I haven’t made it too dull for the purposes of a movie review. There should be more scientifically/linguistically pedantic reviewing going on out there… get on it guys. It’s up on now. Here’s a excerpt and link:

As someone who has dedicated quite a lot of time to reading about the linguistic abilities of apes, I didn’t enter the cinema to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” hoping for viable or realistic linguistic science. After all, we’ve all seen the original films and the apes talk just as humans do. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this would never happen in the real world, and this is not just because of the cognitive abilities of apes, but also because of the vocal tract of apes. That is to say that no matter how intelligent an ape is, it will not be possible for that ape to create the sounds of English as the physical ability simply isn’t there…

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Wampanoag film


A new documentary has been made about the resurrection of the Wampanoag language which has a few screenings coming up next month in the US. DVD’s are also available and details of both can be found here.

The story begins in 1994 when Jessie Little Doe, an intrepid, thirty-something Wampanoag social worker, began having recurring dreams: familiar-looking people from another time addressing her in an incomprehensible language. Jessie was perplexed and a little annoyed– why couldn’t they speak English? Later, she realized they were speaking Wampanoag, a language no one had used for more than a century. These events

sent her and members of the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanaog communities on an odyssey that would uncover hundreds of documents written in their language, lead Jessie to a Masters in Linguistics at MIT, and result in something that had never been done before – bringing a language alive again in an American Indian community after many generations with no Native speakers.

WE STILL LIVE HERE: As Nutayunean clip

Although I haven’t seen the film it sounds to be very much in the same vein as “the linguists” which came out in 2008. The Linguists follows two field linguists as they travel to document and help promote the rescue of near-extinct languages.

Documenting and reviving languages is an important thing to do as it increases our understanding of language. Every time a language dies we lose data which can inform us on the interactions between cognitive constraints and culture. A language dies every 14 days. Bearing that in mind, here’s a few links if you’re interested in this stuff:

SAIVUS (Society to Advance Indigenous Vernaculars of the United States):

Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project:

Enduring voices:

And a whole bunch of other links here: