Consciousness and how it got to be that way

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Linguistics of Bugs Bunny

We can infer that Bugs Bunny's native language probably has a small phoneme inventory, so that most utterances in Bunnese would be longer than their counterparts in English (as his first statement is). I always thought this was clever and it probably is one of the things that interested me at an early age in how languages differ.

There's also a great Porky Pig cartoon where Porky insists to Daffy Duck that "buenos dias" just means "bonjour" and vice versa. The self-referentiality of this implies through comedy that something like Pinker's mentalese must exist, but I can't find the clip.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Twittering and Tweeting

An early-adopter friend of mine, way back in '07 or '08, announced by Facebook that he was Twittering. At the time I hadn't heard of Twitter, and worried that he was publicly confessing he had developed an amphetamine habit. But we don't use Twitter as a verb. We tweet and re-tweet, right?

Actually, we do use Twitter as a verb - when we're speaking about
habitual use. "I'm Twittering" means "These days, I'm using Twitter" as opposed to "I'm sending a message on Twitter at the moment" - that latter sentence would be abbreviated by saying "I'm tweeting."

Many languages preserve a morphosyntactically encoded distinction between present and habitual - in fact, that's even one distinction between standard American English and the oft-villified ebonics (ebonics has it, standard Am English doesn't.) Here it's marked by requiring separate verbs. Minor observation, but interesting nonetheless.