Simon Willison’s Weblog


4 items tagged “linguistics”


Buzzwords describe what you already intuitively know. At once they snap the ‘kaleidoscopic flux of impressions’ in your mind into form, crystallizing them instantly allowing you to both organize your knowledge and recognize you share it with other. This rapid, mental crystallization is what I call the buzzword whiplash. It gives buzzwords more importance and velocity, more power, than they objectively should have.

The potential energy stored within your mind is released by the buzzword whiplash. The buzzword is perceived as important partially because of what it describes but also because of the social and emotional weight felt when the buzzword recognizes your previously wordless experiences and demonstrates that those experiences are shared.

Drew Breunig # 5th March 2024, 7:56 pm


I Taught ChatGPT to Invent a Language (via) Dylan Black talks ChatGPT through the process of inventing a new language, with its own grammar. Really fun example of what happens when someone with a deep understanding of both the capabilities of language models and some other field (in this case linguistics) can achieve with an extended prompting session. # 6th December 2022, 7:30 pm


I am currently documenting a language called Seenku, spoken by fewer than 15,000 people in the rolling hills of southwestern Burkina Faso in West Africa. Like Chinese, it is a tonal language, meaning the pitch on which a word is pronounced can radically alter its meaning. For instance, tsu can mean “thatch” when pronounced with an extra low pitch, but “hippopotamus” when pronounced with falling pitch. In fact, pitch plays such a huge role in Seenku that it can be “spoken” through music alone, most notably on the traditional xylophone.

Laura McPherson # 22nd October 2017, 12:49 pm


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. (via) See also: Wikipedia’s “List of linguistic example sentences”. # 28th October 2007, 6:12 pm