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The QWERTY Effect

Today much of our word production happens not in our throats and mouths but on our keyboards. Can typing shape a word’s meaning? The answer is yes, according to a new paper by linguists Kyle Jasmin and Daniel Casasanto called The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words.

They argue that because of the QWERTY keyboard’s asymmetrical shape (more letters on the left than the right), words dominated by right-side letters become more likable. The effect may arise from the fact that letter combinations that fall on the right side of the keyboard tend to be easier to type than those on the left.

The QWERTY layout dates back to 1868. Until then, some letters that were frequently used were too close to one other on the typewriter keyboard, and, when typed in rapid succession, the keys sometimes stuck together.

Jasmin and his colleague Daniel Casasanto, a social psychologist at The New School for Social Research, knew from previous research that the difficulty of using an object affected how positively or negatively people viewed it. The effect is called fluency, and it even seems to affect abstractions such as people’s names. The more difficult it is to pronounce a person’s name, for example, the less likely it is that they will advance in their career. To know more, read Personal Names, Such Important Words!

By | March 20th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

The New iPad

On 7 March, Tim Cook unveiled the latest iPad, which the company just named “the new iPad,” with no suffix. The device has a high-resolution “retina display” for the 9.7-inch screen, running at 2048 × 1536 resolution. It has 44 per cent greater colour saturation than the iPad 2. It’s powered by the new Apple A5X chip, which has four graphics cores. The camera is essentially the same as the one in the iPhone 4S.

It also features support for dictation, which is not full Siri, the company’s voice recognition software, but it does support British, American and Australian English, French, German and Japanese. The new iPad has been available in the UK since 16 March.

Cook talked about the iPad as “the poster child of the post-PC era.” Technology is rapidly changing and iPads are becoming increasingly important in education, as we have already blogged about. Apple has in fact sold 15.5 million iPads during the last quarter. Cook said: “We’re talking about a world where the PC is no longer at the centre of your digital world but rather just a device. We’re talking about a new world where the devices you use the most need to be more portable… and dramatically easier to use than ever before.”

By | March 19th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments

Picking the Best Language to Learn

Intelligent Life has recently published a very controversial article written by Robert Lane Greene, a business correspondent for The Economist in New York, about which is the most useful global language to learn (obviously, after English).

Mandarin? China’s economy continues to grow at a pace that will make it bigger than America’s within two decades. Nevertheless, Mr. Greene thinks that Chinese won’t become a popular second language because it is too difficult. A learner of Chinese needs to know at least 3,000-4,000 characters to get the gist when reading and thousands more to understand the message properly. In addition, with its tones, it is a hard language to speak.

Spanish? It’s the second most natively spoken language in the world, the second most studied and the third most commonly used on the Internet, after English and Mandarin. This is still not the journalist’s choice.

Mr. Greene picked French. The Francophonie is an organisation which brings together 56 member states and governments that have a French-speaking heritage, which means almost one third of the world’s countries. Moreover, France attracts more tourists than any other country—76.8m in 2010, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

ABC News wrote that the top three most useful languages for business after English are Mandarin, French and Arabic, with Spanish ranking fourth.

English native speakers don’t learn foreign languages: after all English is not only the first language of some countries, but it is also the rest of the world’s second language. Nonetheless, learning a foreign language produces a cultural awareness that can be useful in business as well as in personal affairs. For example, a capable linguist makes a huge difference when negotiating.

By | March 19th, 2012|Blog|0 Comments
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