Linguist Carmel O’Shannessy wrote to the journal Language of a newly discovered language, Light Warlpiri. Her correspondence, “The role of multiple sources in the formation of an innovative auxiliary category in Light Warlpiri, a new Australian mixed language,” documents 300 people in a remote desert community about 644 kilometres from Katherine, a town in Australia’s Northern Territory, speaking in a striking auxillary system. She believes it emerged in the 1970’s and 80’s.
The language draws on traditional Warlpiri, which is spoken by about 6,000 people in indigenous communities scattered throughout the Tanami Desert along with Kriol, an English-based Creole language spoken in various regions of Australia; and English. In the Warlpiri language, words can be placed in any order, and grammatical interpretations are based on suffixes that are attached to the nouns. And the imported words have changed meanings so that the structure of the auxiliary model is not the same as they were in the source languages. O’Shannessy explains,
“In Light Warlpiri, you have one part of the language that mostly comes from English and Kriol, but the other grammatical part, the suffixing, comes from Warlpiri.”
Another distinction of the newfound language is a word form that refers to both the present and past time, but not the future. For example, in English, “I’m: refers to “I” in the present tense, but Light Warlpiri speakers created a new form, such as “yu-m,” which means “you” in the present and past time, but not the future.
“That structure doesn’t exist in any of the languages that this new code came from, which is one of the reasons we see this as a separate linguistic system, even though it comes from other languages that already exist,
Here’s an interesting example. Blue words in this color are from Warlpiri, and those in that are red are from English or Kriol. Green colored words are for the creative auxiliary system and verbal structure.
De-m run back rarralykaji-kirra jarntu an yapa-wat ngapa-kujaku.
“The dog and the people run back to the car to get out of the rain.”
american anthropological association, anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Forbes, Kiplinger, New York City Department of Sanitation, Orlando Sentinel, Savage Minds, Social Sciences, University of Central Florida
In December, I linked up Ann Gibbons’ article in Science about anthropology’s poor reception in the scientific community. I forgot to mention that months before that, in August, Kiplinger named anthropology “the worst major for your career.” Two months later, Forbes followed suite and ranked “anthropology and archaeology,” as the No. 1 on its list of “worst college majors.”
Suffice to say, 2012 was a tough year for anthropology, but at least we were number #1 in something! But all kidding aside, increased discussion is a positive outcome from all this criticism. What needs to be done is to increase the worth of studying anthropology.
In April of this year, Ty Matejowsky and Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster, two anthropologists from the University of Central Florida, wrote a guest column in the Orlando Sentinel, on the issue of the lack of “cool” factor in cultural anthropology. They have an empowering message,
Anthropologists need to take better ownership of our brand. The complexity of anthropological concepts such as “culture,” “power” and the “global” should not dissuade anthropologists from engaging in meaningful public discourse.
A couple of days ago, Savage Minds tackled the Orlando Sentinel guest column, saying our problem with our field is not just due to how we sell or brand ourselves, but in actuality how we conduct our work.
And last week, in the AAA blog post Anthropology News continued this discussion. Jennifer Long wrote, “Anthropology’s Response to Finding Jobs for Its Undergraduates.” Her approach general cites that anthropology is rather incestuous. Often those interested in anthropology gain positions within universities as researchers, which creates a bubble. She advocates for an experiential approach, to branch out and apply our field elsewhere… Much like Robin Nagle, an anthropologist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. Robin has recently written about trash and how our lives revolved around it. The book is titled, “Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City,” and Collector’s Weekly interviewed her about it and the NY Times covered a book review about it.
With all this discussion about what’s wrong with anthropology, I want to turn to you, the readers and hear what you think is wrong with the field. Please feel free to comment and let us know what you find issue with the field — is it a branding problem; is it a problem with branching out and how we work?
Ann Gibbons has a piece in today’s Science where she writes of the troubles the field faces,
“In the fall of 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott proclaimed that his state didn’t need any more anthropologists, and that public money would be better spent educating scientists. Then in January, a study found that the unemployment rate among recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and archaeology was 10.5%, surpassed by few other majors, and that anthropology majors who did get jobs were also among the lowest paid. It’s been a tough year for anthropology, but don’t count out this field: Most said the bad press wasn’t fair, noting that the situation is very different for bachelor’s degree– and advanced degree–holders.”
I do not have access to the full text, unfortunately. I can tell, though, that the study cited in the abstract only focuses on undergraduates. So there is a bias in her report, just as she writes in the last sentence. Without a doubt, those with graduate degrees have better opportunities.
What I do understand from my experience is that I was offered outrageously low salaries upon graduating with my Bachelor’s in Anthropology. My life was unsustainable. For that reason, I focused my Master’s in Biology, as my prospects in that field offered more financial stability.
Furthermore, anthropology is also plagued by misunderstandings. Scientists and non-scientists often do not know what anthropology is and what the can be gained from this field. I believe this is one of the reasons why the field is not adequately compensated.
I will leave this thread open for discussion by you, the readers, on what you think can be done to increase the financial return and improving the perception of the field.
Gibbons, A. (2012). An Annus Horribilis for Anthropology? Science, 338 (6114), 1520-1520 DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6114.1520
On this site, we’ve covered endangered languages before, and in doing so we discussed the challenges faced in trying to preserve these priceless forms of cultural heritage and expression. It is a daunting task. I am happy to announce that Google has decided to help out the cause by funding and launching the Endangered Languages Project.
The Endangered Languages Project will act as a hub for interested groups and people to collaborate on research with the aim at documenting & preserving over 3,000 languages that are under threat of being lost to time. Google writes that the site will host resources to help keep some of those alive, such as high-quality recordings of people speaking the languages, copies of historical manuscripts, e-learning options, and even niche-language social networking opportunities, in addition to research and other documentation. They also write about long-term goals,
“…for true experts in the field of language preservation to take the lead. As such, in a few months we’ll officially be handing over the reins to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council (FPCC) and The Institute for Language Information and Technology(The LINGUIST List) at Eastern Michigan University. FPCC will take on the role of Advisory Committee Chair, leading outreach and strategy for the project. The LINGUIST List will become the Technical Lead. Both organizations will work in coordination with the Advisory Committee.”
Again, I am happy to see this initiative deployed. But I will hold with bated breath if this will truly benefit collaboration between linguistic academics or this is just a bit of nice PR like last year, when Google added Cherokee to its list of languages supported in search, though that option doesn’t seem to exist anymore. You can learn more about the project by watching this promotional video:
For many of us, the concept of time is linear. Whether French or Iraqi, the past is referred as behind oneself; the future as the far out expanse ahead. The metaphor seemed to stay constant and the embodied cognition of time was once thought to be universal. We now understand it to be strictly cultural.
This shift in paradigm was brought about in 2006, when researchers studying the Aymara of the Andes, reported of their unique concept of time in the journal Cognitive Science. The past is known and has been seen, and thus lies in front. The future remains unknown and unseen, and is relinquished to be behind the ego. This remains one opposing understanding of time to what we thought as the de facto standard.
To supplement the above, a 2010 paper in the journal Cognition aimed at understanding time among Mandarin speakers. The results were fascinating. Mandarin speakers set the context time differently from people speaking Western languages. In fact, the past is referred as above the speaker. And the future referred to as below the speaker.
A similar paper was published also in 2010, in the journal Psychological Science. An aboriginal group, the Pormpuraawans of Australia also refer to time differently. These people leave references of oneself out of the context of time. Regardless of the directionality of the speaker, time always flows from east or the past to west or the future.
These three recent examples nix the assumption that time is envisioned the same way by all people, a form of cultural relativism in itself. Another unique example was recently published in the journal Cognition by the same authors who studied the Aymara. Rafael Núñez of UCSD and two other colleagues documented the concept of time for the Yupno peoples of Papua New Guinea. The Yupno have had limited contact to outsiders.
The Yupno refer to time not based upon cardinal directions or relative locations. Rather, time is a topographical concept, time winds its way up and downhill. Analyzing films captured of 27 interviewed speakers of the villagers of Gua, the team observed that gestures liked pointing downhill referred to the past, towards the mouth of the local river. The future, meanwhile, was described as pointing upwards towards the river’s source, which lies uphill from Gua.
Núñez and team believe that this understanding is based upon their collective history as a group. The Yupno’s ancestors arrived by sea to their corner of eastern Papua New Guinea and climbed up the 2500m mountain valley. So to them, the lowlands may represent the past, and time flows like how they climbed uphill to their high valley homes.
Within their homes, the Yupno point towards the doorway when talking about the past, and away from the door to represent the future, regardless of the orientation of the home. Núñez says that entrances are always raised, one has to have to climb down – towards the past – to leave the house, so each home has its own timeline. The most remarkable aspect of the Yupno timeline metaphor is its shape. The river that supplies the context to the villagers of Gua does not rest a straight line, but instead the timeline is kinked.
You can read more about their study at this press release.
Núñez, R., & Sweetser, E. (2006). With the Future Behind Them: Convergent Evidence From Aymara Language and Gesture in the Crosslinguistic Comparison of Spatial Construals of Time Cognitive Science, 30 (3), 401-450 DOI: 10.1207/s15516709cog0000_62
Boroditsky, L., Fuhrman, O., & McCormick, K. (2011). Do English and Mandarin speakers think about time differently? Cognition, 118 (1), 123-129 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.09.010
Boroditsky, L., & Gaby, A. (2010). Remembrances of Times East: Absolute Spatial Representations of Time in an Australian Aboriginal Community Psychological Science, 21 (11), 1635-1639 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610386621
Núñez, R., Cooperrider, K., Doan, D., & Wassmann, J. (2012). Contours of time: Topographic construals of past, present, and future in the Yupno valley of Papua New Guinea Cognition, 124 (1), 25-35 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.03.007
By Jay Fancher
To paraphrase Carl Sagan, science has a way of deflating human conceits. Anthropology reveals that humans are special – just not for many of the reasons proposed throughout our history. Thanks to biology, astronomy, and geology, we now know that:
- Modern humans are one species among many, not the pinnacle of all creation.
- We’re not the center of the universe; our planet orbits a fairly average star.
- We haven’t been around since the beginning of time – far from it.
On a 4.5-billion-year-old planet, with a 3.5-billion-year history of life, anatomically-modern Homo sapiens only go back about 200,000 years. We’re brand new, a tiny blip on the geologic time scale! Despite this, a new National Geographic article explores the possibility that the “Anthropocene” may have already begun. Here is a brief excerpt:
Enter the Anthropocene—Age of Man It’s a new name for a new geologic epoch—one defined by our own massive impact on the planet. That mark will endure in the geologic record long after our cities have crumbled…Probably the most obvious way humans are altering the planet is by building cities, which are essentially vast stretches of man-made materials—steel, glass, concrete, and brick. But it turns out most cities are not good candidates for long-term preservation, for the simple reason that they’re built on land, and on land the forces of erosion tend to win out over those of sedimentation.
The author of the article, Elizabeth Kolbert, graciously agreed to an interview with Anthropology.net. The text of our discussion, conducted via e-mail, follows:
Fancher: The greatest strength of anthropology is its all-encompassing view of humanity. We’re proud of this breadth, frequently describing our work as the study of all people, in all times, and all places. But, as you state in your article, stratigraphers take an extremely long view – the entire 4.5-billion-year history of Earth. How can students of the human past benefit from this geological perspective?
Kolbert: I’m not sure I have a good answer for this. As all anthropologists know, we are a young species. So human history doesn’t tell us much about earth history. What is particularly alarming about a lot of recent discoveries in geology is that you have to go way, way back – i.e., tens of millions of years – to find analogues for some of the things we are doing today, like, for example, acidifying the oceans.
Fancher: I was surprised to read that our proudest technological achievements might not be easy to recognize in the geological record. It’s humbling to think that urban centers will ultimately be as fleeting in the geological record as short-term hunter-gatherer camp sites are in the archaeological record. Despite our human desire to leave huge, everlasting monuments, is it better not to be noticed in the geological record?
Kolbert: Well, it’s not clear that we will be noticed, because it’s not clear there’s going to be anything around to notice us. But we will be noticeable. And certainly from the standpoint of the other organisms on earth, it would be a lot better if our impact were not so obvious.
Fancher: Some issues of scientific classification appear to have little practical relevance. For example, the debate over whether Pluto qualifies as a planet or not. In your article, Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen concludes that the value of the Anthropocene classification goes far beyond textbook revisions. Can you elaborate on the meaning of the Anthropocene?
Kolbert: Officially, we live in the Holocene, or “wholly recent” epoch. The Anthropocene translates basically as the man-made epoch. It’s an acknowledgment that humans, rather than what are sometimes quaintly called “the great forces of nature,” have become the driving force on the planet.
Fancher: How might recognition of a geological epoch called the Anthropocene influence human behavior?
Kolbert: I end the piece with a quote from Paul Crutzen, the Nobelist who coined the term. Crutzen says, “What I hope is that the term ‘Anthropocene’ will be a warning to the world.” I think what he means by that is: we are now in the driver’s seat. Unfortunately, we don’t really know how to operate the vehicle. So we’d better think about what we’re doing very carefully.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Kolbert for writing such a thought-provoking article, and for agreeing to this interview. Enter the Anthropocene – Age of Man is part of National Geographic magazine’s year-long coverage of the global human population reaching 7 billion.
What do you think about the possibility of a geological epoch called the Anthropocene?
A quick bit of linguistic anthropology to round off your Wednesday afternoon. Greek linguist, Ioanna Sitaridou, located a population of people in Northeastern Turkish villages, near the Black Sea (or Pontus), speaking the Romeyka dialect of ancient Greek. Ancient Greek has not been in use for thousands of years, so a finding like this can give us a bit of insight into how the language sounded. The reason the language has survived is a bit confusing to me, she explains it is due to religion,
The Romeyka speakers are devout Muslims and were therefore exempt from the large-scale population exchange between Greece and Turkey that took place in 1923, she said.
She’s been mapping the grammatical structures and variations in use as well as recording audio and video of the villagers telling stories. The ultimate aim of the research is to explain how Pontic Greek evolved. According to this source, she gave a talk last year about here research. Did anyone attend? What was it like? Like most of the world’s dialects, they are at risk of extinction especially due to emigration from Trabzon and the Turkish majority.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is a strange organization. I often wonder how it operates, but then I realize I don’t even wanna know because there’s often no real logic to their madness. Take into consideration these cases:
Case 1: About 4 years ago the AAA decided to close access to almost all their journals, directly against the Federal Research Publication Access Act. This spurned a lot of discussion regarding ownership of publication, author’s rights and the AAA’s motivation behind it. Most of us wondered how could the AAA, who didn’t fund the research, produce the data, and write up the analysis, close off the information to the world? Here was a bit of my outcry over the matter, archived by afarensis in June of 2006,
“The hypocrisy that surrounds the AAA when it begged for anthropologists to protest to the US government to not cut funding but their recent resiliency to not give back is outstanding in this matter. I don’t get why the AAA won’t open their eyes and see that this form of publishing helps to ensure long-term access to scholarly articles. Unlike articles that are licensed in traditional article databases, like their closed AnthroSource, public libraries and institutions of the people (like universities) can create local copies and repositories of these resources. People, by working together to make repositories of open access literature, can ensure continued access to these scholarly publications into the distant future.”
From this idiocy, a nice project spun off but hasn’t in my opinion been a viable alternative. Unfortunate.
Case 2: Once upon a time the AAA was an organization that scoffed at social media and Web 2.0, specifically blogs. It’s hard to dig up exact references since many links have died… But I do distinctly remember them issuing a statement saying blogs are useless forms of communication, with a little wink wink nod nod to this said blog.
When they redesigned their homepage a couple of years ago, they deployed several blogs. They even sent me emails asking for link exchange. Sure people are allowed to change their minds, but I wondered what’s with the change in heart? Suffice to say, I didn’t add them back.
Case 3: The AAA just had their annual meeting and yes, everyone’s reporting that decided to do away with science. It’s true, Peter Wood of the Chronicle, writes on them actively deciding to nix science out of the Mission Statement. I’ve copied and pasted the presumed edits to the mission statement he provided below the read more link. Another related decision made is defining the role of AAA, away from ethnography and scientific experiments and observations to anecdotal and subjective journalism… Again without ethnology and ethnography — what is cultural anthropology?
Alice Dreger of Fetishes I Don’t Get, writes on some of the anger she experienced from other scientific anthropologists,
“The primatologist Sarah Hrdy (a member of the National Academy of Sciences) wrote, “My reaction is one of dismay-actually, even more visceral and stronger than that-albeit not surprise.” The scientists I talked to want to know (as I do) exactly what is the AAA Executive Board’s justification for all this. They are confused about whether they should bother to fight, or just give up and depart the AAA already.”
The Society for Anthropological Sciences, a division of the AAA, objected to these changes, I am sure most do. I don’t understand why this change is being done. In a time and age when we need to strive to objective data to make informed decisions, this organization is moving away from that, and consciously. Why?
Could it because anthropology is largely not considered a science outside of the discipline — so the AAA chooses embrace what most think of us?
Again it is hard to get into the minds of such a dysfunctional organization. They seem to never make the right decision. An analogy that works in my mind is the AAA is to anthropologists as the Clerical Theocracy of the Islamic Republic are to Iranian population. As many governments help make decisions to move forward and advance their society, both the AAA and the mullahs regress their organizations further back in time.
This is a quick note to point readers in the direction of several posts that have appeared online in recent days, on the origins and spread of agriculture, and the part language may have played in the process, in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Although I’ve recently concentrated on writing about our Palaeolithic origins, if there’s one behavioural trait that separates modern humanity from its archaic counterpart, the widespread adoption of agriculture over the past ten millennia has set us far apart from all that went before, and is more directly responsible for our urbanised civilisation and attendant corporate woes than anything else that presently comes to mind. Moreover, and beyond our city walls, the devastating impact of agriculture on rural landscapes worldwide is a problem that concerns us all, with for example, the clearance of the Amazon rain-forest for cattle a particular thorn in our side, whilst our growing appetite for bio-fuels looks set to have no less a deadly impact as we turn even more land over to the growing of necessary crops.
First up is this post at Gene Expression, European man perhaps a Middle Eastern farmer, in which Razib Khan discusses the findings of a recent paper at PLoS Biology, A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Lineages – for which this is the abstract:
The relative contributions to modern European populations of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers from the Near East have been intensely debated. Haplogroup R1b1b2 (R-M269) is the commonest European Y-chromosomal lineage, increasing in frequency from east to west, and carried by 110 million European men. Previous studies suggested a Paleolithic origin, but here we show that the geographical distribution of its microsatellite diversity is best explained by spread from a single source in the Near East via Anatolia during the Neolithic.
Taken with evidence on the origins of other haplogroups, this indicates that most European Y chromosomes originate in the Neolithic expansion. This reinterpretation makes Europe a prime example of how technological and cultural change is linked with the expansion of a Y-chromosomal lineage, and the contrast of this pattern with that shown by maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA suggests a unique role for males in the transition.
Razib offers some background to the ongoing debate…
For the past few decades there has been a long standing debate as to the origins of modern Europeans. The two alternative hypotheses are:
* Europeans are descended from Middle Eastern farmers, who brought their Neolithic cultural toolkit less than 10,000 years ago.
* Europeans are descended from Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, who acculturated to the farming way of life through diffusion of ideas.
…and further notes:
In this unsettled landscape comes a new paper which turns some assumptions about Y chromosomal variation in Europe on its head. The focus is on a subclade of the R1b haplogroup, which has its highest frequencies in Western Europe, in particular along the Atlantic fringe. The pattern of variation has led many to infer that this lineage, in particular the R1b1b2 haplgroup, is a marker of the Paleolithic populations of Western Europe. The high frequency of this marker among the Basques in particular is seen as evidence of this, because this group speaks a language which is a pre-Indo-European isolate (the Basques are used as a Paleolithic reference group in many papers). But perhaps not…
…One issue to note is that it seems likely that if the model presented here is true, that R1b1b2 is newcomer from the Middle East which rapidly expanded in frequency across Western Europe, it’s going to be hard to getting the clarity you need from molecular clock based methods because the demographic processes occurred rather rapidly. We know from archaeology that agricultural societies could sprout up almost instantaneously, as if they simply transplanted their culture to new locales. Some of this likely occurred via sea, using the Mediterranean and the Atlantic fringe…
…The authors point out that in places like Japan and India there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence for agriculture resulting in the expansion of particular lineages, so the preponderance of acculturation in Europe as the mode of transmission seems atypical…
…One analog might be the emergence of mestizos in the New World, who have predominantly European male lineages and native female lineages. Finally, one question a friend brought up: if the higher frequency of R1b1b2 is a function of the wave of advance, why is it the same haplogroup all along the wave front? Standard population genetic theory tells us that fragmented small groups will tend to lose genetic diversity and fix particular alleles, but those alleles are not going to be the same. It seems that it is more plausible that there were serial bottlenecks through coastal migrations, and eventually these expanded inland once they stumbled onto the northwest European plain. But that’s just speculation.
For further discussion, please see Dieneke’s whileYann Klimentidis mentions both this paper and another, namely Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and central Europe’s first farmers.
Next it’s over to Gambler’s House, and an article titled The Supposed Linguistic Evidence for the Spread of Agriculture, whose introductory notes state the following:
The prehistoric peoples of the American Southwest were agriculturalists. Different societies may have calibrated their mix of farming, hunting, and gathering differently, but they all seem to have done all three eventually, and for most it’s quite apparent in the archaeological record that farming was the predominant method of subsistence. The crops they grew were corn, beans, and squash, the classic triad of North American agriculture. These plants are not native to the Southwest, however, so they must have been introduced at some point from Mesoamerica, where they originated. The introduction of corn, in particular, must have also involved the introduction of agricultural techniques, since it can’t grow without help from humans. All this is pretty uncontroversial among Southwestern archaeologists.
The nature of the introduction of agriculture, however, has been a point of more dispute. The main arguments have to do with how long it took after the introduction of maize for the societies growing it to become totally dependent on it and thus become primarily agriculturalists rather than hunter-gatherers. One view, espoused by Chip Wills at UNM, sees the introduction of corn as being gradual, perhaps filtering up from one hunter-gatherer group to another, and increasing dependence on it as taking place in the context of hunter-gatherer subsistence decisions and environmental fluctuations, with the total switch to a fully agricultural lifestyle not taking place until maybe as late as the Pueblo II period. The other view, associated most strongly with R. G. Matson of the University of British Columbia, sees the introduction of maize as having been rapid and involving a totally different lifestyle from Archaic hunter-gatherers from the get-go.
There follows an in-depth discussion of the theories of Australian Professor of Archaeology, Peter Bellwood, who contends that…
… the enormous geographical extent of some language families by associating them with the spread of particular agricultural traditions. This has been somewhat controversial, particularly in regard to Indo-European, as it produces a very specific answer (given Bellwood’s specific assumptions) to the vexing question of where a given language family originated, often called its Urheimat. Since Bellwood argues that hunter-gatherers are unlikely to adopt agriculture, whether on their own or when exposed to it by contact with farming groups, his model predicts that the Urheimat of a given language family must be somewhere in the region where its agricultural tradition originated. For Indo-European this means the Fertile Crescent rather than the Eurasian Steppe, which has been the preferred answer for many Indo-Europeanists on various grounds. This has led to much controversy.
And continuing the language thread, we return to Gene Expression, where another article, Complex societies = simple languages, goes on to discuss a paper at PLoS ONE, Language Structure Is Partly Determined by Social Structure, for which this is the introduction:
Although the largest languages are spoken by millions of people spread over vast geographic areas, most languages are spoken by relatively few individuals over comparatively small areas. The median number of speakers for the 6,912 languages catalogued by the Ethnologue is only 7,000, compared to the mean of over 828,000 . Similarly, for the 2,236 languages in our sample (Figure 1), the median area over which a language is spoken is about the size of Luxembourg or San Diego, California (948 km2). The mean area is about the size of Austria or the US state of Maryland (33,795 km2).
Languages also differ dramatically in the proportion of individuals who speak the language natively (L1 speakers) to those who learned it later in life (L2 speakers) (Table S1). Although there are numerous counter-examples (Text S1), languages spoken by millions of people have a greater likelihood of coming into contact with other languages and of having numerous nonnative speakers compared to languages spoken by only a few thousand people.
This is not surprising: a language spoken by more people is more likely to encompass a larger and more diverse area and include speakers from varying ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Conversely, languages spoken by a thousand or even fewer individuals tend to be spoken in highly circumscribed locales (Text S2). Overall, languages with smaller speaker populations are more likely to be spoken by more socially cohesive groups  than languages that have millions of speakers.
And by a curious coincidence, news comes to today of the Evolang 2010 Conference due to take place in Utrecht, Netherlands, between this coming April, 14-17th.
To finish up, there’s a nice post over at PaleoFuture, The Victory of Chemistry over Agriculture, which begins by noting:
To many people of the year 2010 the 1953 book, The Road to Abundance, is a heretical, nightmarish vision of the future. Chemicals and factory farming are seen as the logical next step in the evolution of food production for mankind. Jacob Rosin, co-writing with Max Eastman, describes the eventual “victory of chemistry over agriculture,” and mankind’s “bondage to the planet.”
The ultimate goal of Rosin’s ambition was to be “more efficient than nature.” In his advocacy of a completely synthetic diet Rosin called into question both the definition and the benefit of “natural foods.”
See also: Telegraph – Giant Cattle to be Bred back from Extinction – via John Hawks
This post in turn links to another, “Factory” Farms of the Future (1961) from which the image at top is taken.
Balaresque P, Bowden GR, Adams SM, Leung H-Y, King TE, et al. (2010) A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Lineages. PLoS Biol 8(1): e1000285. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000285
Genetic discontinuity between local hunter-gatherers and central Europe’s first farmers.
Bramanti B, Thomas MG, Haak W, Unterlaender M, Jores P, Tambets K, Antanaitis-Jacobs I, Haidle MN, Jankauskas R, Kind CJ, Lueth F, Terberger T, Hiller J, Matsumura S, Forster P, Burger J.
Science 2009 Oct 2;326(5949):137-40.
Lupyan G, Dale R (2010) Language Structure Is Partly Determined by Social Structure. PLoS ONE 5(1): e8559. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008559