Always +1


On Sub Specie I don’t write about linguistic matters all that much. To kick off, I’d like to start with what is a relatively obscure phenomenon in the Dutch linguistic landscape: the use of +1 (or as a pronounced phrase plus één) as an adjective in predicative position. Basically, it’s used to signify approval or that something is better than something else, as might be expected. [...Read more...]

Ludus Linguarum (This Is (Not) a Game)

It is a discussion that crops up from time to time: what is a game? This would be a fairly academic definition question, were it not that it finds a much larger battleground mostly outside academia, where consumers and critics of video games are the participants. The direct catalyst for the most recent iteration of this discussion was the release two days ago of Proteus, a game developed by Ed Key and David Kanaga. This work, as I briefly explained in my piece on Noctis, is all about free exploration of an island and its flora and fauna, about building a soundtrack by moving around. It is limited in its interactivity compared to many other video games, and this has sparked the discussion on whether or not Key and Kanaga are right to refer to Proteus as a game. [...Read more...]

The (Im)possibilities of Communication


During my time as a student of language, I’ve become convinced that there is no direct one-on-one connection between thought and speech, and between logic and language. This is one of the reasons why communication between people doesn’t always go according to their intentions. This is sometimes obvious in real life, but it can also become highlighted in art. In videogames, communication as a central theme—rather than just something that happens—is a rare thing; however, in a recent article I’ve highlighted two games that do focus on the possibilities and impossibilities of communication. Surprise, surprise… it’s two works by Tale of Tales. First of all, The Endless Forest, about which I’ve written before here, and secondly Bientôt l’été, their latest title. [...Read more...]

2012: A Year in Books

Lori Nix - 'Library' (2007)

What did I read in 2012? I’ve found looking back at my last year in books helps me chart some themes and developments in my (mental life), so I’ve decided to do it again this year. I read 92 books in 2012, a little fewer than in 2011, but they were bigger books, and my page total ended up higher. This doesn’t count all the articles I’ve read, but we’ve got to draw the reading nerdage line somewhere. It’s all slightly arbitrary anyway. [...Read more...]

Cryptological Escapades in Frisia


This week, a call went out from the provincial library of Fryslân, Tresoar, announcing the start of a ‘cold case’ program. Selected pieces from the archives are to be shared with the public, to see if they can shed more light on some unsolved mysteries. The first one is a manuscript from the 17th century, and it’s a corker! The manuscript is thought to be a letter, as it is only a single page and appears to be signed in some way, so I will refer to it as the Sminia Letter, for that’s the Frisian family out of whose archives the piece comes. The letter is written in a hitherto unknown script, and as such the language of the letter is unknown as well. [...Read more...]

2011 Inspirational Reading

Out of the 100 books I read last year, I wanted to highlight a few that I found particularly rewarding. ~ Brave New World Aldous Huxley - Brave New World One of the classics of utopian/dystopian fiction, of course, and deserving of the status. Many apt analyses of the novel have been written before, so I [...Read more...]

Networks: Introduction

The Seven Bridges of Königsberg

A significant part of my current PhD research deals with networks (in my case of human communication), and how these can help us understand the world around us. A network in the modern scientific use of the word is basically an abstract representation of relationships between concepts. It often helps to make a graphic representation [...Read more...]

Kein Bestandteil Sein


In my current linguistic studies, I am focusing on the way in which verbal forms are spread by people throughout their communicative networks. These networks are basically abstractions of the ‘forces’ that tie people together: meeting, talking, touching; communication in the broadest sense. But networks function as a model of a great many things, and [...Read more...]