The Art of Language

Linguists and language teachers can be an analytical bunch and we often forget the natural beauty of languages. While poetry, prose and storytelling reside on the other side of the often perceived language / literature rift, linguistics can be beautiful too. This week there have been some stunning depictions of language in the media. The first is the work of photographer Jolita Vaikute, who has represented a series of untranslatable words in a series of collages. The example ‘sobremesa’ above represents the Spanish word for a lengthy discussion after an equally lengthy meal. My favourite example in Vaikute’s portfolio is:

Verschlimmbessern (German): To accidentally make something worse in the process of attempting to mend or improve it. Multiple applications around computers, cake baking and relationships.

Meanwhile, the BBC’s In Pictures has just published the 2017 series of Wellcome Images which celebrate pictures from scientific studies. The image below shows the neural pathways created by languages, as represented in a study byStephanie J Forkel, Ahmad Beyh and Alfonso de Lara Rubio at Kings College London.

This is an image showing a 3D-printed reconstruction of the white matter pathway connecting two areas of the human brain – the arcuate fasciculus.

The arcuate fasciculus links grey matter, which contains cells and is responsible for processing information, with white matter which connects areas of grey matter – allowing information to be transferred between distant areas of the brain.