Mark Newbrook's 'Language on the fringe'

Correcting The Correctors
On 29/1/12 there was a discussion on BBC TV’s Breakfast News programme of a proposal to reintroduce elocution lessons in schools near London, in the hope that the incidence of spelling errors such as wew for well (allegedly generated by ‘Estuary English’ accents in which this word is pronounced [wew]) would thereby be reduced.

Savage Genesis: The Missing Page
The late Stan Hall, a Scottish engineer, was a non-mainstream historian and in particular a supporter of the claims of Juan Moricz about a ‘golden library’ allegedly discovered in caves (difficult of access) in Ecuador; he started from the endorsement of these claims by Erich von Däniken.

Planet Word
In this BBC TV series, the well-known writer, broadcaster and polymath Stephen Fry has addressed the topic of human language, in which he has a long-standing interest.

The Lost Empire Of Atlantis
The expansive claims of Gavin Menzies about 15th-Century Chinese explorations around the world have been extensively critiqued; the linguistic aspects of his case were reviewed by me in Skeptical Adversaria in 2010.

Pictish Stones!
New research has just, as it seems, shed new light on the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in northern Scotland from around 300 to 843 CE.

Sailing to Flores – and Crete
Many readers will recall the excitement which surrounded the discovery a few years ago of the remains of the ‘hobbits’ of Flores, Indonesia.

The deaf and the Deaf
Some minority groups generally regarded as ‘disabled’ have of late begun asserting their right not to be ‘cured’ but rather to be accepted as they are. One such group is the deaf; the term is now often capitalized as Deaf.

Etymology and philology
Re evidence for and against etymologies: There are millions of words and word-parts in thousands of languages; and there are only so many common sounds and sound combinations.

Lost for words?
Many authors, journalists and broadcasters with an interest in language publish their observations and views – manifesting varying degrees of awareness of and sympathy with the findings of professional linguists.

Numbers and angles
Quite frequently I am contacted (usually emailed) by amateur ‘linguists’ seeking approval for their pet theories – which are often fairly wild and extreme.

Buddhist roots for European words?
Daniel Hopkins approached me after reading one of my critiques of authors such as Oak, Knapp and Matlock who proclaim the ‘hyper-diffusionist’ view that human cultures and languages all around the world derive from ancient India, its Vedantic (Hindu) religious system and Sanskrit (the great classical language of the Vedas).

The Lord’s Prayer in Serbian
Milan Elisin, a Serbian writer, apparently believes that the Lord’s Prayer was mistranslated into Serbian and other modern Slavic languages from the version in Old Church Slavonic – the classical language of Eastern European Orthodox Christianity – supposedly written by St Cyril.

Numerology, numerophonology and other oddities
Various authors advance theories involving mysterious features – especially dramatic hidden messages – in texts of various kinds. These claims involve both mathematical and linguistic issues, but the latter have seldom been addressed in the skeptical literature.