Language

Grizzly bears in coastal British Columbia are more closely linked to Indigenous groups than previously realized.

Grizzly Bear Territories in Canada Match Maps of Indigenous Language Families

DNA analysis shows a distinct relationship between three distinct groups of grizzlies and Indigenous populations with different languages

Mother and pup of the bat species Saccopteryx bilineata. Similar to human infants, pups begin babbling at a young age as they develop language skills.

Baby Bats Babble—Just Like Human Infants

Both species make similar sounds as they develop language skills at an early age

A man in Laruns, southwestern France, whistling as a form of speech. Like others in the Canary Islands and elsewhere, local people have learned to whistle their language to communicate across long distances. Linguists are studying whistled speech to help understand which sound elements are essential to comprehension.

More Than 80 Cultures Still Speak in Whistles

Dozens of traditional cultures use a whistled form of their native language for long-distance communication. You could, too.

The Ifesowapo dùndún ensemble performing in Igbo Ora, southwest Nigeria

How Does the West African Talking Drum Accurately Mimic Human Speech?

A new study explores how the dùndún replicates tones and patterns of the Yorùbá language

Scene from the Bayeux Tapestry, which famously depicts William the Conqueror's victory over the so-called Anglo-Saxons

The Many Myths of the Term 'Anglo-Saxon'

Two medieval scholars tackle the misuse of a phrase that was rarely used by its supposed namesakes

Historians have long thought that Slavic peoples did not develop an alphabet until the ninth century—but the new findings suggest otherwise.

Cool Finds

Runes Found on Seventh-Century Cow Bone Could Change Slavic History

The Germanic writing suggests Slavs used an alphabet more than 200 years earlier than previously believed

Peter Mark Roget compiled his influential thesaurus late in life.

Before He Wrote a Thesaurus, Roget Had to Escape Napoleon's Dragnet

At the dawn of the 19th century, the young Brit got caught in an international crisis while touring Europe

The letters used in the ancient alphabet bear a distinct resemblance to Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Cool Finds

Pottery Shard May Be 'Missing Link' in the Alphabet's Development

An inscription found on a 3,500-year-old vessel suggests that a standardized script arrived in Canaan earlier than previously thought

Portrait of Dante Alighieri, Florence and the allegory of the Divine Comedy, 1465, detail.

Virtual Travel

Follow Dante's Footsteps Through Italy

For the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death, visit his birthplace, churches and tomb

Christina Koch (left) poses for a portrait with Jessica Meir while preparing for their first spacewalk together.

Smithsonian Voices

Gender-Inclusive Language Puts an End to the Era of 'Manned' Spaceflight

It is time to honor six decades of women's contributions to spaceflight, says the Air and Space Museum, with unbiased verbs like 'crewed' or 'piloted'

Sophia Kianni is the founder of Climate Cardinals, a member of the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, and hosts her own podcast.

Smithsonian Voices

Meet Sophia Kianni, the Young Climate Change Changemaker

The founder of Climate Cardinals assembled a team of global volunteers to breakdown language barriers by translating climate science and research

The dictionary documents the “core” vocabulary of science fiction that turns up again and again, both in stories and in the real world.

A Dictionary of Science Fiction Runs From Afrofuturism to Zero-G

The long-running project found a new online home, one that showcases the literary genre’s outsized impact on popular culture

A new study finds most conversations don't end when we want them to.

New Research

Most People Don't Know When to Stop Talking, According to Science

A new study finds folks are pretty bad at guessing whether to wrap up a chat or keep talking

Hieroglyphs line the walls in a shrine
to the goddess Hathor at Serabit el-Khadim.

Who Invented the Alphabet?

New scholarship points to a paradox of historic scope: Our writing system was devised by people who couldn’t read

Father Reginald Foster celebrating his birthday in 2019

Father Reginald Foster Used Latin to Bring History Into the Present

Who speaks Latin these days? A surprisingly large number of people, thanks to the late friar, who died on Christmas Day at 81

Our favorite books this year are ones with messages that help kids understand the world around them.

The Ten Best Children's Books of 2020

These top titles deliver history lessons, wordplay and a musical romp through the animal kingdom

Waimea Bay takes its name from the Hawaiian word for "reddish-brown waters."

What the Survival of the Hawaiian Language Means to Those Who Speak It

A Smithsonian curator recalls his own experience learning the native tongue

Nāoli Weller, a nursery school teacher at Nāwahī, leads her class in traditional songs. In the room hang signs that help pupils master the Hawaiian language.

The Inspiring Quest to Revive the Hawaiian Language

A determined couple and their children are sparking the renewal of a long-suppressed part of their ancestors' culture

Detail of a medical treatise from the Tebtunis temple library with headings marked in red ink

Why Did Ancient Egyptian Scribes Use Lead-Based Ink?

A new study uncovers the science behind ancient writing traditions

A Tyrannosaurus rex posed with a Triceratops at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Hypersensitive Profanity Filter Censors 'Bone' at Paleontology Conference

Moved online due to the pandemic, an automated content filter banned terms including "sexual," "pubic" and "stream"