Thursday, April 21, 2016

An Extinct Language Reimagined

by Arige Shrouf 
Spring 2016 Intern

During my junior year of college I took a course on the history of the English language in which I was one of about five students. When we got to the lesson on phonology, we spent over an hour saying different words and trying to decipher their origins based on how we said them. Since there were only a few of us, we each had one-on-one time analyzing the sounds of words. I learned that words actually get labeled depending on which parts of your mouth you use to pronounce them, and I learned to appreciate the importance of pronunciation, since similarities in sound or spelling can be used to trace not only the origin of a single word, but also the origin of an entire language.  

The English language is a member of one of the ten branches of the Indo-European family of languages spoken in most of Europe and in places of European settlement (as well as in much of Southwest and South Asia)[1]. It derives from a mother tongue, Proto-Indo-European (PIE), that was spoken from 4500 to 2500 BCE. Although specialists disagree about the origins of PIE, many believe it was a spoken language used by an extinct tribal culture in Eurasia[2].

One of those scientists, evolutionary biologist Quentin Atkinson, conducted a study on 103 languages using statistical likelihood to calculate the likeliest pathways of distribution from an origin; he and his team developed a computer program to manage all the data they collected, and their results support an Anatolian origin—rather than the origin in the steppes above the Black Sea that other researchers have considered. But geographical origin isn’t the only aspect of this ancient language on which scientists and researchers have disagreed.

Because speakers of PIE did not leave written texts, there is no record of what the language might have looked like and linguists have long disagreed about what the language may have sounded like. Different renditions have been developed over the years and two in particular have been periodically updated since their rendition[3]. In 1868, German linguist August Schleicher wrote a fable using reconstructed Proto-Indo-European vocabulary in order to demonstrate how it sounded when it was spoken 6,000 years ago. His fable, “Avis akvāsas ka” (“The Sheep and the Horses”), has since been updated to incorporate new sounds added by modern linguists. Schleicher’s fable as well as a more recent fable—“The King and the God”—created by historical linguists in the 1990s can be read in their English translations or experienced in their PIE vocabulary. You can read the three different renditions of these fables and even listen to linguists recite them here.

Did You Know?
Proto-Indo-European isn’t just being reimagined in fables: The latest version of the Far Cry video game, Far Cry Primal, is set in the Stone Age, and retains its authenticity by employing voice actors who speak their lines in a rendition of Proto-Indo-European. The game, which was released on February 23 from Ubisoft, gives gamers a taste of this extinct language during gameplay.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Saving Shells on Cape Cod

by Duncan McCay
Spring 2016 Intern

Seven feet long and 665 pounds—that was the size of just one leatherback turtle saved by the Mass Audubon Sanctuary and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. And while that sounds like a massive turtle (and it is), realize that, at the time of rescue, it was underweight and near death. Thankfully, during the turtle’s brief stay at a New England Aquarium facility, aquarium vets, biologists and volunteers all rehabilitated the turtle back to a healthy state, before returning him to the same ocean he was rescued from. And I know you may be asking, “Wait, wasn’t the whole point of the rescue to, well, rescue said turtle from the ocean and keep him in the aquarium for a life of maintained temperatures and regulated diets?” Well, it turns out, leatherbacks and aquariums are not meant for one another due to the creature’s massive size, the fact that its diet consists of jellyfish and the turtle’s constant swimming into tank walls. So he was returned to the ocean to give him the best chance of survival. And while this story of saving one leatherback is quite amazing, it’s really just one of many amazing stories of sea turtle rescue in New England.

Every year biologists and volunteers work together to save endangered sea turtles stranded on Cape Cod beaches in Massachusetts. Just like the leatherback, these turtles are rehabilitated and released back into the ocean. On average, volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Society rescue 90 turtles each year. These turtles come to the vets at the New England Aquarium with hypothermia, severe dehydration, pneumonia and shell or bone fractures. Because of the severity of their injuries and ailments, their treatment can last for several months to two years. This sounds like a long time, but it’s worth it, as the aquarium does a fantastic job of saving these creatures. Over 90 percent of the turtles that come to the aquarium survive and are released back into the ocean. Due to their massive success rate, the aquarium has been nicknamed “Sea Turtle Hospital.”

While the New England Aquarium has a talented in-house staff to find and rehabilitate these ailing turtles, they would be nowhere without the volunteers who help out in the rescue. Just think, if there were only a quarter of the people currently combing Cape Cod beaches for these helpless turtles, how many turtles would be saved? So to keep the community as involved as possible with these efforts, the New England Aquarium has started a marine conservation action fund that aims to “protect and promote ocean biodiversity through funding small-scale, time-sensitive, community programs.” With this program, they hope to not only keep up their current rate of turtle saving, but to increase it.

Did You Know?
Some rescued sea turtles are tagged before being released back into the ocean. This tagging shows that the sea turtle has survived and where it has gone since its release. For example, the aquarium knows that Goose the green sea turtle traveled 8,310 miles after release.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Crossover Characters: When a Character Escapes the Book

by Kate Domenichella 
Spring 2016 Intern

Growing up, I loved reading the works of Sarah Dessen, an emerging young adult author who took readers through the journeys of heartbreak, betrayal and family troubles. Reading her books taught me how to behave and what was expected from me as I matured from an angsty teenager into a young woman. I enjoyed reading her books and looking at the crossovers she did with various characters. I read on as she brought characters from books I loved, The Truth About Forever and Someone Like You, into the pages of books I would grow to love—Just Listen, What Happened to Goodbye and Dreamland. The intermingling of Macy, Wes, Dexter, Caitlin, Annabel, Scarlett and Whitney excited me because it brought the characters I loved to life in other books. I was able to see how easily an author can make characters a part of books that aren’t in the same series.
While researching this idea, I came across another well-known author who uses crossover characters throughout his books. Perhaps you’ve heard of him: Stephen King? Quite a few of his books intertwine characters, such as Randall Flagg and the Crimson King, who can then be seen together in the Dark Tower series. Randall Flagg received his start in The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon as a character who’s a devoted servant of the Outer Dark and goes on to the Dark Tower series to fight for the Outer Dark. Due to similar identities, his character can also been seen as Raymond Fiegler in Hearts in Atlantis, but this has never been confirmed. The Crimson King can be found in Insomnia, Hearts in Atlantis and the Dark Tower series as the antagonist whose goal is to topple the Dark Tower. Although these two characters have their own books, King chose to combine their stories in other novels.
The concept of crossover characters is quite interesting and it’s a notion that has been utilized not just by Sarah Dessen and Stephen King, but also by many authors. If you want to check out more, consider authors like David Mitchell, Madeleine L’Engle, Kurt Vonnegut and Haruki Murakami.

Did You Know?

Stephen King wrote a miniseries called The Bachman Books under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. There were four books in this collection: Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man—a novel written in only one week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PSG Travels: Beyond the Business Trip

by Arige Shrouf
Spring 2016 Intern

I grew up on a Caribbean island, and although St. Croix is actually a United States territory, it’s also an exotic travel destination with sandy beaches and warm weather year round. That was my norm before I moved to Boston, but because I grew up on a tropical island I usually don’t consider an island vacation my ideal travel experience. Growing up, I dreamed of seeing snow and building snowmen, but since my family traveled in the summertime, there was never any snow to be found.

My desire to see snow aside, I have had some memorable travel experiences, most of them involving visits to see family in Florida or halfway around the world. I have had just as much fun touring museums and landmarks in Jerusalem as I have at theme parks in Florida.

Like me, the staff at PSG is well traveled, making it hard to choose favorite destinations or a single memorable experience, but we gave it a try anyway.

As it turns out, European travel is popular with the PSG staff, especially when it comes to visiting landmarks. Colleen and Chelsea have both been to Ireland where they each fell in love with the gorgeous castles and scenery. Annette, Chelsea, Kate and Colleen have all visited Italy; since Colleen majored in history, the highlight of her trip was visiting Pompeii and feeling like she had stepped through time. Colleen also visited Austria and Germany on a class trip. In addition to visiting museums and castles, she had the sobering experience of visiting the Dachau concentration camp.

Beyond landmarks, beaches are a hit with Alyssa and Eileen. Alyssa will travel anywhere as long as there are beaches, and Eileen visited Turks and Caicos when she was younger, where she enjoyed local markets, banana boat rides and the warm climate.

Despite their treks abroad, the PSG staff has also enjoyed travel experiences that are closer to home. One of Alyssa’s favorite experiences took place in New Orleans, where she got a taste of the history and the artsy culture in museums and even took a cemetery tour. Kate remembers the awe-inspiring, if overly decadent, Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, where her favorite room was the library, complete with a fireplace and two floors of wall-to-wall books. She enjoyed seeing where some of Edith Wharton’s inspiration for The Age of Innocence likely came from.

Whether the PSG staff is traveling as near as Maine or as far as Ireland, they will find the experience memorable if there are historical or cultural landmarks to visit.

Did You Know?

According to MasterCard’s 2015 Final Report, New York is the only city in North or South America in the list of top 10 destination cities for international travelers. The city had 12.27 million international visitors in 2015 who generated $17.4 billion in revenue for the city.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

PSG Reads: Never Too Old for Young Adult Lit

by Nora Chan
Spring 2016 Intern

Young adult (YA) literature has dominated my to-read pile on my nightstand for many years. It is my favorite category of books to turn to, especially with a cup of tea next to me. When I asked other PSG team members about their favorite YA book or author, I got an abundance of answers that prove you don’t have to be under the age of 18 to enjoy and get caught up in young adult books.

Almost everyone at PSG responded not only with their current favorite YA book, but also with what their favorite was when they were a part of publishers’ targeted audience of young adults (ages 12–17). Many couldn’t even pick one book!

The genres were as varied as the authors that were chosen, too. From realistic fiction that included many of John Green’s novels—such as The Fault in Our Stars for Kate D. and Looking for Alaska for Eileen—to fantasy and dystopian series that have been recently adapted into films or for television—Rick Yancey’s 5th Wave series and Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instrument series for Arige. There were classically known titles as well, such as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Other favorites included Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series for Chelsea and novels by Sarah Dessen for Kate C.

The popularity of YA literature does not end at PSG. In 2014, the percentage of people who bought young adult books (not for others, such as a child or friend, but for themselves) and were over the age of 18 was 77 percent, compared to 55 percent in 2012. Part of the increase in popularity may be a result of massively successful authors such as J. K. Rowling, John Green and Jacqueline Woodson, but it is also because the literature is truly great storytelling with nostalgia, amazing worlds and wonderfully real characters built right into the books. For me, I read YA with as much diversity in genre, plot and characters as possible. At the moment, the Prophecy series by Ellen Oh, the Legend series by Marie Lu and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie are among my favorites.

So take a look around the young adult section of your favorite bookstore next time you need a good read; you never know what kind of adventure you may find!

Did You Know?

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press coined the term “new adult” for a new category of literature that is between young adult and adult books. The readership’s age range is 18–25 years old, and the books usually take place post–high school. It is a category that is still in flux and barely defined, but has a lot of potential!