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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

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Cultures & Languages


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Essay/Cultures & Languages
English is not normal

No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language

John McWhorter

Essay/Making
Chabuduo! Close enough …

Your balcony fell off? Chabuduo. Vaccines are overheated? Chabuduo. How China became the land of disastrous corner-cutting

James Palmer

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Kept women

Mistresses are big business in China, where no official is a real man without his own ernai. What’s in it for the girls?

James Palmer

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Master of many trades

Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things

Robert Twigger

Essay/Cognition & Intelligence
Real talk

For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong

Vyvyan Evans

Essay/Cultures & Languages
The invasion of America

The story of Native American dispossession is too easily swept aside, but new visualisations should make it unforgettable

Claudio Saunt

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Absolute English

Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?

Michael D Gordin

Essay/Cultures & Languages
See through words

The metaphor designer isn’t trying to make something beautiful. She wants to change your view on things. Here’s how

Michael Erard

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Naughty words

What makes swear words so offensive? It’s not their meaning or even their sound. Is language itself a red herring here?

Rebecca Roache

Essay/Beauty & Aesthetics
The sea was never blue

The Greek colour experience was made of movement and shimmer. Can we ever glimpse what they saw when gazing out to sea?

Maria Michela Sassi

Essay/Philosophy of Language
Chomsky, Wolfe and me

I took on Noam Chomsky’s ideas about language and unleashed a decade of debate and ridicule. But is my argument wrong?

Daniel Everett

Essay/Political Philosophy
Theory from the ruins

The Frankfurt school argued that reason is dangerous, mass culture deadening, and the Enlightenment a disaster. Were they right?

Stuart Walton

Essay/Travel
The parlance of pilots

High above London, Tokyo and Cairo, the language of the cockpit is technical, obscure, geeky – and irresistibly romantic

Mark Vanhoenacker

Essay/Cosmopolitanism
The dimming of the light

With its revolutionary heat and rational cool, French thought once dazzled the world. Where did it all go wrong?

Sudhir Hazareesingh

Essay/Anthropology
No drama, King Obama

In Javanese culture, a ruler must stand chivalrously above strife: cool, intelligent and self-contained. Sound familiar?

Edward L Fox

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Talk the talk

A push for English to be the official language of the US has both a dark history and a regressive vision for the future

Eric C Miller

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Dark books

What’s more wholesome than reading? Yet books wield a dangerous power: the best erode self, infecting readers with ideas

Tara Isabella Burton

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Speaking in tongues

In a world that converses only in English, we’ll talk only of banal things: that’s why I want my children to be bilingual

Ben Faccini

Essay/History
The Masada mystery

Have archaeologists proven the ancient tale of mass suicide in the Judaean desert or twisted science for political end?

Eric H Cline

Essay/Cultures & Languages
Talking gibberish

The study of languages has long been prone to nonsense. Why is linguistics such a magnet for dilettantes and crackpots?

Gaston Dorren

Essay/Biology
The songs of the wolves

Wolves’ howls are eerie, beautiful and wild. But what are they actually saying to each other?

Holly Root-Gutteridge

Essay/Stories & Literature
Enid Blyton, moral guide

The unfashionable world of Blyton’s school stories still has much to say about what it means to live an ethical life

Nakul Krishna