This week in languages August 25, 2017

by on August 25, 2017



Prone to hearing voices in the dark? You may be more sensitive to hidden speech than others without this skill. In a study published in Brain, it was found that people who experience auditory verbal hallucinations, and who do not necessarily have a mental health condition, were better able to detect hidden messages than non-voice-hearers. Research participants were exposed to sine-wave speech, described as “birdsong or alien-like noises”. The voice-hearers were found to notice hidden speech such as “[t]he boy ran down the path” earlier than the non-voice-hearers. It is hoped that this research can improve therapeutic practice in clinical cases of voice-hearing.

Linguistic analysis of 3 billion Reddit comments suggests that the loose collection of disparate groups who call themselves “alt-right”—from gamers to white nationalists—are beginning to form a cohesive identity. Focusing on Reddit community “The_Donald”, researcher Tim Squirrell found that the community is made up of members from different alt-right interest-groups with distinct lexicons, and who would normally never interact with each other, beginning to speak a similar language, reports Quartz. Unfamiliar with the terms of the “alt-right” and “antifa”? Liam Stack has a handy glossary of terms you’re likely to come across in the discourse of extremism, for The Seattle Times.

The BBC will be providing a new digital service for West African Pidgin English soon, promising to bring news of local, regional, and international developments in a tongue that has thus far been underrepresented in media. The new service will aim to reach out more to the young and women, with social media playing a key role.

If the fad-word of the year 2016 was the Danish hygge (a word denoting cosiness and a blissfully warm feeling), its equivalent for 2017 is the Swedish lagom (meaning ‘team’; indicating a sense of balance and moderation). The latter, derived from the Old Norse word for ‘law’, has been voted as the next “it word” by ELLE and Vogue magazines. Psychologist Niels Eék says it’s no surprise the word is gaining traction worldwide: “At one end, we are excessive in our work habits, connectivity and indulgences. On the other hand, we are advised to limit ourselves by trying a new fad diet or a trendy detox.”

Commentaries and Features

Last year, in response to a growing number of Armenian-origin families making efforts to move to different districts, the Los Angeles Unified School District started a kindergarten Armenian–English bilingual immersion programme in Tujunga, California. Enrollment has already increased more than nearly 10% as Armenian families take the opportunity to pass down their language and culture to their children.

An incredible success story in this age of extinction of indigenous languages and traditions: The Matsés people of Brazil and Peru have compiled a 500-page encyclopedia of shamans’ medicinal knowledge to preserve it for the next generation. The encyclopedia was printed only in their native language so that its contents could not be stolen by researchers or corporations as has happened previously.
☞ For an Unravel article on a similar topic, check out Clara Miller-Broomfield’s description of creating a glossary from a Medieval apothecaries’ manual.

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