This week in languages: April 14, 2017

by on April 14, 2017

07/04/2017–14/04/2017

Headlines

Issue 26 of Parrot Time language magazine goes live! Check out their special features: a language profile on Nheengatu, language learning in the age of globalisation, language puzzles, and a film review of Un Sac de Billes!

Test your knowledge of the world’s languages with The Great Language Game, and contribute to what we know about what the world knows about the world’s languages! Created by programmer Lars Yencken in 2013, the first round of data from the Great Language Game has been published in the academic journal PLOS One, with more to follow, and has already yielded some fascinating insights, like the fact that the two languages “least likely to be confused” are French and Vietnamese.

Commentaries and Features

Up for some Scottish slang for the tingles? You might want to join the underground YouTube ‘fetish’ where Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) prevails, reports Herald Scotland. “It’s a bit like the brain equivalent of going for a run,” explains a psychologist.

A recent RTÉ broadcast exemplified how English dialects could be tricky to understand: Two Irish farmers from County Kerry were interviewed about the case of their lost sheep, drawing some curious responses from viewers about how intelligible they were.

From Parseltongue to Dothraki and Klingon, constructed languages—or conlangs—are common in movies and literature, but how much do you know about their creation? In an informative 20 min video, dialect coach Erik Singer explains “the Earthly inspirations behind six of the most popular conlangs.” Look forward to Unravel Issue 10’s upcoming special feature on conlangs!

Robert Mcfarlane published his book called Landmarks in 2015, on the British Isle’s many regional words for natural features, landscapes, and the weather. Since then, his readers have become his pen-pals and have been sending him their own words—”gift words” (he calls them)—that include “‘petrichor’ (the smell in the air as or before rain falls on hot dry ground).” Read The New Yorker’s delightful list.

Neapolitan novelist Elena Ferrente’s novels have become international bestsellers since their translation into English from their original Italian. Ferrente is also famous for her anonymity, but Nina Porzucki is more interested in the way Ferrante’s books comment on Italy’s languages and dialects from the 1950s to the present. Here is PRI‘s podcast on Italy’s “linguistic history and the tensions between Italian dialects and the lingua franca.”

Are people speaking the same or separate languages? This is a very real question for people who once belonged to a united Yugoslavia, and who now “speak variations of what used to be called Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian”. These variations were recently declared a common language by a group of linguists and NGOs. Support for the declaration stems from the mutual intelligibility of the four tongues involved. While nationalist Serbs and Croats see the declaration as undermining their separatist cause, from the perspective of those who motivated it, the declaration aids “the reconciliation process” of Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro.

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