This week in languages: March 10, 2017

by on March 11, 2017

03/03/2017–10/03/2017

Headlines

Fancy being outlawed for speaking English? This is the current situation facing people in two English-speaking regions in Cameroon. People in these regions have reportedly been unable to surf the web for two months as part of the government’s efforts to clamp down on Anglophone activists, led initially by English-speaking lawyers and subsequently involving the participation of teachers. “Cameroon’s linguistic rift” is reported to date back to the early 1900s when the country was divided between Britain and France. Despite the country’s reunification following independence into a “bilingual, federal republic”, English speakers feel marginalised by the authorities in terms such as the share of public money dispersed to their regions.

Tibet’s estimated 48 languages and dialects face challenges greater than many other endangered languages. In addition to the common stressors of urbanisation, mass media, and the pursuit of functionally more valuable languages, the language policy of the Chinese government constitutes Tibet’s greatest challenge. The Hong Kong Free Press highlights Tibet’s dying languages following the recent UNESCO Global Mother Language Day.

“We had to invent words that didn’t exist in the vocabulary of the deaf in Syria so they can exchange information and express their feelings about the violence.” Syrians at an NGO centre for the deaf in Damascus are creating new sign language letters to enable the deaf community to talk about the ongoing Syrian civil war. Living in a country devastated by war poses extra dangers for the deaf because they find themselves unable to receive information about the war or explain their situation to others . “You have to make yourself understood using gestures, and often those in charge at roadblocks think we’re mocking them,” says Ali Ekriem, the centre’s chairman.

Via follow-up research to a 2006 study, Professor Nairan Ramírez-Esparza and her colleagues have found that not only can our personalities change depending on the language we are speaking, our impressions of the culture associated with that language can also have an effect, reports Quartz.

Commentaries and Features

How closely related are the Finnish and Spanish languages? Alternative Transport’s map of the “Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe“—as featured on Big Think—shows the degree of relation between languages found across the European continent. A closer distance between the languages means that they have more words in common, and a wider distance, less mutual intelligibility.

Despite being the most widely-spoken indigenous language across South America, Quechua was, for the first time, used in Peruvian public broadcasts only in mid-December last year. Al Jazeera speaks to journalists broadcasting the new daily news programme called Nuqanchik (‘Us’) and of the historical marginalization of the Quechua language.

What did Singapore sound like in the early days? Old gramophone recordings in Singapore’s local vernacular languages (i.e. Malay, Teochew, Hainanese, Cantonese, Hakka, and English) dating back to the early 1900s, are now available at the National Archives of Singapore‘s Audiovisual and Sound Recordings!

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