This week in languages: March 24, 2017

by on March 25, 2017

17/03/2017–24/03/2017

Headlines

Fish for You and Fish for Me was one of the winners of the South Slave Divisional Education Council’s (SSDEC) first Aboriginal Children’s Book Writing Contest in 2016. This year, the children’s book has been published in English, Cree, Slavey, and Chipewyan—just in time for Aboriginal Languages Month in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Registration for the next Northwest Indian Language Institute‘s Summer Institute on 19–30 June 2017 is now open! This year’s theme is Carrying Our Languages Forward. The Institute is offering teaching training programmes and youth programmes for young students to study language, teaching methods, and language activism.

The Scottish Government body, the Moray Council of Scotland, has set aside £40,000 for an initiative to promote Gaelic or Gàidhlig—spoken by about 1% of the population. Soon, schools will teach the language and road signs will show both Gaelic and English. This move has earned them the moniker “Gaelic Gestapo“.
☞ A reader has pointed out that it is in fact Cllr George Alexander of the Moray Council who referred to Bòrd na Gàidhlig—the principal public body in Scotland responsible for promoting and advising on Gaelic matters—as the “Gaelic Gestapo” for “forcing” the Council to set aside funds for implementing its Gaelic language plan. Read CEO of the Bòrd na Gàidhlig Shona MacLennan’s response to the situation.

Commentaries and Features

What’s being a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster like? The New York Times follows “word-nerd celebrity” Kory Stamper into the headquarters of America’s oldest dictionary publisher. 

One of the many Chinese dialects spoken in Singapore, Hainanese has been losing fluent speakers in recent years. Hainanese culture is kept alive, however, through food, opera, and puppet theatre, and active use of the language is encouraged at youth camps sponspored by the Singapore Hainan Hwee Kuan association, reports The Straits Times.

One’s choice of words does matter. This was the conclusion drawn by graduate students Alex Karan and Robert Wright from their electronically activated recordings over a weekend of the conversations of “52 couples coping with breast cancer”. The researchers found that words that directed a focus away from the cancer patients, such as the patients’ uses of second-person you and your and their spouses’ uses of first-person I and me, were associated with “better marital quality”. A positive marital quality was also linked to the use of words of positive emotions, e.g. care and love, as opposed to words of negative emotions like hate and cry.

More than 400 languages originated from Proto-Indo-European languages such as English, German, Persian, Hindi Bengali, and Greek. What did PIE sound like and how did it originate, evolve, and develop into its hundreds of languages today? Philip Perry gets to the root of the question in this piece for big think.

“In creating a naturalistic language, one has to take the time to develop the language at a very early state—and then gradually evolve the language over the centuries, changing the sounds, changing the meanings of words, and evolving the grammar…” This is the view of American linguist, David J Peterson, when interviewed on his creation of the Dothraki and Valyrian dialogues found in the popular American drama series, Game of Thrones. Peterson apparently bases his created languages on as much information as he could obtain from the film makers about the characters who would speak those languages, following which he would create samples of how those languages might sound, obtain feedback from the makers on the samples and further develop the samples, reports Deccan Chronicle.

Writing for BBC News, See Hear series producer William Mager looks back on his experience learning sign language as a deaf adult, calling it ‘the language more beautiful than words.’ He also advocates for sign language to be taught in British schools.

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