African languages are woefully underrepresented in terms of the amount of Wikipedia articles written in them, reports htxt.africa. Less than 40,000 articles are in Afrikaans, while about 30,000 articles are in Kiswahili, as compared to 5 million in English and 1.8 million in German. Hoping to improve the situation, Wikipedia has sent out a call for more contributions on this front.
Malaysian art collective TypoKaki has come up with a book of reinvented Chinese characters, Women’s Words (女人的字), intended to reflect the woman’s perspective in universal experiences like pain and body hair. For example, the team—on feeling that the Chinese language is inherently sexist—”modified the word ‘pain’ (痛) to include a Chinese radical so that it conveys menstrual pain specifically”.
In Canada, the New Brunswick Court of Appeal will decide next month whether or not to separate the province’s school buses by language as it already does with its schools themselves. This issue is only a continuation of the debate on the validity of French-English bilingualism and coexistence in New Brunswick.
Adebunmi Adeniran, a Nigerian based in the United Kingdom, has developed a keyboard that allows for easy and efficient writing in at least twelve Nigerian languages. Called NAILANGS, the keyboard will enable speakers of Igbo, Yoruba, and various other languages to communicate in those languages with ease by eliminating the need to constantly insert symbols into a document.
It is not certain how the Austronesian language family spread to cover a large and diverse area that includes Madagascar, Taiwan, Pacific Island groups, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and isolated parts of Vietnam and Laos. A dominant theory is that the language spread when a huge wave of Neolithic Austronesian language speakers expanded out of Taiwan to places like Indonesia and the Philippines. Another theory is that minor migrations (rather than a massive wave) took place because of climate and landscape changes. Now, a new genetic study has discovered that populations throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands shared a common ancestry prior to the Neolithic period, suggesting that, “the contribution of a Neolithic “out-of-Taiwan” migration to Remote Pacific Islanders is negligible” and therefore casting doubt on the “Out-of-Taiwan” theory. The study also found traces of small-scale migrations out of Taiwan and suggests that the Austronesian languages were spread through these migrations and language shift rather than “large-scale population replacement”.
Commentaries and Features
With the declining use of Irish, Seán Cottrell argues that the Irish education system should focus on teaching conversational Irish, especially “through fun and games”. He suggests that too many children dislike Irish because they are not learning Irish as a “living language”.
Alec Ross of The Wall Street Journal argues that the machine translation revolution is coming. He states, matter-of-factly, that volume and computing power improvements will result, in 10 years, in earpieces that can translate from multiple languages simultaneously and in real-time. This correspondent is skeptical at his most respectful.