Asia Times reports on ISIS’ latest nasheed (‘chant’) produced in song, this time in Chinese. The song, with its repetitive lyrics and catchy—almost hypnotic—melody, contains a radical message of war.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Centre and The New America Foundation have released a new study on 183 popular language and literacy apps for children aged 0–8. Among some of their findings: only 17% of the apps are both recommended by an expert and listed in each market’s Top 50 list.
Quartz rounds up news from around the world about the newfound prominence of the pronoun “they” as a gender-neutral, singular, third-person pronoun (in place of “he/she”). As Quartz‘s unofficial nomination for Word of the Year, and having been added to the Washington Post‘s official style guide, “they” as a singular pronoun is now here to stay.
The Museum of the Portuguese Language in São Paulo, Brazil, the only museum in the world dedicated to a single language, was engulfed in flames on 21 Dec. One firefighter was killed, and the building was significantly damaged, but officials say the loss of cultural resources may be minimal thanks to extensive records and backups.
Commentaries and Features
¡Feliz Navidad! Joyeux Noël! James Harbeck writes for The Week on the words for “Christmas” in different languages and how (and why) many of them do not explicitly reference Christ (whose birth Christians celebrate on Christmas day).
A recent study by mathematical linguist András Kornai suggests that the Internet, while providing a secure home for 5% of the world’s 8,000 or so languages, is likely to hasten the demise of the other 95%; Jason Thomas at BigThink considers how Google might reverse this trend.
In honour of World Arabic Day (Dec 18), Mouna Mana writes for The Hill on the importance of Arabic as a world language and on its economic, diplomatic, political, and cultural importance. She stresses the need for greater availability of Arabic instruction in the United States. The Kuwait News Agency makes similar points, summarising the remarks of UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova as well as other highlights of 2015’s World Arabic Language Day.
Sanskrit—oft considered a dead language—is enjoying a revival in India. The Japan Times reports on a weekly Sanskrit newspaper that is gaining steam and a Sanskrit-language film that premiered in November at a film festival in India.
Jakelin Troy, the lead author of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages, speaks out about the relatively muted media response to the document’s release, arguing strongly for the very positive impact it will likely have on many Australian students, but noting that this will also be contingent on “the level of government backing and financial support our teachers receive”.