This week in languages: June 8, 2018

by on June 9, 2018

01/06/2018–08/06/2018

Headlines

If you’re bilingual, you’ve probably noticed that swearing and venting frustration comes more easily in your second language. Generally speaking, you may feel more emotionally detached when using it. Well, it turns out that this is due to our brain chemistry and to neural pathways that are formed over years of using our native tongues and making connections that may never be as strong in our second languages.

The #1 album in the US this week is—for the first time—one with lyrics mostly in Korean! “Love Yourself: Tear” by Korean pop band BTS dents the trends of English language chart toppers since Psy’s 2012 hit Gangnam Style”, but keeps up with the popularity of the language among popular media fans worldwide, reports The Guardian. “The language app Duolingo launched a Korean course in September 2017 and it currently has 2.78 million total learners. On message boards on the site, users have talked about being inspired by K-pop acts as well as Korean TV to learn Korean, and the app has included some lessons that are based around K-pop.”

Commentaries and Features

“But how multilingual is the Internet? What languages other than English does it speak? Why these languages?” Pia Tenedero considers the dominant languages of the internet, diachronic change, and its potential for “defamiliarizing the English-dominant Internet and inspiring a fresh curiosity for its linguistic repertoire,” in Language on the Move. She also provides the skeleton of the book “Internationalizing Internet Studies: Beyond Anglophone Paradigms” edited by Gerard Goggin and Mark McLeiland which studies these issues around the world.

If you’re old enough to remember the HBO romantic comedy, ‘Sex and the City’, and how Samantha Jones (played by Kim Cattrall) talks in it, this Language Log entry is going to interest you. Refuting somewhat the views of commentator, Caity Weaver, that Kim Cattrall (the actress herself) “respects each and every D and T” in her enunciation, unlike Samantha Jones (Cattrall’s character), we are taken through some spectrograms (visual displays of speech) that show how less than fully-enunciated Cattrall’s actual T and D sounds really are.

India is home to an astonishing 780 languages, according to the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, even though just 122 of them are considered official tongues. A nation that defines “a language as one that is marked by a script, effectively neutering oral languages”, is now facing the question of whether or not to invest in saving its diverse tongues. MP of the BJP party in India, Varun Gandhi makes a case for putting all hands on deck to ensure India’s languages stand the test of time—or get documented digitally in the very least.

India is one of the most linguistically rich countries. When we lose a language, it is a loss of an entire universe, including its cultural myths and rituals. Ignoring languages with fewer speakers will simply not do. Languages like Hindi have over 126 languages feeding into them. Cutting down on such roots will harm the larger languages as well.

“Is there a more effective way to overcome native speaker hegemony other than to educate people about the native speaker fallacy?” Language on the Move‘s Ingrid Pillar brings in this fascinating case study of the slow colonisation of English in Persian-speaking India in the 18th century, when British powers subordinated native-Persian speakers in favour of Persian-knowing Britons, who eventually replaced Persian as the lingua franca with English.

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