This week in languages: November 16, 2020

by on November 16, 2020


Discussions surrounding racial justice have been on the rise in light of recent events and many people are more willing now than ever to address racism. This article gives an overview of different measures some states have taken to eradicate language that is representative of the history of slavery, segregation and oppression of Black people.

In order to understand and protect the biodiversity of the world, the Indigenous cultures and languages must also be protected. This article talks about the life of Iawá, the last fluent speaker of Kuruaya, including her experience when a hydroelectric dam was built very close to her territory and disrupted many local Indigenous communities’ lives and livelihoods. The knowledge that Indigenous people hold about the land is invaluable, and this continues to be lost as they are pushed from their lands and lose their languages and cultures.

The Nunavut territory in Canada recently saw an amendment in their education laws, which has been criticized as a form of cultural genocide. Originally, the territory’s Education Act ensured bilingual education in Inuktut, the umbrella term for all Inuit languages, and English at all grade levels by the 2019-2020 school year. With the new amendment, Inuktut will only be introduced as a language of instruction over the next 20 years, delaying students’ being taught as a first language until 2039.

Commentaries and Features

What does the history of ketchup have to do with linguistics? Well, quite a bit actually! This article traces the etymology and history of ketchup back to Southeast Asia, while debunking some folk etymology along the way.

A study using functional magnetic resonance technology (fMRI) investigated how language-learning in adulthood can change the brain. Researchers found that language production (e.g. speaking) seems to be lateralized in the left hemisphere, while language comprehension (e.g. reading, listening) is more flexibly shared across the two hemispheres. This explains why it’s easier for adults to learn to understand a new language than it is for them to speak it fluently. Since comprehension remains relatively plastic throughout our lives, it’s never too late to start learning a new language!

The Princeston school press reflects on the standing of ASL courses in the University, as well as the broader message it’s sending about sign languages.

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