This week in languages: Apr 1, 2016

by on April 1, 2016



The constructed Klingon language of Star Trek is in court, after Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios filed a lawsuit against the makers of Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar, a fan film with “a serious budget”, in January. Axanar‘s makers argue that Paramount and CBS cannot “claim ownership of the language, which is nothing more than an idea”.

Singapore’s Tamil Language Festival kicks off its month of celebration of the Tamil language for the 10th year on Saturday, with a series of events and activities aimed at “encouraging the community to ‘Love Tamil, Speak Tamil'”. Unravel‘s Chief Editor Kevin Martens Wong will be attending this year’s opening event.

HSBC UK and First Direct have launched a British Sign Language Video Relay Service (VRS) for their hearing-impaired customers. VRS allows British Sign Language users to directly “communicate with their bank via an on-screen interpreter who then relays the information to a customer service advisor in spoken English.”

From now on, people in Wales have the right to talk to their local authorities in Welsh, see the language on websites, buildings, and advertisements, and also hear it in their classrooms or seminars, such as in swimming lessons. The new rules under the Welsh government’s Welsh Language Standards were welcomed by Welsh campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith.

Ravelóid, the first major music and culture festival to promote and use the Irish language, will take place this June with the 18th century Ardgillian Castle as its backdrop.

Commentaries and Features

Combining anger, disgust, and contempt, the face you make when you mean “Um, no” doesn’t just express complex emotions and ‘negative moral judgement’, but may also serve as a universal grammatical marker. Scientists call this the ‘not face’; hypothesising that the face of ‘negative moral judgment’ has evolved “into a facial expression of negation” used across cultures to indicate “a direct negation of whatever had just been said.” Grammatical markers like the “not face” distinguish human language from animal communication and may provide clues to how human language evolved.

A survey conducted by Carter (a provider of domestic and global relocation services) found that Mandarin is the most challenging language to master—especially for western learners, reports Asia Times. These results were gathered by asking hundreds of relocation and human resources professionals what they think is the most difficult language to learn. Japanese and Arabic were judged as the second most difficult, with 18% of respondents thinking so, in comparison to 38% who said Mandarin was most difficult.

Rachel Kondo stresses the importance of including Hawaiian Creole English as a literary participant and reimagines the experiences of her great-grandmother, Mie, who lived through the turmoil and history of what has been crystallised today as Hawaiian Creole English. “Like all things interwoven, Hawaii’s linguistic evolution cannot be separated from its long and tangled history with sugar.”

In Malaysia, prime minister Najib Razak bemoaned the negative effects of social media on the Malay language, such as spelling and grammar mistakes, and vows to correct this.

Despite having faced many challenges in recent years, the residents of La Loche, Saskatchewan are attempting to preserve their culture and Dene language as a means of bringing their community together and increasing pride in their traditions and heritage. After Cree, Dene is the most commonly-spoken aboriginal language in Saskatchewan.

In an opinion piece for New Republic, David Arbesú argues that—”unless engineers actually find a way to breathe a soul into a computer”—there is no way that technology and online translation tools will ever truly eliminate the need for language-learning.



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