This week in languages: April 8, 2016

by on April 8, 2016



How would we communicate with aliens if and when we finally encounter some? The Atlantic profiled the rise and fall of Lincos, a language developed specifically for exolinguistic purposes by German scientist Hans Freudenthal, and “its enduring legacy” among Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) researchers despite its inherent flaws and limitations.

Over in Italy, volunteers are giving young migrants free one-on-one Italian language classes. Of the refugees entering Italy, a large proportion include unaccompanied minors. Said Eraldo Affinati, who initiated the language school, “It’s not enough to provide food and lodging. If we really want to integrate them, we must teach them the language. Then they can find work. Otherwise, they’ll remain outsiders with all the negative consequences that implies.”

Over in New Zealand, Auckland University of Technology historian, Professor Paul Moon released a new book (Ka Ngaro Te Reo) documenting the decline of Māori throughout the 19th century, in a call for more concerted efforts to tackle the decline. He stresses that “compulsion never works”, and policymakers have to go beyond making the language compulsory in order for the language to be sustainable.

So what’s new in the US presidential campaign? Signing the names of (potential candidates of) presidents in American Sign Language, apparently. Co-founder and developer of The ASL App, Melissa Malzkuhn teaches controversial ASL; part of which consists of the names of prominent folk like Trump, Obama, Sanders, Clinton, Reagan, and Nixon. Here’s a tip: To sign ‘Trump’, “use your hand to emulate what might happen if a stiff wind came in contact with Trump’s hair”.

Commentaries and Features

Writing for Yes! magazine, Sheldon Ito—a native speaker of Hawaiian Creole English—describes the sense of pride that he and other Hawaiians felt when their language was officially recognised by the US Census Bureau this past November.

The New York Times featured several endangered languages that have become the subject of “musical works that celebrate, memorialise or mourn the languages and the cultures that gave birth to them“, including Nu Shu and Quileute, and examined why and how those who develop such “musical language ventures” come to embark on these projects.

A new study of Nheengatú, an Amazonian language with approximately 19,000 speakers, has found that it includes a unique component: gestures. Nheengatú speakers use gestures rather than words to convey the concept of time. Additionally, certain gestures are considered a part of its formal grammatical system.

Imagine your dreams being the only place you’d hear your language. Life was like that for a habitant of Nootka Island, Alban Michael, the last Nuchatlaht speaker who died in February this year, aged 89, reported Times Colonist.

9 Responses to “This week in languages: April 8, 2016”

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      We need to teach them the language if we are dordle serious about integrating them. So they can be hired thereafter. Otherwise, they will continue to be outsiders with all the associated drawbacks.

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