This week in languages: December 22, 2017

by on December 22, 2017

15/12/2017–22/12/2017

Headlines

In an effort to combat bullying and discrimination, an increasing number of British schools are adopting gender-neutral language and policies. These include more liberal uniform policies and the use of non-gendered terms such as “pupils” rather than “boys and girls.” Even schools run by the Church of England have adopted more progressive guidelines.

Following the election of “grab her by the pussy” Donald Trump, a wave of protests and social movements to champion women’s rights has blossomed, starting with the Women’s March around the world in January. In recognition of this, Merriam-Webster‘s Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism, a fitting accolade for a year gone wild.

Commentaries and Features

Less than 1% of the 9,870 people self-identified as Aboriginal in Windsor-Essex, Canada speak their mother tongues at home. To counter this decline, pockets of effort to teach the language have surfaced in spite of problems of logistics and attendance, such as weekly classes in Ojibway for Catholic and public school students and their families, reports CBC News. “It’s very important that we have our language because it’s who we are. It’s our identity, it’s our traditions, it’s our ceremonies. It ties into everything.”

According to The Washington Post, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been banned by the Trump administration from using 7 words (evidence-based, science-based, vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus) in its budget documents, “to take scientific language in a more ideological direction and, in some cases, embrace the language of the religious right“. Some, like Constance Grady of Vox draws parallels between the situation and George Orwell’s dystopia in the novel 1984, and cautions against moving towards a world where Big Brother tells the story.

On the English-dominant island of Singapore, how significant is your heritage language to your identity and culture? For the nation’s Indian youths (9.1% of resident population; consisting primarily of Malayalees, Punjabis, Telugus, Sindhis, and Gujaratis), very significant. “81% of Indians aged 21–25 regard speaking, writing, and reading in Tamil and other Indian languages such as Hindi and Malayalam to be important Indian identity markers,” according to a recent Channel News Asia–Institute of Policy Studies survey.

Boy are we not all waiting for an article like this, which deals with the ‘funny’ speak of Jedi Master Yoda from the Star Wars saga. Yoda’s non-conventional placement of a sentence’s subject when he speaks English is a window to the structure of his native language, according to David Adger, a professor of linguistics. This native language, presumably a fictional Yodish, is expected to be quite similar to Hawaiian back on earth. If you care for none of its linguisticky hoo-ha, this article is well worth a glance at least for an endearing photo of Yoda!

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