This week in languages: February 9, 2018

by on February 9, 2018



The Episcopal church in the Diocese of Washington, D.C. passed a groundbreaking resolution last week to stop using masculine pronouns and gendered language to refer to God. Per the resolution’s drafters, “Over the centuries our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt.” They hope that their decision will make the Church more inclusive and welcoming of the transgender community specifically.

While studying the Jahai language in Malaysia, Swedish linguists from Lund University have documented a new language in the Malay Peninsula: Jedek. Heard in northern Malaysia, the language is said to “lack words for ownership or professional occupations. By contrast, they draw from a ‘rich vocabulary’ to express concepts such as exchanging and sharing”, in Atlas Obscura.  Listen to what Jedek sounds like here, in a video published by the school.

‘A hungry man is an angry man.’ You can say it all simply with a single word, hangry, a blend between ‘hungry’ and ‘angry’. A newly-added word to the Oxford English Dictionary, together with a number of other newly-added words, hangry comes packaged even with pre-designated comparative and superlative forms, ‘hangrier’ and ‘hangriest’!

Commentaries and Features

Germany or Deutschland? While Germany is known as “Germany” to most English speakers, the Germans use the endonym Deutschland to refer to their country. Check out this map that shows every country’s name in its own official language.
☞ Also check out Eric Koob’s fascinating piece on why Germany is also known as Deutschland (German), Allemagne (French), and Niemcy (Polish), among other names.

The Singapore minister for communications and information launched an English-Tamil glossary containing 4,000 mostly official and legal terms as part of an effort to improve the quality of Tamil translations of government documents after pamphlets handed out during national day celebrations in 2017 contained numerous errors. The glossary, developed by the National Translation Committee and the Tamil Language Council, aims to ensure consistent and accurate Tamil translations, a minority official language in the island-state, reports The Straits Times.

What’s in the language of depression? Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi writes about research studying the language of the depressed, for example, through diaries of personalities like Kurt Cobain and Sylvia Plath who suffered from depression and committed suicide. Language features include absolute terms (always, nothing, completely), words with negative meanings (lonely, miserable), and tend to have a higher proportion of first person pronouns (me, myself, I).

On dialect cosplay, language performance, and the trope of standardisation: Alexandra Grey writes about the various speaker panels and discussions  surrounding ‘standardisation’ that took place at the conference titled Language Standardisation and Linguistics Variation in Asia from Sociolinguistic Perspectives at the University of Nottingham-Ningbo, China for Language on the Move.

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