This week in languages: January 19, 2018

by on January 22, 2018



Registration for a new Lexicom course on 11–15 September 2018 in digital lexicography and lexical computing in Cambridge is now open! Learners will be entitled to one year’s access to Sketch Engine. Information on the contents of the course and costs can be found here. Limited to 30 learners.

In a new book, historian Paul Moon from the Auckland University of Technology claims that Maori is facing extinction as a living language because of parochial language policies such as an insistence on correct pronunciation that further kill the language instead of preserving it. He warns that if these do not change quickly, Maori may die within a generation, in Waatea News.

The internet is a great leveller, but could it also provide a platform for the revival of minority tongues? Alissa J. Stern considers the possibility and offers four ways in how minority speech communities can harness technology to save their language, in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “Technology can help reduce the pressures on local languages and revitalize them in the modern world, but only if we apply it in conjunction with social, political, economic, and cultural measures to change behavior.”

“There are 60 hours of tapes [in the language] where they’re talking about hunting kangaroos, there’s no way you could practice with that.” Pallavi Singal finds out what it takes to keep a language with just 50 speakers alive, and details efforts to revitalise Gamilaraay before its too late, in The Sydney Morning Herald. The Charles Darwin University in Sydney intends to establish an Australian Indigenous Languages Institute and offer courses such as Yolŋu Matha (language of the indigenous people of northern Australia) from January 2019.

Commentaries and Features

Michael Skapinker of The Financial Times reflects on what “aviation English“, the simplified, clearer English used by pilots and air traffic controllers, can teach us about our own use of the language, especially as native speakers interacting with non-native speakers. While 2017 was the safest year on record for commercial aviation, accidents have occurred in the past, and remain possible, due to faulty communication.

And here we are, back again at the debate of whether we have a variant of the English language, or simply, the English language. This time, the can of worms is opened by an emergent Dutch-English, which the Dutch people are reported not to be too keen in associating with, according to Dutch News. Whichever side of the debate one’s got onto, Dutch-English features such as front-loaded sentences and adjectives for adverbs are bound to keep any linguistic brain up and running into the wee hours.

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