This week in languages: January 27, 2017

by on January 27, 2017

20/01/2017–27/01/2017

Headlines

Do we convey more information if we speak at a faster rate? A new study from researchers at Brown University says no. The researchers found that an increase in the rate of speech correlated to a decline in the information rate. They also found that people who spoke quickly used more common words and simpler syntax whereas slower speakers used rarer words and more complicated sentences, reports Science Daily.

The first Indian Sign Language Dictionary is approaching publication, the culmination of decades of work by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC). However, as the Indian Express notes in its profile of the dictionary and its publication, significant challenges remain for the sign language-speaking community in India, with continuing access to appropriate education for deaf children, and just 300 sign language interpreters in the entire country.

The Northwest and Southwest provinces of Cameroon entered their eighth day of no Internet access, after Cameroonian authorities ordered an Internet blackout in both provinces following longstanding protests against “what activists call the marginalisation of the English-speaking regions“. Anglophone and Francophone regions in multilingual and multicultural Cameroon have long been at loggerheads, with the latter significantly outnumbering the former since the country gained independence over 1960–1961.

In the winter of 2019, language buffs can look forward to Planet World Museum, an interactive museum for linguistics housed in the historic Franklin School building in Washington D.C.! Visitors are invited to identify accents, “learn tips from professional dialect coaches, climb a Towel of Babel, or tunnel through a prepositional playground“. The privately-funded museum will be free to all.

Commentaries and Features

Haz América grande otra vez? US President Donald Trump’s inauguration has caused quite a stir in the media, not just in the US, but around the world where English is not the language of choice. Samantha Schmidt considers the difficulty of translating Trump’s words and sentence structures in various languages such as Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese, for Washington Post. How would you say “Grab them by the pussy?” in your language?

On Shanghainese in Singapore: “Scolding people in Shanghainese is a lot more vivid. I remember when my mother used to scold us. But if I use it on my daughter, she won’t understand.” Tham Yuen-C investigates the sustainability of the eighth largest Chinese language (based on number of speakers) in the Southeast Asian nation with a majority-Chinese population in The Straits Times.

Do the Indus hieroglyphs document a lost language? Mallory Locklear traces the interest in these carved symbols since the 19th century and how linguists, archaeologists, and physicists have converged on this project to uncover the mode of communication in the 4,000 year old civilisation for The Verge.

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