This week in languages: March 17, 2017

by on March 18, 2017



Think English dialects are dying? Think again. The Guardian‘s Pamela Duncan and Josh Holder write about the myth of the decline of English dialects in the face of Standard English and how the Evolving English WordBank—which captures Englishes of the world—proves these dialects are evolving. Contribute to the WordBank by donating a colloquialism from your English dialect.

Starting this week, gay meet up app Grindr will be offering a new set of 500 trademarked emoji—termed Gaymoji—to serve as “visual shorthand for terms and acts and states of being that seem funnier, breezier and less freighted with complication when rendered in cartoon form in place of words.” Grindr‘s creative director notes that almost 20% of all Grindr messages already use emoji and that gaymoji are a response to the need to express oneself wholly.

“Never let it be said that punctuation doesn’t matter”, writes Elena Cresci for The Guardian about how the (lack of an) oxford comma helped Oakhurst Dairy delivery drivers to win a US court case regarding overtime pay! Not convinced on the importance of punctuation? Head over to Unravel Issue 9‘s special feature on Punctuation.

Commentaries and Features

How have people in mostly-monolingual speech communities blundered when it comes to non-traditional accented English? Ingrid Pillar details the harsh realities that people in Australia’s immigration detention centres have to deal with in communication. “In reality, learning a new language while also trying to do things through the medium of that language—to work, to study, to present your symptoms to a nurse—is a double challenge and these two aims of communication are not always compatible”, writes the author in Language on the Move.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, The Straits Times has put out a poll for people to vote on the acceptability of Singlish—or Colloquial Singapore English—on newcomers Tower Transit‘s public bus signs such as “Exit the other side can?”. At time of publication, 77.94% of ST readers polled thought the tongue-in-cheek signs were acceptable.

Looking for a reason to jumpstart your foreign language learning? Here’s a good one: Speaking a different language “fundamentally changes the structure of your brain,” giving you a “propensity to [help] find innovative solutions for practical problems” and much greater job market potential, reports Quartz.

Almost 8% of the Indian community in Singapore are Malayalees, though the language Malayalam is not available in public schools as a second language in the national bilingual policy—where students have to learn English, learn other subjects via the medium of English, and learn an additional ‘Mother Tongue’ language tied to their ethnicity. How have modern day Malayalees in Singapore kept the language alive in their communities? The Straits Times’ Toh Wen Li profiles the language of those whose ancestors hailed from India’s southwestern state of Kerala (“Land of Coconuts”).

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