This week in languages October 13, 2017

by on October 13, 2017

06/10/2017–13/10/2017

Headlines

For the first time in the history of Australia, the revival of indigenous languages of the land has been written into law. The New South Wales parliament ushered in the Aboriginal Languages Bill on Wednesday in recognition and appreciation of the estimated 35 languages that have been discouraged by state governments, missions, and schools, reports ABC.net.

This is The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World. Or is it? Iceland’s new tourism campaign challenges foreigners to sing “The A-Ö” of Iceland, a karaoke song in English that takes you through all 32 letters of the Icelandic alphabet and includes common Icelandic words like bílaleigubíll, sundlaugar, and hringvegurinn.

Cambridge University Press celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month (15 Sep–15 Oct) with a new collection of free chapters from books related to the linguistic, political, historical, and social aspects of the Latin American experience.

Zipf’s Law states that in every language, “the most frequent word occurs twice as often as the second most frequent wor[d], three times as often as the subsequent word, and so on…”. Using methods from computational linguistics, Sander Lestrade from Radboud University has shown that Zipf’s Law can be explained more fully by considering both sentence structure (syntax) and word meanings (semantics).

Commentaries and Features

Scared of the number 13? You might have triskaidekaphobiaThis (inauspicious) Friday the 13thOxford Dictionaries tells us about historical synonyms for the English word unlucky. Now keep those unsonsy thoughts to yourself.

What drives the differences in rates of change of different grammatical features of languages in the same language family? Analysing linguistic features of languages in the Austronesian language family, Michael Dunn gives his take on how evolutionary biology can inform our understanding of how languages work and stresses the need for interdisciplinary research in this field.

PRI reports on the unique experience of watching English-language films and TV series in Germany, where TV audiences demand high quality, perfectly synced voice-overs to the extent that subtitles simply don’t seem to be a thing. Listen to the entire conversation (28m30s) over at PRI.

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