This week in languages October 20, 2017

by on October 20, 2017



The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages announced the publication of materials from their efforts to document the Gta’ language, an endangered Munda language spoken in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in India. Check out their audiovisual archive of words, phrases and oral texts on the online archive PARADISEC!

Game-playing can help the elderly with their hearing. This was found in a study recently published in Current Biology. In the study, one group of elderly participants played a game that subjects them to auditory perceptual training targeted at improving the players’ ability “to follow conversations”. A second group of elderly participants played a working memory game that did little to help with speech intelligibility. After eight weeks, the first group of participants are found to accurately identify “25 percent more words” in the context of background noise. The findings indicate the potential role of “auditory training software” in addressing hearing difficulties.

Applications for graduate student travel fund now open! The Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation is offering 10 awards (worth SGD 350 each) to graduate students interested in attending their workshop “Technological Methodologies in Language Documentation and Anthropology” on 29 November 2017 (Wednesday) in Washington D.C., USA. Applications are due 30 October 2017 (Monday). Details have been posted on Facebook here.

Squirrelled away in the basement of a Vilnius church in Lithuania were artefacts of Jewish history hidden from Nazi’s during the occupation. Important letters, poetry, postcards, and other written materials in Hebrew and Yiddish formed part of the 170,000 pages of documents discovered by curators at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan just months ago, reports The New York Times. The artefacts will go on display on 24 October 2017 (Tuesday) at YIVO headquarters on West 16th Street.

Commentaries and Features

When Dharma Shila Chapagain, the then Minister for Health and Population of Nepal addressed the UN High-Level Meeting on Aids in 2011, she chose to deliver her speech in English. A clip of her speech was put up on YouTube and titled “Nepali Stupid Speech at UN.” Language On The Move explores linguistic shaming and how it can “suppress political debate and women’s public speech while generalising a linguistic inferiority complex.”

If you’re a linguist, you’ve perhaps encountered many a pseudo-linguist too. What is it about linguistics that attracts dilettantes and crackpots? Sam Dresser ponders the question in an Aeon essay, and gives a brief history of how language has been thought about by humans.

For a long time, it was considered heresy to doubt that the Hebrew language and script of the Bible were inspired by God – including the so-called vowel points, which were actually added by rabbis several centuries after the beginning of our era.

You may have heard that English is the international language of aviation, but it’s not English as we know it. Rather, pilots and air traffic controllers communicate in a form of English with around 300 words, including jargon such as affirm (“yes”) and mayday (used to indicate a life-threatening emergency). This simplified “Aviation English” is used to avoid miscommunication that could lead to a fatal disaster.

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