This week in languages September 29, 2017

by on September 29, 2017



Just in time for the Polyglot Conference happening 27–29 October in Reykjavík, language learning app Memrise‘s has a new Icelandic language course in the works! It will include 100 lexical items, audio, and “Meet The Natives” videos. Check it out from 6 October!

After years of decline in Singapore, the Chinese languages of Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, and Hakka are experiencing a revival, with many in the younger generation are seeking to reconnect with the cultures and traditions of their grandparents and the older generation, reported Channel News Asia. While some insist on looking at the issue through utilitarian lenses, thankfully many have developed a keen interest in learning the language of their ancestors and continuing their use in Singapore.

To boldly go where no man has gone, said the split infinitive. This piece by The Guardian explains why the split infinitive is no longer a mistake. In fact, “researchers at Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press have concluded that split infinitives are now nearly three times as common in British speech as they were in the early 1990s”.Open call for endangered language poetry themed Freedom: The National Poetry Library in the UK is collecting poetry together with the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from the world’s dying languages for posterity. At least one poem for each language will be preserved and presented alongside an English translation. “I think of dialect words as pieces of treasure, which can carry history—they really can conjure up the lives of those gone before us in one utterance. It’s a beautiful, magical thing.” Submit your poem here.

Can key words in products predict its sales? According to scholars from Stanford University, yes! More than 90,000 food and health-related product descriptions were analysed together with sales data on e-commerce site Rakuten. A paper written on the topic reveals that specific Japanese terms consistently produced better sales for similar product types. Alex Shashkevich takes a look at other studies that studied framing techniques and rhetoric in the marketplace.

Commentaries and Features

How do you speak like an aliebn? With typos, abbreviations, and funny but specific grammar choices—according to twitter comedian Jonathan Sun’s (@jonnysun) new book everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too, report PRI. “I wanted to avoid ESL humor tropes because those are always laughing at people. So for me, it was always about understanding the norms of proper English and trying to break those down in [a] very intentional way, to create a different voice.”

Is American English a homogenous one? A six volume study of American English dialects, the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) has been seeking lexical variation in English spoken in the US since 1965. The New Yorker‘s Jesse Sheidlower runs through the process of traditional research work like interviews and corpus-building for DARE, and laments the entry of big data to generate linguistic insights in this piece. “But one can’t help feeling that it’s a shame to take the words out of the mouths of their speakers.”

Have you overtly mocked someone’s language ability or expression? You might have affected that person’s morale and communicative success and more, as Ingrid Piller explores in her keynote lecture at the 16th International Conference on Minority Languages at University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Like all systems of oppression, language subordination has a psychological component, and shame is a key mechanism that leads oppressed people to accept their oppression.

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