Archive for November, 2012

Languages Facing Extinction

Posted on November 29th, 2012 by Jake in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Guardian posted an article that describes how half of the living languages in the world today face extinction. Of course many languages have already become extinct, languages like Yola, Cuman and Muromian. There are still places in the world however where you can catch a snippet of Gamilaraay, or Southern Pomo. The statistic is available because of Mark Turin, a research associate at Cambridge University’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Turin decided to create a large database of languages and how many people still speak them.

The World Oral Literature Project aims to document vanishing languages – and everything about the culture and society they convey – before they disappear. Its database used three major sources to collate the information about the disappearing languages, including Unesco’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. About 150 of its listed languages are in an “extremely critical” condition, where the number of known living speakers has slipped to single figures, or even just one.

Many languages that are in critical condition are oral languages, therefore if the speakers of the language do not pass on their knowledge, the language will be gone forever.

The database is currently updated exclusively by academics (though users are encouraged to send in contributions), but Turin hopes that it will ultimately become a Wikipedia-style web 2.0 project “that people want to contribute to”, with user uploads, recordings and discussion to help keep languages alive.

[via: The Guardian]


Posted on November 24th, 2012 by Jake in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The word hello is used frequently in an English speakers day. Every time you pick up your phone or greet somebody, the word hello is probably used. And every time you utter the word hello to somebody it is then quite likely that they will respond with yet another hello. The English language would seem rather peculiar if the word hello did not exist. It is quite shocking to find then that as words go, hello is actually a fairly modern invention.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the first published use of “hello” goes back only to 1827. And it wasn’t mainly a greeting back then. Ammon says people in the 1830′s said hello to attract attention (“Hello, what do you think you’re doing?”), or to express surprise (“Hello, what have we here?”). Hello didn’t become “hi” until the telephone arrived. The dictionary says it was Thomas Edison who put hello into common usage. He urged the people who used his phone to say “hello” when answering. His rival, Alexander Graham Bell, thought the better word was “ahoy.”

Ahoy actually predates the word hello and it was a strong contender for what one said when they picked up a telephone. How did hello beat ahoy?

Aamon points to the telephone book. The first phone books included authoritative How To sections on their first pages and “hello” was frequently the officially sanctioned greeting.

All I have to say is thank the Lord the How To sections managed to influence people and Alexander Graham Bell didn’t get his way. Can you imagine answering your telephone with “Ahoy there Emma I’ll be with you in a minute”? We’d all sound like pirates.

[via: NPR]

Cherokee Supported By Apple

Posted on November 17th, 2012 by Jake in Uncategorized | No Comments »

There are around 290,000 Cherokee people in the world today but only about 8,000 speak the Cherokee language. Cherokee tribal leaders have come up with an ingenious way to help keep their language alive. Tribal leaders decided to petition Apple to include Cherokee on its list of languages supported by its products. The petition seemed unlikely to achieve its goal as Apple only supported 50 languages at the time. Miraculously Apple decided to include Cherokee as an official language with tribal leaders only finding out about the news when iOS 4.1 was released. According to Forbes,

Now, teachers at the Cherokee Nation language immersion school in Tahlequah, Okla., use their iPhones to text students in Cherokee after school, parents can text their kids in Cherokee, and teens can text each other in their native tongue.

Forbes also notes that this is not the first time Cherokee leaders have used modern technology to keep their language alive.

The tribe obtained a printing press in 1828 to publish the bilingual newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. Just as their printing press used the modern technology available at the time to bring the language to tribal members of all ages, today’s tribal leaders saw a partnership with Apple as a way to keep kids interested in speaking and writing in Cherokee.

[via: Forbes]

Tottenham Race Row

Posted on November 10th, 2012 by Jake in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Fans of the British football club Tottenham have come under intense media scrutiny for holding up banners declaring themselves the Yid Army.

Tottenham rallied around their supporters, after Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert urged police to prosecute those who hold aloft banners bearing the name ‘Yid Army’ and chant it during games.

Club bosses welcomed the police response that there was ‘no deliberate intent to cause offence’ and that it  was more a form of self-parody by a  predominantly Jewish support.

Yid stems from the word Yiddish which is a language developed in central Europe 1,000 or more years ago by Jews. The derivative “Yid” however is historically a pejorative word and has links to Nazi Germany. Jewish comedian David Baddiel believes that Tottenham fans should not use the name to describe themselves, and that the idea that Tottenham fans are predominantly Jewish is a farce.

The idea that Spurs fans are reclaiming the Y-word and are entitled to because so many of them are Jewish is simply not true,’ he said. ‘There are only 250,000 Jews in Britain as a whole and I’d say about three or four per cent of Tottenham’s crowd is Jewish.

‘That means well over 90 per cent of those chanting “Yid Army” are not  actually Jewish and that is just one of several reasons why it cannot be right. If, for instance, there was a team in Brixton called Brixton United, and they had a mainly white support who adopted the N-word as their badge of honour and went round chanting “N***** Army”, they would be closed down tomorrow.

Quotes via The Daily Mail

Postgraduate Language Learning

Posted on November 8th, 2012 by Jake in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The Independent has an interesting article about the influx of further education students wanting to learn another language.

John Morgan is in the first year of a PhD on environmental history. He faces the challenges confronting most postgraduate students, from managing time to getting the research done. But there’s an added difficulty. “German historians are currently publishing lots on natural disasters and the environment in early modern Europe,” he says. “I’m keen to engage with this literature, but the vast majority is in German.”

When students are studying a very specific field it is important to be able to read everything you can about the subject. The example above is a reminder that many texts, especially niche journals, if written in a foreign language are unlikely to be translated into your own. Therefore it might be necessary for you to do some translating of your own and learn another language. The article lists many advantages to learning another language. Boosting academic output, communication, intercultural awareness, enhancing your mental flexibility, creativity and higher-order thinking skills and extra language skills can benefit your career prospects. With a list of advantages like that it is understandable why more and more postgraduates are choosing to squeeze in language courses alongside their main field of study.