November 3, 2008

LANGUAGE HAT–My initial thought was that this Telegraph story must be a joke, but since it quoted a bunch of real people and the date wasn’t the first of April, I reluctantly concluded it must be factual: Local authorities have ordered employees to stop using the words and phrases on documents and when communicating with members of the public and to rely on wordier alternatives full story
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Reconsidering Authority in Wikipedia World

October 28, 2008

THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION–Simson Garfinkel takes a look at authority and sourcing in Wikipedia world with an article in the latest edition of Technology Review. He focuses on Wikipedia’s requirement to cite published sources in adding information to Wikipedia articles. Yes, with a mob-written encyclopedia, a requirement for citing published, vetted sources makes sense, he full story
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Top List of the hardest languages to learn

October 24, 2008

LEXIOPHILES–There are some controversial questions which to some extent may never be satisfactorily answered. For instance, why is the train always late when we are on time and on time when we arrive too late? One important question, which falls under this category, is the following: What is the hardest language to learn? When I went to school we had to choose full story

Bad language

October 23, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–I recently objected to Louis Menand’s assertion that “[P]rofessional linguists almost universally, do not believe that any naturally occurring changes in the language can be bad” (“Menand on linguistic morality“, 10/22/2008).  And I was quickly taken to task in the comments by Steve Dodson, who is the erudite and broad-minded author of the Language Hat blog. full story

Every little (bit?) helps

October 23, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–The Tesco supermarket company defines its values by a slogan that, as my American undergraduate student Denise Wood pointed out to me yesterday, simply doesn’t seem (to her or to me) grammatical:Every little helps Denise showed it to me on the back of a till receipt, and at first I misread it as “Every little bit helps”.  full story

Menand on linguistic morality

October 22, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–Louis Menand (“Thumbspeak“, The New Yorker, 10/20/2008) aims a gibe at my profession: [P]rofessional linguists, almost universally, do not believe that any naturally occurring changes in the language can be bad. As a representative of the species, I can testify that this is false. Rather, we believe that moral and aesthetic judgments about language should be based full story

No judgements: Global Language Monitor tracks political buzzwords, filters through Obamarama and surges out of the quagmire

October 22, 2008

BABBEL BLOG–After posting last week about the CNN story proclaiming that Sarah Palin spoke at a higher grade level than Joe Biden, I was curious about the organization that made this assessment, and what they thought it meant. Now that curiosity has brought Babbel Blog together with Paul JJ Payack of Global Language Monitor to speak about political buzzwords — full story

The unstoppable rise of the English language

October 21, 2008

FREDRICTON, CANADA–Just over half of Africa’s 52 countries speak French, but the number is dropping. This month Rwanda defected, announcing that henceforward only English will be taught in the schools. It would not be overstating the case to say that this caused alarm and despondency in France. You couldn’t help feeling, either, that Rwanda’s trade and industry full story

Empathetic -in’

October 20, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–In a recent exchange (“Pinker on Palin’s ‘nucular’“, 10/5/2008; “Pinker contra Nunberg re nuclear/nucular“, 10/17/2008; “Nucular riposte“, 10/18/2008), Steven Pinker and Geoffrey Nunberg disagreed, among other things, about whether President George W. Bush is engaging in “conscious linguistic slumming” when he uses the pronunciation commonly written as “nucular”. full story

Maps: 1,000 dialects and 6,912 living languages

October 17, 2008

BABBEL BLOG–Last week we had Mara interviewing the Dialect Doctor, who claims to cure accents and strengthen dialects. Well, now here is databank of roughly nearly 1,000 speech samples: Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph; the recordings are collected and listenable over at the speech accent archive. They have the nice feature of a world map full story