Posts categorised ‘Languages’

Link: “How Arabs Have Failed Their Language”

Original post found at: https://newlinesmag.com/argument/how-arabs-have-failed-their-language/

I knew that Arabic was in a situation of diglossia, where the day-to-day languages of Arabic-speaking countries (the “dialects”) are mutually unintelligible with MSA, the form used in writing, news broadcasting, etc.. (If you weren’t aware, you could compare the situation with Romance-speaking Eur­ope in the late Middle Ages, where written communication was still nearly all in Latin despite the vernacular languages definitely already being recognisable as forms of French, Spanish, etc.) What I was not aware of was that even children’s books are written in MSA, that kids get made fun of for using the MSA words they learn from cartoons but are also taught that their native dialects are just “broken Arabic”, and that even primary school is mostly conducted in MSA – in what’s essentially a foreign language to these kids! And that all of this seems to have an impact on literacy rates for Arabic speakers, which are lower than you’d expect for middle-income countries (although to be fair, I expect the political instability in many of them contributes).

The headline obviously sounds like it’s blaming speakers themselves for this convoluted situation, but really it makes a good argument that something needs to change, like greater recognition of dialects, especially in literacy-building material for children.

Link: ““Los insultos y las conversaciones en catalán nos suenan a broma””

Original post found at: https://es.ara.cat/sociedad/insultos-conversaciones-catalan-suenan-broma_130_4137236.html

Interesting article about teenagers in Barcelona, and the reasons why they largely prefer to speak Castilian (Spanish). Those include the perception that Cata­lan is a “teachers’ language”, or that you can’t be serious in Cata­lan, it’s a jokey language (even though a group of boys quoted here also claim there’s no good ways to rib your mates in Cata­lan, while a girl quips that Cata­lan is such a sweet and rhythmic language, how could she be expected to speak it with these boys, hahaha). But further points are made about how Castilian is in such wider use – there are way more TV shows and movies etc. produced in Castilian, the online “influencers” and the famous actors the teenagers know of are all Castilian-speaking – and it just seems like Castilian evolves more rapidly with the times while Catalan feels more staid and academic.

For what it’s worth, I studied Cata­lan for two years and I have a huge appreciation for the diversity of language, so my own preference would be to see Cata­lan thriving (and compared to many other minority languages, it totally is – why else was I even able to study it at my university in Australia!). But you also can’t really blame young people for preferentially speaking a language that most of the media they consume comes in, or is way more common globally, linking them to people through most of the Ame­ri­cas. And you’d have to think as well that if Catalan did change faster to “keep up with the times”, that would probably mainly mean a lot of borrowings from Span­ish (much as my uni tutor railed against “cas­te­llan­is­mes”, heh). I’m not sure that there really is an “answer”, or that there’s even a point looking for an “answer” – languages are there to be used by people, after all, they’re not things that exist independently of us. And especially in the rest of Catalonia (outside Barcelona), Cata­lan seems to be doing fine.

Wiki: Philippine Spanish

Philippine Spanish describes the actual dialect of Spanish that was once (and is still, albeit by extremely small numbers of speakers) spoken in the Philippines. It does not refer to Chabacano, which is a Spanish-based creole language.

Spanish was brought to the Philippines when it was colonised by Spain, and while it exerted a massive influence over the local Austronesian languages, Spanish …

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Wiki: Australian English accents

Unlike North America, Britain or Ireland, we don’t really have regional accents (although some features are more common in certain regions); instead our accents tend to be correlated with socio-economic status.

Traditionally, Australian English was described as having three accent groups:

  • Cultivated Australian: sounding very similar to RP, you can hear this accent in the speech of old …

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Wiki: Australian English

Australian English is the variant of English that I speak, obviously. Like a lot of people, I am interested in the features of my native dialect, how the developed, and how they compare to other varieties of English. This page is going to be the “landing page” of all kinds of topics related to that 🙂


Unlike Britain, Ireland or North America, we don’t really have regional …

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Link: “scolding water – John Wells’s phonetic blog”

Original post found at: http://phonetic-blog.blogspot.com/2010/02/scolding-water.html

This helped to explain a phenomenon I’ve noticed, where some words (like fault, false, alter, because – although that last one isn’t really explained by this link) are pronounced with the “lot” vowel by most people, but with the “thought” vowel by a minority (I want to say mainly by old people), in Australian English. I wondered if it was a lot-cloth split thing (and it probably is in the case of because), but where the vowel precedes [l] it didn’t seem to be that, so I had to keep looking. Finally I found that this phenomenon occurs in RP too, and this blog post describes the class of words affected as “words like salt”. At last, some confirmation that what I’ve noticed is a well-known “thing”!

Link: “Schism fears for Gaeilgeoirí”

Original post found at: https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/schism-fears-for-gaeilgeoirí-1.1269494

Is there a city version of the Irish language? And if there is, how different is it from Gaeltacht Irish? A conversation I recently had with a speaker from Limerick, who is raising her daughter in Irish, revealed a fascinating fact. She never listened to Raidió na Gaeltachta. Was it that it was a Gaeltacht station and irrelevant to her, I asked? Only partly, she admitted. It was actually because she found the presenters very difficult to understand.

Yet this woman spoke fluent Irish. How could a fluent speaker of Irish have such difficulty with the national Irish-language radio station?

This article’s from 2010, but I found it really interesting nonetheless. The Irish language has been gaining popularity in Ireland’s cities, but speakers of this urban variant often struggle to understand speakers from the Gaeltacht, while Gaeltacht speakers often find the urbanites' speech weird and unpleasant to hear – to the point that members of the two groups often prefer to speak English with each other.

This article talks about the linguistic differences between Gaeltacht Irish (varieties passed on continuously from one generation to the next) and urban Irish (the result of language revival efforts, like Irish-medium schools). I appreciate that the author doesn’t just dismiss the latter as “bad Irish” or put down its speakers; he’s actually very positive about that community, even though he’s quite frank about the “simplified” nature of their Irish.

Link: “What is something Spanish speaking children commonly get wrong? /r/learnspanish”

Original post found at: https://www.reddit.com/r/learnspanish/comments/nxhjyv/what_is_something_spanish_speaking_children/

Thought this was an interesting Reddit thread on the things Spanish-speaking kids say when they’re learning how to talk 🙂 Unsurprisingly, many of them are the same classes of mistake that English-speaking kids make, like misconjugating irregular verbs as if they were regular, or mispronouncing certain phonemes to make them easier to say.

a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a left-wing feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also very interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.