Posts categorised ‘Languages’

Link: “How the Discovery of a Unique Sign Language Reconnected a Linguist With Her Past

Original post found at: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/algerian-jewish-sign-language

Neat article about a sign language that had been completely off the radar to the academic community until a chance question from one study participant during research on ISL (“do you want the sign I use with my friends, or the sign I use with my mother?”). A distinctive sign language arose in the Jewish quarter of the Algerian city of Ghardaia, and there’s still a community in Israel using it today! (And possibly also in France, although it’s not clear.) Cool stuff.

Link: “Unearthing a Long Ignored African Writing System, One Researcher Finds African History, by Africans

Original post found at: https://www.bu.edu/articles/2022/fallou-ngom-discovers-ajami-african-writing-system/

An article about Ajami, a writing system where West African languages like Wolof, Hausa and Fula have been written in the Arabic alphabet. What kind of boggles my mind is that the French clearly saw people using this script… and then just branded them “illiterate” anyway? How much contempt can you have. Ugh.

Link: “Michael Cannings (@formosaphile): How many competing writing systems can one language have? …

Original post found at: https://archive.is/avuFg

Interesting Twitter thread about the multitude of different writing systems used to write Hokkien! (Saved on archive.is, because I have very little faith in the longevity of Twitter links these days.) It’s difficult to write in Chinese characters, because about 15% of Hokkien words have no cognate in Mandarin, nor an ancestor in Old Chinese. There are a few different systems used to write those words (and sometimes for writing whole texts), including ones based on the Latin alphabet, bopomofo, and apparently a Hangeul-based/inspired script which was new to me. Cool stuff 🙂

Link: “Do accents disappear?

Original post found at: https://theconversation.com/do-accents-disappear-192548

An article talking about how accents have shifted over time (generally towards a “standard”, prestige accent) in the US, and how this can feel threatening to people because accents are so bound up in our sense of identity. The article makes a distinction between “dialect loss” (which it argues is bad, according to linguists) and “accent evolution” (which is neutral). I’m not sure how I feel about this, if only because I feel like both phenomena have much the same causes. But I do also feel like there’s value in having a “standard” language form which is readily comprehensible to all. Perhaps we need greater knowledge and acceptance of code-switching 🙂 Along with understanding that where people don’t use local dialects/accents it’s not because they’re inferior, but just because they’re less universally understood…

Link: “Māori are trying to save their language from Big Tech

Original post found at: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/maori-language-tech

Great article. A Māori-run non-profit, Te Hiku Media, has collected hundreds of hours of audio recordings of Māori speakers speaking their language, which they want to create text-to-speech tools and the like… so of course, gigantic corporates have swooped in and tried to convince Te Hiku to surrender their data so they (the big profits) can sell access to the tools back to Māori people for $$$. Te Hiku steadfastly refused, and also sought to educate others as to why data sovereignty is so important.

Link: “Stop using ‘Latinx’ if you really want to be inclusive

Original post found at: https://theconversation.com/stop-using-latinx-if-you-really-want-to-be-inclusive-189358

Article talks about the word “Latinx”, a gender-neutral alternative to “Latino”/“Latina”, which has caught on largely among American academics and NGO types, but not among ordinary Spanish-speakers. The article instead points to the alternative “Latine”, and the use of -e in general as an alternative to gendered -o or -a, which is much more popular in the Spanish-speaking world and has the benefit of, y’know, actually being pronounceable.

Link: “‘Y’all,’ that most Southern of Southernisms, is going mainstream – and it’s about time

Original post found at: https://theconversation.com/yall-that-most-southern-of-southernisms-is-going-mainstream-and-its-about-time-193265

Another article in the well-established “y’all is good, actually” genre. It makes the point that y’all is actually not first attested in the US, but in the UK – but then fails to go on to mention that its use still not restricted to the US, being characteristic of Indian-South African dialect as well, for example. When I visited Vivian’s family there, within a few weeks y’all had become part of my internal monologue, although I cut myself off and refrained from saying it aloud because I thought people would just find it funny coming from an Australian. (I mean, “ja” did come to form part of my active vocabulary for a while, and people thought that was funny enough, lol.)

Overall, though, I’m still a “you guys” person. I don’t see it as gendered; “guy” singular is gendered, but “guys” plural isn’t, sort of like Spanish vosotros (except even more so, because I would 100% address an all-female group as “you guys” and not find that weird. I mean what else am I going to say, “you girls”…?).

One neat thing I’ve noticed as I’ve worked at learning to read Shavian is how my experience has mirrored what I’ve seen in kids I’ve taught who were learning how to read. For example, I still spend a lot of time sounding out the letters, but now and then I come across a “sight word” where I just know what it is on sight, without needing to sound it out. Also, how I sometimes get impatient and just try to guess words based on what I think is likely given the context, and how those guesses are often wrong 🤣

I guess I find this neat as a reminder that kids and adults aren’t so different, really. Literacy is a hard skill to learn! Because most adults don’t ever try to learn a new alphabet, I think we forget.

Esperanto’s Influence on Orwell’s Newspeak

A couple of times in recent weeks I’ve seen some discussion about Newspeak in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and whether it was influenced by, or how it could be translated into, Esperanto. After all, Newspeak infamously uses words like “ungood” for “bad”, which is unironically parallel to Esperanto’s standard word for bad, malbona.

It seems like …

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