Articles on Language

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Lost in translation. Gwenaël Piaser

We need to fall back in love with learning languages

The drop in applications to European language programmes at UK universities will not have come as a great shock to anybody teaching languages. For at least the past 15 years, the number of students applying…
“Hey, where are u?” “Ummm, right next to you”. TonZ

Watch where you put that emoticon AND KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN

Emoticons, punctuation and creative spelling have been debated, condemned, and regulated since the very beginning of online text-based communication. We’ve all seen “netiquettes” on how not to use ALL…
Tech-influenced terms such as “infovore” are in popular usage. Does that mean the English language is going to the dogs? as_much

The Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year is …

Each year the Macquarie Dictionary names a Word of the Year from a shortlist of words that have made a valuable contribution to the language. And it has declared 2013 to be the year … of … the … “infovore…
Why are British bosses so bothered by Australian question intonation? AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Australian question intonation? No good in Britain? Mate, really?

We could blame it on The Ashes. Last week, media outlets reported the Brits’ use of the Aussie accent might hurt their chances of promotion. But take a deep breath and two steps back from the 24-hour news…
Was Prince Charles correct? Are Americans destroying the English language? EPA/Samantha Reinders

The Americans are destroying the English language – or are they?

In 1995 Prince Charles caused a ruckus when he lamented the unchecked spread of American English – and the effect of American usage is one that’s perennially lamented. But is it true? Are Americans really…
Frankie wants us to relax, but is he asking or telling? chrisjohnbeckett

Get Back, Light my Fire, Do it Again: why is pop so pushy?

Rock and roll has always been a great liberating force in our culture. For many it has provided the soundtrack for all manner of acts of political rebellion and personal liberation. This spirit is captured…
Sign language can be used and misused, as with any form of communication. STR/EPA

Explainer: what is sign language?

What is sign language? Before we answer that question, it might be useful to first consider what a “language” is. Spoken languages are naturally developed complex systems that use a set of conventionalised…
Modern diplomacy requires a more delicate touch. Haydn West/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Parlez-vous diplomacy? English won’t serve the UK abroad

A report from the British Academy has warned that a lack of foreign language skills could undermine the UK’s future security and capacity for global influence. The report warns of an apathy towards language…
Unrealistic expectations raised early explorers’ hopes beyond all possibility. Larry W. Lo

Australians might speak Dutch if not for strong emotions

How did Australia, the mysterious southern continent that had captured European imaginations since ancient times, slip from the grasp of the Dutch? Four hundred years ago, the Dutch East India Company…
Scott Morrison has defended his directive for asylum seekers to be called ‘illegal maritime arrivals’. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Calling a boat person a spade: Australia’s asylum seeker rhetoric

Immigration minister Scott Morrison is new to government, but he is a seasoned campaigner on Australia’s response to boat people. He knows how to get attention on this issue and he knows how to use the…
Chinese language learning is happening but we need more. cawdvt

Boris is right, it’s time for us to learn Chinese

I found myself in wholehearted agreement with Boris Johnson, as he took the opportunity of his trip to China to express his opinion that British children should learn Mandarin. China has come a long way…
Publishing a peer-reviewed paper isn’t easy, but new research confirms it’s worth the fight. Cartoon by Nick Kim, Massey University, Wellington

Predicting who will publish or perish as career academics

It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s fair: if you’re an academic, your publishing record will have a crucial impact on your career. It can profoundly affect your prospects for employment, for…
Forget Spanish, French or German - try learning a coding language instead. Ivana Vasilj

Learn computerese as a second language (that’s code for code)

If horror meister Stephen King was a computer programmer, his language of choice would probably be COBOL: it’s quite verbose in exposition, has been around for ages and people still make a lot of money…
Steven Bird demonstrates the use of a smartphone for recording oral literature. Steven Bird

Emerging writers of the Amazon: putting vanishing voices in print

My team and I recently ventured into the Brazilian Amazon to record the Tembé language and preserve some of its stories for future generations. This built on earlier work with our mobile phone app that…
Linguistic controversy: could ultraconserved words point to deep language ancestry across Eurasia? Sharon Mollerus

Thinking the unthinkable: tracing language back 15,000 years

Just about everyone has a personal stake in language, and many people — expert and amateur — feel entitled to an opinion. But linguists care more than most people, and when linguistics hit the media, linguists…

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