Linguistics

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Amid the debate about what languages should dominate at African schools, we’re missing an important point: why do we learn language in the first place? From www.shutterstock.com

We need to remember why we teach and learn languages

There are two functions of language: communication and access to knowledge. Each must be pursued as an objective in its own right rather than being lumped together.
Members of the Chitimacha language team (from left to right) Sam Boutte, Kim Walden and Rachel Vilcan use the new language software for the first time.

Renaissance on the bayou: the revival of a lost language

In the face of war, disease and outside cultural pressures, the Chitimacha language has survived -- and now thrives.
Minions, contrary to parental fears, have not been swearing at children – but why would that be a problem anyway? Daniel Go

Foul-mouthed Minions? Some myths about children and swearing

Parental concerns that Minions given as toys in McDonald's Happy Meals have been dropping the F-bomb raises an issue: how far – if at all – should we go to prevent children from exposure to "bad" language?
How much does the way we speak affect the way people perceive us – and should it really matter in contemporary Australia? Steven Mileham

Posh accents, discrimination and employment in Australia

Within Australia, there has historically been a clear social distinction between Cultivated (British-oriented) and Broad or General, distinctly Australian ways of speaking.
Liberalism means something completely different in South Africa compared with the US and UK, and has racist connotations. shutterstock

Navigating South Africa’s loaded political lexicon

Liberalism is a dirty word for the majority of South Africans. This goes back to early colonialism. Liberals opposed apartheid but not the close relationship between capitalism and apartheid.
Lest we forget is an expression with dignified origins, a rich history and a budding linguistic fossil. E-Maxx

Lest we forget lest: Anzac and the language of remembrance

This Anzac Day the words "lest we forget" will often be spoken. It's a usage that we don't otherwise hear. Why do linguistic fossils such as "lest we forget" linger – and how do they help us remember the fallen?
Greater cultural literacy – and a dash of linguistics – could go a long way to improving relations. EPA/Adi Weda

Indonesia and Australia? You’d better watch your language

Australian interests are intimately tied with those of Indonesia – how might a greater understanding of linguistics and cultural nuance help?
From left to right. Mandarin employs a different part of the brain. Chinese man via XiXinXing/Shutterstock

If you speak Mandarin, your brain is different

Language is traditionally associated with the left side of the brain. But Mandarin speakers are using the right side.
We could all pay better attention to what comes out our mouth. Emmanuel Szép

Mansplaining the word of the year – and why it matters

The Macquarie Dictionary last week named “mansplain” its word of the year for 2014. The Dictionary defines mansplain as: verb (t) Colloquial (humorous) (of a man) to explain (something) to a woman, in…
One thing’s clear, there’s a whole lot of duckspeak afoot. Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography/Flickr

Will Self, George Orwell and … what’s he newspeaking about?

Writer Will Self grabbed headlines earlier this week by referring to George Orwell as the “Supreme Mediocrity”. He wrote: The curious thing is that while during the post-war period we’ve had many political…
Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu speak the same language when distancing themselves from the killing of civilians in military operations. EPA/Haim Zach/Israeli government press office

MH17, Iraq, Gaza and the deadly verbal dance around killing people

Some years back, award-winning British journalist Robert Fisk wrote an article in which he stated the apparent tautology that “murder is murder”. Fisk was writing on Israel’s policy of “targeted killing…
Talk to me, Dad. Father and son via sashahaltam/Shutterstock

Talking to your babies could help them do better at school

The rate at which children learn language varies substantially from child to child. Some children show rapid vocabulary growth before they go to school, while others learn so slowly that they can end up…

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