Language in the news

Is the good work of interpreters ever recognised? What do Anfillo, Bung and Hoti have in common? Will learning a language contribute to healthy senior years? What is left after you've read the OED? So much to learn and so little time!

Guardian angel

"They are in almost every shot yet they pass unnoticed, discreet facilitators at the elbow of power, perpetual outsiders." A Guardian editorial: In praise of... interpreters.

 A (sad) vanishing act

They're not as soft and cuddly as some iconic animals, but they are in just as much danger of extinction. We're talking about half of the 6,700 languages still spoken in the world today.

Created by Luigi Luccarelli, with thanks to www.wordle.netUNESCO on safeguarding endangered languages:  "The 2003 Convention recognises the vital role of language in the expression and transmission of living heritage. All intangible cultural heritage domains - from knowledge about the universe to rituals, performing arts to handicrafts - depend on language for their day-to-day practice and inter-generational transmission." You can also check out the organisation's Atlas on Endangered Languages, a project under its Multilingualism in Cyberspace program.

"As 'globalization' increases, so does the loss of human languages," states a National Science Foundation Special Report. Check out the hyperlinks at the bottom of the page.

The Endangered Language Fund was founded to do something about this impending loss. They give grants in support of projects, such as these.

A good story injects life into a topic: "Jogue, yipe, simoi are three short words for foods in Kim, a language in Sierra Leone that Tucker Childs has been trying, for the past three years, to write down, record and understand." Linguist's Preservation Kit has New Digital Tools from the NY Times.

And then there were new ones

"In In The Land of Invented Languages, author Arika Okrent tells the fascinating and highly entertaining history of man's enduring quest to build a better language. Peopled with charming eccentrics and exasperating megalomaniacs, the land of invented languages is a place where you can recite the Lord's Prayer in John Wilkins's Philosophical Language, say your wedding vows in Loglan, and read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in Lojban... a must-have on the shelves of all word freaks, grammar geeks, and plain old language lovers."

From the website of the same name, which includes scores of samples.

Let us know what you think by reviewing it for Communicate!

Science and languages

"English is the language of science. So to what extent are researchers who are non-native English speakers at a disadvantage? Bonnie Lee La Madeleine talks to scientists hailing from Japan to Germany." Nature offers an interesting read under the boilerplate title Lost in Translation.

Health benefits

It could be that language specialists should start honing their skills earlier and never stop working. People with superior language aptitude developed early in life may be less prone to Alzheimer's disease later. Read more from the BBC: Language 'predicts dementia risk'.

Health risks

According to the abstract of Getting By: Underuse of Interpreters by Resident Physicians, doctors in the USA "underuse interpreters despite evidence of benefits and even when services are readily available. The reasons underlying the underuse of interpreters are poorly understood." You'll find more information and numerous useful links in Pauline W. Chen's article for the NY Times.

Tongue-in-cheek syndrome

"There's a disease spreading across Britain. It's in our schools, on our streets and in our places of work." ARSC (Australian Raised Sentences Condition) is spreading... laughter. View the excellent video Going Up at the End of Sentences.

A-to-Z through Oxford

If you have a year to spare, you might consider reading the Oxford English Dictionary. Ammon Shea did and lived to write about it in Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages.

From beginning to end "59 million consecutive words - the equivalent of one John Grisham novel per day" as Nicholson Baker points out in his review in the New York Times

Shyam K. Sriram thinks, "Though he may not admit it, Shea must possess some variation of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), for it quickly becomes apparent that no one but Shea could have read the entire OED because no one else could have done the book so much justice."

Sriram's article in PopMatters also lists some of his favorite finds, such as apricity, petrabund and petrichor (all of which will get flagged by your spellchecker). We know you really want to read this book, so don't come up with an accismus.

"Do we still need dictionaries in the age of Google?" If you are wondering why we still have them, try Are Dictionaries Becoming Obsolete? on the WSJ site.

The next challenge?

The people who brought you the OED are know giving us the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, "covering more than 920,000 words and meanings from Old English to the present day based, on the Oxford English Dictionary." The soon-to-be-released 2-volume work numbers 4448 pages, or only 12 per day for the next year. You can find a review on the BBC website: Roll over Roget.

Translation, Manipulation and Interpreting

"Translation is manipulation! What does it mean? How can it be? Can it be trusted? And what about its sister activity interpreting? The book provides answers to all these questions and more. It investigates the allegedly manipulative side of translation and interpreting, and offers an overview of scholarly and practitioner stances on translation and interpreting as manipulation as well as a fine-grained typology of translational manipulation with examples. This study would appeal to translators, interpreters, scholars, and students alike."

More information on Aiga Dukate's book from Peter Lang Publishing Group.

Recommended citation format:
Luigi LUCCARELLI. "Language in the news". September 15, 2009. Accessed July 8, 2020. <>.