In the news
Press coverage of Dan Jurafsky’s The Language of Food exposes readers to linguistic ideas ranging from etymology and vocabulary to pragmatics, the philosophy of language, computational linguistics, corpus studies, and linguistic anthropology. Here is a brief round-up of the stories.
Susan Blum and Kathleen Riley offer a critical evaluation of programs designed to close the “language gap” between disadvantaged and middle-class children at Anthropology News.
A story by Beth McMurtrie in the Chronicle of Higher Education asks what ethical obligations historians have to people they interview. This is, in my opinion, an issue of tremendous importance for linguists, anthropologists, and all scholars who work with human subjects.
The Society for Linguistic Anthropology’s column in Anthropology News has been updated with an article by Christopher Ball, Alejandro Paz, and Michael Silverstein, entitled, “Teleologies of Structuralism.” Click here to read the article.
Why am I uncomfortable with talk of evolution in the news? Maybe I’m hearing echoes of Herbert Spencer. A brief exploration of Terry Gross and Daniel Lieberman’s discussion of The Story of the Human Body, and my own discomfort with the necessary simplification of complex ideas
Gabriel Arana recently published a defense of creaky voice at The Atlantic. He notes that recent criticism of young women’s use of creaky voice, or “vocal fry”, is part of a long tradition of critiquing the speaking styles of less powerful groups of people. Arana’s conclusion that “normative judgments about linguistic prestige are relative, and merely reflect social attitudes” is absolutely correct and well-known to linguistic anthropologists and other scholars of language. The particular speech patterns he analyses to support his conclusion – up-talk, like, and creak – are somewhat questionable, however.
In 2011 the American Dialect Society listed ‘the 99%’ among its Words of the Year. In 2012 ’47%’ became the new politically-charged number. These numbers are connected in a way that might not be obvious.
Mitt Romney was recorded declaring, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.” Because they pay no income tax, Romney suggested, 47% of Americans are dependent on government. This resembles a charge made in 2011 by conservative activists at the53.tumblr, which in turn was a response to the Occupy Wall Street-affiliated wearethe99percent.tumblr.
Radio programs have recently celebrated a “new understanding” of the importance of preschool for success later in life. Related knowledge has been part of academic discussion for decades, but has had relatively little effect on how education is organized. To contribute to public understanding, I summarize Shirley Brice Heath’s “What no bedtime story means” (1982).
In this guest post Martha Sif Karrebæk relates how her Journal of Linguistic Anthropology paper, “What’s in your lunchbox today?”, became a topic of discussion in Danish mass media.
The phrase, “women and children” to mean non-combatants killed by war strikes me as somewhat outdated. Non-combatants are not necessarily women or children, and women and children are not necessarily non-combatant. The phrase might risk a mis-recognition of the nature of political violence and its victims.
The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer says conservative Evangelical Christians view President Obama as “the avatar of godless socialism”. Do American Christian conservatives use ‘socialist’ to mean ‘insufficiently religious’? If so, their usage parallels that of Osama bin Laden.
NPR’s Morning Edition and the Sunlight Foundation suggest that congressional speech-making is becoming less sophisticated. The presentation appears to validate conventional wisdom that American politics has taken an anti-intellectual turn of late, but the story shows flawed methods coupled with confirmation bias.
Recent news events highlight relationships between fact and story telling. Ethan Zuckerman’s recent ruminations on activism and journalism provide a summary and synthesis of one set of ideas, and a piece Michael Wilson contributed to the New York Times’ City Room at about the same time provides another.
Barbara Johnstone (2011) “Making Pittsburghese” and Timothy Messer-Kruse (2012) “The ‘undue weight’ of truth on Wikipedia” present very different views of scholar’s experiences with Wikipedia. Johnstone’s evaluation is mostly positive, while Messer-Kruse’s is quite negative.
LANGUAGE AND CULTURE The Verbal Artistry of Julius Malema From the Anthro News Blog Language and Culture Column. Guest Columnist Steven P. Black Steven P. Black, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University In November of 2011, political youth leader Julius Malema was suspended from the ruling party of South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC). The [...]
A Fork in the Chinese Road: Educating Tibetans in Tibetan? Susan D. Blum December 23, 2011 Earlier this month a Tibetan monk set himself on fire. It was the twelfth incidence of Tibetan self-immolation by a monk or nun since March, according to unverified but plausible reports. These acts of desperation continue a long line [...]
H. Samy Alim writing in the NY Times about “What if We Occupied Language?” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/what-if-we-occupied-language/ When I flew out from the San Francisco airport last October, we crossed above the ports that Occupy Oakland helped shut down, and arrived in Germany to be met by traffic caused by Occupy Berlin protestors. But the movement has [...]
The Linguistic Society of America’s Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation is carrying out a letter-writing campaign to urge President Obama to sign an executive order. According to the LSA-CELP, “U.S. government agencies would be directed to ensure that their policies, procedures, and functions support community-based language revitalization. It would compel governmental agencies to follow through on the promises of the Native American Languages Act and the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act.”
This piece does not reflect the official opinion of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, its officers or its individual members. One of the most important functions of this blog is to inform people of current work being done within linguistic anthropology. As part of this, all linguistic anthropologists are invited to discuss current publications including [...]
This post does not reflect the official opinions of the SLA, its officers or individual members. I thought this call for papers was interesting as it directly connects to the discussion we have been having in Language Links on computational models, cheers, Leila International Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative May 20-22, 2012, Istanbul, Turkey [...]