Susan DiGiacomo on Catalan

Reposted comment by Susan M. DiGiacomo John Tagliabue’s New York Times article on the new Catalan law mandating the dubbing and/or subtitling of 50% of foreign films into Catalan (“Trumpeting Catalan on the Big Screen,” March 10, 2010) contains a number of inaccuracies and tendentious arguments not easily recognized as such by the uninformed reader. Catalonia is represented as a place where all things Spanish are subjected to nationalistic backlash: Catalan schoolchildren are “required by law” to receive their education in the Catalan language, and the Catalan Parliament, “in a further blow to Spanish culture,” was poised to end bullfighting

John McWhorter on Talk of the Nation

Yesterday John McWhorter discussed the recent call by the DEA to hire “Ebonics translators” on Talk of the Nation. He did a good job describing his positions on translation and education, but his parting remarks on the nature of language variation were cut short. I presume to expand the description.

Linguistic Relativity, Whorf, Linguistic Anthropology

Kathryn Woolard, SLA President The question of linguistic relativity is the topic of an August 29, 2010 New York Times magazine article, “You Are What You Speak”   Many linguistic anthropologists were surprised by the article’s representation of Benjamin Lee Whorf’s ideas and by the scant reference to the longstanding tradition of research in linguistic anthropology. Most often known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis or the theory of linguistic relativity, the notion that the diversity of linguistic structures affects how people perceive and think about the world has been a canonical topic of American linguistic anthropology. This discipline’s exploration of the

Michel DeGraff on Haitian Kreyòl

Comments by Michel DeGraff on responses to his petition on Haitian Kreyòl As it turns out, these responses echo age-old arguments about the (mis)use of language in Haitian schools and in Haitian society at large. Yves Dejean and many others have addressed such arguments in previous publications. See, for example, Yves Dejean’s 2006 book _Yon lekòl tèt anba nan yon lekòl tèt anba_. As shown in Dejean’s publications, many of these counter-arguments against his petition have been made made and un-made over and over again. Unfortunately my current schedule won’t allow time to engage in these discussions. The good news

They are them; we are me and others.

August 31, 2010 1 Comment Chad Nilep In the news , ,

Stanley Fish notes that critics of the so-called ‘Ground Zero mosque’ see the terrorist attacks of September 11 as an act committed by Islam, for which all Muslims are responsible. In contrast, the stabbing of a cab driver by an attacker who reportedly asked the driver if he is Muslim is seen as “the act of a disturbed individual,” not a representative of an anti-Islamic position.

Peer Previewing

August 25, 2010 No Comments Leila In the news

From: Leila Monaghan, University of Wyoming, 8/25/10 Interesting article in the New York Times on changing peer review process on articles. Makes me think about whether this blog might be a good place for previewing articles in front of our peers, asking for comments on particular pieces of work before we send them to journals or publishers. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/arts/24peer.html

DEA and Ebonics

Repost of an article by H. Samy Alim and Imani Perry originally written for the The Grio blog: http://www.thegrio.com/opinion/why-the-deas-embrace-of-ebonics-is-lost-in-translation.php When the headlines appeared this week that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had issued a request to hire up to nine linguists proficient in Ebonics, it appeared it might be yet another cruel joke about the language of African-Americans. After all, who can forget the onslaught of racist “humor” and the angry vitriolic comments that circulated internationally after the “Oakland Ebonics controversy” a little over a decade ago. The DEA may not have known the full ramifications of its decision to

Haitian Kreyòl and Catalan

Reposted from Celso Alvarez Cáccamo 2010/08/24 at 3:13 am Catalonia’s educational system is one of immersion in Catalan. Catalan- and Spanish-speaking children alike (as well as immigrants from other countries) learn mandatorily in Catalan; Spanish is also taught. Spanish is not “the language of the majority” in Catalonia (or Galiza, for that matter). Be as it may, quantitative data about language distribution is only one of the criteria for language policies. The relevant criterium in Catalonia is that Catalan is the historical language of the country. As for the Haitian case and the petition, my opinion is that the various

Traces of a Lost Language Discovered

August 25, 2010 No Comments Leila In the news, Language Loss

Sometime in the early 17th century in Northern Peru, a Spaniard jotted down some notes on the back of a letter. Four hundred years later, archaeologists dug up and studied the paper, revealing the first traces of a lost language.

“It’s a little piece of paper with a big story to tell,” says Dr. Jeffrey Quilter, who has conducted investigations in Peru for more than three decades, and is director of the archaeological project at Magdalena de Cao Viejo in the El Brujo Archaeological Complex, where the paper was excavated in 2008. Quilter explains this simple list offers “a glimpse of the peoples of ancient and early colonial Peru who spoke a language lost to us until this discovery.”

More on Haitian Kreyòl and the education system

Some interesting comments on the education system in general in a New York Times Editorial on Haitian Education These comments were posted in response to the Petition to have textbooks in Kreyòl in the schools (the last post on this SLA Blog): Nancy Reyes says Are you implying that Haitian kids are dumber than kids whose first language is Catalan, Swiss dialect, Cebuano or Karanga but have to study books written in the language of the majority (Spanish, German, Tagalog, Shona)? For younger kids, immersion works,In Africa, the teacher speaks slowly and explains things in the local language when they

Idioms are hard

June 17, 2010 1 Comment Chad Nilep In the news , ,

Carl-Henric Svanberg, the chairman of BP, has apparently upset some Americans with his reference to “the small people.” My first reaction when I heard Svanberg’s remarks was that he must have been aiming for “the little guy” and produced a near miss.

Linguistic Anthropology Roundup #7

Arizona on Our Minds Arizona lawmakers have been on our minds, recently. In Roundup #5, Leila talked about their ban on ethnic studies classes and move against teachers with accents. As should be expected, that same “accented speech” issue has attracted the attention of the good people at Language Log, for instance in this recent blogpost. Among other things, this issue could help us discuss the perceived relationship between accent and fluency. Judgments about speech are often connected to judgments about speakers and accent perception is a fascinating (though often troubling) dimension of this connection. In Roundup #6, Chad provided

Refreshingly careful definitions of “Socialism”

April 26, 2010 No Comments Chad Nilep In the news , ,

The word socialism seems to be much in vogue in the United States recently, primarily as an epithet for one’s political opponents, especially for representatives of the Obama Administration or the Democratic Party, but also for “the Media” collectively.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find two recent blog posts pointing out how this usage differs from the traditional definition of socialism as a political position.

Language Related TV Tropes

March 28, 2010 1 Comment kerim Folk Linguistics, In the news

In a followup to my post from last week about the language section in the Snopes database of online myths and hoaxes, I’d like to share this link to the language section of TVtropes.org. The TV Tropes website was featured on the NPR radio show, On the Media, which explained that the show, which “catalogs some 20,000 plot devices and dialog conventions that show up throughout pop culture” is run in a wiki-like way, allowing for user contributions. As a result quality of the database is somewhat uneven, but it is still quite a useful resource for those interested in

Language Myths in Your Inbox

March 20, 2010 1 Comment kerim Folk Linguistics, In the news

NPR has a nice profile of the couple which runs Snopes.com. Having long ago convinced most of my contacts to stop forwarding chain e-mails, I rarely check Snopes anymore, but inspired by the NPR story I went back and was pleased to see that they have an entire section devoted to language. This, in turn, has sub-sections on folk etymologies, mistranslations, nonexistent words, etc. Related: The Snowclones Database