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Year-end Roundup

There are just a few more days until the new year. The coming new year is a great time for new beginnings – and that gives me a ready excuse for not having written any sort of inaugural posting as the in-coming digital content editor yet.

Look for news on updates to the SLA site and other digital media in the new year.

In the meantime, enjoy this year-end roundup of ling-anth related stories.

Word (etc.) of the year.

The American Dialect Society will select its Word of the Year on January 6th at their annual meeting, held in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America’s annual meeting.
[UPDATE 1/8/2012: The winner is occupy.]

Already, though, Stanford linguist and radio commentator Geoff Nunberg has selected his word of the year (occupy), Merriam-Webster has announced its choice (pragmatic), and the Oxford English Dictionary has anointed squeezed middle.

That last selection sparked an interesting debate between Geoffrey Pullum and Ben Zimmer at Language Log on whether the “word of the year” needs to be a word.

Also, and relatedly, at Language Log, Victor Mair has posts on the Chinese and Japanese characters of the year, with comments on the nature of the writing systems, and the ways that people misunderstand or misrepresent them.

 I can haz language play

A video of a presentation by Lauren Gawne and Jill Vaughn on the grammar and indexicality of lolcats has appeared on several language-related blogs and other sites over the past few weeks. (Teh Internets is nothing if not dialogic.) In case you missed it, here it is at Gawne’s blog, Superlingo.

A muscular empathy

I can’t think of an elegant way to bring this around to the themes of language or year-ending, but I have been thinking about this piece from The Atlantic’s Ta-Neshi Coates since I read it.

If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this–You are not extraordinary. It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?”

It is definitely relevant to ideas of cultural relativity, agency versus structure, cross-cultural (mis)understanding, and other issues in linguistic anthropology.