Looking for a way to kill those last few painful hours at work on a Friday? Click here to try ‘The Great Language Game’, and see if you can identify which of the 78 possible world languages is spoken in each round. If you’re particularly proud (or ashamed) of your score, then please do share!
The Idler Academy has released the shortlist for the ‘Bad Grammar’ award, with Tesco featuring prominently for featuring grammatically incorrect phrases on their packaging (“Same luxury. Less lorries.”). A particularly ironic contender is cafe chain ‘Apostrophe’, for their unfortunate slogan, “Great taste on it’s way”. Read the full Guardian article here.
There are 108 words for describing ‘sweet potato’ in Hawaiian, and 47 for ‘banana’, including ‘palaku’ – a thoroughly ripe banana.
The BBC has posted an article today on the decline of regional variations of British Sign Language (BSL). These are characterised by a variation in vocabulary, much like with spoken languages. The decline is said to be as a result of a more standardised teaching of BSL, along with other factors such as closures of deaf schools, the influence of TV and the increased movement of people both nationally and internationally. Although local dialects of BSL still exist, studies have found that their use is in decline. Click here to read the full article.
An article published by the World Bank has highlighted the difficulties faced by millions of Latin Americans who do not speak Spanish or Portuguese. Even though their first language is indigenous to the country they live in, many people are being excluded from employment, health, educational and social opportunities because they do not speak Spanish or Portuguese, which were introduced to South America during the colonial period. This issue is most common among racial minorities, who are now refusing to teach their native tongues to younger generations for fear that they will also be subject to this ‘linguistic discrimination’. Read the full article here.
The Economist has published an article on their website this week about the outrage caused when Hong Kong’s education department claimed that Cantonese was not an official language of Hong Kong. Its speakers argue that Cantonese is a language in its own right, but the education department’s perspective is that it is merely a dialect of Chinese, like Mandarin and Shanghaiese. The article discusses the important differences between a ‘language’ and a ‘dialect’.
What is your opinion- do you see Cantonese as a dialect or an institutionalized language? And can you think of any similar examples of languages which are often labelled as dialects, and vice versa?