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Language and words in the news – 21st June, 2013

© Scott Maxwell / Fotolia.comThis post contains a selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular.

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This week a great deal of language in the news has focussed on pronunciation and accents.

Global English

The British Council’s ‘The English Effect’ exhibition: accents
Listen to a variety of accents from the UK and rate how friendly, attractive, intelligent or trustworthy the person sounds!

Who Says Tomato?
A broad conclusion from this entirely personal and unscientific survey might be that we (the royal we) are relatively fluid in our language choices at 17 but fairly fixed by 26. But various outliers tell a quirkier story. …

British and American English

Anglicized Spanish (British vs. American)
Americans have no qualms about stripping foreign words of their phonetic origins (just listen to a local New Orleanian describing French-named suburbs). But we seem to make an exception for Spanish, America’s more or less de facto second language. On this side of the Atlantic, we pronounce “paella” with a /j/, use the vowel in “goat” for the second syllable of “cojones,” and pronounce “rioja” as if it rhymed with “aloha.”

pronouncing words from Spanish
More detailed discussion of the same topic on Lynn Murphy’s separated by a common language blog

Language technology

Our ambiguous world of words
Ambiguity in language poses the greatest challenge when it comes to training a computer to understand the written word. Now, new research aims to help computers find meaning.

Books, science, dictionaries, words and languages

What language is your baby speaking?
Find out what marginal, canonical and variegated babbling


Foreign accent syndrome has been in the news this week. Here are two videos about this very rare condition affecting people and dramatically changing their lives:
Foreign Accent Syndrome (13:16)
Australian crash victim develops French accent (1:20)

(Dark) Humour

The Reaperclone
It turns out that “I’ve (only) come for your X” (often preceded by a reassuring “Relax” or “Don’t be alarmed”) is something of a cartoon formula.

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