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Language and words in the news – 22nd February, 2013

This 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.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to submit a link for us to include, or just add a comment to the post, with the link(s) you’d like to share.

Global English

English teenagers ‘worst in Europe’ at languages
British teenagers are trapped in a “vicious circle of monolingualism”, a report warned yesterday as figures showed English youngsters are among the worst in Europe at foreign languages.

Could a new phonetic alphabet promote world peace?
Backers of a universal alphabet say it will make pronunciation easy and foster international understanding. But can phonetic spelling systems really smooth the path to world peace?

Books, dictionaries, words and languages

The tale of the unexpected decline of Roald Dahl
Although Dahl is still the author children read the most, not one of his books appears in the top 10 titles children said they enjoyed reading in the latest national What Kids are Reading report.

Pitch perfect
… Dr Werker … and her colleague Judit Gervain explain that what the tykes discriminate is prosody, or cues which relate to pitch and duration of words in an utterance. And prosody, in turn, serves as a cue to the acquisition of grammar.

Why tongue twisters are hard to say
A study of unprecedented detail now provides a glimpse into the neural codes that control the production of smooth speech. The results help to clarify how the brain uses muscles to organize sounds and hint at why tongue twisters are so tricky.

Language technology

Where life is tweet: Study ranks #happy places
It’s not just the wine. But the word “wine,” along with “beauty,” “hope,” “food,” and other words with happy vibes, help make Napa, Calif., the happiest city in the USA, at least according to a new analysis of 10 million tweets.


TED Talks: Could your language affect your ability to save money? (12:13)
What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future — “It rain tomorrow,” instead of “It will rain tomorrow” — correlate strongly with high savings rates.

Inaugural ESU British Culture lecture (1 hour 12 mins)
First in a series of seminars organised by the English Speaking Union:
David Crystal on Global English


8 New Punctuation Marks We Desperately Need
There is the lexical gap, but there is also the punctuation mark gap, i.e. missing punctuation marks in a language. Here are 8 new ones suggested, which include the sinceriod, sarcastises and the hemi-demi-semi colon.

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