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Language and words in the news – 13th September, 2013

© FotoliaThis 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

Polyglot Europe: Managing Babel
The various solutions to Europe’s Babel all have their drawbacks. Reducing the number of official EU languages to three or so is a political non-starter. The spread of English as an informal official language is convenient, but annoys (formerly privileged) Francophones, and not only them. Technology is making cross-linguistic communication much easier, but even with all of the recent strides in machine translation, quality is still choppy, and remains impossible for the kind of spontaneous conversations that start friendships.

On a not very bright grammar test
One of the ways in which the grammar tests would be made more meaningful and exciting would be if there was a space for kids to give explanations about why they made the choices they made – a pragmatic perspective. Context is ignored in these grammar tests, which is one of the basic problems with them …

Call to reduce English lessons to ‘save’ Chinese
Public opinion over Wang’s remarks is divided. Some people argue that the academic load primary students bear is already too much, so they should focus on learning their mother tongue. Others say stopping English classes would not necessarily guarantee better Chinese-language skills.

Language change and slang

Scottish ‘EastEnders’ fans are turning ’ochney: study shows how telly viewing accelerates language change
The authors said television and other forms of popular media constitute one of many factors that help accelerate language change and more powerful factors, such as social interaction between peers, has a much stronger effect on language change.

Derp, YOLO and Jank make it in to new dictionary
Parents who are baffled when their children tell them someone is “derp” or that “YOLO” are to be given a helping hand with a new slang dictionary.


The Ancient Roots of Punctuation
In his new book … Keith Houston reveals the stories behind esoteric punctuation marks, from the pilcrow (¶) to the manicule (☞) to the octothorpe, a.k.a. the hashtag. Many of these have their roots in ancient Greece or Rome, and have evolved over time in Medieval religious texts, Renaissance scholarship, and modern printed works (not to mention the Internet). Here, Houston … tells the origin stories of some of these marks.

You’re using that dash wrong
A comprehensive guide to our language’s horizontal lines — from the humble hyphen to the three-em dash

Books, science, dictionaries, words and languages

The Great Language Game
Amongst the thousands of languages spoken across the world, here are just eighty. How many can you distinguish between?

Ten words to add to your fashion vocabulary
Here are the words making the rounds at the Big Four fashion weeks. Though some of these would safely fall within the same category as ‘fetch’ (i.e. they are never going to make it in the mainstream lexicon), others are already widely used …


Performing Shakespeare’s plays with their original English accent (10:22)
In this short documentary, linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal look at the differences between English pronunciation now and how it was spoken 400 years ago.

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