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Language in the News

So what are people saying about language in the newspapers and on radio and TV these days? This page will keep you abreast of the latest hot linguistic topics around the world.
NEW! Edwin Newman Dies at the Age of 91 Edwin Newman is a reminder of news reporting at its best. His respect for the English language led him to write two best sellers on the topic. Unfortunately, we in the US have no one to replace well-spoken and well-read correspondents like him, Severeid, Cronkite, Smith or the others of his most eloquent generation. [Added 9-16-10]
NEW! Does Language Shape the Way we Think? The Whorf-Sapir hypothesis (Linguistic Determinism) will not go away. Are we limited in what we think by the language we speak? Catch up on the latest insights into this question. [Added 9-16-10]
It no Longer Takes @#$%& to Use 'Foul' Language NPR explores the reasoning behind Sarah Palin's use of this borderline profanity in referring to the Governor of Arizona (a woman) the the President of the United States in this article by Linton Weeks. I guess she wasn't speaking in Los Angeles County (see article below). [Added 8-2-10]
S. Korean military in war against foul language A Korean defence ministry spokesman confirmed on Thursday reports by Yonhap news agency of the campaign against cursing in the military. [Added 8-5-10]
Falling in Love with Pronouns It happens! Don't scoff. Jessica Love, a PhD candidate in psycholinguistics confesses to a love affair that is, perhaps, beyond the comprehension of nonlinguists. [Added 5-21-10]
English Influence in Russian We know that English is infiltrating many languages of the world. Read here the specifics of its effect on Russian. The new MacMillan website is worth exploring, too. [Added 5-21-10]
The Last Speaker of Wichita Another language about to die in the US. We named several cities after the Wichita people but we made no accommodation to preserve the language. [Added 3-6-09]
Scholarly Cavemen Research the Language of Cavemen Linguists at the University of Reading claim to have a computer program that picks out the oldest English words in the Pre-Proto-Indo-European language. Unfortunately, the link to the page where they offer their evidence is broken. [Added 3-3-09]
$#$%##*! L.A. County tries for cuss-free week Pay no attention to that eerie silence in the nation's most populous county this week; it will simply be the sound of 10 million people not cussing. [Added 3-2-09]
Are Clichés the Achilles Heel of Language Anyone who talks about writing, or writes about talking, makes a point of condemning dead phrases. These denunciations, while effective and sometimes eloquent, change nothing. The enemies of cliches come and go, but cliches persist. Robert Fulton, The National Post. [Added 12-6-08]
Office Speak Blue sky thinking, pushing the envelope—the problem with office-speak is that it cloaks the brutal modern workplace in such brainlessly upbeat language...as Lucy Kellaway dialogues in the BBC News Magazine. [Added 8-11-08]
William ShakespeareThe Shakespeared Brain. A literary critic and two brain scientists explore the works of Shakespeare in this short article in The Literary Review. Does the works of Shakespeare change our very brains? [Added 8-11-08]
New York TimesNEW! Quandary for Hebrew: How Would Isaiah Text? In an attempt to preserve Biblical Hebrew, writers and scholars are inventing words to refer to the things of the modern world. Will it work? Read this article and decide for yourself. [Added 8-11-08]
Jesus of NazarethThe Language of Jesus on the Verge of Extinction. The language we assume Jesus spoke is dying out in the last three Syrian villages where it is spoken. The Christians are migrating from these villages and Muslims are replacing them. [Added 4-23-08]
Is English Becoming a Family of Languages? David Crystal suggests that English dialects may be developing into different languages, as explained in Dr. Goodword's Linguistic Minicourse. [Added 3-13-08]
New York TimesNew York Times Discovers Language Death. This New York Times article on endangered languages offers a review of current research into language death. (NYT subscription is free.) [Added 2-22-08]
National Geographic's Enduring Languages Project. National Geographic is covering the world to find out why languages are dying out. The reason, of course, is that the economy is driven by a few languages spoken by the world's economic powers and most people prefer a higher living standard for their children than their culture—if they must make that choice. [Added 2-22-08]
Language Change Leaps Rather than Creeps. The finding at the University of Reading challenges the slow-and-steady model held by many linguists and matches evidence that genetic evolution follows a similar path. [Added 2-10-08]
SO WHAT'S NEW? New Yorker article reveals that fewer and fewer people read books. Maybe this explains why language change leaps rather than creeps--people lose contact with how it really should be spoken. [Added 2-10-08]
Wall Street Discovers Culture Gaps
The point language teachers have been making in the classroom for centuries seems to be filtering down Wall Street—to the Wall Street Journal, at least. Read about Jared Sandberg's discovery of cultural gaps. [Added 2-1-08]
The Future of Reading
Amazon's Jeff Bezos already built a better bookstore. Now he believes he can improve upon one of humankind's most divine creations: the book itself.
Google googling GoogleGoogle Digitizes all the Books in the World!
It sounds like such a good idea to make a world libray for Bezos's electronic book, so why are so many people getting angry about this much-heralded Google project?
Chief Brooks the ElderMel Brooks Starts Nonprofit Foundation To Save Word 'Schmuck'
(Onion satire) Has Mel Brooks founded a private nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the word schmuck? Here is a spoof on language preservation worthy of Mel himself.
Loosening Vowels around the USA
Vowels are shifting in many regions of the US today. This PBS article tracks them from California to the Midwest to the South. Are we speaking differently today than we did in the 20th century?
Tracking What the Candidates Say.
The Wall Street Journal has analyzed the campaign speeches of several Republican and Democratic candidates past and present in the US to find out which words each emphasized. An interesting visual display of what they found.
The Office of Cliche Management
Frank Lingua, president of Dissembling Associates, is the Australia's leading purveyor of buzzwords, catch phrases and cliches for people too busy to speak in plain English. Here is a frank interview with Frank on the pressures of his job.
The Office of Assertion
More evidence of the decline of language—in academia! However, read 'Can IMglish Help your English' below.
Saudis Consider Banning the Letter "X"
The letter "X" soon may be banned in Saudi Arabia because it resembles the mother of all banned religious symbols in the oil kingdom: the Christian cross. No report yet on the letter "T".
Chief Joseph the YoungerPiecing Together a Dead Native American Language
Scholars reach out to recover the Algonquin language spoken by the tribes of Jamestown area before it died out. University of North Carolina scholar finds the historical records made by settlers highly inaccurate. (See also our discussion of state names for related information.)
Digital race to save languages
This is actually not new (2003) but it is still important language news: a serious effort to keep records of languages that are currently dying.
Leave my accent alone!Accents Speak Louder than Words
Natasha Mann of Scotland discusses why attempts to establish a 'standard language' and eradicate accents and dialects continue to fail in the UK.
iPod therefore iAm
Alex Beam of the Boston Globe goes over the edge when reading about the new iLamp that offers the choice of light or music—and he had been settling for lamps that only give off light all these years! A prefixal pandemic sweeps America.
Portuguese Language Museum!The World's First Language Museum!
More people speak Portuguese as their native language than French, German, Italian or Japanese. Now a museum dedicated to it has already become the most widely visited in Brazil, drawing schoolchildren and scholars as well as tourists from Brazil and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa. (The New York Times subscription is free.)
The Man in the Street Outlawed by Scottish Language Police
Woman's Lib has finally reached Scotland and the first book on political correctness makes the news.
Indians Chafe at the Influx of New Usages from the US.
The Bombay Times finds a few words that need to be banished from the Indian lexicon.
You could be grammatically incorrect!Police your Language in Malaysia or the police will.
Malaysia may introduce a new concept to the world: language police, police who make sure public signs are grammatically correct. (Why didn't we think of that?)
Can IMglish Help your English?
Sending text messages—from the slang "wot" and "wanna", to the short cut "CU L8R"—may actually be improving, not damaging, young children's spelling skills. New research in England confirms research reported last month in Toronto. Check out our IMglish site to see if it can help your English language skills.
Moo! Mu! Mou! Baa!On the Regional Accents of Cows
Just when you thought you had heard everything, you have to listen to how moo-cows moo—or mou or mu or muou. (The question is: do accents change the flavor of the milk?) This bit of research comes from the same country that wants couch potato removed from the dictionary.
Vant to go shoppen?Spanglish? Franglish? Chinglish? Let's not Forget Denglish
Certainly German ( = Deutsch in German) purists are not forgetting. The onslaught of this century's Lingua Franca (ironic, no?), English, continues to pound even the most prominent of languages (remember Inglish?). Maybe it is time we called it Lingua Anglica.
Federal Grant Help Cherokees Regain their National Language
After those Cherokees who could be rounded up by the government and forced-marched to Oklahoma in the late 1830s, those who escaped and remained behind were sent to English schools and forced to learn English. Now with the support of a government grant, supplemented by casino revenues, those Cherokees who are still fighting to preserve their culture to regain control of their language with computers and the Internet.
An elastic loafIranian Government Bans alphaDictionary Good Word Pizza
Henceforth the word for pizza will be the Iranian equivalent of "elastic loaf". Chat and cabin are also on the chopping block. Click here for our Good Word for August 3, 2006.
ur kids cant talk riteIMing is Creative Language, Study Says
if u think ur kids cant talk rite cuz of iming then we mite lol. Rather than hurting language skills, the researchers found, instant messaging shorthand helps kids master how language works.
Oh, the joy of splendiferous, fantabulous, grandiloquent language!
University of Michigan professor talks about those words that arise from the pure joy of word-making and find their way into dictionaries.
Inglish! It's Cool!
English is one of the national languages of India. Read this article from the TIMES OF INDIA on how it is mixed with Hindi and see how English absorbs words from all around the world.
SoccerantoDo you Speak Socceranto?
Is the goalkeeper a fliegenfanger? Was that goal a Maradona? Should the ball be passed to the porteur d'eau or the trequartista? No comprendo? Then you're obviously not fluent in socceranto, a football language created by an English schoolboy and an American-Argentine student.
The Sh_t Heard Around the World
Your use of language becomes all the more critical when stakes and emotions are running high--especially if the mike is open.
Google googling GoogleGoogle Goes From Web to Webster's
Google's search engine name became a sanctioned part of the English language Thursday, when "google" with a small "g" was added to the 11th edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. What does this mean for Google and for English-speakers?
It's Official: 'To Google' Is Grammatically Correct
Erika Morphy (!) of the eCommerce Times explains what the 'commonization' of Google means for the English vocabulary and what its chances of survival are—with the able assistance of Dr. Goodword (Dr. Robert Beard) .
Uh, whut? Potato Farmers Want the Word Couch Potato Removed from Dictionary British potato farmers want the term "couch potato" banished from the Oxford English Dictionary because it harms the vegetable's image.
Honey, I've Shrunk the English Language
Slang, abbreviations, acronyms, and now SMS. Is the English language withstanding such periodic assaults on its grammar and beauty? asks Amrita Nayak of The Hindu.
For the 100 Funniest Words in English, click here
For the 100 Most Beautiful Words in English, click here
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