Category Archives: Language

Linguistics on Stack Exchange!

“Stack Exchange is that tiny asterisk in the middle.”

I’ve always liked Stack Exchange. They have beautiful websites with an excellent community-edited system for asking questions and getting answers that puts the focus on the best contributions.

So far, there’s never been a Stack Exchange site I could really participate in – until earlier today, I discovered the new Linguistics – Stack Exchange, “a free, community driven Q&A for professional linguists and others with an interest in linguistic research and theory”. Check it out!

Three-quarters two

Flag of the Free State of Saxony (Federal state of the German Federal Republic)
Flag of the Free State of Saxony

I got some odd looks today for using the local dialect’s way of phrasing the time.  But I don’t care for Standard German and don’t think I should be expected to use it.

I have to go back a few years first.  I started learning German in 2004.  Most of it I learned at the Goethe Institute in Jerusalem and on my visits to Germany.  I learned very quickly, and by the time I moved here in 2007, I spoke fluently, but with a bunch of mistakes. Continue reading Three-quarters two

Sweden’s gender-neutral pronoun goes official

It’s not every day that you see these words combined: “pronoun causes controversy”. And I’m honestly not a fan of politically manipulating language, especially since I know enough about language to know we know very little about it. But I was still delighted to read this piece on Slate.com:

Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen

[…]
Earlier this month, the movement for gender neutrality reached a milestone: Just days after International Women’s Day a new pronoun, hen (pronounced like the bird in English), was added to the online version of the country’s National Encyclopedia. The entry defines hen as a “proposed gender-neutral personal pronoun instead of he [han in Swedish] and she [hon].” The National Encyclopedia announcement came amid a heated debate about gender neutrality that has been raging in Swedish newspaper columns and TV studios and on parenting blogs and feminist websites.[…] Continue reading Sweden’s gender-neutral pronoun goes official

New blog discovered: the “because” charade

I was recently delighted to discover that Daniel Harbour, one of the linguistic theorists I’ve most enjoyed reading, has a blog – about language and also other interesting topics. It’s called the “because” charade, and here’s how he explains that curious name:

My blog is called the “because” charade because what follows the word because (in a lot of discussion of science, ethics, politics, religion, …) is rarely a reason, or reasonable, or rational. And I believe that we’d all be better off if reason(ableness) played a bigger part in public life.

Recent topics have included the Pirahã controversy – an important linguistic debate, which he explains in terms a layman can understand – and the theory of evolution. A pleasure to read!

Word Thieves

Three hundred translators watched transfixed as an assortment of colleagues, speaking from their isolated studies across the globe in their respective languages, faced the camera and opened a narrative vein: out poured their stories of how they got interested in the Hebrew language, the years they spent cultivating their peculiar passion, the emotional relationships they maintained with the dead and living authors with whom they spent their waking hours, the daily warfare they waged against the Hebrew language’s obstinate refusal to fit its rhythms and archeological layers to the structural and cultural molds of their far-flung nations.

The film was “Translating,” by the Israeli filmmaker Nurith Aviv, a series of in-depth monologues by translators from Hebrew into other languages, and the occasion the annual conference of the Israel Translators Association in Jerusalem. The audience, whose linguistic gaps were filled by Hebrew subtitles, could identify with the speakers’ singular strain of obsession, their solitude, and their implicit surprise at being for once in the spotlight instead of the shadows wherein they normally lurk. The symphony of the dozen or so languages in which these unsung laborers told their stories, all referring to the one language they shared and revered, was mesmerizing. Continue reading Word Thieves