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2012 Language News Update - Part 2

This is the second part to this Language News Update. Part 1 focused on children, and so this Part 2 focuses on other research in the language sciences.

In general linguistics:
  • Recent research has focused on the advantages of ambiguity in language.
  • Our assumptions and intuition about language aren't always wrong. For example, if you think that, say, Japanese, or Arabic speakers have a harder time mastering their language, you may be right.
  • Our biases about language are not always right. Don't look down on someone who struggles with the pronunciation of your first language, as long as they're understandable. And don't kill yourself or be afraid to speak languages you're learning just because you don't sound like a native. Okay, all of that is my two cents, but there is new research backing up the notion that pronunciation (or "native accent" in popular terminology) is not so terribly important.
  • When it comes to language learning, immersion really is the way to go.
  • Music and language, interesting. Not so unrelated as we might think.
In studies on bilingualism:
And finally, in the spectrum ranging from unsual to bizarre:
  • A recent research study presented some interesting conclusions about texting: first, contrary to popular assumption, it doesn't make frequent texters more creative with language but, second, it actually makes them less receptive to new words than readers of print media. So maybe this gives reason to view (voluminous) texting negatively. See my review of Txtng: The Gr8 Db8.
  • The tiny Piraha tribe(s) in Brazil has no words for numbers in their language. This is fascinating research raising questions about how people perform (or don't perform) certain functions, such as counting. Also, the old debate of whether the world shapes language or language shapes the world (answer: yes).
  • And to wrap this up, according to Norwegian linguist Jan Terje Faarlund, English just might be a Scandinavian language! Glad to have that cleared up. How to be sure that "English" is actually one language? How to classify languages? How to say that any language is directly related only to one other language group? Stop asking all of these pesky questions.


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今週初めて黒澤明の『隠し砦の三悪人』という映画を見ました。この三悪人とは、だれですか? 三船敏郎が演じる真壁六郎太(まかべろくたろう)と二人の百姓です。この3人の登場人物の関係はとても面白くて、全ての人間の弱さも愛される性質も示します。


Children's Brains Miniseries: Age and Wisdom

Elihu, in Job 32:7, had a good thought: "I thought, 'Age should speak;  advanced years should teach wisdom.'"

According to recent research, as reported by ScienceDaily, wisdom truly is an advantage gained by age. Notice the first sentence of the second paragraph--it gives the definition of wisdom in the study. Wisdom here is basically experience. That is not a bad definition, though wisdom is a difficult word to pin down. And biblical wisdom is certainly more than mere experience.