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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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In the movie, neither the undocumented immigrants (representative of all the undocumented, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the undocumented man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He’s away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart fr…


Read this in English.





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。