Thursday, January 10, 2013

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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