The imperialism of language

LEARNING English will make you rich, and learning Arabic will make you holy. No one ever says these things out loud in Pakistan, but their premises undergird many decisions. They dominate the thinking of parents braving long lines outside the compounds of English-medium schools during admissions season. They inspire other, newer educational institutions to advertise that they teach both Arabic and English to their students — a winning recipe for the next generation ie, holiness and wealth.

Unsurprisingly, then, many regional languages in Pakistan are dying a slow and silent death. According to one report, one-fifth of the 30 regional languages spoken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are in danger of extinction, with only a handful of some hundred people left to speak them. The languages gasping for life include Ushojo, Gawro, Gawarbati, Badeshi and several others.

According to Fakhruddin Akhundzada, a Pakistani linguist, Yidhga, a language of Chitral, is one of those recently placed on the endangered languages list by the United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organisation. Also comatose and nearly dead is Ushojo, another language from the same area, which numbers only about 200 people among its speakers.

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Learning New Words Activates The Same Brain Regions As Sex And Drugs

While it doesn’t get much better than sex and drugs for many out there, new research has found that simply learning a new word can spark up the same reward circuits in the brain that are activated during pleasurable activities such as these. No wonder there are so many bookworms and scrabble addicts out there.

Human language is a unique phenomenon that separates us from other members of the animal kingdom. The emergence of language was a hugely important step in our evolution because it allowed humans to cooperate and share knowledge more easily. But what motivates us to acquire a new language from a very early age has been a mystery. Some hypothesized that language-learning mechanisms may have been linked to reward circuits in the brain, reinforcing the drive to learn new words. Until now, however, experimental evidence in support of this has been lacking.

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While old Indigenous languages disappear, new ones evolve

Felicity Meakins
ARC Research Fellow (DECRA) in Linguistics at The University of Queensland

By now we know that traditional Indigenous languages are losing speakers rapidly and tragically. Of the 250 languages once spoken in Australia, only 40 remain and just 18 of these are still learnt by children. But if children in remote Indigenous communities aren’t still learning traditional languages, then what are they learning? It is generally assumed they are shifting to English, but this is not the case.

In many areas of northern and central Australia, language loss has been accompanied by language genesis. Indigenous youth are creating new languages which combine the sounds, words and grammar from traditional languages and Indigenous English varieties. The younger generations who create these languages claim them as in-group languages which express both their traditional heritage and modern lives.

The most widespread of these new languages is a creole language, also called Kriol (confusingly), now spoken by at least 20,000 Indigenous people across northern Australia, from Cape York to Broome. Astonishingly most non-Indigenous Australians have never even heard of it.

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Which English You Speak Has Nothing to Do With How Smart You Are

By Anne H. Charity Hudley

How can linguists and educators work together to help maintain the linguistic voices of the next Zora Neale Hurston or Albert Einstein while at the same time support students on the Common Core, SATs, GREs, and LSATs?

In classrooms across the U.S., there are kids who speak a wide variety of types of English. Even though it’s historical accident that anyone considers “isn’t” better than “ain’t” or “wash” better than “warsh,” those kids who just axed a question may feel dumb and be treated as if they’re dumb by the people around them. And it starts young: Even by the end of kindergarten, many students have absorbed messages that their language is wrong, incorrect, dumb, or stigmatized.

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Should You Talk to Your Child in a Different Language?

OCT. 8 2014 1:23 PM

Should You Talk to Your Child in a Different Language?
By Claire Bowern

New parents face a lot of pressures. Until I became a parent myself, I didn’t realize the sea of conflicting advice that besieges parents on everything from feeding strategies to whether you need a baby Jacuzzi.
One of the more important decisions is what language bilingual parents will speak to their child. It’s natural to want the best for one’s child, and also to draw on one’s own childhood in parenting, but what if you speak a second language less fluently, one that you learned as an adult? Is it worth speaking your less fluent second language to your kid?

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The psychological reason you can’t spot your own typos

The thing about writing is that it’s mianly about maening.

This is why it’s so hard to spot your own typos, like the ones in the last sentence.

University of Sheffield psychologist Tom Stafford says as much to Wired:

“When you’re writing, you’re trying to convey meaning. It’s a very high level task,” he said.

As with all high level tasks, your brain generalizes simple, component parts (like turning letters into words and words into sentences) so it can focus on more complex tasks (like combining sentences into complex ideas). “We don’t catch every detail, we’re not like computers or NSA databases,” said Stafford. “Rather, we take in sensory information and combine it with what we expect, and we extract meaning.”

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