Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category


Posted on November 18th, 2012by jake
In Culture, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »

The Coushatta Indians are attempting to revive their naive language Koasati as the number of Koasati speakers has dramatically declined in recent years being largely replaced by English. In an interview with KPLCtv Bertney Langley, the heritage director of the Coushatta Indians, blamed the decline of Koasati speakers on the Coushatta tribe being small with many members marrying outside the tribe. As spouses from outside the tribe are unlikely to speak Koasati, English becomes the primary language.

Tribe leaders gathered to tackle the crisis five years ago and wrote the language down for the first time, choosing to transcribe Koasati using the English alphabet to facilitate learning. It is understandable why the tribe feel so strongly about retaining their language when later in the interview Langley says that tribe elders used to tell him that if the people lose their language ‘that we should not consider ourselves as Indian people’. The tribe now teach Koasati classes and have even created their own text books. Langley remembers as a child learning English and feeling as if a new world had been opened to him, he expresses hope that the younger generation now learning Koasati for the first time will have a similar feeling and will gain a greater understanding of their heritage.

[via KPLCtv]

New Iraqi National Anthem

Posted on November 14th, 2012by jake
In Arabic, Culture | Leave a Comment »

Since 2004 Iraq’s national anthem has been “Mawtini” which was chosen for the nation by America. Now a new national anthem has been chosen to replace the temporary “Mawtini”. What is interesting about this new national anthem is that it will be multilingual. The majority of the anthems lyrics will be in Arabic but Turkmen, Kurdish and perhaps Assyrian will also be included to reflect the many languages spoken in the country.

Iraq’s multilingual approach to their national anthem is rare but not the only anthem to embrace diversity of languages. The Independent reports:

The Republic of Suriname, wedged between French Guiana and Guyana, has a two-verse anthem: the first stanza in colonial Dutch and the second in Sranan Tongo.

Though the real tongue-twister comes for the sportsmen of South Africa. They are required to sing an anthem that traverses the lingual terrains of Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, English and Xhosa.

Perhaps Britain should add a Welsh verse to God Save The Queen and maybe a few lines of Cornish too. On the other hand I’ve heard English people attempt to pronounce the Welsh letters ll and ch and it isn’t a pretty sight. Perhaps we should leave God Save The Queen alone.

Compulsory Language Learning

Posted on October 30th, 2012by jake
In Culture, Education, English, Grammar | Leave a Comment »

The British government plans to change the education system making it compulsory for children to learn a language in school from the age of seven. This proposal has been put forward because of the decline in British students choosing to learn another language. ‘In 2010, 43% of GCSE pupils were entered for a language, down from a peak of 75% in 2002.’ Along with an emphasis being placed on foreign languages the government intends to improve British children’s grasp of the English language. Specific focus will be placed on grammar as well as ‘a systematic approach to the teaching of phonics – the sounds of letters and groups of letters – would be advocated to help pupils to become fluent readers and good spellers…’

I think that it is important for Britain to advocate language learning from a young age. In many jobs fluency in another language not only makes you stand out from the crowd but is also becoming a necessity to be employed in the field. Britain needs to make language learning an attractive prospect to the younger generation or else it risks being left behind in an increasingly globalised world.

Quotes via the BBC Website.


Posted on October 23rd, 2012by jake
In Culture, English, Uncategorized, Welsh, Words | Leave a Comment »

I didn’t think growing up in Wales had influenced my speech until I moved to England. My entire family is English but many Wenglish (Welsh-English) words have made their way into my vocabulary. I remember during a conversation with my English housemates describing how a cat had ‘scrammed’ me. A perplexed look greeted me after using the word ‘scrammed’. ‘What do you mean scrammed?’ they asked, kindly offering the word ‘scratched’ as an alternative after I made the hand gesture of a cats claw. For me scratched did not sufficiently describe what I wanted to say. A scratch is a minimal injury, a mere surface wound inflicted by a single claw. Scrammed is more violent, it implies malicious intent, brute force and many claws dragging down. I had previously thought that scrammed was a standard English word and it was confusing to me that other people had no idea what it meant.

Many differences in Wenglish can be observed in sentence structures. When answering a phone call if you wanted to ask the caller where they are, many Welsh people would say ‘Where you to?’ instead of ‘Where are you?’. If the caller wanted to tell you that they will be with you shortly they might say ‘I’ll be there now, in a minute’ offering you two conflicting answers. Wenglish quirks often stem from additional superfluous words being used to express a simple statement. An example of this is instead of saying ‘I love you’ a Welsh person might say ‘I loves you I do’. Before moving to England these statements were standard English in my mind. Although most Wenglish words and phrases have now been erased from my vocabulary, I do smile whenever I’m back in Wales and hear somebody on their phone asking ‘Oh, where you to?’.

English without the letter G

Posted on September 30th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Etymology | Leave a Comment »

What would the English language be like without the letter G?

An intriguing article at explores this question. The letter C used to represent the sounds of both ‘g’ and ‘c’. It was only after the invasion of William the Conqueror and the adoption of French as the lingua franca that the two were represented by different letters.

Both G and C have their origin in the Phoenician letter gimel, which meant “camel,” and looked something like an upside-down V (think of a camel’s hump—which, some believe may have been the inspiration for the letter’s shape). The Phonecians used gimel to indicate a sound that is equivalent to our present-day G (like the sound in “got”).

The Greeks borrowed gimel from the Phoenicians and renamed it gamma. Like the Phoenicians, the Greeks used the letter to represent the guttural G sound. When the Romans adopted gamma from the Greeks, however, they made a significant change. (Source:

Could we go back to having no ‘g’? What do you think?

Going forward…

Posted on September 23rd, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, English, Jargon | Leave a Comment »

Management speak seems to be slowly creeping in to everyday English.

One example is “going forward”, where we used to say “from now on”. Comedian David Mitchell is vehemently against this change, and you can hear his rant in the video below:

Asian name pronunciation guide

Posted on September 15th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Pronunciation | Leave a Comment »

We live in a multi-cultural society, so in our everyday lives, it’s likely we’ll encounter someone with an unfamiliar name.

If you work in higher education, it’s likely that you’ll meet international students all day long. So you might become familiar with how to pronounce certain names… but what about others?

California State Polytechnic University in America has produced a handy website if you’re not sure about pronunciation of Asian names. It also links to resources for help with names from around the world. Each page is linked to a particular language and has helpful hints as well as phonetic pronunciations of particular common names. You can also search the site for something specific.

Have you tried the website? It seem that it hasn’t been updated for a while – what do you think?

How do stereotypes evolve?

Posted on September 12th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Research | Leave a Comment »

Research has found that stereotypes evolve in a similar way to languages.

The research, presented at the British Science Festival in Scotland, was carried out by a team at the University of Aberdeen. They found that stereotypes are an “unintended consequence” of information sharing, which evolve as they move between people.

To address the genesis of such stereotypes, Dr Doug Martin and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen’s Person Perception Lab designed an experiment using aliens – an approach previously used to study the origins and evolution of language.

The aliens they invented each had a different colour, shape and set of personality traits; such as arrogance, pushiness or selfishness.

The team then asked a volunteer to learn the characteristics assigned to each one. The information retained by the volunteer was then fed down a communication chain.

What started out as jumbled and complex individual characteristics and traits ended up encompassed in sets of stereotypes.

Character traits became inextricably linked with form and colour – for example, blue aliens might be perceived as arrogant, pushy and untrusting. (Source: BBC News)

The experiment sounds a bit like a game of Chinese Whispers! The researchers will next be looking at if stereotypes can be manipulated.

Origins of the Indo-European Language Family

Posted on September 5th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Research | Leave a Comment »

A new paper in Science magazine explores the origins of the Indo-European language family.

Here’s the abstract:

There are two competing hypotheses for the origin of the Indo-European language family. The conventional view places the homeland in the Pontic steppes about 6000 years ago. An alternative hypothesis claims that the languages spread from Anatolia with the expansion of farming 8000 to 9500 years ago. We used Bayesian phylogeographic approaches, together with basic vocabulary data from 103 ancient and contemporary Indo-European languages, to explicitly model the expansion of the family and test these hypotheses. We found decisive support for an Anatolian origin over a steppe origin. Both the inferred timing and root location of the Indo-European language trees fit with an agricultural expansion from Anatolia beginning 8000 to 9500 years ago. These results highlight the critical role that phylogeographic inference can play in resolving debates about human prehistory.

You need subscriber access or to pay to read the full article, but it definitely sounds worth a read!

Words of the Mars mission

Posted on August 12th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Jargon, Technology | Leave a Comment »

We’ve all been caught up in the highs and lows of the Olympics for the past couple of weeks, but it turns out there are other things going on in the world!

Notably, NASA’s latest mission to Mars –which even sends out tweets! If you’re confused by the many acronyms surrounding the mission, the Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune has provided a handy guide. Here’s an extract:

For example: the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity that landed in 2004 were known as MER-A and MER-B for the longest time (MER is shorthand for Mars Exploration Rover.)

MSL [Mars Science Laboratory] did not become Curiosity until 2009 when a sixth-grader from Kansas proposed the nickname. Still, there are some who continue to use the scientific moniker.

Curiosity is loaded with the most sophisticated instruments to study Mars’ environment — with convoluted names to match. “Mastcam” refers to the pair of 2-megapixel color cameras on the rover’s “head.” “SAM” — short for Sample Analysis at Mars — is the mobile chemistry lab designed to sniff for carbon compounds. “ChemCam” stands for Chemistry and Camera, otherwise known as the rock-zapping laser. And “RAD”? That’s the radiation detector. (Source: Star Tribune)