Archive for the ‘Greek’ Category

Dyslexia and language

Posted on October 13th, 2009by Michelle
In Chinese, Education, Greek, Language acquisition, Research | Leave a Comment »

There’s an interesting article in Time magazine today about some research that shows dyslexia may show itself differently for speakers of different languages.

The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’. Dyslexia is defined by the British Dyslexia Association as “a specific learning disability which mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills”. Around 1 in 10 children in the UK has dyslexia, to varying degrees of severity, and seems to affect boys more than girls.

It is thought that dyslexia is the result of a phonological disorder, meaning that dyslexics struggle to separate and keep track of specific, individual sounds. In English language learning, where “sounding out” words is important, this is problematic.

Yet, whereas in English readers can use letters to sound words out, pronunciation of specific characters in Chinese languages is dependent on rote memorization, the researchers point out. And knowing which character’s pronunciation to pull up is dependent on a complete understanding of the intricate combination of strokes included in each character. In the analysis of 12 Chinese children with dyslexia, researchers found that, in addition to struggling with phonological processing exercises, the children also had trouble with exercises in which they were asked to judge the dimensions of images, as compared with non-dyslexic children. What’s more, while performing visual identification tasks, brain scans revealed that dyslexics had less activity in the part of the brain associated with visuospatial processing, as compared with non-dyslexics.

Read the full article here.

The Rosetta Stone

Posted on August 18th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Demotic, Greek, Hieroglyphics, Idioms | 2 Comments »

The Rosetta StoneIn London recently, I dropped by to see The Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. This slab of granodiorite is so famous that I could barely get near it for all the people craning over each other to take a close look.

So why were all those people so eager to look at a big stone? And why is it so important?

Weighing in at around three-quarters of a ton, the stone is approximately 118cm high, 77cm wide and 30cm deep. Discovered by Napoleon’s army in 1799, the Rosetta Stone is named after the place it was found – near el-Rashid (Rosetta) in present day Egypt. When Napoleon’s army was defeated, the stone became the property of the English, and has been on display in the British Museum since 1802 (although its presence is debated).

The Rosetta Stone is inscribed with three columns of different languages – Greek, Demotic and hieroglyphics, which all have the same message. The inscription on the stone is a decree passed by a council of priests – but it’s not so much what is written that’s important (although it does tell us a lot), it’s what knowledge can be gained from the inscription.

The decree is inscribed on the stone three times, in hieroglyphic (suitable for a priestly decree), demotic (the native script used for daily purposes), and Greek (the language of the administration). The importance of this to Egyptology is immense. Soon after the end of the fourth century AD, when hieroglyphs had gone out of use, the knowledge of how to read and write them disappeared. In the early years of the nineteenth century, some 1400 years later, scholars were able to use the Greek inscription on this stone as the key to decipher them. Thomas Young, an English physicist, was the first to show that some of the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone wrote the sounds of a royal name, that of Ptolemy. The French scholar Jean-François Champollion then realized that hieroglyphs recorded the sound of the Egyptian language and laid the foundations of our knowledge of ancient Egyptian language and culture.

(Source: British Museum).

As you can see, it is hugely important to language, and the term “Rosetta Stone” has become idiomatic

as something that is a critical key to the process of decryption or translation of a difficult encoding of information. (source)

Its importance is highlighted with the Rosetta Project, which I will be looking at in my next post….