Deciphering ancient script and contemporary politicos

In this week’s podcast, another  five language stories that didn’t make headlines. Well, aside from the Sarah Palin one.  Discussing these stories with me are Rhitu Chatterjee, host of The World’s Science podcast, Clark Boyd, host of The World’s Technology podcast and Kevin II. Yup, that’s a picture of Kevin II, in The World’s broadcast studio.

5. An Israeli-British study shows bilinguals may respond differently depending on the language of the questions. According to the study, Arab Israelis are more likely to respond warmly to certain Jewish names if they are asked about them in Hewbrew, as compared to Arabic. Does this mean we think differently in different languages? No, but it might help explain why someone who is bilingual (or trilingual in Rhitu’s case) is “more polite” in one language.

4. New research points to a possible breakthrough in deciphering ancient scripts.

3. Sarah Palin compares her coinage of new English words to Shakespeare’s. Her most recent coinage, of course, was refudiate, which she said on Fox News and then tweeted a few days later. (She somewhat refudiated her own invention by zapping the tweet, before acknowledging it and making the Shakespeare comparison in a subsequent post.)  For his part, Shakespeare came up with gnarled, premediated, fitful, and hundreds more, none of them via Twitter. Maybe in time we’ll prize refudiate as highly. My guess though, is that like wee-wee’d up, an Obamaism, refudiate ain’t gonna make it. Let’s face it: most of Shakespeare’s coinages appear to have been based not on ignorance but inventiveness.

2. A science writer argues in a Discover magazine blog post that language diversity condemns a society to poverty. I don’t fully understand the argument, but it made for a lively conversation.

1. Clark’s adventures in linguistically confused Belgium. Yes, The World’s tech man about town has just moved to the land of beer, waffles and linguistic discontent. So which of the country’s two main languages should Clark learn, Dutch or French? And in choosing one, has he upset speakers of the other?  Mr Boyd reveals all, including the surprising nationality of the podcaster/language teacher he’s following.

Listen in iTunes or here.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Deciphering ancient script and contemporary politicos

  1. People tend to exaggerate the extent to which Shakespeare invented new words. A glance at the OED shows that he was not in fact the first to use “premediate” (or “premeditate(d)” if that was what you meant), and of course, even when Shakespeare is our first recorded source of a word or expression, it doesn’t necessarily mean he invented it.

  2. Alae -Student in Mr. Tirpak's Intercultural Communications course

    The theory that language influences peoples’ thoughts and biases is not conclusive and might vary with different people.
    People that have different sentiments toward a race, etc. when communicating with a different language may be because certain languages are spoken in cultures that have dominant attitudes toward certain people.
    That is to say certain languages spoken in cultures usually have a prevailing bias toward something, in this case Arabic or Hebrew names. That could in turn influence someone to think differently toward a Arabic/Hebrew name.

    On the Sarah Palin, it does not seem like her intention was to introduce a new word, and it seems that her subsequent post on Twitter was to “refudiate” mere ignorance. It is true many people say made up words all the time, but many also don’t attribute themselves to Shakespeare.

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