Here are the 5 stories Carol Hills and I selected as our top five language-related stories for the past month or two:
5. The sad tale of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s translator at the United Nations General Assembly. Gaddafi spoke for 94 minutes, 79 minutes longer than he was alloted. At 90 minutes, his translator appeared to collapse and was replaced by a UN translator.
4. The quixotic tale of the real estate mogul who is trying to export Korean Hangul script to Indonesia. Koreans are immensely proud of their 24-letter alphabet, which was established in the 15th century in a document caled the Hunmin Jeongeum — “The Proper Sounds for the Education of the People.” (See above: the Hangul-only column is fourth from left.)
3. India’s burgeoning number of official languages. It currently has 22 official language, with 38 more under consideration. Where will it fit all those languages on its banknotes?
2. A declaration from UNESCO that a southern Swedish dialect is in fact a language under threat. The image above is a 13th century rendering Scanian and Church Law, which includes a comment in the margin called the “Skaaningestrof”: “Hauí that skanunga ærliki mææn toco vithar oræt aldrigh æn” — “Let it be known that Scanians are honorable men who have never tolerated injustice.” Sweden recognizes five minority languages but Scanian is not among them — and it’s not likely to be designated as one any time soon. Most Swedish linguists call it a dialect – a thick one that many Swedes poke fun at – but a dialect nonethless.
1. A German court’s decision to permit Nazi hate speech, so long as it’s not in German. The words in questions are Hitler Youth slogans; they clearly have greater potency in the original German.