language links, ling-anth links

Language links 5/8

Every Monday, I share some of what I’ve been reading in the past week.


The New York Times catalogued the President’s tweets since starting in office. The most frequent category? “Making America Great Again,” which includes the daily business and announcements. The second most common category was “spin” — including tweets about fake news.

Icelanders want to keep their language “out of the Latin bin.” As a scholar of language endangerment, I found it a particularly timely read. As a person, I want to borrow solarfri (an unexpected afternoon off to enjoy the good weather) into English.

“Without language, there is no accountability, no standard of truth. If Trump never says anything concrete, he never has to do anything concrete. If Trump never makes a statement of commitment, Trump supporters never have to confront what they really voted for. If his promises are vague to the point of opacity, Trump cannot be criticised for breaking them. If every sloppy lie (ie: ‘Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower … This is McCarthyism!’) can be explained away as a ‘generality’ or ‘just a joke’ because of ‘quotes’, then he can literally say anything with impunity.” —Lindy West

Mapping personal space around the world.

What does public multilingualism look like? I’ve brushed up against it in Spain and Switzerland — and on the Camino de Santiago, where I found myself the constant translator — and I find myself imagining more and more what it could look like.

Psychologists figured out that racist and sexist jokes can foster discrimination by stretching the bounds of what’s socially acceptable. (And subversive humor intended to poke fun at bigotry doesn’t really work — if you’re already prejudiced, you’ll miss that level of it entirely.) Linguistic anthropologists are not surprised.

 

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