Some unsolved questions about the languages of the Jews


written by Professor Bernard Spolsky

It’s great to be relevant! A few weeks after my sociolinguistic history of the Jewish people was published, a Reuters story highlighted a dispute between the visiting Pope Francis and the Israeli Prime Minister over the language spoken by Jesus (Reuter, 28 May 2014). “Jesus spoke Hebrew”, Netanyahu stated.  “Aramaic”, responded the Pope. He almost certainly knew both Hebrew and Aramaic, and also Greek (and maybe a little Latin), I would have answered, as I did in one of the earliest studies that I published that marked my growing interest in the language of the Jews.

But this disagreement turns out to be only one the many examples of disputes that I found in my research.  There are, I learned, . . . → Read More: Some unsolved questions about the languages of the Jews

Vocabulary size research at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


Blog post written by Paul Nation based on an article in Language Teaching

How many words in English do you know? How many words do your students know? What words should our learners be focusing on? Do native speakers at primary and secondary school need vocabulary-focused instruction? These questions and others like them have been of concern to researchers in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies (LALS) at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand for well over thirty years. One of the results of this concern has been a range of vocabulary tests which have been made available for general use.

It may seem a straightforward job to make a vocabulary test. However, vocabulary size testing is probably the most . . . → Read More: Vocabulary size research at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

The acquisition of future temporality by L2 French learners

JFL 2014

Blog post written by Dalila Ayoun based on an article in Journal of French Language Studies 

The investigation of the acquisition of temporal systems by second language (L2 ) learners has created an impressive body of work that informs our understanding of their developing competence because they involve all aspects of a language – pragmatic, lexical, syntactic, morphological (e. g., Ayoun & Salaberry2005; Salaberry2008; Salaberry & Comajoan, 2013). However, most empirical studies have focused on past temporal reference, neglecting future temporal reference with a few exceptions (e.g., Benati, 2001) aside from ESL learners (Bardovi-Harlig 2004 a, 2004 b). The future is interesting because it differs from the past and the present in encompassing both temporality and modality. Intentionality is its most common reading, . . . → Read More: The acquisition of future temporality by L2 French learners

She refers therefore she is: Morphosyntax and pragmatics in referential communication


Post written by Aylin C. Küntay, Koç University, Istanbul & Utrecht University, Utrecht

Based on an upcoming keynote talk to be given at IASCL 2014 this week (14th – 18th July, Amsterdam)

Referential communication is talking about things and people, an essential ability upon which many human communicative interactions build. To be able to communicate effectively, speakers and addressees should concur on what they are talking about. Although this sounds trivial, even adults sometimes have trouble in pinpointing exactly what their interlocutor has in mind, or might fail to express their referential intentions in the clearest way.

The evidence we have about children’s referential abilities is mixed. An 18-month-old can be quite effective in making us pick the right diaper with the desired picture out from . . . → Read More: She refers therefore she is: Morphosyntax and pragmatics in referential communication

Arabic linguistics: overview and history


Arabic linguistics is a vast field combining study of the Arabic language with the analytical disciplines that constitute the field of linguistics. Linguistic theories, methods, and concepts are used to analyze the structure and processes of Arabic; but at the same time, Arabic with its millennium-long intellectual traditions, its complex morphology, and its current broad diversity of registers, informs linguistic theory. Many linguistic approaches to Arabic language analysis have been applied over the past fifty years both within the Arab world and from the point of view of western scholars. These approaches and their disciplinary procedures are both varied and convergent, covering a wealth of data but also coming to terms with central issues of concern to Arabic linguistics that had . . . → Read More: Arabic linguistics: overview and history

Uptalk: power and prejudice

ENG 30.2

Post written by Editor of English Today Clive Upton based on his Editorial in the latest issue 

From time to time the media pick up on instances of English language use which do not carry over entirely happily from one variety to another. One of the most well-known of these must be the feature – variously known by such labels as ‘high rising terminal’ (HRT), ‘Australian question intonation’ (AQI), or ‘uptalk’ – which sees an upward inflection being introduced to utterances that are not actually questions. Long unremarkable in Australia, and increasingly unremarkable elsewhere in the English-speaking world, especially among younger speakers, this feature nevertheless annoys a lot of people who do not use it themselves. A recent online discussion of this . . . → Read More: Uptalk: power and prejudice

What could possibly be the relevance of nativelike hedging strategies in EFL instruction?

ENG 30.2

Blog post written by Sergio Torres-Martínez based on an article in English Today

The answer seems to be obvious from the perspective of, say, ELF research. Yet things are less clear-cut in expanding circle regions where nativelikeness is increasingly a hallmark of language proficiency, success and status. This article hinges precisely on the assumption that specific speech functions such as hedging (used to express vagueness or non-assertiveness) are important assets in the construction of language proficiency in ELF classrooms. Thus, a case for hedging strings (HSs)-a set of formulaic sequences with pragmalinguistic relevance to the teaching of spontaneous speech functions in EFL- is presented.

Formulaic sequences such as sort of/kind of, usually disregarded as downtoners, are revisited, further classified into three main categories (utterance . . . → Read More: What could possibly be the relevance of nativelike hedging strategies in EFL instruction?

Predicting risk for oral and written language learning difficulties in students educated in a second language


Post written by Dr. Caroline Erdos based on an article from Applied Psycholinguistics

Students who struggle with oral language and literacy are at increased risk for dropping out of school. The gap between struggling students and their typically-developing peers is smallest early on and therefore, the chances of bridging that gap are greatest in the early grades. However, more and more students have had little or no exposure to the language of schooling until their first day of school and this makes it difficult for school personnel to disentangle true risk for learning disability from incomplete second language acquisition. The result is that identification and intervention is often delayed in the case of second language learners, even those in immersion classes (ex: . . . → Read More: Predicting risk for oral and written language learning difficulties in students educated in a second language

A time for Critical Language Awareness


Post written by Robin Straaije

One of the aims of the research project Bridging the Unbridgeable: linguists, prescriptivists and the general public at Leiden University is to construct a mutually beneficial discussion involving those three groups.

My stance is that linguists should not shy away from being ‘critical’ in the sociological sense, nor from engaging with the public, with the practices of those whose language variety they are describing. And being specialists on language, linguists should explain the workings of language to the public, including normative aspects. Historical linguists are especially suited to being engaged in this discussion, since they can place it in a much needed historical and social context.

One of the things I am interested in is how involved linguists are . . . → Read More: A time for Critical Language Awareness

The Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs

Fig. 1

Middle Egyptian, written by Proffessor James Allen, introduces the reader to the writing system of ancient Egypt and the language of hieroglyphic texts. It explores the most important aspects of ancient Egyptian history, society, religion, literature, and language. Grammar lessons and cultural essays allows users not only to read hieroglyphic texts but also to understand them, providing the foundation for understanding texts on monuments and reading great works of ancient Egyptian literature. This third edition is revised and reorganized, particularly in its approach to the verbal system, based on recent advances in understanding the language. (The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 1).

1. Language and Writing

1.1 Family
Egyptian is the ancient and original language of Egypt. It belongs to the language family . . . → Read More: The Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs