Dictionaries and the evolution of language

Posts19Likes13Joined1/6/2020LocationLondon / GB
Native
Chechen
Learning Arabic - Standard, English, French, German, Russian

Hey team,


Welcome back to our weekly thread about all things language. First, we have a small change to announce: these blog posts won't be weekly anymore. "What? But you literally just said" -- yes, I know. But we thought that shorter posts with a common theme every other day would be easier to process and more conducive to discussions than weekly digests. Ironic, that a digest would be indigestible... 


Anyway, here are today's articles:

  • It's always fascinating to watch languages evolve. Additions to major dictionaries consistently make national news, and often generate controversy. This piece evidences the increasing influence of Africa on the English language, how the continent is taking ownership of one of the legacies of colonialism: the Oxford English Dictionary is adding West-African idioms, and Nigerian authors are ever more present in English-language literary prizes. A nice illustration of what can be achieved by "rubbing minds together", as they say in Nigeria. Related: the majority of French speakers are already located in West and Central Africa, and a similar shift is expected to happen for Portuguese by the end of the century. 
  • Dictionary,com is making an effort to remove moral judgement and prejudice from their definitions of concepts that revolve around race, gender, sexuality, mental health, or substance misuse. A telling quote: "The work of a dictionary is more than just adding new words. It’s an ongoing effort to ensure that how we define words reflects changes in language – and life". And language and life changed quite a bit in 2020, if you ask me. 

What are your thoughts?

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#1
Posts5Likes7Joined17/5/2020LocationFR
Native
Swedish
Learning Chinese - Mandarin

In the Guardian's article there was this phrase “my quarrel with the English language has been that the language reflected none of my experience”. It feels so true. Sometimes I have the feeling there just does not exist an accurate word to express the same thing in two different languages.

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#2
Posts19Likes13Joined1/6/2020LocationLondon / GB
Native
Chechen
Learning Arabic - Standard, English, French, German, Russian

Hey Kirsti, I'd wager this feeling is quite common for people who speak multiple languages (even those who speak a single language often yearn for the right word to describe their specific feeling). Comes with the human condition, it seems :). 


I know about a few studies into this, it's an interesting topic. I'll look into it a bit more and dedicate next week's blog post to your comment :)

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#3
Posts19Likes13Joined1/6/2020LocationLondon / GB
Native
Chechen
Learning Arabic - Standard, English, French, German, Russian

Hey @Kirsti.Steibel,


This is such a deep subject that calling it a rabbit hole would be an understatement (pretty sure I saw multiple foxes and a sasquatch in there). 


I want to do it justice though, please bear with me. 

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#4
Posts5Likes7Joined17/5/2020LocationFR
Native
Swedish
Learning Chinese - Mandarin

Eagerly waiting.

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#5
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