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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

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To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


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Medical Writing in Early Modern English

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This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.


Academic Paper


Title: Writing Meaning Rather Than Sound in the Orthographies of Tone Languages
Author: David Roberts
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Langage, langues et cultures d'Afrique noire
Author: Steven L. Walter
Linguistic Field: Writing Systems
Abstract: Some orthographies represent tone phonemically by means of diacritics; others favor zero marking. Neither solution is entirely satisfactory. The former leads to graphic overload; the latter to a profusion of homographs. Both may reduce fluency.

But there is a 'third way' which does not align itself with either extreme: highlighting the grammar rather than the tone system. To test this approach, we developed two experimental strategies for writing Kabiye: a grammar orthography and a tone orthography. Both are modifications of the standard orthography that does not mark tone. We tested these in a quantitative experiment involving literate native speakers that included dictation and spontaneous writing.

The fact that writers of the experimental grammar orthography perform faster and more accurately than writers of the experimental tone orthography suggests that they have an awareness of the morphological and syntactic structure of their language that may even exceed their awareness of its phonology. Moreover, frequency of exposure to a particular grammatical construction in natural contexts proves to be a strong predictor of performance for those writing the experimental grammar orthography, but it confers no advantage for those writing the experimental tone orthography. This provides evidence that languages that use tone to convey grammatical information might benefit from grammatical markers in the orthography.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: In Progress
Venue: Paper presented at the 7th International Workshop on Writing Systems and Literacy. 30 September - 1 October 2010, Paris, France.
Publication Info: OBERTS, David & Steven L. WALTER (2010):


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