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Language issues - Russian and Ukrainian

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 4 Aug 2022, 17:07

As often, the London Review of Books has an interesting blog posting related to some of the language issues regarding the invasion of Ukraine and how language choices may often reflect the social realities (Hanafin 2022).  The writer is studying Russian in Paris.

One point that is made is that Ukrainian is very different from Russian.  I am trying to learn Ukrainian on Duolingo and my previous knowledge of Russian is a great aid in this but I am struck by how much is different.  The language distance seems as great as between Russian and Slovak.  Incidentally, there is mention of the language/dialect distinction and this is always a political rather than a linguistic one (there is a famous quotation that a language is a dialect ""a dialect with an army and a navy" (attributed to Weinreich, RLG 2010).

A second point that resonated was the way that teaching examples might change.  So, Hanafin describes how his teacher is adding points about how people and institutions referred to in the texts used for teaching are affected by the war.  This seems to be a reminder that texts used for teaching are not politically neutral and presumably ignoring the war would be a political choice that for Russians would be tacit support for the war.  In a similar way, many language teaching texts address political issues such as climate change.  Language teachers may not be politicians but they do have political as well as language and teaching interests.

Hanafin refers to the way some refugees he encounters "couldn't or wouldn't speak Russian".  The latter seems more plausible to me but of course, I do not really know.  I can imagine that many Ukrainians may now have a negative attitude to the language of the invaders.  This slightly reminds me of a more trivial example I experienced in Hungary.  I do not speak Hungarian and encountered a waiter who did not speak English and seemed apologetic about this, I tried French and again he seemed apologetic but when I tried Russian, he seemed indignant that I asked. 


Hanafin S (2022) Translation exercises LRB Blogs at https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2022/july/translation-exercises?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20220803blog&utm_content=20220803blog+CID_dc3d5ac355cacfedc0624ee8c34eefb4&utm_source=LRB%20email&utm_term=Read%20more {accessed 04/08/22}

RLG (2010) Of dialects, armies and navies The Economist August 4th 2010 at https://www.economist.com/johnson/2010/08/04/of-dialects-armies-and-navies {Accessed 04/08/22}

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Scots in a prison in Frankie Boyle on Scotland last night

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I was watching Frankie Boyle on Scotland last night and was fascinated by a sequence where there was a class on Scots in a prison.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000f9cr/frankie-boyles-tour-of-scotland-series-1-2-edinburgh-to-aberdeen (from about 14:30).

It was interesting to see how engaged the participants were in a variety/language/dialect (I make no judgement about its status) that reflected their lives.  These was an interested sequence where they write a report in Scots and it seems likely that they are more motivated by the subversion involved.

Another apsect that was interesting was the discussion of how much the dialect/language varied in terms of lexis according to different parts of the country.  There are clear links then to identities within the country.

I was also intrigued to see the apparent differences between this prison and those I had visited.  It seems more "high tech" and the rooms for teaching seem smarter but perhaps much of this is down to the editing.

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Dialect in Nice

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Saturday, 3 Aug 2019, 11:25

We recently visited Nice and were struck by many signs written in the local dialect.  As someone who understands French quite well, I was struck how different it was from standard French.  For example, the badge of the football team has “Despi 1904”, which I assume is the equivalent of “depuis 1904”.  The picture below shows a bilingual sign with French at the top and the dialect underneath.


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David Crystal on Standard English and other varieties

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 15:45

This interview is interesting and relevant for several of the courses on language at the Open University.

http://www.tefltraininginstitute.com/podcast/2019/2/26/do-we-need-a-standard-english-with-david-crystal?fbclid=IwAR29Hjl-X3rWHqXQxMBjOZUsuDZUYNBRW2619zu0lXkJnZXlafjM26PHtF0

I find this quotation most interesting "What is Chinese English for me? Chinese English is not somebody learning English from China and getting it wrong.

No, it's somebody learning English from China who is now developing a good command of English but using it to express Chinese concepts and Chinese culture in a way that I would not necessarily understand, because I don't understand Chinese culture, coming from outside it."

Presumably this would include political concepts like "the four modernisations", food terms and educational terms like "gao kao" (the National College Entrance Examinations) as well as historical terms related to Confucianism and Daoism.


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A dialect quiz

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 15 Feb 2019, 12:28

I have come across this dialect quiz. 

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/02/15/upshot/british-irish-dialect-quiz.html

Interestingly, when I tried it, the answer came as the Midlands (I lived in Coventry for the first 11 years of my life) and the north west of England - I did live there for about 5 years but I spent longer in Cambridgeshire, including my secondary school education.

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Dialect map for the UK

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 28 Sep 2017, 09:16

I have just come across the following website, which has useful information about dialects in the UK - MacKenzie, Laurel, George Bailey & Danielle Turton. 2016. Our Dialects: Mapping variation in English in the UK [Website]. http://tiny.cc/OurDialects. I found it at http://projects.alc.manchester.ac.uk/ukdialectmaps/

I was interested to see that "batch" is used for a bread roll not only in my birthplace of Coventry but also Liverpool.  It seems surprising that two cities that are quite separate should use the same word but I suppose there must have been some common origin.

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Minority languages and dialects

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 12:00

I recently revisted two places and I had contrasting impressions of the ways that minority languages were/were not being maintained.

The first place was Guangzhou, which I had first visited in 1987.  At that time, it seemed very much dominated by Guangzhou dialect rather than Putonghua.  Now, it seems that the Guangzhou dialect is heard less although it is common in some contexts like restaurants.

The second place was Toulouse where I was struck by the use of dual dialect road signs and underground announcements althhough I did not hear much dialect use in the streets.  Perhaps my experience was too limited as I doubt there would be such a promotion if there was not much use of or interest in the language.

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