Spelling and the ongoing standardization of written norms

by John Bellamy

There have been a number of developments in recent months with regard to orthographic norms and standards in written language. The Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC) ratified a new set of spelling norms last October, which gave rise to heated debates over changes to the usage of accents (in terms of the diacritic). This January witnessed the death of 111-year old Zhou Youguang, who had played a pivotal role in the development of Pinyin, used for depicting Chinese characters using the Latin alphabetic script. One of the particularly valuable functions of Pinyin is for the teaching of Standard Chinese and a structured, clear, standardized set of writing criteria can be incredibly helpful in the language-learning process.

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Reality Check: Ukraine’s Multilingualism

by Rory Finnin

For nearly three years, Europe’s largest country has been at war with Europe’s second-largest country. There are many geopolitical and geostrategic reasons for Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine, but the Kremlin often distracts attention from them with the help of one very red herring: Ukraine’s multilingualism.

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‘I am the circumflex’– language rules, language purity, and language rage

by Nicola McLelland

My earliest memory of learning French, aged about seven, is being told to learn the verb ‘to be’ in a particular order, starting with Je suis [‘I am’], and working through to ‘they are’. When I was given a list of vocabulary to learn, I assumed, logically, that these words must also be memorized in the exact order in which they appeared in my book: la table, la chaise, la femme [the table, the chair, the woman] … and there were bitter tears when my mother tried to explain otherwise. It’s a trivial example, but the point is that language learning for me began with rules.

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