Sunday, November 29, 2009

Learn Cornish

I just had a great brief holiday in Cornwall, so I thought I would post a couple of Cornish language resources.

The BBC Cornish site

Learn Cornish

Chons da! (Good luck!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Call for Papers

There is a conference here at the University of East Anglia in the spring and you can still submit a paper proposal. Here is the information:


Graduate Symposium in Translation Studies Friday 26th and Saturday 27th March 2010
Elizabeth Fry Building
University of East Anglia

This postgraduate symposium, the fourth in a biannual series hosted by
the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of
East Anglia, aims to advance the state of knowledge in the academic
study of translation. Its objective is to facilitate the exchange of
expertise in the theory and practice of translation within and without
the discipline based on the thesis that translation is a fluid concept
that crosses and penetrates into several disciplines.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Dr. Karin Littau, University of Essex; Dr. Thomas
Greaves, School of Philosophy, University of East Anglia; Dr. George
Szirtes, School of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East
Anglia; Professor Jean Boase-Beier, School of Literature and
Creative Writing, University of East Anglia.

Extended deadline for receipt of abstracts: Friday 20th November 2009

Please send to:

Or by post to: Translation and Interdisciplinarity Symposium, School
of Literature and Creative Writing, Faculty of Arts and Humanities,
University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, England.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And We Have a Winner

The winner of our first give-away is Nina, who wrote:

"_In the Land of Invented Languages_ by Akira Okrent discusses non-naturally occuring languages like Esperanto, Klingon, Bliss Symbols (an early communication system for people with disabilities who are nonverbal. This is perhaps an unconventional choice, but I read it some time ago, and found it interesting."

Nina, please email me with your contact details so I can pass them on to the publisher.

Thank you all for your comments and recommendations! Check back soon for a compiled list of suggestions and also for another give-away!

Friday, November 06, 2009

A Magnificent Give-Away

Brave New Words is pleased to present our first give-away. In order to win a copy of John McWhorter’s book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.

In your comment, please recommend a book about a language. Give the name of the book and its author, and write a couple of sentences about why this is a book worth reading.

You do not have to use your real name and you should definitely not post your address, but you do need to include your e-mail address, so I can contact you, and you have to be prepared to give me your real name and your address so I can make sure the book reaches you. Your personal information will not be used for any other reason.

Post your comment by midnight (GMT) on November 9 and I will randomly pick a winner the following day.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Magnificent Book Told in a Magnificent Bastard Tongue

This past weekend, I read what I quickly realized was my favorite language book of the year, John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English.

This fascinating book is not about words, as interesting as they are. Instead, it is about grammar. Why is English grammar different from that of the other Germanic languages? As Mr. McWhorter puts it:

“English’s Germanic relatives are like assorted varieties of deer-antelopes, springboks, kudu, and so on-antlered, fleet-footed, big-brown-eyed variations on a theme. English is some dolphin swooping around underwater, all but hairless, echolocating and holding its breath. Dolphins are mammals like deer: they give birth to live young and are warm-blooded. But clearly the dolphin has strayed from the basic mammalian game plan to an extent that no deer has.” (p. xx)

Mr. McWhorter explores how English came to be the dolphin it is and, as you can tell from the quote, he does so in an entertaining, easy-to-understand way (he also calls English “kinky…(with) a predilection for dressing up like Welsh on lonely nights.” (1))

So what exactly happened to make English so deviant? Why do we have the “meaningless ‘do’” in negatives and in question sentences? Why do we employ verb-noun progressives to express the present tense (i.e. “I am walking to my office”)? Why do we have certain sounds that other Indo-European languages don’t? Why are there no genders in English? And why do linguists not discuss these issues or, if they do, why do they fall into certain assumptions about language and in particular about the English language? Why do linguistics mostly look at how contact with other cultures and languages influenced vocabulary but not grammar?

Mr. McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for The Sun, reviews the evidence for and against the ways that the following tongues influenced and bastardized English grammar: the Celtic languages via Welsh and Cornish, Old Norse thanks to the invading Vikings, and the Semitic languages Akkadian and Aramaic. He makes very solid and persuasive cases for all these language groups, which I will not summarize here because I’d rather you just read his hard-to-put-down book.

My one complaint was that the sources weren’t more detailed, but I have to keep in mind that Mr. McWhorter wanted this book to be popular and not scientific, and that’s why there aren’t long footnotes and bibliographical lists.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who knows and uses the English language. English is unique and if you want to know why it is the way it is – and if you use it, you should want to understand it – this book will offer you insight into its grammar. A magnificent bastard tongue indeed.

P.S. Check back later in the week for Brave New Words’ first give-away – a copy of John McWhorter’s magnificent book, courtesy of his publisher, Gotham.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Translations by Cedric Barfoot

I saw the poem "Translations" by Cedric Barfoot featured in the book Drama Translation and Theatre Practice, edited by Sabine Coelsch-Foisner and Holger Klein:

Glosses, interpretations, versions,
adaptations, reversions – we

translate ourselves from one
place to another, from one

thought to another, from one
self to another. Furnishing

an equivalent of self, abbreviating,
burnishing, augmenting or abandoning

its bawdy, to authenticate our selves
as glosses on interpretations

or creative plagiarisms of self,
versions and reversions of self.

Selves adapted to different companies,
in different places to trip over

and different tongues to trip off,
to drip off, adapt, wrapped on self,

randomly, raptly, translated.