5 Things You Need To Know This Week #2

17 February 2021

Get the know-how on the 5 latest issues about language and communication from Malaysia and around the globe in this week's edition! I'll be curating five share-worthy materials that piqued my interest and sharing my thoughts about them.

Happy reading!

1. Saving Kristang from the threat of extinction - FMT

Men in traditional Portuguese dance costumes, particularly waistcoats and Sombreros, whereas women in puffy long skirts called Saia (Wikipedia pic)
From a linguistic lens, I sometimes forget just how colourful Malaysia really is. Today alone, we have 136 languages being spoken in this country.

Yet, it's saddening to see that many of our minority languages today, including Kristang are at the brink of extinction. Creole (mix of languages) Kristang is a unique language in Malaysia, comprising of words from Malay, Dutch, English and Hokkien words, and has been spoken by a small ethnic group of mixed Portuguese and Malaccan descent for the past 500 years.

Dominant languages such as English and Malay are quickly replacing the language spoken by the Kristang community. Robust efforts are underway to preserve the creole Kristang.

What are the consequence of losing a language to the community?
  • The loss of cultural identity, tradition and customs
  • Knowledge loss of the language's influence in our history
  • We can't find specific unique traits of languages like Kristang in another language, or it is very hard to "give the same meaning" as it found in the original language

2. How the emoji could help democratise online science dialogue - The Conversation

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay 
Fun fact: We have a whooping 3,521 emojis existing and in use today. And still growing.

As adorable and convenient as they may be for our daily texting purposes, emojis are playing an even bigger role during the Covid pandemic.

Conveying scientific and often heavily technical information about the virus to the public is not an easy task. With emojis, public healthcare communicators can transform complex messages to one that is more reader/layman friendly, and carries some level of emotional tone that adds more meaning to the texts. 

Take the "Stay at Home" emoji launched by Twitter last year. It was activated exclusively on the social media platform to help encourage people globally affected by Covid to stay at home. If you remember, our Malaysian version was #DudukRumah as well as other related hashtags #KitaJagaKita.

3. Malaysians bid ntv7 farewell with nostalgic tributes as ‘the feel good channel’ ceases transmission - Malay Mail

Image by Wikipedia

Way back before we had Astro installed at home, my family relied on the normal free TV channels that were on transmission at the time. 

The "Feel Good" ntv7 channel in particular had a special spot in my heart, mostly because they had aired good English movies and this was also where I was introduced to my first anime shows. On 16th February 2021, the channel showed its final transmission before shutting down.

4. Year of the Ox: the role of the Chinese zodiac symbol in language - South China Morning Post

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Since this is the year of the ox, here's an interesting article about the role of the ox in different languages. From Old English, Semitic abjads (Arabic, Hebrew, Phoenician, etc.), Ancient Greek, to the languages in the Australasia region. 

5. Can language slow down time? - BBC Culture

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay
The idea that language can affect how we think and how we see the world is a bit of a speculation for many linguists. The possibility (or lack thereof) is there although much research is still needed. However, it IS true that different languages understand and conceptualise time differently. 
Taking examples from Boroditsky in another article, English speakers dominantly use "horizontal spatial metaphors" to talk about time. 
  • The best is ahead of us 
  • The worst is behind us
However, languages such as Mandarin mostly have a vertical outlook when it comes to representing time. For example:
  • The next month is "down month"
  • The last month is "up month"
The idea of languages understanding time differently prompted a recent economics research that found languages which distinctively mark the future such as (English, French, etc.) care less with regard to the future, specifically in climate change and saving up than languages with "weak future-time reference" such as Mandarin, Finnish and German.

In English, we mark our language with future-tense markings like "I will go to bed earlier tonight" or "I will have a meeting this later this afternoon". However, in Mandarin, most speakers use present-tense forms to speak about the future, for example, "I go to bed earlier tonight" and "I have a meeting this afternoon." According to the study, languages that mark the future affect the speakers' decision-making preferences with time, specifically lowering their interests to address future environmental issues.

💬Thank you for reading this week's updates! Contact me if you'd like to share topics for my next post!

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