Language in the news – 14 April 2013

by Craig Evans

Here are my picks of language in the news from the past week:

In the UK…

Community radio grants in Wales for multilingual broadcasts – As part of a grant exceeding £100,000, the Welsh government has provided funding for community radio stations, including Radio Beca which proposes to broadcast in Welsh as well as other languages such as Polish. The grant is viewed by many as an inclusive move to reach out to a culturally diverse population whilst continuing to promote the Welsh language.

Tougher English testing proposed for Canterbury taxi drivers – Canterbury city council are in the process of drafting a new policy that would require tougher testing of taxi drivers’ working knowledge of English. This follows complaints by passengers who feel that the level of service provided is sometimes being impeded by poor English skills.



Primate call gives clues to human speech originsScientists have identified similarities between the properties of vocal sounds made by the gelada, a primate closely related to the baboon, and human speech. The sound made by the gelada is ‘like a cross between a yodel and a baby’s gurgle’, which characterises a complexity unusual among other non-human primates. Further studies into the meaningfulness of the gelada’s call are ongoing.

Study in Spain raises concerns about medical ghostwriting – Dr Xavier Bosch and his colleagues at the University of Barcelona have conducted a study of nearly 400 online English-language medical journals, to review what editorial policies are in place for addressing the issue of ghostwriting. Previous surveys have revealed that a significant number of journal articles are ghostwritten, but without the ghostwriter being identified. This is a major concern for many in the field who believe the lack  of editorial policy for this issue brings into question the scientific integrity of the work being published.


Features and Opinion…

Margaret Thatcher and the taboo of speaking ill of the dead – Writing in BBC News Magazine, Vanessa Barford explores the issue of what language is appropriate to use when somebody has died. This is in response to the widespread use of vitriolic language by many to mark the death of Margaret Thatcher.

Pictographs: the death of foreign language learning? – Anne Merritt considers the impact that the digital age may be having on the increasing global reliance on pictograph-based communication.


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