The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

13 Oct 2009


Via this post from David Crystal's Blog, I get to know about an incipient initiative to celebrate the English Language Day. The focus for this year is legal English. Among other things, the organisers suggest a set of ideas for celebrating this event. One of them is to find instances of legal gobbledegook.

The Plain English Campaign fosters the identification of bad examples of language use by issuing awards on various categories, e.g. the Golden Bulls, given for the year's 'best' examples of gobbledygook. Let's choose this example to celebrate the event!

Eastleigh Borough Council
for a Notice given under the Building Act 1984

'Hereby in accordance with the provision of the Building Act 1984, Section 32 declares that the said plans shall be of no effect and accordingly the said Act and the said Building Regulations shall as respects the proposed work have effect as if no plan had been deposited.'

10 Oct 2009


Author Hilary Mantel has been named 2009 Man Booker Prize winner for her historical novel Wolf Hall, based on Henry VIII's adviser Thomas Cromwell.
Chairman of judges James Naughtie said: "Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book. The boldness of its narrative, its scene setting".
"The extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges has said was a contemporary novel, a modern novel, which happens to be set in the 16th Century.We thought it was an extraordinary piece of story-telling.”,added Naughtie.
Mantel saw her first novel, Every Day is Mother's Day, published in 1985.
Its sequel, Vacant Possession, followed a year later.
In 1989 she won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for Fludd. Then A Place of Greater Safety scooped the Sunday Express Book Of The Year award in 1993.
Three years later Mantel was presented with the Hawthornden Prize for An Experiment in Love.She was also shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction, both in 2006, for the novel Beyond Black.

4 Oct 2009


Los noticiarios de los últimos días nos informan que el Silbo Gomero, practicado por algunos de los habitantes de la isla canaria La Gomera, ha obtenido el reconocimiento de Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Humanidad, por la UNESCO. Una buena noticia, sin duda, pues ayudará a que se reconozca su valor cultural, se extienda su uso y evite su desaparición. Sin embargo, y tras leer varios artículos referidos al mismo, no he conseguido hacerme una idea clara de su mecánica. En muchos escritos se refieren al Silbo Gomero calificándolo de ‘lenguaje’, mientras que al mismo tiempo se transmite la idea de que mediante este sistema de comunicación es posible transmitir frases del español ‘traducidas’, por así decir, al Silbo. Si este es el caso, no se trataría de un auténtico lenguaje, sino de un ‘código’ que permite transmitir (o incluso encriptar) cualquier idioma, francés, inglés, alemán…

Agradecería que algún lector me ayude a aclarar esta cuestión.

Y mi enhorabuena a todos los silbadores gomeros, por supuesto.

3 Oct 2009


Benjamin Franklin used the following strategy to improve his writing: when he liked how a text was written, he noted down several words from each sentence. Next, he mixed them and set them aside for a time. Some weeks later, he tried to reorganise the text by placing the words in the logical order and completing it.

Similar ideas lie under the design of exercises used in language learning. They are particularly useful to practise logical order, coherence and cohesion in a text.

This website collects some activities of the kind.

Other types of text reconstruction exercises are based on the learner’s capacity to guess the words in a text and test their knowledge about word frequency, collocations and vocabulary.
We can see some examples here.

1 Oct 2009


Just a few months ago, the 7th edition of the International Olympiads in Linguistics was held in the beautiful city of Wroclaw, Poland. This competition belongs to the International Science Olympiads that is composed by twelve disciplines, such as physics, biology, astronomy, mathematics and the like.

In the International Linguistics Olympiad, the competitors, all of them students of secondary school, must face problems in theoretical and descriptive linguistics (phonetics, morphology, semantics, etc.) The young competitors must try to figure out the inherent patterns and structures of languages that they don´t know. For example, in last edition, they were given ten short texts in Vietnamese and a short list of the most frequent words in such idiom. Then, they had three hours to translate the texts, without a dictionary, of course. In other problem, they were given a list of words in a certain language and asked to find patterns of how endings work and what the endings might mean. That is, they had to figure out how verb inflections or plurals are formed in such a language.

This kind of problems is very good for developing the sense of logic and analytical skills.

The aim of the organizers of these competitions is to promote a career in science and to challenge the brightest students from around the world. And the competition is really hard; actually, in several countries, those who achieve a high ranking in any ISO are granted access to a university of choice. Most of countries sent a team of three of four children, but this year India took part with a very special competitor. One of the organizers, Dominique Estival, trainer of the Australian team explains it: “The Indian team had three students, but one of them was quite an extraordinary girl. She went out by herself to study the past International Linguistic Olympiad (ILO) problems, and told her mother that she wanted to participate in the ILO. But there is no organisation in India comparable to ours where we foster the competition, so the mother wrote to the organisers of the ILO and asked whether they could bring a team without the competition in India. And the organisers allowed her to bring a team, and so she came with her brother and her friend and the mother was coming with them. The others did okay, but she won a silver medal. She's a very determined student.”
This year, the USA team came in first place, Korea won the second price and Russia came third.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: No, our country has never been represented in this Olympiads. Funny, isn´t it?