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Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news
Results for "June, 2008"

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  • Supreme Court rules that guns don't kill people; throwing out DC gun law, Scalia finds that linguists are mad hatters living on the other side of the looking glass

    On Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court, voting 5-4, threw out the Washington, D.C. ban on handguns because, in its view, the Second Amendment gives every American the right to own a gun.

  • French Academy sees linguistic diversity endangering national identity

    Right after the French Academy strongly denounced a constitutional revision recognizing linguistic diversity as part of France’s heritage, the French Senate voted 2-to-1 to kill the measure.

    Article 1 of the French Constitution defines France as an indivisible, secular, democratic republic.  On May 22, the French National Assembly voted all-but-unanimously – there was one negative vote – to modify that formula by adding the nation’s many local languages to the short list of constitutionally-protected civic virtues: “[France’s] regional languages belong to its patrimony.”

  • Another of Maryland's English-speaking towns poised (from the French) to go English-only

    Thurmont, a beyond-the-beltway community in northern Frederick County, Maryland, is poised to make English its official language.  On June 16, Mayor Martin Burns introduced a bill requiring town employees to speak only English and ordering Thurmont’s municipal paper-pushers to generate their copious (from the Latin) paperwork only in English as well.

    Thurmont isn’t very big: its zip code, 21788, includes about 6,000 town residents, with another 5,000 people in the surrounding countryside.   According to Mayor Burns, the official-English measure is necessary to ensure the proper integration of immigrants into the American melting pot: “It’s a way of saying, ‘We speak English in America.  It’s the universal language.’”

  • Bees do it: bilingual bees teach humans a lesson

    Researchers mixing Asian and European honeybees have shown that the bees can learn one another’s language to cooperate in finding food and bringing it back to the hive.  In fact, according to the Telegraph, honeybees can pick up the new lingo even faster than humans.  Some think there’s a lesson in this for people as well as bees: if we could learn to speak each other’s languages like the bees do, perhaps we’d get along better, too.

    Scientists have known for a long time that honeybees communicate by wagging their bodies from side to side and moving at an angle to the sun, then looping back to do it all over again.  Nobel-prize winning zoologist Karl von Frisch first described the “waggle dance” that scout bees use to show other bees the distance and direction of a food source, which may be as far as 600 meters from the hive.  The world’s nine different honeybee species use slightly different waggles – analogous to different dialects among humans.