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[LINK] “What’s in a name? A Chipewyan’s battle over her native tongue”

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Rachel Browne of MacLean’s reports on the inability of a Chipewyan woman in the Northwest Territories to give her child a name in her (endangered) language.

Every March, Aboriginal Languages Month is celebrated across the Northwest Territories with book launches, workshops and traditional drumming ceremonies. Created by the Assembly of First Nations in 1993, it’s a month meant to recognize and promote the rich heritage of Aboriginal languages and cultures. It’s especially meaningful for the territory, which has the highest number of official languages in Canada: nine Aboriginal languages on top of English and French.

But this time of year can also serve as a reminder of their uncertain future. “Some of our Aboriginal languages are struggling, not because we are not doing enough to support them, but because the challenges they face are complex,” the territory’s minister of official languages, Jackson Lafferty, said in the territory’s legislative assembly on March 4.

One of the big challenges, it turns out, is the government itself. Last week, Shene Catholique-Valpy, an Aboriginal woman born and raised in the Northwest Territories, spoke out publicly about her year-long fight to have the the traditional Chipewyan spelling of her daughter’s name, Sahaiʔa May Talbot, on her birth certificate. Sahaiʔa roughly translates to: “As the sun breaks through the clouds or over the horizon.” And the symbol, which resembles a question mark without the dot, called a glottal stop, indicates the correct pronunciation and meaning; without it, the name is incorrect.

The Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction in Canada that officially recognizes the Chipewyan language. Yet one month after Catholique-Valpy, whose mother happens to be the territory’s official languages commissioner, gave birth last February and filed the paperwork for Sahaiʔa’s birth certificate, she got a call from the vital statistics department, which said it couldn’t accept the name due to the glottal stop. The department said it has to adhere to the Vital Statistics Act, which recognizes only names that use letters from the Roman alphabet. Having symbols like the glottal stop on birth certificates would also interfere with obtaining passports and other documents issued by the federal government, according to an email from a department spokesperson. (Citizenship and Immigration Canada could not confirm by press time if this indeed the case.)

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Al Jazeera looks at Ello, considers the controversy over language fluency requirements in Navajo elections, looks at Malaysian criticism of a pro-dog event in that Muslim country, wonders what will happen to the Caucasus, looks at the issues of some religious minorities in American schools, examines the geopolitical challenges of falling oil prices, looks at Sioux problems with child custody in the United States, and notes that new British immigrants from the European Union contribute more than they cost.
  • Bloomberg suggests sanctions are starting to cause a Russian brain drain, looks at controversy over reports a Japanese kidnap victim died in North Korea in 1994, and suggests North Africa will become a key natural gas supplier to Europe.
  • Bloomberg view criticizes the patience of Sony shareholders in Japan, notes the Israeli prioritization of settlements over friends, provides recommendations on diminishing separatist movements, and looks at the role of immigration in possibly galvanizing the British desire to leave the European Union.
  • CBC notes that former Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller is suing Kahnawake council for its racial restrictions on residence, and notes Lynn Gehl suing in Ontario to get her status back.
  • The Inter Press Service suggests Israel is set to deport Bedouins from the West Bank, notes the plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadis, looks at the resettlement of Iraqi Christians in Jordan, and notes the departure of Kyrgyzstan’s teachers for higher-paying unskilled jobs.
  • MacLean’s notes Vice media’s new television channel, looks at the association of Muslim converts with terrorism, and criticizes an egg-freezing program.
  • Open Democracy looks at media freedom in the former Yugoslavia, and considers separatism generally and in Catalonia particularly.

[LINK] “Slow translation and the revival of the Catalan language”

Open Democracy’s Alessio Colonnelli has a nice article examining the role of trabnslation in ensuring the survival of minority languages, starting from the exceptional case of Catalan.

The oldest profession in the world is….translation. That’s what Catalan-language writer and poet Francesc Parcerisas tells us in a delightful book entitled Sense mans. Metàfores i papers sobre la traducció (No hands! Metaphors and papers on translation).

In the past, state ambassadors used to heavily rely on translation. Today, in a world perpetually connected, everybody uses it; often resorting to quick, error-prone methods. That is, Google Translator’s way: really fast and since translations are truly indispensable, the automatic translator has finally managed to combine necessity and practicality. Hence its success. The traditional version, i.e. the good old editorial one – created almost by hand and with the aid of dictionaries (often still paper ones) – is a rather slow, delicate, painstaking activity that feeds on shades of grey; one that doesn’t allow for syntax errors.

Take for instance a region of Europe which has sparked much debate in recent years, Catalonia, of which Parcerisas is a native. The region is the historic cradle of Catalan, a language spoken by roughly one out of four citizens in the Kingdom of Spain (it is also used in the region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands). A language that has been able to resist intimidation and repression. They say it’s in excellent health, according to the official language academy Institut d’Estudis Catalans: the small publishers popping up everywhere testify to this, along with its widespread use on social media. It’s never been in better shape, really, at least since the fall of the Franco regime.

One could almost argue that instead of losing a language, Europe has celebrated the comeback of Catalan. A grandee of the Continent’s age-old cultural heritage – Catalan was indeed born in the early Middle Ages. Not a dialect of Spanish, as many believe, but one of the evolutions of late-empire Vulgar Latin. An astonishing linguistic recovery. Those who care about diversity in general of any kind can’t fail to be happy about it. Diversity is good. Mankind embodies diversity. Fellini, who knew a thing or two about visions and wide angles, said that each language offered a unique point of view on the world. Surely, the renowned Barcelona-based London journalist and author Matthew Tree would also agree with that. Trilingual, he’s been writing professionally and successfully, mostly in Catalan, for over thirty years now.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 4, 2014 at 12:18 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO shares pictures from last weekend’s Ukrainian Festival.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly started a discussion of the merits of small town life or vice versa, coming down decidedly against.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the concept of the Venus zone.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a study suggesting that the Moon’s gravity is not high enough for humans to orient themselves.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the elections in Crimea.
  • Language Hat examines the story of the endangered language Ayapeneco, apparently misrepresented in an ad campaign.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the American left is starting to win on cultural issues.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the collapse of Scotland’s industrial sector has led to a certain deglobalization.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla notes the discovery of a potential landing site for Rosetta.
  • Torontoist looks at a local model airplane club.
  • Towleroad notes the lead writer of Orange is the New Black has left her husband and begun dating one of her actors.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests many Westerners haven’t taken the shift in Russian politics fully into account.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares pictures of Queen Street in the 1980s.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly considers the idea of a digital detox.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting strange occultations of TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper suggesting plants can grow in simulated (and fertilized) Martian and lunar soil, and speculates Russia will be trying to build a space station of its own or to cooperate with China.
  • Eastern Approaches examines the shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Joan Rivers was an early HIV/AIDS activist of note.
  • Language Hat summarizes a paper suggesting that language death and economic success are correlated.
  • Marginal Revolution considers Scottish separatism, wondering about the sense of either a currency union or a separate currency, and noting the increased possibility of separatism according to betters.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog critiques Mark Adomanis’ critique of Masha Gessen’s article on Russian demographics.
  • Savage Minds notes that, alas, Joan Rivers never majored in anthropology.
  • Torontoist notes that NDP Joe Cressy, defeated in his run for the Canadian parliament, is now running for city council.
  • Towleroad notes the firing of a pregnant lesbian teacher by a Catholic school, and observes the hatred felt by some anti-gay people who would like books celebrating children pleased when their same-sex parents die (among other things).
  • Understanding Society examines the sociology of influence.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy disagrees with Henry Farrell that laissez-faire ideology contributed to the Irish Famine.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian hostility towards the Crimean Tatar Meijis, reports on things Ukrainians think Ukraine should do doing the ceasefire and things Russians think Ukrainians should do (federalize and accept the loss of the east), notes high rates of childlessness in Moscow, and suggests that the Russian victory in eastern Ukraine is exceptionally pyrrhic.
  • At the Financial Times‘s The World blog, the point is made that a Scottish vote for independence would have profound implications worldwide.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross announces his support of Scottish independence on political grounds. Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen takes issue with him.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes movingly about self-critical voices.
  • The Cranky Sociologists’ SocProf shares sociology-related World Cup infographics.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Homo erectus picked up the herpes virus from chimps.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes that German attitudes towards the United States and the United Kingdom have cooled in recent years.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the election of out lesbian Kathleen Wynne as premier of Ontario.
  • Language Hat notes the increasing prominence of languages other than English in India, particularly in mass media.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the economic effects of recessions make people in recessionary economies more inclined towards racism.
  • Torontoist notes that many employees of the provincially-owned Beer Store chain have been active on social media in arguing against allowing convenience stores to sell beer.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes 2MASS J05233822-1403022, 40 light years away, a very low-mass star that’s just barely massive enough to be an actual star, not a brown dwarf. (The lowest-mass, in fact.)
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the peculiarities of giant planets orbiting giant stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper analyzing archeological remnants (shell middens) of the earliest Maori settlers in New Zealand.
  • Joe. My. God. notes Roman Catholic cleric Robert Carlson, testifying about sexual abuse cases during his tenure as a bishop in Minnesota, stating he wasn’t sure if priests having sex with children was criminal.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair takes another look at the situation with the Arabic-language translation of Frozen, noting similarities and differences between the sociolinguistics of Arabic and Chinese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the use of slave labour–often immigrant–in the fisheries of Thailand.
  • Marginal Revolution comments on the exceptional difficulty of reforming Pemex, the Mexican state oil company.
  • The Search looks at the results of a conference on community digital archiving, noting that the actual software is only a small portion of the overall effort.
  • Savage Minds’ Simone notes the importance of text and tourism, looking at guide books to the Nordic Faroe Islands.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs describes a proposed urban development in Scandinavia, uniting Norway’s Oslo, Denmark’s Copenhagen, and the west coast of Sweden.
  • Towleroad notes that Hong Kong is not allowing Britons the right to marry–including same-sex marry–at the British consulate in that city-state.
  • Window on Eurasia notes potential problems with new Russian legislation on dual citizenship.
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