Language News: NYT Coverage of the Language of the Egyptian Revolution

Ben Zimmer, a linguist who wears many hats, has posted language coverage of the Egyptian revolution on two different websites this week.


First, as a regular contributor to they NY Time’s On Language column, he has provided this analysis of the language used in protest signs:


How the War of Words Was Won in Cairo –


For a more academic (geeky) audience, he has also contributed a follow-up to Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum‘s Language Log:


How Mubarak was told to go, in many languages


These are interesting analyses; the role of languages like English and Chinese on the world stage provides us with an interesting opportunity to discuss the political implications of language choices with our students.


However, another opportunity that we should consider exploring with our students is the use of internet memes.  Dr. Liza Potts (Old Dominion University) and her graduate student Angela Harrison are currently conducting scholarly analyses of such memes.  In addition to the practical applications (what business doesn’t want to know how to create a catchy slogan), these memes offer us an opportunity to look at traditional demographic variables (age, sex, race, etc.) vs. network analyses (are people with certain interests in the web more likely to gravitate to one meme over another?).  This is a very new field of study, so the opportunities for social science research are almost limitless.


About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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