Language blogs/Sprachblogs

eduFire has an entry on The Top 21 Language Bloggers on the Web (via languagehat).

This is about learning languages and presenting a multitude of languages, rather than about linguistics, so Language Log isn’t there, for example.

It’s also a bit of a mystery that Tim Ferriss’s blog made the list on account of one sole post: How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour (Plus: A Favor).

My favourite tip on language learning from that post is that you get translations in a given language of sentences like ‘The apple is red’ and ‘It is John’s apple’, work out how many obstacles the language presents in comparison with your own (including pronunciation), and then if there are too many obstacles, you just don’t learn the language. This would have saved me a long time with Turkish. But on the other hand, it presupposes elements like subject, object, verb and noun cases (why Ferriss puts off learning Russian!).

People love discussing how to learn languages. Probably the root of machine translation is here.

Words banned in court/Verbotene Wörter im Gerichtssaal

An article of 16 June 2008 by Tresa Baldas in the National Law Journal, Courts Putting Hot-Button Words on Ice, reports that words such as rape and victim are being banned by judges because they prejudice defendants.

A steadily increasing number of courts across the United States are prohibiting witnesses and victims from uttering certain words in front of a jury, banning everything from the words “rape” to “victim” to “crime scene.”

Prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates nationwide claim the courts are going too far in trying to cleanse witness testimony, all to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial. Concerns and fears over language restrictions have been percolating ever since judges in Nebraska and Missouri last year banned the word “rape” during rape trials.

The article contains many examples.

This relates largely to the Nebraska case reported in July 2007. From Slate:

Nebraska law offers judges broad discretion to ban evidence or language that present the danger of “unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues or misleading the jury.” And it’s not unheard-of for judges to keep certain words out of a courtroom. Words like victim have been increasingly kept out of trials, since they tend to imply that a crime was committed. And as Safi’s lawyer, Clarence Mock, explains, the word rape is just as loaded. “It’s a legal conclusion for a witness to say, ‘I was raped’ or ‘sexually assaulted.’ … That’s for a jury to decide.” His concern is that the word rape so inflames jurors that they decide a case emotionally and not rationally.

I think the judge may have gone too far in this particular case.

In the NLJ article, note in particular the last section on the appeal against the Nebraska decision:

Wendy J. Murphy of the New England School of Law, who is representing a Nebraska rape victim opposing the judge’s barring of the word “rape,” said the major battle facing prosecutors and victims now is fighting judges’ censorship orders.

To date, she said, there has been no federal court ruling on the matter. …

Murphy tried when she appealed the Nebraska judge’s decision to bar a rape victim from using the word rape. She lost the case, and is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bowen v. Honorable Jeffre Cheuvront, No. 4:07CV3221 (D. Neb.).

At Language Log, Roger Shuy discusses the matter and adds that witnesses don’t often get to use their own words in any case:

“Using your own words” isn’t all that common in trials I’ve experienced. Among other things, you can’t introduce your own topics, you have to answer the opposing lawyer’s questions according to the form in which they are asked (usually yes/no questions, or worse, tag-questions), and you have to be ready to be interrupted at any time. Testifying requires a witness to learn a new set of communication skills, many of which can seem counterintuitive. Doing this can be daunting for anyone not trained in the special culture of the courtroom.

The Sun in Klagenfurt

In Klagenfurt, The Sun has spotted a Croatia fan without a flag (‘We find wanted Nazi at footie’).

Milivoj Asner is on the listed of wanted war criminals, but is not extradited on health grounds. It’s not clear whether or not he is an Austrian citizen.

Der Standard:

Für die österreichische Justiz, für die der heute 95-Jährige als “schwer dement” und vernehmungs- und prozessunfähig gilt, kann Ašner daher nicht an Kroatien ausgeliefert werden, das ihm den Prozess machen möchte. Ašner, der als Chef der kroatischen Ustascha-Polizei in Pozega für die Deportation Tausender Juden, Roma und Serben in Konzentrationslager verantwortlich sein soll, steht seit langem auf der Liste der meistgesuchten NS-Verbrecher des Simon Wiesenthal-Centers, das nach dem Sun-Bericht nun von Österreich die Auslieferung Ašners an Kroatien verlangt.

Der Standard: the list.

LATER NOTE: for another entry on the same topic in the Datenschutz-Blog.
(I’m not sure why html doesn’t work in my comments – must look into tit).

Becoming a British citizen (in the German view)/Haben Sie das Zeug zum Briten?

The Süddeutsche reprints twenty questions for prospective British citizens.

This one is deeply mysterious:

Frage 5 von 20
Was gibt es am Weihnachtsabend traditionell zu essen?

* Fisch und Chips, danach Tee

* Truthahnbraten und Pudding aus Mehl, Talg, getrockneten Früchten und Gewürzen

* Würstchen und Kartoffelsalat

Personally I would refuse to cook turkey twice in twenty-four hours. But that is supposed to be the correct answer.

(LATER NOTE: I mean I would refuse to roast two turkeys in short order. Of course one turkey will go through various metamorphoses before the carcass goes out to the foxes. Incidentally, on Christmas Eve the family custom is to boil a ham, because ham is eaten with the turkey. It’s eaten the evening before with pease pudding (lentil puree) and carrots. But I don’t know any general custom about what to eat except on Christmas Day itself, 25th December.)

And in a later question, Santa ‘Clause’ sounds rather legal.

In Großbritannien bewerben sich pro Jahr etwa 140.000 Menschen um einen Pass. “Guter Charakter” und ein Aufenthalt von fünf Jahren sind Grundvoraussetzung. Außerdem müssen sie unter Beweis stellen, dass sie Gesellschaft, Religion und Politik ihres neuen Heimatlandes kennen: Für 24 Fragen hat der Bewerber 45 Minuten Zeit, in 75 Prozent der Fälle sollte er die richtige Antwort ausgewählt haben.

Britain and war/Krieg und Militarismus in Großbritannien

H. Gustav Klaus and Christian Schmitt-Kilb find Britain is obsessed with war. It’s always the British war cemeteries on the Continent that are best looked after (mind you, every year or two a tin is rattled at me to contribute to German war graves, the equivalent of which I have never encountered in Britain:

Just how present war is in British intellectual debate can be gauged by browsing
through the Times Literary Supplement. One hesitates to speak of an obsession, but
not a week passes without a book on the subject of war being reviewed. No non-
specialist German weekly or monthly comes to mind that would cover the subject
so continually. The plethora of books published year in year out ranges from
military to counterfactual history, from biographies to diaries and letters of military
leaders, from reportage to photojournalism. It includes historical fiction and (anti-)
war poetry. But the fascination with war also manifests itself in museums and
historical pageants, the performing arts, photography, film and television, memori-
als and Remembrance Day(s).

Volume 14, No. 1, Journal for the Study of British Cultures html, PDF.

The TLS took them up on this on the back page, on October 5 2007 (probably not online):

Using the past twenty issues of the TLS as a representative sample, we checked and were initially surprised to find that Klaus and Schmitt-Kilb are largely correct. They will doubtless be sighing into their schnapps over the cover picture of Adolf Hitler (September 21), which appeared long after the Journal went to press. “No non-specialist German weekly or monthly comes to mind that would cover the subject so continually.” War, inseparable from Britain’s rise as “Great”, is just as closely linked to its decline.

Far be it from us to suggest other reasons why German weeklies do not dwell on the subject, but as to the TLS’s role, we are bound to point out that “the subject of war”, in its widest application, is tantamount to the subject of history. Does a review of The Disinherited: The exiles who created Spanish culture (August 3) count as a piece about “the subject of war”? Since the reviewer mentions the “socialists, republicans” and other who were “checked by Franco’s ‘crusade’ during the Civil War”, it must do. The lead article in the TLS of May 18 was a review of Cultural Responses to the Persian Wars; in the May 25 issue, there was a piece of several books about the American West, including one on the Sioux warrior Crazy Horse, “the decisive tactician in Custer’s deafeat”. It’s not an obsession; just us doing our duty.