I have just seen the movie Blade Runner 2049 (no link to Wikipedia to avoid spoilers). After reading several online resources, I’m still not entirely clear about who was who and what was what.
This movie’s world of 2049 seems vastly different from 1982’s world of 2019, partly because so much of this movie takes place in daytime – we actually see city- and landscapes – and there has been a massive change of climate, as explained in the opening text. Language-wise, the scriptwriters don’t envisage any major development in language in the next 32 years. The original movie introduced City Speak “gutter talk, a mishmash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what have you”. One resource refers to one line of this movie as City Speak; another says it’s the actress’s native Finnish.
At one point Ryan Gosling’s character visit a back-street technician, who speaks in another language which no resource specifies. His speech is subtitled for us, but there’s no hint as to how Gosling’s character understands him. Either he just happens to understand that language, or there is an instant translator hidden somewhere.
Foreign scripts abound: I saw Russian, Japanese, Korean and ?Hindi, and I’m sure there were more. The building in which Gosling’s character (not really a spoiler) finds Harrison Ford’s character is labelled 행운 (haeng-un) or ‘luck’.
The date 6 . 10 . 21 is significant, but I can’t remember if it is specified in the movie whether this is dd.mm.yy 6 October 2021 or mm.dd.yy 10 June 2021. The movie opened here last Thursday, 5 October (not 2021, obviously).
Yesterday a student mentioned that she sometimes has trouble understanding “my boss’s” workplace instructions. To get more information, I asked several follow-up questions. I didn’t want to assume that her boss was either female or male, in order to say “she” or “he”, so I had to say “your boss” in several questions in a row. She finally said that her boss is a woman. (Actually her bosses are a married woman and man, but she interacts with the woman more.) I asked “Does she speak to you in English or Chinese?”. She said “She’s Chinese, but she speaks a different (long pause) Chinese than me”. I briefly mentioned ‘language’, ‘dialect’ and ‘topolect’, then said ‘The easiest thing to say is “She speaks a different kind of Chinese than me”‘.
Yesterday I went driving, exploring and photographing in part of what some of my students call Blue Mountain, and what I insist on calling the Blue Mountains. There’s no place in Australia called Blue Mountain, but there are genuine linguistic reasons why some of my students (and, I guess, many others) change the Blue Mountains to Blue Mountain. Many languages do not have the equivalent of English a and the, and many speakers of English as a second language just aren’t used to saying those two English words. Many languages also do not have the equivalent of English plural s (or, as in Korean, it may be optional). English plural s often makes a double, triple or even quadruple consonant cluster with the final consonant(s) – here ns, which many second language speakers find difficult and want to simplify.
The Blue Mountains cover a large area, and people usually go to only a very small part of them. The officially defined geographic area covers 11,400 km2, almost as large as the Sydney metropolitan area (12,367 km2) and larger than 37 sovereign states. The local government area and the state electorate are, respectively, the City of Blue Mountains and the Electoral district of Blue Mountains, respectively.
And they aren’t blue. The sun filtering through evaporated eucalyptus oil gives the scenery a very slightly blueish tinge, but the trees are otherwise green and the rocks brown. I hope tourist books explain that.
The same linguistic issues arose when a student told me that she’d gone to Southern ’Ighland (viz, the Southern Highlands) the previous weekend. This sounded either like Southern Island (there is no Southern Island anywhere in the physical world) or (in my non-rhotic pronunciation) Southern Ireland (ooooh, a lot of Irish history and politics there).
[edit 6 Oct: after I posted on Facebook about another photo-hike to the Blue Mountains, an online friend from Canada told me that there is a Blue Mountain in Ontario (the name of the mountain and a ski resort), as well as nearby town named ‘The Blue Mountains‘.]
(PS I don’t like giving any free publicity to corporate entities, but in this case it’s impossible not to.)
Some years ago (soon after I returned from Korea the first time, I think), I bought a quiz game made by a company called BrainBox. The shop had several in stock, but the one which I bought was of the countries of the world, which seemed most applicable to English language classes.
I have used it several times a year since. On Tuesday I was browsing through a local shop and saw another game from the same company, about Australia. I went back and bought it on Thursday morning and used it that evening in class.
Yesterday I posted about the computer keyboard I’d just bought. This morning I was looking at the quick start guide, which has six pages of information in ten different languages. I can identify or comfortably guess English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese (traditional or simplified?) and Korean. The Korean is a literal translation of the English. In the western European languages, there is quick, rapide/rápida/rápido and schnell; start, démarrage, startan and início; guide, leitung and guía/guia, as well as introduttiva and usuario. The German is the only one of those languages in which the three elements directly match the English.
Reading the guide, I found that the lights I mentioned in the previous post have 12 different settings (one colour, three, or rainbow; stationary or moving; fast or slow; from the left or right).
Gretchen McCulloch of All Things Linguistic posted without comment a graphic by Suzy Styles, of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, of The Commonest Speech Sounds: Prevalence Rates for Phonemes of the World. Styles, in turn also doesn’t comment on it, beyond stating that she compared the speech sounds of 1672 languages on a certain online database. What follows are my own thoughts about the graphic, primarily as an ESL teacher and not as a linguist.
(There’s a large space under this graphic – keep scrolling.)
From How your job is killing you by James Adonis in the Sydney Morning Herald (I try to avoid giving free publicity to companies, but I’ve got to credit my sources):
The Japanese have a word, karōshi, to describe people who work themselves to death. … In China the word used is guolaosi. … South Korea, too, has a term for this pervasive condition: gwarosa.
A little bit of linguistic knowledge shows that those are actually the same word, in the pronunciation systems of those three languages. Japanese and Korean have borrowed a large number of words directly from Chinese, and have also created new words themselves from Chinese characters.