Does your first language affect the structure of your brain?

There are some differences between the brains of German speakers and Arabic speakers. Why do those differences arise? It seems to be because these 2 languages place different processing demands on some parts of the brain. Those conclusions emerge from a recent paper Native language differences in the structural connectome of the human brain, by…… Continue reading Does your first language affect the structure of your brain?

ISO on Plain Language

In June 2023, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 24495-1 Plain language — Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines. Scope of ISO 24495 ISO 24495: establishes governing principles and guidelines for developing plain language documents. The guidelines detail how the principles are interpreted and applied. is for anybody who creates or helps create…… Continue reading ISO on Plain Language

English Grammar Day

I went along yesterday to an event at University College London (UCL) called English Grammar Day. This was the first time I have been, though it has been held for the last 10 years. The event seems to be aimed mainly at school teachers and academics. I give below summaries of the 6 talks, which…… Continue reading English Grammar Day

Learning Russian in Bodmin in the Cold War

On a recent visit to Cornwall, we went into the Bodmin Town Museum. The centrepiece of the first room was a display about the Joint Services School for Linguists. This was located in Bodmin from 1951-1956. The Museum produces a small booklet (8 pages) The Joint Services School for Linguists, Bodmin, 1951-1956, notes compiied by…… Continue reading Learning Russian in Bodmin in the Cold War

How many languages exist?

SIL International Publications has published the 25th edition of Ethnologue®. This tries to list all known living languages in the world. It comes in 3 self-contained volumes, each covering a region and including: language descriptions organized by continent and country lists of primary names, alternate names, and dialect names country overviews with graphical language vitality…… Continue reading How many languages exist?

Do you have to be French to get into the Académie Française?

Surprisingly, the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is a member of the Académie Française. He was elected in 2021, but he didn’t take up his seat in person until 9 February 2023, presumably because of travel disruption caused by covid. Réception de M. Mario Vargas Llosa (F18) | Académie française ( It seems odd for…… Continue reading Do you have to be French to get into the Académie Française?

Measuring how much languages differ

Is it possible to quantity how one language differs from another language? In 2015, two academic researchers tried to do that by creating what they called a ‘Language Friction Index’ (LFI). They describe the index in their paper Language friction and partner selection in cross-border R&D alliance formation, Amol M Joshi and Nandini Lahiri, Journal…… Continue reading Measuring how much languages differ

Aux Champs-Élysées

An attempt will be made on 4 June to break the world record for the world’s largest dictation event. It will be held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris for 1,700 participants. The existing record-holder is an event for 1,473 participants at the French national stadium (Stade de France) in 2018. As I’ve said before,…… Continue reading Aux Champs-Élysées