“Lolz”, “photobomb” and “hackathon” Among Latest Additions to the Oxford Dictionary

There are approximately half a million words in the English language and every year new ones are created. Some will make it into the Oxford English Dictionary and others will not. For a word to be included, it has to have been used extensively by people, for example in newspapers and novels.

Updated four times a year, here is a list of some of the words that were added to Oxford Dictionaries Online in 2012:

Chatbot (noun): a computer program designed to stimulate conversation with human users, especially over

the Internet.

Deets (plural noun): details.

Forumite (noun): a person who posts comments in a particular Internet forum, typically on a regular basis.

Hackathon (noun): an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.

Lolz (plural noun): fun, laughter or amusement.

Mumblecore (noun): a style of low-budget film typically characterized by the use of non-professional actors and naturalistic or improvised performances.

OH (noun): a person’s wife, husband, or partner (used in electronic communication).

Photobomb (verb): spoil a photograph of (a person or thing) by suddenly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken, typically as a prank or practical joke.

Tweeps (plural noun): a person’s followers on the social networking site Twitter.

Twitterpated (adjective): infatuated or obsessed.

Soul patch (noun): a small tuft of facial hair directly below a man’s lower lip.

Veepstakes (noun): the notional competition among politicians to be chosen as a party’s candidate for vice president.

2012 also saw the creation of new words, some inspired by the Olympic Games and economic recession. The following are words that made the Oxford English Dictionary shortlist for potential inclusion in the future:

Omnishambles (noun): This word was also named Oxford Dictionaries UK Word of the Year 2012. Omnishambles is a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations. The word was created by the writers of the satirical television program The Thick of It.

Eurogeddon (noun): the potential financial collapse of the European Union countries that have adopted the euro, envisaged as having catastrophic implications for the region’s economic stability.

Mobot (noun): a characteristic gesture as performed by the British long-distance runner Mo Farah on winning the 5,000 and 10,000 meters events at the 2012 Olympics, in which both arms are arched above the head with the hands pointing down to the top of the head to for a distinctive ‘M’ shape.

YOLO (acronym): ‘you only live once’, typically used as a rational or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior.

Sources:
BBC
Huffington Post
Oxford Dictionaries

Babies Start to Learn Language in the Womb

Researchers from the Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Washington and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have discovered language learning begins while we are still in our mother’s womb.

The researchers believe language learning begins at 30

weeks of gestation, when a fetus develops the sense of hearing. During the last 10 weeks of gestation -pregnancy usually ends at week 40 – a fetus can hear its mother speaking and starts to learn the variations in her words, initially vowel sounds. Just hours after birth, newborns can recognize their native tongue, differentiating between sounds

in their native language and sounds in a foreign language.

In the study, 40

newborns from the United States and 40 from Sweden (all between seven hours and three days old) were made to listen to

vowel sounds from their native language and non-native language. A newborn’s interest and response to the sounds was measured by the time he/she sucked on a pacifier that was connected to a computer. Babies will suck on a pacifier for longer when exposed to something unfamiliar. Both in the United States and in Sweden, newborns sucked on pacifiers for longer when they heard vowel sounds from their non-native language compared to when they heard sounds in their mother tongue.

Previous studies have shown babies begin to discern between language sounds in the first few months of life; but this is the first study to demonstrate language learning actually begins in utero.

Sources:
Science

Daily
Discovery News

Saving Endangered Languages Through Digital Technology

Often blamed for propelling endangered languages into extinction, globalization, technology and the internet may in fact be able to accomplish the opposite and save our world’s fragile languages from disappearing altogether. And what a needed task that is because according to UNESCO, unless something is done, only half of the 6000 plus languages spoken worldwide today will exist by the end of this century.

The good news is, something is being done. To help preserve eight endangered languages, K David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, and National Geographic have developed online talking dictionaries, which feature more than 24,000 audio recordings by native speakers and over 32,000 word entries. Some of the endangered languages included in the talking dictionaries are: Matukar Panau (Papua New Guinea); Chamacoco (Paraguay); Remo (India); and Tuvan (Siberia and Mongolia).

Language Extinction Hot-Spot by National Geographic

Harrison also believes text messaging, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are providing the ideal means for speakers of endangered languages to “expand their voice and expand their presence.”

Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) is one example. Spoken by only a few hundred people in Canada and the United States, this Native American language is being kept alive via a website and Facebook page thanks to the efforts of Margaret Noori, professor of Native American studies at the University of Michigan.

Mobile apps can also help revive languages on the brink of extinction. Ma! Iwaidja is a smartphone app designed to prevent the disappearance of Iwaidja, an indigenous language spoken by less than 200 people on Croker Island, Australia. The free app, which includes a 1500-entry English-Iwaidja dictionary with audio and a 450-entry phrase book, allows users to easily upload and update entries, which they soon will also be able to share via an online database.

Sources:

BBC

CNN

Microsoft Developing Instant Speech Translator

Can you imagine traveling to China and speaking to people in fluent Mandarin with no prior knowledge of the language? According to software giant Microsoft, this could soon be a reality.

The Microsoft research team is currently developing and refining speech translation software that is capable of translating speech instantly. The technology imitates the intonation and cadence of

the speaker, delivering more real and natural-sounding translations.

In a recent video presentation, Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer, Rick Rashid, demonstrated how their translation technology converts spoken English into Mandarin – in real time and in the speaker’s own voice. Watch the demo here.

Although today there are a number of translation technologies that deal with human speech recognition, Microsoft wants to go a step further and perfect past breakthroughs.

Working with scientists from the University of Toronto, Microsoft has been able to slash translation errors

from 20-25% down to 15% thanks to a technique called Deep Neural Networks. With this technique, which is modeled on how the human brain works, the researchers were “able to train more discriminative and better speech recognizers than previous methods.”

While the technology is still not perfect, Rashid calls the improvement a “dramatic change” and believes that “in a few years we will have systems that can completely break down language barriers…we may not have to wait until the 22nd century for a usable equivalent of Star Trek’s universal translator.”

Sources:

Microsoft

BBC

Celebrities Invest in Recession-Proof Language Services Industry

Since 2008, only a handful of industries have escaped the economic pitfalls of the global recession and even fewer can say they experienced growth. The language services industry is one of them. According to Common Sense Advisory, the language services industry has experienced a rapid and steady growth even in the face of a harsh economic climate; in 2008 the market totaled US$14.25 billion and today it is worth US$33.5 billion. It is indeed a buzzing market and is projected to keep growing at an annual rate of 12.17%.

What makes the language services industry virtually immune to the recession? Primarily globalization driven by the help of the internet. More and more companies are realizing the importance of international selling and are focusing their efforts on breaking cultural and language barriers, and reaching global audiences through language services providers.

The language services market holds such great potential for financial opportunity and increasing international brand awareness that even celebrities are investing in language technology.

Actor Ashton Kutcher, also an avid tech investor, and best-selling author Tim Ferriss, both backed the startup DuoLingo, a language-learning website and crowd-sourced translation platform. In 2011, member of rock back KISS, Gene Simmons, became business partner and spokesperson for Ortsbo, a machine translation technology that supports major social media platforms.

Entrepreneur and CEO of Salesforce.com, Marc Benioff, is yet another well-known personality who invested in Cloudwords, a cloud-based translation platform. Who is the latest celebrity to inject funds into a language technology company? That would be business tycoon and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, who recently financed LinguaSys, an international provider of human language technologies including the machine translation software, Carabao.

No doubt, language and global business go hand in hand; more accurately, global trade could not exist without the technology to bridge the gap between language boundaries. It should come as no surprise then that translation tools/software is one of the fastest growing and most in-demand service today.

Source: Common Sense Advisory