Babel has two big annual events - the Babel Lecture and our Young Writers' Competition.
Our annual lecture takes place at our headquarters at the University of Huddersfield. It gives us the chance not only to host a fascinating talk, but also to meet our readers and get their thoughts on the magazine. Attendance is always free!
Our Young Writers' Competition opens in May of each year, with winning entries published in our November issue. There are two categories - the 16-18 Competition and the Undergraduate Competition.
The Babel Lecture
The 2019 Babel Lecture
The fifth annual Babel Lecture will be given by Jessica Coon, the linguistic consultant on the Hollywood film Arrival. Jessica will discuss aliens, fieldwork and Universal Grammar, and how her linguistic expertise enabled her to help the makers of Arrival to portray communication between aliens and humans. Jessica will also talk about her consutancy work on other film projects.
Jessica has previously appeared in Babel's Meet the Professionals - read her interview by clicking on the image to the left.
The event will take place on 24th May at the University of Huddersfield - keep the date in your diaries, and your eyes peeled for more details nearer the time!
The 2018 Babel Lecture
The fourth annual Babel Lecture took place on Friday 11th May at the University of Huddersfield.
We were delighted to welcome Susie Dent to give a talk entitled 'The -ize have it: The Americanization of English and what we can do about it'. Susie explored the idea of 'Americanisms' and British attitudes towards them. Should we be annoyed by movies and elevators, or embrace transatlantic imports? Susie's talk even converted some listeners who had previously been avowedly anti-Americanisms!
Susie is a writer and broadcaster on language, and has made over 2,000 appearances on Countdown and 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown. She also writes regular articles on linguistic matters for the Radio Times and Mental Floss, and is the author of several books on language, including Word of the Year, What Made the Crocodile Cry? and How to Talk Like a Local (reviewed here in the first ever Babel), and has recently lent her expert opinions on swearing and the alleged Americanization of English to Channel 4 and the BBC Radio 4, respectively.
The 2017 Babel Lecture
The third annual Babel Lecture took place on Friday 12th May at the University of Huddersfield.
Our lecturer was Peter French, Chairman of JP French Associates Forensic Speech and Acoustic Laboratory, York, and Honorary Professor in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York. Peter's talk focused on his experience of analysing recordings in more than 5,000 police investigations and legal cases from countries throughout the world.
'Their own tongues speak against them: Phonetics in the criminal justice system' describes the roles played by phoneticians as forensic scientists in criminal investigations and as expert witnesses in criminal trials. Forensic phonetic casework is explained and illustrated with analyses and recordings from high profile cases. The talk also considers the role that new speech technology can play in crime prevention and detection. Read one attendee's review of the evening here.
Peter also appeared in the very first issue of Babel - read his introduction to forensic speech science here.
The 2016 Babel Lecture
The second annual Babel Lecture took place on Friday 13th May in St Paul's Hall at the University of Huddersfield.
Babel's very own Linguistic Consultant, David Crystal, presented 'The English Tone of Voice', discussing what phonetics can tell us about just about everything, including topics as diverse as sex, spies and Star Wars.
David's lecture looked at how an aspect of language that we don't always think about has a huge effect on meaning in spoken language, and how something like the acceptance of a marriage proposal can communicate very different levels of enthusiasm depending on the intonation used! David also drew on a vast array of anecdotes from his travels down the years, illustrating the importance of intonation with humorous examples of miscommunication between speakers of different languages.
Read one attendee's review of the evening in Babel No16.
The 2015 Babel Lecture
The 2015 Babel Lecture was our inaugural event. Brendan Gunn, accent and dialect coach to the stars, gave a fascinating talk on 'The Breath of Meaning', explaining the importance of dialectology and sociolinguistics in his work with actors.
Brendan first worked as an academic in sociolinguistics and dialectology before turning his expertise to the film industry in 1986. During his time working as an accent and dialect coach to the Hollywood stars, he has worked with Robert De Niro, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt, among many others.
In his talk, Brendan spoke of his time conducting field work as a student (collecting examples of dialectal phrases and accents) right through to the time he was invited to Brad Pitt's Hollywood home to coach him on his role as Mickey O'Neil in 'Snatch' by Guy Ritchie. A far cry from Brendan's field work in remote Ireland!
Watch Brendan's talk on YouTube, and read one attendee's review of the evening in Babel No11.
The Babel Young Writers' Competition
Babel launched the Young Writers' Competition in 2014, inspired by an article we published by young linguist Kateryna Pavliuk in 2013. In 2015, we introduced two different categories - one for 16-18-year-old linguists, and another for undergraduate linguists.
Our 2018 competition is now open to 16-18-year-olds and undergraduates! Young linguists have until 24 August to enter for the chance to be published in Babel No25, to be published in November. The winner also, of course, receives a year's subscription to Babel!
2017 winner - undergraduate category
Abhishek Dedhe - 'Being bilingual in America'
"The US has the largest immigrant population of the world. New immigrants to the American melting pot bring varied cultures, cuisines, customs and languages. However, despite a large immigrant population and the widespread acceptance of immigrants, only 21% of American adults are fluent in more than one language [...] I look here at how immigrant parents in the US are faced with a tough choice: whether or not to raise their children as bilinguals... (Read on)"
2017 winner - 16-18 year-old category
Dong Hyun Kang - 'Wars on language'
"For the local inhabitants of the Vinschgau valley, changing their language from Romansch to German seems to have mattered a lot: the change demonstrated their loyalty to the Catholic church. But is this an isolated incident that has little relevance to the rest of human history? No: in fact, instances of people changing their language in order to prove their loyalty to a certain cause have occurred throughout world history, particularly during times of war and conflict... (Read on)"
2016 winner - undergraduate category
Emma Jewell - 'Romansch'
"In communities hidden between the peaks of the Swiss Alps, lives an isolated population, speaking and living like the Romans did thousands of years ago. Taking up barely 0.5% of Switzerland's population, these natives chatter in a tongue similar to a mix of German and Italian. The language they share is Romansch, a member of the Rhaetian Romance language group, and the closest known language to Latin. Despite its unique culture and direct connection to the Roman empire, this language has only 70,000 speakers... (Read on)"
2016 winner - 16-18 year-old category
James Akka - 'Life in death'
"Since 1960, humanity has lost, in one estimate, 28 whole language families. By 2011, 10% of all languages known ever to have existed were already extinct. 452 languages were on the brink of that same fate, each having fewer than ten living speakers. As English and a few other languages become increasingly dominant, language death can appear to be an unfortunate inevitability. Nevertheless, in the face of this, humanity has seen some great stories of language birth, and in much more modern times than you might think... (Read on)"
2015 winner - undergraduate category
Ollie Sayeed - 'Twerking sheep'
"Let me tale you a tell - sorry, tell you a tale - about spoonerisms. You may have heard of the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, the Oxford don now famous for getting his words in a tangle. He preached that 'the Lord is a shoving leopard', proposed a toast to the 'queer old dean', and asked 'is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?' This kind of slip of the tongue became known as a 'spoonerism' during his lifetime... But as well as being a quirky source of puns, accidental spoonerisms give us some insight into how language works... (Read on)"
2015 winner - 16-18 year-old category
Jonathan Lahdo - 'Lebanon's language dilemma'
"Lebanon finds itself in a fairly unique position: it is an Arab country, with Arabic as the official national language. At the same time, French has become a prestige language due to a long-lasting period of French rule, and today's language of modernity, English, is beginning to make its mark on the youth. What effect have all of these factors had on the country? To say the least, it has left Lebanon in a confused state of linguistic limbo... (Read on)"
Niamh Mulholland - 'The art of Konglish'
"Loanwords in languages are by no means a recent phenomenon. The English language was in fact one of the biggest culprits for such lexical adaptations, with many words being 'borrowed' from French, Spanish, Italian and German. Whilst English continues to borrow words from other languages, the tables have turned, as it seems English has become the lender of words, especially in Asia. The rapid development of technology has meant related vocabulary is adopted internationally... The Korean language is the ideal host for these words... (Read on)"
Kateryna Pavlyuk - 'British Sign Language'
"Language can be described as communicating through 'a system of arbitrary vocal symbols', or by 'modulating the sound we make when we exhale'. Both of these definitions are ignorant of the fourth most spoken language in the UK and the first language of approx. 150,000 deaf people: British Sign Language (BSL). Due to being a minority language; being in use in the same community as the globe's lingua franca - English; and creating a visual as opposed to auditory output, BSL is rarely regarded as a 'real' language... (Read on)"