UN English Language Day | Maavrus

Written by Ameay Kumar

April 23, 2022

UN English

23rd April is celebrated as UN English Language Day, and so to celebrate the English language day we have chosen “Linguistic Analysis” as the topic of the day.

Since the year 2010, 23rd April has been celebrated as UN English language day. This is part of an initiative undertaken by the UN to drive multicultural language adoption for its 6 official languages. English is one of the 6 languages of the UN, the others being Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and French. The reason behind choosing 23rd April is because it happens to be both the birth and death anniversary of Willian Shakespeare.

We are not sure about you, but the term linguistic analysis sounds extremely clinical and complex. It also reminds us of an English school teacher who taught beautiful poems by Byron, Keats, Shelly and Shakespeare with such a lack of enthusiasm and fervour that we are sure these great poets would have given up poetry altogether had they heard their work being explained. Now that we have said it publicly and gotten it off our chest let’s proceed to talk more about linguistic analysis. By its definition linguistic analysis is a scientific analysis of a sample of language. This analysis consists of many aspects/branches like- phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax etc. Wow, that’s a mouthful of words and probably something better left to people with the complex doctoral thesis. But there have been quite a few studies undertaken to see if speakers of a particular language demonstrate similar behavioural and psychological traits.

Linguistic analysis is increasingly becoming important as we move towards a world where chatbots are replacing humans in customer service roles. NLP, which is the key element of near-real human interactions, is actually a subfield of linguistic analysis. By NLP we meant natural language processing and not neurolinguistic programming. There have been huge strides in NLP and the chatbots are learning with every human interaction they have. Examples of these are Siri and Alexa- if you want to have fun- ask Siri if she knows Alexa.

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English language day:

Even for English which is such a widely spoken language, there are differences in the way words are spelt- like the British ruled countries use colour vs the American version is colour. Here is a good article that covers these differences. These small yet significant differences are what make NLP so difficult. To layer the complexity on top of this we have the sentiment or the tonality- which is something that needs to be understood by the bots.

The most exciting application of linguistic analysis that we have seen is how it was used to identify and detain Ted Kaczynski- more commonly known as the Unabomber. This is one of the most prolific uses of linguistic analysis. There is also a Netflix series chronicling the whole ordeal. Both Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany are pure gold in their respective roles and we recommend you add it to your watch list this weekend.

The success of linguistic analysis like all the other forms of analysis is dependent on context, clarity and consistency. Languages are beautiful- they are living examples of thousands of years of cultural and conversational evolution. Languages like a lot of species are endangered- at the current rate, one language becomes extinct every 40 days. 61% of spoken native languages are considered endangered. So let’s celebrate English today- but every once in a while take a pause to think about our native languages.

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