Language and You – Facts and Myths

What to expect from this column

By Dr Humphrey M. Kapau

Does handedness reflect one’s areas of linguistic intelligence? Does the language we speak influence our thoughts or it is our thoughts which influence the language we speak?

What are the brain benefits of first knowing your mother tongue before learning a second language like English? Are children born with a brain device for acquiring language? What does dreaming in different languages tell us about how our brains store and process language? In any case, how is language stored and processed in the mind of a person who speaks more than one language? What is the language of a guilty suspect? Does leg posture have a language?

When communicating, what makes it so hard for our minds to generate a lie as compared to telling the truth? Is English really superior to our local languages? What is meant by Bemba being an augment language and Lozi an augmentless language? How can you identify a Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja, Luvale, Lunda, Tonga or Kaonde by their speech? Why are Bantu languages grammatically complex than English language? Did you know that English has about twenty (20) vowels? Does handwriting have a language? What are the common language disorders?

When a person who speaks more than one language is hit by a cerebral vascular accident (i.e. stroke), what are the recovery patterns of language in such a person? What is characterisation and the theory behind identification of different types of characters? What unconscious habits do we exhibit when telling a lie? How is the division of labour between the two halves of our brain (hemispheres) when it comes to language processing? What are the similarities and differences between a language and a dialect? How do we produce speech sounds? How are Bantu languages classified in linguistics? How does language develop in children?

The above are just some of the many questions and article titles you need to look forward to in this weekly column called Language and You – Facts and Myths. The column shall demonstrate that contrary to public perception, language is actually not just about novels, rewrites, nouns or reciting poems. The study of language goes beyond that, especially at tertiary level.

Like the name suggests, this column is all about language and you. Although the author is primarily a linguist by profession with a language track record of up to PhD, the articles will be written in simplified language for a common person to understand. Where technical terms will be mentioned, they will be explained in a simplified manner friendly enough for even a primary school pupil to understand. This is meant to raise awareness about facts and myths about language that are rare to come across.

Essentially, therefore, the column will also be a very valuable source of information for people with interest in linguistics and literature, and for pupils and students intending to pursue a career in linguistics (the scientific study of language) and literature (the study of literary works and their appreciation).
With this in mind, the author of the column will break down complex topics in the two fields and simplify them for public knowledge, consumption and appreciation. It is also hoped that through this column, Zambians will begin viewing themselves differently through language.

This weekly column will also be interactive. Therefore, you will be allowed to give your thoughts on each article I write and also make suggestions about what you want me to talk about. I will always publish your feedback in this column every after a few weeks through a special edition titled Reader Responses. It would also be a great opportunity for me to answer some questions or attend to your suggestions.

In my next article, I will kick start our epic journey by answering the following question: what are the brain effects and social advantages of teaching your child a mother tongue before teaching them a second language such as English? Drawing from a compendium of evidence from research done around the globe on the effects of the mother tongue on a child’s brain, you definitely cannot afford to miss next week’s intriguing topic because the intellect of your child greatly hinges on your attitude towards your mother tongue in relation to a second language like English.

I further urge you to invest some time in this weekly column and you will never regret the outcomes of such in the long run. Give me your thoughts about your feelings and expectations based on today’s introductory article by sending your feedback to the email below.

The author is a systemic functional linguist and Special Research Fellow (PhD) at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. His research interests oscillate mainly within the frontiers of psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics, African languages, literary theory and semiotics. He has also taught language at the University of Zambia. Email: hmksettings@rocketmail.com

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