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Linguistics professor takes aim at ‘horribly ignorant’ comments about the Welsh language

10 Dec 2020 2 minutes Read
Picture by Alan Fryer (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A linguistics professor has taken aim at what he has described as “horribly ignorant” comments about the Welsh language.

Professor Emeritus Peter Trudgill described the ignorance about language in Britain as “embarrassing” in a column for the pro-EU newspaper, the New European.

He criticised Daily Mail columnist Roger Lewis for calling Welsh a “moribund monkey language”, Times columnist Rod Liddle for claiming it was “indecipherable, with no real vowels”, and a Sky News presenter for describing it as “useless” during a live interview with a polyglot on UNESCO International Mother Tongue Day.

He said they were in need of some “linguistic education”. The sociolinguist, academic and author also addressed ignorance towards languages in the USA and Australia in the article.

He told the story of a native American woman speaking Navajo on the phone in a supermarket being told that if she wanted to speak “Mexican”, a language that doesn’t exist, that she should “go back to Mexico”.

He also wrote about a mother speaking the aboriginal language Pitjantjatjara to her child in Adelaide who was told “It’s Australia Day! We speak English in Australia!”

But according to Professor Emeritus Trudgill, ignorance about language is not confined to those countries.

 

‘Ignorance’

He said: “It would be nice to be able to claim that there is less ignorance about language here in Britain, but sadly we cannot do that.

“It is embarrassing to report that the polyglot Alex Rawlings, when he was being interviewed on Sky News on the occasion of this year’s UNESCO International Mother Tongue Day, was asked by the presenter if Welsh was ‘the world’s most useless language’.

“The PR department of the chocolate bar company Snickers once compared the Welsh language to ‘someone sitting on a keyboard’.

“Rod Liddle, an associate editor of the Spectator, wrote that the Welsh language is ‘indecipherable, with no real vowels’.

“And, writing in the Daily Mail, the journalist and writer Roger Lewis called Welsh an ‘appalling, moribund monkey language’.

“Anyone who can write something as horribly ignorant as that about one of our national languages is in need of some linguistic education.

“Not knowing other languages is one thing. Not knowing about them is quite another.”

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