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More on tonal variation in Sinitic

In a number of posts, we have discussed departure from stipulated tonal configurations in speech, e.g.: "Dissimilation, stress, sandhi, and other tonal variations in Mandarin " "When intonation overrides tone" "Where did Chinese tones come from and where are they going?" In this post, we will focus on the wide variation of tone in names […]

Latvian as Code and Oddly Named Parisians.

I’ve finished Dominic Lieven’s Russia Against Napoleon and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars; Lieven not only covers the whole period from the 1812 invasion (and its origins) to the Allied entry into Paris in 1814, he is apparently the first English-language historian to do so using the rich Russian […]

Nth Xest

In the course of writing about "fourth highest of five levels", I looked around at how the pattern "Nth Xest" is used in general. I found that uses of such expressions overwhelmingly count from the "top" where X names a top-oriented scale (high, big, long, etc.), and count from the "bottom" where X names a bottom-oriented scale […]

Uralic/Altaic linguistics and Sovietology

I recently picked up David C. Engerman’s Know Your Enemy: The Rise and Fall of America’s Soviet Experts (Oxford University Press, 2009) hoping that it would have some coverage of scholarship at Indiana University, Bloomington in the second half of the 20th century. Show More Summary

Poetic contrastive focus reduplication

From Nancy Friedman — Billy Collins, "After the Funeral", in Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, 2013: For those who can't access the Google Books version, the same poem can be found as the second item in this page at Boulevard magazine. Previous LLOG discussion of the phenomenon: "Contrastive focus reduplication in Zits", 6/11/2007 "Reduplication […]

Quotation and Originality.

I forget where I came across a link to Emerson’s essay “Quotation and Originality” (first given as a lecture in 1859), but as Emerson himself would tell you, it doesn’t really matter. He’s not an especially disciplined thinker — he argues every side of the question and doesn’t really come to a conclusion — but […]


A listener named Adele called to say that her son had snickered when she told him that her uncle, a naval engineer, had worked in the bowels of a ship during World War II. I guess her son would have preferred engine room, on the basis that bowels is too graphic an image. Show More Summary

Fourth highest, less empty

We culturally-evolved plains apes often have problems dealing with scalar predicates, even when negation isn't involved. Here's the UK "terror threat level" scale: On Friday, the British government raised the level from "substantial" to "severe". Show More Summary

Spoken British National Corpus 2014.

Tim Dowling at the Guardian writes about a worthwhile new project: Almost nothing is marvellous these days, but everything is awesome. According to a study by Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press, Britain has all but abandoned the former adjective in favour of the latter. Early evidence from their project, the Spoken British National Corpus […]

Is Hello Kitty not a cat?

There's been a to-do over whether Hello Kitty is a cat or a human, a massive uproar of tweets and retweets: "Hello Kitty is not a cat, plus more reveals before her L.A. tour" (LA Times, 8/26/14, where the story first broke) "Newsflash: Hello Kitty has never been a cat" (Washington Post, 8/28/14) "Hello Kitty […]


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Abduweli Ayup

"Uyghur linguist sentenced to 18-month prison term in China", LSA News 8/28/2014: The LSA has learned from news reports published this week that Abduweli Ayup has been ordered to pay a large fine and continue his detention in a Chinese prison for the next six months. The LSA had sent a letter earlier this year to […]


Haaretz has a “Word of the Day” feature, and Shoshana Kordova writes about “Firgun: The art of tooting someone else’s horn”: You tell your friend how much she deserves the prize she just won – and you really mean it. Or perhaps your coworker comes up with such a great idea that you can’t stop […]

Musee & Peace

This sign from a Nagoya subway is for waxing and other hair removal. Photograph courtesy of Nathan Hopson. The three big kanji read: natsukoi hada ?? ? ("summer love skin") But I'm more interested in the words written in Roman letters above the kanji. The combination of the French word "MUSEE" (i.e., musée ["museum"]) and […]

Technology is probably isn't destroying our humanity

Versions of  the "technology destroying humanity" trope have been around for thousands of years, certainly since the invention of writing devalued textual memorization. I wouldn't be surprised if there were analogous complaints about the invention of the spear. The most overhyped version of this trope that I've ever seen was the 2009 "Twitter numbs our sense of […]

Do you sleep in your contacts?

Q: When I go to bed without removing my contact lenses, I sleep in my contacts. Or so I say, even though the reverse is true: my contacts are in me when I sleep. What say you? A: The preposition “in” has been used to mean “wearing” since Anglo-Saxon days. The earliest example in the... ? Read More: Do you sleep in your contacts?

Needs more sexting

Today's xkcd: I'm not sure what "another study" refers to in this case. The mouseover title suggests a research program in computational humanistic educational psychology: I'd like to find a corpus of writing writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (e.g. Show More Summary


Matt Murphy, "Is 'unbecoming' becoming a sexist word? Warren Tolman apologizes after calling opponent Maura Healey unbecoming during debate", State House News Service 8/27/2014: BOSTON — Democratic attorney general candidate Warren Tolman...Show More Summary

Suddenly Popular.

An xkcd of obvious linguistic relevance; since you’ll wonder: lahar. Don’t miss the mouseover text, and just to get it out of the way: I, for one, welcome our new God-Empress overlord. (Hat tip to John Cowan for sending me the link....

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