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Triple topolectal reprimand

One of the most annoying things about being in China is that people will cut in front of you in lines when you're waiting for a bus, to buy a train ticket, or whatever. If you wish to achieve your aim, sooner or later you learn that you have to take defensive / offensive measures […]

Do humans actually understand speech?

Or are they just programmed to act like they do? Today's SMBC asks (and answers) the analogous question about emotions: The clinching argument:

Preserving the Languages of the Arctic.

Lorraine Boissoneault writes in Jstor Daily about the 2008 Arctic Indigenous Languages Symposium and the link between linguistic preservation and biological diversity in the Arctic; here’s the conclusion: The Saami aren’t the only indigenous people collaborating with scientists to better document the effects of climate change. Show More Summary

"Chinese helicopter" under attack

Just a couple of weeks ago, we learned about 19 Singaporean expressions that had been newly added to the OED: "New Singaporean and Hong Kong terms in the OED" (5/12/16) Among these expressions was "Chinese helicopter", which was characterized as "derogatory" and defined as "a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and who […]

The Productive Language Learner: How I Transformed my Phone into a Productivity Diva

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything that needs addressing in your life, day after day? If your answer is a resounding YES, then let me tell you – I empathise! Between work commitments, money managing, keeping your health in order and an ever-demanding social calendar, it can be difficult to achieve some sense of balance. Show More Summary

Canonizing the Party-State Voice.

I’ve just gotten to Chapter 6, “Canonization of the Party-State Voice,” of Michael S. Gorham’s 2003 Speaking in Soviet Tongues (see this post), in which, after describing the competing ideals of Russian language use that appeared after...Show More Summary

Ask Language Log: why is "whether or not" more frequent?

Ton van der Wouden asks: The Google Ngram viewer shows a tenfold increase in the frequency of the string "whether or not". Can the readers of language log think of any explanation for this growth? Can it perhaps be traced back to some prescriptive source? Is it perhaps accompanied by a comparable decrease of the […]

Once more on the mystery of the national spelling bee

Looks like this year's winners are again co-champions and of Indian (South Asian) origin. Guessing from their names, one of them has a Karnataka heritage and the other an Andhra background. Quoting from "National spelling bee ends in a tie for third consecutive year" (USA Today, 5/27/16): For the third year in a row, the […]

Participle physics

Q: What parts of speech are the present participles in these sentences? (1) “He saw his sister walking along the road.” (2) “I go running once a week.” A: First, a little background. A present participle, the “-ing” form of a verb, can play many different roles in a sentence—verb, adjective, adverb, and noun. As... ? Read More: Participle physics

Testing the critical literacy of voters, educators and…politicians?

While the Minister for Immigration and "Border Protection" has been scrutinising refugees' literacy and numeracy, the Australian Government has had its sight set on another group's abilities: Australia's pre-service teachers. Elisabeth...Show More Summary

Xi Jinping and his rookery

Bruce Humes saw this on NYT’s bilingual website in an article today entitled "China’s Leader Wears Many Hats, but Only One Jacket": In summer, Mr. Xi follows tradition and wears a long-sleeved white shirt and dark trousers when mixing with ordinary folks. When accompanying officials follow suit, as they often do, they call to mind a […]

The Fascinating Lexicography of a Dirty Adjective

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Sometime in the 20 th century, shit—having already long been a verb and then a noun—also became an adjective, as in He was a shit teacher or That restaurant has shit service. Show More Summary

The Great Fututiones Debate.

This is one of the best letter exchanges I’ve seen. Here’s the intro: “It is not easy to write a Life of Catullus”, Helen Morales observes in the TLS of April 22. Nor, apparently, is it a straightforward matter to translate him. Professor Morales was reviewing two books, Daisy Dunn’s Catullus’ Bedspread: The life of […]

The embrace of algae

Apparently being covered in pond slime can be a Good Thing: That's an advertisement in the elevator at the LREC 2016 site. The legend sounds like a chapter heading from a dystopian SF novel, but apparently it's an experience worth 46,80 €.

10th blogiversary

Happy 10th blogiversary to me! (The internet tells me it's spel{led/t} with one 'g'.) BEFORE (ISH) I hope that it also counts as 10 happy years of Separated by a Common Language for you!It has been and continues to be an fantastic ride. Show More Summary

Goads

Gifford Haddock asked about a word that appears in Acts 26:14. The word is goads, and it appears in this context: “ And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you...Show More Summary

Thanks to Deb Amlen for the very nice shootout about my book in the New York Times crossword blog! https://t.co/uqpcYdk59z

Thanks to Deb Amlen for the very nice shootout about my book in the New York Times crossword blog! https://t.co/uqpcYdk59z Thanks to Deb Amlen for the very nice shootout about my book in the New York Times crossword blog! https://t.co/uqpcYdk59z — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) May 25, 2016 http://twitter.com/GrantBarrett/status/735606162062749697

Writing Shanghainese

The recent discussion of different ways of writing Chinese reminded Jeff K of two books of Shanghai expressions that he had come across.  See here for scans of a few pages. The first only provides English and Chinese characters (Hanzi), and is nearly useless for anyone who wants to learn to actually speak the Shanghai […]

A blessing of air travel is a layover in Austin in which you are permitted to disembark and get some barbecue. Airport BBQ beats no BBQ.

A blessing of air travel is a layover in Austin in which you are permitted to disembark and get some barbecue. Airport BBQ beats no BBQ. A blessing of air travel is a layover in Austin in which you are permitted to disembark and get some barbecue. Airport BBQ beats no BBQ. — Grant Barrett […]

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