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And, voilà, “wallah”!

Q: I’ve noticed the increasing use of “wallah” for “voilà” in speech and writing. I suppose this because Americans are ignorant of other languages, and so use an American English pronunciation and spelling for foreign-sourced words.Show More Summary

Phonics and whole word teaching in Algeria

Just about every parent I've spoken to in Dellys is concerned one way or another about the direction the educational system has been going – over-complex curricula, excessively heavy backpacks, extramural tutoring, discipline, class sizes... Show More Summary

The Second Amendment people

The controversial words about the Second Amendment that Donald Trump uttered at a rally in North Carolina yesterday are as follows: Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish — the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick her judges… [long pause] Nothing you can do, folks. [long pause] Although the Second Amendment […]

Relative Clauses, Complex Passives, and Rainbow Farts

I was reading an article in one of the issues of New Scientist magazine that that tend to accumulate around here, and came across this sentence: The benefits of unsaturated fats, traditionally seen as good for the heart, may vary due to their omega-3 content, which is thought could have anti-inflammatory effects. It seemed to […]

The Witness Set Constraint

I’ve written a short, technical paper in response to Jordi Fortuny’s just published Journal of Semantics paper “The Witness Set Constraint”: von Fintel, Kai. 2016. A problem with Fortuny’s Witness Set Constraint. http://semanticsarchive.net/Archive/jdiOWUzY/kvf-witness.pdf. Here’s...Show More Summary

"Love in Translation" (with footnotes)

In the Aug. 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Lauren Collins has a "personal history" piece entitled "Love in Translation" (subtitled, "Learning about culture, communication, and intimacy in my husband's native French"). It's very nicely written and will surely be of interest to Language Log readers. But Collins relies on some linguistic research without […]

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Evliya Çelebi.

A couple days ago it was J. D. Åkerblad, now it’s another of those multilingual, multifaceted travelers I occasionally encounter and can’t resist posting about: Edward White’s “Boon Companion” (at the Paris Review Daily) tells the tale of Evliya Çelebi and his Seyahatname. It begins: According to his own recollection, Evliya Çelebi, the seventeenth-century Turkish […]

How I turned my guerilla-style language-learning method into a course you’ll find in bookshops around the world

I learned my first foreign language, Spanish, mostly by hanging out with Erasmus students during the gap year I spent in Valencia, Spain. In other words, I learned Spanish through speaking it. My second language project was Italian. And I learned it quickly -- surprisingly quickly -- in just a few months while I worked at a Youth Hostel in Rome. Show More Summary

Donald Trump Swears ... a Lot. What's His Potty Mouth Really Saying?

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Donald Trump swears a lot, perhaps more than any other major presidential candidate in history. I’m not sure that should bother us. Most Americans swear now and then and plenty of us swear more than Mr. Show More Summary

Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender

From B JS: Some interesting uses of the Roman letter third person pronoun “TA” to sidestep genders associated with the characters t? ? ("he") and t? ? ("she"); it seems useful enough to perhaps become a permanent fixture in the language, in contrast to more faddish-seeming things like “duang” (see here and here).  I kind […]

Shoots flaming balls with reports

From Bill Benzon: "Flaming balls" and "reports" may very well be the standard technical terminology for the visual and auditory design features of roman candles. None of the rest of the visible text shows signs of translation problems. But still…

Movies Featuring Linguists, Linguistics and Languages.

At Language Crawler (“Crawling the Internet for news, books, videos & resources about languages & linguistics for linguaphiles, polyglots, and language lovers”): 25 Must-See Movies Featuring Linguists, Linguistics and Languages. “Must-See”...Show More Summary

Into titties like right here in Detroit?

Matthew Cooper, "Full text of Donald Trump's prepared remarks to the Detroit Economic Club", Newsweek 8/8/2016: Addressing the Detroit Economic Club is a mainstay for presidential candidates, and Donald Trump put a unique stamp on the event Monday. No Republican nominee in decades has given such a blistering critique of free trade and none has […]

Mildew Country

Here is a photograph of some Chinese anti-American protesters from "The complete guide to China’s propaganda videos blaming the West for almost everything", by Zheping Huang, Quartz (8/8/16): What's going on with that transcription of the name for America? M?i(méi)guó ?(?)? Anybody who has taken first-year Mandarin will know that the Chinese name for America […]

Trump's prosody

Yesterday I showed a pitch contour from one of Hillary Clinton's speeches ("Political /t/ lenition", 8/7/2016), and promised to take a broader look at her characteristic prosodic styles. But today I'm going to feature one of Donald's prosodic stylings. From the Trump/Pence rally in Des Moines, Iowa, 8/5/2016: We're gonna use great business leaders ___to work […]

An old usage risen from the dead

Q: In a usage that I hope is not becoming common, my 21-year-old grandson said he had “deaded” a former friend he had argued with. Are others using dead as a verb? A: Well, the usage is out there, and it occasionally shows up in print. Here’s an example from a brief item in the... ? Read More: An old usage risen from the dead

Johan David Åkerblad.

J. D. Åkerblad was one of those multilingual, multifaceted travelers I occasionally encounter and can’t resist posting about. “Johan David Åkerblad: Orientalist, Traveller, and Manuscript Collector,” by Fredrik Thomasson, a chapter from Travelling through Time: Essays in honour of Kaj Öhrnberg, ed. Show More Summary

Political /t/ lenition

PolitiFact recently took up the case of a Donald Trump campaign video that shows Hillary Clinton apparently announcing her intention to raise middle class taxes (Linda Qiu, "Donald Trump wrongly says Hillary Clinton wants to raise taxes on the middle class", PolitiFact 8/5/2016). The crux of the matter is this passage. Your browser does not support […]

English "wine", French "vin", Spanish "vino"

Translators of Chinese poetry are tormented by how to render the term ji? ?.  The nearly universal English rendering of ji? ? in Chinese belles lettres is "wine".  The problem is that "wine" is fruit based (usually grapes), whereas ji? ? is grain based. This is a topic that has come up tangentially on Language […]

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