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Stone Service

I'm in Portorož, Slovenia, for LREC2016; and so far the most interesting linguistic aspect of the place is the sometimes-surprising mixture of languages on signs. For example: The longer explanation of the side of the van is in Slovenian — Restavriranje, brušenje, ?iš?enje in impregnacije naravnega kamna = "Restoration, grinding, cleaning and impregnation of natural […]

podex osculation = kissing ass

podex osculation = kissing ass podex osculation = kissing ass — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) May 22, 2016

Five Lost Languages Rediscovered in Massachusetts.

Jackson Landers of the Smithsonian reports on an exciting discovery: American history has just been slightly rewritten. Previously, experts had believed that the Native Americans of central Massachusetts spoke a single language, Loup (pronounced “Lou,” literally meaning “wolf”). Show More Summary

The uses of Hanyu pinyin

Hàny? p?ny?n ???? ("Sinitic Spelling") is the official romanization of the PRC.  It also comes with an official orthography which provides guidelines for word separation, punctuation, and how to deal with grammatical constructions.  An English translation of the basic orthographical rules by John Rohsenow can be found at the back of the various editions of […]

5 Reasons to “Fail Fast, Fail Often” in Your Language Learning

When you look back over your life, what stands out? I’m guessing it’s your achievements. Those small (and big!) successes that lead us to the bigger triumphs. Here’s the rub: by focusing on success, we gloss over our failures. Aren’t those important, too? I think failure is really important. Show More Summary

In Praise of the Long Sentence.

From Gerald Murnane’s “In Praise of the Long Sentence” (Meanjin, Autumn 2016), a crotchety but interesting essay: In 1986 I was invited, along with several other writers, to give a short talk at the Melbourne Writers Festival on the subject ‘Why I write what I write’. I was not surprised when the other writers talked […]


Today's Pearls Before Swine explores the consequences of flapping and voicing in American English:

Grammatical error of the week

According to the 2016 Texas Republican Party platform (or more exactly, the "Report of the Permanent Committee on Platform and Resolutions as Amended and Adopted by the 2016 State Convention of the Republican Party of Texas"), Homosexuality is a chosen behavior […] that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, […]

Name chains in literature?

Barbara Phillips Long sent in a link to Cari Romm, "Why You Sometimes Mix Up Your Friend’s Name With Your Dog’s Name", New York Magazine 5/19/2016: Every so often, my mother, in a mental search for my name, will run through what seems like the entire family tree — she’ll say the names of my brother, her […]

Translate These Books!

Will Firth, a translator from Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Macedonian, has posted “10 Books by Women We’d Like to See Translated: Balkan Edition.” I love this sort of thing, and the books sound interesting; two that particularly struck my fancy: CROATIA Hodler en Mostar (Hodler in Mostar), Spomenka Štimec (Edistudio, 2006) This historical novel is partly […]

The 2016 Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge needs you! Every year since 2005, an ad hoc group of speech technology researchers has held a "Blizzard Challenge", under the aegis of the Speech Synthesis Special Interest Group (SYNSIG) of the International Speech Communication Association. Show More Summary

Writing Sinitic languages with phonetic scripts

This morning I was awakened by a bird calling outside my window, "mllny mlrky", or maybe it was some squirrel chattering (I was half asleep and couldn't be sure which it was).  Since I was unable to distinguish the vowels clearly, I couldn't tell exactly what the call / chatter was, but the bird / […]

A slave named Smith

Q: Why is “Smith” more common than “Cooper,” “Potter,” “Weaver,” and other names derived from occupations? A: “Smith” is the most common family name in the US, according to the 2010 census. Why is it more common than some other surnames derived from occupations, such as “Cooper,” “Potter,” “Weaver,” and so on? Well, the word... ? Read More: A slave named Smith

Needless words

I know I've been a long-time critic of everything in The Elements of Style, not least William Strunk's platitude that you should omit needless words. "Needless" is not defined even vaguely; nobody really writes in a way that sticks to the absolute minimum word count; and if neophyte writers could tell what was needless they […]

Corpus Corporum.

From the About page: The site is a Latin text (meta-)repository and tool under way of development. Users should take into account that some functions do not yet work satisfactorily. This Corpus Córporum is being developed at the University of Zurich under the direction of Ph. Roelli, Institute for Greek and Latin Philology. The […]

Political TV Ad Archive

The Political TV Ad Archive: The Political TV Ad Archive is a project of the Internet Archive. This site provides a searchable, viewable, and shareable online archive of 2016 political TV ads, married with fact-checking and reporting citizens can trust.  Political TV ad spending is expected to be in the billions. Yet the same local […]

Why She Learned Korean.

This BBC story is a very interesting account of why Deborah Smith, who translated Han Kang’s prize-winning novel The Vegetarian, learned the language: Smith, whose only language was English until she was 21, decided to become a translator on finishing her English Literature degree having noticed the lack of English-Korean translators. She said she was […]

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