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Clause attachment ambiguity

The newspaper headline interpretation confusion problem is usually associated with noun piles: "Coin change 'skin problem fear'", ""Ben Douglas Bafta race row hairdresser James Brown 'sorry'", "China Ferrari sex orgy death crash", and so on. But here's one that depends on ambiguity in the attachment of a pile-up of three headline-final subordinate clauses — Richard […]

Mirai

That's another Japanese word that you'll be learning. Here's why: That video was taken from this article by Stephanie Mlot in PCMag: "Toyota Fuel-Cell Car Expected Next Fall" (11/18/14). One thing I like about this video, in addition to the eye-popping car, is the fact that a Japanese man speaking with a noticeable accent stars […]

The chick(en) says ko-ko-de(k)

In Incredible Things, Brittany High has a very brief article entitled "This Chinese Music Video Is Every Kind Of WTF".  I think that, if you watch the video, you'll agree with her. Brittany writes: This is a batshit insane music video for the song “Chick Chick” by Chinese pop group Wang Rong Rollin. It makes […]

The Insular Islands

The most recent xkcd has the mouseover title I just learned about the Slide Mountain Ocean, which I like because it's three nouns that sound like they can't possibly all refer to the same thing. But it gets better — the extended Slide Mountain Ocean story line, known as the Omineca Episode,  includes the Bridge […]

Pizza and pasta, backwards and forwards

From Anne Henochowicz: Along with the photograph, Anne sent these paragraphs of explanation: DC's Chinatown is a joke–the original was moved from Pennsylvania Ave. for the construction of the Reagan Building, and then the Metro dealt the knockout blow sometime in the latter 20th c. The real Chinese communities in DC live in the suburbs: […]

English as ruby annotation for Chinese

Something very interesting is going on in this panel (as usual, click to embiggen): "Firstable", I have to explain where I got this image. It originally appeared at the top of this page as an advertisement for the Singles' Day Sale which takes place on November 11 every year. This year sales by the Alibaba […]

Names of Chinese birds

If you are a birder, you are in for a treat.  If you are a bird watcher who is particularly fond of Chinese species, you are in for a double treat. Craig Brelsford is a writer and editor living in Shanghai, China. Mr. Brelsford is currently creating the world's first photographic field guide to the […]

The sounds of weather

Since sound is just variation in ambient air pressure, you could think of speech as being like really fast weather in your mouth. I traditionally make a lame joke about this in Intro Phonetics, and the other day I decided to cash the humor in on some facts. Here are the past couple of weeks of […]

Xi Jinping: "when a car breaks down…"

Via Twitter, Matthew Leavitt asks Language Log what we think of the translation of Xi Jinping's metaphor:  “when a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to step down and see what the problem is.” This was spoken at a news conference during the Beijing summit between President Obama and Chairman Xi and […]

"Firstable"

Ryan Broderick,"People Are Actually Writing The Word 'Firstable' Online Instead Of 'First Of All': What has the internet done to our brains?".  In response, Ben Zimmer entered firstable in the Eggcorn Database, noting uses back to 1996:...Show More Summary

Jazz Dispute

Just in case you haven't seen this: [h/t Taylor Jones]

Not widely under-negated

Steve Benen, "The challenge of governing in a party of ‘knuckleheads’", MSNBC 11/12/2014: Two months later, the good news for the Speaker is that his majority has reached new heights. The bad news, the influx of knuckleheads will make Boehner’s job more difficult in ways that are not widely under-appreciated. The context makes it clear […]

Chinese characters and eyesight

There was an interesting article in the Economist a couple of day ago:  "Why So Many Chinese Children Wear Glasses" (11/9/2014) Myopia is epidemic in China, and the percentage of those with this affliction is increasing each year. Here are a few passages from the article that provide food for thought: The fastest increase is […]

Ignoble-ass citation practices

"The intensifier 'ass', in snippets", Improbable Research 11/3/2014: snippets journal publishes notes that contribute to the study of syntax and semantics in generative grammar. The notes are brief, self-contained and explicit. For an...Show More Summary

On thee-yuh fillers uh and um

Below is a guest post by Herbert H. Clark and Jean E. Fox Tree. In 2002 the two of us published a paper in Cognition called “Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking.” We argued that uh and um are conventional English words, but of a special type. Our hypothesis was this (p. 79): Filler-as-word […]

Pre-filled-pause lengthening

It's well known that syllables and words are longer before silent pauses, other things equal.  It makes sense that syllables and words would also be longer before filled pauses (UH and UM), but I haven't seen this explicitly noted or quantified. For a course assignment, I recently prepared an R-accessible version of  Joe Picone's manually-corrected word alignments […]

A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters

The following diary entry by an elementary school student is making the rounds in the Chinese media and in the blogosphere: Jacob Rutherford, who called this "trending post" to my attention, remarked: [It's] about a young girl from Fuzhou whose school received a visit from Xi Jinping. Besides the adorable message, it is more interesting […]

New Work on Ugarit.

Gregorio del Olmo Lete has a post at the blog of the American Schools of Oriental Research on “The Current State of Ugaritic Studies” (available to “Friends of ASOR”), with what looks like a pretty comprehensive bibliography; I’ll quote some of the description: Juridical and diplomatic texts and the diverse corpus of economic and administrative […]

The Oxford Linguistic History of English series lives on

Back in 2006, Oxford University Press published Don Ringe’s From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic, which was billed as the first volume in a new OUP series called A Linguistic History of English. That particular book wasn’t so much a history of the English language that we know as a reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European. Show More Summary

MUST and SHOULD figured out

Those of us trying to figure out the meaning of deontic modals, especially the distinction between weak and strong necessity, should just pack in and go on vacation. There’s an official RFC 1 that settles the issue. Scott Bradner, all...Show More Summary

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