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A lovely example of a Fay-Cutler malapropism, i.e. a lexical substitution error: Your browser does not support the audio element. I think what I want to do is I want to talk just for second I wrote this out and it's very close to my heart because I was down there and I watch our […]


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Debate words

As I mentioned a few days ago ("More political text analytics", 4/15/2016), I've now got more-or-less cleaned-up text from the 21 debates held so far in the current U.S. presidential campaign. If we focus on the contributions of  the five remaining U.S. presidential candidates to those 21 debates, we get 199,188 words in total, divided up like this: […]

From Theater to Therapy to Twitter, the Eerie History of Gaslighting    

In the 1938 play Gas Light, a felonious man seeks to convince his wife that her mind is unraveling. When she notices that he’s dimmed the gaslights in the house, he tells her she is imagining things—they are as bright as they were before. Show More Summary

Old Sinitic reconstructions and Tibeto-Burman cognates

[The following is a guest post by Tsu-Lin Mei.] —————- The Old Chinese reconstruction of Gong Hwang-cherng and James Matisoff is not only internally consistent, but can be shown to have a Tibeto-Burman counterpart through Sino-Tibetan...Show More Summary

Old Sinitic Reconstructions and Tibeto-Burman.

A guest post by Tsu-Lin Mei at the Log describes work he has been doing on Tibeto-Burman cognates and Old Chinese: The work is quite interesting. It involves the internal history of the Tibetan language, internal history of Tibeto-Burman, etc. Some of these areas have been covered by James Matisoff, and others are terra incognita. […]

more on polite words and maths

It's been too long since I've posted here. And it will be a bit longer still. I'm currently in the US doing a tour of dictionary archives as part of my research for some on-going projects. Since I have limited time here, I'm workingShow More Summary

When did "a thing" become a thing?

Alexander Stern, "Is That Even a Thing?", NYT 4/16/216: Speakers and writers of American English have recently taken to identifying a staggering and constantly changing array of trends, events, memes, products, lifestyle choices and phenomena of nearly every kind with a single label — a thing. In conversation, mention of a surprising fad, behavior or […]

The well-tempered reply

Q: I once asked you about the epidemic of people on radio and TV who respond to a question by beginning the answer with “so.” You sent me to a post that says this use of “so” goes back to Shakespeare. You guys have everything so nailed, but whatever happened to the well-established, reply-greasing... ? Read More: The well-tempered reply

SLA 2016 Undergraduate Essay Contest

Society for Linguistic Anthropology 2016 Undergraduate Student Essay Contest Deadline:   June 30, 2016 Calling all linguistic anthropology undergraduates!  Do you have a stellar research paper that you would like to share with the wider...Show More Summary

Language and Identity.

Rebecca Tan’s “Accent Adaptation” (“On sincerity, spontaneity, and the distance between Singlish and English”) is an interesting account by a college student of her struggle with adapting her Singaporean style of speech to American norms: Every international student will surely find this idea of performance familiar. The most difficult thing about speaking in a foreign […]

Trump® brand insults

The first two panels of today's Doonesbury: Previous coverage of this issue: "The Trump Insult Haiku", 2/29/2016; "Trump reviews", 3/17/2016.


Today's Dumbing of Age: I recognize the pronunciation represented by "I'unno", I think — it involves lenition of the intervocalic /d/ to the point where there's no actual tongue-to-palate contact, though (at least in my productions) I think there's still a desultory wave of the tongue in the general direction of a consonant. I'unno if […]

Ask Language Log: German restaurant-name zum?

From Aaron Powell: I woke last night with a minor bout of food poisoning and spent some time catching up on Language Log to distract myself,and it occurred to me that you might be able to explain a German linguistic phenomenon that I don’t understand.  I have recently moved from the USA to Vienna, Austria […]

More about UM/UH on the Autism Spectrum

At a workshop in June, a group of us will be presenting a report that includes this graph: The x axis is the relative frequency of "filled pauses" UM and UH, from 0% to 8%, and the y axis is the proportion of filled pauses that are UM, from 0% to 100%. The individual plotting […]

Diglossia politics and the Algerian novel

For decades, Algeria has been characterised by a divide between "Arabophone" and "Francophone" intellectuals. The divide is drawn primarily according to which language they feel more comfortable writing in, but correlates rather well with political and cultural positions. Show More Summary

Rhetorical reviews

Negative reviews of Donald Trump's rhetorical style are all over the place. A small sample might start with Gary Schmidgall, "What would Shakespeare make of Trump?", The Chronicle Review 2/7/2016: The current campaign’s race to the bottom of the rhetorical barrel, of course, has been led by Donald Trump. Did you know "trumpery" was Shakespeare’s […]


An Adam Taylor story in the Washington Post, to be filed under “About time!”: Politicians in the Czech Republic are set to put decades of debate to an end this week by officially announcing a new name for the country: Czechia. In a meeting with reporters this week, Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said he supported […]

Language and identity

Rebecca Tan, "Accent Adaptation (On sincerity, spontaneity, and the distance between Singlish and English", The Pennsylvania Gazette 2/18/2016: The most difficult thing about speaking in a foreign country isn’t adopting a new currency of speech, but using it as though it’s your own—not just memorizing your lines, but taking center stage and looking your audience […]

Sentence meaning and speaker meaning

Today's Zits: The protean nature of dude interpretation has become a comics cliché — for a half dozen earlier examples, see "Dude", 12/8/2004 "Dude, no way", 12/9/2004 "Duding out", 12/10/2004 "More dudism", 10/26/2008 "Dude unbound",...Show More Summary

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