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Linguistic pseudoscience in the breakup of Serbo-Croatian

I’m all too familiar with Romania and its dacomania, and I’ve read a great deal about Albania’s insistence on a glorious Illyrian past in order to present itself as a proud and stately nation today. But reading Greenberg’s Language and...Show More Summary

Alphabet Is the Worst Name the New Google Could Have Called Itself

In a surprise Monday statement, Google announced it will subordinate itself to a newly created parent company named Alphabet, whose holdings will include former Google departments like its experimental research and fiber optics arms....Show More Summary

Is Watching Foreign Language Movies a Waste of Time?

In the world of language learning folklore I often hear that foreign language movies are a golden ticket to fluency. But are foreign language movies really a great way to learn a language? Or are they a big waste of time? Let’s takeShow More Summary

Language Capital Project

Some of the Wisconsin Englishes folks have talked off and on about doing maps of 'linguistic resources' in communities, figuring out where different languages are used in businesses and community organizations, for instance. Turns out that Tucson is ahead of Wisconsin... Show More Summary


In the online newspaper, Politico, Jules Johnston has an article about new German words coined by youth: "In the words of young Germans, just ‘merkeln’ " (8/3/15) The German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt came up with the idea seven years ago to create a list of new words and expressions invented by teens by selecting the “Jugendwort” (Youth Word […]

Syriac Resources Online.

Another great online find:, “An annotated bibliography of Syriac resources online.” From the About page: Welcome to! This site is a comprehensive annotated bibliography of open-access resources related to the study of Syriac. [...] It was not that long ago that people interested in Syriac studies who did not have the good fortune […]

40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally

It’s a piece of cake. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. Why add fuel to the fire? Idioms are those phrases that mean more than the sum of their words. As our Open Translation Project volunteers translate TED Talks into 105 languages, they’re often challenged to translate English idioms into their language. Which made us [ … ]

Words have impact: language & Indigenous issues

What to Andrew Forrest, Adam Goodes, and South Park have in common? Alexandra Marley explains how all three can teach us about language choice surrounding Indigenous issues.


Julian Harrison, "Help Us Decipher This Inscription", British Library Medieval Manuscripts Blog, 8/3/2015: Visitors to Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy may have noticed that we have one or two objects on display, in addition to the many manuscripts and documents telling Magna Carta's 800-year-old story. One of those objects is a double-edged sword, found in […]

A pronouncing primer

Q: I pronounce “primer,” the textbook, to rhyme with “trimmer.” But people I otherwise admire pronounce it to rhyme with “timer.” May I harbor ill will against them? Or are they simply using an acceptable alternate pronunciation? A: The word for the elementary textbook was pronounced with a short “i” (rhyming with “trimmer”) when it... ? Read More: A pronouncing primer


Today's PhD Comics: Interesting that we haven't seen "datums", like "spectrums" and so on.

Russians in America: The Third Wave.

Professor Thomas Beyer of Middlebury has a very useful website, Russians in America: The Third Wave. His front page begins: In 1972 Joseph Brodsky (????? ????????) leaves the Soviet Union and comes to settle in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the previous year Carl and Ellendea Proffer found Ardis and would begin publishing Russian Literature Triquarterly. […]

All other parents in the animal kingdom would have already murdered their offspring for blowing a tuneless flute throughout the store.

All other parents in the animal kingdom would have already murdered their offspring for blowing a tuneless flute throughout the store. All other parents in the animal kingdom would have already murdered their offspring for blowing a tuneless flute throughout the store. — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) August 9, 2015

Algerian Arabic in schools? More smoke than fire

Conveniently distracting public attention from the recent assassination attempt on the president's brother and the continuing drop in oil prices, Algeria's Minister of Education, Nouria Benghebrit, has recently provoked a stormy debate by announcing that preschool, 1st grade, and 2nd grade would from now on be taught partly in local dialects. Show More Summary

Can two kids change Algerian Arabic? (Probably not, but let's see.)

In central Algerian Arabic, feminine nouns are usually marked by a suffix -a, which becomes -?t when possessed. Pronominal possessors are indicated by suffixes, eg -i "my", -u "his". The lax vowel ? cannot occur in open syllables; when the suffix starts with a vowel, this is resolved by dropping it. Show More Summary

R?maji dialog between "bread" and "tea"

The following photograph shows a chalkboard sign inside of a Kobe cafe that is entirely written in r?maji (Roman letters), with superscript 2s representing reduplication: From a learned, senior scholar of Japanese literature: This is a very informal, vernacular sign. The speakers are "bread" and "tea." So I find it difficult.  You have to change […]


Calvin Ho sent in the following photograph: He asked an interesting question: Are there any other places in East Asia where a place name can consist of a single Chinese character? Granted, Otori is three syllables. No other contemporary East Asian city whose name consists of a single Chinese character leaps to mind, and I […]

How can you (not) help but (not) __?

Here's another example of the power of negation to confuse us –Jonathan Capehart, "Marco Rubio’s powerful American story", WaPo 4/14/2015: Rubio’s up-from-nothing life story is inspiring. “I live in an exceptional country where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who come […]

Evidence of Dependency Length Minimization.

Richard Futrell, Kyle Mahowald, and Edward Gibson have a new paper that looks intriguing: “Large-scale evidence of dependency length minimization in 37 languages” (published online before print PNAS, August 3, 2015, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1502134112);...Show More Summary

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