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The Unglamorous Side of Being a World Traveler

“I wish I could travel all the time – it seems like a dream come true!” I read something along these lines on Quora the other day, and all I could think while reading it is that while travel is one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in my life, travelling ALL THE TIME is […]

Baby blues

Post by SAFM. My impression is that this kid has grasped the pattern of how vocals typically fit into the 12-bar blues form — when I have a spare hour, I'll compare his distribution of vocal syllables to those of some masters of the genre.

Oh my melon!

Bryan Van Norden is a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University this semester, and he ran across an interesting bit of language play. Below is a still (taken with his cell phone) of a television commercial currently running in the PRC. It is for a watermelon juice drink. As you can see, the tag line is […]

Zombie hypotheses and the Zeitgeist

Everything I've been saying for the past 3 posts is basic textbook stuff, reflecting a stable consensus among Semitic historical linguists over, oh, the past two centuries or so. Why, then, is this zombie hypothesis that Levantine Arabic...Show More Summary


I remember Apple's Mother's Day advertising campaign for the iPad Air and iPad mini last spring:  "A gift Mom will love opening. Again and again." I only found out yesterday, in this article, that the Mainland Chinese translation of this tagline is the following: Ràng m?m? k?ix?n de l?wù, k?ile yòu k?i. ????????,????. The grammar […]

What you missed: The best language news/links over the summer

How’s your summer been? I have been (and still am) travelling almost every single day to encourage language learners one-on-one, but I know a lot of you have had your own language projects to keep you busy! Since you may not have been browsing the Internet as often with so much sunshine to soak up, […]

Sanskrit resurgent

When I was studying Buddhism at the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1967-68, there were about ten students in my first-year Sanskrit course for Buddhologists and Indologists.  What intrigued me greatly was that there was another beginning Sanskrit course being offered at the same time.  It had many more students than the class I was […]

"Spastic" and a different kind of "word crime"

Weird Al Yankovic's new song "Word Crimes" has generated a lot of heated discussion among linguists and other descriptivist types who didn't take kindly to its litany of language peeves — satire or no satire. (See my original post and Lauren Squires' guest post for extended discussion.) But in detailing various "word crimes," Weird Al […]

Surf’s up in Rivendell

So you know that whole thing about how the elves in The Lord of the Rings are all, so, we’re getting in our fancy boats and sailing off into the sunset on our exclusive party cruise? Well, they said that’s what they were doing, but I think “west” must be code for “settling down in […]

How to Start Learning a New Language (Right Now. Today. Seriously).

Let me ask you a question: If you really wanted to learn a new language, what would you be doing right now to make that happen? The thing with language learning, and really with any goal or desire we have in life, is that we spend a lot of time thinking about what we want and talking about […]

Word Crimes

For his new album Mandatory Fun, Weird Al Yankovic has crafted the ultimate peever's anthem: "Word Crimes," to the tune of last summer's big hit, "Blurred Lines." It's a cleverly composed parody, despite the inevitable "cunning linguist" joke: I hate these word crimes You really need a Full-time proofreader You dumb mouthbreather Well, you should […]

How to travel the world for life (and work while you travel)

In the 21st century travelling the world for cheap is more than possible. In this post I summarized everything you need to know about finding affordable flight tickets, accomodation, working abroad and enjoying life to the max. Click here to....

Zahir on Lushootseed.

A correspondent writes: “Here are a couple of videos from a guy I’m a big fan of, Zeke Zahir, a speaker of Puget Sound Salish (Lushootseed).” The first is a thirteen-minute talk by Zahir (his father was from Afghanistan) about how he came to learn Lushootseed (x??lšucid) and discussions he had with Vi Hilbert (taq?š?blu), […]

Introducing: Speak in a week free crash course (+ hundreds of inspirational speak-on-day-1 videos)

Time for a big and really cool announcement! Yesterday, HUNDREDS of people started a new language project and posted a video of themselves speaking their new language on day 1. Why? Because I just created a (completely free) video course on how to start a new language from scratch and have a conversation within a week. […]

From Figuig to Igli: Berber in the Algerian-Morocco borderland

The number of good Berber descriptive dictionaries has been slowly but steadily increasing in recent years, but Hassane Benamara's new Dictionnaire amazigh-français : Parler de Figuig et ses régions (Rabat: IRCAM, 2013), which I was lucky enough to be lent a copy of lately, is surely one of the best. Show More Summary

6 biggest lessons from learning to speak my first non-native language [Final video] Time for the final update on Lauren’ss 6-week-challenge! She successfully completed her mission, and was able to socialize, make new friends, and have fun in Esperanto. You can see it all happen in the above video. I’ll hand the blog over to her, to share her thoughts: The 6 biggest lessons from learning to […]

Real fry

You'll search Google News in vain for stories about most technical terms in phonetics — no recent coverage of lenition, for example — but "vocal fry" has been prominent in the popular press for several years. Despite all the coverage, many people seem to be unclear about what it is and where it comes from […]

A Blast (of Steam) from the Past.

One of the books I’m reading very slowly, a bit at a time (usually at bedtime), is Yuri Fedosyuk’s ??? ????????? ? ?????????, ??? ???????????? ???????? ???? XIX ???? [What we don't understand in the classics, or An encyclopedia of Russian daily life in the nineteenth century] (see LH posts from 2004 and 2013), and […]

New vocal fry culprit

Jen Olenizcak, "Are Spanx Causing Vocal Fry?", Huffington Post 6/17/2014: New Yorkers are incredibly tense. Articles have been written about our anxiety issues — most adults are incredibly tense. And the butt tension! I hear so many pinched, throaty Kardashian voices, and when lamenting about the correlation I saw between this body image pulling-it-all-in problem […]

Football vs. Soccer.

As an American, I think I’m fairly typical in not paying much attention to soccer except when the World Cup comes around every four years, at which point I root mainly for Argentina, where I went to high school — I’m pleased, of course, when the U.S. wins, but in men’s soccer they have little […]

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