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Plebgate judgment

I spent Monday, November 24, in courtroom 13 of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. For a small part of that time, I testified as an expert witness; for the rest of the day, I was an interested spectator. What was the occasion? Peter Walker explains ("Andrew Mitchell and the Plebgate affair explained for non-Brits", The […]

you're welcome

I did two potentially (probably orig. AmE as adjective) fun things recently: I was interviewed for a famous (in one country) radio (BrE) programme/(AmE) show and I (BrE) went to the pictures and saw The Imitation Game. Potentially fun, and mostly fun, but not without worry and embarrassment.Let's start with the (orig. Show More Summary

Ingressive Speech.

A correspondent writes: “I use an ingressive sound when I say ja in Norwegian. I don’t have a sense of how common this is across the spectrum of languages, but it is absent in the other ones I speak.” He included a link to this The Local piece about the phenomenon in Swedish: Northern Swedes […]

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 […]

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 […]

Speed dating to save minority languages

There’s a art collective in Belarus that is offering speed dating evenings on the condition that all participants speak Belarussian, that minority language in its own country and one not much loved by the authorities. This news footage...Show More Summary

Singlish: The Singaporean English creole [video interview]

For the next few days, I’m in Singapore to host a language lab to train people to speak their target language on day one, and to sign copies of my book. I’m also using this visit to a country that speaks English as an official language, to investigate its other unique linguistic opportunities. In this […]

Happy 100th, John Berryman!

Sam Leith at the Guardian (this seems to be Guardian day at LH) has a wonderful appreciation of John Berryman, one of my favorite American poets, who would have turned 100 yesterday; as I told my brother, who sent me the link (thanks, Eric!), I have two copies of The Dream Songs (one of which […]

"Cantonese" song

This hauntingly beautiful song is the unofficial anthem of the Hong Kong democracy protest movement: The title of the song is "Boundless Oceans Vast Skies" (hoi2 fut3 tin1 hung1 ????) (" as boundless as the sea and sky; unrestrained and far-ranging"). It is performed by the Hong Kong rock band Beyond. This video brings tears […]

Kolmogorov.

I’m racing through Blindsight, by Peter Watts (grim and gripping, and recommended to sf fans… but the plural of plexus is plexuses, not “plexii,” for God’s sake — I just had to get that off my chest), and when “Kolmogorov complexity” was mentioned I thought “Surely that should be Kholmogorov?” Because ???? [kholm] is the […]

The D.C. Manual of Style and Usage.

As a copyeditor by profession, I love style manuals, especially when they’re not too hidebound and show their own sense of style. Submitted for your consideration, the D.C. Manual of Style and Usage of Washington City Paper; some of my favorite entries: D.C. Respect the periods! However, many organizations and campaigns don’t use the periods. […]

Farewell to Troubadour.

Seven years ago I sang the praises of Troubadour Books in North Hatfield (across the river from here); in 2010 I added an update saying that the store was moving to Hadley, where it would share a building with Grey Matter Books. (You can see the new bookstore in a 2011 video here: “Two Guys […]

Overtone singing

Anna-Maria Hefele: The fundamental frequency is about 273 Hz (which is a bit flatter than C#4), and as the spectrogram below shows, the "scale" that she sings picks out the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th harmonics (confusingly, these are the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th overtones, since the fundamental frequency […]

How do you get spoken practice in a less common language, when you can’t find native speakers?

On Monday (13th October 2014), I hop on a flight to Thailand – after which I’ll be hanging out in Asia for several months. Those of you subscribed to the email list will find out precisely where we go next, and what we’re doing, before anyone else But as you know, I’ve been very busy […]

Forget “learning a language.” Focus on forming the habit.

Meet Maneesh Sethi. Maneesh is a friend, an inventor, and a fellow language learner (he has been a DJ in Berlin, and spoken on stage in Italian, among other things) with a very particular passion… For years, he has been obsessed with solving the problem of maintaining motivation that we all face in trying to […]

Will learning new languages help you pick up girls?

Last summer, a huge publication asked if I would write an article for them about How learning languages will help you chat up girls. … As nice as it would have been to be in that big magazine, I said no thanks. Then, since it was just before the World Cup, they made me a […]

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

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