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Slow-talking the inaugural

Before Donald Trump's speech yesterday, I wondered whether he would turn the political world upside down by delivering an improvised riff in the style of his campaign rallies. But no — his speech was scripted and read verbatim as written, although it featured several of the signature lines from his rallies, as well as the first use of […]


I occasionally take a whack at dumb, prejudiced, or ill-informed items relating to language, but it’s a side dish at LH. To the redditors at badlinguistics, it’s the whole menu, so if you have a hankering for mockery of things like “Italian is dying because people are using loanwords and not the subjunctive” or “A […]

How Adults Learn: 6 Important Things to Know

“I’ll never learn to run with the stamina of Paula Radcliffe, so why bother training for a marathon?” “I’ll never win a Nobel Prize in maths, so what’s the point of studying it at all?” “I’ll never play cello like Yo-Yo Mah, so I shouldn’t...Show More Summary

"Nothing could be further than the truth"

The linguistic highlight of Steven Mnuchin's confirmation hearing: Your browser does not support the audio element. The context: Your browser does not support the audio element. I'm eager to share with you why I believe I will serve well as America's next secretary of the treasury. But first I want to correct the record about […]

"Do I not like that"

Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72, after a long and varied career as a manager and coach of English football teams. But this is Language Log, not English Football Log, and so we'll leave the obsequies to others and focus on Mr. Taylor's best known quotation, "Do I not like that": Your […]

MLK day: Pitch range

In honor of MLK day, I've replicated something that Corey Miller did for a term paper in an introductory phonetics course in the early 1990s. The point of the exercise is that any given speaker can exhibit a wide variety of different pitch ranges. 25 years ago this was a somewhat complicated business, involving digitization of tape recordings, […]

Portuguese in 3 Months Mission: Day 0 Video

This an update to Holly’s Portuguese in 3 Months mission. In my last article, I introduced my three-month Portuguese mission. In this article, I’ll share the “Day Zero” video I made to kick off this project, as well as the first fewShow More Summary

Manchu film

Xinhua claims "Y?ngg? l?ng chuánqí ?????" ("Legend of Yingge Ridge") to be the first film in the Manchu language. I could only find this trailer for it on Tudou (Manchu speaking appears to start around 2 minutes in). The Tudou link doesn't work well, has too many intrusive ads, and requires Flash.  Use this YouTube […]

Kicks for Kooks

One of the things I didn’t mention in my review of John McWhorter’s Words on the Move was his use of minimal pairs to explore the vowels of English. A minimal pair is a pair of words or phrases that are identical in every aspect but one, chosen so as to illustrate how this one […]

Sesenta y Ocho Voces.

Another great language-preservation initiative, from Mexico, as reported by Andrew S. Vargas for Remezcla: Sesenta y Ocho Voces, Sesenta y Ocho Corazones (also known as 68 voces), is a new initiative from Mexico’s government Fund for The Culture and Arts (FONCA) that seeks to elevate Mexico’s 68 indigenous languages by preserving their myths, legends, poems, […]

Massive attack of mispronunciation

The People's Daily has published on its microblog (weibo) a long list of "easily mispronounced words".  As circulated on Sohu, the list was preceded by this subtitle:  kànle ji?nzhí bù g?n shu?huàle ????????? ("after you see it you simply won't dare to open your mouth"). In many cases, it's simply a matter of a difference […]

Vocative self-address, from ancient Greece to Donald Trump

Earlier this week on Twitter, Donald Trump took credit for a surge in the Consumer Confidence Index, and with characteristic humility, concluded the tweet with "Thanks Donald!" The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index for December surged nearly four points to 113.7, THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN MORE THAN 15 YEARS! Thanks Donald! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) […]

The study is also termed into many conclusion

Charles Belov was surprised by the featured story in the Health section of his Google New index. It was Chhavi Goel, "Surprising Theory About The Cats Which Make The Scientist Stunned", The News Recorder 12/26/2016: A theory which make the scientists and major medical team shocked came in front that your cat can also become the reason […]

I Went Looking For “The Good Ol’ Days.” It Took Me Back 5,000 Years.

This essay is adapted from the Pessimists Archive podcast, a show about technology and the history of unfounded fears. Subscribe on iTunes, or listen to the full audio version. Why Donald Trump won will be debated for generations, but we can all agree on one thing: Nostalgia is powerful. Show More Summary

"Arrival" gets the wug treatment

Linguists have been having a field day with the movie "Arrival" (see: "'Arrival' arrives"). From Ollie Sayeed on Facebook, here's a playful take on the shot of Louise Banks (Amy Adams) holding up a whiteboard with the word "HUMAN" for the aliens' perusal. If you're unfamiliar with Jean Berko Gleason's famous "wug test," check out […]

Language Learning via Robot.

Brett Henebery reports for The Educator (Australia) about a remarkable innovation: NAO robots, developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company, have been used for research and education purposes in schools and universities worldwide. Show More Summary

Some Dellys etymologies via Andalus

Looking through Corriente's etymological dictionary of Andalusi Arabic, I keep coming across explanations for obscure Dellys words whose origins had been a mystery to me. Corriente's etymologies are not always to be trusted - I've found...Show More Summary

choirs and preaching to them

I'm feeling a bit of pressure to put nice pictures at the start of my blog posts because the new homepage layout features whichever picture is first. Corpus tables make boring pictures, so I am using this as an excuse to share with you a delightful animation, Choir Tour: CHOIR TOUR from Atom Art on Vimeo. Show More Summary

The history of Trumpian "big league" (now even bigger league!)

Donald Trump, as we have discussed a few times now, is fond of using big league as a post-verbal adjunct, though it's often misheard as bigly. (See: "Bigly," 2/26/16; "The world wants 'bigly'," 5/5/16; "Don't let 'bigly' catch on," 10/18/16.)...Show More Summary

The making of a cinematic linguist's office

Ever since the first trailer for the upcoming science-fiction movie "Arrival" came out back in August, we here at Language Log Plaza have been anxiously awaiting more glimpses of Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who is called upon to communicate with aliens after they arrive on Earth. The final trailer of the film has […]

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