Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3806
Posts / Week:8.8
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Grammatical error of the week

According to the 2016 Texas Republican Party platform (or more exactly, the "Report of the Permanent Committee on Platform and Resolutions as Amended and Adopted by the 2016 State Convention of the Republican Party of Texas"), Homosexuality is a chosen behavior […] that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, […]

Name chains in literature?

Barbara Phillips Long sent in a link to Cari Romm, "Why You Sometimes Mix Up Your Friend’s Name With Your Dog’s Name", New York Magazine 5/19/2016: Every so often, my mother, in a mental search for my name, will run through what seems like the entire family tree — she’ll say the names of my brother, her […]

The 2016 Blizzard Challenge

The Blizzard Challenge needs you! Every year since 2005, an ad hoc group of speech technology researchers has held a "Blizzard Challenge", under the aegis of the Speech Synthesis Special Interest Group (SYNSIG) of the International Speech Communication Association. Show More Summary

Writing Sinitic languages with phonetic scripts

This morning I was awakened by a bird calling outside my window, "mllny mlrky", or maybe it was some squirrel chattering (I was half asleep and couldn't be sure which it was).  Since I was unable to distinguish the vowels clearly, I couldn't tell exactly what the call / chatter was, but the bird / […]

Needless words

I know I've been a long-time critic of everything in The Elements of Style, not least William Strunk's platitude that you should omit needless words. "Needless" is not defined even vaguely; nobody really writes in a way that sticks to the absolute minimum word count; and if neophyte writers could tell what was needless they […]

Political TV Ad Archive

The Political TV Ad Archive: The Political TV Ad Archive is a project of the Internet Archive. This site provides a searchable, viewable, and shareable online archive of 2016 political TV ads, married with fact-checking and reporting citizens can trust.  Political TV ad spending is expected to be in the billions. Yet the same local […]

Wikipedia article length

For various reasons I recently downloaded snapshots of Wikipedia in various languages, and I'd like to share with you some discoveries, starting with article length in the English Wikipedia. As of the May 3 version, which comprises 5,110,263 articles, the longest article (at 50,122 words) is "California Proposition 218 (1996)". The top ten in terms of length […]

Too like the gender

Is this the future of English pronouns? Ada Palmer's Too Like the Lightning takes place in a world where he/she is as quaintly obsolete as thee/thou. From the book's opening: You will criticize me, reader, for writing in a style six hundred years removed from the events I describe, but you came to me for explanation of […]

Q. Pheevr's Law

In a comment on one of yesterday's posts ("Adjectives and Adverbs"), Q. Pheevr wrote: It's hard to tell with just four speakers to go on, but it looks as if there could be some kind of correlation between the ADV:ADJ ratio and the V:N ratio (as might be expected given that adjectives canonically modify nouns […]

Trump's nickname for me

…is "Tardy Mark", at least according to one roll of the dice by The Daily Show's Trump Nickname Generator: Trying it a few more times, I get "Deadbeat Mark", "Bad at Improv Mark", "Got Lost at Sea Mark", … But in fact there's a story behind "Tardy Mark". When I was in the first grade, I used to […]

Backward Thinking about Orientalism and Chinese Characters

 This is a guest post by David Moser of Beijing Capital Normal University For those of us who teach and research the Chinese language, it is often difficult to describe how the Chinese characters function in conveying meaning and sound, and it’s always a particular challenge to explain how the writing system differs from the […]

But what did they feed them?

Yesterday's version: Today's version has a different headline and picture:

Adjectives and adverbs

A puzzling note arrived in my inbox a few days ago: I came across an article you wrote about the use of adverbs and adjectives.  To count the use of adverbs and adjectives you actually wrote a program. Is this something you would be willing to share or give me some advice on how to create […]

Singlish: alive and well

We've mentioned that special brand of Singaporean English on Language Log from time to time, most recently just a few days ago: "New Singaporean and Hong Kong terms in the OED" (5/12/16) So what is it, really? Singlish is the English-based creole or patois spoken colloquially in Singapore. Although English is the lexifier language, Singlish […]

Two dozen, two thousand, whatever

For Times Insider, David W. Dunlap has an article about some of the more entertaining errors and corrections that have graced the pages of The New York Times: "The Times Regrets the Error. Readers Don't." Among the goofs is this one from a Q&A with Ivana Trump that appeared in the Oct. 15, 2000 New […]


Bruce Rusk thought Language Log readers might be interested in a bit of digraphia from Vancouver: an “escape room” company (on this phenomenon, see here), with several locations in Vancouver and its environs, uses the Sinograph ch? ? ("go out / forth; exit") in place of the letter E in its name, “?XIT” (where it […]

Ted Chiang uninvents Chinese characters

Yesterday morning on the commute to Penn, I was intrigued by a series of six articles in the latest New Yorker (5/16/16) that appeared under the rubric "Uninvent this":  Mary Karr on high heels, Charlie Brooker on dancing, Carrie Brownstein on conference calls, Lee Child on fiction, Alexandra Kleeman on mirrors….  When I reached the […]

Xy McXface

Yesterday Google announced the open-source release of SyntaxNet, an open-source neural network framework implemented in TensorFlow that provides a foundation for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) systems. Our release includes all the code needed to train new SyntaxNet models on your own data, as well as Parsey McParseface, an English parser that we have trained for […]

The shape of things to come?

Writing about Donald Trump's language, Ben MacIntyre ("Trump’s cleverest trick is sounding stupid", The Times 5/13/2016) brings in the usual suspects: Basic English, Flesch-Kincaid readability, "bigly". He starts this way: In 1930, the English linguist CK Ogden invented a pared down, simplified form of language as a tool for teaching English as a second tongue. […]

Democracy is not chicken nuggets

Kyle Gorman stumbled upon something strange happening to the Wikipedia article on "List of blacklisted keywords in China".  The first item under "General concepts" is mínzh? ??, which means "democracy".  However, what Kyle saw there as the definition yesterday was "chicken nuggets".  After he told me about it, I went there and saw the […]

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