Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4002
Posts / Week:9
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

The em-dash candidate

Daniel Libit, "Transcribers' agony: Frustrated not by what Trump says but how he says it", CNBC 8/15/2016: Few conventions in political campaign coverage are as straightforward and unassailable as quoting a public figure verbatim. After all, how can there be any doubt when you are putting down the exact words someone says? And yet, as […]

Blue domain

On 8/13/16, the Editorial Board of the New York Times published an editorial titled "China's Defiance in the South China Sea" that began with this colorful photograph: The caption beneath the photograph translates the wording on the billboard thus: "South China Sea, our beautiful motherland, we won't let go an inch" That's so wrong that […]

Go China

Jason Cox sent in the following very brief video from the USA-China basketball game at the Rio Olympics, showing a man holding a sign that says "Go USA". When he flips the sign, the other side reads: qù Zh?ngguó ??? ("go to China") If you want to know how to say "Go China" in […]

Jones and Palin on noun-pile headlines

From "Dr. Fegg's Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge", by Terry Jones and Michael Palin: [h/t Don Porges]

You know, I mean

Almost a decade ago, Matt Hutson asked me whether "there are underlying personality differences between people who punctuate (litter?) their speech with 'you know' versus those who use 'I mean' more frequently" ("I mean, you know", 8/19/2007). I wasn't able to offer any insight into personality associations, but looking in the LDC conversational speech corpus, […]

Pinyin memoirs

Chang Li-ching (my wife) wrote her childhood memoirs in Hanyu Pinyin (Romanized Mandarin): P?ny?n Rìjì Du?nwén (Pinyin Diary Essays). Li-ching specifically did NOT want her memoirs published in hanzi (Chinese characters).  She was passionately devoted to farmers and workers — like John DeFrancis — and she wrote her memoirs in Pinyin as a testimony of […]

Vaina == jawn?

Philly has jawn — see Ben Zimmer on "The Etymology of Jawn", or listen to this story from WHYY: According to Philly native Mary Seaborough, who works at Cook-Wissahickon elementary, where my kids attend school, "It really can mean anything you want it to mean."  Seaborough grew up in South Philly. She uses "jawn," and […]

Mo River Spengler

Rachel Kronick has a knack for finding strange foreign equivalents for Chinese toponyms on Baidu, China's foremost online encyclopedia.  See "The city of Mr. Andreessen, South Korea" (4/22/14). Now she has struck paydirt again with "Mo Ri River Spengler" for Mòrìgélè hé ????? in the Baidu encyclopedia. For Mòrìgélè hé ????? Google Translate has "Mo […]

Prosody posts

In the context of the current political season, I've started taking a look at rhetorical styles, including the aspects of rhythm, pitch, and voice quality for which linguists generally use the cover term "prosody". Our enormously over-long list of topic categories didn't include "prosody", so I've added it — and in the process of labeling […]

Furigana-like glossing in Mandarin

On Language Log, we have often touched upon the use of furigana ruby to gloss kanji (Chinese characters) for various purposes, most recently in the comments to "Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender " (8/9/16). Indeed, the use of furigana in Japanese is a truly interesting mechanism for presenting layers of meaning of a word […]

Pig Sanskrit

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu] Victor's recent analysis of a certain Antibacterial Lotion of Woman ("Know your bird", 7/29/16) made me wonder what other felicitous Chinglish its purveyors might have come up with. I'd like to report on one mysterious product I found. Although no Chinglish is involved, another language is, more […]

The Second Amendment people

The controversial words about the Second Amendment that Donald Trump uttered at a rally in North Carolina yesterday are as follows: Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish — the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick her judges… [long pause] Nothing you can do, folks. [long pause] Although the Second Amendment […]

"Love in Translation" (with footnotes)

In the Aug. 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Lauren Collins has a "personal history" piece entitled "Love in Translation" (subtitled, "Learning about culture, communication, and intimacy in my husband's native French"). It's very nicely written and will surely be of interest to Language Log readers. But Collins relies on some linguistic research without […]

Roman-letter Mandarin pronoun of indeterminate gender

From B JS: Some interesting uses of the Roman letter third person pronoun “TA” to sidestep genders associated with the characters t? ? ("he") and t? ? ("she"); it seems useful enough to perhaps become a permanent fixture in the language, in contrast to more faddish-seeming things like “duang” (see here and here).  I kind […]

Shoots flaming balls with reports

From Bill Benzon: "Flaming balls" and "reports" may very well be the standard technical terminology for the visual and auditory design features of roman candles. None of the rest of the visible text shows signs of translation problems. But still…

Into titties like right here in Detroit?

Matthew Cooper, "Full text of Donald Trump's prepared remarks to the Detroit Economic Club", Newsweek 8/8/2016: Addressing the Detroit Economic Club is a mainstay for presidential candidates, and Donald Trump put a unique stamp on the event Monday. No Republican nominee in decades has given such a blistering critique of free trade and none has […]

Mildew Country

Here is a photograph of some Chinese anti-American protesters from "The complete guide to China’s propaganda videos blaming the West for almost everything", by Zheping Huang, Quartz (8/8/16): What's going on with that transcription of the name for America? M?i(méi)guó ?(?)? Anybody who has taken first-year Mandarin will know that the Chinese name for America […]

Trump's prosody

Yesterday I showed a pitch contour from one of Hillary Clinton's speeches ("Political /t/ lenition", 8/7/2016), and promised to take a broader look at her characteristic prosodic styles. But today I'm going to feature one of Donald's prosodic stylings. From the Trump/Pence rally in Des Moines, Iowa, 8/5/2016: We're gonna use great business leaders ___to work […]

Political /t/ lenition

PolitiFact recently took up the case of a Donald Trump campaign video that shows Hillary Clinton apparently announcing her intention to raise middle class taxes (Linda Qiu, "Donald Trump wrongly says Hillary Clinton wants to raise taxes on the middle class", PolitiFact 8/5/2016). The crux of the matter is this passage. Your browser does not support […]

English "wine", French "vin", Spanish "vino"

Translators of Chinese poetry are tormented by how to render the term ji? ?.  The nearly universal English rendering of ji? ? in Chinese belles lettres is "wine".  The problem is that "wine" is fruit based (usually grapes), whereas ji? ? is grain based. This is a topic that has come up tangentially on Language […]

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