Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3928
Posts / Week:8.9
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

The extent of Melania's plagiarism

The Trump campaign officially maintains that there was no plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech at the Republican convention. In an astonishingly disingenuous remark, campaign chairman Paul Manafort said that "These were common words and values" and "To think that she'd be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy." But it is not words we are talking […]

Intersecting hypocrisies

Tuesday's political news was dominated by the discovery that Melania Trump's Monday-night convention speech copied a couple of paragraphs from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech (see here, here, here, and here for some discussion). And today, we learn that Donald Trump Jr.'s Tuesday-night speech borrowed some phrases from a 2015 article in The American Conservative. […]

Of shumai and Old Sinitic reconstructions

It's no secret that I'm a great fan of the AHD: "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition " (11/14/12) My devotion to AHD stems not just from its unparalleled inclusion of Indo-European and Semitic roots, but from its outstanding coverage of terms relating to Chinese languages and linguistics.  It was already […]


Ian Preston writes: Following on from your analysis of how `Brexit' ought to be pronounced, I thought I'd bring to your attention that there is a question as to how the new British Prime Minster's name is pronounced. I will admit to having been uncertain whether she was [t??ri?.z?] or [t??re?.z?]. I am not alone: […]

Is language "analog"?

David Golumbia's 2009 book The Cultural Logic of Computation argues that "the current vogue for computation" covertly revives an "old belief system — that something like rational calculation might account for every part of the material world, and especially the social and mental worlds". Golumbia believes that this is a bad thing. I have nothing to say here about the […]

Digital scholarship and cultural ideology

Daniel Allington, Sarah Brouillette and David Golumbia, "Neoliberal Tools (and Archives): A Political History of Digital Humanities", Los Angeles Review of Books 5/1/2016: Advocates position Digital Humanities as a corrective to the “traditional” and outmoded approaches to literary study that supposedly plague English departments. Show More Summary

Innocuous words that sound sexual

FLM writes: A colleague (who has request anonymity) and I have developed a fondness for perfectly innocuous words which, to the linguistically unwashed masses, sound sexual. My colleague's example sentence is Because her husband was intestate, she sought to dilate her fungible assets; despite cunctation for titivating, she managed to masticate and lucubrate far into […]

Freedom of speech vs. speaking rights

Bill Holmes, who is familiar with the language of Chinese law, writes: With greater frequency over the past ten-odd years, I have run across the phrase “???", typically in commentary on (more or less sophisticated) mainland websites. This phrase can be put into English, clumsily, as “speaking rights” — though I believe it extends to […]

Suspicious null objects in the news

Below is a guest post by Jason Merchant. There is an interesting grammatical point in an article in today's New York Times exploring some of the strands of support for Donald Trump, who has repeatedly been endorsed by racists, neo-Nazis, and their fellow travelers. In prior campaigns, such endorsements were typically followed by immediate and […]

How not to not write

The first of 14 tips from Zachary Foster ("How not to write: 14 tips for aspiring humanities academics", Times Higher Education 7/7/2016): Titles. Once upon a time, scholars thought titles should be succinct and descriptive. Now we know better. Show More Summary

More bovine excrement to rebut

Recently someone who runs some sort of online discussion forum wrote to ask me about the accuracy (or otherwise) of two bipartite claims. One said that "Language became prominent only after printed word entered our consciousness" and that "This caused the externalization and objectification of 'knowledge'," and the other said that in non-literate cultures "people […]

Learning to read and write Chinese

Responding to "How to learn to read Chinese" (5/25/08), Alex Wang writes: Thanks for the great blog.  I have also enjoyed the articles of David Moser.  My path toward your blog started when I decided to teach my younger son, 4, to start to read Chinese and English.  It also was heavily influenced by watching […]

Whodunit sociolinguistics

In order to pass the time on the long flight back from Paris, I downloaded a set of classic Margery Allingham mysteries. And in reading them, I was struck now and again by interesting and unexpected linguistic trivia. Thus in  Look to the Lady, 1931 [emphasis added]: Mr Campion was introduced, and there was a momentary awkward pause. A […]

Humor among the Finns

According to The Economist (July 9, 2016, "Just visiting" [p.30 in UK edition]), a joke was "making the rounds" in Finland back in 2008 when Russia invaded part of Georgia (and Finns aren't laughing at it quite so much since the Ukraine conflict flared up): Vladimir Putin lands at Helsinki airport and proceeds to passport […]

Spelling bees in the 1940s

[This is a guest post by Frank Southworth.  Since Frank is a linguist who specializes on South Asia, it has particular resonance with our long running series of posts on Indian dominance in more recent spelling bees.] In the spring of 1941, when I was in sixth grade, I was the spelling champion of Public […]

Translation variation

For the past week, I've been in Paris attending JEP-TALN-RECITAL 2016 ("31ème Journées d’Études sur la Parole — 23ème Conférence sur le Traitement Automatique des Langues Naturelles  — 18ème Rencontre des Étudiants Chercheurs en Informatique...Show More Summary

A confusion of languages and names

Xinjiang  ?? (lit., "New Frontiers / Borders / Boundaries") is the northwesternmost and largest (one sixth of the whole country) among all of China's 34 provincial-level administrative units.  It got its present official name in the 1880s under the Manchus during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), but it has also been called, among other names, "Western […]

Campaign for promoting falls awareness

The Health Promotion Board (B?ojiàn cùjìn jú ?????) of Singapore has launched a campaign to promote awareness of falling.  Here's the poster they circulated in conjunction with the launch: (Source) The poster quickly began to circulate on the internet, with people criticizing the Chinese translation as saying the opposite of what was intended.  (Note that […]

The Legend of Gnome Ann

Today's xkcd: Mouseover title: "President Andrew Johnson once said, 'If I am to be shot at, I want Gnome Ann to be in the way of the bullet.'" And there's plenty more Gnome Ann dicta where those came from; also here. Some of my favorites: Gnome Ann can serve two masters. Gnome Ann putteth a piece […]

Clamp down on English

In media reporting on current events in China, two of the most conspicuous terms one encounters are "clamp down" (q?dì ??, qi?b? ??, qiánzhì ??, etc.) and "crack down" (yánlì d?jí ???? / ???? [to show how different simplified and traditional forms of the characters can be]).  There are also numerous other similar terms with […]

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