Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4958
Posts / Week:9.7
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Semantics at the Supreme Court

“What is the difference between ‘reasonably necessary’ and ‘substantial need’?” asked Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (see this story in the New York Times). “I have been racking my brain trying to think of something that it is reasonably necessary for me to obtain but as to which I do not have the substantial need. […]

Headlessness in North Korean propaganda

[This is a guest post by Jichang Lulu] After coverage of dotage and DOLtage, as diagnosed by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Victor Mair's latest Korean-themed post deals with a more serious condition: headlessness. VarietiesShow More Summary

Keep on -inging

Jeff DeMarco writes: From a Facebook post (timeline) by a young woman in HK: ??ok ing ……???????? GT deftly translates it as karaoke ing. That's an interesting construction (where "k?l? ??" is a transcription for "kara"). My results with Google Translate differed: ??ok ing –> Karaoke (though it did list "Kara ok ing" as an […]

Mnozil Brass speak Mandarin

Listen to these Austrian fellows introduce themselves in Mandarin (from around :50 to around 2:00): All they say is "W? jiào X", but they mix up the tones in so many different ways, and their attempts to pronounce their Austrian names in a Mandarin fashion are so cute that the audience erupts in laughter again […]

Headline puzzle of the week

Vic Marks, "No Stokes is not no Ashes hope if England stick together in Australia", The Guardian 10/29/2017. Taking into account the Guardian's headline register, and decoding the article to some extent, I conclude that the intended analysis ain't no negative concord. Rather, the structure is [[No Stokes] is not [no Ashes hope]] [if England […]

Is there a practical limit to how much can fit in Unicode?

A lengthy, important article by Michael Erard recently appeared in the New York Times Magazine: "How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets:  Do the volunteers behind Unicode, whose mission is to bring all human languages into the digital sphere, have enough bandwidth to deal with emojis too?" (10/18/17) The […]

Blue Cell Dyslexia

An article about dyslexia appeared last week in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society B (“The [British] Royal Society's flagship biological research journal, dedicated to the fast publication and worldwide dissemination of high-quality research”).  A week is a long time in blog-years, I know, but impact of the article is rippling far and wide. […]

Varieties of Mandarin

Speakers of Northeastern / Dongbei topolect and Putonghua (Modern Standard Mandarin) speaking very common equivalent expressions and holding up cards with the written forms of what they are saying: More Summary

You need to know something

I'm happy to see that Google Translate is still turning (many types of) meaningless character sequences into spoken-word poetry. Repetitions of single hiragana characters are an especially reliable source — here's "You need to know something": And "I feel a strange feeling": And "Stay free to leave": Repeated combinations also often work — here's repetitions […]

Correction of a public sign

Photograph taken by Adrian Thieret in Shanghai (Pudong) about a month ago. The writing on the sign says, from the top to the bottom: z?n dé sh?u l? ???? ("abide by morality and propriety") Zh?ngguó mèng ??? ("China's dream") w? de mèng ???("my dream") y?ngyú pò mèng ???? ("be brave in pressing close to [your] […]

Lin Tianmiao's "Protruding Patterns": sexism in Chinese characters

Article by Sarah Cascone in Artnet (October 16, 2017): This Artist Gathered 2,000 Words for Women—and Now, She Wants You to Walk All Over Them:  Lin Tianmiao's installation at Galerie Lelong puts contemporary language on top of antique...Show More Summary

Transcripts not always accurate…

Matt Yglesias, "Trump’s latest big interview is both funny and terrifying", Vox 10/23/2017: Bartiromo is an extraordinarily soft interviewer who doesn’t ask Trump any difficult questions or press him on any subject. That makes the extent to which he manages to flub the interview all the more striking. He’s simply incapable of discussing any topic […]

"Good morning" considered dangerous

Yotam Berger, "Israel Arrests Palestinian Because Facebook Translated 'Good Morning' to 'Attack Them'", Haaretz 10/22/2017: The Israel Police mistakenly arrested a Palestinian worker last week because they relied on automatic translation software to translate a post he wrote on his Facebook page. Show More Summary

Gender distinction in languages

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu] It may be true that the problem of gender inequality is more severe in East Asian countries than in European countries. However, in terms of languages, Indo-European languages actually distinguish genders while East Asian languages traditionally do not. I came across a historical fact that the Korean […]

Air quotes

From Bill Robertson: I’m reading my new copy of Soonish and came across a reference to air quotes and I got to wondering about the meme. I remember using them at least 30 years or more ago, entirely un-ironically. How does one go about looking up the history of such a thing? How would you […]

Voice recognition for inputting

When I'm with my sister Heidi, whether it be in Seattle or northeast Ohio or anywhere else in the world, she's often talking to Siri.  She asks Siri to look up information about trees, about food, about traditional medicines, about Yoga, about genealogy, and anything else she wants to investigate.  Above all, when we're driving […]

Sino-English grammatical hyper-redundancy

Adrian S. Thieret found this sign inside his brand new apartment complex in Shanghai a few days ago: It reads: x?y? fáng zhèngzài zhu?ngshì zh?ng -ing…… ????????ing…… ("the laundry room is being decorated") jìngq?ng qídài ???? ("coming soon", lit., "respectfully please wait expectantly") The excess of markers of the present progressive / continuous aspect in […]

"Let's" in Chinese

Advertisement recently spotted by Guy Freeman in the Central, Hong Kong MTR (subway) station: It's a mixture of Chinese and English, of simplified and traditional characters.  In this post, I will focus on the calligraphically written slogan on the right side of the poster: H?inèi cún 'zh?'j?, let's zh?fùb?o ????????let's??? This slogan is not easy […]

Guys and gals: Or, why the "Chinese" are called "Han"

In the comments to "Easy versus exact" (10/14/17), a discussion of the term "Hànzi ??" emerged as a subtheme.  Since it quickly grew too large and complex to fit comfortably within the framework of the o.p., I decided to write this new post focusing on "Hàn ? / ?" and some of the many collocations […]

Adverbial bravery

From Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything, by Kelly Weinersmith and Zack Weinersmith: Some background reading, to inspire further grammatical derring-do: "Those who take the adjectives from the table",...Show More Summary

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