Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4799
Posts / Week:9.6
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Annals of singular their

"Officials: Flight in Vegas delayed by naked passenger", Washington Post (AP) 730/2017: Officials say a Spirit Airlines flight leaving Las Vegas was briefly delayed after a passenger removed all their clothes while boarding and approached a flight attendant. Show More Summary


Heather Murphy ("Scaramucci Did Not Invent the Word 'Paranoiac'", NYT 7/28/2017) quotes some tweets in which paranoiac "faced charges of being not being real" [sic], and comes to its defense with a link to a very interesting paper about a use of the word (but in Russian!) in 1927 — J. Kesselring, "Vladimir Mikhailovic Bekhterev […]

Learning to write Chinese characters

Following on yesterday's post ("The naturalness of emerging digraphia" [7/28/17]), Alex Wang tells me, "parents and supplementary educators often post photos like these on their WeChat moments".  Here's an example of one that he sent...Show More Summary

The naturalness of emerging digraphia

From David Moser: 8-year-old in Beijing pens heart-warming letter to dad's boss asking for time off in summer. Have you got a good work/life balance? #China — The Chairman's Bao (@TheChairmansBao) July 28, 2017 Filling in the missing Chinese characters (marked in red), which the little child didn't know how to write, here's the […]

Taking @#$%! from the WH Communications Director

Another milestone in the history of NYT editorial policy: Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, "Anthony Scaramucci’s Uncensored Rant: Foul Words and Threats to Have Priebus Fired", 7/27/2017: “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” he said. […] “I’m not Steve Bannon. I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. There's more "colorful […]

How rapidly and radically can a language evolve?

[This is a guest post by Alex Wang, a long-term resident of Shenzhen, China] I was wondering if there have been any studies on how readily a language can absorb new elements and features. Yesterday at the Pacific Coffee shop near where I live, by chance I struck up a conversation with a professor who […]


Pearls before Swine for 7/23/2017: A couple of Generation Z language consultants confirm the accuracy of the translations.

Chinese Synesthesia

Xiaoyan (Coco) Li, a native Chinese speaker with synesthesia (self identified, never formally tested), happened to come across this Language Log post: "Synesthesia and Chinese characters" (3/9/17) She wrote to me saying that she experiences...Show More Summary

English Verb-Particle Constructions

Lately I've been thinking about "optionality" as it relates to syntactic alternations. (In)famous cases include complementizer deletion ("I know that he is here" vs. "I know he is here") or embedded V2 in Scandinavian. For now let's consider the English verb-particle construction. The relative order of the particle and the object is "optional" in cases such […]

Gender, conversation, and significance

As I mentioned last month ("My summer", 6/22/2017), I'm spending six weeks in Pittsburgh at the at the 2017 Jelinek Summer Workshop on Speech and Language Technology (JSALT) , as part of a group whose theme is "Enhancement and Analysis of Conversational Speech". One of the things that I've been exploring is simple models of who talks when […]

Real life

Today's SMBC: For a more complex but pointed analogy, see "The Pirahã and us", 10/6/2007.

Comrades, "hike up your skirts for a hard shag"

President Xi Jinping is fond of calling on the Chinese people to "roll up our sleeves and work hard" (l? q? xiùz? ji?yóu gàn ??????? / ???????).  No sooner had Xi uttered this stirring pronouncement in a nationwide address at the turn of the year (2016-17) than it became a viral meme (here and here) […]

Unmasking Slurs

I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object […]

Response to Pullum on slurs

This is a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready in response to Geoff Pullum's post of July 10. My only role was offering in advance to post a reply if the authors would like me to. I'm a good friend of Geoff Pullum and a friend of the authors. What follows […]

Rescued debate

Yesterday Sharon Klein wrote to ask about the 2010 debate on Language and Thought hosted by The Economist: Some colleagues in other departments (notably in philosophy) have been asking to talk about the hypothesis, linguistic relativism, and the actual research around the issues. While I can (and have begun to) collect relevant papers for a […]

Helpful Google

The marvels of modern natural language processing: Michael Glazer, who sent in the example, wonders whether Google Translate has overdosed on old Boris and Natasha segments from Rocky and Bullwinkle: But it seems that the Google speech synthesis systems are not in on the fun, because if I accept Helpful Google's suggestion that I might […]

Annals of redundancy and masochism

Two gems from Chris Brannick via Facebook (the first is from the site of the Immortality Pills in Guangzhou and the second is from the Langham Place Hotel, also in Guangzhou): 1. yánjìn xiédài ???? ("it is forbidden to carry") wéijìn wùp?n ???? ("prohibited items") 2. x?ngshén zh? xu?n ???? ("wake up selection") d?ndi?n z?oc?n […]

Annals of poor translation

Below are two pages from the instruction book for a small point and shoot digital camera (the original in Chinese and the corresponding page translated into English). As you can see, the language display has a couple of strange choices. ji?n Zh?ng ?? ("simplified Chinese [characters]") fán Zh?ng ?? ("traditional Chinese [characters]") — fán ? […]

Serious earworm infection

I had heard "Let Me Love You" by D J Snake featuring Justin Bieber many times on the radio and was intrigued by several things: 1. Who / what is D J Snake? 2. In what way is the super famous Biebs "featured" on a record by a D J named Snake?  In other words, […]

Incrimination by presupposition? The Goldstone e-mail

Paul Kay offered the following item for discussion around the water cooler at Language Log central: Here's an excerpt from the initial email from Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump, Jr.: ?"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its  government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and […]

Copyright © 2015 Regator, LLC