Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3800
Posts / Week:8.8
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Bad of shape

Josh Marshall, "Prep for the Overshoot", TPM 4/19/2016 (emphasis added): [P]eople had convinced themselves last week that Trump was basically done – largely on the basis of a few bad news cycles and a big loss in Wisconsin. As long as he didn't get to 1237, he was toast. But Wisconsin was obviously an outlier. […]

"Dangerous love"

In China, you may be breaking the law if you date a foreigner for the purpose of learning their language. On April 15, China observed its first annual National Security Education Day with the distribution of propaganda materials, delivery of speeches, and other activities designed to raise awareness of security issues.  A centerpiece of the campaign […]


A lovely example of a Fay-Cutler malapropism, i.e. a lexical substitution error: Your browser does not support the audio element. I think what I want to do is I want to talk just for second I wrote this out and it's very close to my heart because I was down there and I watch our […]

Debate words

As I mentioned a few days ago ("More political text analytics", 4/15/2016), I've now got more-or-less cleaned-up text from the 21 debates held so far in the current U.S. presidential campaign. If we focus on the contributions of  the five remaining U.S. presidential candidates to those 21 debates, we get 199,188 words in total, divided up like this: […]

Old Sinitic reconstructions and Tibeto-Burman cognates

[The following is a guest post by Tsu-Lin Mei.] —————- The Old Chinese reconstruction of Gong Hwang-cherng and James Matisoff is not only internally consistent, but can be shown to have a Tibeto-Burman counterpart through Sino-Tibetan...Show More Summary

When did "a thing" become a thing?

Alexander Stern, "Is That Even a Thing?", NYT 4/16/216: Speakers and writers of American English have recently taken to identifying a staggering and constantly changing array of trends, events, memes, products, lifestyle choices and phenomena of nearly every kind with a single label — a thing. In conversation, mention of a surprising fad, behavior or […]

Trump® brand insults

The first two panels of today's Doonesbury: Previous coverage of this issue: "The Trump Insult Haiku", 2/29/2016; "Trump reviews", 3/17/2016.


Today's Dumbing of Age: I recognize the pronunciation represented by "I'unno", I think — it involves lenition of the intervocalic /d/ to the point where there's no actual tongue-to-palate contact, though (at least in my productions) I think there's still a desultory wave of the tongue in the general direction of a consonant. I'unno if […]

Ask Language Log: German restaurant-name zum?

From Aaron Powell: I woke last night with a minor bout of food poisoning and spent some time catching up on Language Log to distract myself,and it occurred to me that you might be able to explain a German linguistic phenomenon that I don’t understand.  I have recently moved from the USA to Vienna, Austria […]

More about UM/UH on the Autism Spectrum

At a workshop in June, a group of us will be presenting a report that includes this graph: The x axis is the relative frequency of "filled pauses" UM and UH, from 0% to 8%, and the y axis is the proportion of filled pauses that are UM, from 0% to 100%. The individual plotting […]

Rhetorical reviews

Negative reviews of Donald Trump's rhetorical style are all over the place. A small sample might start with Gary Schmidgall, "What would Shakespeare make of Trump?", The Chronicle Review 2/7/2016: The current campaign’s race to the bottom of the rhetorical barrel, of course, has been led by Donald Trump. Did you know "trumpery" was Shakespeare’s […]

Language and identity

Rebecca Tan, "Accent Adaptation (On sincerity, spontaneity, and the distance between Singlish and English", The Pennsylvania Gazette 2/18/2016: The most difficult thing about speaking in a foreign country isn’t adopting a new currency of speech, but using it as though it’s your own—not just memorizing your lines, but taking center stage and looking your audience […]

Sentence meaning and speaker meaning

Today's Zits: The protean nature of dude interpretation has become a comics cliché — for a half dozen earlier examples, see "Dude", 12/8/2004 "Dude, no way", 12/9/2004 "Duding out", 12/10/2004 "More dudism", 10/26/2008 "Dude unbound",...Show More Summary

"Wasn't most certainly not resorting"?

Amanda Marcotte, "Just like a Bernie Bro, Sanders bullies Clinton: Brooklyn debate confirms Sanders campaign is sticking by sexist ambition witch stereotype", Salon 4/15/2016 (emphasis added): Sanders made it clear that he wasn’t most certainly not resorting to inarguably sexist attacks on Clinton’s intelligence. Show More Summary

More political text analytics

I spent a few minutes this morning getting transcripts for all 12 Republican and all 9 Democratic debates, and over the next few days I'll do some additional Breakfast Experiments™ on the results. One trivial thing is a complete type-token plot, from texts constructed by concatenating all the transcript pieces attributed to each remaining candidate […]

Head shop

Here is a nice piece of Japanglish from Joseph Williams: As you can see, this Japanese sportswear store (close to Ueno Park in Tokyo) translates honten ?? ("main shop; flagship store") as "head shop," which in English means a place to buy drug paraphernalia. There were no bongs for sale.  Looking on Google, Joseph found that this mistake […]

Manchu illiteracy

Devin Fitzgerald, who works on Qing manuscripts at Harvard, posted an image on Twitter showing some of the difficulties that pre-conquest Qing archivists had with Chinese characters: Devin notes:  "The corner has the first lines of the B?i ji? xìng ??? ("Hundred Family Surnames").  Here are the first eight surnames, in two rows of four […]

Prolific code-switching in Vietnamese

Michael Rank writes: I'm intrigued by a sign in the window of a Vietnamese restaurant in Shoreditch, ultra-hipster area of east London which also has lots of inexpensive, unpretentious (mainly) Vietnamese restaurants. I don't know any Vietnamese, I assume Can Tuyen (please forgive lack of diacritics) means "wanted" or "job available" or similar and that […]

Singular They of the day

Today's Questionable Content: I think we've reached the point where no one who reads this web comic regularly would even notice. For more on those who would, see "Linguistic Reaction at the New Yorker", 3/8/2016.  

Misnegations, or scribal errors?

JVB wrote to point out that there's apparently an extra negation in a quotation presented in a current New York Time book review (Janet Maslin, "‘Maestra,’ a Novel of Sex, Murder and Shopping', 4/12/2016, emphasis added): “Maestra” is the work of L. S. Hilton, who is otherwise the British historian Lisa Hilton, but wanted to […]

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