Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3288
Posts / Week:8.3
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Are we Americans, Donald and I?

Under current law, Donald Trump and I are both American citizens by right of birth. Donald was born in New York City, and I was born in Middletown, Connecticut. But if birthright citizenship were retroactively revoked, it would take some archival research to determine our status, and (as I understand Mr. Trump's proposals about immigration reform) we […]

LSA Emmon Bach Fellowship Fund fundraising launch

The LSA has recently established a new charitable contribution fund in memory of Emmon Bach (June 12, 1929 – November 28, 2014). The announcement, and a link for making donations (online or by mail) is here. Quoting from the announcement page: This fund was established in consultation with Emmon’s families and close colleagues, and is […]

Another victim of oversimplified rules

On page 4 of the Metro newspaper today (I pick it up free on the bus, so the price is right) I read this sentence: A record number of companies has been formed by Edinburgh University in the past 12 months, taking the total created over the past five years to 184. Tragic. The writer […]

"Offhand impressions and grumpy peeves"

Steven Pinker, "On my radar", The Guardian 8/23/2015: 4|Website: Language Log. Do you notice grammar gaffes, wonder about the speech styles of celebrities, find yourself curious about the origin of new words and constructions? Language Log is the place to go for commentary by people who actually know their stuff – linguists and other language […]

Steampunk phonetics, con't

In Alexander J. Ellis's 1873 article "On the Physical Constituents of Accent and Emphasis", he asserted that there are "four principal matters to be considered in a sound-curve, which will be here called length, pitch, force, and form". Yesterday I quoted his oddly labored explanation of length, by which he means what we would now generally call "duration". […]

Trailing modifiers can be dangerous

Lamiat Sabin, "Man rattled by python found coiled up and hiding in his box of cornflakes", The Independent 3/9/2015. A man claims to have had a real-life kitchen nightmare after he saw a long coiled-up snake poke its head out of his box of cereal. Jarred Smith, 22, was making lunch on Tuesday when he […]

Steampunk phonetics

From the Transactions of the Philological Society, 1873-74, "VIII. — On the Physical Constituents of Accent and Emphasis: By Alexander J. Ellis, Esq., President": Phonoautographic Sound-curves. Any disturbance in the air produces a series...Show More Summary

The Humble Petition of WHO and WHICH

In 1711, long before E.B. White over-interpreted the Fowler brothers and sent out mobs of zombified prescriptivists to hunt down whiches, Joseph Addison gave us "The Humble Petition of WHO and WHICH", The Spectator 78: ' The humble Petition of WHO and WHICH, ' SHEWETH, ' THAT your petitioners being in a forlorn and destitute condition, know not […]

Modern English Grammar

Richard Hershberger, who usually writes about baseball, has a recent post at Ordinary Times about "Modern English Grammar": My post today is uncharacteristically devoid of baseball content. It is about grammar, one of my many unremunerative interests. Specifically it is about modern English grammar. I don’t mean by this (except incidentally) the grammar of modern […]

"… could have bore"

Brian Bender, "Former officials question Clinton's email defense", Politico 8/20/105: While sympathetic to the messy nature of the classification system, fellow diplomats and specialists say Clinton could have bore responsibility to flag sensitive material. Mr. Bender is not the first to construe "bore" as a past participle — the OED gives us 1769   L. Sterne […]

Non-programmer friendly

Brad DeLong linked to a paywalled Financial Times article by Lisa Pollack about problems with spreadsheet usage, and observed that [C]onsiderations like these make me extremely hesitant when I think of asking my students in Econ 1 next spring to do problems sets in Excel. Shouldn’t I be asking them to do it in R via R Studio or […]

Devilishly difficult "dialect"

Are some languages innately more difficult than others?  In "Difficult languages" (1/2/10), Bill Poser addressed this question from various angles.  I've heard it said that Georgian is incredibly difficult because it possesses an "impossible"...Show More Summary

What does "vocal fry" mean?

Julianne Escobedo Sheperd, "LOL Vocal Fry Rules U R All Dumb", Jezebel 7/30/2015: This week, in shit-hot stuff happening on the internet, once-great feminist pundit Naomi Wolf wrote a column about how vocal fry is Keeping Women Down, and then other women across the internet rebutted her, rightly positing that when your dads bitch about […]

Random readings

Three random things from my to-blog list — no time this morning for more — maybe some commentary later: Douglas Maurer, "Testing how well Google translate works for medical translation", iMedicalApps 8/12/2015 Matt Michel, "6 Reasons You Can't Trust Science Anymore", Cracked 8/13/2015 "Loaded Language", Boston Calling (BBC)  

German crime novels and high blood pressure

Don't jump to any conclusions based on the title.  This post is not about how reading German crime novels raises blood pressure.  Quite the contrary, it is about how reading German crime novels dramatically lowers blood pressure, at least for one of my friends. Most people treat their high blood pressure with one of the […]

The scandalous Ms. Jodelka

Filipa Jodelka, "The Scandalous Lady W: a disturbing tale of sex and sensibility", The Guardian 8/17/2015: When looking for evidence of the death of love, it’s normal to wheel out divorce stats, but the BBC’s newest period extravaganza tells a different story. A look at the nasty business between Lady Seymour Worsley, her lover George […]

Back to the Bushisms industry?

That's what David Donnell wondered about this article: Jack Shafer, "Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader", Politico 8/13/2015: Donald Trump isn’t a simpleton, he just talks like one. If you were to market Donald Trump’s vocabulary as a toy, it would resemble a small box of Lincoln Logs. Trump resists multisyllabic words and complex, writerly […]

Blooming, embellishment, and bombs

In the comments to a recent post about the length differential between French and English, the concept of "blooming" was introduced. The ensuing discussion prompted one Language Log reader to spell out her thoughts at greater length.  I should provide a bit of background about this anonymous contributor, namely, she lived through the bombing of […]

Fun with commas

For your reading pleasure this morning: Kenneth Adams, "Bamboozled by a Comma: The Second Circuit’s Misdiagnosis of Ambiguity in American International Group, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp.", 16 Scribes J. Legal Writing 45 (2014–15): In its opinion in American International Group, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp., the United States Court of Appeals for […]

Of mynas and miners, bells and whistles

Over at Spicks & Specks, Greg Pringle has a virtuoso post on "The Bell Miner:  How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology" (8/9/15).  It's about an Australian honeyeating bird — Manorina melanophrys — that used to be called the Bellbird, but was renamed Bell Miner through association with the South Asian bird called […]

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