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Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4714
Posts / Week:13.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Clause attachment ambiguity

The newspaper headline interpretation confusion problem is usually associated with noun piles: "Coin change 'skin problem fear'", ""Ben Douglas Bafta race row hairdresser James Brown 'sorry'", "China Ferrari sex orgy death crash", and so on. But here's one that depends on ambiguity in the attachment of a pile-up of three headline-final subordinate clauses — Richard […]


That's another Japanese word that you'll be learning. Here's why: That video was taken from this article by Stephanie Mlot in PCMag: "Toyota Fuel-Cell Car Expected Next Fall" (11/18/14). One thing I like about this video, in addition to the eye-popping car, is the fact that a Japanese man speaking with a noticeable accent stars […]

The chick(en) says ko-ko-de(k)

In Incredible Things, Brittany High has a very brief article entitled "This Chinese Music Video Is Every Kind Of WTF".  I think that, if you watch the video, you'll agree with her. Brittany writes: This is a batshit insane music video for the song “Chick Chick” by Chinese pop group Wang Rong Rollin. It makes […]

The Insular Islands

The most recent xkcd has the mouseover title I just learned about the Slide Mountain Ocean, which I like because it's three nouns that sound like they can't possibly all refer to the same thing. But it gets better — the extended Slide Mountain Ocean story line, known as the Omineca Episode,  includes the Bridge […]

Pizza and pasta, backwards and forwards

From Anne Henochowicz: Along with the photograph, Anne sent these paragraphs of explanation: DC's Chinatown is a joke–the original was moved from Pennsylvania Ave. for the construction of the Reagan Building, and then the Metro dealt the knockout blow sometime in the latter 20th c. The real Chinese communities in DC live in the suburbs: […]

English as ruby annotation for Chinese

Something very interesting is going on in this panel (as usual, click to embiggen): "Firstable", I have to explain where I got this image. It originally appeared at the top of this page as an advertisement for the Singles' Day Sale which takes place on November 11 every year. This year sales by the Alibaba […]

Names of Chinese birds

If you are a birder, you are in for a treat.  If you are a bird watcher who is particularly fond of Chinese species, you are in for a double treat. Craig Brelsford is a writer and editor living in Shanghai, China. Mr. Brelsford is currently creating the world's first photographic field guide to the […]

The sounds of weather

Since sound is just variation in ambient air pressure, you could think of speech as being like really fast weather in your mouth. I traditionally make a lame joke about this in Intro Phonetics, and the other day I decided to cash the humor in on some facts. Here are the past couple of weeks of […]

Xi Jinping: "when a car breaks down…"

Via Twitter, Matthew Leavitt asks Language Log what we think of the translation of Xi Jinping's metaphor:  “when a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to step down and see what the problem is.” This was spoken at a news conference during the Beijing summit between President Obama and Chairman Xi and […]


Ryan Broderick,"People Are Actually Writing The Word 'Firstable' Online Instead Of 'First Of All': What has the internet done to our brains?".  In response, Ben Zimmer entered firstable in the Eggcorn Database, noting uses back to 1996:...Show More Summary

Jazz Dispute

Just in case you haven't seen this: [h/t Taylor Jones]

Not widely under-negated

Steve Benen, "The challenge of governing in a party of ‘knuckleheads’", MSNBC 11/12/2014: Two months later, the good news for the Speaker is that his majority has reached new heights. The bad news, the influx of knuckleheads will make Boehner’s job more difficult in ways that are not widely under-appreciated. The context makes it clear […]

Chinese characters and eyesight

There was an interesting article in the Economist a couple of day ago:  "Why So Many Chinese Children Wear Glasses" (11/9/2014) Myopia is epidemic in China, and the percentage of those with this affliction is increasing each year. Here are a few passages from the article that provide food for thought: The fastest increase is […]

Ignoble-ass citation practices

"The intensifier 'ass', in snippets", Improbable Research 11/3/2014: snippets journal publishes notes that contribute to the study of syntax and semantics in generative grammar. The notes are brief, self-contained and explicit. For an...Show More Summary

On thee-yuh fillers uh and um

Below is a guest post by Herbert H. Clark and Jean E. Fox Tree. In 2002 the two of us published a paper in Cognition called “Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking.” We argued that uh and um are conventional English words, but of a special type. Our hypothesis was this (p. 79): Filler-as-word […]

Pre-filled-pause lengthening

It's well known that syllables and words are longer before silent pauses, other things equal.  It makes sense that syllables and words would also be longer before filled pauses (UH and UM), but I haven't seen this explicitly noted or quantified. For a course assignment, I recently prepared an R-accessible version of  Joe Picone's manually-corrected word alignments […]

A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters

The following diary entry by an elementary school student is making the rounds in the Chinese media and in the blogosphere: Jacob Rutherford, who called this "trending post" to my attention, remarked: [It's] about a young girl from Fuzhou whose school received a visit from Xi Jinping. Besides the adorable message, it is more interesting […]

Is Korean diverging into two languages?

Fearful that the languages of their countries are becoming mutually unintelligible, linguists from North Korea and South Korea are joining forces to create a common dictionary, as described in this article from the South China Morning Post:  "Academics try to get North and South Korea to speak same language" (11/3/14) In a comment on a […]

"… go all __ on you …"

Geoff Pullum wrote ("Adverbing, verbing, and adjectiving", 11/5/2014): … for the most part what you get in the go all ____ on you [frame] is adjective-headed phrases … While I hardly ever disagree with Geoff, my intuition said otherwise in this case, so I checked. Searching Google for "go all on you", the first 50  results I […]

Moving house with military precision

I just moved house this week. (Had to. Lease unexpectedly terminated.) And colleagues and friends keep asking me how it went. I've decided on the right thing to say: "It was all executed like a military operation." The familiar simile (almost an idiom) always seems to be used with favorable connotations of tight organization and […]

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