Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4224
Posts / Week:9.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Ultimate language threat

The news these days, I find, seldom merits a smile. But at one news story I heard at lunchtime today I actually laughed out loud, alone in my kitchen. Michel Barnier, charged with heading the EU side in the complex forthcoming negotiations that will set the terms for the UK's exit from the European Union, […]

De bait quantification: How MAD did they get?

Cynthia McLemore noted on Facebook: The last couple of debates (including this one) Trump has started off with a very narrow pitch range, using a monotone. I guess he's been coached not to sound 'emotional'. The only question is when the lid comes off… Here's a simple attempt at quantification of this insight. I pitch-tracked each […]

He's still waiting

From Francois Lang: Attached is a photo of a sign in the washroom at Heckman's Deli in Bethesda, MD I kept waiting for all the employees to wash my hands. I even asked. But nothing. Maybe it was something I said?

More old names for Singapore

We have already studied an old name for Singapore on the back of an envelope dating to 1901: "An old name for Singapore" (9/6/16) Now, Ruben de Jong, relying on the works of Dutch scholars, has discovered several others. The first comes from Gustav Schlegel, ‘Chinese loanwords in the Malay language’, T’oung Pao 1.5 (1891):  […]

Don't let 'bigly' catch on

Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoon creator and diehard Trump promoter, has taken to the semi-jocular practice of adopting the mishearing of Trump's much-loved adjunct big-league, and using bigly as if it were a real adverb ("I just watched the debate on replay. Trump won bigly. This one wasn't close"). Adams is kidding, I think, but […]

Human parity in conversational speech recognition

Today at ISCSLP2016, Xuedong Huang announced a striking result from Microsoft Research. A paper documenting it is up on — W. Xiong, J. Droppo, X. Huang, F. Seide, M. Seltzer, A. Stolcke, D. Yu, G. Zweig, "Achieving Human Parity...Show More Summary

Knife and fork

Nathan Hopson came across a marvelous Japanese word from the interwar period the other day:  naihoku????. Nathan first saw naihoku ????, a portmanteau (or just contraction?) of "knife and fork" (naifu [to] f?ku ???[?]????) on p. 10, l. 7 of a delightful 1929 guide to the famous eateries of Tokyo (T?ky? meibutsu tabe aru ki […]

AND Trump's rhetorical style again

Listening to Donald Trump's 10/14/2016 speech in Charlotte NC, I noticed something that I hadn't noticed in listening to his earlier speeches. He often  uses a loud isolated monosyllable as a way of transitioning between phrases — and perhaps also as a substitute for the filled pauses that he almost never uses. Some of these transitional syllables are particles like […]

RBG: THOUGHT-raising and r-vocalization

Katy Steinmetz, "How Ruth Bader Ginsburg found her voice", Time Magazine: For three years, NYU linguistics professor emeritus John Victor Singler, along with researchers Nathan LaFave and Allison Shapp, pored over hours of audio of Ginsburg’s remarks at the Supreme Court. They used computer programs to analyze thousands of vowel and consonant utterances during her […]

Pinyin in the kitchen

[This is a guest post by David Moser] We're in the midst of moving to a new apartment.  Yuck.  So I'm packing boxes with our ayi, who is from Anhui province, and has been helping us with cooking and cleaning house for a few years now.  I think she has at least a middle school […]

Bob Dylan's poetry and the Nobel Prize

A. E. STALLINGS says: "At the news that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature, poets, at least judging from my Facebook feed, were either very much pro- or very much con- (often along generational lines), delighted or outraged…" I found I fell into neither camp. At first, I was pleased to hear […]

Pure Pinyin

A father speaks [This is a guest post by Alex Wang, following up his remarks in "Learning to read and write Chinese" (7/11/16).] The more I learn Chinese to teach my younger son Chinese reading and writing the more I realize for lack of better word how “ridiculous” it is for a “significant / modern” […]

A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters, part 2

This is a photograph of a page from an essay written by a third grade student at an elementary school in Suining, Sichuan Province, China: The title of the essay is "W? zuì shúx? de y?gè rén ????????" ("The person with whom I am most familiar").  It's about the little girl's grandmother who raised her […]

Mental health

Posted on imgur: View post on Considering all the consternation over the meaning of "like a bitch" lately, I can understand why this poor soul's attention would be drawn to #41.  To tell the truth, though, I wouldn't know how to respond to any of these "questions". [h.t. Tim Leonard]

The reality of censorship in the PRC

When we published the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary from Hawaii in 1996, the original American edition had this definition for Lin Biao:  "veteran Communist military leader; Mao Zedong's designated successor until his mysterious death". Show More Summary

Look out kid

Since Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize for Literature, here's an old music video with some words to open discussion: (I'm in China for ten days — Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai — so posting may be a bit erratic…)

"People's Re-fuking of Chee-na"

The following video was posted to YouTube on 10/11/16: The speaker is Yau Wai-ching, a newly elected member of Hong Kong's Legco (Legislative Council).  We have already met Ms. Yau in this post: "A Sanskrit tattoo in Hong Kong" (10/4/16) While taking the oath of office, Yao repeatedly refers to the PRC as the "People's […]

Green's Dictionary of Slang goes online

Today, Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS for short) launches its online version. This is excellent news, coming more than five years after Jonathon Green published the print edition of his exhaustive three-volume reference work. As I wrote in the New York Times Book Review at the time, It's a never-ending challenge to keep up with […]


An interesting example of meaningful uh: As an athlete, I've been in locker rooms my entire adult life and uh, that's not locker room talk. — Sean Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) October 10, 2016 The effect seems different from um, in a subtle way. A dozen years ago, I observed that ("And uh — and then what?", […]

"Ni hao" for foreigners

A video titled "The Chinese tourists accused of bad behaviour in Thailand | Channel 4 News" was posted to YouTube on 2/22/15, but it has been recirculated in this article by Didi Kirsten Tatlow about Chinese travel abroad during the recent National Day holiday:  "With Its Tourists Behaving Badly, China Embarks on Some Soul-Searching" (NYT, […]

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