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Ask Language Log: Are East Asian first names gendered?

The question comes from George Amis: I wonder– are first names gendered in Mandarin?  That is, is it possible to tell that Tse-tung or Wai-wai are masculine names? Given the extraordinary proliferation of Chinese first names, I rather doubt it. And what is the case with Japanese first names? Here, I suspect that the names […]

Ask Language Log: Easy but unused initial clusters?

From Bob Moore: I have recently become interested in an important Alaska native weaver named Jennie Thlunaut. The linguistic question is about the initial consonant cluster of her last name, "thl". My initial reaction on seeing the name was that this consonant cluster was not phonotactically possible in English, and that it would be hard […]

New Year's Reflections and Resolutions

As we enter the second half of the 15th year since we started Language Log, we've been reflecting on the past and planning for the future. We should start by explaining what Language Log is, because by no means everyone who comes across the site understands this. Some think they can register to write posts […]

Ask Language Log: Strange Writing

TJJ from Napa CA writes: Dr. Dan Jurafsky at Stanford suggested I contact you.  I have a statue I purchased years ago from a Humane Society fundraiser sale.  It is made of some sort of stone and has a rabbit on one side and some strange writing on the bottom.  It looks like it might […]

Ask Language Log: with + nonfinite clause?

A staff member at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, responsible for providing guidance for journalists on pronunciation, terminology, grammar, and usage, has asked me about "a particular usage of with, which seems to be doing the job of a conjunction." He wonders whether the construction in question is correct English or not. He supplies these attested […]

LLOG outage this weekend

Language Log will be off the air for a while this weekend, due to building-wide electrical repairs.  

Cox n’ Crendor: The Yule Log

(PG-13: Language) Podcasters Cox n’ Crendor share their favorite new way to celebrate the holidays. Tió de Nadal, a ridiculous Catalan tradition in which people care for a log like a pet, and hope that it poops out presents on Christmas. We couldn’t make this sht up.

Ask Language Log: Looking up hanzi for ignoramuses

From Mark Meckes: I'm a regular Language Log reader, completely ignorant of Chinese languages.  I was just wondering whether there exist worthwhile online tools to help someone like me figure out the meaning of something written only in hanzi.  (The question is occasioned by my looking at a package of tea given to me by […]

Ask Language Log: Unnecessary disyllabism?

From Thorin Engeseth: I was doing some reading this morning on the magpie, and the Wikipedia page states: Similarly, in China, magpies are seen as an omen of good fortune. This is even reflected in the Chinese word for magpie, simplified Chinese: ??; traditional Chinese: ??; pinyin: x?què, in which the first character means "happiness". […]

Recording-stable acoustic proxy measures

Behind yesterday's post about possible cultural differences in conversational loudness ("Ask Language Log: Loud Americans?" 11/25/2017), there's a set of serious issues in an area that's too frequently ignored: the philosophy of phonetics. [This is an unusually wonkish post on an eccentric topic — you have been warned.] If the question had been about pitch […]

Ask Language Log: Metaphors for megabytes?

From Bob Ladd: I have recently become aware that files that in English are too "big" (for example, to send as email attachments) are too "heavy" in French (lourd) and Italian (pesante). Any chance you can post a note asking for the metaphors in all the other languages that LgLog commenters speak?  

Ask Language Log: Loud Americans?

From Federico Escobar: An old but ongoing comment/joke among several Spanish speakers I know says that English speakers are particularly loud. It's a gross generalization, I know, but one borne out by countless times in which the voices booming over everyone else's in a restaurant comes from the one table with American tourists. A friend […]

Optimize Your Mac With Systweak TuneupMyMac

Every computer needs optimization from time to time for better performance. As happens, many unwanted files such as system files, log files, unused languages and more get collected and take up valuable space on the system. Manual decluttering can take much of your precious time and also be confusing. Show More Summary

Confronting abuses of power

[This post was written with input from Emily Menon Bender, Claire Bowern, Andrew Garrett, Monica Macaulay, David Pesetsky, Leslie Saxon, Karen Shelby, and Kristen Syrett.] Many linguists, and probably also many regular Language Log readers, will have by now heard about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint recently filed by a set of faculty members […]

Ask Language Log: splittism and separatism

From Elijah Z. Granet: I am an avid reader of Language Log, and am writing with a question that has puzzled me for sometime, and which, as far as I can tell, has never been addressed. I would be quite grateful if you could spare a moment of your valuable time to help me figure […]

Ask Language Log: How to pronounce "Antifa"?

From P.D.: Long time reader, first time caller, etc. etc. As an armchair linguistics fan and someone who gets his news primarily online rather than from cable news, I've been wondering how one ought to go about pronouncing the word "antifa." I'd like to discuss current events with friends without putting my foot in it, […]

More Zombie Lingua shenanigans

[This is a joint post by Eric Bakovi? and Kai von Fintel.] Regular Language Log readers will be familiar with our continuing coverage of the goings-on at what we in the linguistics community have given the name Zombie Lingua — the Elsevier journal once universally known by its still-official name, Lingua — a journal that […]

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

Can slur avoidance be taken too far?

I was rather flabberghasted to read an otherwise good post on Language Log seriously suggesting that racial slurs are so painful they should be coyly asterisked out even in careful lexicographical explanations of why they should not be used. Show More Summary

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