Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Archive for the ‘Linkfests’ Category

A Handful of Language Links

Posted by Neal on November 26, 2013

Learn to read Korean in 15 minutes, in comic form, by Ryan Estrada. (Hat tip to All Things Linguistic.)

Written by psycholinguist Jessica Love, Psycho-Babble is the Thursday flavor of the Daily Scholar column, which is part of Phi Beta Kappa’s online magazine American Scholar. In what I take to be a misguided attempt to be timeless, none of the posts have dates on them, but if they come out every Thursday, this column seems to have been going for about a year and a half. I’ve been browsing through the columns, and have enjoyed all the ones I’ve read. But I’m linking to this one, on the past tense of irregular verbs like pet, because I’ve written about this topic a few times. (Incidentally, I guess I shouldn’t complain about the use of the word blog to refer to both blogs and blog posts, if column can refer to both the column space that a writer fills, and the individual pieces they fill it with.  But it still sounds wrong to me!)

Michael Erard wants to create the online Sports Illustrated of linguistics. He’s calling it Schwa Fire, and has started a Kickstarter campaign to launch it. As of today, there are 13 days left in the campaign, and it’s 75% of the way toward the $25,000 goal. I’ve made a modest pledge, and invite you language enthusiasts to do the same.

From James Harbeck, a history of click sounds in African languages.

Just in time for both Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, for the only time in your lifetime, Nancy Friedman briefs us on the stupid-sounding but surprisingly interesting word Thanksgivukkah.

Of course, if it’s language link collections done right that you want, Stan’s the man to see, as always.

Posted in Linkfests | 4 Comments »

A Few Links

Posted by Neal on May 11, 2013

Stan Carey has introduced me to the new blog Caxton. I’ve been browsing through some of the more recent entries, on topics such as reflexives and whether relative that is a relative pronoun, and I’ll be putting it on the blogroll.

Various news outlets have been picking up a story about how some linguists have pushed back the earliest family of languages to 15,000 years ago, back to the last ice age, in fact. I paid little attention to these reports at first, because it’s common knowledge among most historical linguists that beyond a few thousand years, the well-studied and proven techniques of is standardly called the comparative method don’t work. That’s not to say that language families such as Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan, or Nilo-Saharan didn’t descend from earlier common languages, but it’s hard to show systematic sound correspondences. Without systematic correspondences, you’re left with various pairs (or triples, quadruples…) of reconstructed words that have phonetic and semantic similarities, and it’s difficult to rule out chance. Even so, attempts have been made over the years to do long-range reconstruction without following the rules of the comparative method, and the attempt you’ve been hearing about recently is just one more. But with so many news outlets reporting one “Ice Age language” that aren’t aware of the standard comparative method, it’s time for a harder look at this study. At Language Log, Sally Thomason does so, explaining the above points and others in much better detail.

Another article that made the rounds, at least on the Twitter feeds I follow, was a piece in Lingua Franca by Anne Curzan on the use of slash — i.e. the word, not the punctuation mark, fully written out or spoken — as a conjunction. That is, it’s gone beyond singer/songwriter, beyond even singer slash songwriter, to conjoining entire phrases and clauses. It’s an interesting piece, but I was surprised that Curzan didn’t link to a 2010 Language Log post by her fellow LF columnist Geoff Pullum, on precisely this same phenomenon. But it’s all right now, because Grammar Girl has synthesized it for you in her latest episode: Curzan’s column, Pullum’s post, a TED talk from John McWhorter that mentions slash, and some of her own research to see how prevalent (or not) this and a few other interesting items of texting language are.

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Linkfest

Posted by Neal on January 28, 2013

The title of this post as it sat in my drafts folder was “October Linkfest”. But you know what? I don’t think I want to wait nine months to share these links with you, so here they are now!

  1. From the folks who brought you COCA and COHA, and created user-friendly interfaces to the BNC and Google Books Corpus, it’s the Corpus of American Soap Operas. To get just a quick look at the difference between CASO and COCA, the search string “been with a man/woman” returns 47 hits out of COCA’s 450 million words, but with CASO’s mere 100 million, we still get a respectable 34 hits.
  2. In this first of two from Language Log, Mark Liberman asks: How do you pronounce the final consonant in with?
  3. When I was a teenager, I’d see the commercials for Raid insecticide on TV, with its tagline, “Raid kills bugs dead!” I didn’t like how they were trying to use kill with an object complement, as if it were a verb like make or render. I also didn’t like the redundancy of kill with dead. Oh, well, I was probably suffering from the Recency Illusion, anyway. But there’s one more problem with kill s.t. dead that I hadn’t thought about: What do you do when your direct object is long enough that you decide to move it to the right of kill dead? Think about it, then check out the news headlines in this Language Log post.
  4. What’s a ranga? Find out in this post from Fully (Sic). By its etymology, I’d guess its pronounced /ræŋə/, but I find that I want to pronounce it /ræŋɡə/.
  5. Since January 2011, Neal Goldfarb has been keeping a blog on linguistics and the law called LawnLinguistics (get it?), which I have now installed on the blogroll.
  6. John Wells has written a blog post on the affrication heard in words like truck and dry (and which I’ve blogged about, too). His question: Does it happen when the tr or dr cross word boundaries, as in night rate and head room?
  7. Nancy Friedman, with a nod to Language Hat, tells about “said-bookisms”, which turns out to be the word for an author’s use of more and more distracting words to replace said in written dialogue.
  8. A checked out the blog of Quirkycase, someone who recently started following me on Twitter, and found this enlightening post on why some German past participles begin with ge- and some don’t.
  9. A fascinating story, and equally fascinating 2:36 video on “Silbo Gomero”, a whistled version of Spanish used on the Canary Island of La Gomera.

Posted in Linkfests | 2 Comments »

August Links

Posted by Neal on August 27, 2012

It’s happened again. I’ve accumulated enough links that I want to share with a proper introduction (instead of just a tweet, for example) that it’s time for another links collection. Here we go!

  1. Geoff Pullum has written a Lingua Franca post on how psychologist/linguist Steven Pinker and novelist Rebecca Goldstein found love because of a mysterious past participle thought not to exist.
  2. The Linguistics Research Digest is a new linguistics blog whose entire focus is something that I’ve sporadically tried to do. From their About page:

    Welcome to the Linguistics Research Digest! The Digest has been set up by Sue Fox, Jenny Cheshire (both at Queen Mary, University of London) and Paul Kerswill (Lancaster University) and is part of a larger project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) called From Sociolinguistic Research to English Language Teaching – you can find out more about the project here.

    The Digest aims to provide up-to-date reports on the latest research papers on language issues in an engaging, jargon-free way. We’ll be checking the many scientific journals for articles that are interesting, thought-provoking and/or use innovative methods. The Digest is of course for anyone with an interest in language but we are particularly aiming at helping teachers of English Language to keep abreast with cutting edge research. With this in mind, we’ll be flagging up articles that are specifically relevant to GCSE and A-Level English Language and from time to time we’ll also be providing links to classroom resources on our project website.

  3. On his blog, Zompist has summarized William Labov’s Principles of Linguistic Change: Social Factors, presenting in two neat bulleted lists exactly how pronunciation changes happen, and who does it. This is amazing. When I was reading about Grimm’s Law and Verner’s Law in books on Old English in high school, changes like these were (to me) mysterious, inscrutable things that just kind of happened. Labov (and others like him) don’t accept that for answer. (Hat tip to Language Hat.)
  4. Also on the subject of sound changes, here’s an article in Slate’s The Good Word blog on the Northern Cities (Vowel) Shift in English. If you’ve ever wondered how weird the Great Vowel Shift of Elizabethan times must have sounded while it was in progress, this is the article for you.
  5. A post on the blog Ganesha’s Scarf on a piece of Canadian and northern New England syntax that I’d never heard of until they started discussing it on the American Dialect Society’s email list a week ago, in this thread. Specifically, it’s the construction be done+NP, as in I’m done the dishes. If I were to hear this in the wild, I’d assume I’d misheard someone saying I’m done with the dishes or I’ve done the dishes, but I’m done the dishes is really what’s being said.
  6. In the numerous discussions of abortion following Todd Akin’s outrageously and dangerously ignorant remarks on “legitimate rape” and pregnancy, the phrase in case of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger (or variants) has come up again and again. Arnold Zwicky pegs it as a high-profile example of multiple-level coordination, and kindly links (again, for he’s done it before) to a couple of posts that I wrote on the topic. (You can find all of them here.)

Posted in Linkfests | 3 Comments »

Podcast Linkfest

Posted by Neal on March 20, 2012

I’ve been enjoying listening to a couple of language-related podcasts recently. First is one from Slate, called Lexicon Valley, hosted by Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield. In their six episodes to date, they have talked about:

  1. The history of the proscription against ending a sentence with a preposition
  2. The development of faggot as a slur against male homosexuals, with commentary by Arnold Zwicky
  3. Whether between you and I is a case of hypercorrection, or if another rule can describe its distribution.
  4. Black English, with commentary from Walt Wolfram (which they pronounce as “Wolf-Ram”)
  5. What a controversy the publication of Webster’s Third caused in 1961
  6. What insights Scrabble can and cannot give into the nature of English

The episodes are all about half an hour long, and even the ones I didn’t think I’d be too interested in (the dictionary, Scrabble) have turned out to be quite interesting after all. Furthermore, they’re linguistically sound. With all the complaints at Language Log and other places about how news media just can’t be bothered to fact-check anything related to language, I have yet to hear a piece of bad information here. The only part I don’t care too much for is their “lexiconundrum” puzzlers at the end of each episode.

There are no further episodes of Lexicon Valley yet; apparently, these six episodes were a trial run. So listen to them quick, and if you like them, go say so on iTunes, as I’m about to do now.

The other podcast is Conlangery, “the podcast about constructed languages and the people who create them,” hosted by George Corley, Bianca Richards, and William Anniss (sp?). In each episode, these three talk about some aspect of language — discourse particles, dialects, sound systems — ostensibly with the intent of giving conlangers (i.e. language creators) tips and ideas to use in their conlangs. However, the information and observations they bring in should be interesting to anyone interested in language, even if they have no interest whatsoever in creating one. Each episode also has a featured conlang.

Unlike Lexicon Valley, each episode of Conlangery lasts about a full hour, but unlike Lexicon Valley, Conlangery has more than 40 episodes so far, with no sign of quitting yet. The discussions are unscripted, with George loosely moderating and all three making contributions as the spirit moves them. There are sometimes strange background noises (like a recurring “clac-k-k-k-k-k-k” in one episode), and George’s hesitant speaking style takes a little getting used to, but it’s a fun podcast and I look forward to catching up on the episodes I haven’t listened to yet.

While I’m in a link-loving mood, here are a couple of non-podcast links. First, Jonathon Owen’s two most recent posts. If you thought benefactive datives such as I love me some barbecue brisket sounded strange, you’ll find this construction a little bit stranger. In the other post, he talks about a question I’ve had for a while: If plural -s is pronounced as [z] after a vowel, then why is the plural of die still dice instead of dies?

Lastly, a post from Arnold Zwicky about people who “look their nose down” (not “look down their nose”) at things they disapprove of. It reminded me of my own posts about particles, prepositions, and phrasal verbs.

Posted in Linkfests, Mass and Count Nouns, Phrasal verbs | 11 Comments »

September Links, and a Contest

Posted by Neal on September 20, 2011

Some new linguistics blogs have appeared on the scene, which I’ve liked well enough to put right onto the blogroll. The Chronicle of Higher Education website introduced a blog in August, called Lingua Franca. It’s a group blog, with five listed contributors. The three I recognize are Geoff Pullum, Allan Metcalf, and Ben Yagoda.

Next, there’s The Diacritics, a blog begun by John Stokes and Sandeep Prasanna, two guys who each earned a linguistics degree last year (from Harvard and Duke respectively), and are each now a first-year law student (at Yale and UCLA respectively).

Lastly, Language Hippie came on the scene in June. It’s written by Joe Kessler, a linguistics grad student at the University of Buffalo.

In addition to the new blogs, here‘s one of Grammar Girl’s more linguistically bent podcasts. This one’s on the needs done construction (which I’ve blogged about), and for it Mignon Fogarty did some field research, gathering data from her Facebook and Google+ followers to find out where people used this construction. She created a nice map of the results, a good supplement to the one in the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project that I mentioned last month.

As for the contest, the people at Grammar.net are holding a contest to choose, by votes alone, the Best Grammar Blog of 2011. Today is the halfway point in the 10-day nomination period. You’re thinking I’m going to ask you to nominate me? Wrong! I can nominate myself. But actually, I don’t even need to do that, because they tell me that I’m one of the 50 blogs they’ve personally selected to make it to the actual voting, which takes place from September 26 through October 17. So, thanks, Grammar.net! I’m honored to be in a list that includes blogs such as John Wells’s Phonetic Blog, Gabe Doyle’s Motivated Grammar, and Lynne Murphy’s Separated by a Common Language. Come September 26, I’ll casually mention this contest again, but in the meantime, go and make sure your (other) favorite linguistics blogs are on the list of nominations.

Posted in Linkfests, Self-promotion | Leave a Comment »

Summer Links

Posted by Neal on July 29, 2011

  • A thorough investigation of the history of different from/than/to from Stan Carey.
  • The hilarious linguistics love song (h/t to Stan Carey)
  • Another blog post from Stan Carey, this one linking to no less (uh, fewer?) than four websites that allow you to easily type and display IPA characters. I’ve put all the stuff I got from Stan first to get it out of the way. Seriously, you should just subscribe to his blog. He’s always writing about, or linking to, interesting stuff.
  • A post on the African American English blog Word, on black sign language.
  • David Crystal on why and how the past tense texed for texted might have arisen.
  • The puzzlers from this year’s International Linguistic Olympiad, being held this week in Pittsburgh. (h/t to Language Log)
  • The Yale Grammatical Diversity Project, a fledgling database that catalogs regional variation in American English, not in pronunciation, not in lexical items (soda vs. pop), but in syntactic constructions (might could, needs done, etc.), with links to research papers.
  • The Idiomizer, another site that was created only recently, but should be a good translation resource as it accumulates more data. The goal: Input an idiom in a source language, find the functionally equivalent one in the target language. I asked it for “a little bird told me” in French, and sure enough, got (in French) “my little finger told me”.
  • A video of Michael Erard’s interview with “hyperpolyglot” Alexander Arguelles, who describes his mind-blowingly intense, driven, sustained, and disciplined daily regimen for learning whichever dozen or so languages he’s currently working on.

Posted in Linkfests | 3 Comments »

April Links

Posted by Neal on April 16, 2011

Let’s start this collection of links with a couple of new additions to the blogroll. First of all, a big welcome to a Ben Trawick-Smith’s Dialect Blog, which debuted in January and every couple of days (or less) has up a new post on some aspect of some dialect of English. At this writing, the latest post is on the affirmative ayuh, which Stephen King fans may recognize. Next, there’s Benjamin Bruening’s Linguistics Commentary, which geared up last May. He posts about once a month, on syntactic topics. They’re a bit like the syntactic discussions here, but Bruening has a more serious tone, with citations of and responses to academic articles in most posts.

Via Erin Brenner, an article in the Utne Reader on “The Art of the Police Report”. This snippet from the author got me hooked:

Crime reports are written in neutral diction, and in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being.

So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair? Make me want to put a bullet in someone’s brain—preferably a wife beater’s or a pedophile’s, but occasionally my own? How does he use words on paper to hammer at my heart? Like all great cops, Sergeant Martinez is a sneaky fucker. He’s also a master of inflection and narrative voice.

On Slate, an article by Coco Krumme on what the hell it means when a wine reviewer says a wine “contains “notes of graphite, black currant liqueur, incense, and camphor.” Quoting Krumme:

Graphite. Black currant. Incense. And camphor? It sounds like something out of a Bollywood take on Hansel and Gretel. Never mind that graphite contains no aromatics, or that incense could mean any of a dozen flavors. Can a simple Bordeaux let loose such a witches’ brew of fragrant notions?

Be sure to follow her link to an article by Richard Quandt called “On Wine Bullshit”.

Posted in Linkfests | 1 Comment »

February Links

Posted by Neal on February 12, 2011

OK, that’s it! I’ve got three links accumulated in this draft, and that’s enough to put it out there.

Christopher Phipps has blogged about a talk I didn’t make it to at LSA 2011, so I appreciate his summary here on his Lousy Linguist blog. The talk is about a subconscious but measurable change in language that some researchers did by using video footage from a season of a reality TV show. Phipps also has an interesting analogy to explain voice onset time, so if my analogy of the toll plaza didn’t work for you, definitely read this post.

One of my earliest posts was on the strange negation in the miss not doing construction, and I wrote about it again in 2007. Now Mark Liberman has a post on Language Log on the history of this construction.

In anticipation of National Grammar Day next month, John McIntyre has posted the first of the four installments of “The Wages of Syntax,” this year’s Grammar Noir adventure on his You Don’t Say blog for the Baltimore Sun. As they all do, this one starts with a dame in trouble. She’s working at a … a … I can’t say it. You’ll have to go and read it for yourself.

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Links for the New Year

Posted by Neal on January 23, 2011

Hey, what’s this post still doing in my drafts folder? I thought I hit Publish on January 17! Well, here it is now…

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had any collections of interesting links to offer you, but a new year seems like a good time to start up again. I’ll start off with a couple that I’ve had sitting in an unfinished links post for months, and which still seem worth passing on.

You know that within the Phonetics and Phonology category, the pronunciation of /l/ has come up enough here to have its own tab. I’ve talked about Doug’s [j]/[w] realization of /l/ during his toddler years; the pronunciation of /l/ as a uvular nasal vowel by me as a child (and others); and the pronunciation of /l/ as an interdental sound, with the tongue tip between the top and bottom front teeth, the same position as for the TH sounds [θ] and [ð]). This Language Log post comments on and links to a YouTube video first noticed by Josef Fruehwald, who noticed Britney Spears’ /l/ articulation in both singing and lip-synching. She goes beyond the interdental articulation and into apico-labial territory — that is, the tongue curls up to touch the upper lip to make the /l/. (Apical is more specific term than lingual; it refers to the tip (of the tongue).) Don’t believe it? Watch the videos! They’re montages, with the relevant snippets shown at normal speed, then slowed down and repeated.

Next, here’s a short one from Phonoloblog on a news-limerick fail: The contestant in the current-events-limerick-completion challenge on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! can’t figure out the missing word to put in because it only rhymes in dialects with the low-back merger. If you don’t know what that is, that’s OK; the post makes it clear.

In addition to her Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing podcast, Mignon Fogarty does one called Behind the Grammar, in which she interviews anyone she takes a mind to about some aspect of language or writing. In this August 2010 pisode, she interviews sign interpreter David Peach about sign languages in a number of countries. Take it with a grain of salt when he talks about how it’s more logical to use noun-modifier order than vice versa when praising the logicality of a particular language. Otherwise, it’s an interesting look at how sign languages vary, from language to language and from speaker to speaker of one language.

So much for old business. Now to the newly accumulated items to share. First of all, you may have noticed that I have a link to Ben Zimmer’s “On Language” column, and I recommend checking that every week anyway. (Or better, you can follow @OnLanguage on Twitter, and read the columns a few days before they’re published in the New York Times Magazine.) However, I found this week’s especially interesting, because he answered a question that I didn’t even realized I’d had: What exactly does trove, as in treasure trove, mean? I especially liked this column because (1) I realized that I’d never asked myself this question; (2) I totally should have asked myself this question long ago; (3) the answer was a complete surprise to me, involving calques (see the article), Anglicized pronunciations, and morphological reanalysis.

Now for a couple tangentially involving last weekend’s LSA conference. The Saturday plenary lecture, given by Joan Maling, discussed the development of a new passive-voice construction in Icelandic. I missed it, because Pittsburgh linguist Lauren Collister had convinced me and some other linguists on Twitter that we should go out for lunch at a locally famous place that served sandwiches with fries and coleslaw actually in the sandwich! (Actually, the sandwich was pretty good — once I picked out those french fries. Hey, I tried it!) Oh, well, I’ve read the paper on this topic anyway, and the interesting comparison that Maling made with English has been written up by Mark Liberman at Language Log. There was a time when the present progressive passive voice (e.g. is slowly being eaten by army ants) was considered ugly, irrational, needlessly innovative, nonstandard English. Why say is slowly being eaten by army ants when the perfectly sensibe is slowly eating by army ants already does the job? Liberman via GoogleBooks links to the peeve as described in 1869 by Richard Grant White.

Phoneticians classify vowels according to various articulatory and acoustic properties, and end up with natural classes of vowels according to criteria such as “height,” “roundness” and “tongue root advancement”. These classes often seem to have psychological reality, as phonological rules will affect only some natural class or other. However, you have to know about phonetics to classify vowels this way. One linguist wondered what kind of classes of vowels would shake out if people without linguistic training listened to recordings of a lot of vowels and were told to classify them into two, three, or four classes. He presented the poster during the LSA conference, and I’m hoping he’ll make the research available online. I won’t try to summarize it here, but I’ll be interested to see if some of the new natural classes that emerged turn out to be relevant in phonological processes. The main reason I bring it up is that the linguist is Douglas Bigham, whose big project right now is the rollout of Popular Linguistics Online — or at least, it was until he tweeted about it as PLO and learned that there were associations there he probably didn’t want to burden a new publication with. So instead, today marks the public release of Popular Linguistics Magazine. The title says it all, and I hope the magazine succeeds. I also owe PLM a thank-you for 200 of yesterday’s hits. I didn’t see exactly where they were coming from at first, but eventually figured it out: The left sidebar on the main page is a list of several linguistics blogs that changes with every page refresh, and every now and then, Literal-Minded turns up there, with the last two or three posts listed. In this way I also learned of a couple of llinguistics blogs I had been unaware of, so check it out!

BTW, I think for future linkfests, I won’t try for one a month. When I have at least three interesting links that I haven’t already passed on via Twitter, I’ll put them up and start accumulating the next batch.

Posted in Linkfests, LSA, Morphology, Passive voice, Variation, Vowels, What the L | Leave a Comment »

 
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