Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Clickable IPA

Posted by Neal on September 5, 2018

One of the courses I teach is individual pronunciation tutoring for international students who are going to be teaching assistants here at Ohio State University. One of the resources I use a lot is this clickable IPA chart. Click on any of the sounds in this chart, and you’ll hear a recording of someone uttering the sounds.

Sometimes, though, I wished that it was possible to reduce the visual clutter by having the chart show just the sounds of English, or just the sounds of Chinese, or Korean, or whatever other language a student spoke. I could toggle between the different languages’ phonemic inventories, allowing us to quickly view the phonemes common to multiple languages, and those that are in one phonemic inventory but not another.

At the same time as the chart had too many sounds, it also didn’t have enough of them. Some sounds, like the affricates /tʃ/ (as in chump)and /dʒ/ (as in jump) are displayed on a supplement to the chart (not shown in the screenshot here). There are even bigger gaps for Chinese, since it has three times as many affricates as English, and some of them aren’t displayed on the chart anywhere at all. This is because they’re versions of some affricates that are already shown in the chart, but they’re aspirated (i.e., pronounced with a short puff of air after them). It makes sense not to show these, because if you recorded aspirated versions of all the consonants, it would double the size of the consonant chart. And if you’re going to have separate recordings for the aspirated consonants, why not for the glottalized ones, or the pharyngealized ones, or the nasalized vowels, or the creaky vowels? But still, when I’m working with a Chinese student, and want to show them exactly how the set of sounds they’re used to matches up with what we have in English, I’d like to have all the affricates, aspirated and unaspirated, up there in the main chart with everything else.

A more elaborate clickable IPA chart that I recently learned about and have been using is this rtMRI IPA chart. This one was created by the Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory at the University of Southern California. When you click on the IPA symbols in this chart, you not only hear them pronounced, you also see them pronounced with a real-time MRI (rtMRI) video clip. It is incredibly useful that someone took the trouble to do one of these rtMRIs for each of these sounds, and as a bonus, there are also clickable rtMRI recordings of some minimal vowel sets, some short sentences, and a couple of longer passages that I suspect are panphonemic, though I haven’t checked to be sure.

However, as with the other chart, you need to already know what sounds are in a language in order to know which ones you’re interested in clicking. And like the other chart, this one sidelines the affricates, and shows even fewer of them than the other chart. It wasn’t the customized tool that I sometimes wished were available to me and my students.

A few months ago, I was telling the ESL Programs’ curriculum director, Karen Macbeth, about the kind of chart I wished existed somewhere. As it happens, she was (and is) working on creating an e-textbook for all our Spoken English courses to use, and she said a chart like this one would go well in this kind of digital resource. She put me in touch with one Mike Shiflet, who works for Ohio State University’s Office of Distance Education and E-Learning and who has been helping Karen with her project. I gave Mike some printed IPA charts with different languages’ phonemic inventories highlighted on each one: English, Chinese, Korean, Turkish, Hindi, and Spanish. I showed him the clickable IPA chart that inspired this project. I provided him an audio clip of me pronouncing each of the sounds I wanted. From there, Mike produced the chart I had been dreaming of, and it’s now on OSU’s ESL Programs Spoken English web page for anyone to use! Me, I’m going to start using it tomorrow.

Below is a screenshot of just the (Mandarin) Chinese version of the chart.

I hope this chart proves to be as useful to some ESL/EFL teachers and students as the other clickable IPA charts have been for me.

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Posted in Language learning, Panphonic Phun | 2 Comments »

I’m Tired of Taking Clothes On and Off

Posted by Neal on July 31, 2018

My wife needed to buy a black suit, and spent most of the day Sunday doing it. After visiting about a dozen stores and logging 10,000 steps on her pedometer, she finally found what she needed. I haven’t seen it yet, though. At home last night, I asked if she was going to model it for Adam and me. She said,

I’m tired of taking clothes on and off.

Taking clothes on and off?

I know she can take clothes off; I’ve seen her do it. But I don’t think I’ve seen her or anyone else take clothes on. They’ve only put them on. Or maybe thrown them on if they were in a hurry. (The people were in a hurry, not the clothes.) What my wife must have meant was she was tired of putting clothes on and taking them off. So was this simply a production error after a long day of shopping? I don’t think so.

First of all, she judged all of the following to be ungrammatical, while standing by her original utterance:

  • *I’m tired of taking clothes off and on.
  • *I’m tired of putting clothes off and on.
  • *I’m tired of putting clothes on and off.
  • Second, the corpus data favors the phrasing she used. First, I searched COCA for any form of take followed by any word and then “off and on” (search term “TAKE_vv* * off and on” if you’re interested). I got only five hits, and of them only two were relevant:

    TAKE_vv* * off and on

  • you don’t have the labor problems of taking covers off and on
  • it’s, you know, hard getting on the ladder, taking them off and on
  • (The irrelevant hits had off and on as a verb phrase modifier meaning “occasionally” (taking Pilates off and on), or just near each other by accident (takes Fridays off and on weekends gets….)

    On the other hand, when I did the same search with on and off (“TAKE_vv* * on and off”), I got nine hits, and of them five were true examples what I was looking for. The last one in the list even has on and off taking an object: windrows (which I’ve learned from Dictionary.com are “long line[s] of raked hay or sheaves of grain laid out to dry in the wind”).

    TAKE_vv* * on and off

  • The youngster fidgets with an unusual looking pair of sunglasses, taking them on and off.
  • In fact, you had to take them on and off, and stroke them several times, right?
  • If I wear it here, I have to take it on and off all the time.
  • hadn’t developed a mechanical method to take covers on and off.
  • you’re buying covers and taking them on and off windrows for a year or five years,
  • Then I did the same two searches with the verb put. For put [something] off and on (“PUT_vv* * off and on”), I got nothing at all. For put [something] on and off (“PUT_vv* * on and ff”), I only got one hit, with on and off taking an object:

    PUT_vv* * on and off

  • she was able to put herself on and off her ventilator
  • Because I got so few results on COCA, I took my search to Brigham Young University’s iWeb corpus. With 14 billion words instead of 520 million, I got enough more hits that I wasn’t going to try to look through them to find the true positives, but the pattern seems to hold. take [something] on and off (758 hits) still wins over take [something] off and on (187 hits), and over either order with put (231 hits for on and off; a mere 6 for off and on). Here is a relevant hit of each type that I found:

  • with an adjustable wide quick-strap closure so you can easily take them on and off.
  • The kids goggles will stay put and taking them off and on will result in less complaining from the little ones.
  • I like the fancy straps for putting them on and off.
  • they stayed on well (when he wasn’t playing at putting them off and on).
  • What does this all mean? I’m not sure I can generalize much of anything from this pair off antonyms, put on and take off. Further investigation will have to wait.

    Posted in Coordination, The wife | 2 Comments »

    Through Houses They Had Never Been Through Before

    Posted by Neal on June 30, 2018

    It’s been a while since I wrote about things I noticed in books I read to Doug and Adam at bedtime. It started to be tough to do that when they started going to bed later than I did, and became just about impossible while Doug was off at his freshman year at college. But a member of the extended family is having a baby soon, and one of the gifts we’re sending is a book that the wife and I would read to them about 15 years ago. It’s Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog, by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard.

    Pictured: Tabby, Mr. Putter, Zeke

    We like the series because it has an adopted, aged cat in it; the mother-to-be will like it (we hope) because she likes English bulldogs, and will get a kick out of Mr. Putter’s neighbor’s English bulldog Zeke. Also, as I wrote inside the cover:

    One of us particularly likes the ambiguity in the phrase "through houses they had never been through before"--look carefully at the illustrations both times it's used!

    Here’s the first time: “He tugged Mr. Putter and Tabby through yards and creeks, and houses they had never been through before.”

    The first time I read it, it was startling to read “through yards and creeks and houses”–what, was Zeke actually dragging Mr. Putter right through the front door and into and out of an individual house? Then I looked at the illustration and realized that Zeke was pulling Mr. Putter between two houses. In other words, the first time, “through houses they had never been through before” has a collective reading: Considering a group of houses all at once, Zeke pulled Mr. Putter through the group.

    Now, here’s the second one: “The big dogs pulled them through yards and creeks, and houses they had never been through before.”
    The big dogs pulled them through yards and creeks, and houses they had never been through before.Having gotten used to the idea of the collective reading, I was surprised and amused to see that this time, the illustration showed exactly the implausible distributive reading I had questioned before! This time, Zeke is pulling Mr. Putter right through a single house.

    Lots and lots of research has been done on collective and distributive readings. I’ve been reading a 1996 paper by Brendan Gillon on the subject, and he even has an example with through: “Bill drove through the redwoods”, and imagines the distributive reading that involves Bill either destroying a redwood or using a tunnel. For more details, with a lot of mathy details, you can read Gillon’s paper. Or if it’s behind a paywall from where you are, you might like this set of slides from a presentation in 2009 from Eytan Zweig at the University of York.

    Posted in Ambiguity, Books, Distributivity and collectivity, Kids' entertainment | Leave a Comment »

    Forcibly Arriving

    Posted by Neal on May 31, 2018

    Last month, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice opened in Montgomery, Alabama. That rather vague name may not ring a bell for you, but if you’ve been hearing news stories about a “lynching memorial,” that’s the place. An article by Kelly Macias in the Daily Kos argued for the need for such a memorial, calling it a

    space that is intentionally designed for us to finally have an adult conversation about the generational trauma and terror black people have experienced since we forcibly arrived upon America’s shores

    By context and historical knowledge, I could make sense of forcibly arrive: The blacks arrived, but the action wasn’t voluntary; they were taken by force and transported here. But seeing forcibly used in this sentence was surprising to me.

    Forcibly, like a number of adverbs, is agent-oriented. To show what this means, let’s compare it to an adverb that is subject-oriented: willingly. In the first sentence below, willingly describes how Dr. Riviera did the examination. In the second sentence, it describes how Homer underwent the examination. In both cases, willingly says something about the subject of the sentence. On the other hand, when we put in forcibly, then in both sentences, it’s talking about Dr. Riviera. Although Riviera is the subject in one, and the object of the preposition by in the other, in both cases he’s the agent.

    1. Dr. Riviera willingly examined Homer.
    2. Homer was willingly examined by Dr. Riviera.
    3. Dr. Riviera forcibly examined Homer.
    4. Homer was forcibly examined by Dr. Riviera.

    So I’m accustomed to agent-oriented adverbs with verbs that can be either in active voice (examined) or passive voice (was examined)–i.e. transitive verbs. What about intransitive verbs? Those can work, provided you have a verb that refers to something that can be dumb forcibly:

    1. Bart forcibly jumped over the curb.
    2. ?Marge forcibly slept.

    Now let’s talk about arrive. It’s a member of a class of verbs called unaccusatives, whose subjects don’t have the role of agent. Other members include suffer, die, and the intransitive versions of verbs such as melt. These verbs definitely don’t go well with agent-oriented adverbs:

    1. *Seymour forcibly suffered.
    2. *Maud forcibly died.

    So now, coming back to arrive, it’s often classified as an unaccusative verb. The subject is not an agent, and since the verb is intransitive, there’s no object to be the agent, either. No agent in sight. And in that case, how does forcibly get to describe the causer of the arriving? My guess at the beginning of this post was “pure context,” and it still is. Maybe it was even a cut-and-paste error, with an original were forcibly transported replaced by arrived, and forcibly never got changed accordingly. However, I can’t say it’s something that people just don’t say or write, because I’ve found a couple of other examples:

    • In Brazil and Cuba, where thousands of African slaves forcibly arrived each year, slavery dominated most economic activities…. (link)
    • With their ancestors having forcibly arrived to the New World enslaved, and with African females becoming “beast[s] of burden,” newly freed southern black … (link)

    Posted in Adjuncts and complements, Lexical semantics | Leave a Comment »

    She Never Saw a Dog and Didn’t Smile

    Posted by Neal on April 30, 2018

    A tweet about a dog lover and friend of Los Angeles Parks named Nicole Campbell went viral yesterday. More accurately, it was a tweet about the message on a plaque memorializing Ms. Campbell on a park bench in LA. Here’s the tweet, from Twitter user Jen d’Angelo:

    Like Jen, I feel bad for laughing at this memorial to someone who must have been a lovely person to know, and who was clearly loved and admired by the people who bought this plaque. But I can’t help chuckling at the message that so neatly manages to say (under one parse) the complete opposite of what it intended. The intended message, of course, was one that could also have been phrased who never saw a dog without smiling, or who smiled whenever she saw a dog–or to put it the way they’d do in a semantics textbooks, a statement confirmed by one of Campbell’s friends in a reply to d’Angelo’s tweet. But I’m still smiling at responses such as “Why didn’t someone just show this poor woman a dog?”

    The sentence is a nice example of an attachment ambiguity, which I’ve diagrammed below. The intended reading is on the left, in which never attaches “high”, to the entire verb phrase saw a dog and didn’t smile. The funny reading is on the right, where never attaches “low”, to just the VP saw a dog.

    I think one of the factors that makes the sober-faced dogless reading so easy to get is that under the smiling-at-dogs reading, you have to mentally expand the sentence out to

    …who never saw a dog, and never didn’t smile.

    Here, you get a double negative that actually is intended to be read as making an affirmation: She always smiled. Negatives like that are harder to parse, although you do get them for effect sometimes…

    Posted in Attachment ambiguity | 4 Comments »

    Limericks

    Posted by Neal on March 17, 2018

    Limericks have been on my mind fhttps://literalminded.wordpress.com/?p=6794&preview=trueor the last couple of months. It started when I discovered a Twitter account called @Limericking, which puts out a constant stream of limericks based on the news, usually better than the ones featured each week on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. Here’s the limerick that showed up on my timeline in January:

    So clever, and such a good illustration of the cot/caught merger, which I just wrote about in a piece I just did for Grammar Girl on vowel mergers. For me, cause and flaws both have the mid back round vowel /ɔ/, but Oz has the low back unround vowel /ɑ/. It could just be that the writer of this limerick was settling for an imperfect rhyme, but I see that @Limericking is based in Canada, one of the places where the merger is widespread, so it’s probably a perfect rhyme for them.

    Then, at the end of the month, Merriam-Webster started tweeting out limericks about English usage. I particularly liked this one:

    At the beginning of March, of course, it was National Grammar Day once again, with its annual limerick contest. This was the winner, and deservedly so:

    I didn’t write a grammar limerick, but after I read the limericks from Limericking and Merriam-Webster, I decided to take another crack at writing a panphonic poem, within the constraints of five short lines. The first time I tried putting all the sounds of English into a single poem, I tried to work in not only all the sounds that English speakers perceive as separate sounds (in other words, all the phonemes), but also all the variant pronunciations of each phoneme (i.e. all the allophones). For example, I didn’t want to put in just the vowel [i] as in she, but also the nasalized vowel [ĩ] as in scheme. Ultimately, I didn’t succeed, so I set my sights a bit lower this time. Here’s what I ended up with:

    In normal spelling, it’s

    Hear in this short limerick’s strains
    Every sound which my language contains.
    Could it be an illusion?
    Panphonic profusion?
    Something linguists enjoy as a game?

    I would rather have said panphonemic profusion because it’s more specific, and because the meter works better, but panphonic was the only word I had with the vowel /ɑ/. And I’d prefer sound that to sound which, but I needed a /tʃ/. Maybe I’ll try again someday, without such a meta topic.

    Posted in Panphonic Phun | 1 Comment »

    Flappin’ Shit

    Posted by Neal on January 19, 2018

    A few years ago, I blogged about hearing some English speakers pronouncing their /t/’s as glottal stops in an unexpected place: after a stressed vowel, before an /h/. Some of the examples I talked about were a local public radio news reporter’s pronunciation of Statehouse,and Doug’s pronunciation of pothole. Another example, which I thought I’d blogged about but apparently hadn’t, is Doug’s pronunciation of warthog, which is different from the others in that there’s an /r/ between the vowel and /t/. But they’re all similar in that I would personally pronounce the /t/ as a flap [ɾ] in these words, and I heard other speakers using a glottal stop [ʔ].

    Last week, I happened to think of another word with a /t/ between a stressed vowel and an /h/. It was shithole! For me, the /t/ in this word is pronounced as a flap, just like in Statehouse, pothole, and warthog: shi[ɾ]hole.

    But the events of last week’s news cycle naturally got me to wondering: How are other people pronouncing shithole these days? With a flap, like me? As shi[t]hole, with an ordinary [t]–shi[t]hole? Or maybe even as shi[ʔ]hole with a glottal stop?

    In this montage of newscasters reporting on Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador, and (some?) African countries, I hear mostly shi[ɾ]hole, with a few shi[t]holes thrown in. No glottal-stop shi[ʔ]holes.

    I also searched for shithole in YouGlish, this website I learned about in the course of teaching English pronunciation to my international students. You search for your word, and it brings you video clips of people saying that word in real contexts. Their four entries for shithole all use the flap pronunciation. (In unrelated findings, all eight of their clips of coup de grace pronounce it as if it were coup de gras.)

    Among the family and friends I asked, the flapped pronunciation is also the most common. I was even surprised to find that this was the pronunciation that Doug used, when I asked him to repeat this word of the week. I wonder how he pronounces pothole, butthole, and warthog now…

    Three people in my sample of 14 used the [t] pronunciation. One is a co-worker who later mentioned that he thought of shithole as two words: shit hole.

    I did find two speakers with glottal-stop shithole. One was one of my in-laws, and the other was one of Doug’s floormates in his dorm. That’s right: He’s a freshman in college now, and when I called him with my linguistic question, he gave me his answer and offered to pass the phone around to the other residents in the room, and one by one they got on the line and said “shithole” to me.

    UPDATE, Feb. 5, 2018

    When I tweeted this post, Michael Covarrubias (@wishydog) responded, “i hear your flap and /h/. i hear a lot of glottal stops in the video. apparently, my /t/ is a glottal stop very often.” So I went back for another listen. It turns out I listened too quickly the first time. On closer inspection, and with the use of the phonetics software Praat, I have segmented out 57 tokens of shithole (or a related form, such as the plural, or the derived form shitholer), and of them, eight have the glottal stop pronunciation, for 14%. Seven tokens have the [t] pronunciation, making 12.3%. Tokens with a flap make up the remaining 73.7%.

    I labeled each token impressionistically by hear, but then also examined their spectrograms using Praat, labeling the duration of the air stoppage for the /t/, doing my best to separate it from the pronunciation of the /h/. Sometimes I had to give up. I also tried to record whether the /t/ and following /h/ were voiced or not, but sometimes had to give up on this, too. If anyone is interested in looking at or listening to the data, you can find the WAV file, accompanying Praat text grid, and a spreadsheet with the data for each of the 57 tokens in a Google Drive folder I’ve named the Vice Shithole Corpus.

    Posted in Doug, Flap (tap), Glottal stops, Politics, Taboo | Leave a Comment »

    Black Deaf People

    Posted by Neal on December 2, 2017

    A couple of posts back, I tackled my brother’s question of whether one would say “black little people” (yes), or “little black people” (not so much). M. Makino commented,

    I usually try to shorthand the order of adjectives for students by telling them that the stuff people feel is closest to their identities comes last. It seems feasible that someone whose ethnicity was of extreme importance might put it after “little”.

    My response:

    … Your point gives me an idea for another collocation battle to carry out in a corpus: “Deaf” vs. “black”.

    So what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

    Let’s start by pulling up our handy adjective-ordering template:

    evaluation size shape condition human propensity age color origin material attributive noun

    OK, let’s see…black is a color adjective. Deaf is a human propensity adjective (more specifically, one of physical state, as opposed to mental state or behavior). So we would expect deaf black to be the usual way of ordering theses adjectives. Now let’s see what we actually get.

    Searching COCA for deaf black, I got nothing. Searching for black deaf, I got two examples, both in the same sentence:

    Merriweather, a member of the Atlanta Black Deaf Advocates Board and Miss Black Deaf America 1991, is featured in the October issue of the magazine.

    In search of a larger sample, I turned to the NOW Corpus. For deaf black, I got a single hit:

    You can imagine the delight of students when the first deaf black woman lawyer in the US visited them last Monday.

    The clear winner turned out to be black deaf, which returned the following examples, among others:

    • Childress was a founding member of National Black Deaf Advocates, and established BRIDGES, an organization assisting black deaf interpreters and their clients
    • advocate, founder, fighter and creator of things that are now part of black deaf community, as well as an interpreter, ” says Fred Beam, a deaf
    • And she particularly cared about black deaf people being able to be their best selves
    • to safeguard the general health and welfare of Black deaf and hard of hearing people
    • hiring more black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters; and hosting a public town hall to update the community
    • the hiring more black deaf and ASL interpreters and black trans women, indigenous people, and others from vulnerable
    • The son of a deaf woman and volunteer with the Detroit Black Deaf Advocates, Smith hopes to one day blend his fluency in American Sign Language with
    • So now it’s the LGBT community vs. us black deaf. Sigh!
    • the Blade expressed disagreement with this person’s claim that LGBT deaf people and black deaf people at Gallaudet were at odds with each other.
    • While at the university, Whyte also met and worked with Miss Black Deaf America 2011-2013, Ericka Baylor.

    What gives? Well, with black little person/people, I concluded that whereas black person/people was an ordinary phrase, little person/people was a compound noun, and that was why it didn’t get broken up by black. Maybe deaf person/people is a compound, too. Let’s run it through the same tests we did with little person/people and black person/people in the other post:

    1. Stress shift: deaf person and deaf person have the same meaning and are both acceptable depending on context. Indication: Phrasal
    2. Idiosyncratic meaning: deaf person/people has a mostly compositional meaning here. Indication: Phrasal
    3. Suitability of other nouns: deaf men, deaf women, deaf children, deaf bakers, and deaf CEOs are all still deaf people. Indication: Phrasal
    4. One-replacement: deaf people and hearing ones is grammatical. Indication: Phrasal

    No luck, then. Both black and deaf seem to form phrases with the nouns they modify, so we would still expect deaf black rather than black deaf. So does Makino’s rule of thumb about closeness to your identity may work better than the adjective-ordering template when it comes to describing people? Maybe; do black Deaf people consider deafness to be a more fundamental part of their identity than their race? I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that some do and some don’t.

    Posted in Adjective ordering, Compound words | 9 Comments »

    Whoever’s Team We Like

    Posted by Neal on December 1, 2017

    In a post from exactly one year ago, I began with a sentence that I’d heard on the “Criminal” podcast. Here’s the original sentence, followed by the way that I would express the intended thought:

    1. I’d be whoever’s girlfriend had the dope.
    2. I’d be whoever had the dope’s girlfriend.

    In the original sentence, instead of the possessive ‘s attaching to the entire fused relative whoever had the dope, it attaches just to the word whoever, and takes the word girlfriend along with it. It was so unusual that I went looking for similar examples in COCA, although I ended up noticing something even more interesting that ended up taking over the rest of the post. Now, though, I want to get back to whoever’s girlfriend had the dope. As it happens, I did find an analogous example when I searched COCA. Here it is, with my paraphrase underneath it.

    1. I mean we want to have whoever’s team we like to win so that we can get lucky later.
    2. I mean we want to have whoever we like’s team to win so that we can get lucky later.

    Looking at these two examples, one explanation that comes to mind is that it’s just easier to go ahead and put the possessive marker on whoever right away, and postpone saying the rest of the clause until it’s not breaking up a determiner-noun cluster. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to check for counterexamples on COCA, because searching for whoever’s is not going to bring you any examples of whoever+[some clause]+‘s.

    So instead, I did some ordinary Google searches for a few whoever clauses I made from scratch. I started with whoever as a subject, and found these examples:

    1. The picture itself wasn’t scary but it would strike fear in whoever saw it’s hearts.
    2. When we did have the odd beer thrown up on stage I just wish I could go to whoever did it’s place of work, if he actually had a job, and tip it over his head and think, ‘what do you reckon? Is it funny?’
    3. Dirt Clod, just lay off if you dont like it dont buy it, its whoever buys it’s deal
    4. Well sure, but then it’s still your (or whoever bought it’s) land, so you just turf them off.

    Then I created a few with whoever as an object, and found more examples:

    1. You just closed your eyes and guessed the amount of cash you put into whoever you bought it from’s hand?
    2. Yeah like /u/cmedrano said you’d just need to add your vehicle to whoever you bought it from’s account.
    3. They’ll be signed on to the alliance in a day, and then we can track down whoever you saw’s planet.
    4. Whoever you saw’s gembox spawned in the 2 hours they were able to spawn.
    5. There is an upper management level above customer service, whoever you talked to’s boss would be in that level, but they don’t generally speak directly to customers.

    Evidently, some speakers are not put off by the inconvenience of putting the possessive ‘s at the end of a clause instead of directly on the whoever. How about you?

    Posted in Ambiguity, Fused relatives, Pronouns | 1 Comment »

    Grammar Girl episode on Proto-Indo-European

    Posted by Neal on November 3, 2017

    Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) asked me to write a script about Proto-Indo-European, so I did and here it is. It ended up being my longest script for her to date, except for a two-parter I once did on active and passive voice.

    Posted in Diachronic | 1 Comment »