Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Like Son, Like Father

Posted by Neal on January 9, 2008

Readers who have been with me since 2004 may remember this post; if you found that one interesting, then you should have a look at this article from The New York Times.

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Yateraw Gwiding

Posted by Neal on January 2, 2008

The December 2007 issue of Language arrived while we were packing for our trip to visit Mom and Dad. I glanced at the contents and some abstracts, figuring I’d read more when we got back. The first article: “Positional neutralization: A case study from child language,” by Sharon Inkelas and Yvan Rose. When I looked at the abstract, I realized this article couldn’t wait for us to get back from our trip; it would have to go in my carryon bag for the plane. It was about a child they referred to as E, who from the ages of about one and a half to three years exhibited … lateral gliding.

Lateral gliding, you say?

Yes, lateral gliding! Lateral is the phonetic term for /l/ sounds, and glide is a term referring to vowel-like consonants such as [y] and [w]. (They’re also known as approximants.) Lateral gliding, then, is the pronunciation of /l/s as [w]s and [y]s. Sound familiar?

Maybe you remember a few years ago, when I wrote about how Doug pronounced his /l/s until he was about six years old. Sometimes he’d say them as [y], sometimes as [w]. (BTW, I should mention that I’m using a corrupt version of the International Phonetic Alphabet here. Technically, the consonant y sound is written as [j]. The j sound, meanwhile, is written [ʤ]. But for consistency with the posts I’m linking to here, and to lessen confusion for my nonlinguist readers, I’m representing the y sound as [y].) I was dissatisfied with my own analysis of the rule describing when Doug would produce a [y] and when he’d produce a [w]; another linguist had a better one, but I was naturally curious about what a paper in a scholarly journal would have to say on the subject. This wasn’t academic; it was personal.

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Posted in The darndest things, Uncategorized, What the L | 3 Comments »

Another Funny Story

Posted by Neal on April 15, 2006

“Bilingual by Breakfast” is a funny piece by Leigh Ann Henion that appeared on the last page of the February 2006 issue of Smithsonian magazine. She even uses the word guttural correctly. Go read it.

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Nuh-Uh!

Posted by Neal on July 19, 2004

Imagine that you’re back in elementary school, having a discussion on the playground with one of your classmates. It goes something like this:

You: My dad can beat up your dad!
Classmate: Nuh-uh!

What is the proper response here? For me, it is and has always been, “Uh-huh!” But in the past few years, I’ve been hearing “Yuh-huh!”
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Conspiratorially Yours

Posted by Neal on July 18, 2004

Eugene Volokh has kindly invited me back for another week of guest-blogging at The Volokh Conspiracy. I’ll be posting there until Sunday the 25th, so please drop by. Be sure to check out the postings of another guest-blogger there, Cathy Seipp, who has some interesting, and in one case very politically incorrect, observations.

Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments »

Oral Expression in French

Posted by Neal on April 26, 2004

Geoff Pullum of Language Log recently posted about one brief shining moment when he successfully deployed his limited Finnish well enough to sound like a fluent speaker. It reminded me of my favorite story of about speaking French. It was back in the summer of 1990 … [harp music, picture getting wavy]
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