Cantonese sentence-final particles

Even if you don't know any Cantonese but listen carefully to people speaking it, you probably can tell that it has an abundance of particles.  For speakers of Mandarin who do not understand Cantonese, the proliferation of particles, especially in utterance final position, is conspicuous.  Non-speakers of Cantonese, confronted by all these aa3, ge3, gaa3, laa1, lo1, mei6, sin1, tim1, and so on naturally wonder why there are so many particles in this language, what are their various functions, why they are often drawn out (elongated), and how they arose.

Cantonese speakers, on the other hand, just take them in stride as a natural part of their expressive equipment and don't think that there is anything unusual about them.

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Originalism 2.0

An email from Jonathan Weinberg:

I’m passing along, for whatever interest it holds, Jonathan Gienapp’s new (to my mind very good) essay on originalism in constitutional law, which I thought you might appreciate.  [(myl) Jonathan Gienapp, "Constitutional Originalism and History", Process 3/20/2017.] His focus is on originalists’ shift from their initial position that the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with its drafters’ intentions, to their more recent position that it should be interpreted in accordance with its “original public meaning” — that is, in accordance with what a well-educated person, at the time the document was promulgated, would have understood its text to mean.  Gienapp makes the point, which I had not before thought to put that way, that while “Originalism 1.0” called for the use of historians’ tools, Originalism 2.0 — the search for original public meaning — calls instead for linguists’ tools.  As a historian, he decries this; he urges that historians’ tools are essential to determine the meaning of a document in its original historical context.

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"Bare-handed speech synthesis"

This is neat: "Pink Trombone", by Neil Thapen.

By the same author — doodal:

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Misunderestimation of the month

"Scottish parliament to seek new independence vote despite UK government rebuff", Reuters 3/22/2017:

Holding a non-binding referendum would be damaging, argues Stephen Tierney, Professor of Constitutional Theory at Edinburgh Law School, because it would not provide certainty in a highly divisive situation.  

"The central importance of commonly agreed rules and a neutral referee in a situation of deep disagreement when the stakes are high cannot be under-estimated," he said.

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Renaming anonymous

Paula Abul sends in a spooneristic eggcorn:

I've just come across an eggcorn I've never seen before, and thought it might interest you. It is the phrase "who will rename anonymous", in place of the more usual "remain anonymous". A cursory Google search shows a fair few instances.

Her example is from Kate Allen, "What Your Hairstylist Really Thinks of Your Groupon", Hello Giggles 11/21/2013:

But recently, I’ve received an overwhelming request from hairdressers (who will rename anonymous) to write a guideline for the proper etiquette for using a coupon (Living Social, Groupon, Amazon Local Deal) for a beauty service.

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"Far beyond unconventional levels of dishonesty"

For the Washington Post opinion blog The Plum Line, Greg Sargent wrote: "The events of this week are revealing with a new level of clarity that President Trump and the White House have ventured far beyond unconventional levels of dishonesty."

Obligatory screenshot:

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Irish "would"

Below is an email from Eoin Ryan (with added audio):


Last week on Language Log you posted about a "tentative would" as used by Mike Pence, which reminded me of a use of "would" which I find interesting and may be similar, but I think it is different. Also, last week I had no clear examples to hand, which was a reason not to jump into the comments of the previous post.

Martin McGuinness died this morning. As a central and complex figure in both the Northern Irish Troubles, Peace Process and devolved Stormont parliament, his death is receiving blanket media coverage. A radio host named Ryan Tubridy has a show every weekday morning at 9 on RTE 1 (one of the national radio channels) and he too could not but talk about McGuinness, and this is how he led off:

As you can imagine, it is wall-to-wall
uh talk of
uh the passing of Martin McGuinness, which
is news that I would have woken up to this morning and uh as soon as I checked
the uh newspapers and the headlines and so forth it was the uh
it was the opening story.

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"Made Beaver" and more

As of March 17 2017, DCHP-2 went live: the Second Edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. The Project History, by Stefan Dollinger and Margery Fee, is worth reading — it includes this interesting variation on James Murray's Reading Programme:

Because funding was slow to materialize, we adapted our data collection methods to a format suitable for the classroom. Students learned original research and provided some data for the project (Dollinger 2010a). In January 2008, with the help of UBC and SSHRC funding, we were in the position to open our offices. In the "Canadian English Lab" we completed between early 2008 and Fall 2010 the main data collection for the Bank of Canadian English based on a data "harvesting" scheme and a list of codified Canadianisms compiled from three print dictionaries (Canadian Oxford Dictionary 2004, the Gage Canadian Dictionary 1997 and the ITP Nelson Dictionary 1997). The years 2010-11 were primarily occupied with the proofreading of the scanned DCHP-1 and its conversion for the web. In 2007, UBC Archives scanned DCHP-1 free of charge, which produced the file that was imported to our online dictionary environment. In 2012-13 we began to work out the editorial principles that would guide the editing process of DCHP-2. Drafting of entries began in 2012 and was largely completed by the spring of 2015. The revising of entries was slower, partly because drafting was handed over to undergraduate and graduate students, which added more training tasks than is customary. Three student assistants, Baillie Ford, Alexandra Gaylie and Gabrielle Lim, drafted most of the entries. Other student drafters were Emily Briggs, Jona Dervishaj, Ana Martic and Dorota Lockyer.

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Beyond fluff

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Court fight over Oxford commas and asyndetic lists

Language Log often weighs in when courts try to nail down the meaning of a statute. Laws are written in natural language—though one might long, by formalization, to end the thousand natural ambiguities that text is heir to—and thus judges are forced to play linguist.

Happily, this week's "case in the news" is one where the lawyers managed to identify several relevant considerations and bring them to the judges for weighing.

Most news outlets reported the case as being about the Oxford comma (or serial comma)—the optional comma just before the end of a list. Here, for example, is the New York Times:

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Limerick Poems and Civil Wars

This is a St. Patrick's Day guest post by Stephen Goranson.


The five-line nonsense verses with AABBA rhymes existed long before they were called Limericks, it's generally agreed, but why they got that name lacks consensus.

Let's start with an example:

There was a young rustic named Mallory
Who drew but a very small salary.
He went to the show,
But his purse was so
That he sat in the uppermost gallery.
Tune: wont you come [up] to Limerick

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Trilingual signs in Sicily

"The Jewish Ghosts of Palermo", a post on The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife, shows this photograph near the beginning:


Caption: Possibly the most important Jewish street in Palermo, the Via dei Cartari was
where all the Jewish scribes drew up any contract needed by the citizens of Palermo.

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Pinyin as subversive subtext

B JS sent in this interesting example of using Pinyin ("spelling") as a subtext for notional meaning rendered in characters from Baidu tieba [Post Bar] (though sometimes when I look for this post it seems to get scrubbed by the censors):

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