Extreme right node raising

Wikipedia explains that "right node raising" is "a sharing mechanism that sees the material to the immediate right of parallel structures being in some sense 'shared' by those parallel structures, e.g. [Sam likes] but [Fred dislikes] the debates."

This construction is alive and well in modern English, but it flourished to a much greater extent in centuries past. I believe that it was once more common, though I don't have quantitative evidence. But 18th-century authors certainly produced examples that seem to go beyond the boundaries of modern prose style.

Here's a case in point, from Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter X: Emperors Decius, Gallus, Aemilianus, Valerian And Gallienus.—Part II:

The Scythian hordes, which, towards the east, bordered on the new settlements of the Goths, presented nothing to their arms, except the doubtful chance of an unprofitable victory. But the prospect of the Roman territories was far more alluring; and the fields of Dacia were covered with rich harvests, sown by the hands of an industrious, and exposed to be gathered by those of a warlike, people.

As I read this passage on the plane to Helsinki, the part that I've put in bold struck me as characteristic of Gibbon's time, and foreign to contemporary prose style.

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The joys of correspondence

In response to the discussion of "Realistic limitations" on telephone conversation, Anne Cutler sent in a link to her 1989 New Scientist article "The new Victorians":

"My dear Hooker,” wrote Charles Darwin to Joseph Hooker on 6 March 1844, “I will not lose a post in guarding you against what I am afraid is … labour in vain." This urgent warning went by post, because Darwin had no option: he had no telephone. What the Victorians did have, however, was a pretty efficient postal service, and they made good use of it. Look at the fat volumes of Darwin's correspondence. Hooker was only one of many fellow scientists with whom Darwin exchanged letters at a rate that seems to us prodigious. Victorian scientists bombarded one another with ideas, results and opinions, and all by mail.

By comparison, we write few such letters. But now, quietly, a new age of scientific correspondence is opening, and what has brought it about is a new kind of mail: electronic mail.

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Realistic limitations

Today's Dumbing of Age features Amber performing a daring physical feat in order to help her friend Walky:

The mouseover title is "let's set realistic limitations for ourselves", and in the last panel, Amber remarks about what she's doing that "It's rough, sure, but it's not impossible, like calling anyone on the phone".

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Mother tongue is like mother's milk

Pro-Taiwanese language poster on a wall in Tainan (courtesy of Tim Clifford):

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Character crises

From Bob Bauer:

You may have heard that the famous HK-based novelist by the name of 劉以鬯 recently passed away at the age of 99.  [VHM:  I have intentionally left his name without transcription for reasons that will soon become apparent.]

I did not know how to read/pronounce the third character in his name, so I tried to look it up in some dictionaries. But I first needed to decide what is this character's radical? Trying to find the character by its radical turned out to be a very time-consuming process, as different dictionaries do different things with it — at least one doesn't bother to assign it to a radical.

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"Yeah day go, baby"

Yesterday, while I was sitting in an interesting session at Speech Prosody 2018, I got a phone call that I didn't answer. The caller left a message that Google Voice transcribed this way:

Lowell is an installer sensor Grace call me. I'll pick it up. That was a break was thinking. Because you had to go to work this morning around, you know, my exact maybe go back to take the brake light. As you said you didn't feel quite right still cyber, even though I was still wearing the back. I might have something. Bye. What thank God. This f****** f*** m*********** train my f****** bank account. What I see your ex. What's your phone number? Yeah day go, baby. Does it have that switch that maybe that's what size over at light source? I'm open. Another f*****. I know what that's like I recognize. Yeah, I was.

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Noodle wars

A fresh take on linguistic globalization:

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My poster for the "Prosody Visualization Challenge"

See "PVC 1" (4/20/2018) for background.  I ran the 51 PVC 1 audio files through the scripts described in "Some visualizations of prosody" (10/23/2016), and ginned up a poster describing a few of the results.

Unfortunately poster-display technology doesn't yet include embedded audio playback, so this is an interactive version of the same content. [Note: the poster mistakenly describes example 1.b. as being from a Donald Trump interview, rather than being from his inaugural address.]

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Aunt Perilla

Photograph of a packet of seeds purchased by Dara Connolly's wife in a Daiso 100-yen shop in Japan:

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"Language Log" — a request

As you are aware, our fans in China and elsewhere around the world would like to translate "Language Log" into their own languages.  The problem is that there are different words for "language" and "log" in the many languages that they wish to cover.

For example, the Romance languages distinguish between the faculty of language—the human capacity to communicate, using spoken or written signs—from specific oral or written natural languages (French, Mandarin, etc.). One chooses between one word or the other depending on the subject under discussion. In English, the same word can be used for both phenomena.

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Plosives take over the New York Times Styles section

Just last week, Caity Weaver was waxing rhapsodic about Kim Cattrall's alveolar plosives in the New York Times Styles section:

When Ms. Cattrall says the word “didn’t,” she respects each and every D and T.

Indeed, it could be said that alveolar plosives — the consonant sounds made by tapping the tip of the tongue to the alveolar ridge, just behind the teeth, as when hitting one’s D’s and T’s — are some of Ms. Cattrall’s best work. She is a careful enunciator who takes time to pronounce distinctly every element of a consonant cluster. Her diction might be described as intricate.

(More from Mark Liberman here.)

And now the plosives are back, in a Styles article by Jonah Engel Bromwich about IHOP's curious rebranding as "IHOb" (which it turns out has to do with burgers).

P and b are both bilabial plosives, meaning that your mouth does the same thing when you make the sound of both letters. The difference is that “b” is voiced, which for some people, makes it sound funny or strange coming at the end of a word.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: Heller

[An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here.]

Before I get into the corpus data (next post, I promise), I want to set the stage by talking a bit about the Heller decision. Since the purpose of this series of posts is to show the ways in which the corpus data casts doubt on the Supreme Court's interpretation of keep and bear arms, I'm going to review the parts of the decision that are most relevant to that purpose. I'm also going to point out several ways in which I think the Court's linguistic analysis is flawed even without considering the corpus data. Although that wasn't part of my plans when I began these posts, this project has led me to read Heller more closely than I had done before and therefore to see flaws that had previously escaped my notice. And I think that being aware of those flaws will be important when the time comes to decide whether  and to what extent the data undermines Heller's analysis.

The Second Amendment's structure

As is well known (and as has been discussed previously on Language Log here, here, and here), the Second Amendment is unusual in that it is divided into two distinct parts, which the Court in Heller called the "prefatory clause" and the "operative clause":

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The future of Cantonese, part 2

During the month of May, we witnessed a major flare-up in Hong Kong over the status of Cantonese:

"Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers" (5/4/18) — with references to more than two dozen earlier posts on Cantonese relevant to today's topic; in toto, the number of LLog posts touching on one or another aspect of Cantonese is far greater than those listed at the end of this 5/4/18 post

"Cantonese is not the mother tongue of Hong Kongers, part 2" (5/7/18)

"The Future of Cantonese" (5/27/18)

All of this has prompted Verna Yu to ask "Can Cantonese survive?", America (6/5/18).

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