Kai von Fintel

Website: http://kaivonfintel.org

I’m a professor of linguistics at MIT. I work on meaning. I am also Associate Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. I have a wife, two kids, two cats, and a dog. I live in an intentional community (Mosaic Commons Cohousing) in Berlin, Massachusetts. I am a runner. I like soccer, a lot. I was born on a cold winter’s night in a small village on the Lüneburg Heath in Northern Germany.

Posts by Kai von Fintel:

    Happy Birthday in Biaviian?

    As a mid-week diversion, let us put this to you. Language Log has been contacted by a producer for the Howard Stern show to provide an expert opinion on a purported song of alien provenance. Here's a recording:

    What you are hearing is another Sirius XM radio host, Riley Martin, performing what he says is a traditional birthday song of the Biaviian aliens, who he says abducted him. Steve Nowicki from the Howard Stern show asked for a linguist who could “decipher the lyrics”. The Language Log team is stumped. Perhaps our readers can help out.

    Mark Liberman, at the water cooler, pointed out that the phonetics are pretty straight American English, though maybe Riley Martin is just performing alienese with an American accent. Maybe some Language Log reader will recognize this as a mispronounced rendition of a traditional Cherokee lullaby, or something. So, have at it (but please be civil!).

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    You Smell, I Stink

    Have you ever wondered why "tasty" means that something tastes good while "smelly" means that it doesn't smell so good? What's up with that?

    Manfred Krifka, eminent semanticist in Berlin, Germany, has a solution, explained in his article "A Note on an Asymmetry in the Hedonic Implicatures of Olfactory and Gustatory Terms" (2010. In Susanne Fuchs, Philip Hoole, Christine Mooshammer & Marzena Zygis (eds.), Between the regular and the particular in speech and language, 235–245. Frankfurt: Peter Lang), an impressive sounding title for a delightful little paper. It was published last year but Manfred just made it available on his website, hence this post now. Do give his paper a read!

    Krifka starts his paper with a famous anecdote about Samuel Johnson:

    As Samuel Johnson paused to rest on a London park bench one hot summer's day, his profusely sweating bulk caused a young woman sitting next to him to accuse him of smelling. “No, Madam,” he replied. “You smell, I stink.”

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    Justice Breyer, Professor Austin, and the Meaning of 'Any'

    [Tap tap. Is this thing on?

    I guess as a freshly minted Language Logger, I should introduce myself: I am a professor of linguistics at MIT. I work on meaning: semantics, pragmatics, philosophy of language, and the intersections thereof. I am also a part-time denizen of the academic Dark Side, as Associate Dean of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. I blog on academic, geeky, abstruse, and personal aspects of my life on my personal blog "semantics etc.". Together with fellow LanguageLogger David Beaver, I co-edit the new kid on the block journal Semantics and Pragmatics, for which we maintain an editors' blog as well. So what's one more gig, right?

    In this post, I partially recycle some notes that appeared on my blog in 2005. But there is a new angle.]

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