Archive for Announcements

Curses! Introducing a new blog, "Strong Language"

There's a new linguablog that's definitely worth your time if you're not put off by vulgarities. And if you revel in vulgarities, well, you're in luck. It's called Strong Language, and it's the creation of James Harbeck and Stan Carey.

James and Stan have enlisted a great lineup of contributors (I'm happy to be one of them). As the "About" page explains, Strong Language "gives a place for professional language geeks to talk about things they can’t talk about in more polite contexts. It’s a sweary blog about swearing."

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sitemeter = malware

Apologies to anyone (and it must be lots of you) who tried to reach a LLOG page yesterday and got redirected to x.vindicosuite.com.

This was the result of the latest malfunction in the sitemeter.com tool for counting visits and referrals, which we've been using for the past decade. Increasingly often over the past year or so, the sitemeter tracking code has been non-deterministically routing visitors to unwanted advertising sites, playing strange background music, etc. At about the same time, the company stopped responding to any support queries or complaints. Because its tracking statistics are useful, and because the unwanted redirections were rare and intermittent (and arguably due to mistakes rather than malice), I've stuck with them.

But as of yesterday evening, for a significant period of time, every single attempt to access a LLOG page resulted in a glimpse of the desired page followed quickly by redirection to x.vindicosuite.com, which is apparently some sort of passive DNS replicator or something. As far as I can tell, no virus or worm attack was involved, but the redirection alone is unacceptable, even if this is just another bug in sitemeter's counting software rather than anything malicious.

It seems that a lot of other people had the same problem with sitemeter (see also here, and many other comments over the past couple of years). So I've removed the sitemeter code from our WordPress installation. Now I can look forward to wasting a few hours trying to get sitemeter to stop charging me for their "service".

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Topolect writing

This is an interesting question raised by the Writing Chinese project at Leeds.  Helen Wang mentioned it to me in the hope that I might be willing to share my thoughts.  I'll do Helen one better and share this with many others, in hopes that they too may be willing to share their thoughts.

I'd like to call to your attention this project at the University of Leeds.  It's about contemporary fiction from China.

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Miracles of Human Language

Below is a guest post by Marc van Oostendorp, who will be teaching "Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics" on Coursera, 3/30/2015-5/10/2015.

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Ben Zimmer: Linguistics Journalism Award

My first thought upon reading the following announcement is that my colleagues and I here at Language Log headquarters hasten to claim Ben as one of ours (he doesn't just belong to the WSJ!):

"WSJ's Ben Zimmer receives first LSA Linguistics Journalism Award"

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Classical Chinese Dictionary

A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese

All of the people associated with this dictionary are excellent scholars, so I'm sure that it will be reliable and of the highest quality.  Naturally, I am pleased that it is arranged alphabetically by Pinyin and has a radical plus stroke order index.

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Philological teaser

From George Walkden on Facebook: "Syntactic Reconstruction and Proto-Germanic: Cinematic Teaser".

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Scheduled power outage

The building where the current LLOG server sits will be without power this evening, due to a construction project, and as a result, LLOG will be unavailable for several hours.

We should be back by early morning, if all goes well.

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Usage masochism

I think it is time to make public my private suspicion that most of the customers for prescriptive usage guides are masochists. They want to be punished for imaginary grammar crimes. I plan to speak out. My paper at the Cambridge English Usage Guides Symposium this Friday afternoon will be entitled "The usage game: catering to perverts." Abstract here.

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Schwa Fire

Michael Erard's Schwa Fire is now live:

The golden age of language journalism begins now. In this inaugural issue, Arika Okrent tells the story of 5,700 hours of Yiddish recordings that were almost lost ("Ghost Voices"), and Russell Cobb writes about Americans' fondness for the Englishes we used to speak and what that fondness obscures ("The Way We Talked"). Michael Erard describes and defends "language journalism," and Robert Lane Greene provides a lesson on the languages of love ("Wooing in Danish"). Also included: an English homophone puzzle.

You can subscribe for $6.99 a year, or buy individual articles for $0.99. For more background, see Jennifer Schuessler, "New Online Magazine Honors the Mighty Schwa", NYT 5/23/2014.

 

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Plebgate: an overdue apology

It is time for Language Log to set things straight about the Right Honourable Andrew John Bower Mitchell MP. The story of what everyone thought had happened in London on 19 September 2012 was reported here (by yours truly) in this post and this follow-up. It involved (we all thought) a snooty and arrogant Conservative government minister and member of the House of Commons snarling words of class prejudice, in front of shocked independent bystanders, at an honest cop who was merely trying to enforce the laws that Parliament had ordained. The linguistic point of interest was that the nastiest of those words was alleged to be the noun pleb. Not the expressive expletive fucking: Mitchell never denied muttering something like I thought you guys were supposed to fucking help us when the police told him to push his bike out of Downing Street through a small pedestrian gate rather than ride it through the big one. No, the scandal was that a minister of the crown had used a contemptuous upper-class snob's term for the common people.

Language Log repeated the story that the British newspapers gloried in; but after 15 months of glacially slow police investigation costing around a quarter of a million dollars, yielding one prosecution, the story now looks very different. It appears the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell was both right and honorable. He was framed by lying cops, and deserves an apology.

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Zhou Youguang, Father of Pinyin

Zhou Youguang, the main architect and early advocate of Hanyu Pinyin (the official romanized orthography for Modern Standard Mandarin), had his 108th birthday yesterday.  Although I've been a close friend and admirer of Professor Zhou since 1981, I've never dedicated a Language Log post exclusively to him, so it's about time that I do so.

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The English passive: an apology

Listen, I need to apologise to thirty or forty of you (I don't really know how many). I'm really sorry. I've wronged you. Mea culpa.

You remember all those great examples you sent me of people alleging use of the passive voice and getting it wrong? Well, I have now completed a paper using many of them. It's basically about the astonishing extent of the educated public's understanding of the grammatical term "passive" and the utter lack of support for the widespread prejudice against passive constructions. It's called "Fear and Loathing of the English Passive," and you can get a 23-page single-spaced typescript in PDF format if you click on that title. It will appear this year in the journal Language and Communication; the second proofs are being prepared now. But (the bad news) my acknowledgments note (at the end, just before the references) will not contain a full list of the names of all of you who helped me. You deserved better, but don't blow up at me; let me explain.

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