Archive for Words words words

"Ostensibly the main target"

John Leicester, Raf Casert, and Lori Hinnant, "In remembering WWI, world warned of resurging ‘old demons’", Associated Press 11/11/2018 [emphasis added]:

As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and dozens of other heads of state and government listened in silence, French President Emmanuel Macron used the occasion, as its host, to sound a powerful and sobering warning about the fragility of peace and the dangers of nationalism and of nations that put themselves first, above the collective good.

“The old demons are rising again, ready to complete their task of chaos and of death,” Macron said.

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” he said. “In saying ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others,’ you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: Its moral values.”

Trump, ostensibly the main target of Macron’s message, sat stony-faced.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: “keep” (part 2)

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

In  my last post (longer ago than I care to admit), I offered a very brief introduction to corpus analysis and used corpus data on the word keep as the raw material for a demonstration of corpus analysis in action. One of my reasons for doing that was to talk about the approach to word meaning that I think is appropriate when using corpus linguistics in legal interpretation.

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Umarell is one of those words that people like because it references a somewhat familiar concept that their own language or variety has no easy way to name. Wikipedia has this to say about it:

Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛlː]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term popular in Bologna referring specifically to men of retirement age who pass the time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice. Its literal meaning is "little man" (also umarèin), and it is often pluralized in spelling by adding a final s (out of English influence).

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Lexico-cultural decay?

Jonathan Merritt, "The Death of Sacred Speech", The Week 9/10/2018:

America boasts more Christians than any other country on planet Earth. But you wouldn't know it from listening to us.

According to Google Ngram Viewer data, a searchable database of millions of printed works stretching back 500 years, most of the central terms in the Christian vocabulary are rapidly declining. One 2012 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology, for example, analyzed 50 moral terms associated with Christianity and found that a whopping 74 percent were used less frequently over the course of the last century […]

"Whopping "? If the frequency of each word were following a random walk, we'd expect 50% of them to decline and 50% of them to increase. And to be confident that 74% is "whopping", or even meaningful, we'd need to do something that neither Merritt nor the cited paper do, namely verify that there's no overall bias in the data source for reasons other than changing "cultural salience", either towards decreasing frequency of certain types of words, or decreasing frequency of individual words in general, But in fact there's good reason to believe that both sorts of bias exist — see below.

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Word, syllable, morpheme, phoneme

What is the basic unit of discursive, communicative language — word, syllable, morpheme, or phoneme?

This topic came up in the comments to the following posts:

"The concept of word in Sinitic" (10/3/18)

"Words in Vietnamese" (10/2/18)

"Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco" (9/30/18)

"Words in Mandarin: twin kle twin kle lit tle star" (8/14/12)

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"Go Ralph Club!"

Below I've reprinted a prominent intellectual's Facebook post. The recent upsurge of interest in 1980s-era American slang gives it some relevance to LLOG, but mostly I just admired the sentiment. Since it was not a public post, I asked permission to quote it, and the author responded:

Go ahead. It was briefly a tough decision – I sat there cynically thinking "but I have a reputation". Then I thought, you know what, that's the problem. We don't let people be human, so they lie and cheat and pretend they're angels instead. So yes, go ahead. 

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The concept of word in Sinitic

In the following posts, we've been tackling the thorny, multifaceted question of whether Vietnamese has words and lexemes, as opposed to having syllables and morphemes:

During the course of our discussions, the parallel question of whether Sinitic had words or not also came up.  Let me put it this way:  although there was no concept of "word" in Sinitic before the 20th century, there were Sinitic words, going all the way back to the oracle bone inscriptions (the first stage of Chinese writing) more than three thousand years ago, as documented in these posts and dozens of others:

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Words in Vietnamese

In "Diacriticless Vietnamese on a sign in San Francisco" (9/30/18), we discussed the advisability of joining syllables into words or separating all syllables.  The ensuing string of comments revealed that there is a correlation between linking syllables and word spacing on the one hand and the necessity for diacritical marks on the other hand.

This prompted me to ask the following questions of several colleagues who are specialists on Vietnamese:

Roughly what percentage of Vietnamese lexemes (words) are monosyllabic? Disyllabic? Any trisyllabic or higher?

The average length of a word in Mandarin is almost exactly two syllables.

Can you think of examples in Vietnamese parsing where it would be clearer or more helpful to have the syllables of words joined together?

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Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds

The Wikipedia article on cyberpunk derivatives lists, among others, biopunk, nanopunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, decopunk, and atompunk. These are all subgenres of speculative fiction, unlike glam-punk, electropunk, cowpunk, etc., which are subgenres of punk rock (music).

And these words are also prime examples of the quasiregularity of  morphological (and sometimes phrasal) composition.

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X-ternity leave

Matthew Haag, "Company Is Offering ‘Fur-ternity Leave’ for New Pet Owners", NYT 8/20/2018:

A Minneapolis marketing company recently made tweaks to its employee benefits this summer, ranging from conventional to unusual. It gave workers a larger commuter stipend, as well as a reason to avoid the office altogether: “fur-ternity leave,” or the ability to work from home for a week to welcome new dogs or cats.

“This is kind of a no-brainer,” said Allison McMenimen, a vice president at the company, Nina Hale, who helped devise the new policy. “The idea of offering benefits that just help keep employees at the office, that’s over.”

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mmhmm etc.

Kumari Devarajan, "Ready For A Linguistic Controversy? Say 'Mmhmm'", NPR 8/17/20018:

Once upon a time, English speakers didn't say "mmhmm." But Africans did, according to Robert Thompson, an art history professor at Yale University who studies Africa's influence on the Americas.

In a 2008 documentary, Thompson said the word spread from enslaved Africans into Southern black vernacular and from there into Southern white vernacular. He says white Americans used to say "yay" and "yes." […]

Ugo Nwojeki, a professor of African-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, says he "always assumed" that the word was African. Lev Michael, a linguist at the same school, says that "doesn't seem very plausible." Roslyn Burns, a linguist at UCLA, says "it's hard to say."

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ICYMI: "Fog computing"

You've almost certainly heard about "cloud computing" — the phrase is frequently in the news, and has even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, with the gloss "the use of networked facilities for the storage and processing of data rather than a user's local computer, access to data or services typically being via the Internet", and citations from 1996. But do you know about "fog computing"? Wikipedia defines it as

an architecture that uses edge devices to carry out a substantial amount of computation, storage, communication locally and routed over the internet backbone, and most definitively has input and output from the physical world, known as transduction. […]

On November 19, 2015, Cisco Systems, ARM Holdings, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Princeton University, founded the OpenFog Consortium, to promote interests and development in fog computing.

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Ask Language Log: Word(s) for leaking?

From Bob Ladd:

Thanks to an old pair of swimming goggles, I’ve just become aware that Italian doesn’t have a word for ‘leak’ – or alternatively, that the English word ‘leak’ covers a very wide range of situations in which a substance (often water) passes through a human artefact designed to prevent it from passing through.  Semantically, there are two distinct cases: in one the artefact is a container of some sort (a bucket, a gas tank) intended to keep the substance enclosed, while in the other the artefact is designed to keep the substance out (boats, roofs, dikes, goggles). Grammatically, there are additional differences: the subject of the verb describing the leaking can either be the artefact (the boat leaks) or the substance (the water leaked in), and if it’s the artefact the verb can either be intransitive (the roof leaks) or transitive (the roof lets water in).  In Italian, the artefact can sometimes be the subject in the case where a container loses some of its contents, but it normally wants to be transitive (il serbatoio perde (acqua), lit. ‘the tank loses (water)’).  It’s hard to literally translate ‘the roof leaks’ or ‘the boat leaks’ and get an acceptable sentence; it’s more natural to say something like la barca prende acqua, lit. ‘the boat takes water’, or entra l’acqua, lit. ‘enters the water’ (verb-subject) or c’è una falla ‘there is a leak/breach’. English happily uses the verb ’leak’ in all these cases, with the artefact normally the grammatical subject of an intransitive verb.

How does it work in other languages?


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