Archive for Morphology

Keep on -inging

Jeff DeMarco writes:

From a Facebook post (timeline) by a young woman in HK:

卡拉ok ing ……😂🤣

GT deftly translates it as karaoke ing.

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Gender distinction in languages

[This is a guest post by Krista Ryu]

It may be true that the problem of gender inequality is more severe in East Asian countries than in European countries. However, in terms of languages, Indo-European languages actually distinguish genders while East Asian languages traditionally do not.

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Sino-English grammatical hyper-redundancy

Adrian S. Thieret found this sign inside his brand new apartment complex in Shanghai a few days ago:

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Écriture inclusive

In English, singular personal pronouns are almost the only residue of morphological gender. But in many languages this is a much bigger problem, with gender agreement in adjectives, gendered forms of most nouns, and so on. A few years, French proponents of "écriture inclusive" ("inclusive writing") proposed a novel use of an otherwise little-used character, the "middle dot", to set off optional letter sequences and create gender-ambiguous written forms. Thus

Masculine Feminine Inclusive
 intellectuel  intellectuelle  intellectuel·le
 musicien  musicienne  musicien·ne
 représentés  représentées  représenté·e·s

Thus, as Le Figaro put it,

Pour que les femmes comme les hommes «soient inclus·e.s, se sentent représenté·e·s et s'identifient», le Haut Conseil à l'égalité entre les femmes et les hommes recommandait en 2015, dans un guide pratique, d'utiliser l'écriture inclusive.

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"Sons of a bitches"

In his 9/22/2017 rally speech in Huntsville, Alabama, Donald Trump said

Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners
when somebody disrespects our flag
to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now —
out, he's fired.
Fired!

This posed a question for people who wanted to speak up in support of the football players he was threatening: What's the plural of "son of a bitch"?

I always thought it was "sons of bitches", but a surprising number of people decided on "sons of a bitches" instead. (See "Plurals", 9/22/2013, for some additional context.)

 

 

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Biscriptalism on Starbucks cups, part 2

In "Impromptu biscriptalism on a Starbucks cup" (9/8/17), we encountered a Starbucks cup from Shenyang, northeast China that had the following handwritten notation on the side:  wài's 外's ("foreigner's").  I referred to the "'s" as impromptu because I thought that it was essentially a one-off phenomenon.  Nonetheless, I considered the "'s" to be linguistically significant in two major ways:  1. evidence of biscriptalism; 2. incorporation of an English morpheme in Chinese.

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Impromptu biscriptalism on a Starbucks cup

Photograph taken by a Russian friend of Nikita Kuzmin at a Starbucks in Shenyang, northeast China:

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Russia is a surface but other countries are spaces?

In Finnish, that is. Garrett Wollman ("Some linguistic observations from my trip to Finland", Occasionally Coherent 4/14/2017) notes that Finnish morphology differentiates between "surface" and "interior" relationships of position and motion:

toward at away
surface allative
-lle
“onto”
adessive
-lla/-llä
“on” or “at”
ablative
-lta/-ltä
“off” or “away”
interior illative
-Vn/-hVn
(for stems ending in V)
“into” or “toward”
inessive
-ssa/-ssä
“in” or “inside of”
elative
-sta/-stä
“out of” or “from”

Against this background, he describes his recent experience at the World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki.

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Morphosyntactic innovation in the White House?

From the "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/14/2017, #12" (starting at 15:23 of the ABC News video):

JONATHAN KARL:  Back in January, the President said that nobody in his campaign had been in touch with the Russians. Now, today, can you still say definitively that nobody on the Trump campaign, not even General Flynn, had any contact with the Russians before the election?

SEAN SPICER: My understanding is that what General Flynn has now expressed is that during the transition period — well, we were very clear that during the transition period, he did fee- he did speak with the ambassador —


JONATHAN KARL: I’m talking about during the campaign.


MR. SPICER: I don’t have any- I- there’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.

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Pell-mell

When, about 40 years ago, I first read the "Basic Annals of Xiang Yu (232-202 BC)" ( Xiàngyǔ běnjì 項羽本紀) in the The Scribe's Records (Shǐjì 史記, ca. 94), the foundation for the 24 official dynastic histories that followed it, I was struck by this sentence:   `Yúshì Xiàng wáng dà hū chí xià, Hàn jūn jiē pīmí, suì zhǎn Hàn yī jiāng.'「於是項王大呼馳下,漢軍皆披靡,遂斬漢一將。」("Then King Xiang shouted loudly and galloped down, causing all of the Han army [to flee] pell-mell, whereupon he cut down one of the Han generals".)

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Inflection in Georgian and in English

Helen Sims-Williams has a new post on The Philological Society Blog:

"Understanding the loss of inflection" (11/23/16)

Helen takes what might superficially seem to be a dry and dreary topic and turns it into a lively, stimulating essay.  Here's how it begins:

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Language vs. script

Many of the debates over Chinese language issues that keep coming up on Language Log and elsewhere may be attributed to a small number of basic misunderstandings and disagreements concerning the relationship between speech and writing.

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Asshat(t)ery

From Jenny Chu, on November 9:

I am a long-time follower of Language Log but usually comment on the Chinese and Vietnamese related topics by Prof. Mair. Yet I thought you might be amused by the attached conversation. It shows some nice examples of the playfulness and creativity of the human language faculty, as well as some nicely ironic / self-conscious prescriptivist poppycock.

The conversation starts like this:

Click here to read the whole (long) thing.

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