Archive for Morphology

Justin Bieber OK infix

What's going on here?  How did Justin Bieber become an infix (more precisely tmesis) inserted between the "O" and the "K" of "OK"? 

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A productive-ass suffix

Currently making the rounds is a video from Conan showing a standup appearance by the Finnish comedian Ismo Leikola. In his experience of learning English as a second language, he says, "I think the hardest word to truly master has been the word ass." He muses on the peculiar application of -ass as a slangy suffix in words like lazy-ass, long-ass, grown-ass, bad-ass, and dumb-ass.

Stan Carey discussed the video on the Strong Language blog ("A paradoxical-ass word"), and he links to Mark Liberman's 2014 roundup of scholarship on -ass (on Language Log and elsewhere), "Ignoble-ass citation practices."

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Language vigilantism

In "The Eagle-Eyed Vigilantes Defending the Chinese Language:  As new lingo springs up and grammatical errors persist, one magazine is battling to maintain linguistic standards", Yin Yijun (Sixth Tone [1/19/18]) describes an unusual PRC journal:

Shanghai-based Yaowen Jiaozi — whose name literally translates as “biting phrases and chewing characters” — was established in 1995 and operates under the slogan: “Bite every mistake that deserves to be bitten, and chew every article worth chewing.” The monthly magazine’s mission is to attack every grammatical error it encounters — and the staff take the job seriously. Over the past 20 years, the magazine has amassed a long list of mistakes, from a nearly unnoticeable Chinese character error on a chopstick wrapper, to a series of mistakes author and Nobel laureate Mo Yan made in his award-winning works.

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Chinese pentaglot rap

A Shanghainese friend of a friend just sent him a link to a curious video, and he forwarded it to me.  It looks like a Nike-sponsored rap song with five different fāngyán 方言 ("topolects") and lots of English.

My friend asked, "I wonder to what degree the Hànzì 汉字 ("Chinese characters") in the subtitles match the actual lyrics."

The video comes via Bilibili, which sometimes seems to load very slowly.  It is also available on iQIYI and DigitaLing.  Subtitles are more clearly visible in the Bilibili and DigitaLing (last one) versions.

The main questions, at least for me, are which topolects are presented, how faithful the presentations are, and how well the subtitles represent what is being said.

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Morphological creativity: Shoedrobe

Forwarded by Alex Baumans, an email advertisement from Legend Footwear in London — "RESTOCK YOUR SHOEDROBE FOR WINTER!"

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Wall Street big

"Wall Street big, 49, killed by shark while diving in Costa Rica", Fox News (N.Y. Post) 11/4/2017:

A 49-year-old Wall Street private equity manager was killed by a tiger shark while diving with a group off a Costa Rican island, according to officials.

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Ask Language Log: Unnecessary disyllabism?

From Thorin Engeseth:

I was doing some reading this morning on the magpie, and the Wikipedia page states:

Similarly, in China, magpies are seen as an omen of good fortune. This is even reflected in the Chinese word for magpie, simplified Chinese: 喜鹊; traditional Chinese: 喜鵲; pinyin: xǐquè, in which the first character means "happiness".

I'm almost entirely illiterate when it comes to the languages of China, so I took to Google Translate just to see how it would translate the two characters from both simplified and traditional script. In both, the first is translated as "like; to be happy", while the second is "magpie". My question is: if the second character itself can be translated as "magpie", if Google Translate is correct here, then is the first character still necessary?

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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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