Archive for Variation

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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Inaugural addresses: SAD.

A few days ago, I posted some f0-difference dipole plots to visualize the contrast between Barack Obama's syllable-level pitch dynamics and Donald Trump's ("Tunes, political and geographical", 2/2/2017):

Obama 2009 Inaugural Address Trump 2017 Inaugural Address

For another take on the same contrast in political prosody, I ran a "Speech Activity Detector" (SAD) on the recordings of the same two speeches, and used the results to create density plots of the relationship between speech-segment durations and immediately following silence-segment durations:

Obama 2009 Inaugural Address Trump 2017 Inaugural Address

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Yeah nah really?

For more, see #newyorkersbelike

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Partial negative concord

Steven Hsieh, "Joking Around: We spoke with that Carlsbad city councilor with the sexist Facebook post", SF Reporter 1/24/2017 [emphasis added]:

Carlsbad City Councilor JR Doporto drew widespread criticism today after KOB 4 highlighted a Facebook post he wrote mocking women who participated in Saturday's nationwide demonstrations against President Donald Trump. […]

After angry comments rained down on his Facebook page, he doubled down on his jokes with additional posts. […]

We caught up with Doporto this afternoon on the phone to hear his thoughts. […]

Q: I don't think anyone is disputing that you have the right to say what you want to say. I guess the question was: The march was for women's rights. And the particular joke you made was disparaging towards women and some of the stereotypes you used were—it seemed you were thumbing your nose at what was taking place. Does that make sense to you?

A: Yeah, yeah. I was thumbing my nose at what was taking place. Enough already. Let's get on. Women have had rights for … years that I have been alive. I don't see no rights they don't have that a man has. When are they going to get on and move on? I believe if a Democratic president was elected, Hillary, I don't think we would've had those protests.

Karen Sumner, who sent me the link, commented: "This is likely an example of a simple and easily-recognized language thing to Language Log folks, but I scratched my head when I saw it. Still scratching, to be honest."

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"Do I not like that"

Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72, after a long and varied career as a manager and coach of English football teams. But this is Language Log, not English Football Log, and so we'll leave the obsequies to others and focus on Mr. Taylor's best known quotation, "Do I not like that":


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Dialectology of Japanese reflexive exclamations

Fascinating episode of a Japanese TV program called Detective Knight Scoop (Tantei Knight Scoop):


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The study is also termed into many conclusion

Charles Belov was surprised by the featured story in the Health section of his Google News index. It was Chhavi Goel, "Surprising Theory About The Cats Which Make The Scientist Stunned", The News Recorder 12/26/2016:

A theory which make the scientists and major medical team shocked came in front that your cat can also become the reason of bird flu to you. The study came in front about the cats the bird flu virus can also affect a home cat which can be termed as dangerous for everyone. The study is also termed into many conclusion that tells that how strong is a bird flu virus can be.

Charles ponders:

It's bad enough that the syntax and word choices are odd, but why Google should promote this to the top is beyond me. Or am I just having a xenophobic reaction to Indian English (the domain ownership is in New Delhi and the author's name appears Indian)?

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Long Johns

From Faith Jones:

I recently had the need to buy my elderly mother some long johns as she is finding even our wimpy, West Coast winters hard to take. In a thank you email she refused to call the tops "long johns," as to her that is only for the pants, but didn't know another term for them and asked what they are called.  To me, they are called "long john tops." This got me thinking about the slipperiness of this term and I asked Facebook which gave me many, many different answers.

The replies come from all over the US and Canada, with a few Brits, and I see no consensus. A significant number of people, perhaps a plurality, think long johns are pants only, but otherwise I see no pattern.

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This is the likes of which I didn't expect

Sarah Halzack, "The shipping industry is poised for massive upheaval. Can FedEx weather the storm?", Washington Post 12/15/2016:

“Amazon is the likes of which we’ve never seen,” said Dick Metzler, a former FedEx executive who now oversees marketing at uShip, an online freight marketplace.

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Twitter-based word mapper is your new favorite toy

At the beginning of 2016, Jack Grieve shared the first iteration of the Word Mapper app he had developed with Andrea Nini and Diansheng Guo, which let users map the relative frequencies of the 10,000 most common words in a big Twitter-based corpus covering the contiguous United States. (See: "Geolexicography," "Totally Word Mapper.") Now as the year comes to a close, Quartz is hosting a bigger, better version of the app, now including 97,246 words (all occurring at least 500 times in the corpus). It's appropriately dubbed "The great American word mapper," and it's hella fun (or wicked fun, if you prefer).

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Dialect death

Reports of the death of languages and the extinction of languages are alarmingly routine, but before a language dies out entirely, when it is endangered, its dialects die off one by one.

"Last native speaker of Scots dialect dies" (10/6/12)

Dialect Death:  The case of Brule Spanish (1997)

The list of publications documenting the dead and dying dialects could go on for many pages:  I lament each and every one of them.

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Ask Language Log: "But long or short, but here or there"

From Chris Cooper:

I was intrigued by this construction, which I'd never come across before. From the explanation of the German word "Bummel" in Jerome K Jerome's comic novel Three Men On The Bummel:

A 'Bummel', I explained, I should describe as a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started. Sometimes it is through busy streets, and sometimes through the fields and lanes; sometimes we can be spared for a few hours, and sometimes for a few days. But long or short, but here or there, our thoughts are ever on the running of the sand. […]

It was the repetition of "but" in the last quoted sentence that struck me – I've never seen this elsewhere. It reminds me of the constructions

whether long or short, whether here or there …

and the obsolete

nor long nor short,

(I can't think of any real-life examples of the latter, but I'm sure it was once common, at least in poetry.)

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Ask Language Log: "Finna"

From P.S.:

Today I was reading a story in the Washington Post (online) about a response to “The Passive Aggressive Neighbor & His Wife”.  It starts: “Re: I’m Finna Tell You What you Not Gon’ Do”  .

I am not sufficiently familiar with what I assume is AAVE and the expression "Finna". I was wondering if you had any more information. In particular I am wondering about the following:

  1. How is this pronounced? Presumably [fɪnə] judging by the spelling? '
  2. Where does this come from? Presumably it develops from something similar to "gonna" etc., but I can't think of any standard source.
  3. What is the interpretation?

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