Archive for Variation

More old names for Singapore

We have already studied an old name for Singapore on the back of an envelope dating to 1901:

Now, Ruben de Jong, relying on the works of Dutch scholars, has discovered several others.

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Definiteness, plurality, and genericity

Mollymooly's comment on yesterday's post ("The Donald's THE, again") deserves general attention:

1. A leopard is bigger than a cheetah, though both have spots.
2. The leopard is bigger than the cheetah, though both have spots.
3. Leopards are bigger than cheetahs, though both have spots.
4. The leopards are bigger than the cheetahs, though both have spots.
5. Your leopard is bigger than your cheetah, though both have spots.
6. Your leopards are bigger than your cheetahs, though both have spots.

For me at least, 1 and 3 are generic; 2 can be either generic or specific; ditto 5 and 6 (though generic is very informal); but 4 must be specific. There seem to be restrictions on when "the + plural-noun" can be generic: are these restrictions syntactic, semantic, pragmatic?

From the other side of the Atlantic, I agree with her judgments. Does the intuited specificity of 4 help us understand what's odd about Donald Trump's use of "the women", "the gays", etc.?

There are several literatures (from philosophy of language as well as linguistics) that converge here,  and perhaps someone who knows them better than I do can summarize.

One comment: this is an area where there are subtle differences even among those languages that have categories approximately corresponding to English plurality and English definite or indefinite determiners. The Romance languages are clearly different from English here, but are they all the same among themselves? What about Germanic languages?

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Nevada: "odd" or "add"?

"Trump Tells Nevadans How to Pronounce 'Nevada' … Incorrectly", ABCNews 10/5/2016:

Donald Trump raised some eyebrows in the Silver State Wednesday night when he told Nevadans how to pronounce their state's name — differently than they do.  

"Heroin overdoses are surging and meth overdoses in Nevada, Nuh-VAH-da," he told the crowd in Reno. "And you know what I said? I said when I came out here I said nobody says it the other day, has to be Nuh-VAH-da.  

"And if you don't say it correctly and it didn’t happen to me but it happened to a friend of mine he was killed."  

Generally, the state's name is pronounced Nuh-VAD-uh.


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Political /t/ lenition

PolitiFact recently took up the case of a Donald Trump campaign video that shows Hillary Clinton apparently announcing her intention to raise middle class taxes (Linda Qiu, "Donald Trump wrongly says Hillary Clinton wants to raise taxes on the middle class", PolitiFact 8/5/2016). The crux of the matter is this passage.

I’m telling you right now,
we’re going to write fairer rules for the middle class,
and we aren't going to raise taxes on the middle class.

The Trump video subtitled it this way:

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Angry Scottish people as tabloid entertainment

The other day I stumbled on a corner of British television previously unknown to me: The Jeremy Kyle Show. We have similar things in the U.S., like Jerry Springer, but Jeremy Kyle seems to have stumbled on a viral idea that our counterparts haven't yet discovered, namely the entertainment value of confessions and arguments in linguistic varieties that the host (and most of the audience) finds hard to understand.

Thus Natalie Corner, "'Scottish Jennifer Aniston' on Jeremy Kyle baffles English viewers who can't understand a word", Daily Record 7/28/2016:

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If you think about it, "home made" is pronounced the same way as "homade" would be if it was a word:

And maybe "homade" *is* a word?

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Ask Language Log: Trend in the pronunciation of Clinton?

From David Russinoff:

I wonder if you've done, or are aware of, any research relevant to the following observation. In the articulation of a "d" or "t" followed by a schwa, the tongue may or may not leave the alveolar ridge.  (I just did some cursory research on parts of the mouth and hope I got that right.)  My (highly unscientific) observation over recent years is that, at least in the pronunciation of certain words, such as "student", removal of the tongue is increasingly common.  In fact, this trend is so apparent to me that I find it remarkable that most people don't seem to have noticed it.  I also have an impression that the trend is especially pronounced (unfortunate choice of words) among younger speakers, but my attempt to support this observation by listening to various pronunciations of "Clinton" over the past four nights failed miserably.

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Philly accent

"An earful of that unmistakable Philly accent", CBS This Morning 7/26/2016:

Featuring Meredith Tamminga!

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On beyond Preserved Killick

Back in 2003, I wrote about "Linking 'which' in Patrick O'Brian"; now Colin Morris has an interesting blog post about recent extensions, "Conjunctive 'which' — a discourse marker on the rise?", 7/22/2016.


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Ian Preston writes:

Following on from your analysis of how `Brexit' ought to be pronounced, I thought I'd bring to your attention that there is a question as to how the new British Prime Minster's name is pronounced. I will admit to having been uncertain whether she was [təˈriː.zə] or [təˈreː.zə].

I am not alone:

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Brexit: Christmas or The Fourth of July?

Or, we could ask, is Brexit like Passchendaele or like The Somme?

I mean, of course, whether the noun Brexit should normally be used with a definite article ("Are you for or against the Brexit?") or without ("Are you for or against Brexit?").

We need to ignore all the constructions in which Brexit is a modifier of another noun: the Brexit vote, the Brexit campaigners, the Brexit turmoil, etc.  But when Brexit is the head of a noun phrase, I've been assuming that it's a strong proper name that should be anarthrous, like Christmas or Passchendaele or Language Log.

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Pronouncing Brexit

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight recently noted that "Brexit sounds like a shitty granola bar you buy at the airport":

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Setting injustice back

Mitch Albom, "Austin pastor’s false cake charge sets real injustice back", Dallas Morning News 5/23/2016:

Brown set back every future case of intolerance, allowing critics to ask if it’s real or fabricated.

As Albom's column explains, Jordan Brown is the openly gay pastor who accused the bakery at Whole Foods of adding an anti-gay slur to the decoration of a cake that he ordered there. Store surveillance video from the check-out line demonstrated that part of his story was false,  and eventually he confessed to having fabricated the claim.

What motivated Vance Koven to send in this link  was the use of the verb set back in the headline and the body of Albom's column. Wiktionary defines the relevant sense of set back as "to delay or obstruct"– and Albom obviously meant that Brown's attempt at deception will delay or obstruct future campaigns against the type of "injustice" or "intolerance" that Brown claimed to have suffered.

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