Archive for Variation

"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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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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