Archive for Variation

Bad of shape

Josh Marshall, "Prep for the Overshoot", TPM 4/19/2016 (emphasis added):

[P]eople had convinced themselves last week that Trump was basically done – largely on the basis of a few bad news cycles and a big loss in Wisconsin. As long as he didn't get to 1237, he was toast. But Wisconsin was obviously an outlier. Now though things look very different. And they are different. But part of that is that Trump was never in as bad of shape as people thought ten days ago.

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More about UM/UH on the Autism Spectrum

At a workshop in June, a group of us will be presenting a report that includes this graph:

The x axis is the relative frequency of "filled pauses" UM and UH, from 0% to 8%, and the y axis is the proportion of filled pauses that are UM, from 0% to 100%. The individual plotting characters represent values from transcripts of 100 children's contributions to Q&A segments of a standard diagnostic interview, where the blue Ts are "typically developing" children, the green Ms are male children with an autism spectrum diagnosis, and the red Fs are female children with an autism spectrum diagnosis.

You can find the details in Julia Parish-Morris, Mark Liberman, Neville Ryant, Christopher Cieri, Leila Bateman, Emily Ferguson, and Robert T. Schultz, "Exploring Autism Spectrum Disorders Using HLT", Computational Linguistics and Clinical Psychology 2016.

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Language and identity

Rebecca Tan, "Accent Adaptation (On sincerity, spontaneity, and the distance between Singlish and English", The Pennsylvania Gazette 2/18/2016:

The most difficult thing about speaking in a foreign country isn’t adopting a new currency of speech, but using it as though it’s your own—not just memorizing your lines, but taking center stage and looking your audience in the eye. It is one thing to pronounce can’t so that it rhymes with ant instead of aunt, but a whole other order to do that without feeling like a fraud. […]

Lately I’ve been wondering if I’ve taken this whole language situation a tad too personally. Till now, I have kept my Singaporean inflection close at hand, for fear that attempts at Americanisms will be wrong—or, worse, permanent. Yet I am beginning to feel myself grow tired of this stage fright, tired of this senseless preoccupation with the packaging of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Away from all these theatrics, the simple facts are that I am 9,500 miles away from home, and will be for four more years. I came here looking for change, and the words forming in my mouth to accommodate that change are not jokes, lies, or betrayals. They are real, not strange, and they are mine.

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More sweary maps from Stan Carey

Stan Carey, "Sweary maps 2: Swear harder", Strong Language (A Sweary Blog About Swearing), 3/22/2016:

You may remember Jack Grieve’s swear maps of the USA. Now he has a nifty new web app called Word Mapper that lets anyone with an internet connection make use of the raw data behind those maps.

Being a mature grown-up, I put on my @stronglang hat and went searching for swears and euphemisms. What emerged were some intriguing – and visually very appealing – patterns of rude word use in contemporary discourse.

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Down with vs. Up for: We have maps

From Jack Grieve, in response to "Up (for) and down (with)", 3/17/2016:

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Up (for) and down (with)

From Peter Weinberger:

My group at work was discussing a proposed outing:
I said "I'm up for that".
Our intern said "I'm down with that".

Do you know if this is purely generational, or is there some sort of geographic component?

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Accents

The entertainment potential of regional varieties of American English has apparently hit the late-night TV zeitgeist. Here's a brilliant trailer, for the imaginary movie Boston Accent (posted on YouTube 1/21/2016):

And a new kind of competition, the Accent-Off (also posted on 1/21/2016):

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Canversers and draws

A LL reader sent in this picture of a "no hawkers or canversers" sign on a gate in a retirement community in Sawbridgeworth, England:

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Annals of singular "they"

Shane Hickey, "The innovators: the app promising the perfect-fitting bra", The Guardian 1/10/2015:

The sizing technology works via an iPhone app. To use it, a woman must take two pictures of themselves while wearing a tight fitted top in front of a mirror. The phone is held at the bellybutton and a picture is taken from the front and the side. Software developed by Thirdlove then draws up measurements by calculating the distance between the mirror and the contours of the body.

Maybe an editor changed "women" to "a woman" and neglected to change "themselves" to "herself". But I prefer to think that it's just another brick in the singular-they wall — and maybe a vote for "themselves" as the reflexive form?

[h/t Bob Ladd]

 

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Like thanks

In addition to the evergreen list of things to be thankful for — family, friends, health, worlds full of wonder — I'd like to make a plug for the internet, that connects us to all of them. Less directly than we might sometimes wish, but much more easily.

And for anyone interested in speech, language, and communication, the internet and the virtual universe behind it offer an extraordinary opportunity to make voyages of discovery, and to share what we find.

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UM/UH accommodation

Over the years, we've presented some surprisingly consistent evidence about age and gender differences in the rates of use of different hesitation markers in various Germanic languages and dialects. See the end of this post for a list; or see Martijn Wieling et al., "Variation and change in the use of hesitation markers in Germanic languages", forthcoming:

In this study, we investigate cross-linguistic patterns in the alternation between UM, a hesitation marker consisting of a neutral vowel followed by a final labial nasal, and UH, a hesitation marker consisting of a neutral vowel in an open syllable. Based on a quantitative analysis of a range of spoken and written corpora, we identify clear and consistent patterns of change in the use of these forms in various Germanic languages (English, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Danish, Faroese) and dialects (American English, British English), with the use of UM increasing over time relative to the use of UH. We also find that this pattern of change is generally led by women and more educated speakers.

For other reasons, I've done careful transcriptions (including disfluencies) of several radio and television interview programs, and it occurred to me to wonder whether such interviews show accommodation effects in UM/UH usage. As a first exploration of the question, I took a quick look at four interviews by Terry Gross of the NPR radio show Fresh Air: with Willie Nelson, Stephen KingJill Soloway, and Lena Dunham.

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Gabagool

Dan Nosowitz — "How capicola became gabagool: The Italian New Jersey accent, explained", Atlas Obscura 11/5/2015 — explains the backstory of this video clip:

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Shooting dead as NP?

Mark Mandel was surprised to see "shooting dead" apparently used as a noun phrase in a Guardian headline: "Two officers arrested over shooting dead of six-year-old Louisiana boy",11/7/2015. The obligatory screenshot:

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