Archive for Awesomeness

Trevor Noah reflects on language and identity

In my introductory undergraduate course on English words, and in most undergraduate introductory courses on linguistics, students are invited to reflect on language and identity—how the way you speak communicates information about who you are—which they are typically very interested in. This isn't my beat, professionally speaking, but as a linguist I have a duty to help my students think through some of these issues (and, if they get interested, point them in the right direction to get really educated). To get started, I often play this one-minute clip of a Meshach Taylor Fresh Air interview from 1990, which is usually a good starting point for some discussion.

But Fresh Air (yes I'm a Terry Gross fangirl) also recently ran an interview with the biracial South African host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, which contained this ten-minute motherlode of a reflection on multilingualism, language choice, racism, acceptable targets of mimicry, vocabulary size, Trump's communicative abilities, resentment of accented speech… whew. I'm just going to leave it here for your edification and enjoyment. Maybe one of our more sociolinguistically expert Language Loggers will provide some more detailed commentary later. For my part — well, I just invite you to think about what kind of 500-word essay you'd write for a Ling 101 class with this 10-minute clip as your prompt.

To hear the whole interview, or read the transcript, visit the NPR Fresh Air page.

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Open Access Handbooks in Linguistics!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrung my hands on Facebook over the proliferation of commercial publishers' Handbooks of Linguistics. These are usually priced out of individuals' budgets, being sold mostly to university libraries, and the thousands of hours of work poured into them by dedicated linguists are often lost behind a paywall, inaccessible to many of the people who would most like to read them.

That post prompted a flood of urgent discussion; it seemed like this was a thought that was being simultaneously had around the world. (Indeed, Kai von Fintel had posted the identical thought about six months prior; probably that butterfly was the ultimate cause of the veritable hurricane  that erupted on my feed.)

Long story short, a few weeks later we now have a proto-editorial board and are on to the next steps of identifying a venue and a business model for the series. Please check out our announcement below the fold, and follow along on our blog for updates as the series develops!

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Who knew?

… that there is an apparently serious and respectable institution called the Center for Advanced Hindsight ("With our ‘Advanced Hindsight’ superpower we develop, apply and share behavioral insights").

This suggests a large space of available institutional names: there could be Institutes (or Centers or Laboratories) for (the Advanced Study of) many interesting things: Higher-Order Cognitive Bias; Unprecedented Errors; Failing Presuppositions; Novel Fallacies; …

 

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Never not stop… uhh… Come again?

One of the shows in the upcoming Edinburgh Festival Fringe, by the three-man Australian musical comedy ensemble The Axis of Awesome, is called "Won't Ever Not Stop Giving Up."

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The sounds of Eurasia

A concert entitled "Sounds of Eurasia", held in a church, by a youth orchestra I'd never heard of from somewhere in the -stans region of Central Asia, admission being free and unticketed. It didn't sound too great. But I saw a flyer for it at local shopping center on Saturday, and the event was scheduled for that very evening. I showed the flyer to my friend Carol and we decided (since we could hardly complain about the price) that we would be adventurous and risk it. I wasn't confident; I stressed that in the worst-case scenario we might be in for a a slow and painful lesson teaching us only that Central Asian music was a cacophony of strange whiny-sounding horns and out-of-tune one-stringed bowed instruments and was not for us. "Doesn't matter; you can stand almost anything for an hour or so," she said, gamely insisting we should go.

Boy, did we ever misunderestimate. The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TÜRKSOY is stunningly good. It was an amazing evening.

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Upping our insult game

Carmen Fought observes that "Fellow citizens, we have to up our insult game. The Scots are making us look like wankers. ‪#‎mangledapricothellbeast‬".

Certainly the Scots have taught us a wide variety of new words and insult phrases in response to Donald Trump's tweet about Brexit.

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DSP in the Kentucky Derby

This headline in yesterday's NYT caught my attention: "Despite His Credentials, Nyquist Has Many Doubters". Of course the story is about Nyquist the Horse, who is named after Nyquist the Hockey Player. But for a moment, I thought it might be about Nyquist the Engineer.

Now, you may not have heard of Nyquist the Engineer, but if you're reading this, then you rely on his work many times a day — every time you use a computer or a phone or a (digital) camera or a monitor, or pretty much any other digital device that interacts with continuous signals in the real world.

At least, you rely on some work that bears his name, the Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem. But like Nyquist the Horse, Nyquist the Engineer has some doubters.

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Dictionaries can be dangerous

From the Hydraulic Press Channel on YouTube:

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UC linguistics faculty pledge support for Glossa, call for cancellation of Lingua

Katie Fortney at the University of California (UC) Office of Scholarly Communication writes:

In November 2015, the editorial board of Lingua, a linguistics journal published by Elsevier, resigned en masse to begin a new open access journal, Glossa. […] Several UC linguistics faculty have now issued a statement declaring their support for the new journal and urging their colleagues and the UC libraries to no longer support Lingua. In response, the UC libraries have informed Elsevier that they wish to cancel their subscription to Lingua.
[…]
In making this statement of support for Glossa, the UC Linguistics faculty have joined their colleagues at institutions like the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and MIT; in addition MIT recently announced its support for Open Library of Humanities, which is supporting Glossa's move to its new home at Ubiquity Press.


This post follows up on "Lingua is dead, long live Glossa!" (11/8/2015), "Lingua Disinformation" (11/27/2015), and "Zombie Lingua Recruitment" (12/15/2015).

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Tell the truth!

It was a linguistic maneuver that had possibly never been tried before in the history of real estate: tell the straight truth about the property, no varnishing, no slathering with adjectives like "stunning". Just tell it like it is. One brave firm of real estate agents, Scott & Stapleton in England, tried it as a way of getting rid of a run-down apartment in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. The manager, Rob Kahl, wrote the copy:

Not for the faint hearted this first floor flat is being sold as seen, rubbish and all!

Having recently just had to evict some charming (not) tenants the vendors of this property have had enough and can't even face setting foot in what used to be their sweet and charming home.

I can't flower this one up or use my normal estate agent jargon to make this sound any better.

The property is full of rubbish, there is mould on the walls and I think there may even be some fleas there to keep me company when I carry out the viewings.

To conclude, the advertisement advised those viewing the property to "wipe your feet on the way out".

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Totally Word Mapper

Jack Grieve Twitter-based Word Mapper (see "Geolexicography", 1/27/2016) is now available as a web app — like totally:

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Lingua is dead. Long live Glossa!

[This is a joint post by Eric Baković and Kai von Fintel. Much of the content of this post is also found in Kai's posts on his own blog, semantics etc.: "Lingua → Glossa" (11/2/2015) and "Lingua Roundup" (11/5/2015).]

As many readers of Language Log know by now, the editors and the entire editorial board of a major linguistics journal, Lingua, have resigned en masse, effective when their contractual obligations to their soon-to-be-erstwhile publisher, Elsevier, are concluded at the end of this calendar year. This same editorial team will re-emerge in 2016 as the editors and editorial board of Glossa, a fair Open Access journal to be published by Ubiquity Press. You can read all about it, if you haven't already, from a variety of sources linked at the end of this post.

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R.I.P. Tex Logan

His Wikipedia entry tells us that "Benjamin Franklin 'Tex' Logan, Jr. (1927) was an American electrical engineer and bluegrass music fiddler. He died April 24, 2015 in the arms of his daughter, Jody."

Here he is playing with Bill Monroe in 1969:

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