Electromagnet inhales passwords

From frequent commenter bratschegirl:

Seen backstage on a locked storage cabinet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


Sinitic languages without the Sinographic script

[This is a guest post from a frustrated Chinese father in the PRC, written in response to the discussion in the comments that followed this post:  "The Sinophone" (2/28/19).  He doesn't mince words, but this is how he feels — passionately — about his fatherland.]

As usual, the more I learn the more am I convinced it's an idiotic script that has convoluted the natural evolution of the language.

I think about how, without pinyin and modern technology, the authorities would have accomplished changing the pronunciation nationwide.

Moreover, I've noticed the seemingly arbitrary, multiple pronunciations of many characters throughout these years.

I also believe that it is due to the limitations of the script that the troublesome issue of the multiple pronunciations developed.  Can you imagine if they had to come up with different characters back in the day for each different sound / word?  We're already drowning in a flood of characters as it is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (38)


Eric Pratt Hamp (11/16/1920 – 2/17/2019)

This obituary is a guest post by Brian Joseph.


The linguistics world suffered a huge loss on February 17 when Eric Pratt Hamp, a giant on the American and global linguistic scene, passed away at the age of 98. Eric was one-of-a-kind, an amazing scholar and polymath, a specialist in historical linguistics and in the history of a number of individual languages, but a contributor to theoretical issues as well, especially in structural linguistics. He understood the ins and outs of language change, arguing for a balance between system-internal factors and system-external factors, i.e. language contact, as the source of innovations, and applied his knowledge judiciously and carefully, working out the details of both language-internal and contact-induced changes for numerous languages, perhaps most tellingly those of the Balkan peninsula.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)


Unexpected "English Word of the Day"

On February 19, I received this notice from Oxford Dictionaries:

English Word of the Day from
Oxford Dictionaries

Your word for today is:

li

a Chinese unit of distance, equal to about 0.5 km (0.3 mile)

Click on the word to see its full entry, including example sentences and audio pronunciation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (35)


Deadly homicide

As opposed to the salubrious kind, presumably….

FOX 5 DC News (3/3/19) headline:

"Fairfax County police identify victims of deadly triple homicide in Springfield"

Fairfax County police have identified the three people found shot dead at a home in Springfield overnight.

As Bob Dylan and Paula Cole might have sung, "Where have all the editors gone …"

[h.t. Don Keyser]

Comments (16)


"Shot himself in a genital"?

Sent in by Joe Boyd:

I read this schadenfreude-inducing story and was stuck by the singular use of "a genital" as a noun describing the scrotum ("A 46-year-old man accidentally shot himself in a genital Thursday after a gun slipped from his waistband, police said").

Two things struck me as weird about this: first, a "genital"'? Not the "genitals" or "genitalia"? And second, "a" genital? Not "one of his" genitals (if not the most natural "the genitals")?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (33)


Climate change and social mobility

The content management system at The Atlantic magazine seems to have slipped a cog or two, and associated one story's headline with another story's subhead. Either that, or ticks play a larger role in American social mobility than I would have guessed.

The image on the right appeared in my email inbox this morning, along with a dozen others promoting "A selection of top stories from The Atlantic this week". Turns out it combines

But until I did a bit of searching and link-following, I wondered.

Comments (10)


Driver again dies

Ultimate indignity; ultimate crash blossom.

Headline in electrek:

"Tesla Model 3 driver again dies in crash with trailer, Autopilot not yet ruled out", by Fred Lambert (3/1/19)

In this case, the repeat demise would have been much more rapid than the extraordinarily prolonged one reported by Jen Viegas:

"Death Happens More Slowly Than Thought", Seeker (7/23/13), one cell at a time.

[h.t. yanggueiny]

Comments (10)


The Sinophone

I think about the problem of the Sinophone every day, but I haven't written about it very often on Language Log (see "Readings" below).  We have Anglophone (English-speaking), Francophone (French-speaking), Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking), Germanophone or Teutophone (German-speaking), Italophone (Italian-speaking), Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking), Russophone (Russian-speaking),  Hellenophone (Greek-speaking), Arabophone (Arab-speaking), etc.  So why not Sinophone, since diasporic Sinitic speakers are spread widely around the world?

About fifteen years ago, several of us who were interested in the subject independently started to use the term "Sinophone", but credit is usually (and I think rightly) given to Shu-mei Shih for coining and popularizing it in written publications (2004 and especially 2007).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (47)


The emergence of Germanic

From their origins to the present day, speakers of Germanic languages have been distinguished by the high degree of their mobility on land and on water:  the Völkerwanderung during the Migration Period, Goths, Vikings, the British Empire on which the sun never set, Pax Americana….  From antiquity, they ranged far and wide, so it is not surprising to see them popping up all over the place and, in their travels, to come in contact with an enormous number of different ethnic and linguistic groups.

Before setting out on their multitudinous journeys, they had to have begun somewhere, and — on the borders of their original homeland — they had to have been in contact with other ethnic and linguistic groups.  I asked a colleague where and when they might have arisen, and who their neighbors were.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)


Ubykh: requiem and revival

I begin with an e-mail from Martin Schwartz, sent to me on 3/14/16:

Last September in Istanbul a fair-haired academic there, a colleague of my wife, said she is of Çerkes background, and went on to say a relative of hers was the last Ubykh speaker.  Dumêzil had been to her family's home, grouchy that there were apparently no Ubykh speakers to be found, when the Ubykh speaker knocked on the door….

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (33)


Corpora and the Second Amendment: Changing my mind about a change of mind

After initially declaring that I wouldn’t be posting about the phrase keep arms because I had nothing interesting to say about it, and then declaring that upon further reflection I did have something interesting to say, I’ve realized after drafting a post discussing the phrase that I was right the first time.

So when “Corpora and the Second Amendment: ‘keep arms’” doesn’t appear, that’s why.

Comments off


Disposal according to the relevant laws

Pedro J. Silva just returned from his first trip to China, bringing with him two charming specimens of Chinglish.  The first one is from Beijing Capital International airport (terminal 3, international departures):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (4)