Archive for Words words words

Combinatory Sound Alternations in Proto-, Pre-, and Real Tibetan

Sino-Platonic Papers is pleased to announce the publication of its three-hundred-and-thirty-first issue:

Bettina Zeisler, “Combinatory Sound Alternations in Proto-, Pre-, and Real Tibetan: The Case of the Word Family *Mra(o) ‘Speak,’ ‘Speaker,’ ‘Human,’ ‘Lord’” (free pdf), Sino-Platonic Papers, 331 (March, 2023), 1-165.

Among many other terms, discusses the Eurasian word for "horse" often mentioned on Language Log (see "Selected readings" below for examples).   Gets into IIr and (P)IE.


At least four sound alternations apply in Tibetan and its predecessor(s): regressive metathesis, alternation between nasals and oral stops, jotization, and vowel alternations. All except the first are attested widely among the Tibeto-Burman languages, without there being sound laws in the strict sense. This is a threat for any reconstruction of the proto-language. The first sound alternation also shows that reconstructions based on the complex Tibetan syllable structure are misleading, as this complexity is of only a secondary nature. In combination, the four sound alternations may yield large word families. A particular case is the word family centering on the words for speaking and human beings. It will be argued that these words ultimately go back to a loan from Eastern Iranian.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (2)

-(((o)r)d)le of the month

In the wake of Wordle have come many other-dles and similar games — a sample in alphabetical order:

Absurdle, AntiwordleByrdle, CFBordle, Crosswordle, Dangle, Dordle, Framed, Gordle, Heardle, Hello Wordl, IYKYK, Leaderboardle, Lewdle, LookdleLordle of the RingsNerdle, Octordle, Peotl, Primel, Quordle, Searchdle, Sedecordle, Squirdle, Star Wordle,  Taylordle, Waffle, WARdle, Weddle, Wheredle, Word Hurdle, Worldle,  …

Now from Dallin Tucker and Benjamin Tucker comes Gramle, a Wordle-like game where the goal is an IPA transcription of a displayed spectrogram and waveform. According to the About page, "Gramle was created as a collaboration between DT and BVT. It was DT’s high school computer science final project".

It's wonderful that a bright high-school student can now create an impressive interactive web app like this. Further development might well turn this into a useful way to learn about analyzing spectrograms and waveforms — though I suspect that increasing its educational effectiveness might take it in a somewhat less Wordle-ish direction…

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (21)

Ask LLOG: "Noticed"?

From D.D.:

Interesting use of “noticed.” I guess it must be Congressional jargon.

[link] House Republicans had planned to hold a conference call to explain to the rank-and-file the prospective rules package deal that leadership wants to cut with McCarthy’s opponents. We laid out the outlines of this hoped-for agreement in the PM edition last night and the AM edition on Wednesday morning.

As of late last night, the call had not been noticed to the broader conference, so we’ll see whether it ultimately comes together.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (25)

German wordcraziness rules

[This is a guest post by Martin Woesler in response to this post:  "German lexicographic richness" (10/11/21)]

Let me share the language feeling of a German with you. As you may have assumed, if a German explains feelings, he does it with a set of rules:

German wordcraziness rule # 1: Yes, there is a German word for everything. Simply because if there was none before, there is one the very moment you think of it or say it. And no, it does not mean that it is the same as listing many words one after the other in English. You can still list words one after the other in German and it has a different effect than creating a new longish word.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (29)

Hurry hurry super scurry

No "lying flat" or "coiling up" for us!

Here are Japanese words (not characters) of the year for 2022.

No Time to Waste: “Taipa” Chosen as One of Japan’s Words of 2022  (12/16/22)

Quite a different set of attitudes from what young people in China are feeling nowadays.  You will note that extreme abbreviation of words and phrases is a feature of the favored words in the contemporary Japanese lexicon.  I would wager that this feature is a reflection of the tempo of Japanese life.

Taipa, an abbreviation of “time performance,” was selected by dictionary publisher Sanseidō as its word of the year for 2022, reflecting young people’s desire not to waste a second.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Three-letter Initialisms

I spent last week at the ASA conference in Nashville. The "ASA", as members all call it, is the Acoustical Society of America — but is "American Students' Assistance", while is the "American Sailing Association", and Wikipedia offers 75 other options for the ASA initialism.

This is general problem. Another organization that I belong to is the LSA, as the members of the Linguistic Society of America call it — but is the "Louisiana Sheriffs' Association", and is apparently malware associated with Windows' Local Security Authority, so I won't link to it. The Linguistic Society of America, having been pre-empted by the Louisiana Sheriffs, used to be online at the URL, but is now Wikipedia offers 48 other options for LSA. They include "Latent Semantic Analysis", which is the earliest of the word-embeddings at the root of the tree whose recent fruits include ChatGPT — which recently evoked some confusion on this blog as to the meaning of the GPT initialism.

There are obviously 26^3 = 17576 three-letter initialisms, and nearly all of them are spoken for, multiple times over.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (28)

Words: Too many? Too few?

In Dinosaur Comics for 10/17/2022, T-Rex seems to encounter a lexicographical problem:

Mouseover title: "i'll be communicating entirely through glances and MAYBE raised eyebrows from now on"

Archive description: "words were a mistake, an error, a blunder, a blooper, a fault, a folly, a gaffe, an oversight, a misjudgment, a slip-up, a mix-up, a trip-up, a series of errata,"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)


Next time you hear or use the expression "scot-free", don't think that it has anything to do with Scots language or Scot people.  I have always avoided using this expression because I didn't want to disparage a whole people.  But "scot-free" is such a useful phrase that I wished I could use it with a good conscience.  So finally I looked it up and found that it has a completely different derivation from that of the name of the language and the people.

(colloquial) Without consequences or penalties, to go free without payment.

From Middle English scotfre, from Old English scotfrēo (scot-free; exempt from royal tax or imposts), equivalent to scot (payment; contribution; fine) +‎ -free.





Money assessed or paid.

[Middle English, tax, partly from Old Norse skot and partly from Old French escot, of Germanic origin; see skeud- in Indo-European roots.]

(AH Dict. 2016 5th ed.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (31)

Today I learned that concolic

… doesn't mean something like "having a shared case of colitis" (which was my first guess), but rather, as Wikipedia explains:

Concolic testing (a portmanteau of concrete and symbolic) is a hybrid software verification technique that performs symbolic execution, a classical technique that treats program variables as symbolic variables, along a concrete execution (testing on particular inputs) path. Symbolic execution is used in conjunction with an automated theorem prover or constraint solver based on constraint logic programming to generate new concrete inputs (test cases) with the aim of maximizing code coverage. Its main focus is finding bugs in real-world software, rather than demonstrating program correctness.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (11)


Philip Taylor wrote:

An Economist article (not pay-walled but may require registration) today spoke of something which "grew like gangbusters". Until now, I had never encountered that particular simile, but I see from the OED that it is older than I. Is it (a) a simile with which you are familiar, and (b) possibly worth discussing on Language Log ?

"Lacks’s tumour cells, it turned out, grew like gangbusters …"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (24)

Merriam-Webster adds adorkable, ICYMI

…and 368 other words, in its September 2022 New Words list.

This is a close as we now get to a genuine "Word Induction Ceremony", as imagined on Comedy Central in 2008 (see "Ozay, dot-nose, kangamangus", 12/5/2008).

Some version of the vetting process has of course been in place as long as dictionaries have existed, as described by F.A. Austin in 1923 ("Getting into the English Dictionary; Every New Word Must Pass an Inquisition to be Admitted to the Select 500,000", NYT 6/3/1923), with this illustration [cited here by Ben Zimmer]:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Another skirmish in the Dictionary Wars

A press release from the U.S. Atorney's Office, District of Massachusetts — "California Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening Merriam-Webster with Anti-LGBTQ Violence", 9/14/2022:

A California man pleaded guilty on Sept. 8, 2022 in federal court in Springfield, Mass. to making threats to commit anti-LGBTQ violence against Springfield-based Merriam-Webster, Inc. and others.

Jeremy David Hanson, 34, of Rossmoor, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of interstate communication of threatening communications to commit violence against the employees of Merriam-Webster, and to another count charging the same offense, initially filed in the Eastern District of Texas, targeting the President of the University of North Texas. In a written statement of facts accompanying his plea agreement, Hanson also admitted to sending threatening communications to various corporations, politicians, and others, including the Walt Disney Co., the Governor of California and the Mayor of New York City, a New York rabbi and professors at Loyola Marymount University. Hanson also admitted that he frequently selected the object of his threatening communications because of the gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation of various persons.

The lexicographical part of Hanson's ire was directed against online M-W entries relating to sex and gender, including girlfemale, and gender identity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

Backronym of the month

DARPA's AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY) wins my vote for the backronym of the month — though some may feel that it's unfair to pick some medial and final letters while leaving out some initial ones.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)