Archive for June, 2013

Ask Language Log: Long 'i' and 'a' before 'll'

From Dick Margulis:

The first editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica, a Scot named William Smellie, was a distant relative to my wife, whose surname is Smillie, pronounced smiley (the spelling was changed at some point to avoid bad jokes, apparently). I believe William pronounced it smiley as well. John W. Willey (pronounced wily) was the first mayor of Cleveland (the brand new restaurant where my son is a sous chef is named The Willeyville because Willey bought a tract of land on the city's west side and named it that), and there are some towns in England named Willey, although I don't know that they share the same pronunciation. And a shibboleth here in New Haven is the pronunciation of Whalley Avenue, named for the English regicide Edward Whalley and pronounced whale-y, although Our Lady of the Google Navigator, who is Not From Around Here, rhymes it with alley.

I can't blame people who think my wife's name rhymes with Millie or the restaurant is the willie-ville, nor those who have trouble with Whalley, because the way we were all taught to decode a double-ell is that it makes the preceding vowel what we non-linguists call short. But as I find myself at the confluence of these three examples of this unusual (I think) orthographical feature, I'm just curious what the history of it is, if anyone at Language Log Plaza happens to know.

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Argus Noun Pile Head Collection Notice

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Duran Adam

Another Turkish term is entering the international lexicon: "duran adam", or "standing man".  Andy Carvin, "The 'Standing Man' of Turkey: Act of Quiet Protest Goes Viral", the two-way (NPR) 6/18/2013:

As protests against the Turkish government enter their third week, activists are taking increasingly creative measures to maintain their momentum.

Over the weekend, police removed their tent city and re-opened Istanbul's Taksim Square to traffic, while maintaining a strong presence in the area. This might have seemed like the end of it for many protesters, until a lone man decided to take a stand, literally, against the government. For more than six hours Monday night, Erdem Gunduz stood motionless in Taksim Square, passively ignoring any prodding or harassment from police and people passing by.

His unusual form of protest has inspired activists in Turkey and around the world to assume the same pose. He's even become his own meme, as "standing man" (duran adam, in Turkish) supporters upload their own protest photos to Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere.

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A new mixed language in the news

Lately we've seen a number of hair-tearing Language Log posts (including a couple of mine) about bad linguistic pseudo-hemi-demi-quasi-science getting into major science journals and the popular press.  But sometimes the news media get it right, and here's one example: thanks to effective publicizing by the Linguistic Society of America, a new article by Carmel O'Shannessy, who has been observing the emergence of a new mixed language in Australia for many years, is being widely reported nationally and internationally, for instance here and here.

Back in 2004 I gave a talk on `The birth of bilingual mixed languages' at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  A prominent linguist in the audience protested during the comment period that I had no actual evidence that such languages actually existed and were learnable, since my evidence came from historical situations.   (I still think my evidence was solid, but I'm pretty sure I didn't convince the doubter. )   Carmel's research (which wasn't yet published in 2004) would have been an effective response to that objection: she shows that young children have been participating in the creation of Light Warlpiri, and she shows conclusively that the language is being learned by younger children.

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Recency effect record?

Martyn Cornell:

Check out the comment from sportzzzgirl at the link below, “Strange development in language”, where she is complaining about the use of the verb “spell” to mean “to be relieved at their post”, which has been in the English language, as someone else quickly points out, since the 16th century … surely a record for the recency effect!

The original story is "EMT Stays on Phone With Stroke Victim For 8 Hours Trying to Find Her", Gawker 6/16/2013:

An FDNY EMT dispatcher stayed on the phone with a stroke victim for eight hours as rescuers tried to pinpoint where the distressed and slurring woman had fallen. […]

In a letter or recognition for her actions, Emergency Medical Dispatch Capt. Philip Weiss wrote that "throughout the entirety [Hilman-Payne] worked to keep the patient awake, she never lost her own composure and remained calm while attempting to elicit more information from the patient.”

Weiss continues that Hilman-Payne “remained on the phone with the patient for almost eight hours being spelled only briefly for reasons of personal necessity.”

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At last, a split infinitive in The Economist

The Economist has demonstrated several times that it would rather publish ambiguous, awkward, or even ungrammatical sentences than permit a verb-modifying adjunct to intervene between the marker to and the head verb of the infinitival clause it introduces (see here and here for two of my discussions of the topic). Last week I obtained a robustly direct reaction from an influential staff member at the magazine's offices (I've given the details on Lingua Franca today). It stated that they would not be changing their highly conservative policy — it came close to telling me to butt out. But almost immediately thereafter, I came across a sentence that (you might think) looked like counterevidence. It was in an article about computer modeling of tsunami behavior (15 June 2013, p. 82); I underline the crucial part:

To simplify the problem, the researchers looked at what happens when a computerized wave encounters a cone-shaped island on a smoothly sloping seabed in front of a straight cyber-coastline with a beach that continues to rise smoothly as it progresses inland. These approximations allow a computer to cope with the problem, yet are sufficiently similar to many real places for the conclusions drawn from them to, as it were, hold water.

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Ambiguously arthrous band names

Below is a query from Garrett Wollman, which I'm putting up as a guest post for LL readers to answer. For some background on the (an)arthrous terminology, see e.g.

"Syntax under pressure", 8/28/2007
"(An)arthrous abbreviations", 9/17/2007
"Language Log is strong", 9/16/2007
"Language Log only pretty strong", 9/30/2007
"Anarthrous irony", 3/27/2010
"'The' culture war", 12/16/2010
"BofA goes anarthrous in the Bay Area", 4/27/2011

Recently on alt.usage.english, contributor "Navi" asked:

Which is correct:

1-I saw THE "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake with Christian Bale.
2-I saw "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake with Christian Bale.

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(Apologies for being slow in taking account of this important neologism.) Connor Adams Sheets, "What Is Capuling? 'Everyday I'm Çapuling' Turkish Protest Video Goes Viral", International Business Times 6/4/2013:

"Everyday I'm Çapuling!" is quickly becoming a rallying cry of sorts for the so-called "Turkish Spring" protests that have swept across Turkey since police violently broke up a protest camp in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Friday [May 31] with water cannons, tear gas and brutal violence.

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R.I.P. Ward Goodenough

Bonnie L. Cook, "Ward H. Goodenough, 94, Penn professor", Philadelphia Inquirer 6/15/2013:

Ward H. Goodenough, 94, a longtime University of Pennsylvania professor whose work helped shape anthropology, died Sunday, June 9, of organ failure at the Quadrangle in Haverford. […]

Born in Cambridge, Mass., he lived in England and Germany as a child while his father studied at the University of Oxford. He became fluent in German by age 4, and his fascination with languages never dimmed.

After the family moved to Connecticut, he graduated from the Groton School in Massachusetts and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in 1940 from Cornell University, majoring in Scandinavian languages and literature.

Although he enrolled in graduate school at Yale University, his studies were interrupted by World War II. He served in the Army as a noncommissioned officer from November 1941 to December 1945.

During the last years of the war, he was assigned to a social science research unit to study certain initiatives. The unit posited that integration of the armed forces was feasible and desirable, and that the GI Bill would meet the needs of returning soldiers and stabilize civilian society.

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One more from Bert

From Bert Vaux, following up on "U.K. vs. U.S. usage in Lee Child", 6/13/2013:

I just finished "The Affair" (quite good) and only noticed one more feature that I think may be a clear Britishism, "in the event" in the particular sense and construction here:

…I figured if the reduced payload let the Humvee hit sixty-five miles an hour I would be in Carter Crossing again at three minutes past ten.
[new chapter]
In the event the big GM diesel gave me a little better than sixty-five miles an hour, and two minutes short of ten o'clock I pulled up and hid the truck in the last of the trees…

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Quoth the maven…

From Jeff DeMarco:

Don't know if you saw this, but it seems appropriate. I don't seem to be able to access the original, though. This one is from a Facebook posting.

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Tap water water

From a friend who is travelling in Japan:


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Linguistics Goes to Hollywood

On April 19, the Linguistics Department at UC San Diego (aka the Extreme Southwest Wing of Language Log Plaza) hosted a special event as part of our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Department.

The event was entitled Linguistics Goes to Hollywood: Creators of the Klingon, Na'vi and Dothraki Languages, a panel discussion featuring Marc Okrand (creator of Klingon, Star Trek), Paul Frommer (creator of Na'vi, Avatar), and David J. Peterson (creator of Dothraki, Game of Thrones).

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