Archive for March, 2014

Once more vnto the Breach

A comment on a recent post:

In reference to: This ties in perfectly with the recent post entitled "Once more on the present continuative ending -ing in Chinese" in two ways:

Entitled is incorrect. TITLED is correct.

Unless the letters are "entitled" to an ice cream cone. :)

This is nonsense, as usual asserted confidently without any evidence. Given LLOG's reputation, it's probably a trolling attempt — but I'll bite anyhow, since some of our readers may have been bullied in similar fashion.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (33)

Ensure government big tofu

Sandeep Robert Datta posted this on Facebook, from the Beijing International Airport:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (5)

A current neologism in Taiwan

Michael Cannings sent in this photograph taken outside Taiwan's parliament, which has been occupied by students for three days and is now surrounded by demonstrators:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Twitter mwitter

"'Mwitter' to replace Twitter in Turkey?", Hurriyet 3/20/2014:

Only minutes after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to close down Twitter today, a new website was formed, either as a tribute from his followers or a mocking attempt from his critics: "Mwitter"

Erdoğan had earlier said in Turkish: "Twitter, mwitter kökünü kazıyacağız," translated into English as: "We'll eradicate Twitter."

In colloquial Turkish, the "m" phrase cannot be translated easily into any language as it is not a regular lexical item. Its meaning (or the lack of meaning) depends on the intention of the speaker.

As one study explains:

"Semantically, reduplication with m-sound means 'and so on', 'such,' 'kind of,' 'sort of' depending on the meaning of the first part of the reduplicative form being ahead of m-insertion. [It] allows the speaker to give less than the amount of information requested, while still appearing cooperative. It indicates that the speaker does not wish to specify or elaborate, but instead appeals to the participant's common ground for inferring the intended meaning."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

I saw one thousand commenting and nobody listening

Sometimes I look at the informed and insightful comments below Mark Liberman's technical posts here on Language Log, and I find myself thinking: These people are smart, and their wisdom enhances the value of our site. Maybe I should return to opening up comments on my posts too. But then something awful happens to convince me never to click the Allow Comments button again, unless at gunpoint. Something awful like the comments below Tom Chivers' article about me in the The Daily Telegraph, a quality UK newspaper of broadly Conservative persuasion (see their Sunday magazine Seven, 16 March 2014, 16–17; the article is regrettably headlined "Are grammar Nazis ruining the English language?" online, but the print version has "Do these words drive you crazy"—neither captures anything about the content).

I unwisely scrolled down too far and saw a few of the comments. There were already way more than 1,300 of them. It was like glimpsing a drunken brawl in the alley behind the worst bar in the worst city you ever visited. Discussion seemed to be dominated by an army of nutballs who often hadn't read the article. They seemed to want (i) a platform from which to assert some pre-formed opinion about grammar, or (ii) a chance to insult someone who had been the subject of an article, or (iii) an opportunity to publicly beat up another commenter. I didn't read many of the comments, but I saw that one charged me with spawning a cult, and claimed that I am the leader of an organization comparable to the brown-shirted Sturmabteilung who aided Hitler's rise to power:

Pullum is not so much the problem; he's just an ivory tower academic whose opinions are largely irrelevant to the average person. The problem is the cult following he has spawned. I don't know if he condones the thuggish tactics his Brownshirts regularly employ against the infidels, but it is certainly disturbing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Written Cantonese on a "Democracy Wall" at a University in Hong Kong

A Language Log reader in Hong Kong sent in the following photograph:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (30)

The grammar of "Abide with me"

On Tuesday at my mother's funeral we sang "Abide With Me". It's a popular hymn for funerals, possibly because people like the line "Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?"; but as we sang the fifth verse (you can see the lyrics here) I couldn't help noticing a syntactic point.

No, don't be shocked that syntax could be on my mind on such an occasion. A linguist's brain does not cease making linguistic observations on entering a crematorium chapel. As I recently explained in a piece over at Lingua Franca, linguistics is not a task that one takes up only as necessary; it is more like a kind of affliction, making the afflicted person incapable of not noticing points of interest in linguistic material. Here is the stanza that I could not help noticing:

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

Perhaps you can immediately see what struck me about the first sentence (the first three lines)?

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Oracle

Bryan Van Norden sent in this photograph taken at the Hong Kong International Airport:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (22)

Once more on the present continuative ending -ing in Chinese

On "Savage Minds", Kerim has a new post entitled "How do you pronounce '革命ing'?", which features this initially enigmatic photograph:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)

Taking a selfie

In front of the window of a candy store in Peebles, a small town about an hour's drive south of Edinburgh, an elderly American woman approached a gentleman she didn't know and, holding out a cell phone, asked:

"Would you please take a selfie of my friend and I in front of this window?"

She was not aware that she had approached a linguist.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Chineasy? Not

Last Friday, the following article appeared in The Wall Street Journal:

"A New Way to Learn Chinese:  Entrepreneur ShaoLan Hsueh aims to bridge the gap between East and West by teaching Westerners how to read Chinese".

The article is preceded by a video that begins with this note:

Entrepreneur and author ShaoLan Hsueh has devised a simplistic method for teaching English speakers to learn to read Chinese.

It is true that her system is "simplistic", but it is not true that people who use it "learn to read Chinese", despite her repeated claim that "it works."

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (50)

"Hard to understate"

Nick Wingfield, "Microsoft Pins Xbox One Hopes on Titanfall, a Sci-Fi Shooting Game", NYT 3/9/2014:

"It's hard to understate how incredibly important Titanfall is for Xbox," Yusuf Mehdi, chief marketing and strategy officer for devices and studios at Microsoft, said in an interview.

If it's not clear to you why this is semantically and psycholinguistically interesting, see here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (9)

Ambassador Entwistle and Lolo 1 on Wazobia

Comments (11)