1. image: Download

    Practice with Pronouns is a site that lets you practise subject, object, possessive, and reflexive forms of English third person pronouns. It comes with a few of the most common options, but you can also fill in whatever pronouns you like. Useful for both English learners and people wanting to practise using nonbinary pronouns.  
As if it couldn’t get any more delightful, it often uses quotes from Welcome to Night Vale in the practice sentences, which is definitely far more entertaining than See Spot Run. The feedback sentences are also very cute. 
(Hm, I’m pretty sure the second blank in that screenshot should have said “xyr”, in retrospect.)

    Practice with Pronouns is a site that lets you practise subject, object, possessive, and reflexive forms of English third person pronouns. It comes with a few of the most common options, but you can also fill in whatever pronouns you like. Useful for both English learners and people wanting to practise using nonbinary pronouns.  

    As if it couldn’t get any more delightful, it often uses quotes from Welcome to Night Vale in the practice sentences, which is definitely far more entertaining than See Spot Run. The feedback sentences are also very cute. 

    (Hm, I’m pretty sure the second blank in that screenshot should have said “xyr”, in retrospect.)

  2. linguisten:

    » Yurok, Cornish, Wampanoag (Wôpanâak), Kaurna, Maori (Māori)

    For more on the revitalization of Wampanoag, see the documentary We Still Live Here, which can be watched here.

  3. Week 2 of Ling Camp

    This week concluded the How Does Language Work? session of Ling Camp. For background and the first week, see: summary of  Week 1

    Day 6 - Ambiguity and Processing

    We looked at various types of ambiguity and what they tell us about language:

    Read More

  4. Wordbank

    Wordbank is a new database of children’s language. From the description: 

    Wordbank archives data from the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (MB-CDI), a family of parent-report questionnaires. The Wordbank database enables researchers to recover data filtered by source, age, gender, word, and a host of other variables, enabling simple export of plain-text data for further analysis.

    Wordbank also include a number of reports based on recent research on children’s vocabulary: see how children’s vocabulary grows and changes across early childhood.

    We hope that by pooling detailed word-learning data across labs, we can create a database of unprecedented size that will lead to new insights about the shape of vocabulary development in early childhood.

    There are various interesting things you can do with the database, such as search, seeing summary statistics, and contributing data.  

    You can also use the word cloud feature to generate what are quite possibly the most adorable wordclouds ever. I mean, look at this. D’awwww. 

    I assume the forms like nghtnght or quackqck are standardized short forms driven by character limits, rather than typos, but perhaps someone who knows the database or this questionnaire would like to confirm that? 

    See also CHILDES, a long-established database of transcripts of child language. 

  5. An interesting article about morphology in sign languages, by Aronoff, Meir, and Sandler. The whole thing is available here and is quite long, but here’s an excerpt from the beginning that introduces the concept of simultaneous versus sequential morphology and what that means for sign languages: in a nutshell, sign languages have striking similarities to both highly inflected languages, like Navajo, and highly uninflected languages, like Tok Pisin, which you’d think wouldn’t be possible. 

    In the early days of linguistic research on sign languages, in the 1970s and 1980s, researchers noticed that sign languages have complex morphology. Further research showed that this morphological structure is simultaneous, in the sense that the different morphemes of a word are simultaneously superimposed on each other rather than being strung together, as those of spoken languages usually are. As sign-language research expanded to include more linguistic structures as well as more sign languages, several generalizations emerged. First, all sign languages studied were found to have this particular kind of morphology. Second, the grammatical categories encoded by many of these morphological structures, as well as the form that they take, were found to be quite similar across different sign languages. That is, sign languages show strong crosslinguistic similarities in their morphological structures.

    Researchers also noticed early on that sign languages share many properties with young creole languages (Fischer 1978, Meier 1984); yet they differ markedly from young creoles in one crucial respect, the same one that ties sign languages together as a group: their complex simultaneous morphology. What has gone largely unnoticed so far is that sign languages are not confined to simultaneous morphological structures. At least some sign languages also have sequential affixation. These linear structures differ significantly from the simultaneous type, not only in the way the morphemes are affixed to each other, but in other ways as well:

    • the occurrence, grammatical function, and form of the sequential morphological constructions are language-specific;
    • the sequential morphological constructions are variable among signers;
    • the sequential morphological constructions are often of limited productivity.

    This morphological state of affairs presents us with two puzzles; we call them the young language puzzle and the typology puzzle.

    Read More

  6. I’m on Lexicon Valley talking about early language exposure, including a video about Nicaraguan Sign Language which I came across when preparing for Ling Camp. See also creolization in general. 

    Also related is the topic of children who grew up without exposure to language, such as Genie and Victor of Aveyron. I didn’t talk about them at the camp since especially Genie’s story involves terrible abuse and neglect, which I thought it might be upsetting for the younger students. 

  7. linguistsagainsthumanity:

    We received the above submission from t-o-t-o-r-i-a that really made us laugh and inspired us to hold the first ever LAH contest!!

    Your challenge is to create the funniest combination of LAH cards.  Take a look through our archive — pick one black card, and then choose the appropriate number of white cards to answer the question or fill in the blanks, just like you’re playing CAH.

    To enter, visit our submit page (NOT our ask page) and complete the form as follows:

    1. The words “contest submission” in the title section of the form
    2. YOU MUST BE LOGGED INTO TUMBLR TO ENTER.  Submissions are limited to ONE per person.  This way, we can keep track of usernames/url’s.  We won’t accept your submission if you’re not logged in.
    3. A real working e-mail address so we can contact you if you win (we won’t publish or share it, we promise)
    4. The full text of your chosen black card (e.g., “All linguistics students should learn about ______.”)
    5. The full text of your chosen white card(s).  If your submission involves more than one white card, please put the text of each on separate lines just to help us out.

    We will accept submissions starting…. NOW!  Keep ‘em coming until midnight ET on Friday, July 18.  (Seriously, we won’t accept them after that.)  We’ll turn them into images, and post them on the morning of Saturday, July 19.  Voting will run through midnight ET on Tuesday, July 22.  Whichever submission receives the most notes will win!

    PRIZES!  Nothing too exciting, since we’re just three broke college kids who run a Tumblr, but here’s what we’ve got:

    • Third prize: we’ll post a link to a (non-political, non-religious) nonprofit/charity of your choice
    • Second prize: third prize PLUS a T-shirt featuring an LAH card of your choice
    • First prize: third prize PLUS second prize PLUS the Chinese edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire signed by the three of us because we like to think we’re celebrities

    Good luck!  Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

    With love,

    The LAH Team

    Submit things! And vote, once the time comes! 

    Note: I’m not planning on reblogging any entries, since I don’t think it’s quite fair for a blog of my size to selectively reblog some and not others when votes are determined by notes, so if you want to make sure you catch them, go follow linguistsagainsthumanity

  8. Weird Al Yankovic has a parody of “Blurred Lines” called “Word Crimes,” and it’s about language.  

    The thing is, I wish I could believe that Weird Al was writing a sendup of people who make ridiculous prescriptive complaints about language with a few bonus grammatical terms. I wish I could believe that disliking hyperbolic “literally” or making a firm distinction between its and it’s was a harmless foible, just like hating the word “moist” or loving the sound of “cellar door.” I wish I could believe that everyone watching this video had progressed to ironic meta-prescriptivism, where we make fun of the people who make these judgements because we are accepting, even excited, about linguistic variation. I mean, it’s a catchy song, and dancing typography is pretty adorable.

    But I can’t, because it’s not true. 

    I’m not going to get into all the problems with prescriptivism here: beyond denying people job opportunities and fair treatment in courtI have six whole pages of posts in my archive that already do that.  But let’s take this opportunity to renew our determination to work towards a world in which videos like Word Crimes can be funny: because everyone recognizes that no one actually believes any of this stuff. 

    (Sidenote: as the person who wrote a grammar of doge, I’m pretty baffled that whoever was making the music video at 0:54 thought that this was an example of doge. Just because it’s a genre that’s associated with Kids These Days doesn’t mean it doesn’t have conventions. Such fail. Wow.)


  9. We know that it’s hard for adult second-language learners to discriminate sound contrasts that they’re not used to, but here’s an article in Scientific American on how to get better at it using focussed practice: 

    In one robust study from 2002, researchers led by psychologist James L. McClelland, then at Carnegie Mellon University, sat Japanese adults down in front of a computer with headphones, played a recording of rock or lock at random, and asked them to press the R or L key on their keyboards accordingly. As expected, they performed terribly, only slightly better than chance. After continuing the test for an hour, straining to hear any hint of the difference between r and l, they still did not improve. Auditory input might work for babies, but it simply does not for adults.

    The researchers then tried something new. Same study, same dismal test scores, different Japanese adults. This time, in the training phase of the experiment, researchers gave their test subjects immediate feedback. Every time a subject pressed the R or L button on their keyboard, they got a green check mark or a red X on their screen, indicating whether they were right or wrong. Suddenly, everyone began to learn. Within an hour of testing, subjects were reaching 80 percent accuracy at identifying r and l, even in unfamiliar words. In a similar study in 1999, subjects even began spontaneously pronouncing the two sounds substantially better.

    The facility that causes you to perceive two sounds that don’t contrast in your language as the same is called categorical perception, and two words that contrast in one sound and also in meaning are called minimal pairs

    There’s a detailed set of instructions for how to make your own set of minimal pairs and train with them here, which look pretty useful. I could also see doing this in a second-language classroom: teacher says random words from a list of pairs, students each write down which sound they think it is on a piece of paper, teacher then says what the correct answer was. I think you’d want to do it with immediate per-item feedback rather than a delayed, complete set of answers, so it would probably make a better exercise than test for grades. 

  10. 19:19 13th Jul 2014

    Notes: 1034

    Reblogged from baldymonster

    Tags: schwa



    Arika Okrent explains schwas on Lexicon Valley

    We all know that English spelling is rarely a good guide to pronunciation. One big reason for this is the prevalence of schwa in the spoken language. That’s why dictionaries and other written guides to pronunciation make use of a special symbol to represent the schwa sound. It looks like this: ǝ—an upside down e. But what is schwa anyway? Here are nine things to help you get to know this very important vowel.


    A schwa is the ‘uh’ sound found in an unstressed syllable. For example, the first syllable in amazing (ǝ-MA-zing), the first syllable in tenacious (tǝ-NA-cious), the second syllable in replicate (RE-plǝ-cate), the second syllable in percolate (PER-cǝ-late), the first syllable in supply (sǝ –PLY), the first syllable in syringe (sǝ-RINGE). That’s a written A, E, I, O, U and even a Y coming out as schwa in the spoken version.

    Schwas are very common in English (although they’re surprisingly difficult to play in IPA Scrabble, because they’re far more common in polysyllabic words). They’re less common in other languages, and are one of the things that contribute to non-native accents in both directions: English speakers tend to reduce vowels to schwa even when it’s unwarranted, and speakers of many other languages tend to pronounce too many full vowels. 

    Because of how common and distinctively-shaped schwa is, it (along with wugs) have become a ubiquitous icon for linguistics. For example, there’s a schwa necklace, dozens of schwa mugs and t-shirts, and of course the publication Schwa Fire

    Btw, if you’re saying these aloud and can’t convince yourself that they’re all the same sound or that some of them are clearly more like an “ih” sound like in sit or thin than an “uh”, you’re not crazy. There are actually two reduction vowels in English, schwa and what’s called barred i, or ɨ. They are often treated as the same and called schwa for simplicity, but in my dialect at least, barred i is actually way more frequent.

    The classic example used to demonstrate the difference is to say the phrase “Rosa’s roses” out loud. The second vowel in “Rosa’s” is a schwa, whereas in “roses” it’s a barred i. Barred i often shows up in prefixes, suffixes, and in reduced vowels that occur between alveolar consonants, such as d, t, n, or s.

    Yes, good point!