1. image: Download

    linguisten:

The invention of language series: conjunctions

The names of some actual early theories of language origin could probably fit into comic form fairly well: the bow-wow theory, the ding-dong theory, the yo-he-ho theory, and so on, although they’re a bit more reasonable than the names suggest. 

    linguisten:

    The invention of language series: conjunctions

    The names of some actual early theories of language origin could probably fit into comic form fairly well: the bow-wow theory, the ding-dong theory, the yo-he-ho theory, and so on, although they’re a bit more reasonable than the names suggest. 

     
  2. stancarey:

    allthingslinguistic:

    Stan Carey draws my attention to this imgur thread on entertaining failures in translation: the comments both on Stan’s post and the imgur thread are very much worth it. (I’ve heard the name of the site pronounced /ɪmgɚ/ though: please don’t tell me this is another gif/jif or doge thing.)

    I recall having a francophone geography teacher in high school who taught us about places like “Mexico Gulf” and “Fundy Bay” and important monuments such as “Liberty Statue”, much to the amusement of the class.

    But it makes an interesting point that while French consistently creates constructions of the form “X de Y”, English alternates inconsistently between “X of Y” and “Y X”, so knowing which one English has opted for in a particular construction isn’t trivial. 

    Another memorable translation error that I’ve seen is this restaurant menu, although in this case I can’t tell whether one language is a mistake or whether they’d genuinely rather only serve chicken to English-speakers and beef and shrimp to French-speakers.

    Any more examples? (Also, trepidatiously, how would you pronounce imgur?)

    I’ve a new post up the pronunciation of <i>imgur</i>. Even among Imgurians usage is very mixed, and a brief survey suggests the “official” pronunciation is dispreferred by, or unknown to, most people:

    http://stancarey.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/how-do-you-pronounce-imgur-take-the-poll/

    I’d definitely never heard this “official” pronunciation, so the people at imgur may be fighting a losing battle here. We’ll see what the survey ends up showing though! 

     
  3. allthingslinguistic:

What makes a selfie a selfie?
I wrote an article for Lexicon Valley about extended uses of the word selfie:

We typically think of a selfie as a photo taken by and of oneself, whether in a mirror or by holding a camera out at arm’s length, hence the name. But here’s a recent anecdote from Language Log suggesting that some people are extending it more figuratively:




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.



Are art museums full of Renaissance selfies for you, even if Henry VIII didn’t paint his own self-portrait? Or have you only encountered the more limited uses of selfie? 

Apparently, pictures taken in photobooths can also be referred to as selfies, at least according to this CBC article:
The portraits were all likely taken in a Photomatic Photobooth, a contraption invented in the 1920s that remained popular throughout the 1940s that allowed people to take some of the earliest selfies. 

    allthingslinguistic:

    What makes a selfie a selfie?

    I wrote an article for Lexicon Valley about extended uses of the word selfie:

    Are art museums full of Renaissance selfies for you, even if Henry VIII didn’t paint his own self-portrait? Or have you only encountered the more limited uses of selfie

    Apparently, pictures taken in photobooths can also be referred to as selfies, at least according to this CBC article:

    The portraits were all likely taken in a Photomatic Photobooth, a contraption invented in the 1920s that remained popular throughout the 1940s that allowed people to take some of the earliest selfies. 
     
  4. A paper by Kim Witten about the diverse pronunciations of MeFi (short for MetaFilter) by users of the site. Abstract:

    This study provides one of the first published accounts of sociophonetic variation in which the speech community under investigation exists online and text-based communication is the dominant mode of interaction.

    The abbreviated name of the Internet community weblog — MeFi, from MetaFilter.com — has at least eight recognized pronunciation variants. Quantitative analysis of surveys from over 2000 MetaFilter members reveals statistically significant variation in the distribution of members’ preferred pronunciations for MeFi across four English-speaking countries. These results reflect dialectal and socio-cultural differences in naming preferences in spite of the fact that the speech channel is limited or non-primary.

    It’s similar in concept to my previous survey (skip to results) about how people pronounce doge, although I expect the MeFi community is more densely networked than the collection of people who recognize the doge meme, since doge isn’t limited to a single website. 

     
  5. image: Download

    allthingslinguistic:

wuglife:

Heads up, tumblinguists who are also redditors! Famous sociolinguist Walt Wolfram will be giving an AMA (“ask me anything”) next Wednesday! Spread the word!

Here’s the link to the AMA, which should be starting in about half an hour (10am Eastern time). 

That was actually a link to advance questions for the AMA, so here&#8217;s the actual link to the AMA which is going on right now! I don&#8217;t reddit much, but I&#8217;ll be on there as allthingslinguistic.  

    allthingslinguistic:

    wuglife:

    Heads up, tumblinguists who are also redditors! Famous sociolinguist Walt Wolfram will be giving an AMA (“ask me anything”) next Wednesday! Spread the word!

    Here’s the link to the AMA, which should be starting in about half an hour (10am Eastern time). 

    That was actually a link to advance questions for the AMA, so here’s the actual link to the AMA which is going on right now! I don’t reddit much, but I’ll be on there as allthingslinguistic.  

     
  6. image: Download

    wuglife:

Heads up, tumblinguists who are also redditors! Famous sociolinguist Walt Wolfram will be giving an AMA (“ask me anything”) next Wednesday! Spread the word!

Here&#8217;s the link to the AMA, which should be starting in about half an hour (10am Eastern time). 

    wuglife:

    Heads up, tumblinguists who are also redditors! Famous sociolinguist Walt Wolfram will be giving an AMA (“ask me anything”) next Wednesday! Spread the word!

    Here’s the link to the AMA, which should be starting in about half an hour (10am Eastern time). 

     
  7. PhillyTawk: The Caught-Cot Distinction

    This is a great video by Sean Monahan on the caught-cot distinction in Philadelphia English. If you’re someone like me who pronounces caught and cot the same way, it’s a great chance to hear what it sounds like for someone to have them as different sounds.

    I also learned that not everyone who has the caught-cot distinction has the same vowel: the Great Lakes region, the South, and the Philadelphia area all apparently have different pairs of vowels here.

    This probably explains why my trick for imitating a caught-cot distinction if you don’t have it but can imitate a non-rhotic dialect doesn’t always work. The trick is to pronounce “court” non-rhotically (e.g. in RP) and maybe shorten the vowel slightly, which will give you approximately /ɔ/, the sound people attribute to “caught” (courtesy of an Australian friend for whom “court” and “caught” were homonyms).

    This trick is the closest I can get to making a distinction, although I still can’t always keep track of which pronunciation goes with which spelling because it’s not really phonemic for me.  Anyway, some people tend to totally get my pronunciation when I do it, it while others tell me I’m way off. I haven’t kept track of where they’ve all been from, but now I’m thinking it’s probably related to these different regions. 

     
  8. wuglife:

    You know what? I’d love to write a column about the word meta. I could explain how meta started off as a prefix meaning “above or beyond” (the metaphysical realm is beyond the physical one) or “at a higher level of abstraction” (metalanguage is language used to describe other language). Then I could talk about how meta broke free as a standalone adjective to mean “consciously self-referential” and has become a perfect meta-commentary on the consciously self-referential age we live in. Maybe I could even start the column with an introduction about wanting to write about the word meta.

    Not only was meta predicted to become a stand-alone word, it has taken on a life of its own. There are plenty of words, both slang and accepted, that come from affixes, such as über, con (in almost all of its forms), and retro.

    One way these words might come into being is through clipping or reanalysis. Clipping is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: take a longer word and clip part of it off. Convention -> con; details -> deets (or ‘tails, if you’re Tom Haverford), refrigerator -> fridge. Reanalysis is also pretty self-explanatory. Someone hears a word or phrase, like “metacommentary”, and rather than hearing it as one word, their brain hears it as two words: “meta” + commentary.

    This is pretty much the same process we use to learn new words and morphemes in context, but instead of assuming that “meta” can only occur bound to some root word, the listener assumes it functions like an adjective. That means it can occur before a noun that it modifies, or maybe after a copula (a verb like “is”), as in “This sentence is meta.” So those are two ways “meta” could have come to be. Curious about the future of meta? The article has some speculation, so check it out!

    The other novel usage of meta that I’ve noticed is as a noun or even a verb, meaning a commentary or critique, especially of a fictional work or the act of writing or talking about such a commentary. 

    My hunch would be that it comes from a zero-derivation of the adjective meta. Zero-derivation is when a word changes its part of speech (e.g. adjective —> noun) without adding any derivational affixes like -ity or -ible. So, for example, “that’s so meta” might become “this is a great meta about…”

    The other possible source for this use of meta is that it might be a second instance of clipping, probably from metacommentary. In either case, it seems pretty clear that the verb comes from the noun by zero derivation because the verb really just means “the act of writing a meta”. (Example of the verb form: "oops I just meta’d for 2000 words about…")

     
  9. Dialects of Sign Language: Black ASL

    atomicscribe:

    We’re all aware of the large number of dialects that make up our spoken languages around the world. But with many ignorant of the fact that separate forms of sign language exist in different countries, there’s even less education on the different dialects that populate specific sign language families.

    Black ASL Origins

    Take American Sign Language, for example. The Washington Post tells the story of Carolyn McCaskill, who in 1968 enrolled with nine other Deaf black students in a newly integrated school for the Deaf. From the Post:

    When the teacher got up to address the class, McCaskill was lost.

    “I was dumbfounded,” McCaskill recalls through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?’ ”

    The teacher’s quicksilver hand movements looked little like the sign language McCaskill had grown up using at home with her two deaf siblings and had practiced at the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind, just a few miles away. It wasn’t a simple matter of people at the new school using unfamiliar vocabulary; they made hand movements for everyday words that looked foreign to McCaskill and her fellow black students.

    Today we know that McCaskill grew up using what is now called Black American Sign Language. This form is known for using more two-handed signs than American Sign Language, with Black ASL featuring a higher location of signs (at the forehead level) and a larger space used compared to ASL.

    Education Needed

    Joseph Hill, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, explains and demonstrates the differences in ASL and Black ASL here:

    Sign language is not universal. The different dialects need to be studied independently, just as one would study spoken languages. We can help spread this message by supporting education on the subject, such as the Black ASL Project. Another great resource is this interview conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education with Joseph Hill, who hopes awareness will make sign language a bigger part of the linguistics community.

    For more diversity in sign languages, see also this map of the major sign language families of the world. It’s interesting to note that ASL and FSL (French Sign Language) are more similar than ASL and BSL (British Sign Language), which is the opposite of the spoken languages in these areas. 

     
  10. INTERNETS

    karenhealey:

    INTERNETS OMG

    "FEELS" HAS BEEN A LEGIT TERM SINCE AT LEAST 1782:

    image

    The Duchess, by Amanda Foreman.

    Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, really wrote a real letter to her mother complaining about the feels in 1782.

    I love everything.

    There’s also the 1917 letter to Winston Churchill, with the first recorded instance of OMG, which can be read in full here.