1. feitclub:

It’s a katakana font (named “ゴウラ”) designed to look like Olde English fancy print
This must be the Japanese equivalent of that “asian” font you see on Chinese takeout boxes
(via a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook. hat-tip to artofemilyo)

The comments on the Language Log post about Gothic katakana are also interesting, including a link to The Structures of Letters and Symbols throughout Human History Are Selected to Match Those Found in Objects in Natural Scenes. 

    feitclub:

    It’s a katakana font (named “ゴウラ”) designed to look like Olde English fancy print

    This must be the Japanese equivalent of that “asian” font you see on Chinese takeout boxes

    (via a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook. hat-tip to artofemilyo)

    The comments on the Language Log post about Gothic katakana are also interesting, including a link to The Structures of Letters and Symbols throughout Human History Are Selected to Match Those Found in Objects in Natural Scenes

     
  2. image: Download

    xkcd: Wikipedia article titles with the right syllable stress pattern to be sung to the tune of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. (Here’s the song, for reference.)
All of these titles are examples of trochaic tetrameter, which is one of the most common English meters (a trochee is a foot consisting of STRONG-weak and tetrameter is four feet per line). Another example is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, although that has a deficient last foot, but you can sing any of these titles to that tune as well if you just double the last note.
Trochaic tetrameter creates a strong feeling of sing-song “poem-ness” in English. Most Shakespearean characters, for example, speak in iambic pentameter (weak-STRONG, five feet per line), which sounds more natural, but a few speak in trochaic tetrameter for dramatic effect. For example, MacBeth and Lady MacBeth speak in iambic pentameter, which gives the effect of talking normally: 

Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why,then, ‘tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky!—Fie, mylord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need wefear who knows it, when none can call our powerto account?—Yet who would have thought the oldman to have had so much blood in him?

But the witches speak in trochaic tetrameter, which makes them seem like they’re delivering an incantation: 

Double, double toil and trouble;Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair

Previous xkcd on poetry: metrical foot fetish, ballad meter, trochaic fixation. Language Log also has a long, interesting post on meter. 

    xkcd: Wikipedia article titles with the right syllable stress pattern to be sung to the tune of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song. (Here’s the song, for reference.)

    All of these titles are examples of trochaic tetrameter, which is one of the most common English meters (a trochee is a foot consisting of STRONG-weak and tetrameter is four feet per line). Another example is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, although that has a deficient last foot, but you can sing any of these titles to that tune as well if you just double the last note.

    Trochaic tetrameter creates a strong feeling of sing-song “poem-ness” in English. Most Shakespearean characters, for example, speak in iambic pentameter (weak-STRONG, five feet per line), which sounds more natural, but a few speak in trochaic tetrameter for dramatic effect. For example, MacBeth and Lady MacBeth speak in iambic pentameter, which gives the effect of talking normally: 

    Methought I heard a voice cry “Sleep no more!
    Macbeth does murder sleep,” the innocent sleep,
    Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,

    Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why,
    then, ‘tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my
    lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
    fear who knows it, when none can call our power
    to account?—Yet who would have thought the old
    man to have had so much blood in him?

    But the witches speak in trochaic tetrameter, which makes them seem like they’re delivering an incantation: 

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

    Fair is foul, and foul is fair

    Previous xkcd on poetry: metrical foot fetish, ballad meter, trochaic fixation. Language Log also has a long, interesting post on meter

     
  3. Optimality Theory 101: Constraints > Rules

    aproposofamelate:

    Okay, so here’s a crash course in Optimality Theory (or OT) for any confused linguistics or curious parties out there.

    At it’s base, OT is essentially just an alternative way to view phonology. Instead of rules to figure out what is and is not ‘allowed’ in a language OT uses constraints and structures grammars as systems that map from the input to the output. The input is referred to the as underlying form whereas the output is the surface realization.  

    Read More

    Another entry in Crowdsourced Linguistics! Yay! 

    Sometimes people also use non-linguistics decision-making analogies to explain Optimality Theory: here’s a coffee-buying analogy via linguisticky, for example. I just realized that this analogy doesn’t link into the more formal layout of OT, with the tableaux and such, so I’m going to do that below. 

    Read More

     
  4. Before we get to ergativity, unaccusitivity and other kinds of morphosyntactic funtimes…

    superlinguo:

    Thanks so much to All Things Linguistic for setting up the Crowdsourced Linguistics project. We tend to prattle on about things we know, or find interesting, so it’s great to get an idea of what some people find bamboozling or tricky about language!

    I offered to help explain the collected jargon of ergative, accusative, unaccusative and unergative. I still remember sitting in undergraduate classes and trying to get my head around ergativity, so for anyone trying to puzzle it out, I feel your pain.

    Each Wikipedia page (linked above) explains the relevant phenomenon with as much detail as you’d find in an undergrad linguistics text book, but to make sense of it you have to start thinking about sentences like a linguist. For example, this is really a very elegant summary:

    image

    But only if you understand what the A, S and O stand for, and what that actually means for real language. I’ve given a short intro before (in this post), but I thought I’d write a post that goes right, right back to basics. Hopefully by time you’ve read this, the information on the various Wikipedia pages will be more accessible. Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a long post by Superlinguo standards!

    Read More

    I’m so excited to see the explanations start trickling in over this week! This is a great complement to the existing resources on Wikipedia and thanks Lauren/superlinguo for also adding to the existing entry

    Another helpful post explaining ergativity is this one by Literal Minded on what English would look like if it were ergative (and the follow-up post on antipassives, which are like passives for ergative languages). 

     
  5. 28 tips for doing better in your Intro Linguistics course

    allthingslinguistic:

    Just in time for back to school, here are some tips for doing better on your linguistics assignments from someone who’s marked a few hundred of them over the years. 

    General:

    1. Read the question. The easiest mistake to fix: if the question says circle the error and fix it, make sure you do both, or if the question asks for three examples, make sure you give three and not two or four. If the question asks for a transcription, don’t give a translation, and so on. Before you pass something in, read it over to make sure the question and the answer match. 

    2. Use only the necessary words. In grade school, you may have been asked to answer in complete sentences. That doesn’t really matter anymore: what matters is that you show that you understand the material. Linguistics problem sets aren’t essay questions, so a short phrase may be totally sufficient. 

    3. Use the technical words that you’ve been learning (but don’t use the other ones you found on Wikipedia). Part of what you’re being tested on is your ability to use technical vocabulary, so you should say “transitive verb” instead of “an action word that has both a person who did the thing and a person who the thing is done to”. 

    Read More

    Bringing this post back for another year. If you think you’re already pretty good at linguistics, perhaps you’d like the satirical followup: Tips for doing worse in your intro linguistics course

    Also a reminder that I tag by subfield, so you can find potentially useful resource posts in the phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, etc. tags. IPA, protolinguist, and intro linguistics are also good tags for resources. Be warned though that different introductory courses use different simplifications, so when in doubt, go with your professor, TA, and/or textbook. 

     
  6. The Lambda Calculus is often used in semantics as a way of representing meaning in a manner more independent of the specific words used in a particular language. For example, “the cat chased the dog”, “the dog was chased by the cat”, and “le chat a chassé le chien” would all have the same representation because they have the same literal meaning, despite a few pragmatic differences, such as putting focus on the dog or being comprehensible only to speakers of French. 

    This accessible introduction to the Lambda Calculus is aimed at philosophers, but since semantics and philosophy end up having certain areas of intersection, it’s also very useful for linguists. Excerpt: 

    It might look frighteningly mathematical from a distance (it has a greek letter in it, after all!), so nobody outside of academic computer science tends to look at it, but it is unbelievably easy to understand. And if you understood it, you might end up with a much better intuition of computation. […]

    Don’t be intimidated by the word “calculus”! It does not have any complicated formulae or operations. All it ever does is taking a line of letters (or symbols), and performing a little cut and paste operation on it. As you will see, the Lambda Calculus can compute everything that can be computed, just with a very simple cut and paste.

    To follow that, here are some notes on the Lambda Calculus as it relates to linguistics

     
  7. An article from Schwa Fire  (although they normally charge for subscriptions, this one is free!) on how media and especially a new Vodafone commercial have distorted what’s really going on among speakers of Ayapaneco: 

    Ayapaneco is a dying Mexican language with only two living speakers left…who refuse to speak to each other. Thanks to the stubbornness of two bitter old men—don Manuel and don Isidro (who’s nicknamed Chilo)—a language will be lost forever.

    This story has something so compelling, so primordial, that it keeps getting repeated—in prime time news broadcasts and public radio broadcasts, on websites, and in magazines around the globe—even though it’s entirely untrue. Because of my expertise in the languages and communities of the area, every month I receive emails from curious journalists, documentary filmmakers, and linguistics majors eager to capture the Manuel-versus-Isidro conflict in more detail. I try to tell them the real story of Ayapaneco. But the fictional version continues to circulate.

    Also some important points on what’s actually important in “saving” a language: 

    The best of these initiatives empower speakers of endangered languages by equipping them with the training and technology needed to document and revitalize their own linguistic heritage, as they see fit. If implemented correctly, these projects can be sustained with minimal outside assistance, long after the experts have left. A real contribution by Vodafone would have been to design the Viva Ayapaneco website to serve the needs of actual Ayapa residents, using its impressive design elements to make language learning fun and exciting for the children of Ayapa, not to mention children in other nearby endangered language communities such as Oluta.

    Very much worth reading the whole thing

     
  8. An interesting article on adjective ordering

    Also related is this Tom Scott video on adjective ordering. The generalization that adjectives seem to be ordered the same way across a wide variety of languages is the type of data used as evidence for a cartographic approach to linguistics: detailed typological surveys of how aspects of language do or do not vary in very specific ways. 

     
  9. This is a game of hangman where all of the words are reconstructed Proto-Indo-European words. I can’t claim it’s easy (in fact, it’s really quite hard), but it’s definitely an interesting way of learning more about PIE.

    After a few rounds, you may get a better sense of which sounds are more versus less common in PIE, and after a few more, you may start noticing repeats, as it’s only drawing on a list of 18 words. Of course, you could also cheat and look up a list of Proto-Indo-European words to help. 

     
  10. Linguistic Olympiad all over internets!

    humanswhoreadgrammars:

    There’s this thing called the International Linguistics Olympiad, one of the authors of this blog - Hedvig - just so happens to be one of the organisers. It’s for students of secondary schools in lots of different countries, they all compete in there national contests and then we all meet in the summer for the big international show-down. This years contest in Beijing recently finished. The problems are all based on insights of linguistics, it’s kinda difficult to explain - why don’t you just have a look-se
    image

    It’s a cool contest, one of the cool things about it is that everyone competes in different languages. The problem set and the Jury’s correcting work is all multilingual. You can read more about that here.
    Well, well. Anyway. The news-worthy part is that IOL has increased its internet presence.
    Now, there’s:
    So, if you guys enjoy us talking about linguistic diversity and description and you’re a teacher or student - you’d probably like to follow the IOL too!
    The contest of 2015 will take place in Bulgaria, you can read more about the local arrangements at their official web page and Facebook page!

    I’ve talked before about NACLO, the North American event which is held in mid January. Since that’s still a ways off, now is a good time to figure out if there’s an event near you or, if not, whether you can get someone to host one.