1. I’m on Lexicon Valley explaining the subtle differences between the five different t sounds in English using internet puns (including “free tudoring” and “moist owlet” — thanks, tumblr!). 

    For the sake of readability, I didn’t use much phonetics/phonology vocabulary on the Lexicon Valley post, so I’m going to link up the technical terms with the explanation here instead. Warning: what follows below is rather dense: you should read it in conjunction with the fun version

    The general phenomenon of there being multiple versions of a sound (such as /t/) that you don’t notice is called allophony. The idea of /t/ in general is the phoneme, written in slashes //,and its variants are its allophoneswritten in square brackets [ ]. One of the things that distinguishes allophones is that they’re often found in predictable environments. For example:

    • Flapped/tapped t (IPA [ɾ]), as in “tutor”, is found between two vowels (intervocalically), when the second vowel isn’t stressed.
    • Glottalized t (IPA [t] with superscript ʔ or just glottal stop [ʔ]), as in bottle or button, is found in codas.
    • Unreleased t (IPA [t̚]), as in “moist” (sometimes), is optional and found at the end of a word (word-finally).
    • Aspirated t (IPA [t] with superscript h), as in “towel” or “participant”, is found at the beginnings of words (word-initially) for monosyllabic words, or at the beginnings of stressed syllables in general.
    • (not included in the article) Dental t (IPA [t̪]), as in “eighth”, is found before the voiceless dental fricative θ (in principle, dental d [d̪] could be found before ð but I’m not sure if there are any actual examples of this. Dental n, [n̪] is found before both θ and ð, as in “lengthen” although n before θ probably also gets devoiced). 
    • (also not included in the article) Palatalized t (IPA [tʃ]), as in “train”, found especially in British English before r but sometimes word-initially in general I think. 

    Flapping/tapping is a process that also happens with /d/, unreleasing is something that can happen with any stop /p t k b d g/, aspiration happens with voiceless stops /p t k/, and dentalization could happen with any alveolar, especially the stops /t d n/, but even maybe /s z l/. (Hey, notice how each of these are different natural classes!) Glottalization I don’t know as much about since it isn’t in my dialect, but I think it might be restricted to /t/…any Brits want to weigh in?

    An analogy often used for allophones is Clark Kent vs Superman. And yes, there are probably more than 5 (7) allophones of t…can anyone think of more?

     
  2. Do you say “um” or “uh”?

    Mark Liberman at Language Log has had several posts lately about gender and age effects of “uh” and “um” and other words. There’s basic summary of them, with graphs, from the Atlantic

    Overall, he found that women say “um” 22 percent more than men do, but men say “uh” more than twice as often as women do. A 2011 study by Eric Acton yielded similar results.

    When the two genders are speaking to each other, they try to meet in the middle: “Males use uh about 14 percent less often when talking with a female rather than a male, and females use uh about about 20 percent more often when talking with a male rather than a female,” Liberman writes. (There’s not nearly as much accommodation with “um.”)

    What Liberman found, essentially, was that young men speak like old women: “The rate of ‘um’ usage for the younger men is almost the same as the rate of ‘um’ usage for the older women.” 

    This reminds me of that Twitter study a while back by Tyler Schnoebelen and others, showing that gender-associated speech also has network effects. A summary of the effect, from Ben Zimmer

    They found that even though you can categorize certain words as having a higher male or female probability, it’s easy to find large swaths of Twitter users who go against these trends. By grouping people by their style of usage, they could find, for example, a cluster of authors that is 72 percent male but nonetheless favors the nonstandard spellings that are supposedly a hallmark of “female” language.

    Digging deeper, the researchers looked at the social networks that people create on Twitter, making connections by “following” and replying to other users. When you take these networks into account, the gender picture gets even more complex. It turns out that the statistical outliers (men who use language that’s associated with women, and vice versa) are more likely to have networks skewing to the other gender. A man who favors emoticons is more likely to have a high proportion of women in his network. And a woman who frequently mentions the names of sports teams likely has a lot of male friends. The takeaway from Schnoebelen’s presentation is that a simple binary model of gender isn’t sufficient in understanding the welter of language styles in the Twittersphere—or, by implication, in everyday life.

    So I’m wondering if people with a lot of male or female friends would pattern like their network with respect to “uh” and “um” as well. It might be harder to do a study of this on Twitter though, because we tend to use disfluencies a lot more rarely and consciously in text than in speech, so it’s not clear that any of the trends would necessarily be the same. And I doubt that network friend gender ratio was recorded for the participants in the corpus that Language Log is using, alas. 

     
  3. In various schools in Uganda, and some other parts of Africa, children as young as five are punished for speaking African languages, indigenous languages and mother tongues at school. The modes of punishment differ. The most common one in Uganda is wearing a dirty sack until you meet someone else speaking their mother tongue and then you pass the sack on to them. In some schools, there are specific pupils and students tasked with compiling lists of fellow pupils and students speaking mother tongues. This list is then handed over to a teacher responsible for punishing these language rule-breakers. According to Gilbert Kaburu, some schools have aprons that read: “Shame on me, I was speaking vernacular” handed over to an offender of the No Vernacular rule, who then is tasked with finding the next culprit to give the apron. Most of the punishments, in their symbolism emphasise the uselessness of the African languages.

    Commenting on a photo of two children in Uganda wearing dirty sacks as punishment for speaking their mother tongues, Zimbabwean writer, Tendai Huchu says:

    “That sums up our self loathing and inferiority complex. Junot Diaz once said we do a better job of enforcing white supremacy ourselves than white supremacists ever could. I should add, notice how the punishment consists of wearing sack-cloth. The image is telling. You are rags if you speak your own language.”

    Halima Hosh, agreeing with Tendai Huchu opines:

    “It’s outrageous. What a slave mentality that a colonial language is considered higher or better/more worth than their own local language. Unbelievable. Do the Europeans learn any African language in school? No. Why not? Because we are not proud of our heritage, not proud of our languages, not proud of Black African history. These teachers need to be fired.

    — 

    This is a serious problem. Read the entire article here: http://thisisafrica.me/schools-punishing-children-speaking-african-languages/ (via linglife)

    Languages don’t generally become endangered because people just don’t really feel like speaking them anymore: it’s often much more brutal. And similar methods for repressing indigenous languages happen all over the world: this reminded me of a memorable quote from a man in Alaska “Whenever I speak Tlingit, I can still taste the soap.” 

     
  4. Linguistics Conferences

    allthingslinguistic:

    If you’re writing an honours thesis, doing a research project/independent study, or even are just interested in meeting other linguists, why not check out a local linguistics conference or two!

    (This year I am finally making the “go to conferences” post with lots of time in advance to get a project up and running: many undergrad conferences take place in December-April and have deadlines sometime in the fall or winter.)

    I want to especially encourage undergraduate conference-going because I think grad students and so on are more likely to already hear about conferences and know people who are going to them (although depending on your advisor it may still be worth looking some up). 

    Even if you haven’t finished your project yet, you can get comments on a work in progress, or just come and watch things and meet people (but seriously, submit something if you can, it’s worth a try). For smaller conferences, registration is often just enough to cover food, and you can ask the organizers about staying with local students, so your expenses can be quite minimal. Sometimes you can even get travel funding from your own department, especially if you’re presenting (ask a prof, even if you don’t see it advertised anywhere). Audiences of fellow students are generally very positive and non-intimidating, so it’s a good way to get some practice talking about academic things, get a line on your CV or grad school application, and make some ling-friends.  

    I even remember a high school student who came to McCCLU one year just because they wanted to learn more about linguistics and meet people. 

    Both Linguist List and the LSA (Linguistic Society of America) maintain lists of international conferences organized by date, and I’m aware of a few undergrad-specific conferences (McCCLU - Montreal, TULCon - Toronto, GLEEFUL - Michigan, Harvard colloquium, Cornell colloquium). I’m not sure if they’re current, but I’ve also heard of OCLU in Ottawa, SCULC in southern California, and a rotating conference hosted by ULAB - Undergrad Linguistics Association of Britain. The current websites may not be live yet, but you can look them up from last year to get a sense of timing, and this gives you plenty of time to work on a project. 

    I think there are also many student-focussed conferences for both grad students and undergrads, although grad students can of course apply for the general conferences as well! (Heck, I went to one as an undergrad, and while I didn’t present, I met a couple undergrads there with posters.)

    Edited to add, from comments: Arizona Linguistics Circle (which is soon, October 3-5!), Minnesota Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium, HULLS (Hunter Undergraduate Linguistics and Language Studies, in New York).

    And from more googling (“linguistics student conference” plus ctrl+F for “student” and “undergrad” on this list from LinguistList (note that if you’re viewing this post after September 2014, do double-check because conference calls continue to come out): University of Central OklahomaUniversity of Texas (Arlington), Penn State, Tri-College (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore), East Carolina University, North-West (British Columbia/Washington State)

    Outside North America: Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), Arctic University of NorwayConSOLE (European, rotating, this year in Paris), Austria (rotating, this year in Salzburg), Moscow, Slovenia

    If one of these conferences isn’t convenient: try googling the name of your region or major cities/universities near you with the words student linguistics conference, and you may find something! Many smaller linguistics student conferences aren’t very well-advertised and may not make it onto major lists like LinguistList every year, so if you find evidence of a conference near you from a previous year, try contacting the previous organizer(s) or department to see if it’s happening again. 

    Can anyone contribute to a list of other undergrad or student-friendly linguistics conferences, especially in locations that aren’t already well-represented here?

    I’ve expanded the list of conferences above based on more googling, and here’s some ideas for what to do if you don’t have a conference near you: 

    Read More

     
  5. Linguistics Conferences

    If you’re writing an honours thesis, doing a research project/independent study, or even are just interested in meeting other linguists, why not check out a local linguistics conference or two!

    (This year I am finally making the “go to conferences” post with lots of time in advance to get a project up and running: many undergrad conferences take place in December-April and have deadlines sometime in the fall or winter.)

    I want to especially encourage undergraduate conference-going because I think grad students and so on are more likely to already hear about conferences and know people who are going to them (although depending on your advisor it may still be worth looking some up). 

    Even if you haven’t finished your project yet, you can get comments on a work in progress, or just come and watch things and meet people (but seriously, submit something if you can, it’s worth a try). For smaller conferences, registration is often just enough to cover food, and you can ask the organizers about staying with local students, so your expenses can be quite minimal. Sometimes you can even get travel funding from your own department, especially if you’re presenting (ask a prof, even if you don’t see it advertised anywhere). Audiences of fellow students are generally very positive and non-intimidating, so it’s a good way to get some practice talking about academic things, get a line on your CV or grad school application, and make some ling-friends.  

    I even remember a high school student who came to McCCLU one year just because they wanted to learn more about linguistics and meet people. 

    Both Linguist List and the LSA (Linguistic Society of America) maintain lists of international conferences organized by date, and I’m aware of a few undergrad-specific conferences (McCCLU - Montreal, TULCon - Toronto, GLEEFUL - Michigan, Harvard colloquium, Cornell colloquium). I’m not sure if they’re current, but I’ve also heard of OCLU in Ottawa, SCULC in southern California, and a rotating conference hosted by ULAB - Undergrad Linguistics Association of Britain. The current websites may not be live yet, but you can look them up from last year to get a sense of timing, and this gives you plenty of time to work on a project. 

    I think there are also many student-focussed conferences for both grad students and undergrads, although grad students can of course apply for the general conferences as well! (Heck, I went to one as an undergrad, and while I didn’t present, I met a couple undergrads there with posters.)

    Edited to add, from comments: Arizona Linguistics Circle (which is soon, October 3-5!), Minnesota Undergraduate Linguistics Symposium, HULLS (Hunter Undergraduate Linguistics and Language Studies, in New York).

    And from more googling (“linguistics student conference” plus ctrl+F for “student” and “undergrad” on this list from LinguistList (note that if you’re viewing this post after September 2014, do double-check because conference calls continue to come out): University of Central OklahomaUniversity of Texas (Arlington), Penn State, Tri-College (Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore), East Carolina University, North-West (British Columbia/Washington State)

    Outside North America: Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), Arctic University of NorwayConSOLE (European, rotating, this year in Paris), Austria (rotating, this year in Salzburg), Moscow, Slovenia

    If one of these conferences isn’t convenient: try googling the name of your region or major cities/universities near you with the words student linguistics conference, and you may find something! Many smaller linguistics student conferences aren’t very well-advertised and may not make it onto major lists like LinguistList every year, so if you find evidence of a conference near you from a previous year, try contacting the previous organizer(s) or department to see if it’s happening again. 

    Further updates: WISSLR in London, Ontario; ULAB’s conference is in York this year (yamaharfang is on the committee); linguistikforum says StuTS in Hamburg this year and lists several other conferences in German

    Can anyone contribute to a list of other undergrad or student-friendly linguistics conferences, especially in locations that aren’t already well-represented here?

     
  6. Is French fanfic more like written or spoken French?

    clewilan:

    allthingslinguistic:

    azaleecalypso:

    Another cut form length, discussion about written/spoken French, more specifically French in fanfic

    So hey, former native French fanfic writer, raised in French schools and finished high-school in 2008 (wow).
    First of all, what do French classes look like till high-school: a lot of grammar/spelling/conjugation at first, then from our collège (11 to 15) a bit more reflexion on content - though there are still several grammar lessons and all. The principal notion was that we couldn’t write French as we spoke it: we had the registres de langues: familier, courant, soutenu, (informal, regular, formal) and French as to be written as soutenu, except for dialogues.
    It’s in high-scool (from 15) that we start really thinking about the contents and the style, but there’s not literature class in France unless you’re in the humanities path (ie when you’re around 16, in seconde, you have to choose between science, humanities, or socio-economics). I chose the scientific path and French grades didn’t have a lot of impact on my diploma. So not much time/opportunities to explore different writing styles.

    When you’re raised with teachers telling you that “le passé simple est le temps du récit”, that if you use any other tense in fiction you’re an outsider, and if you don’t have a lot of counter-examples, it’s quite hard to start your narratives with something other than past tense. Except if your writing is perfect, your teacher is likely to give you a lower grade.
    My sister is ten years younger than me, and it’s still taught like that in school, though the content is less intense that it was at my age - I think there’s 2 or 3 years behind the level I was ? Education a general issue in France and parents complain that their children are not learning le subjonctif imparfait, except no one cares about it in real daily life ! So of course younger people start with the basics, and I think writing in other tense that passé simple will be easier for them.

    Some examples :
    - I just looked at my old fanfiction account. I started writing when I was around 14 (in 2005), and it’s all passé simple until I actually kicked myself in the butt and started reading English fanfics and ??? What do you mean, fanfics writtent in present tense ??? From them, I experimented a bit more but mostly when writing small formats like drabbles and ficclets. Yet when you look at my WIPs, any long piece that I start is passé simple.
    - “Old” big names in French fandom, Nelja and ylg, write both in passé simple (more of this one, I think) and présent, but one again present tense is more often used when writing small fics.
    - Aaaand I just checked my old fandom (Fullmetal Alchemist): most of the fics written by new writers, despite several (sometimes lots of) mistakes, are using passé simple.

    So I’d say it’s like: when you’ve been born and raised with passé simple, it’s not until you gain some experience that you will forget your spontaneous reaction and try other things.

    (Please note that the AO3 fics are a bit biased, though, because the website is not only in English but also not that well-known in the French community, so you’re more likely to find experimented writers in the French section. (Because French people are really that bad at langages, trust me, it’s not a myth.) If you want to look for more “fresh” new writers and compare, i’d suggest fanfiction.net, or maybe fanfic-fr.net if it’s still active.)

    Another reblogger tested this hypothesis on fanfiction.net and still found that most recent fanfics used the passé simple: 

    I found that passé simple is widely used today, with a whopping 9/10 of the 2014 fics using it to some degree, though I noted that in 4 of them the imparfait was widely preferred. I had to hunt through the narration to find an instance of passé simple. These tended to be the more amateurish ones, with scripts taking the place of properly formatted dialogue (or written asides with little emotes ^_^;). The remaining one was in present tense. 

    For the older fics, it’s a different story. 6/10 of the older ones used present tense. 1 used passé composé. The remaining 2 were like the amateurish fics noted above: mostly imparfait, with passé simple used only when imparfait wouldn’t fit.   

    I didn’t remark on it in my original post, but I did notice on AO3 that several of the fics used mostly imparfait with a few rare instances of the passé simple. (Since I’m not a native French speaker, I wasn’t going to judge how appropriate this was.) 

     
  7. quintanear:

    allthingslinguistic:

    leninsy:

    allthingslinguistic:

    tesdefonceoutesgay:

    spanishskulduggery:

    speutschlish:

    So in English, we have softer curse words like Dang! Darn! Fudge! and Crap! instead of Damn! F*ck! and Sh*t! (call me a wuss but I really am not comfortable with swears in English - I have to censor them)

    In Spain, the most common swear term is ¡Joder!

    As in:

    ¡Joder! Dejé…

    I would also like to say that for “mierda” which is “shit”… I’ve heard people say “miércoles” (Wednesday) instead for small children

    holy crap, we do the SAME IN FRENCH

    "shit" is merde (see mierda in Spanish and merda in Italian) and we say MER…credi (mercredi) in front of children or in more formal situations, which also means “Wednesday”

    now, do Italian people say mercoledì instead of merda ??

    My favourite are all the softened Québecois swear words, like tabernouche and câlin de bine. Except I can’t use any of them because I don’t know which ones make you sound like a grandmother and which ones make you sound like a polite young person (compare English “darn” with “fiddlesticks”). Pragmatics of minced oaths is HARD.

    I was totally taken aback when I was living in Montreal and the group of 20 year olds I was with used the word ‘fucking’ regularly within French conversation. I asked them about it and they were like ‘oh no no no, it’s not a swear word, it just means very!’. Like they would say ‘ah, c’est fucking cool!’. I liked that. Still couldn’t get used to using it in restaurants and the like. I did grow to love swearing in Québecois though.

    Hah, that reminds me of the classic comedy sketch “The Use of the F Word in Canada,” which mentions that René Levesque used foké (fucked) on primetime television, not realizing that it was more serious in English.  

    Because I don’t want to reblog this three more times, other notable comments:

    Both lesserjoke and melyficent mention ”Friday” used on the poorly censored version of Snakes on a Plane: “That’s it! I have had it with these mother-loving snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane.”

    monkey-freaking-business confirms the use of “mercoledì” for “merda” in Italian. (Anyone for Portuguese?)

    There’s me for portuguese!

    Basically our swear words are about sexual organs and what comes out of them. So caralho, cacete, porra, buceta, cu etc. Of course we have the marvelous filho da puta, as well as merda/bosta. To make them not-so-bad we go with caramba, puts e filho da mae. Some stuff just can’t be made any better, lol. In Sao Paulo I’ve seen some replace caralho/cacete with cazzo as a lighter form, because as it happens not a representative amount of people seem to know what it is. I grew up hearing my mom say cazzo instead of caralho and started saying it myself all the time until I was like, 17 in an Italian class (you can imagine what happened). 

    Several people also mentioned that Portuguese for “Wednesday” is “quarta-feira”, so it’s not a suitable replacement for the merde/mierda/merda class, alas. 

    Also, mother-loving snakes above should be monkey-fighting snakes (I’ve corrected it on the original post as well). All the notes on this post continue to be excellent, so do check them out! 

     
  8. leninsy:

    allthingslinguistic:

    tesdefonceoutesgay:

    spanishskulduggery:

    speutschlish:

    So in English, we have softer curse words like Dang! Darn! Fudge! and Crap! instead of Damn! F*ck! and Sh*t! (call me a wuss but I really am not comfortable with swears in English - I have to censor them)

    In Spain, the most common swear term is ¡Joder!

    As in:

    ¡Joder! Dejé…

    I would also like to say that for “mierda” which is “shit”… I’ve heard people say “miércoles” (Wednesday) instead for small children

    holy crap, we do the SAME IN FRENCH

    "shit" is merde (see mierda in Spanish and merda in Italian) and we say MER…credi (mercredi) in front of children or in more formal situations, which also means “Wednesday”

    now, do Italian people say mercoledì instead of merda ??

    My favourite are all the softened Québecois swear words, like tabernouche and câlin de bine. Except I can’t use any of them because I don’t know which ones make you sound like a grandmother and which ones make you sound like a polite young person (compare English “darn” with “fiddlesticks”). Pragmatics of minced oaths is HARD.

    I was totally taken aback when I was living in Montreal and the group of 20 year olds I was with used the word ‘fucking’ regularly within French conversation. I asked them about it and they were like ‘oh no no no, it’s not a swear word, it just means very!’. Like they would say ‘ah, c’est fucking cool!’. I liked that. Still couldn’t get used to using it in restaurants and the like. I did grow to love swearing in Québecois though.

    Hah, that reminds me of the classic comedy sketch “The Use of the F Word in Canada,” which mentions that René Levesque used foké (fucked) on primetime television, not realizing that it was more serious in English.  

    Because I don’t want to reblog this three more times, other notable comments:

    Both lesserjoke and melyficent mention ”Friday” used on the poorly censored version of Snakes on a Plane: “That’s it! I have had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane.”

    monkey-freaking-business confirms the use of “mercoledì” for “merda” in Italian. (Anyone for Portuguese?)

     
  9. pleiadeshenderson:

    allthingslinguistic:

    tesdefonceoutesgay:

    spanishskulduggery:

    speutschlish:

    So in English, we have softer curse words like Dang! Darn! Fudge! and Crap! instead of Damn! F*ck! and Sh*t! (call me a wuss but I really am not comfortable with swears in English - I have to censor them)

    In Spain, the most common swear term is ¡Joder!

    As in:

    ¡Joder! Dejé…

    I would also like to say that for “mierda” which is “shit”… I’ve heard people say “miércoles” (Wednesday) instead for small children

    holy crap, we do the SAME IN FRENCH

    "shit" is merde (see mierda in Spanish and merda in Italian) and we say MER…credi (mercredi) in front of children or in more formal situations, which also means “Wednesday”

    now, do Italian people say mercoledì instead of merda ??

    My favourite are all the softened Québecois swear words, like tabernouche and câlin de bine. Except I can’t use any of them because I don’t know which ones make you sound like a grandmother and which ones make you sound like a polite young person (compare English “darn” with “fiddlesticks”). Pragmatics of minced oaths is HARD.

    Fun fact: they all make you sound like a grandmother! Or… at least, like my grandmother? I have distinct memories of her câline de bine, which as a small child I parsed as colline de bines - literally, ‘hill of beans’. I would go around, two-or-three-year-old me, loudly proclaiming my best COLLINE BINE BINE around grownups, knowing with the certainty of my two-or-three-year-old brain that this was how grownups talked and that therefore I was a grownup too.

    My parents said they were not amused.

    I’m pretty sure they were.

    That’s adorable.

    Also, I just realized, speaking of days of the week…English speakers: why are we not using “Friday” as a minced oath? I mean, Wednesday doesn’t sound anything like “shit”, unlike the mierda/miercoles pairing, but “Friday” totally sounds like frig or fudge. Here’s your new euphemism for fuck, everyone. 

     
  10. tesdefonceoutesgay:

    spanishskulduggery:

    speutschlish:

    So in English, we have softer curse words like Dang! Darn! Fudge! and Crap! instead of Damn! F*ck! and Sh*t! (call me a wuss but I really am not comfortable with swears in English - I have to censor them)

    In Spain, the most common swear term is ¡Joder!

    As in:

    ¡Joder! Dejé…

    I would also like to say that for “mierda” which is “shit”… I’ve heard people say “miércoles” (Wednesday) instead for small children

    holy crap, we do the SAME IN FRENCH

    "shit" is merde (see mierda in Spanish and merda in Italian) and we say MER…credi (mercredi) in front of children or in more formal situations, which also means “Wednesday”

    now, do Italian people say mercoledì instead of merda ??

    My favourite are all the softened Québecois swear words, like tabernouche and câlin de bine. Except I can’t use any of them because I don’t know which ones make you sound like a grandmother and which ones make you sound like a polite young person (compare English “darn” with “fiddlesticks”). Pragmatics of minced oaths is HARD.