Bad language

October 23, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–I recently objected to Louis Menand’s assertion that “[P]rofessional linguists almost universally, do not believe that any naturally occurring changes in the language can be bad” (“Menand on linguistic morality“, 10/22/2008).  And I was quickly taken to task in the comments by Steve Dodson, who is the erudite and broad-minded author of the Language Hat blog. full story


Menand on linguistic morality

October 22, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–Louis Menand (“Thumbspeak“, The New Yorker, 10/20/2008) aims a gibe at my profession: [P]rofessional linguists, almost universally, do not believe that any naturally occurring changes in the language can be bad. As a representative of the species, I can testify that this is false. Rather, we believe that moral and aesthetic judgments about language should be based full story


Derivation by deletion of punctuation

October 13, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–There’s a little lake near here called Sob Lake. I only recently learned the etymology of this name. According to Akrigg and Akrigg’s British Columbia Place Names, the lake was originally named by a survey party. Finding the homesteader who lived nearby obnoxious, they recorded their opinion of him by naming the lake “S.O.B. Lake”. The authorities in Victoria, however, felt that this was improper and bowdlerized it to “Sob Lake” by removing the periods. full story


Coordinate possessives

October 13, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–Comments on Mark Liberman’s Left Dislocation posting drifted for a while into the vexed question of how to express possession when two (or more, though I’ll restrict myself to two here) conjoined possessor NPs are involved. For the coordination of a 1sg (pronominal) possessor NP with a 3sg non-pronominal possessor NP, commenters came up with five possibilities full story