The Top Ten Linguists

December 10, 2008

LEXIOPHILES–Broadly defined, linguist is someone who is engaged in the study of human language. Throughout its distinguished history, language study has known thousands of names from Panini, the author of the first Sanskrit grammar, to John Grinder, the founder of  full story
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Where are all those British collective plurals?

December 4, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–I have some things to say about markedness, variation, and the role of habits in creating meaning. And I was planning to say them this morning, taking as a starting point the US/UK difference in verb agreement with collective nouns like government and committee that Geoff Pullum cited in his recent post “More on verb agreement as a judgment call“: full story
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December 4, 2008

LANGUAGE HAT–Most of us probably have a general sense that U.K. usage favors “the [group] are” where Americans say “the [group] is”; if you’re curious about the details, check out Mark Liberman’s post at the Log. He investigates committee and government, and discovers that the singular is favored overwhelmingly for the former and significantly for the latter; various full story
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November 12, 2008

LANGUAGE HATAndrey Zaliznyak, a Russian historical linguist, gave a talk last month “On professional and amateur linguistics” that can be read (in Russian) here (found via Anatoly). I recommend it to anyone who can read Russian; for those who can’t, I’ll translate an excerpt of general applicability: full story
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Top List of the hardest languages to learn

October 24, 2008

LEXIOPHILES–There are some controversial questions which to some extent may never be satisfactorily answered. For instance, why is the train always late when we are on time and on time when we arrive too late? One important question, which falls under this category, is the following: What is the hardest language to learn? When I went to school we had to choose full story

Every little (bit?) helps

October 23, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–The Tesco supermarket company defines its values by a slogan that, as my American undergraduate student Denise Wood pointed out to me yesterday, simply doesn’t seem (to her or to me) grammatical:Every little helps Denise showed it to me on the back of a till receipt, and at first I misread it as “Every little bit helps”.  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