Matthew Anderson of the BBC tweeted a paragraph from the 2013 book The Elements of Eloquence detailing the order of adjectives in English and calling it a thing "English speakers know, but don't know we know". It went viral, with outlets from NPR to Good Housekeeping covering the story and the rule, while Quartz pointed out that this is a meticulously taught rule for non-native English speakers. [more inside]
Lynne Murphy's blog is 'Separated By A Common Language'. It turns out being polite is different in the UK and the US and there are specific differences in the way each culture (and subcultures thereto) use please. [more inside]
Dr. Tim Lomas is creating a positive cross-cultural lexicography: an evolving index of expressions from many languages for positive emotional states and concepts pertaining to well-being. Most do not have immediate English equivalents. View by Alphabet, Language or Theme. [more inside]
English is not normal. "No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language." (Aeon via Longform).
"What of those grammar rules that were entirely dreamt up in an age of moral prescriptivism, reflecting nothing of historical or literary usage, to encourage the poor English language to be more like an entirely different (and entirely dead) language, namely Latin? Wait, which rules are those? It seems pretty crazy but the popular grammar rules familiar to most of us may in fact be completely fake and have no basis in linguistic reality. The English language didn't change to make those rules obsolete, they were simply fictional from the start." || Dear Pedants: Your Fave Grammar Rule is Probably Fake, by Chi Luu.
The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) is a free, online archive of primary-source dialect and accent recordings of the English language. Founded in 1997 at the University of Kansas, it includes hundreds of recordings of English speakers by natives of nearly 100 different countries. To find an example of an accent or dialect, use the Global Map, or select a continent or region at the Dialects and Accents page. [more inside]
Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?
Um, here’s an, uh, map that shows where Americans use 'um' vs. 'uh.' "Every language has filler words that speakers use in nervous moments or to buy time while thinking. Two of the most common of these in English are 'uh' and 'um.' They might seem interchangeable, but data show that their usage break down across surprising geographic lines. Hmm." And these lines may give evidence of the so-called Midland dialect. [more inside]
The OED in two minutes is a visualisation of the change and growth of the English language since 1150, showing the frequency and origin of new words year by year. Notes and explanations about the project. [more inside]
Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
We may not speak with the butter-toned exchanges of the characters on “Downton Abbey,” but in substance our speech is in many ways more civilized.... We are taught to celebrate the idea that Inuit languages reveal a unique relationship to snow, or that the Russian language’s separate words for dark and light blue mean that a Russian sees blueberries and robin’s eggs as more vibrantly different in color than the rest of us do. Isn’t it welcome, then, that good old-fashioned American is saying something cool about us for once? - John McWhorter on colloquial American English (SLNYTIMES) [more inside]
This book deals with the Dialect of the English Language that is spoken in Ireland. As the Life of a people—according to our motto—is pictured in their speech, our picture ought to be a good one, for two languages were concerned in it—Irish and English. ... Here for the first time—in this little volume of mine—our Anglo-Irish Dialect is subjected to detailed analysis and systematic classification.P.W. Joyce's 1910 work, "English as We Speak it in Ireland," is a fascinating chronicle of a language's life, and no mistake. [more inside]
English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet. The word "because," in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, "because" has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I'm reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I'm reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which "because" lends itself. I mention all that ... because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use "because." Linguists are calling it the "prepositional-because." Or the "because-noun."
The problem with tracing meh over time, as with so many fleeting interjections, is that it’s terribly underrepresented in the linguistic and lexicographical literature. [more inside]
"The internationalized art world relies on a unique language. Its purest articulation is found in the digital press release. This language has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English. It is largely an export of the Anglophone world and can thank the global dominance of English for its current reach. But what really matters for this language—what ultimately makes it a language—is the pointed distance from English that it has always cultivated. " - Triple Canopy magazine on why do artists' statments and press releases sound so utterly odd and confusing.
The Mind is a Metaphor. A database of thousands of metaphors organized by category, like 18th century, Liquid, or Jacobite. It's maintained by University of Virginia English Professor Brad Pasanek.
The Corpus of American Historical English is a searchable index of word usage in American printed material from 1810 to 2009. Powerful complex searches allow you to trace the appearance and evolution of words and phrases and even specific grammatical constructions, see trends in frequency, and plenty more. Start with the 5-Minute Tour.
American Woman: Vocal fried. On the partial glottalization of speech in young English speaking American women.
Gullah—the African-influenced dialect of Georgia’s Sea Islands—has undergone few changes since the first slave ships landed 300 years ago, and provides a clear window into the shaping of African-American English. This classic PBS program traces that story from the west coast of Africa through the American South, then to large northern cities in the 1920s. Studying the origins of West African pidgin English and creole speech—along with the tendency of 19th-century white Southerners to pick up speech habits from their black nursemaids—the program highlights the impact of WWI-era industrialization and the migration of jazz musicians to New York and Chicago.
The Awl takes a look at how Twitter has allowed local slang to go global, and the unhappiness this causes for some.
The History of English in Ten Minutes (Chapter I: Anglo-Saxon), from Open University. [via] [more inside]
Linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts, check out free Q&A site English Language and Usage. [more inside]
The "King of English", H.W. Fowler wrote A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Although "modern linguists are almost by definition incapable of understanding the function of a book like Fowler’s Dictionary", the "half-educated Englishman of literary proclivities" who just wants to know: "Can I say so-&-so?’" may now buy the classic first edition of the Dictionary again. An earlier book, The King's English, is free for anyone seeking advice on Americanisms, Saxon words, the spot plague, archaism or split infinitives.
Online Corpora. In linguistics, a corpus is a collection of 'real world' writing and speech designed to facilitate research into language. These 6 searchable corpora together contain more than a billion words. The Corpus of Historical American English allows you to track changes in word use from 1810 to present; the Corpus del Español goes back to the 1200s.
A quite ugly but intriguing map of English dialects in North America.
Unlike many cinematic exports, the Disney canon of films distinguishes itself with an impressive dedication to dubbing. Through an in-house service called Disney Character Voices International, not just dialogue but songs, too, are skillfully re-recorded, echoing the voice acting, rhythm, and rhyme scheme of the original work to an uncanny degree (while still leaving plenty of room for lyrical reinvention). The breadth of the effort is surprising, as well -- everything from Arabic to Icelandic to Zulu gets its own dub, and their latest project, The Princess and the Frog, debuted in more than forty tongues. Luckily for polyglots everywhere, the exhaustiveness of Disney's translations is thoroughly documented online in multilanguage mixes and one-line comparisons, linguistic kaleidoscopes that cast new light on old standards. Highlights: "One Jump Ahead," "Prince Ali," and "A Whole New World" (Aladdin) - "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Luau!" (The Lion King) - "Under the Sea" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid) - "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast) - "Just Around the Riverbend" (Pocahontas) - "One Song" and "Heigh-Ho" (Snow White) - "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (Cinderella) - Medley (Pinocchio) - "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2) - Intro (Monsters, Inc.)
Lexicalist attempts to be 'a demographic dictionary of modern American English.' Here's how it works. Lexicalist's developer David Bamman goes into greater detail at Language Log. [more inside]
"Yes, we want" -- Who owns global English? Post on The Web of Language by Dennis Barron, Professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois. Barron writes about the linguistic control of English playing out on the global stage. Included among the topics is the perception of "error" and Engrish. (Previously)
The Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English is a searchable collection of almost 2 million words of transcribed spoken English from the University of Michigan, including student study groups, office hours, dissertation defenses, and campus tours. Researchers use the Michigan corpus to investigate questions about usage, like "less or fewer?" (cf. this contentious Ask Meta thread) and more general topics, like "Vague Language in Academia." Browse or search MICASE yourself.
Since 1980, the Celtic Media Festival has brought together people who broadcast, and now Webcast, in Celtic languages. Videoblog Gwagenn.TV provides a report (with autoplaying video) from the 2009 festival whose clips and interviews are spoken and subtitled variously in Breton, French, English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish, Catalan, and Basque, not all of which are actually Celtic. [more inside]
The Gawain Project is an ongoing translation of the late 14th century anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (originally written in Middle English) into Modern English, for the amusement of Arthurians and anyone who likes a good story. [via mefi projects]
A Sub by any other name.... Professor Vaux has put together a little survey of American as she is spoke. The survey covers a myriad of areas and the results wind up on some really interesting maps. It's on going, so feel free to take the challenge
Learn Brit-Speak British Airways wants to help Americans understand "Brit-Speak". Of course you've always wanted to know what pants, snog, squiz and lurgy mean, but as a marketing strategy? annoying flash interface, but all 72 items inside
The Internet's Most Accurate English-to-English Dictionary This internet service will translate any English word, phrase or passage into English, or vice versa. Your original grammar, style, and spelling are left intact!
God, you our Fadda. You stay in da sky. We like all da peopo know fo shua how you stay, an dat you good an spesho inside, an we like dem give you plenny respeck. We like you come king ova hea now. We like everybody make jalike you like, ova hea inside da world, jalike da angel guys up inside da sky make jalike you like. Give us da food we need fo every day. Let us go, an throw out our shame fo all da kine bad stuff we do to you, jalike us guys let da odda guys go awready, an we no stay huhu wit dem fo all da kine bad stuff dey do to us. No let us get chance fo do bad kine stuff, But take us outa dea, so da Bad Guy no can hurt us. Cuz you our king, you get da real power, an you stay awesome fo eva. Dass it!
Hawaii Creole English, from the Language Museum, which lists examples of 2000 languges.
Hawaii Creole English, from the Language Museum, which lists examples of 2000 languges.
It's, like, the Like Virus An amusing and misanthropic inquiry into a mysterious linguistic phenomenon.It adds as much to our fair English language as barnacles do to a wharf or calculi to a healthy kidney. So, like, what is it about the word that makes people like us it all the time? (Question mark used to indicate raising vocal pitch at end of sentence)
Survey on Learning Standard American English in Black American Communities. This academic survey is designed to gather attitudes among Black Americans regarding Ebonics, better known to linguists at African American Vernacular English.
Ooooh, those trendy young Brits and their funny new words. What I can't help wondering is how many people have been sending in made up slang. (via clog).