Superlinguo

For those who like and use language

740 notes &

notallwugs:

Two scientists walk into a bar:

"I’ll have an H2O."

"I’ll have an H2O, too."

The bartender gives them both water because he is able to distinguish the boundary tones that dictate the grammatical function of homonyms in coda position as well as pragmatic context.

Reblogging for the lingua-lulz. 

(via transliterations)

54 notes &

Now Available! Selected Papers from the 44th Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, 2013 by Issue Date

Since ALS 2013 last October, Jill V and I have been editing the proceedings. There are 21 papers available as free open access downloads here. I think these represent the great spread of research done by ALS members. Many of the papers are on English, or Australian Aboriginal languages, but not all.

Clicking on any of the links will take you to the individual paper, which has an abstract with more details. Papers in the volume include diverse topics:

It’s been really great to work with such a diverse range of lovely authors (and reviewers!). Thanks must go to the UniMelb digital repository team for helping us to set up the collection and giving it a home, and the UniMelb library crew for helping out. I also have to thank Jill for making it all relatively unstressful, and often quite a lot of fun.

Happy reading! Anything caught your eye? Let me know and I can do a follow-up post!

35 notes &

Heroes in a Noun Phrase (Turtle Power)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) were an integral part of my childhood. I’m not sure if I’ll see the creepy realistic new film, but seeing posters around for it has me humming the opening tune from the 1990s animated series (it’s as awesome as I remember).

One thing I’ve never really thought about before, is that it’s a rather spectacularly odd noun phrase. It’s more ridiculous than the kind of sentence that linguists make up when proving to new students that utterances can (and often do) consist of combinations of words that no person has ever said before.

To entertain myself (or annoy Andrew, depending on your perspective on the walk home from the bus) I took to reworking the order of the words in the phrase (with a bit of morphological tweaking):

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Mutant Ninja Turtle Teens
  • Ninja Turtle Teenage Mutants
  • Turtle Teenage Mutant Ninjas
  • Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles
  • Ninja Teenage Mutant Turtles
  • Mutant Turtle Teenage Ninjas
  • Turtle Teenage Ninja Mutants

Admittedly, some work better than others - teens at the end loses the two-syllable pattern that helps make it so catchy. It’s interesting that so many of them work, and offer slightly different perspectives on the reptilian wunderkinds.

This is because a noun phrase (NP) in English consists of the head noun (usually coming near the end of the noun phrase), and a number of pre-modifers. Some of these modifiers can be adjectives, which we’re taught in school are the things that modify nouns.

In the case of the TMNT, teenage is certainly behaving in that way. Nouns can also act as nominal modifiers, which is what mutant and ninja are doing in the canonical TMNT noun-phrase.

It means that when we move them around, either of them can become the head noun, and turtle can serve as a nominal modifier. 

Sing along:

Mutant teenage ninja turtles

Ninja mutant teenage turtles

Teenage mutant turtle ninjas

Heroes in a half shell

NP power!

23 notes &

linguistsagainsthumanity:

Submitted by loztron.

If you follow Linguists Against Humanity you may have noticed that since I reblogged them a few weeks ago I had a burst of inspiration and submitted some ideas for both black and white cards.
Although the creators make it very clear that LAH is not for educational purposes, I enjoyed riffing on many things I found amusing when I first learnt them (including the fact that Whorf really had a day job as a Fire Prevention Engineer). 
Other cards by yours truly touch on cognitive semantics, syntax, phonetics, peeving, endangered languages, research and popular language use.
Also, check out their competition for the most inspired card combinations and see just how much fun awaits!

linguistsagainsthumanity:

Submitted by loztron.

If you follow Linguists Against Humanity you may have noticed that since I reblogged them a few weeks ago I had a burst of inspiration and submitted some ideas for both black and white cards.

Although the creators make it very clear that LAH is not for educational purposes, I enjoyed riffing on many things I found amusing when I first learnt them (including the fact that Whorf really had a day job as a Fire Prevention Engineer).

Other cards by yours truly touch on cognitive semantics, syntax, phonetics, peeving, endangered languages, research and popular language use.

Also, check out their competition for the most inspired card combinations and see just how much fun awaits!

28 notes &

Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang

I used my time on the plane over to Singapore to finally read The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. It’s a sci-fi short story about human attempts to communicate with an alien species that travel to Earth. It is tender, beautifully written work that touches on love and memories, and is often noted for its subtle exploration of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

For me, it’s one of the best fictional descriptions I’ve come across of the process to document and capture a language you don’t speak. In fact, it’s better than many non-fictional accounts. The language is less fanciful than those found in China Miéville’s Embassy Town (review here), but still provides some interesting challenges.

I loved this short story as a linguo-nerd, a sci-fi fan and a reader of quality prose. I’m still turning it over in my head days later.

Thanks to my buddy Jill V for the recommendation!

29 notes &

The Age of Quotability

Before hoping on a plane to Singapore I sat down for a chat with Tiger Webb from ABC RN’s The List about pop culture, quoting, and sharing your knowledge and what you like by the way you use language. Thanks to Tiger for the great chat, and then making me sound vaguely knowledgeable.

32 notes &

Alay - Indonesian Internet langauge, with some internationally familiar commentary

When I was at the SEALS conference in Burma a few weeks ago John Bowden gave a presentation Indonesian slang. I was particularly interested in his discussion of Alay - a jokey internet variety of Indonesian that’s often used by young people on the internet. It has many features that will be familiar to those with an interest in Internet English:

- Use of non-standard characters, much like 1337speak. For example, Alay is often written 4L4Y.

- Stylistic use of often non-meaningful text to convey emotion.

- Lots of neologisms are created through abbreviations, blends and borrowings from English and other languages.

- It has links and cross-references with other cultural phenomena like songs and clothing styles.

- It’s a awy of signaling you’re young (but as the comment on this post shows, there is also derision of people who use Alay from outside their social world). 

- People have good metalinguistic intuition about how Alay functions, allowing for the creation of text ‘translation’ generators.

Much like with other playful internet language varieties, Alay has caused a lot of angst, and John demonstrated with these two pages from the Jakarta Post. The content of these articles is not too surprising, in fact I’d be more surprised if there was a non-Standard variety of language use on the internet that didn’t attract moral hysteria from the outside (and usually adult) population!

99 notes &

The School of Languages and Linguistics at The University of Melbourne is housed in the Babel building. I’ve always thought it the best named building for a languages department. It was built in 1946 for the School of Modern Languages - although language and linguistics programs were moved out in the early 1990s and were housed in the Arts Centre for almost a decade.

The programs moved back into this building in 2010, during the first year of my PhD candidature. It had been renovated in the interim by Economics and Commerce.

You’ll only find European languages in the School - Asian languages moved into the Asia Centre in the 1990s when economic focus on Asia was all the rage in Australia. 

I’ve been an undergraduate, postgraduate and staff member in the Linguistics Department at Melbourne Uni - often with the same staff as teachers and then colleagues - and loved every minute of it.

6 notes &

raisedtokeepquiet asked: Hi! I'm the person who applied for the Honours programme, I messaged you some time ago (and changed my url in the meantime, sorry for the confusion). Today I got an email saying I got in! I'm really happy now :). I'll be doing research on correlatives in old Dutch, and possibly English too :) It's part of a larger project. Xx

Congratulations!

It’s always good to hear some nice news at the end of the week!

I hope that some of my prattling advice was useful, and all the best for your research adventures!

47 notes &

ABC launches Indigenous language news service

This is such exciting news! Exciting for communities that speak these languages, but also exciting for Australia where English is the dominant language of media. More of this stuff makes more people aware that there are languages other than English, and that people use them.

This is only a good thing, I hope the ABC develops it and expands to other languages too.

[Update: Check out That Munanga Linguist’s great post about the service, and the languages used]