If a dog wore pants, would word meaning help us decide what they should look like? Using prototype theory and native speaker judgements, we find no clear, shared definition of the word ‘pants’. The results point to gradient understanding of meaning.
Gabriel Arana recently published a defense of creaky voice at The Atlantic. He notes that recent criticism of young women’s use of creaky voice, or “vocal fry”, is part of a long tradition of critiquing the speaking styles of less powerful groups of people. Arana’s conclusion that “normative judgments about linguistic prestige are relative, and merely reflect social attitudes” is absolutely correct and well-known to linguistic anthropologists and other scholars of language. The particular speech patterns he analyses to support his conclusion – up-talk, like, and creak – are somewhat questionable, however.
Record fans insist that the plural of ‘vinyl’ to mean “a vinyl record” is the zero-plural ‘vinyl’. This irregular form serves as a shibboleth for audiophiles. Since the form was regular (‘vinyls’) during the 1960s, I conjecture that the irregular form must have arisen relatively recently.
Barbara Johnstone (2011) “Making Pittsburghese” and Timothy Messer-Kruse (2012) “The ‘undue weight’ of truth on Wikipedia” present very different views of scholar’s experiences with Wikipedia. Johnstone’s evaluation is mostly positive, while Messer-Kruse’s is quite negative.
H. Samy Alim writing in the NY Times about “What if We Occupied Language?” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/what-if-we-occupied-language/ When I flew out from the San Francisco airport last October, we crossed above the ports that Occupy Oakland helped shut down, and arrived in Germany to be met by traffic caused by Occupy Berlin protestors. But the movement has […]
These comments do not necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Society of Linguistic Anthropology, its officers or individual members. In the June 24, 2011 edition of the New York Times, Kathryn Schulz reviews Franco Moretti’s work on “distant reading,” the analysis of literary texts such as Hamlet or Victorian novels. Reacting to a paper […]
Yesterday John McWhorter discussed the recent call by the DEA to hire “Ebonics translators” on Talk of the Nation. He did a good job describing his positions on translation and education, but his parting remarks on the nature of language variation were cut short. I presume to expand the description.
Nice interview with Arika Okrent on her new book “In the Land of Invented Languages” including a good description of the Whorf Hypothesis and an in depth discussion of a variety of invented languages.
In a followup to my post from last week about the language section in the Snopes database of online myths and hoaxes, I’d like to share this link to the language section of TVtropes.org. The TV Tropes website was featured on the NPR radio show, On the Media, which explained that the show, which “catalogs […]
NPR has a nice profile of the couple which runs Snopes.com. Having long ago convinced most of my contacts to stop forwarding chain e-mails, I rarely check Snopes anymore, but inspired by the NPR story I went back and was pleased to see that they have an entire section devoted to language. This, in turn, […]