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Wug Life

Apr 20 '14

To those who celebrate it, Happy Easter! Here are some etymologies for your Easter basket, from Etymonline.

Apr 19 '14
All languages of Europe are represented on this map. We provide useful and geographical information for each language 
This is a map of European languages, prioritizing minority languages and dialects. The linked site allows you to explore it in a lot more detail!

This is a map of European languages, prioritizing minority languages and dialects. The linked site allows you to explore it in a lot more detail!

Apr 18 '14

Anonymous asked:

I'm about to enter an undergrad linguistics program in the fall (yay!), but I'm already thinking about grad school. Is it true that there aren't really any research opportunities for linguistics undergrads? If so, what would be the alternative, since research is usually seen as so important when applying to grad school?

It is not true! Although research opportunities will vary from school to school, linguistics is typically a very undergrad-friendly field. There are several conferences dedicated to undergrad research, even!

Moreover, many faculty members (at least in my experience) are excited to hire or mentor undergrads who are interested in pursuing research. Although my own alma mater did not have any department-internal opportunities for me, my advisor got me in touch with some amazing researchers at a nearby school. I volunteered there as an RA for a year, and it was fantastic! At my current school, the faculty actively try to hire undergrads as RAs, and offer RAships as independent study classes. All of my cohort, in fact, did research in linguistics as undergrads, even though only two of us were coming from linguistics departments.

There are always opportunities to do research as an undergraduate student, even though you may have to search them out. They may not be in your home department, but linguistics overlaps with philosophy, computer science, communication and auditory disorder science, psychology, physics (acoustics), anthropology, sociology, and literature (to name a few!!). If you are really having trouble finding an RAship or faculty member willing to hire you, you can also propose your own research.

So, in short: Put the time and energy into searching out faculty who share your interests and show willingness to mentor you. Don’t limit yourself to your department or even your own school, if opportunities are limited. Research collaborations are often international, so these types of relationships are common. But mostly, be enthusiastic. There’s nothing more satisfying than working with someone who is enthusiastic about a topic, and that can be a great way to convince someone to mentor you!

Apr 17 '14

Easter Link-O-Rama


Although I’ve stopped posting regular sets of links to great reading, I haven’t stopped collecting great blog posts and articles that I want to share with you. Here are some of my favourites from the last few months if you’re looking for some entertaining linguistics reading over the Easter break!

The Inky Fool explains why you need to have been an adolescent to commit adultery. Fritinancy’s post on normcore suddenly gave a name to my partner’s shopping style. The Lexiculture Papers from Stephen Chrisomalis’s student research are also great reads and include research on words like vanilla, punk and bromance. If you have some time on your hands you can use your own word-hunting skills to help the OED find earlier sources for words, or if you have an afternoon to spare, Stan Carey talks about Dmitry Golubovskiy reading a single word that’s 3 1/2 hours long. Geoffrey Pullum is in fine form in this post, pointing out that differences between UK and US English are, all things considered, relatively trivial. On Dialect Blog we see an example of how this can be manipulated for an easy trick to make something sound more British (get people to say ‘oi’ and ‘bollocks’ a lot). Also, since this XKCD post about the Baby Name Wizard Blog I’ve been learning a lot about naming practices in the USA.

If you’re looking further afield than English, That Munanga Linguist has a beautiful post about the power of owning language in schools. After announcing he was leaving ELAR, David Nathan wrote a post at the Paradisec blog about the tension between open access and language documentation. This inspired much of the discussion at a recent LIP event blogged by Ruth Singer.

A while ago we shared with you The Great Language Game. The game’s creator has gone back to look at the data and there are some interesting results looking at which languages are most likely to be confused. WugLife and others have a great collective Tumblr post about the results.

Finally, if you’re just after entertainment, check out this rad Party Chomsky design, or kick back with a few round of Geminator, an IPA version of 2048.

Apr 17 '14
Apr 15 '14
Apr 15 '14
Apr 14 '14

notistic asked:

if two different phones in two related languages occur in the same places in the same morphemes, would you consider them two different phonemes, or two realizations of the same phoneme? ex. east inuktitut has [s] ([pusiktoq] '(s)he walks) while west inuktitut has [h] ([puhiktoq]). if [s] and [h] occur in the same places, would they be considered varying realizations of the same phoneme, or two different phonemes? (i.e. /s/ in one dialect and /h/ in the other)

Good question!

What I tell my students, generally, is that any answer you can rationalize using a relevant theory or experimental data is “correct”. So, depending on why you are asking, there might be different answers.

Comparative linguistics is not a field I work with, so take my following answer with a grain of salt.

So we’re talking about two different languages. Depending on the reason we’re calling them different (albeit related) languages, this answer may not apply. My intuition is that the two phones are not the same phoneme because they are different languages. They may be from the same proto-phoneme, thus at one point in their history were the same underlying phoneme with different realizations.

I would argue for this analysis because, without evidence otherwise, these sounds aren’t environmentally conditioned. That is, they aren’t in a complementary distribution, or even in a mutually exclusive distribution. They occur in different languages. You mention that they “occur in the same places”. I assume you mean in the same phonological contexts? On one hand, they may occur in the same environments, but two unrelated languages may have a similar relation between phones without any reason to think they were underlyingly related.

Moreover, it is possible that [s] and [h] are both phonemes in both languages, but have different distributions (even though they may be from the same proto-phoneme).

If we were able to consider the two languages to be dialects, then there is a better foundation for considering the phones to be allophones of the same phoneme (in free variation, or in dialect-conditioned variation). On the other hand, the argument I made above can still be applied. But this doesn’t address the possibility that the reason we have transcribed the sounds as being different isn’t related to their acoustic properties, but has a political or historical motivation. This could complicate your answer a lot, so let’s stick to the assumption that the phonemes are transcribed differently because they are pronounced differently.

So in summary: there are reasons to argue for either analysis, but since you specified that the phones exist in two different languages, I think it is easier (and more theoretically sound) to argue that they are different phonemes that share a single proto-phoneme.

Does anyone else have an answer for notistic?

Apr 13 '14


I’ve had a few people send me links to this great Rap Battle on Jimmy Kimmel Live in the USA. Three ASL interpreters take turns to simultaneously interpret Wiz Khalifa singing Black and Yellow.

My favourite part is at the end, when all three join in simultaneously to sign the final chorus. Here you can really see the personal spin that each interpreter puts on the lyrics, switching signing hands and generally conveying the flow and rhythm of the song.

It’s a pity that at the same time Kimmel declares this the first Sign Rap Battle on the show, he also says it’ll probably be the last - it’s be great to see more of this, and more sign language in the media space more generally.

Apr 13 '14

Anonymous asked:

My Mandarin teacher frequently praises a girl in my class for having perfect pronunciation. It's clearly very good, but there are things that sound off to me, particularly "o," "zh," and "q." I've heard a variety of dialects, so that's probably not the issue. I read on some tumblr linguistics blog a while ago that native speakers sometimes subconsciously omit small pronunciation errors. Have you heard of/did you post that, or am I just going crazy and imagining sounds (not terribly unlikely)?

It’s very true that native speakers accept a fairly wide range of variation for some sounds. Even when they can tell a speaker “has an accent”, it can be difficult to pinpoint what features comprise the accent (even when you’re trained to do so!).

It’s also possible that, if you are also learning Mandarin as a second-language learner, that you are picking up on features of her pronunciation that are irrelevant to Mandarin’s phonology. For instance, in English, non-native speakers might contrast tense/lax vowels with both tense/lax-ness and length. Native speakers might have a tough time noticing this, because we don’t actually have a length distinction (although there is some correlation).

Another possibility is that she has perfect pronunciation in a dialect you are not familiar with. China has a huge number of languages, and many Chinese people learn some “proper” form of Mandarin in school, which significantly differs from the Mandarin they speak at home (yet, it’s all called Mandarin). Many people also are bilingual in Mandarin and their local language, which can be a source of variation in pronunciation.

Without knowing more about the pronunciation your hearing, your own experiences, your classmate’s experiences, and your teacher’s experiences, though, all I can say is:

Your analysis sounds reasonable, and yes, L1 speakers can be less perceptive of variation in their native language than L2 speakers.

For further exploration into L2 production and perception, here is a search result page full of good papers.