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Neurosciencestuff hard to understand harder to @wuglife


Hard to Understand, Harder to Remember

Struggling to understand someone else talking can be a taxing mental activity. A wide range of studies have already documented that individuals with hearing loss or who are listening to degraded speech – for example, over a bad phone line or in a loud room – have greater difficulty remembering and processing the spoken information than individuals who heard more clearly.

Now researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are investigating the relatively unexplored question of whether listening to accented speech similarly affects the brain’s ability to process and store information. Their preliminary results suggest that foreign-accented speech, even when intelligible, may be slightly more difficult to recall than native speech.

The researchers presented their findings at the 169th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held May 18-22, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Listening to accented speech is different than other more widely studied forms of “effortful listening” – think loud cocktail parties – because the accented speech itself deviates from listener expectations in (often) systematic ways, said Kristin Van Engen, a post-doctoral research associate in the linguistics program at Washington University in St. Louis.

How the brain processes information delivered in an accent has relevance to real-world settings like schools and hospitals. “If you’re working hard to understand a professor or doctor with a foreign accent, are you going to have more difficulty encoding the information you’re learning in memory?” Van Engen asked. The answer is not really known, and the issue has received relatively little attention in either the scientific literature on foreign accent processing or the literature on effortful listening, she said.

To begin to answer her question, Van Engen and her colleagues tested the ability of young-adult native English speakers to store spoken words in their short-term memory. The test subjects listened to lists of English words, voiced either with a standard American accent or with a pronounced, but still intelligible Korean accent. After a short time the lists would randomly stop and the listeners were asked to recall the last three words they had heard.

All the volunteer listeners selected for the study were unfamiliar with a Korean accent.

The listeners’ rate of recall for the most recently heard words was similarly high with both accents, but Van Engen and her team found that volunteers remembered the third word back only about 70 percent of the time when listening to a Korean accent, compared to about 80 percent when listening to a standard American accent.

All of the words spoken with the accent had been previously tested to ensure that they were understandable before they were used in the experiment, Van Engen said. The difference in recall rates might be due to the brain using some of its executive processing regions, which are generally used to focus attention and integrate and store information, to understand words spoken in an unfamiliar accent, Van Engen said.

The results are preliminary, and Van Engen and her team are working to gather data on larger sets of listeners, as well as to test other brain functions that require processing spoken information, such as listening to a short lecture and later recalling and using the concepts discussed. She said work might also be done to explore whether becoming familiar with a foreign accent would lessen the observed difference in memory functions.

Van Engen hopes the results might help shape strategies for both listeners and foreign accented speakers to better communicate and ensure that the information they discussed is remembered. For example, it might help listeners to use standard strategies such as looking at the person speaking and asking for repetition. Accented speakers might be able to improve communication by talking more slowing or working to match their intonation, rhythm and stress patterns more closely to that of native speakers, Van Engen said.

Superlinguo in an announcement that was @wuglife


In an announcement that was reported without a shred of mirativity, Hillary Clinton threw her hat in the ring for the 2016 USA Presidential race. Her campaign has a strong online presence, and there was a lot of discussion about the announcement.

Much has been made of her campaign logo, with many not taking to the simple colours and H-for-Hillary theme. I think it’s great - not because I’m a US political pundit, or know much about professional branding, but because it elegantly represents a fundamental metaphor in English.

The red arrow points to the right, because we think of future as moving from left to right. This is not the only metaphor we have for time moving through space - we also think of the past as behind and future in front. This is more ubiquitous in our speech - with a whole way of talking about language that’s future forward:

I’ve put that weekend behind me

I’ll get to it tomorrow

I’m looking forward to Christmas

Future as rightwards is less likely to show up in our speech, although it does show up in our gestures, and in this logo. It’s very much influenced by our writing system. These aren’t the only ways to think about time. Chinese speakers also talk about time as a horizontal, but also express time as vertical - with the past above the future below - also modelled on writing system direction. In Game of Thrones the conlang Valyrian talks about time as horizontal with past below and future above.

These metaphors are important because they may actually have an effect on  our cognition. I can’t believe we haven’t talked about it on Superlinguo before, given that we’re massive fans of Lera Boroditsky’s work (she has some good general audience articles on her website as well as her research).

Allthingslinguistic centre embedding new @wuglife


Centre embedding: New speech disorder linguists contracted discovered!

A most troubling article from SpecGram. To assist in understanding the nature of this problem, I have taken the liberty of drawing a simplfied syntax tree of one of the most perplexing sentences: “linguists linguists linguists sent examined are highly contagious”. The non-pathological version would read something like: Linguists sent (other) linguists to examine the infected linguists. Unfortunately, the examining linguists were themselves also highly contagious. 

Centre embedding is an odd phenomenon that is fine with just one level (“new speech disorder linguists contracted discovered”) but gets really hard to understand as soon as you do more of it. So it’s not actually ungrammatical, but it’s really hard to hold a sentence with two or more levels of centre embedding in your memory. On the other hand, we can easily do many many levels of non-central embedding (“I said that Jill heard that Mary saw that Alice went to the store”). 

I used the free basic syntax tree generator phpSyntaxTree to create the diagram, and the input code is as follows: [S  [NP linguists [S [NP linguists [S [NP linguists] [VP sent]]] [VP examined ]]] [VP are highly contagious ]]. If you want to play around with it, see if you can figure out how to add Ns and Vs to the tops of all the nouns and verbs in the tree above. 

Oh my goodness, I love center embedding!

Two more things that are really cool:

Doubly-embedded sentences are typically almost impossible to understand, as mentioned above. But not always! And it varies (very slightly) between languages. In English, this is a REALLY HARD sentence:

(1) The students the teacher Alex knows taught went to the movies last week.

And it means:

(2) Alex knows the teacher taught the students who went to the movies last week.

But this sentence is somewhat okay:

(3) The students that the teacher I know taught went to the movies last week.

They have identical syntactic structure (as far as I’m concerned!) but one sounds better than the other. I won’t say it's easy or even good, but there is definitely a clear benefit of using the pronoun “I” in (3). Why? Well, we don’t really know, but one suggestion is that pronouns (and specifically ones that refer to people who are present in the conversation, like “you” or “I”) are somehow semantically light, or otherwise less costly to store in our memory.

The other cool thing about center embedding is that in English (but not German), leaving out one of the three verbs in a doubly embedded sentence actually makes it sound better, even though it is then ungrammatical.

(4) The students (that) the teacher (that) Alex knows went to the movies last week.

This sentence actually doesn’t make sentence because it’s missing the verb “taught”. But somehow, English speakers tend to say it makes more sense. This could be because that clause sandwiched between the outer one and the inner one (the teacher … taught) is less salient or important to understanding the sentence as a whole. The students went to the movies, and I know someone, so who cares about the teacher and who that teacher taught?

In any case, center embedded sentences are AWESOME!! Let me know if you have any questions about them!

From grammaticalization theory and data id @wuglife

From: Grammaticalization – Theory and Data

I’d try to translate what all these technical terms mean, but.

Basically, language is so cool that it changes in ways that actually can be pretty similar across languages. And basically, sometimes when we end a sentence with “but” or “and” (or maybe, as I suggest “or”), we’re actually very specifically ending the sentence, even though these words typically indicate the middle of a conjunction. I only have access to the limited google books version, but if you’re interested in getting the whole story, it was published by John Benjamins Publishing this year. There are some other really cool looking chapters, too!

Linguistsagainsthumanity we received the above @wuglife


We received the above submission from t-o-t-o-r-i-a that really made us laugh and inspired us to hold the first ever LAH contest!!

Your challenge is to create the funniest combination of LAH cards.  Take a look through our archive — pick one black card, and then choose the appropriate number of white cards to answer the question or fill in the blanks, just like you’re playing CAH.

To enter, visit our submit page (NOT our ask page) and complete the form as follows:

  1. The words “contest submission” in the title section of the form
  2. YOU MUST BE LOGGED INTO TUMBLR TO ENTER.  Submissions are limited to ONE per person.  This way, we can keep track of usernames/url’s.  We won’t accept your submission if you’re not logged in.
  3. A real working e-mail address so we can contact you if you win (we won’t publish or share it, we promise)
  4. The full text of your chosen black card (e.g., “All linguistics students should learn about ______.”)
  5. The full text of your chosen white card(s).  If your submission involves more than one white card, please put the text of each on separate lines just to help us out.

We will accept submissions starting…. NOW!  Keep ‘em coming until midnight ET on Friday, July 18.  (Seriously, we won’t accept them after that.)  We’ll turn them into images, and post them on the morning of Saturday, July 19.  Voting will run through midnight ET on Tuesday, July 22.  Whichever submission receives the most notes will win!

PRIZES!  Nothing too exciting, since we’re just three broke college kids who run a Tumblr, but here’s what we’ve got:

  • Third prize: we’ll post a link to a (non-political, non-religious) nonprofit/charity of your choice
  • Second prize: third prize PLUS a T-shirt featuring an LAH card of your choice
  • First prize: third prize PLUS second prize PLUS the Chinese edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire signed by the three of us because we like to think we’re celebrities

Good luck!  Can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

With love,

The LAH Team

Allthingslinguistic distribution of english @wuglife


Distribution of English letters toward beginning, middle, and end of words


Source that actually works

The commentary at the source is really interesting. A few quotes: 

The data is from the entire Brown corpus in the Natural Language Toolkit. It’s a smaller and out-of-date corpus, but it’s open source and easy to obtain. I repeated the analysis with COHA, the Corpus of Historical American English, a well-curated, proprietary data set from Brigham Young University for which I have a license, and the only differences were in rare letters like “z” or “x”.

I used a corpus rather than a dictionary so that the visualization would be weighted towards true usage. In other words, the most common word in English, “the” influences the graphs far more than, for example, “theocratic”. […]

I’ve had many “oh, yeah” moments looking over the graphs. For example, words almost never begin with “x”, but it’s quite common as the second letter. There’s a little hump near the beginning of “u” that’s caused by its proximity to “q”, which is most common at the beginning of a word. When you remove “q” from the dataset, the hump disappears. “F” occurs toward the extremes, especially in prepositions (“for”, “from”, “of”, “off”) but rarely just before the middle. 

A final thought: the most common word in the English language is “the”, which makes up about 6% of most corpuses (sorry, corpora). But according to these graphs, the most representative word is “toe”.

And someone else made a French version in response. I’d love to see a version in IPA for English as well. When I’ve played IPA Scrabble I noticed, for example, that /ʒ/ is most common between vowels. 

Jessehimself what a neat set of maps @wuglife



What a neat set of maps!

Allthingslinguistic the economist has a heavily @wuglife


The Economist has a heavily sarcastic map up pointing out what national boundaries might look like if everyone adopted Putin’s attitude of linguistic imperialism and some of the many reasons why this would be a terrible idea:

WHEN Vladimir Putin justified his annexation of Crimea on the ground that he owed protection to Russian speakers everywhere, this newspaper took a dim view of his line of argument, pointing out that since linguistic borders do not match those of states, it would lead to chaos. We now recognise that this approach to international relations betrayed a deplorable conservatism. Since we pride ourselves on pushing the boundaries in search of a way to clamber out of the box and reach the summit of blue-sky thinking, we reckoned we should grasp the nettle of radical Putinism and run with it. […]

A unified Arabia would stretch from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. There might be the odd squabble between Sunnis, Shias, Christians and adherents of archaic notions of nation; but united by a common tongue, the Arabs would be sure to get along fine, especially if they teamed up to smite the Persian-speakers on the other side of the Gulf. The two Koreas would become one, which might be a good thing—or not, depending on which system prevailed.

Geoff Pullum on Language Log also notes some problems:

Switzerland would have to disappear completely, clearly, but new nations like Basqueland and Kurdistan would obviously have to arise.

The idea is, of course, political lunacy. Whoever started the reunification of India, Pakistan, and Bangla Desh would probably be creating a nuclear war rather than a peaceful Hindi-Urdu-speaking friendship zone. And one by one the speakers of smaller languages (the vast majority of the roughly 7,000 languages on the planet) would start declaring independence or seizing pieces of their neighbours’ land.

I’m not sure how anyone can recognize that civil wars and revolutions exist and at the same time think that a common language is a guarantor of harmony (although it’s also a stated goal of Esperanto). Sometimes a common language just makes it really easy to communicate how much you don’t get along. 

Not to mention that Ukrainian was literally banned during the rule of the USSR, so the presence of Russian in Ukraine is part of its oppressive history. Thus, defining the borders of political nations based on language is effectively a feedback loop of oppression or occupation.

Moreover, much of Ukraine does not speak Russian at all. In fact, there are areas of Russian in which the dominant languages aren’t even Indo-European.

(Full disclosure: as a descendant of Russian Jews and Ukrainians, I do not have a fully objective view of the events in Ukraine.)

Sanford sturt 2002 depth of processing in @wuglife

Sanford & Sturt (2002). Depth of processing in language comprehension: not noticing the evidence (pdf). TRENDS in Cognitive Science. Vol 6 (9), 382-386.

I just wanted to share this with you all. If this sounds interesting, the paper is a nice, short read and a good overview of the issues at hand in understanding syntactic and semantic representation during sentence processing.

Basically, this example is really fun. The first sentence is:

  • No head injury is too trivial to be ignored.

This typically would mean:

  • All head injuries are non-trivial and should never be ignored.

But looking closely at the grammatical relations between the words, it actually means (for some definitions of “means”):

  • All head injuries are sufficiently trivial to be ignored.

So the argumentation here is that we read the original sentence and only somewhat specify the relations between words. In doing so, we construct a meaning that conforms to what we expect (head injuries are serious business). The way we can do so while ignoring the actually structure of the sentence is to never actually fully construct the sentence’s structure! On closer readings, we may do so, but if we just saw or heard this sentence in passing (like most sentences we encounter), we would be unlikely to get the “technically correct” interpretation right away.

This is an example of the Moses Illusion. In the Moses Illusion, we read or hear a sentence like:

  • Moses brought two of each type of animal on the ark.
    True or false?

And sometimes we think TRUE! before realizing that it was, in fact, Noah with the ark. What seems to be happening in these sentences is that we construct a partial representation of the meanings of the words (Moses is a male biblical figure who had an adventure with lots of scary water), and if some portion of those features match our expectations, we roll with it. (After all, Noah is also a male biblical figure who had an adventure with lots of scary water.) Although plenty of people do detect the error in the Moses Illusion right away, the detection rate isn’t 100%. It gets higher when the mistake (“Moses”) shares fewer features with the “correct” version. So “Adam” has a higher detection rate in this sentence, because his adventures don’t notably include water.

So the moral of the story is that it seems like people are low-accuracy listeners (and readers), because we use the energy to consume large quantities of language. This means that sometimes we save energy by taking short cuts, which can backfire. But that’s just how the cognitive system works, so don’t worry. (Plenty of people “don’t see the gorilla”.)

Allthingslinguistic dustwindbun so hey @wuglife



So hey allthingslinguistic and atheshya the wug lady. I was at Walmart and I found this bandanna that looks like wugs, and I thought you should know about it.

This totally looks like wugs. I need a tablecloth or something made out of this.

Matching varsity jackets!

Fromkin and rodman an introduction to @wuglife

(fromkin and rodman, an introduction to language)

(very VERY large .pdf file of the source text!)

This is a good time to remember that a lot of prescriptive rules aren’t just wrong because language “shouldn’t be prescribed”, but because they are made up, artificial rules devised to separate the socioeconomic classes by white men in the Latin (or sometimes French) fandom. Lowth’s introduction of shibboleths to English grammar was and is a tool of social oppression. Don’t judge people by their grammar!

Superlinguo wnycs excellent on the @wuglife


WNYC’s excellent On the Media program recently posed this very good question:

When you read tweets or Instagram posts, do you say or hear the @ symbol in your head as “at”?

For example, which of these sounds right to you: “an @Guardian article” or “a @Guardian​ article”?

This is truly a question for the modern age. Read On the Media’s response here, including a bunch of thoughts from Twitter users:

For the record, I don’t hear or say the @ symbol when I read tweets, so the use of “an” sounds really strange to me.

Side thought: Maybe we just need a better label for the @ symbol? Lauren lamented English’s lack of this very thing back in 2012 here on the Superlinguo blog.

Maptitude1 this map shows the languages and @wuglife


This map shows the languages and dialects of China.

To those who celebrate it happy easter here are @wuglife

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

All languages of europe are represented on this @wuglife

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!

Heads up tumblinguists who are also redditors @wuglife

Heads up, tumblinguists who are also redditors! Famous sociolinguist Walt Wolfram will be giving an AMA (“ask me anything”) next Wednesday! Spread the word!

Geminator 2048 play 2048 with all your favorite @wuglife

Geminator 2048!

Play 2048 with all your favorite phonemes!

Jazzmoth this is a wug s6da im at a @wuglife


This Is A Wug (s6,dA)

I’m at a conference today, so I will have some cool things to tell you about soon. For now, have a wug!

Fractallogic fishmostly fractallogic @wuglife






Friendly reminder that “panini” is actually plural. What we have here in the picture is one panino. If you say “paninis” I will cry.

But then, this isn’t a panino. It’s a ‘toast’ if anything, or it could be considered a tramezzino, I suppose. A panino is a roll. (JK I don’t care whether people use the correct Italian term for particular types of sarnie.)

PS: OP, in English, “panini” is singular, because it’s been lexicalized to mean a single toasty delicious sandwich, so when people get really pedantic about how something should be, a linguist cries.

Note to self: do not try and share what you learned while living in Italy for 3 years, especially what you picked up from talking to locals.

That, or don’t put things in the “linguistics” tag. Probably both.

In all honestly though I should have specified that this rule applies to traditional (that’s probably not the right word) Italian, not the bastardized English version.

It’s perfectly good Italian! And it’s actually a really neat example of a linguistic phenomenon, where borrowed words tend to get regular inflections (so to an English speaker who doesn’t know Italian, panini the sandwich becomes paninis when you order one for yourself and one for your friend).

Even in Spanish, you have a word like tamal that gets borrowed into English in the plural (tamales), because who can have just one, and then we use a process called back-formation to get tamale as the English-ized singular, instead of the so-called “proper” Spanish singular tamal.

But yeah, we figure that anything in the linguistics tag is up for analysis by, you know, linguists. Especially when we sense a teachable moment. :)

Pleaseeatmylunchtoo thrifted this little gem @wuglife


Thrifted this little gem. Maybe useful if I meet someone both Korean and deaf. Korean sign language is a bit different than ASL. Besides having signs for specifics like 오빠 언니 형 and 누나 the signs are different. Culturally giving the finger isn’t going to go over well in America.

Jazzmoth party chomsky s6da shirts @wuglife


Party Chomsky (s6,dA)

Shirts, prints, mugs, clocks, bags, etc, available on society6!

Princenjack im so glad for my linguistics @wuglife


I’m so glad for my linguistics society. :’)

Neuromorphogenesis human brain reacts to @wuglife


Human brain reacts to emoticons as real faces

Humans have developed to read :-) in the same way as a human face, but do not have the same connection with (-:

Emoticons such as :-) have become so important to how we communicate online that they are changing the way that our brains work.

They are used to provide clues to the tone of SMS, emails and tweets that can be hard to succinctly describe in words alone. But Dr Owen Churches, from the school of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, has found that they have become so important that we now react to them in the same way as we would to a real human face.

When we see a face there is a very specific reaction in certain parts of the brain such as the occipitotemporal cortex. When that image of a face is inverted there is another very specific reaction. This can be tracked using advanced brain scanning techniques.

Churches found that the same reaction occurred when 20 participants in a study were shown emoticons, but only when they were viewed in the traditional, left-to-right format. When they were “inverted”, or flipped to be read right-to-left, the expected reaction was not found.

This showed that humans have now developed to read :-) in the same way as a human face, but do not have the same connection with (-:. The study, published in the Social Neuroscience journal, also included participants being shown real faces and meaningless strings of characters as controls.

Badass bharat deafmuslim artista hand talk or @wuglife


“Hand talk” or “sign talk,” as shown in this still image from a 1930s video, has been used by both deaf and hearing Indians from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for at least 200 years, possibly much longer.

Hand Talk: Preserving a Legacy:

James Woodenlegs first learned to communicate using Plains Indians Sign Language from his family, when he was growing up on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Known as “hand talk” or “sign talk,” the language has been used by both deaf and hearing Indians from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for at least 200 years, possibly much longer.

“I went to the Montana School for the Deaf, and American Sign Language was used there,” says Woodenlegs. “But, Indian Sign Language is such a part of who I am, my culture, and I really wanted to keep that going.”

Woodenlegs is working with sign language scholars Jeffrey Davis and Melanie McKay-Cody to document and preserve hand talk, one of thousands of the world’s endangered languages.

With help from the National Science Foundation (NSF), they are conducting field research to find current users of hand talk and compile a dictionary. The three are videotaping interviews with Northern Cheyenne, Assiniboine, Sioux, Crow, and several other tribes.

“I think linguistics can tell us not only about cognition and culture but also our history,” explains Davis, an associate professor of sign language linguistics at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “We’re identifying the nouns and the verbs and other linguistic features and discovering how these form grammar.”

McKay-Cody, an assistant professor of sign language at William Woods University in Fulton, Mo., is a Chickamauga Cherokee/Choctaw. She is the first deaf researcher to specialize in North American Indian Sign Language, and has worked closely with American Indian/Alaska Native/First Nation deaf and hard of hearing people to promote Deaf Native Studies.

“We are collecting these videos and not just leaving them on a shelf to collect dust. We are annotating, captioning and sharing them,” explains McKay-Cody. “Our goal is to use these for education and to raise awareness about this language, to use it in teaching—that’s my goal, to educate others.”

A chance discovery at the National Archives and Records Administration led Davis to a treasure trove of historical films documenting the early uses of hand talk by dozens of tribes spread across North America.

In the early 1990s, Davis struck up a conversation with some folks looking at old films and photos for a Ken Burns documentary on baseball.

“We got stranded at the National Archives during a blizzard,” recalls Davis. “And the people working on that project said, ‘Well, you know, there is a collection of old films with Indians signing back there, have you seen those?’ I couldn’t believe that these films existed!”

The old films were created as a labor of love by retired Army General Hugh Scott, who not only studied the language, but learned it. He also arranged for chiefs and tribal elders to gather in Montana in 1930 to share their stories and histories.

While some of the films were funded by the Department of the Interior during the Great Depression, Scott used his own money to continue chronicling this signed lingua franca.

The University of Tennessee funded the digitization of the old films, and these long-forgotten images are now on a website supported by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and NSF.

McKay-Cody and Woodenlegs recently visited the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville to introduce students to this expressive and elegant sign language.

It was traditionally used for storytelling, rituals and in stealthy situations, such as battle and hunting.

“I like to hunt with my people,” says Woodenlegs. “I would sign to somebody else behind another tree and we would sign to each other, ‘Go to this tree.’ If we were to yell to each other, or call out to each other, the animals would run, so sign language is great for hunting.”

Davis says there is an extreme urgency in studying the world’s 6,000 distinct human languages, among them at least a few hundred sign languages.

“It’s estimated that at least half of these languages are in danger. Languages die every year for different reasons,” explains Davis. “A tsunami can destroy an entire village, and a language can be lost. In Africa, there is an adage, ‘When an elder dies, it’s like losing a library.’”

James Woodenlegs stressed the need for keeping history alive as he bid farewell to the students at the School for the Deaf. “All of these good stories have been passed down. Remember them, and use them, don’t just ignore them. Remember and use the stories, the things that your teachers tell you. Be grateful all of the time, to your teachers, to other children, to your parents. Gratitude is so important.”

With those words of wisdom, he taught the students the hand talk sign for “See you later!”

Davis is optimistic about preserving hand talk on video, but more importantly in Indian communities where sign language once thrived. “You see the elders still teaching it to their grandchildren. Native community members still know the language, and that’s what makes it so exciting. People are still motivated to learn and use it,” says Davis.

German lang dialect maps to start your day play @wuglife

German lang dialect maps to start your day (play football)

Dr. Mercedes Durham shared this image on twitter the other day and it made me so happy! It’s from the Atlas of Everyday German (Atlas zur deutschen Alltagssprache), based at the University of Salzburg. Similar to that US dialect survey made famous by Joshua Katz’s statistical analysis maps, this survey looks at common and colloquial features of German that vary across the country. Although we know that languages are not monolithic entities (if you even think that “languages” exist), it’s good to be reminded that every language has internal variation, and the style taught in the classroom may not be the same as the style you’ll hear on the streets. (Nor will the style you hear on the streets of one city necessarily be the same as the next!)

Lesserjoke clark kent and superman are @wuglife


Clark Kent and Superman are allophones of a common phoneme we’ll call Kal-El. This Kryptonian appears alternately as Clark and Supes, depending on the environment where he is situated. Underlyingly, both surface manifestations are Kal-El. You won’t typically find one where you’ll find the other, but if you did swap one for the other, you wouldn’t really have changed which Kryptonian was there.

Neurosciencestuff ucsf team reveals how the @wuglife


UCSF Team Reveals How the Brain Recognizes Speech Sounds

UC San Francisco researchers are reporting a detailed account of how speech sounds are identified by the human brain, offering an unprecedented insight into the basis of human language.

The finding, they said, may add to our understanding of language disorders, including dyslexia.

Scientists have known for some time the location in the brain where speech sounds are interpreted, but little has been discovered about how this process works.

Now, in the Jan. 30 edition of Science Express, the fast-tracked online version of the journal Science, the UCSF team reports that the brain does not respond to the individual sound segments known as phonemes – such as the b sound in “boy” – but is instead exquisitely tuned to detect simpler elements, which are known to linguists as “features.”

This organization may give listeners an important advantage in interpreting speech, the researchers said, since the articulation of phonemes varies considerably across speakers, and even in individual speakers over time.

Read more

Although linguists may talk about phonemes and speech perception a lot, how do we go from hearing acoustic input (especially in noisy conditions) to hearing speech? Linguistics is such a young field – we have theories and hypotheses, but finding physical correlates is a huge step toward understanding what language is and what the nature of the language organ is.

Allthingslinguistic grammargirl update @wuglife



UPDATE: Sadly, I have been informed that the screenshot is from a satirical piece in a 1978 math journal. Here’s the debunking.


The next time someone complains that internet speak, text speak, or typing is ruining language, think about this.

Not to mention the first known use of OMG was in 1917, in a letter to Winston Churchill:

And TTFN (the precursor to TTYL) was popularized by a 1940’s radio broadcast.

Even in a more internet-savvy age, BRB was used as early as 1989:

So if the advent of paper in schools didn’t ruin us, and abbreviations and early internet chats didn’t ruin English, then I think we’re okay.


Even if that quote was originally satirical, there was a fair bit of controversy in Ancient Greece about the transition from a primarily oral culture to a written one. This is from Nicholas Carr, quoting Plato:

 Should the Egyptians learn to write, Thamus goes on, “it will implant forgetfulness in their souls: they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.” The written word is “a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance.”

This criticism looks a lot like people these days who worry that we’ll lose our memory by depending on smartphones or the internet. I still think we’ll be okay. 

Oh, well. But, as AllThingsLinguistic points out, the original post still holds, even if the image is satirical.

Science junkie neuromorphogenesis an aging @wuglife



An Aging Brain Is Still Pretty Smart

A few years ago, Michael Ramscar, a linguistics researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany, came across a paper saying that cognitive decline starts as early as age 45. He was 45 himself and felt he hadn’t yet peaked. He remembers thinking: “That doesn’t make sense to me; 99 percent of the people I look up to intellectually, who keep me on my mettle, are older than I am.”

The paper concluded that a person’s vocabulary declines after age 45, and that finding really made no sense to him. The researchers were trying to measure how quickly people remembered words, he says, without even considering the quantity of words they had stored in memory.

Ramscar began to wonder who has the better memory: the young person who knows a little and remembers all of it, or the older person who has learned a lot and forgets a little of it?

Read More

R colored i just read a paper on quantifier @wuglife


I just read a paper on quantifier expressions and this is a perfect example of isomorphic and non-isomorphic interpretations of an ambiguous sentence containing negation and a numerically quantified object. LINGUISTICS WITH BEYONCÉ AKA MY DREAM COURSE AKA WHAT I WISH FOR EVERY WAKING HOUR OF MY LIFE

In simpler terms, Beyoncé is making use of a scalar implicature. Typically, by saying “not one”, this implicates “not more than one” as well. This sort of implication is determined by the pragmatics of a language. Just like you might say on a 60˚F day in the winter “It’s really warm today” because it’s typically much colder in the winter, you might say “It’s pretty cool out today” if that same weather were in the middle of the summer. So here, Beyoncé is saying that “they” were being negative about her album, “not [even] one hit”. But, since she didn’t say “even” (which would disambiguate the meaning), she could cancel the implicature by giving a larger number: 5.

So: the first panel implicates fewer than one hits, but does not require that to be the case. The last panel cancels that implicature (since five isn’t one). The third panel, however, is really telling because it shows us that in order to cancel the implicature without sounding like she misunderstood the intentions of the original remark, Beyoncé recognizes that this is only “kinda” the right interpretation of the original remark. That kinda tells us that Beyoncé is very well aware that she is flouting some Gricean maxim. (But that’s another story for another time.)

Dr martina wiltschko a professor at ubc @wuglife

Dr. Martina Wiltschko, a professor at UBC, studies confirmationals.

My new SSHRC funded project is on the syntax-discourse interface. It is aiming to develop a formal typology of confirmationals. Confirmationals are discourse markers used to establish common ground. A prominent Canadian example is “eh?”, but these markers are ubiquitous in the languages of the world. here are the ppt slides from a presentation I gave at ZAS (Berlin) on November 11th 2013.

There was a New York Times article going around recently about the universality of the word “huh”. A lot of the reactions to this article were “duh”. But how obvious is it really? What is the function of “huh” and why would we expect it to be universal? The text in the image above is from Dr. Wiltschko’s slides, which it also links to. In these slides, she explains and demonstrates how confirmationals like huheh, and right work.

The next time someone complains that internet @wuglife

The next time someone complains that internet speak, text speak, or typing is ruining language, think about this.

Not to mention the first known use of OMG was in 1917, in a letter to Winston Churchill:

And TTFN (the precursor to TTYL) was popularized by a 1940’s radio broadcast.

Even in a more internet-savvy age, BRB was used as early as 1989:

So if the advent of paper in schools didn’t ruin us, and abbreviations and early internet chats didn’t ruin English, then I think we’re okay.

Neuromusic why kerning matters kerning the @wuglife


Why kerning matters

Kerning: the spacing, or the action of adjusting the spacing, between letters in a proportional font.

The psycholinguistic mechanism for recognizing letters and retrieving the words they spell is easily fooled by marginal cases of letters. What this means is that we can easily be confused when letters aren’t in their canonical forms or are between two potential forms. Just like you might mishear a word that is said in a noisy room, you can misread words in “noisy” situations. Here, you’d be more likely to see “fuck” instead of “flick” because the spacing between the LI is very small, creating a U-like shape. Moreover, there’s a good chance the word “flick…” is less common in your daily experiences than the word “fuck…” (especially if you’re on tumblr), so the word “fuck” is already more activated in your lexicon and easier to retrieve. Combined with the poorly kerned letters, these 10 fuckering lights are a great Christmas surprise.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Axonsandsynapses yuletidekarkat @wuglife





the speech impediment of the 21st century (by Marc Johns)

I’ll fuck you up buddy this is not a speech impediment it’s linguistic evolution!! the existence of the phrase “Aisha was like” allows the speaker to convey whatever Aisha said without making the listener assume they’re quoting Aisha directly while still maintaining the FEELING of what Aisha said.

ie, Aisha said she didn’t want to go out with me VERSUS Aisha was like, “I’d rather kiss a Wookie”.

the addition of “XYZ was like” lets the speaker be more expressive and efficient and it is a totally valid method of communicating information!!

With the way language has evolved, this is one of the few ways I can even think of to express in casual conversation what someone said. 

“So I said to Aisha,” is certainly used, but if you remove the “so,” which implies casual tone (“and” can be used in the same way), you get

“I said to Aisha,” which is really formal in most English dialects/variations. I don’t know about all, but in New England dialects, you sound like you’re reading aloud from a novel.

“I told Aisha,” is really only used when you continue to describe, not tell, what you told her. Ex: “I told Aisha that James was too punk for her” works while, “I told Aisha, ‘James is too punk for you’” crosses the line back into formalness of the “I said.”

Things like “I asked” or “I answered [with]” are similar levels of casual and efficient to the “So, I said [or say, as many conversations about the past take place in present tense anyway, as if the speaker is giving a play-by-play in the moment]” but are specific to only certain situations. 

“I was like, ‘Marc Johns, what is your obsession with restoring archaic speech patterns and interfering with the natural progression of English from complex to efficient?’” envelopes all of these easily and is accessible and crisp, and allows for more variations on inflection than the others.

Of course, James is probably like, “I already fucking said that.” But eh, I tried adding on.

#linguistics #a.k.a. how I learned to stop worrying and love the evolution of the English language without being a discriminatory elitist jerk (via crystalandrock)

Philadelphia language in motion josef fruehwald @wuglife

Philadelphia Language in Motion  –Josef Fruehwald

Clicking the picture above will take you to a set of interactive graphs showing how vowels have changed in Philadelphia over the past 100+ years. The sociophonetics (phonetics + sociolinguistics) of Philadelphia is particularly interesting because it is so well-documented. The detail with which we can explore the sound change of the area allows us to see how trends change over time, and how the Philly “accent” has evolved.

Over 250 people’s voices have gone into making this visualization! While that’s hardly fully representative of all the nuances and changes in past 100 years, it does allow us to see a fairly smooth transition between expanding and contracting vowel spaces and how some vowels (e.g., “ay0”) have dramatically shifted, while others (e.g., “i”, “ae”) have remained almost completely motionless.

Take some time to explore the graphs. You can view the data as a scatterplot / vowel space, like above, or in two other ways: a bar chart (with vowel as the x-axis and either F1 or F2 as the y-axis), or a line graph (with time as the x-axis and F1 or F2 as the y-axis).

For clarity’s sake, F1 and F2 are two characteristics of vowels that linguists often use as defining traits. They correlate to location of tightest constriction in the mouth (for mathematical reasons), and they’re plotted in “vowel spaces” like below.


Although we have this neat diagram for a generic vowel space, what Dr. Fruehwald’s visualizations show is that the acoustic location of these vowels shifts, sometimes dramatically. Although the conventional diagram is very useful, you should keep in mind that the acoustic values used to define the vowels are gradient and ever-changing.

Great news language lovers today schwa fire was @wuglife

Great news, language lovers! Today, Schwa Fire was officially funded on Kickstarter!

There’s been a lot of buzz around this project for the last month, so you’ve probably heard of it by now. In any case, it’s a long-form magazine venture, akin to Sports Illustrated, but for linguistics, language, and communication. I can’t wait to see what it’ll bring us! I’ll be sure to tell you about neat things it brings us, the tumblinguistics community.

Lingsamplesentences borgesian submitted @wuglife


borgesian submitted:

From Bach, Emmon (1986). “The Algebra of Events”. Linguistics and Philosophy 9. p5-16.

[much doge, very linguistics]

More doge info:

What’s particularly interesting about the example sentence is that the starred example (1b) is now acceptable under certain circumstances. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the doge meme has fundamentally changed how English treats countable and uncountable(mass) nouns and the many-much distinction, but I do suggest that the use (or misuse) of many-much now has a particular socio-pragmatic meaning. Instead of the phrase “much dog” being viewed as incorrect or unacceptable as an English phrase, it is now recognized as being acceptable in a particular memetic context. We identify this construction not as a mistake but as a particular joke, referring to that ubiquitous shiba inu.

One way to test how this change is and isn’t affecting English is to consider this hypothetical situation. If you are approached by someone you are CERTAIN has not been on the internet or heard of this meme, how would you react to their utterance “Much dog”? I suspect that your first reaction would be that this person has made a mistake, and meant “many dogs”. The sociolinguistic context excludes the use of the meme, so you take the person’s utterance seriously – you assume they are using English in the way it is used when not referring to this meme.

What this might demonstrate is that the meme is not changing English, but rather adding to the memetic jokes available. That is, the much-many distinction is still as strong as ever, but we use the misuse of that distinction to directly evoke a certain cultural in-joke.

Neuromorphogenesis feel like a fraud you might @wuglife


Feel like a fraud? You might have Impostor Syndrome.

Ever feel like you’re faking it, in spite of your successes, and that you’re on the verge of being outed as a phony, undeserving of praise, promotion or recognition? Sounds like you might be suffering from a case of Impostor Syndrome. Here’s why you should ignore that voice of doubt inside your head.

To many people, actress Emma Watson has it all. Talent, beauty, brains, and major acting roles at a young age. Yet Emma – like many people, be they in the world of acting, academia, health or sport – has admitted to feeling like a fraud despite her success.

In an interview with Rookie magazine, Watson said: “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved’.”

This is an example of an interesting phenomenon called imposter syndrome – where people are seen as successful by outside external measures but internally they feel themselves to be frauds, undeserving of their success and in danger at any moment of being exposed.

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re in over your head? That you’ve had many successes but somehow you feel you don’t deserve them? There’s been some mistake. You were just lucky that time, the right questions came up in the exam or the interview. And despite all evidence to the contrary, that nagging feeling persists that, at any moment, someone will tap you on the shoulder and say: “You shouldn’t be here.”

Most of us have these feelings from time to time. They are called imposter feelings: feeling that you have misrepresented yourself despite all objective evidence to the contrary. A 1985 article in Time suggested that up to 70% of people will have imposter feelings at some time. It’s normal, and usually, with a bit of perspective and time, people let them pass.

‘Real’ imposters

However, for some people the imposter feelings don’t pass and an entire syndrome develops where the person believes they truly are an imposter. They go on to develop behaviours and thinking patterns based on this belief.

The phenomenon was originally described in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, two researchers at Georgia State University in the US, based on their work with groups of high achieving women.

Much of the early literature suggested it applied mainly to women but since then, there have been studies showing that many men are also affected. One study suggested that while women worked and competed harder to prove themselves when anxiety was high, men tended to avoid situations where weaknesses could be exposed.

And the imposter syndrome is most obvious in situations where people are measured or evaluated in some way. So it is very common in education systems where people are regularly tested, graded and often ranked. It’s also common in competitive sport, or when you stand up to give a presentation, when you apply for a new job and in many creative fields. At these moments you start to worry that everybody will find out your little secret.

It’s a secret

One of the characteristics of the imposter syndrome is that you can never admit it. Because, of course, if you put your hand up and say “I feel like a fraud”, then there’s the possibility that someone will say “ah yes, we were wondering about that, could you please leave now.” So it’s safer to say nothing. But the doubts remain. Even if others are suffering too.

A second characteristic is that the imposter syndrome is impervious to evidence. The person has objective evidence that they are not a fraud. They have passed exams, have certificates, achieved sales targets, made a good presentation. Despite this evidence, the feeling lingers. And people play tricky mind games to discount or ignore the evidence. It was just luck, it was easy, someone helped. The next time will be harder. I fooled them – they just haven’t found me out yet.

For some people, the more successful they become, the worse the imposter syndrome is. After all, there’s more to be exposed now. All that happens is that expectations are raised even higher.

Look at it objectively

So what can you do? Well, you need to force yourself to look at the evidence objectively. One of the great contributions of psychology is to help people realise that feelings are not facts. You can feel like an imposter but that doesn’t make you one. Is it likely that you have fooled everyone? Did you tell lies at the interview? Was it just luck or did you actually work hard on that report?

There’s no simple answer to treating the syndrome but looking at the evidence using CBT and self-awareness can help, as can mindfulness. Learn not to fear success and enjoy it, even if this is easier said than done. Finding a way to channel pressure. This may not rid you of imposter syndrome but it will certainly help you to manage it.

Photo by LiebeGaby

It’s getting down to crunch time for a lot of you. Remember to acknowledge your successes, even when they’re small.

Mylittlesuperninjagofalls jazzmoth your @wuglife



Your move, tumblr.


Relevant to previous post.

Johannweyer emmilions @wuglife




I just bought the best book money can buy. 

oh my god this is so perfect it’s so hard to explain how disconnected the grammar is between asl and English NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WELL THIS. THIS IS IT

My anus is bleeding! HOORAY!


It is offensive and demeaning to the speakers of ASL and the deaf community. In fact, this makes my original message all the more important. A book like this written in good faith would be useful for people interested in ASL and ASL culture. This, however, is not that book.

Many people don’t think about ASL or any signed language being a “real language” because it’s in a different modality than spoken language. This makes the realization that sign language can have poetry and dirty language and expressions of love, sexuality, and frustration very curious. But in reality, anything that spoken language does, signed languages do. You can shout or whisper (in a manner of speaking), you can talk about dildos and sex acts, and you can curse like a (signing) sailor.

But you guys knew that already. :)

Also, like any other language, these translations are not one-to-one to English. In particular, word order is obviously different. But also, things like “I’m a bad ass motherfucker” particularly demonstrate that each and every language has a different way of expressing abstract concepts. A formal(me) fancy motherfucker seems quite dapper in English, but really means “badass” motherfucker.

Though I don’t know ASL, I speculate that the same machismo connotations apply, rather than as “dapper” imagery in the English words “formal” and “fancy” might suggest.

(Can anyone confirm or deny this?)

Signal boost for linguisticats its getting to @wuglife

Signal Boost For Linguisticats!

It’s getting to be holiday season in many countries, which means visiting family, friends, and time spent at home. If you are a linguist, protolinguist, or just like linguistics AND HAVE PICTURES OF A CATFRIEND… share them with the cat-loving linguists of tumblr!

(All the cats featured on this blog are own by, cohabit with, or are friends of linguists. Cats like linguistics, from what I can tell.)

Kadrey sign language rings convert gestures to @wuglife


Sign Language Rings Convert Gestures To Speech

“Here’s how the rings work, in a nutshell. There are three detatchable rings that are worn on the the thumb and first two fingers of each hand, as well as a bracelet. As the user signs out whatever they want to say, the translation is then spoken through a digitized voice that comes from the bracelet. I’m not sure if it works real time or not, but that’s still some pretty amazing stuff. And that’s not all…

"The gesture-to-speak aspect works fine when the hearing-impaired person wants to talk to someone else, but what about vice versa? The bracelet carries the double duty of turning sound into text that runs across an LED display. It seems like the only thing these guys have left to do is actually make people hear again…”

Speech-to-speech translation is gaining a lot of popularity, and for good reasons. Reading is an ancillary linguistic skill, so you don’t need to be literate to be a fluent user of a language. That means that when you can speak (or sign) in your native language and have it translated to someone else’s native language, the communication is much more direct.

On the other hand, machine translation is still hugely flawed, and may always be. But from the level of technology we have now, a translation tool like these rings gets us significantly closer to a universal translation device – a common trope in science fiction. Still, there are a lot of obstacles ahead for automated translators like this. I’d be interested to see how it works and how accurately it picks up nuances in speech patterns of the signer.

Anekie i was doing some reading for my applied @wuglife


I was doing some reading for my applied linguistics essay….

Moreover, the English meaning can change depending on where the adverb is located:

  • Honestly, to speak up would be a mistake.
  • To honestly speak up would be a mistake.
  • To speak up honestly would be a mistake.
  • To speak up would honestly be a mistake.
  • To speak up would be a mistake, honestly.

Some of these sentences have a more subtle distinction, but nevertheless, each one conveys a slightly different meaning. The scope of the adverb (what set of words it most closely relates to) is determined by where it falls in the sentence. To honestly speak up might mean that the action of speaking was in earnest, where as to speak up honestly might mean that the content of what is said is honest. In this way, we can see that the “split infinitive” rule cannot apply to English without excluding some sentences that are clearly real (and acceptable) sentences of English.

Hyperboreanhapocanthosaurus gifmethat so @wuglife



So you know what I don’t get? Why people repeat words. (x)

Grammar time: it’s called “contrastive reduplication,” and it’s a form of intensification that is relatively common. Finnish does a very similar thing, and others use near-reduplication (rhyme-based) to intensify, like Hungarian (pici ‘tiny’, ici-pici ‘very tiny’).

Even the typologically-distant group of Bantu languages utilize reduplication in a strikingly similar fashion with nouns: Kinande oku-gulu ‘leg’, oku-gulu-gulu ‘a REAL leg’ (Downing 2001, includes more with verbal reduplication as well).

I suppose the difficult aspect of English reduplication is not through this particular type, but the fact that it utilizes many other types of reduplication: baby talk (choo-choo, no-no), rhyming (teeny-weeny, super-duper), and the ever-famous “shm” reduplication: fancy-schmancy (a way of denying the claim that something is fancy).

screams my professor was trying to find an example of reduplication so the next class he came back and said “I FOUND REDUPLICATION IN ENGLISH” and then he said “Milk milk” and everyone was just “what?” and he said “you know when you go to a coffee shop and they ask if you want soy milk and you say ‘no i want milk milk’” and everyone just had this collective sigh of understanding.

Reduplication in English is thought to indicate a contrast between something that is a marginal case of the category and something that is a canonical case of the category.

  1. soy milk (not real milk)
    milk milk (definitely real milk)
  2. does he like me (the type of “like” that is more general/variable)
    does he like like me (the specific type of “like” as in crush)
  3. spicy (something that has some small amount of spice)
    spicy spicy (something I particularly would think was spicy hot)
  4. fancy (a general type of not-casual)
    fancy fancy (something particularly fancy, possible an extreme case)

This is a fairly well documented feature of English, with a familiar example being the contrast between fruit salad and caesar salad:

  • should i bring a salad (including fruit salad, egg salad…)
  • or a salad salad (caesar salad, mixed leafy greens…)

Not all languages that use reduplication use it for this type of contrast, though. Some use it as verbal inflection (to change the tense, mood, or aspect), and some use it for pluralization. Even others use it for more esoteric purposes, such as Marshallese, which uses partial reduplication of a noun to mean “to wear X” (where X is that noun). Reduplication is just really awesome, I guess!

Where did the word welp come from some people @wuglife

Where did the word “Welp” come from?

Some people claim that it originated from a line in Dumb and Dumber, but since it’s an articulatory phenomenon rather than slang, it’s been in use since at least 1934 (as seen in Brier’s Reach For The Moon). The articulatory aspect that turns “well” into “wellp” (or welp, well’p, wel’p, whelp (sic), etc) is the bilabial closure. That means your lips close entirely after (or during) the “l” part of well. Since this is the way the “p” sound is formed, it sounds like there’s a “p” at the end of the word.

So when do your lips close while you’re still pronouncing “well”? Possibly when you’re demonstrating some finality to your utterance. I also personally use it a lot with a shrug, even if I keep speaking afterwards. I consider this to fall into the same “finality” category, however, since the word occurs as more of an expletive or exclamation, rather than as part of a constituent in a larger phrase.

  • #welp i tried
  • #welp that’s me
  • #welp alright
  • #welp sorry

All of these are popular tags on tumblr, and they demonstrate that “welp” occurs as a sort of verbal shrug. Even though it’s not the final word, the pronunciation is encoded in the spelling as having that finality or closure.

Dsbigham ive figured out what my next tattoo @wuglife


I’ve figured out what my next tattoo will be. Thoughts?

Clearly, we have a winner.

Scary films for tumblinguists pontypool 2008 @wuglife

Scary Films for Tumblinguists

  1. Pontypool (2008)
    This movie might best be described as a zombie movie, but it features semantic satiation very prominently. Instead of a bacterial or viral infection, what if you could make zombies with a linguistic infection? Well, that’s impossible… right?
  2. Extracted (2012)
    Although this movie doesn’t deal with linguistics, it’s basically a cognitive science murder mystery. What is memory? How can it be used to help us? How can it be used to hurt us? How can we know which is which?

Do you have any other suggestions for scary movies with a linguistic or cognitive twist?

Jazzmoth zombie psa guys listen if your @wuglife



Guys, listen, if your zombie’s ribs or abdominal cavity is exposed, that means it probably doesn’t have musculature supporting its diaphragm to compress or expand the lungs, which means it can’t generate the breath pressure to wheeze or moan.

That’s a good thing, in terms of depicting scary zombies. Think about it. Silent zombies. How is scientific realism not better here.

So next time you’re writing about zombies, remember, YOU NEED A WORKING DIAPHRAGM TO MAKE ZOMBIE NOISES.


Since tomorrow is Halloween, I figured this was appropriate! Not fully linguistic, but relevant for articulatory systems, the vocal tract and human sound/language production.

Wastinglittlemoments funny pictures uk let @wuglife



Let it snew, let it snew, let it snew.

English is fucking weird, man. 

This “mistake” could be from something called a gang effect [pdf slides with nice explanation]. What that means is that there is some critical density of similar words that pulled snow into their pattern.

  • grow, grew
  • know, knew
  • up until the late 1800s: show, shew (shew is now archaic)
  • ?fly, flew
  • snow, ?snew

This pattern is apparently strong enough that it can cause words that do not typically follow this pattern to feel like they should, which can causes “errors”. I put that in quotation marks because sometimes these errors become standard. For instance, dive-dove has only recently become acceptable, and in some very traditional grammarian circles, dive-dived is still the only accepted form. The change may have come from the similarity to drive-drove, and the pattern of that lexical gang.

Allthingslinguistic thiswug i recently came @wuglife



I recently came across a street-art festival in Montreal where they let you paint whatever you wanted on the street, so obviously I painted a wug! 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t space for two of them (heh), but here’s a close-up picture: 


If you find or make wugs anywhere around you, you too can submit them to thiswug

Signal boost! thiswug is a fantastic blog! Support your local wug and take pictures!

Sdrake dear students its hockey season and @wuglife


Dear Students,

It’s hockey season, and there’s not a game to watch tonight.



Reference is a surprisingly complicated area of research in linguistics. One might assume that figuring out who or what is being referred to is a simple task, since we do it with such ease in our day-to-day lives. But on the contrary, reference is complicated and messy and often very confusing. For example:

  • Ben insulted John, and then he hit him.

Who hit who(m)? Did Ben hit John or did John hit Ben? Or, did some previously mentioned male-pronouned person him Ben or John? Or did Ben or John him that unknown person? Some of these are more likely interpretations than others, especially without more context. Yet, we can’t know without explicitly asking the speaker or writer what they meant.

One type of research that explores these possibilities uses Game Theory to determine what meaning was most likely intended by an utterance, and what meaning is most likely to be interpreted. Take a look at Rooth’s Theory of Focus Interpretation (1992) (pdf) for more information on this. (It’s somewhat high-level in terms of semantic and game theoretic notation, but it is a seminal paper in the field, and really neat if you can get through it.)

Riffing off the idea that pronouns can have multiple interpretations, especially without sufficient context, there is also research done on how pronouns are interpreted with marginally more context.

  • Ben insulted John, and then HE hit HIM.

If the capitalized words are accented, it turns out they are more likely to be interpreted as John and Ben, respectively, whereas the first version of the sentence (without accented pronouns) is more likely to be interpreted as Ben and John, respectively. Here is one such example of work on pronoun interpretation by Stevenson et al. (2000) (pdf).

Allthingslinguistic britishcomedyoverflowing @wuglife



Tricky Linguistics x

The novel-sentence argument is one of the classic arguments used in favour of a generative approach to language, seen also in Chomsky’s sentence Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. Since I can at any moment produce a sentence that no one’s ever heard before, and moreover since I can produce and understand a sentence that is completely nonsensical, language can’t be simply repeating memorized phrases but must involve the ability to generate new phrases of my own and understand phrases based on their structure and not just lists of words. 

The really neat thing is that it doesn’t even require friendly milk or colourless green ideas in order to create a novel sentence. We’re doing it all the time. Chances are, the last sentence that you typed that wasn’t a formulaic greeting (“how are you?” and the like) and is longer than 8 or 10 words will actually get zero hits if you google it with with quotation marks.

I actually just tested two phrases from the first paragraph and they both passed: “The novel-sentence argument is one of the classic arguments used in favour of a generative approach to language“ and ”Since I can at any moment produce a sentence that no one’s ever heard before” although of course they’ll stop working soon after I publish this post.

Didyoudrinkmygingerale superlinguo this @wuglife



This comic comes from the always entertaining Doghouse Diaries.

The first phenomenon is generally referred to as semantic satiation, where you say the word so many times you begin to separate the word from its meaning. At the start of the 20th century Ferdinand de Saussure began what is now known as a structural approach to language, and started looking at words as an arbitrary combination of sounds (e.g. d-o-g) and meaning (domestic canine). Creating semantic satiation, you’re basically putting his ideas into practice!


Jenesaispourquoi @wuglife







welcome to harvard: linguistics 101

Is this reality?


I went to a class on English curse words once, it was pretty epic. The best part was when one student was giving a presentation and the Professor interrupted her, saying “stupid bitch” very loudly, shocking her into silence and cracking the rest of us up. It took him a few seconds until he realised how it came accross and he was quick to explain that he had just added an example to her argument.

Yeah, we were taught this in my linguistics class as well. The point was to illustrate that fluent speakers of a language know the correct way to modify a word even when they haven’t explicitly been taught the rule. Grammar rules even apply to making words which are, strictly speaking, grammatically incorrect. We have an intuition about what is valid.

So at 3:00 this morning when i had not yet gone to bed but was instead going to deal with my 9th or 10th round of reslife shenanigans i hung up the phone and said ‘geez lou-fricking-weeze’, and it got me thinking about the infixation thing because ‘louise’ has the two vowel sounds in a row (ooh and eee), and a glide from ooh to eee is essentially what a w-sound is, but when i pronounce ‘louise’ out loud i don’t hear the w, i hear the two vowels. But, when i added the infix, it sounded really fricking weird to say ‘geez lou-fricking-eez’, so i added the w-sound back in. *shrug* thoughts anyone?

One of the problems with English “rules” that refer to syllabification is that English doesn’t have very clear syllable boundaries. So, when we have an infix, there is a lot of variability to where it can occur (on a segmental level).

Take the word “balance”:

  • ba - lance
  • bal - ance
  • bal - lance

All three of those options are native judgments for where the syllable boundary could occur. The third option, however seems to be split down the middle of the [l], or duplicates it or something.

I think that’s probably what’s happening in “geez louise”, where “louise” is difficult to split into syllables because of the glide (like the liquid in “balance”).

  • [lo͡uiz]
  • lou - ise
  • lou - uise

I suspect that there isn’t a [w] in the word, but rather there are two vowel-to-vowel transitions, and the syllable boundary occurs in the middle of a transition, giving the impression of a consonant glide.

But this is something important to think about: what does it mean that there is or isn’t a consonant glide there? Would it sound differently? Or would it be represented different in the mind? How can we tell?

Allthingslinguistic dinosaur comics how babies @wuglife


Dinosaur Comics: how babies are awesome at language learning.

Ryan North does it again. Language acquisition is an incredible feat.

Glottalplosive oops i accidentally wugs @wuglife


oops i accidentally wugs

Wordfully everyone loves sloths even if they @wuglife


Everyone loves sloths. Even if they are super creepy like the one above.

Sloth comes from Middle English slou, slowe (I think you can figure out the meaning) and then from Old English slæwð . Sloths were first named so in 1610s as a translation of Portugese preguiça  (Latin pigritia ‘laziness’). Apart from being used as a name for an adorable animal to whom we all can relate, sloth is also one of the deadly sins, in which case translates Latin accidia.

Also, did you know that sloths used to be the size of an elephant?

Allthingslinguistic pied piping day a holiday @wuglife


Pied-Piping Day: A holiday the origins of which you may not be aware

A few days ago (July 22) was Pied-Piper’s Day, a holiday in honour of the Pied Piper of Hamelin

in which the piper is a rat-catcher hired by the town [of Hamelin] to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizenry refuses to pay for this service, he retaliates by turning his magic on their children, leading them away as he had the rats. This version of the story spread as a fairy tale.

Pied-piping is also the name for the linguistic process of bringing a preposition along with a moved wh-word. Presumably the wh-word is the piper and the preposition is the rat or child. 

1. With what shall we celebrate Pied-Piping Day? 
2. On which day shall we celebrate pied-piping? 

The opposite of pied-piping is preposition-stranding, where the preposition is left (stranded) in its original position. 

3. What shall we celebrate preposition stranding with
4. Which day shall we celebrate preposition stranding on?

Although in the beginning, this fairy-tale reference probably seemed rather fanciful, by now pied-piping is the completely standard name for this phenomenon. Wikipedia says more about its origins: 

In linguistics, pied-piping is a phenomenon of syntax whereby a given focused expression takes an entire encompassing phrase with it when it is “moved”.[1] The term itself is due to John Robert Ross;[2] it is a reference to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the figure of fairy tales who lured rats (and children) by playing his flute. Pied-piping is an aspect of discontinuities in syntax, having to do with the constituents that can and cannot be discontinuous.[3] While pied-piping is most visible in cases of wh-fronting of information questions and relative clauses, it is not limited to wh-fronting, but rather it can be construed as occurring with most any type of discontinuity (extrapositionscramblingtopicalization). Most if not all languages that allow discontinuities employ pied-piping to some extent, although there are major differences across languages in this area, some languages employing pied-piping much more than others.

Another intersection of linguistics and fairy tales are the Brothers Grimm, who were not only the folklorists who wrote down tales like Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, but also very early linguists who discovered Grimm’s law of historical sound change from Indo-European to Germanic languages (which explains how Latin “pater” and German “Vater" and English “father" are all related). Pretty cool stuff. 

(via Arnold Zwicky’s Blog

Buzzfeed everything you wanted to know about @wuglife


Everything you wanted to know about transgender people but were afraid to ask. 

This isn’t strictly linguistics, but the vocabulary and use of languagefor trans* and *queer individuals is very important, and falls in the overlap of sociology, biology, anthropology, linguistics, and gender studies. In these images are some very general tips for using language to respect and empower people who identify as trans* and *queer, which are generally marginalized communities. Just like linguists try to spread the word that nonstandard dialects are Still Proper Language (Just Not Yours), we can also spread the word that there are habits of English speakers (requiring the use of he/she, avoiding singular they, disliking the “made up” pronouns) that are hurtful. There are several posts going around about how all words are made up, and that’s true. If someone is uncomfortable being called “he” or “she” but is fine with “ze” or “they”, use those instead! You aren’t being silly or ungrammatical by respecting someone.

I know you all are awesome, respectful, open-minded people, so I’m not worried about you learning and spreading the word that trans*/*queer vocabulary words are important. But, it is always important to respect others’ boundaries.

  • Don’t make assumptions about someone’s gender, but also don’t ask prying or personal questions. “What is your preferred pronoun?” is enough (unless they give you permission to ask further questions).
  • It’s not their responsibility to teach you about their gender identity. Just like it’s not your responsibility to explain linguistics to everyone (though you might enjoy it, it can get tiresome after a while) (this is also a mediocre comparison since your field of study is not an identity, but I think it’s adequate). 
  • Finally, don’t get aggressive with someone who doesn’t immediately accept or understand these vocabulary lessons. Our society is stacked against marginalized groups (by definition), so not everyone is sensitive to the problems they experience. There are ways to teach without making the other person defensive.

Happy preferred-pronoun-using!

Umm okay curse words galore under the cut @wuglife



    (FUCK YOU!)
  4. ETC







Asianhistory q what languages are there in @wuglife


Q: What languages are there in China? 

A: There’s a massive amount of them — and the problem is linguistically, the Chinese define some mutually unintelligible dialects as the same language, Mandarin. 

To start: 

For over 1 billion people in China, the online resource Ethnologue lists

  • The number of individual languages listed for China is 299. Of these, 298 are living and 1 is extinct. Of the living languages, 14 are institutional, 23 are developing, 111 are vigorous, 122 are in trouble, and 28 are dying.

[See more detailed information and breakdowns  here

That’s nearly 300 listed languages in one country. The Zhongyu (languages of China) cover several major language families, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kaidai, Hmong-Mien, Austroasiatic, Altaic, Indo-European, and Austronesian. 

You’ll notice for example, Mandarin is broken into three major regions, and in many cases the divisions even within the lingua franca are by town, village, city, and so on. Standardized (Northern) Beijing dialect is considered the country’s official national spoken language. The language laws of China do not apply within autonomous regions - Hong Kong uses Cantonese, Macau Cantonese, Tibet uses Tibetan, Mongolia uses Mongolian, etc. 

The wiki-page is here, and there are additional immigrant or Colonial languages (English or Japanese).

Live blogging the tumblinguists meet up at the @wuglife

Live blogging the #tumblinguists meet-up at the #Lingstitute.

Allthingslinguistic schriftart ive seen a @wuglife



I’ve seen a few popular posts going around lately about the Takeluma Project, which aims to map the associations people have between the phonetics of English and the shapes they see on a page. What people seem to forget to mention is that the project was part of Peter Cho’s Master Thesis, which is already on display, as well as having a documentation film.

You can read Cho’s full thesis as a PDF here.

This is interesting. It makes sense that the vowels are open shapes and the consonants are closed lines, and that the diphthongs look like the transitions between the sounds, although it would be easier to figure out the vowel patterns if they were arranged in the conventional trapezoid

For a real alphabet that was based on phonetic principles, there’s also Hangul

Allthingslinguistic linguistics hulk and other @wuglife


Linguistics Hulk (and other linguistics parody twitters like YA BOY NOAM CHOMSKY) are interesting not only because they’re entertaining but also because of how they demonstrate the writer’s facility with a particular style that is found in other accounts of that genre, whether Hulk (Feminist, Film Crit, Buddhist, etc), Ya Boy (Bill Nye, Gatsby, Caillou, etc), or others.

For example, Hulk’s speech is by convention in all caps, refers to violence especially smashing, and omits inflections and function words. This is part of what makes HULK SMASH TWO WUG so entertaining: because “wug” was originally used to demonstrate that children did know how to pluralize unfamiliar words by adding /-z/ or /-s/ as appropriate. Hulk also knows how to pluralize words in Hulk speech: without inflection. 

Zdravomilla harmonic relationships influence @wuglife


Harmonic relationships influence auditory brainstem encoding of chords

Spectral analysis of the brainstem responses to the target chord. (a) Spectrograms calculated on the steady-state part of the brainstem responses (between 30 and 160 ms). The spectrograms were calculated on overlapping sliding windows of 60 ms each. The first window encompassed 30 to 90 ms and the last encompassed 100 to 160 ms. Windows are plotted as a function of the center of the sliding windows. Spectral components were concentrated below 300 Hz, hence the plotting between 0 and 300 Hz. (b) Average spectral magnitude over 30–300 Hz in the three conditions and for musicians and nonmusicians. A main effect of harmonic relationship was found but no effect of expertise was observed. Error bars represent one standard error. © Spectra computed over the steady-state part of the brainstem response, showing the individual frequency components present in the response between 30 and 300 Hz. Harmonic relationship modulated the amplitude of the lowest component; *65 Hz, which corresponds to the fundamental frequency of the lowest note of the target chord.

Music is a complex, highly structured, auditory stimulus. Western music sequences follow organizational principles often considered analogous to linguistic syntax. These musical structures shape perception even in listeners without musical training. Listeners are thought to acquire an implicit knowledge of musical structures by learning the statistical regularities underlying them. Consistent with this idea, sensitivity to musical structures emerges in children at approximately 5 years of age. Taken together, these results imply that music processing can provide a window into the neural mechanisms underlying the learning of and sensitivity to the structural regularities of our auditory environment.

One principle that is paramount to musical structures is the harmonic relationship between events. Two chords are said to be harmonically related if they share parent keys (e.g., C-major and G-major chords both belong to the parent key of F). The influence of harmonic relationships on behavioral and neurophysiological processes has been studied extensively. The perceptual processing of a chord is facilitated if it is preceded by a harmonically related chord or, in longer sequences, if it is related to the key of its presentation context. Harmonic relationships also modulate event-related potentials (e.g., right anterior negativities, N5 components, and P3-like components) and neural activity in several cortical areas (e.g., superior temporal gyrus and rostromedial prefrontal cortex).

The cortical processing of musical sounds is influenced by listeners’ sensitivity to the structural regularities of music, and particularly by sensitivity to harmonic relationships. As subcortical and cortical processing dynamically interact to shape auditory perception in an experience-dependent manner, we asked whether subcortical processing of musical sounds would be sensitive to harmonic relationships. We examined auditory brainstem responses to a chord that was preceded either by a harmonically related chord, by an unrelated chord, or was repeated. We observed higher spectral response magnitudes in the related than in the unrelated or repeated conditions, for both musician and nonmusician listeners. Our results suggest that listeners’ implicit knowledge of musical regularities influences subcortical auditory processing.

Here, Marmel et al. (2011) provide evidence that brainstem encoding of musical sounds is sensitive to harmonic relationships between chords, one of the main structural principles of Western music. The harmonic relationship between the target and the preceding chord modulated the spectral magnitude of the brainstem response to the target chord, with both musicians and nonmusicians showing higher spectral magnitudes in response to the target chord in the related condition than in the repeated and unrelated conditions. These results suggest that listeners’ subcortical encoding of musical sounds is influenced by the structural regularities of music and that this influence does not depend on listeners’ musical expertise. Previous studies have shown that the brainstem is sensitive to acoustic features relevant to music perception (i.e., consonance/ dissonance) as well as to the auditory presentation context. The data of Marmel et al. (2011) extend these findings by showing that subcortical responses are sensitive to the contextual cues relevant for music perception.

Results show that brainstem responses are modulated by harmonic relationships. This effect occurs irrespective of music expertise suggesting that listeners’ implicit knowledge of music structures shapes subcortical neurobiological processing of sound.

Marmel, F., Parbery-Clark, A., Skoe, E., Nicol, T., & Kraus, N.  (2011).  Harmonic relationships influence auditory brainstem encoding of chords.  Neuro Report, 22, 504-508.

This isn’t strictly linguistics, but one of the great things about our field is how interdisciplinary it is. Learning the neurobiology of music gives insights into human language processing, language evolution, auditory function, perception, aesthetics, and cognition. Anyone who wants to study linguistics should explore some of the peripheral fields (just like anyone in those fields should learn a little about linguistics!).

Spacemannsays coolpunkboy gifcraft @wuglife




Amazing resonance experiment with salt
Using a vibrating metal plate connected to tone generator, Scientist Bruss Pup performs scientific magic by seemingly controlling and manipulating grains of salt to dance in specific patterns.

I do not believe this is real



Although, instead of changing the tone or pitch, we change the shape of the plate, in this case, our vocal tracts. Each shape has a different resonance pattern, and each pattern has a sound!

Syntactician frenenzacxevalo cirenel @wuglife






Sky is wrong. Moss is wrong. Mint isn’t pale enough. Chlorophyll is much much brighter and more saturated than that. Avocado is wrong. Lime is wrong. Gold is horribly wrong. Salmon is wrong. Baby is wrong. Your pink is really more of a fuchsia. Blue orchids are two colors, neither of which are what’s listed here. Grape is darker than eggplant. Wine is darker than that. Cherries are darker than that. Cinnamon is brown. 

You pretty much skipped over most blues, pinks, oranges, and reds.

I am a male artist, don’t fuck with me and colors.

The men of tumblr are the most badass people I’ve ever met

A z-snap is in order

There are either only six colors or a practically infinite number. Anything in between is baseless.

This looks remarkable similar to xkcd’s ‘joke’ version of the chart, taken from Doghouse Diaries (can’t find the original just now in a hurry):


And here is the chart of the results he got:


Color theory is super cool. Not all languages have the same number of color words. This doesn’t mean that we see different colors, just that we group them together differently.

Some languages only have two groups: light and dark. Some group these into warm and cold colors. I believe many Bantu languages use warm and cold groupings, even though they may have more than two groups.

Languages that have three groups generally have light (white), dark (black), and red.

After that, things start to get more complicated. Many languages with four groups add yellow next.

A common fifth color group is something we call “grue”, or the colors that comprise both green and blue. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that people who speak languages with a grue color group think that leaves on trees are the color of water and the sky, they can see the difference. They just have one basic word (like how we call robin’s eggs “blue” but they aren’t the same color as the tumblr dashboard “blue”).

In fact, blue is an interesting case for English. In English, we have 11 basic color terms:

  1. red
  2. orange
  3. yellow
  4. green
  5. blue
  6. purple
  7. pink
  8. brown
  9. black
  10. white
  11. gray (or grey)

In languages like Russian or Hebrew, they have all these color terms, too, but they split our “blue” into two color groups, one for darker blues, like a canonical blue in English, and a second for a lighter blue similar to “cyan”.

Notice that in English, we do have a word for this color, cyan. However, it is not a basic color term because we consider cyan to be a type of blue. Pink is not a type of purple or red, it is a basic color. Brown is not a type of orange, nor is orange a type of red. We may argue whether salmon is a type of red or a type of pink (or orange), but we also know that it isn’t a basic color because we aren’t confused by saying it’s a subset of one of our basic color terms.

So now, if your interest is piqued, ask yourself:

Why would color terms follow this hierarchy of groupings? Although the “dark/black” group would include blue and the “light/white” would include yellow, what makes yellow more likely to be a separate group than blue?

Oops forgot to queue my posts sorry well many @wuglife

Oops, forgot to queue my posts. Sorry!

Well: many of you northern hemispherians are probably done with finals or the equivalent, or in the midst of them.

Remember to take a break, rest your brain, and treat yourself well. You are your strongest resource, and you need to be in top form!

Even if you’re already on summer break, it’s important to consider your health and happiness. When you’re lonely, try to reach out. When you’re stuck, try to ask for help. When you’re happy, support your friends.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled dashboard.

Whoa welcome new followers its been a very @wuglife

Whoa, welcome new followers!

It’s been a very long time since I welcomed anyone, so please accept these wugs as a welcoming gift.

Snowdropinthefoxglove we made this t shirt for @wuglife


We made this T-shirt for our English pronunciation teacher. There is an ash-cloud on it. Yeeeah.

Iamrealindsey jenniferswag @wuglife




Thin Privilege is not having to worry that your body size could factor into your grad school application.

Mod Note: I just went through the process of applying for grad schools last fall and this was a real fear of mine when applying to programs. -FBP

omg NO though what the actual fuck

oh hell no. 

Dear Academic (of any age):

This is not at all in any way true. While it is good to establish healthy and productive habits, and those habits will help you be successful,


Your eating habits and your study/work habits can be independent.

In fact, your brain consumes A LOT OF ENERGY. Sometimes, you need to eat more to fuel your money-making muscle (your brain).

Sometimes your food intake and your weight/size ARE INDEPENDENT.

Don’t let thin privilege (or any other privilege) affect your thinking, or prevent you from trying.

You can do it. Make the effort. Do your best. Take care of yourself.

Ignore the haters.


Allthingslinguistic structural ambiguity @wuglife


Structural Ambiguity (illustrations from SpecGram)

In fact, “time flies like an arrow” has at least 11 possible interpretations:

  • (as an imperative) measure the speed of flying insects like you would measure that of an arrow - i.e. (You should) time flies as you would (time) an arrow
  • (imperative) measure the speed of flying insects like an arrow would - i.e. (You should) time flies by the same method that an arrow would (time them)
  • (imperative) very quickly measure the speed of flying insects - i.e. (You should) time flies as quickly as an arrow would (be or move)
  • (imperative) measure the speed of flying insects that are like arrows - i.e. (You should) time (those) flies (that are) like an arrow
  • (declarative, i.e. neutrally stating a proposition) all of a type of flying insect, “time-flies,” collectively enjoy a single arrow (compare Fruit flies like a banana)
  • (declarative) each of a type of flying insect, “time-flies,” individually enjoys a different arrow (similar comparison applies)
  • (declarative) each of a type of flying insect, “time-flies,” individually enjoys an occasional arrow when there is an opportunity (compare: “He prefers beer, but I like a martini”)
  • (declarative) the common metaphor “time,” moves in a way an arrow would (which, depending on the context of the phrase may mean “moves in a straight line”, “moves by parabola”, “its move depends on the wind”, etc.)
  • (declarative) a copy of the magazine Time, when thrown, moves in a similar manner to that of an arrow.
  • (declarative) time flees (attempts to escape) in the same way that an arrow does.
  • (declarative) The company responsible for publishing Time (magazine) Magazine (via synecdoche) is fleeing like an arrow would.
Povcreampie ⵜⴼⵜⴽⵜⵙⵜⵜ tftktstt t ftk t stt @wuglife


you sprained it (FEM)

Tashlhiyt, also known as Shilha, is a Berber language which allows any segment, including obstruents, to be a syllable nucleus. The striking and controversial claim is disputed, where it is argued that these consonant sequences contain non-phonemic schwa that can be syllable nuclei.

However, it has been shown vowelless syllables do exist in Tashlhiyt,
both at the phonetic and phonological levels. Acoustic, fibrescopic and photoelectroglottographic examination provide evidence. In addition, phonological data: metrics and a spirantisation process, are presented to show schwa is not a segment which can be independently manipulated by phonological grammar and which can be referred to the syllable structure.

Whatjanewore wug lifegraduation day the @wuglife


Wug Life/Graduation Day

The cuddly little blue thing is a wug. (A wug has a lot of significance to linguists.) This is an extra-special wug because it was handmade especially for me by a graduating student. Note the leopard hat and glasses, making it a Jane wug. Very special!  Thank you Grace!

Dress: Caché; Pumps: 9West; Bangle: Bebe; Earrings: Ambiance in the Haight.

Photos by Yousef at Zellerbach Playhouse, at the Linguistics graduation.

Allthingslinguistic morphological typology @wuglife


Morphological Typology (illustrations from SpecGram)

Descriptions adapted from The Lingua File

Analytic languages: also known as isolating languages because they’re composed of isolated, or free, morphemes. Free morphemes can be words on their own, such as cat or happy. Languages that are purely analytic in structure don’t use any prefixes or suffixes, ever. However, it’s rare to find a language that is purely analytic or synthetic since most languages have characteristics of both. Morphological typology is like a spectrum in which languages fit in somewhere from analytic to polysynthetic (a subtype of synthetic languages we’ll get to in a moment).
Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese are good examples of analytic languages. […] English, on the other hand, is one of the most analytic Indo-European languages, but is still usually classified as a synthetic language. […]
Types of synthetic language (i.e. languages that have prefixes/suffixes): 
Agglutinating Languages:With these languages, morphemes within words are usually clearly recognizable in a way that makes it easy to tell where the morpheme boundaries are. Their affixes usually only have a single meaning. Turkish,Korean, Hungarian, Japanese, and Finnish are all in this group.
Fusional Languages: Similar to agglutinating languages, except that the morpheme boundaries are much more difficult to discern. Affixes are often fused with the stems, and can have multiple meanings. A prime example of a fusional language is Spanish, especially when it comes to verbs. In the wordhablo ”I speak”, the -o morpheme tells us that we’re dealing with a subject that is singular, first person, and in the present tense. It’s difficult to find a morpheme that means “speak”, however, since habl- is not a morpheme. Fusional languages can be tricky!
Polysynthetic Languages: These languages are undoubtedly some of the most difficult to learn. They often have verbs that can express the entirety of a typical sentence in English, which they do by incorporating nouns into verbs forms. For example, the Sora language of India has one word that means “I will catch a tiger”. Many Native American languages are polysynthetic.
So my computer screen died a few days ago and @wuglife

So my computer screen died a few days ago, and it’ll be a few more days until I can use it properly, so I’m on my secondary (read: old, slow) computer. Please bear with me until I can get back to my old browser and stuff.

Cuimhnigh i gconai prescriptivist cumberbatch @wuglife


Prescriptivist Cumberbatch

LUCKILY: He’s right. You can’t actually split your infinitives.

ALSO LUCKLY: English doesn’t have infinitives. We have tenseless verb phrases (which are referred to as infinitives, but aren’t actually). So we aren’t at risk for spitting infinitives.

This prescriptive rule may come from Latin and Latin scholars of old (olde?) who attempted to regulate formal registers of English to bring it closer to Latin, which they viewed as a Perfect Language.

However, Latin was a real, human, living language. This means it was just as full of slang and dirty words as any other living language. Trying to pigeon-hole English into Latin grammatical conventions (or constraints) is futile.  (Read more about possible sources on the wikipedia page.)

Besides, the action of “splitting infinitives” in English is actually necessary to form certain relations between words, which give us certain meanings:

  • to boldly go where no one has gone before
    the action of going is bold
  • to go boldly where no one has gone before
    you are bold, but your action of going is just “going”
  • boldly to go where no one has gone before
    this sounds weird to me, maybe the whole package is bold, including yourself and the action and the destination?

These three options all have slightly different meanings. However, there is a better example of why the “don’t split infinitives” rule in English is bunk:

  • You all need to attend the workshop to get credit.
    Each of you needs to attend in order to get credit.

  • ?You need all to attend the workshop to get credit.
    What? You need to make everyone attend to get credit??

  • You need to all attend the workshop to get credit.
    Split infinitive! Everyone needs to attend for anyone to get credit.

  • *You need to attend all the workshop to get credit.
    Not a sentence of English, AFAIK.

You may not all have the same judgments on the meanings of these sentences, and there may be multiple ways of interpreting each one (remember pragmatic meaning from the recent post about Gricean Maxims?), but the basic rule holds: putting “all” in different places allows for different interpretations.

Thenewenlightenmentage your brain catches @wuglife


Your Brain Catches Grammar Errors Even When You Don’t Realize It

The brain does all kinds of amazing things while you’re not paying attention (you know, like regularly remind you to breathe). But it’s also engaged in less critical but equally interesting tasks, like correcting the grammar of the person sitting across from you at dinner. A University of Oregon study has logged hard evidence that the brain processes and compensates for errors in grammar and syntax without your being aware of it.

In a way that makes perfect sense, and in fact theories have been around for a long time suggesting that where grammar is concerned the brain is often working without the person being aware. But a cleverly designed study has just documented this intriguing aspect of our mental autopilot, and it could have interesting implications for linguistics and the way we learn languages.

The researchers designed their experiment to display 280 experimental sentences to test subjects, some in perfect syntax and grammar and some with overt errors that anyone paying attention should be able to spot (transposed words, misplaced prepositions, etc.). The words were presented visually one word at a time, and an auditory tone would play right before the offending word in the grammatically incorrect sentences. The tone was also played sometime during the correct sentences.

The auditory tone was a simple distraction. Participants were asked to respond to the tone as quickly as possible after hearing it, rating it as low, medium, or high in pitch. And they were also asked to read the sentence and indicated if it was correct or incorrect, grammatically speaking.

When the tone played after the grammatical errors, subjects detected the error 89 percent of the time, and electroencephalography readings of the brain also picked up what’s known as an ERP response (for Event-Related Potential) indicating that the error was noticed and corrected for to make sense of the sentence anyhow.

But when the tones preceded the errors, subjects only consciously detected the errors 51 percent of the time. But the same ERP response was present, indicating that the brain still managed to detect the error and correct for it so the sentence made sense. In other words, the brain was correct in either case, but with the tone distracting the conscious mind the subjects were only aware of the errors about half the time.

Which is pretty interesting, especially where teaching languages are concerned, the researchers say. Children learn grammar implicitly before receiving formal instruction, but in the classroom we often try to teach second languages in the opposite way—learn the grammar rules explicitly, then build vocabulary around them. This research suggests that may be backward, that our brains should learn the grammar rules implicitly without thinking too much about them. After all, it’s the unconscious brain that seems to have the better handle on grammar anyhow. The conscious brain is too busy being distracted to notice.

[Science Daily]

Once a noob now a pro @wuglife


everyone starts somewhere

Hey protolinguist! Hey college student! Hey grad student! Hey post doc! Hey young professor!

We’re all beginners at some things. The only way to graduate to not-beginner is to keep going. Keep learning, trying new things, keep making mistakes.

It can be really (really, really) hard. Some things can be so hard that they feel impossible. But the experts (and not-beginners) who did impossible things were once in that place. Yet, they did impossible, impossibly hard things.

Got a final? About to graduate? Writing a dissertation or journal article? Just really stressed and worried about your future?

Keep doing your best, no matter what the outcome is. Even bad, terrifying outcomes can set you on a path that leads to fulfillment (though this can be hard to see). Life is not about meeting others’ expectations. It’s about being the best you that you can be.

Sometimes we all just need to be reminded.

Markedbysunspots grices conversational @wuglife


Grice’s conversational maxims.

aka, conversational rules that we all break.

The best way to think about Grice’s Maxims that I’ve ever encountered is that

  • They are NOT RULES.
  • They are baseline conventions
  • Flouting them is adding a layer of meaning, not “breaking a rule”

This means that you aren’t “doing something wrong” when you respond to “How are you doing today?” with “It’s raining.” It means you are actually giving an even more meaningful statement.

Let’s break this down a tad:

  • Maxim of Relevance

A: How are you doing today?
B: It’s raining.
B: I do not like that it is raining, the rain brings my mood down, the rain reflects my mood because it’s a cultural convention to associate rain with sadness.

Whoa, guys, look how much more information is being encoded in the answer by flouting the Maxim of Relevance! I mean, clearly the answer is relevant to the question. That’s the main reason “breaking a rule” is a bad way of thinking about the Maxims.

  • Maxim of Quality

A: How are you doing today?
B: [in a hospital bed with two broken legs and a concussion] I’m fine.
B: I’m actually not as bad as I could be, clearly I am not fine because I am injured and sick and need attention to make sure I heal properly. I feel like giving a culturally neutral answer, in order to indicate that you should not worry about my condition, even though it is clearly not fine.

Again, much more meaningful than an answer that does not flout the maxim. In fact, I’d be tempted to say that an answer that does not flout the Maxim of Quality in this scenario would actually be understood as flouting the Maxim of Quantity, because the cultural convention is to answer that kind of question as simply as possible.

  • Maxim of Quantity

A: How are you doing today?
B: My legs are broken, I have a concussion, it’s raining, and I am not feeling good.
B: Despite the fact that you can clearly see that my legs are broken and I’m in the hospital, and it is raining outside my window, I am listing these facts in order to make it very specifically clear that things are not going my way today. This makes me grumpy and somewhat sarcastic-sounding. Maybe try to cheer me up?

Holy mackerel! We even got a request out of this maxim-flouting conversation! By clearly over-sharing the obvious, person B is asking person A for sympathy (or empathy) for their situation, which may be taken as a plea for help changing the situation. You are unlikely to ever state the obvious in this way if you are pleased with facts listed before the actual answer (“I’m not feeling good.”). If you were pleased with them, they would be unlikely to be matched with a negative or sad statement (unless you were also flouting the Maxim of Relevance!).

How complicated! Yet we all use these kinds of flouting behaviors every day, in any language we speak.

  • Maxim of Manner
    (I find that people have a harder time understanding what this maxim is. I generally explain it as the non-content features of your speech, like intonation; or the actual language you’re using to speak in…)

A: How are you doing today?
B: I’m ::sigh:: fine. ::long, drawn-out sigh::
B: I am NOT fine, and I am indicating that with how wistful or exasperated I am. Why would you ask me such a question when the answer is clear that I am injured and in pain and stuck in a gross hospital on a gross rainy day?


A: How are you doing today?
B: No creo que te importa
A: What? I don’t speak Spanish.
B: I know you don’t speak Spanish, so I’m telling you I have an answer for you but I don’t think I want to tell you directly. I’m saying I don’t think you care how I feel, but you’re asking out of some obligation. I’m actually saying that fact in Spanish, but since you can’t understand Spanish, you’re getting the message through my intentional choice to exclude you from my answer.

Hey now, calm down, sassypants. The Maxim of Manner is probably the sassiest of the Maxims to flout. You can tell your professors that. They will probably appreciate it. I know I would. All the best examples I’ve seen actually are closer to being straight up rude than informative, but that (especially in our shared culture) is informative in its own right.

So hopefully this clarifies what the Gricean Maxims are, how they are used, how they are flouted, and why flouting them is a good thing.

Bobbycaputo interactive map of north american @wuglife


Interactive Map of North American English Dialects

Because of the massive popularity of Hollywood movies, most people in the world (including Americans) assume that people in the US all sound like they’re from California, and in particular Southern California. This intensely detailed map created by linguist Rick Aschmann in his free time, tracks the highly diverse dialects in North American English, from the soothing drawl of the American South, to the broad-A’s of Boston. To back up his many examples, Aschmann’s large map is interactive, allowing users to click on locations to see Youtube videos or listen to audio samples featuring people speaking.

While far from the easiest map to read, Aschmann packs a load of information into the large image; from whether locals pronounce their “O” at the front, middle or back of the mouth, to whether “pen” and “pin” sound the same when spoken. Even for people living in North America it is impressive to see the diversity of dialects spoken even in relatively close areas. Not surprisingly, the north east US has some of the most diverse lingual sounds, most likely because of its early settlement and the lack of travel in those times. The west on the other hand, is a land of relative uniformity, only lending credence to those who think we all sound Californian.

This map is really fun to explore! Of course, it’s never as simple as all that (not that this map is simple), but it’s a good reference. 

Along with pronunciation, different dialects may use different words, or have words for certain things that others don’t.

The Harvard Dialect Survey (which is getting old by now!) is a really interesting collection of lexical splits across the country. For instance, , below:

What are some terms you use that might be unique to your area?

Allthingslinguistic thecatspajama linguists @wuglife



Linguists identify 15,000-year-old ‘ultraconserved words’

You, hear me! Give this fire to that old man. Pull the black worm off the bark and give it to the mother. And no spitting in the ashes!

It’s an odd little speech. But if you went back 15,000 years and spoke these words to hunter-gatherers in Asia in any one of hundreds of modern languages, there is a chance they would understand at least some of what you were saying.

That’s because all of the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the four sentences are words that have descended largely unchanged from a language that died out as the glaciers retreated at the end of the last Ice Age. Those few words mean the same thing, and sound almost the same, as they did then. …

The search for Proto-World, or even the slightly less ambitious search for an ur-language that several proto-languages have in common, is both fascinating and incredibly difficult. 

It’s like trying to reconstruct the original mammal that all the other mammals evolved from by comparing an abstraction of all rodents, plus an abstraction of all felines, plus an abstraction of all canines, plus an abstraction of all primates, plus an abstraction of all cetaceans, plus an abstraction of all marsupials, plus an abstraction of all ungulates, plus whatever the heck the platypus is descended from, etc.

But it’s harder than just that, because none of these languages were written down until long after they’d all split off, because writing systems only started being used around 3200 BCE in very few locations, whereas language has been around since sometime between 5 million and 50 000 years ago (we don’t even know). 

So imagine trying to figure out that the common ancestor of chickens and iguanas was actually a dinosaur. Without having any fossils. 

I love these studies, but they need to be taken with so many grains of salt because the data that they’re working with is an abstraction of an abstraction. But that’s the only way to study this until we invent time travel. 

Spread the word! This popular story is full of unsound methods and misunderstandings.

Sally Thomason has a nice critique of the article at LanguageLog.

Thelegalizeddeafies map of the principal sign @wuglife


Map of the principal sign language families of the world!

Another language map!

This is a reminder that ASL (American Sign Language), and indeed most signed languages are not degenerate or partial languages. They are full, independent languages with their own unique histories, etymologies, grammars, and phonologies. They form language families independent of the spoken languages of the regions, and they are learned and produced exactly the same way as spoken languages (except in a different modality). ASL is not related to English. The only time they overlap is in finger-spelling, which is a convention for translating words from English (etc) to ASL. 

This means that fluent signers of ASL who can read/write/speak English are bilingual. Every deaf child who learns ASL and learns to read English is bilingual. They are different languages. Learning one does not prevent someone from learning the other, just like American (or immigrant) children with Spanish-speaking parents still learn to speak English in American schools.

Finally, the communities that speak/sign ASL are (obviously) not identical to those who speak English, and because of that, they have different cultures. True, most speakers of ASL have overlapping culture with American English speakers, but it is not identical. Language and culture are intertwined, and every language and ever culture is a little different. 

I am not an expert in ASL, or deaf community culture in America. If you are interested in these topics, there are many resources for learning more. If you know about these topics and are willing to share or teach, I’d love to hear your perspective! Too often is ASL (and other signed languages) ignored or lumped in with the local spoken language. This is neither fair nor accurate. Let’s spread good information!

Superlinguo wuglife and others on the @wuglife


Wuglife and others on the #Tumblinguistics tag have been talking about syntax trees, and good programs with which to make them. It’s got me thinking about all the software I use in my day-to-day linguistics work, and I thought that I’d start sharing them with you. Some of them might be useful if you’re just getting into linguists, and some of them I find useful for other things as well.

The first thing I want to introduce you to is a website that I use so often it’s almost permanently open on my computer. The IPA character picker is the easiest way I’ve found of locating some of the fiddlier characters of the International Phonetic Alphabet. You just click on the characters to build your word and copy the Unicode font from the bottom. Easy as that! I love that it’s arranged like an IPA chart, with vowels in one box and consonants in another. Also, if you’ve forgotten what some of them more esoteric forms are you can hover over them to get a reminder!

There are also character pickers for other alphabets. I often use the Devanagari and Tibetan pickers - but there are over 20 different scripts on Ishda’s website (and if the one you want isn’t there - tell them!).

Although you won’t want to be writing long texts using these, they’re more accessible than many language-specific keyboard designs (although I’ll talk about that next week!). There is a way to save the webpage offline, which means you can even use it when you’re not about to connect to the internet!

And if phonetics isn’t your thing, you can use it to make the most impressive ˠːʢǂɸsparkly unicorn punctuationɸǂʡːˠ ever.

Oooh, nice! I’d never seen this!

For the Mac-using unicode lovers out there, I also recommend using Ukelele to create your own customized keyboard filled with whatever IPA and unicode characters your heart desires! Perfect for writing longer texts, arranging IPA characters in a way best designed for your needs, or having great emoji-making powers at your fingertips.

Here’s a downloadable IPA keyboard that I designed for myself, and here's instructions on how to use it.

Marhaba maroc algerie tunisie map of arabic @wuglife


Map of Arabic Dialects

When people talk about Arabic, they often think of it as a single language. Although Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is widespread and often understood by the Arabic speaking world, it is not mutually intelligible with all the Arabic dialects. People have argued that MSA is closest to Egyptian Arabic, but it is not identical. While Egyptian Arabic might be one of the more famous types (due to the popularity of Egyptian media), the pronunciation of some sounds and the word choices are not the same as in MSA. (For instance the ج - [ʒ] sound in MSA is pronounced [g] in Egyptian Arabic.)

Most Arabic speakers will tell you how hard it is to understand Moroccan Arabic if you’re not from Morocco. Similarly, some lexical items in Iraqi Arabic are so different from their equivalents in MSA that you would never be able to figure them out without the help of someone who knows Iraqi Arabic. Part of the reason for this is that Iraqi Arabic has many borrowed words from Persian and Turkish, whereas other Arabic dialects do not.

So, at what point do these dialects stop being Arabic and start being different languages? Well, that’s more of a political question than a scientific one. In general terms, a language is defined by how its speakers define it.

On one extreme of the debate, a linguist could argue we all actually speak one single language across the world, with gradient differences in lexical items (words) and grammatical structures. On the other extreme, a linguist could argue that we all speak different languages (even though they might be mutually intelligible) because no two people use their words and syntax in exactly the same ways. Neither one of these arguments is useful, though.

So how would you define what a language is?

Ive seen a lot of hate in the linguistics tag @wuglife

I’ve seen a lot of hate in the #linguistics tag recently, especially concerning drawing syntax trees. The program I recommend to budding syntacticians and linguists for drawing trees is called TreeForm (by Donal Derrick, available for free on SourceForge).

It’s a drag-and-drop style program and you can use to produce images of trees, and go back and edit them later. It’s great for learning what kinds of structures to build, as well as building super-complex structures that would get confusing in markup languages like LaTeX or online sources like PhP Syntax Tree.

Actually, both of these other options are great, too. I would only recommend them for more advanced syntacticians and (proto-)linguists with a proclivity for programming or markup. In any case, happy tree-drawing!

Awesomearticles buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo @wuglife


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo — “’Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo’ is a grammatically valid sentence in the English language

In the tree above:

  • S = sentence
  • NP = noun phrase
  • N = noun
  • PN = proper noun (name)
  • RC = relative clause
  • VP = verb phrase
  • V = verb

And every time you add another “buffalo” to the linear string of “buffalo"s, you can reanalyze the sentence so it’s still grammatical. You can do that forever, to the reaches of the limits of the human cognitive system.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it also works with "police”…

  • Police police police police police.
  • Internal affairs agents regulate other internal affairs agents.

The reason why any number of “buffalo"s in a row can be grammatical is because of the RC (relative clause). It modifies an NP, and any NP can be modified by an RC. Although in normal day-to-day language we rarely can understand more than two embeddings of RCs, the recursiveness of the rule means you can keep applying it. Plus, there are always ways to analyze it with more nouns!

Besides "buffalo” and “police”, can you think of other words that can form these types of sentences?

Andunie i gave a presentation yesterday on i @wuglife


I gave a presentation yesterday on “I can’t even.”

Linguistics is neat

(Also that font is the raddest, check the ampersand on the 5th slide.)

Tumblanguage seems to be a socio-pragmatic phenomenon. It is not a pidgin or a new language. It is incredible in its own right. This simple, elegant slide show doesn’t explain all the details, but it points out some really neat tidbits. For instance: there are consistent restrictions on what is and isn’t said by its community of practice. In other words, tumblanguage isn’t random mutations of English – there is a principle structure that governs its use. This isn’t to say that future changes in use won’t allow some of the marked (unacceptable) phrases from coming into use.

((Guys, linguistics is so cool. But like any science, you have to treat it with respect. Please don’t go claiming that something is or isn’t a “language” without putting serious thought into your reasoning. It just creates confusion and pseudoscientific assumptions about what our amazing field is and what it is capable of.))

Allthingslinguistic how to threaten people and @wuglife


How to threaten people and spoil jokes using Gricean Implicatures

The context is that the author of this entertaining bookstore twitter account was nominated for an award and so is clearly joke-threatening the other nominees. But the literal meaning of the tweet (reproduced in 1) isn’t a threat at all: giving people not-poisoned gift baskets seems like a perfectly nice thing to do. 

(1) And anyone who wants to make some NOT POISONED gift baskets for the other nominees will be handsomely rewarded. (Original)

However, since by default one tends to assume that gift baskets are not poisoned, the author violated the Gricean maxim of manner (be brief and clear) by not saying (2) instead. 

(2) And anyone who wants to make some gift baskets for the other nominees will be handsomely rewarded. (Shorter version)

So based on the fact that the author bothered to specify that the gift baskets were not to be poisoned, and especially to do so in all caps when it would probably never have occurred to anyone to poison them in the first place, we can infer that the author is actually suggesting that their twitter followers should make poisoned gift baskets for the other nominees but that they want to maintain plausible deniability, approximately the meaning in (3). 

(3) And anyone who wants to make some poisoned gift baskets for the other nominees will be handsomely but secretly rewarded. (Interpretation of the author’s meaning)

Another example of a veiled threat like this is the expression “That’s a nice ___ you have there. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.” This formula is so well-known that it has a entry on tvtropes

But why would the author of a popular twitter account make an easily-decipherable veiled threat in such a public forum? If any poisoned gift baskets were to show up at the houses of nominees, this person would be the most logical suspect. I think it’s pretty clear that the author is deliberately violating the maxim of quality (be truthful): because it’s easy to determine that what they meant was the opposite of what they said, we now infer that they didn’t actually mean that at all and were instead joking. So what the author actually meant was something more like (4):

(4) It’s kind of funny to contemplate the idea of making poisoned gift baskets for the other nominees but obviously that would never actually happen. 

Why is the author’s original tweet in (1) funnier than my just-as-true paraphrase in (4)?

I think it’s for the same reason as explaining a joke doesn’t make it funnier: part of the enjoyment of a joke is the “ah-ha” moment when the pieces and the references finally click in your head. The few milliseconds that it takes to detangle the Gricean and pragmatic meanings provide that “ah-ha” moment. 

If you look at the responses to this tweet, it seems like the layers of meaning are quite clear to the audience: the author’s twitter followers play along with the joke:

(5) (response) I totally did NOT just make arsenic cupcakes and ship them out to various addresses with a tag reading “congratulations”.

Map of cheese @wuglife


“Cheese” in each country.

As far as I can tell, this is the most important thing a grad student can know about linguistic typology. As long as they’re lactose-tolerant, of course.

Lynk25 shegufta vantatas @wuglife






i needed this



When the .gif was first made the people who made it pronounced it “jif” because “jif” peanut butter was really popular during that time and it was culturally relevant. That being said, the other way of pronouncing it is totally legit too. They’re BOTH right. see also: hank green

As a Spanish and Linguistics double major, I can say that both pronunciations are correct, and no one pronunciation is more correct than another. There are two principle theories in linguistics: 

  1. Prescriptivism - specific rules that must be followed (i.e. “I before e except after c”, “don’t end a sentence with a preposition”, “don’t start a sentence with the word “because”“). These “rules” are set up by grammarians. 
  2. Descriptivism - rules that pretty much govern/describe spoken language.

As linguists, we are trying to delve into (2), descriptivism. Some people say /ɪf/, others say /gɪf/. And just as I learned today by reading up about sociolinguistics, all this has to do with several factors, such as what part of the country someone comes from/lives in, their age, whether or not they know more than one language, whether or not they immigrated from another country or not (and if so, how old they were when they moved to their new home). 

Tl;dr: Dear tumblr, most of you are being prescriptivists. Both pronunciations are correct so please shut up already. 
-With no love, a disgruntled tumblinguist

Thank you! Beautiful description of the issue.

How do you say “.gif”?

Guys im sorry for not posting regularly it @wuglife

Guys, I’m sorry for not posting regularly. It turns out that writing a dissertation proposal is hard? Anyway…

Please submit your ideas, thoughts, revelations, funny gifs, etc! Send me questions or topics! That will help me fill up the queue so I can keep bringing you wug livin’.