I’ve received a few asks lately wondering why I customarily use feminine pronouns - i.e., she, her, etc. - when talking about hypothetical individuals.

Now, I could claim that it’s about representation; that gender-neutral pronouns are a fine thing, but even so, we’re left with a situation where hypothetical individuals in everyday speech are often masculine or gender neutral, but rarely feminine, so an imbalance remains; that I’m just doing my own little part to redress that imbalance.

I could claim that.

If I’m being honest, though, at this point it’s mostly about spite. I use the “hypothetical she” specifically to annoy the sort of person who gets annoyed by that sort of thing.

Is it working?

not-the-guy-in-the-bushes asked:

is it true that multilingual people don't think in a language? i heard it but i don't know how i would find info about it. also your blog is officially my life now its so amazing

I’m not a multilingual, so I can’t speak from a personal point of view but what I’ve generally read is that they will change languages depending on the context of what they’re thinking/talking about. I went into a little more detail into this when answering this ask. and thank you so much!! it means more than you think <3

Probably no one cares lol buuuut … did you know? The standard german word for “potato” (yeah i know there are local different words for it but this is another matter) , Kartoffel (-n), comes from an italian word ~

We all know that potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) come from the american continent. The original name, in the Carib language of Haiti, was “batata”. From it is derived the actual spanish world “batata”, the english “potato” and the italian “patata”.

However, during the XVI century, in Italy (where this tuber appeared early because mariners and stuff) potato was compared to truffle because their similar form, because they were both edible and they both grow underground and so it was called “tartufolo” (“truffle-like thingy”), a diminutive of the standard noun “tartufo”, “truffle" (from the Latin “terrae tuber”).

In the northen italian dialects, especially along the Alps, the word “tartufolo” became “tartufel”. This form isn’t last in Italy, even if you can still hear a similar form in some regional variants, like “cartufole” in friulan, “tartifola/tartiful/trifola/trifulo” in Piemonte, Liguria, Valle d'Aosta and the north of Lombardia. However, from there, it seems to have passed into Germanic/Mitteleuropean area and here it has taken the form of “tartüffel” and then, for dissimilation, “Kartoffel” (it was attested for the first time in 1742).

Basically the linguistic evolution of “kartoffel” was a sort of “tartufolo” > “tartoffel/tartufel"  > tartüffel > (and so the actual "die Trüffel” for the truffle) > “kartoffel”.

 And ….. that’s all folk xD I tried to be accurate so I hope there’s no mistakes ;w;””  buuut  … Kinda cute that Germany named his favourite food after Italy, isn’t it?! eheh *winks* …  (╬≖ิ__≖)  (=ヮ= )೨

[Some references: x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x )

(danke to my friend who’s studying Botanic and told me about it uwu ♥ )

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Rhabarberbarbara…mind blowing..

things i love about russian language:

  • ш, щ and ч
  • A LOT of references to russian classical literature. and to soviet movies
  • all the swearing. because of how morphemes work you can make up an infinite amount of swear words. if only malcolm tucker was russian…
  • reading your favourite poets in english translation and laughing your face off
  • also fake cyrillic script in western movies is hilarious
  • words like запостить and расшарить
  • people staring at russian letters on my laptop’s keyboard
  • Ы
  • trying to explain what ъ and ь are to non-speakers
  • female, male, and genderqueer nouns
  • using patronymics ironically

this is by no means a complete list and i would love people to add their fav things. i’ve noticed that many find their native language dull and boring so i think it would be great to see some native language positivity!

Although it sounds like it should mean just the opposite (and is often used thus), nonplussed actually means surprised or bewildered, to the point of uncertainty how to react. From the Latin for “no more,” the word developed via a noun form meaning “a state in which no more can be said or done.”

So really, in current terms, its proper definition is “I can’t even.”

starcaptain asked:

Hey! Fellow conlanger here! I was wondering if you had any info about how to evolve tone into a language, specifically a non-tonal language becoming a register tone language. I am currently developing a proto-lang, and I would like one of its daughters to have a simple register tone system. Any thoughts?

liyaá’ łi! thanks for the ask! 

I am admittedly not a tonologist, so I cannot speak to this with the finesse of one. However, I have experience doing work on Gurung which is a Tamangic language that has register tone. I’m also doing readings right now on tone and consonant interaction in Khoisan languages (Tsua and N|uuki). Annnd I have done a lot of research about the 吴 Wu dialect family in China, many languages of which have a register tone system. So, what I’ll try to do is link to a lot of academic resources but also tell you what I’ve learned on my own! 

The most important thing to keep in mind when trying to evolve your proto-lang into daughter languages with register tone is that consonants and tone are intimately connected! 

It is well documented that consonant voicing, aspiration, and place of articulation often change the production of tone. For instance, I just finished reading Mathes (2015) which is about the Khoisan language Tsua. Tsua has 6 basic tone melodies, but there are 2 additional melodies that are called “Depressed” High and Mid and these only occur after (i) voiced consonants (ii) aspirated consonants; and (iii) /h/. Basically these 3 kinds of consonants make it so that the High and Mid tones are produced slightly lower than normal.

Voicing VERY frequently messes around with tone and is a perfect way to introduce a register tone system into your daughter languages. In Gurung, the Tamangic language I did work on, there are purportedly 4 tones, but in this register tone system, it is basically impossible to separate tone (pitch) from two other qualities of the syllables: (i) vowel length and (ii) breathiness.

In Gurung, voiced onsets of syllables usually co-occur with breathy vowels. Breathiness, in turn, makes the tone sound lower and produces a rising tone melody (Low-High). This rising melody also makes the vowel seem longer. So, in Gurung, you will find a word like /bõ̤̌:/ “strength” which is breathy, low-high rising with a long vowel (and nasal but that doesn’t matter). However, you will not find, or we cannot find, a word like /bo/ without breathiness, a rising tone shape, or a short vowel. Therefore, one researcher who did a lot of work on Gurung, Warren Glover,  categorized voicing, breathiness, and vowel length with rising pitch as a single tone.  You can read more in Glover (1972) which I unfortunately cannot find in PDF form, but you should be able to request from a database via your university if you have one, or via your local library!

One of the core components of our research is about whether or not Gurung has a distinct class of voiced stops because it is pretty difficult to say whether the breathiness is phonemic or whether the voicing is. It’s probably all of these things combined.

If you are interested in Tamangic tone, here’s a PDF presentation by a woman named Kristine Hildebrandt. Her research is not 100% accepted, so take it with a grain of salt. You can Google her name and also google “Tamangic tone” or “tibeto burman tone” or “gurung tone” and you should be able to find resources about it the development of tone in this family.

tl;dr: If your proto-lang has voiced stops or voiced consonants in general, consider that these will probably produce a LOW(er) tone in the daughter languages. It is possible that they will devoice afterwords so that you will only have voiceless consonants, but some will have HIGH(er) tones and some will have LOW(er) tones. Or, in the true nature of a register tone system, the daughter langs might have syllables that are voiced + breathy + low tone, but no syllables that meet only one of these criteria.

In Shanghainese, which is a Wu dialect in China, voiced consonants also co-occur with a tone that is breathy, though younger speakers are losing the breathiness nowadays. The Southern dialects of Chinese also introduce another possibility – glottal stop in the coda! In these dialects, there are usually two tones that are especially short (yinru and yangru) which derive historically from syllables with a stop in the coda position. Now it’s a glottal stop. You can read a lot more on the Wiki page for Chinese tone!

Finally -  I do not subscribe to the idea that conlangs have to be perfectly naturalistic. I think you can do things that natlangs do not do, but you just need to incorporate them into your conlangs as if they were naturalistic. Therefore, you can come up with your own ways of deriving register tone classes! The most important thing to remember is that proto-lang consonants usually end up being daughter lang tone classes. And register tone languages usually collapse multiple qualities of syllables – i.e. vowel length, phonation, pitch, nasalization –  into a single “tone class.”

If you have any more questions or want to show me some examples from your conlang, I WOULD LOVE TO TALK MORE ABOUT TONE <3

The claim that ‘just’ ‘shrinks your power’ was popularized earlier this year by former Google executive Ellen Petry Leanse. As I pointed out then, what it overlooks is the fact that words like ‘just’ have a range of functions: you can’t just [sic] assert that they are ‘demeaning’ in every context. (As I also pointed out, Nike didn’t choose ‘Just Do It’ as a slogan because they thought it sounded pleasingly weak and powerless.) Even when ‘just’ is being used as a hedge (i.e., to make a point less forceful or more tentative), the commonest reason for that is simply to be polite; and politeness is more strategic than demeaning.

Only the other day, I got an email that read:

“Sorry to disturb you over the holiday period, but I’m just trying to firm up the schedule, and I wondered if you’d had time to check your diary yet. Have a great new year and get back to me when you have a chance.”

I didn’t think, ‘oh, this guy is really shrinking his power’ (yes, I did say ‘guy’: writing ‘sorry’ and ‘just’ in emails is not an exclusively female habit). I thought, ‘well, that’s considerate, making clear he knows it’s Christmas and I might have better things to do than help him with his schedule’. And since he had been considerate, I figured I’d return the favour: I replied the same day.

If he’d left out all the ‘self-undermining’ politeness features, the email would have looked more like this:

“I’m trying to firm up the schedule, so please check your diary and get back to me as soon as possible.”

The style may be more businesslike, but I’d have read this version as accusatory and borderline hostile (‘hey, I’ve got a schedule to make, why haven’t you given me the information I need?’). And I’d have registered my displeasure by putting it in the pending file until we were both officially back at work. So, politeness can pay dividends: ‘sorry’ and ‘just’ FTW.

Apart from being based on naïve and simplistic ideas about how language works, the other big problem with the ‘women, stop undermining yourselves’ approach is that it presupposes a deficit model of women’s language-use. If women use the word ‘sorry’ more than men (and by the way, that’s a genuine ‘if’: I’m not aware of any compelling evidence they do), that can only mean that women are over-using ‘sorry’, apologizing when it isn’t necessary or appropriate. The alternative interpretation—that men are under-using ‘sorry’ because they don’t always apologise when the circumstances demand it —is surely no less logical or plausible, but somehow it never comes up. As I said back in the summer, the assumption is always that ‘a woman’s place is in the wrong’.

The reason for this is simple. If your business is peddling advice to women, you have to begin by persuading women they’ve got a problem, and that the cause of the problem is their own behaviour. If that’s not the case—if, for instance, the problem has more to do with other people’s attitudes or with structural inequality—then telling women to behave differently is not going to fix very much.

—  Debbie Cameron, Crap Apps and Female Email 
The same doesn’t mean the same: “das gleiche” vs. “dasselbe”

In German, there are two translations for ‘the same’: der/die/das gleiche and der/die/dasselbe.

They don’t describe the same concept of same-ness (Is that even a word? Well now it is). Dasselbe means ‘that exact same thing’ while das gleiche means something like ‘an exact copy of that thing’.

Look at my amazing editing skills these graphics to illustrate the difference:

Singular 'They' Named 2015 Word of the Year
A bunch of grammar nerds say that the gender-neutral "they" is A-OK.

If you’ve been arguing that the gender-neutral pronoun “they” doesn’t make any sense because it’s not grammatically correct, a crowd of over 200 linguists who met at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting last Friday evening have some bad news for you. “They” was chosen as the most significant term or word in the past year in a landslide vote.

(RELATED: 5 Arguments Against Gender Neutral Pronouns that Don’t Make Any Sense)

Using a singular they is common habit in American speech, as in “That dog loves their owner,” but has risen to prominence again as a useful way to refer to people who don’t use the pronouns “he” or “she." The conference was live tweeted, and they was named the winning word at 3:35 PM.

Ben Zimmer, a language columnist for the Wall Street Journal who presided over the voting on Friday afternoon, said in a press release: 

"In the past year, new expressions of gender identity have generated a deal of discussion, and singular they has become a particularly significant element of that conversation,” Zimmer said. “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language. Other contenders for the 2015 title of Word of the Year were “on fleek,” “ammosexual,” “ghost,” and “thanks Obama.”

For a full list of the nominees and winners in each category, read the American Dialect Society’s press release here.

Favourite Czech idioms translated literally into English:

  • Gather your five plums and leave! (take all your stuff and get out!)
  • To have nerves in a bucket (to be mentally drained and stressed)
  • To receive lentil/soda (to get told off)
  • That is a back bucket to me (I don’t care)
  • Mushrooms with vinegar (nothing)
  • Like a tiny moon on dung (very happy)
  • Once a Hungarian year (in very long intervals)
  • Bear service (to cause damage with originally good intentions)
  • Two asses of sth (lots of sth)
  • To get drunk with a bread roll (to be satisfied easily)
  • Cucumber season (dull season without any news)
Online Courses for Language Lovers (that aren’t languages)

Originally posted by ucresearch

I decided to let fellow language learners know about some great courses that I think will help you out since they cover topics that aren’t typically taught in language classes. They cover various topics such as culture, linguistics, and psychology that will round out your language education. They are all MOOCs which means that they are free online courses available to the public. Go out there and learn!

Multilingual Learning for a Globalised World This free online course will explore multilingual education and how it can impact and improve education and even wider society. Course starts April 4, 2016.

Cultural Studies and Modern Languages: an Introduction: Are you interested in other countries? Do you want to study and understand other cultures? This free online course will take you on a journey through a number of periods from the medieval to the modern day, from Russia to Europe and all the way to Latin America. Course starts February 22, 2016.

Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching : What is language? How do we learn meaning in a new language? What is easy and hard about learning another language? And what is the best way to teach other languages?This free online course suggests some answers to these questions. Course starts April 4, 2016.

The Bilingual Brain: This course explores the brain bases of bilingualism by discussing literature relevant to differences in age of initial learning, proficiency, and control in the nonverbal, single language and dual-language literature. Participants will learn about the latest research related to how humans learn one or two languages and other cognitive skills.  Course starts February 8, 2016. 

Language and Mind :  Throughout the course we will try to be familiar with relationship between language and human mind; to understand language as a special purpose cognitive ability; and to understand underlying mental computation for natural language processing. Course starts January 18, 2016.

Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics :  This course introduces you to linguistics, featuring interviews with well-known linguists and with speakers of many different languages. Join us to explore the miracles of human language! Course is archived but material can be accessed.

Language Revival: Securing the Future of Endangered Languages Learn how the world’s endangered languages are revived and why this process is critical to preserving cultural identity.  Course is archived but material is accessible.


This is Strunk & White, rewritten using a predictive text generator by Jamie Brew. And to be honest, given how terrible the advice is in The Elements of Style, I think it makes more sense this way. 

(Also: tag yourself. I’m a member of the Government Sentence Office.)