Tuesday, May 26, 2015

David Brooks: English draws immigrants

I do not read David Brooks. Bad for my health. But when I saw the headline "Talent loves English" this morning, I hadn't had much coffee and didn't do what I knew was the right thing. I actually read the piece. Big mistake.

Wherever the headline comes from, here's the reference to language [emphasis added]:
Across the English-speaking world, immigrants are drawn by the same things: relatively strong economies, good universities, open cultures and the world’s lingua franca.
Wait, what? People immigrate to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States because English is the dominant language in those places? I know a ton of immigrants, from many walks of life and from literally all over the world. Aside from a couple who came to work as English professors or something, I cannot imagine that a single one of them was motivated in any way by the dominant language spoken here.

Does anybody know of any evidence of any kind, even anecdotal, that English motivates immigration to English-speaking countries? 


Image from here.*

*Answer to question: Lingua franca is English / in English. Wasn't always English, but is now. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Yooper English in the news

Nice article about Wil Rankinen's research on English in the UP … here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Video slang dictionary: Say what

Some readers of this little corner of the cyberverse may be interested in SayWhat: The people's video dictionary. Its founder describes it as a video version of the Urban Dictionary, which seems true enough.

Would be nice to have a little info about who the speakers are, e.g. where they're from and date of the recording.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

*uninsurance!!!

Does anybody besides me remember Lexical Morphology?  I guess I'm thinking about it because I just finished teaching intro to morphology.  Just heard this on the radio yesterday:  "... a very high uninsurance rate" - !!!  Classic bracketing paradox:  -ance has to be level 1 (luxury ~ luxuriance; predominate ~ predominance); un- is level 2.  But once -ance attaches, you have a noun, and besides Un-Cola and a few other advertising terms, un- doesn't attach to nouns.

Slight digression:  which un- is this?!?  It doesn't seem like the un- that attaches to verbs because it doesn't mean reversal of action.  So it has to be the one that attaches to adjectives.  But of course insurance isn't an adjective either.  Some weird back-formation from uninsured?

Yikes.  Morphology.

PS Google search for uninsurance:  91,600 results.  The world has gone mad - mad, I tell you!

Monday, May 11, 2015

DARE fights on!!! And mangoes

Need some good news? Then check out this story. The Dictionary of American Regional English is STILL surviving for now. I mean, it's to the point of funding for a few months driven by a GoFundMe campaign, but as our University is being plowed under and the field we've grown in is being salted, I take real inspiration in a small unit that is still alive on the softest of soft money.

If you can, PLEASE help them out. Do what you gotta do: check the couch cushions for change, sell some plasma and pawn your banjo. Just help these people out.

And as it happened, a member of Team Verb just reported by email that he'd had a discussion this weekend with somebody about the use of 'mango' for 'green pepper, bell pepper' in Ohio. DARE, of course, has the answer: The term is actually used for a whole set of kinds of peppers, and apparently tied to pickled versions of them at some point: "the East Indian mango (Mangifera indica) was at first known only as a pickle; the “mangoes” illustrated here were made in imitation of that imported delicacy". How cool is that?

See the DARE map below.



Monday, April 20, 2015

Mountain Man Linguistics

Been a brutal year here in Wisconsin, as the state and the university are being steadily and intentionally destroyed.

So, some good news is welcome: Paul Reed, one of the rising stars in the fields of American dialectology and sociolinguistics, is back at blogging, here. Check it out and keep an eye on his work ... you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

LINGUIST list fund drive

A message from some of the Wisconsin linguists …

Folks,
Most of you know that LINGUIST is now doing their annual fund drive. For five years, we had the privilege of editing book reviews for LINGUIST and we know very well how much time and effort goes into producing the posts that we all rely on for job and conference announcements, book announcements and reviews, and news about the profession, along with the rich website, which brings us everything from E-MELD to their directory of linguists. 

What you may not know is how heavily and directly they rely on donations from rank and file folks around the world.It takes a committed staff to run LINGUIST. Your donations help pay for the salary of graduate student editors. We urge you to donate and keep them going. 

Onward!
Joe, Monica, Anja & Rajiv

And it does look like Wisconsin could use some help in the University challenge.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gothica Bononiensia

One of our contributors noted a while back the discovery of new Gothic manuscript material (here).  The scholars who've done the deciphering and interpretation contacted Team Verb and offered to send us copies of a couple of their articles on the subject, which have arrived:

  • Finazzi, Rosa Bianca & Paola Tornaghi. 2014. Alcune riflessioni sul palinsesto gotico-latino di bologna. Intorno alle saghe norrene, ed. by Carla Falluomini. 229-265. Alessandria: Edizioni dell'Osro.
  • Finazzi, Rosa Bianca & Paola Tornaghi. 2014. Gothica Bononiensia: A new document under linguistic and philological analysis. IJGLSA. 19.1-56.

As the length of the articles suggests, these are meaty, detailed analysis of the small amount of material found, including painstaking comparison to previously known Gothic material. The authors make the simple but important point that while one could before doubt how much of the bible had been translated into Gothic, we've now got evidence that at least a lot of the Old Testament was translated.

There's all kinds of stuff in there that specialists can go to town on — like new evidence for productivity of some prefixes (in the Italian article) — but I found it pretty striking that there is material is very relevant to Gothic phonology even, with new evidence on syllabification based on where line breaks are written, and hints on other matters, like a spelling for expected <ϸs>.

But above all, how tantalizing is it to think that the corpus of a language like Gothic is not actually closed …

Very nice!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Who Cares?

My dad has had to listen to me talk about linguistics for over 30 years now, but the other night he asked me what linguists say when people ask why it's important to maintain, revitalize, and reclaim languages.  It was probably on his mind because of McWhorter's recent column on the topic.  I told Mr. Verb about the conversation and he said I should post something about it.  I certainly don't pretend that my answer is anything new - lots of people have said this - but it's worth repeating.

So first, there's the linguistcentric reason: if all these languages die, what the heck are we going to do with ourselves?  But only linguists care about that one.

Second, people often say that languages express unique worldviews ... well, yes and no.  I do agree with McWhorter that this can lead to the "when a language dies, a culture dies with it" mentality - which I've always found quite offensive towards groups whose languages are dormant.  Having met a lot of incredible language activists at the 2013 DC Breath of Life whose languages are no longer spoken (or just beginning to be spoken again), I can tell you that they are totally still culturally connected.  (See here for the 2015 BoL.)

But the third reason is social justice: colonization has caused loss after loss after loss.  If I can put my energy into trying to prevent a further loss, then I should do it.  As Crawford (1995) put it, "After all, language death does not happen in privileged communities.  It happens to the dispossessed and disempowered, peoples who most need their cultural resources to survive."  I've always thought that was such a good quote.

P.S. "Linguistic Justice is Social Justice" - see Colleen Fitzgerald's excellent post on this topic too.

LSA 'Foundation Members' from Wisconsin

Somebody just told me about looking through the lists of original members of the Linguistic Society of America — they'd talked to someone at another university who'd actually investigated this in detail for their institution. The list of original members is published in the first issue of Language, 1925, and includes everyone who had joined before the end of March of that year. I thought, "oh, great, I'll write a little quiz post asking who can guess the Wisconsin foundation members". Well, I checked out the list and the Wisconsin folks are probably not familiar to a lot of people, even those who know the history of linguistics on campus.
  • Prof. A. G. Laird, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. (Greek)
  • Dr. Raphael Levy, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc. (Romance Langs.) 
  • Prof. Antonio G. Solalinde, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc. (Spanish) 
  • Miss Else M. Saleski, Madison, Wis. (German, Univ. of Wisconsin) 
These were important figures on campus. Laird was editor of the Classical Journal 1907-1909, and Solalinde directed the dissertation of Lloyd Kasten, later a key figure in linguistics and philology on campus. Saleski, who went on to teach at Downer College (now UW–Milwaukee) and elsewhere, is mentioned in Julia Falk's Women, Language and Linguistics.

Others with strong Wisconsin connections include Leonard Bloomfield and Eduard Prokosch.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Chicago Dialect Project

There's a great new project on the development of English in Chicago. It's the Chicago Dialect Project. Check it out on Facebook here. And here's a link to the blog associated with it, which doesn't have much on it yet but will.

Say what you will about the Bears and the Cubs, they have a pretty interesting dialect down there in that part of Flatlandia.


Monday, January 05, 2015

Sociolinguistic Events Calendar

Ever start something that becomes so successful you can't manage it at some point? Welcome to the lives of the people who started the Sociolinguistic Events Calendar. Dave Sayers just posted this to the Variationist List (go here to subscribe). Help these folks out if you can and become a calendariser (calendarizer?).

Hello one and all, and happy new year!
The Sociolinguistic Events Calendar (http://www.baal.org.uk/slxevents.html) is now bustling with events across the world, and has also been linked to by a number of event organisers, including NWAV: http://linguistics.utoronto.ca/nwav44/. Meanwhile the synopsis on academia.edu is apparently in the top 3% of viewed pages this month (http://academia.edu/9619924). My co-calendariser - Jonathan Kasstan - and I are overwhelmingly honoured by all this success, acclaim and esteem, which has helped us keep plugging away at it, but... we are kinda getting a little overworked with it all. Help us! We're looking to recruit volunteers to help keep this resource going, since it's not altogether clear how long we can keep going just the two of us.
We're hoping to gather a team of about 5-7, thinking that one person could cover the various calls that come up on each day of the week. The commitment per person would be about half an hour a day (plus an hour or so of initial training on how events are formatted in the calendar). The daily workload is manageable, but pretty constant - although I suppose it'll vary depending on the time of year (there probably aren't so many calls in the summer for example).
Please please get in touch if you'd like to step up to this exciting level of responsibility and celebrity :)
Dave
--Dr. Dave SayersSenior Lecturer, Dept Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University, UKHonorary Research Fellow, Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK (2009-2015)dave.sayers@cantab.net | http://swansea.academia.edu/DaveSayers