Topic : Linguistics
Ben Zimmer, like most lexicographers we meet, has a fascinating a background: A self-described "dictionary hound" as a kid, he volunteered in college as a "reader" for the Oxford English Dictionary, scanning music magazines for new terminology. He then worked as a linguistic anthropologist researching the languages of Indonesia before returning to his lexicographic roots. Long discussions with the OED editors about emerging technology led ultimately to his current job, as Editor for American Dictionaries at Oxford. It's a job where he's intimately involved with the Oxford English Corpus, a high-tech infrastructure for writing dictionaries. Ben graciously spoke to us about his work: Continue reading...
For the past three decades Professor Connie Eble has been pursuing a unique project: Tracking the slang of her students. The in-house linguist of the University of North Carolina's English Department, she polls her students every semester about their non-standard language. This long-term research has given Professor Eble a singular window into the function of language in society, which she discusses in her book Slang and Sociability. Professor Eble recently gathered the latest crop of slang from her students, so we called her to find out what she found, and what it means. Continue reading...
How do words enter our lexicon? Which ones survive in our language? Which ones die? Forensic linguist Dr. Allan Metcalf has developed a method to predict the success or failure of a word that's almost foolproof. English professor and registrar of MacMurray College in Illinois, Allan is also the Executive Secretary of the American Dialect Society, which famously announces their annual Word of the Year. It is this exercise that served as the catalyst for Allan's investigations, which he explains in his book Predicting New Words. We spoke to him about his fascinating findings, and, of course, the Word of the Year: Continue reading...
Books we love
Allan Metcalf's Books
January 3, 2008
Here are more terrific books by Allan Metcalf, the professor and linguist we interview in this week's Behind the Dictionary feature. Please check them out:
Behind the Dictionary
Lexicographers Talk About Language
December 26, 2007
Linguist Michael Erard, the author of Um. .. Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean who we recently interviewed, graciously sent us this article, which he first wrote and published in the magazine Lingua Franca:
In a recent issue of the moderated e-mail list Linguist, Brown University anthropologist William O. Beeman addressed an odd phenomenon: Apparently, there is a different word for butterfly in every language, even though historical relationships and geographic contacts often suggest the words should be similar. Beeman called it "the butterfly problem."Continue reading...
How do our words relate to our thoughts? What does language tell us about human nature? What are we doing, language-wise, when we swear, use innuendo or name our babies? Harvard professor Steven Pinker examines these questions -- and much more -- in his terrific new book, The Stuff of Thought. We had a fascinating conversation with him about his research into language and cognition: Continue reading...
Blog Du Jour
November 28, 2007