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Blog Excerpts

The Forensic Linguist and the "Devil's Strip"

An article in The New Yorker about forensic linguistics tells the story of how the phrase "devil's strip" in a ransom note pinpointed the writer to Akron, Ohio. The forensic linguist, Roger Shuy, figured that out with the help of The Dictionary of American Regional English. Harvard University Press Blog provides the details here.
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When we argue about the "authenticity" of a linguistic representation, be it a holy text or the screenplay of a period drama like Mad Men or Downton Abbey, what are we really arguing about? In this month's Language Lounge, we delve into the knotty question of how "fungible" words and meanings can be.  Continue reading...
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In a class for speakers of English as a foreign language, Neal Whitman found himself teaching odd five-verb forms like "will have been being seen" and "would have been being seen." How did we end up with such unusual verb pile-ups?  Continue reading...
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Even though National Grammar Day is behind us, that's no reason to stop celebrating grammar — or overturning cherished assumptions about grammar. Every year for NGD, University of California, San Diego linguistics grad student Gabe Doyle compiles a list of grammar myths that require debunking. Here's his latest roundup.  Continue reading...
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Richard Bailey's Speaking American is one of those books I wish I could make every prescriptivist grouch in the world read. You know the type: the kind of misinformed peever who kvetches about "kids these days" and the language going to hell while yearning to preserve English, as if it were a precious vase a teenage texter might knock over while planking, shattering it forever and leaving us all mute.  Continue reading...
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Back in December, a small study by researchers at Long Island University got a lot of news play. Maybe you heard about it. It was about the supposed recent increase in young American women's use of vocal fry — the lowest vocal register, the one with a creaky quality to it.  Continue reading...
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My friend Laura knows four languages plus "bits and pieces" of six others. That's impressive, but it's not quite in the same league as folks who pick up languages the way George Clooney picks up starlets: with frightening ease. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot written, in academic or popular literature, on hyperpolyglots: people who know not just two or three languages, but six or ten or twenty.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 101 Articles