John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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Language Stuff

Almost everyone uses language, so inevitably almost everyone thinks they are an expert in it. I don’t consider myself an expert, though most of my work requires at least language competence and sometimes actual skill, but I do follow the blogs featured on this feeds page.

(If you are wondering where the translation-related feeds have all gone, I have put them on their own page.)

Most of the blogs represented here are in English, most of the time, but don’t be surprised to find other languages used. Go with the flow – I occasionally find myself pleasantly surprised at how much I can grasp in languages I have never seen before.

Language On the Net » The Secret Sign Language of the Ottoman Court.

Sunday 17 December 21:27:52 UTC 2017

Amelia Soth describes an interesting phenomenon of Ottoman court life: In the 1600s, the court of the Ottoman Empire employed some 40 deaf servants. They were chosen not in spite of their deafness, but because of it. The deaf servants were favored companions of the sultan, and their facility in nonverbal communication made them indispensable to the court, where decorum … [Link]

Language Log » Ask Language Log: "Strange Writing"

Sunday 17 December 16:24:08 UTC 2017

TJJ from Napa CA writes: Dr. Dan Jurafsky at Stanford suggested I contact you. I have a statue I purchased years ago from a Humane Society fundraiser sale. It is made of some sort of stone and has a rabbit on one side and some strange writing on the bottom. It looks like it might be Bengali or Gujarati. I'm … [Link]

Language Log » Pitch in Korean dialects

Sunday 17 December 12:39:12 UTC 2017

From Krista Ryu: Recently on the internet, there was an interesting photo posted that pointed out the unique feature of Southeastern dialect of Korean: tones (some scholars call it pitch, as it is different from the tones of languages such as Mandarin). The internet post had the following photo and a question: "is it true that Seoulites (people from Seoul … [Link]

Language Log » Bad words on WeChat: go directly to jail

Sunday 17 December 12:39:11 UTC 2017

With over 980 million monthly active users, WeChat is an extremely popular messaging app in China. However, in the Orwellian climate of the PRC, you had better watch your language carefully, lest you get whisked off to jail without trial. Here are some words that can result in your incarceration: This chart comes from Eva Dou's copiously documented article, "Jailed … [Link]

Urban Word of the Day » Transitive Property

Sunday 17 December 12:06:38 UTC 2017

1. If A=B, and B=C, then A=C. Used in Geometry. 2. If Person A hooks up with Person B, and Person B hooks up with person C, person A has hooked up with person C. This property is hated by most high school/college age persons. 3. Definition 2, as a verb. To hook up with someone by the transitive property. … [Link]

Omniglot blog » Language quiz

Sunday 17 December 6:17:10 UTC 2017

Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken? [Link]


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