Category Archives: Language

Language Rules

That title is ambiguous but only if one admits to vernacular usage. Which is legit.

Huxley is consonantly making grammatical errors that primarily serve to prove how stupid adults are. English has a typical way of marking past tense, for instance, and he uses it all the time, correctly. So he might have hided himself behind the couch. Or, so he sayed. I see-ed him in the bedroom so maybe he hided himself there.

The thing is, we have language rules that are based on nothing more than historical quirkiness and BS, and language rules that are based on the particular system a language morphology and grammar which tend to make sense (within a given language). Within a language, we call “standard” things that have been determined standard by convention, irrespective of how different those things are from the underlying morphology and grammar of the the language. (Between languages we may refer to the quirks as idiomatic when they are not standard.) Language Mavens are specialized humans who have learned most of the standard rules and their purpose is to annoy everyone else by constantly correcting them. Sometime language mavens demonstrate rule breaking by verbal self immolation, especially when things get really bad like when someone confuses “its” and “it’s.”

“Oh my god it drives me CRAZY when someone gets that wrong. I can’t STAND IT!!!” they will say.

I assume that such comments are followed quickly by some sort of suicidal act because, after all, how can one live in a world where possession is indicated in a standard way that people often get wrong to make it look like pluralization, but for the exceptions where one is supposed to make a possessive look like a plural because the contractions are stepping all over the rule of possessives!

Its hard, life is.

Anyway yesterday was international grammar day or some other such nonsense, and as a result someone wrote a post with a list of things people have been yelling at you about your whole life but it turns out you were getting right anyway. It is here.

Signs will be in both native and immigrant’s languages in northern Minnesota

Apropos recent discussion on Native American issues in Minnesota, we have this from MinnPost:

Tourists visiting Bemidji this summer may pick up a few words of a “foreign” language.

That’s because the first city on the Mississippi River way north in Minnesota may be the only town off a reservation trying to incorporate the area’s indigenous Ojibwe language into daily life.

All over town Ojibwe language signs are posted right alongside English language labels, and for a just cause. The signage is part of a broader effort to preserve the language spoken by an estimated 60,000 persons across areas of the northern United States and into Canada as well as to bridge cultural divides between whites and American Indians.

Words such as “boozhoo,’’ an Ojibwe word for “welcome” and many other Native American terms crop up around town, in an appliance store, the local hospital, the convention center, a local coffee shop, and this spring in the public schools. …

Counting Chinese Words

It has been said that “word frequency” is the most important variable in language research, despite the belief by many that it can’t be used as a variable because no one really knows what a word is. (see: Minifalsehood: We can’t tell what a word is!?!? and A run in my stocking …)

A recent study in PLoS looks at a heretofore under investigated area, word/character use in Chinese.

Continue reading Counting Chinese Words