Link love: language (2)

“She texted him”, “She text him”, or what? Ben Zimmer investigates.

A short history of the Comic Sans font and the (over)reactions it has provoked.

What is Standard English? Here are three views.

What is centre-embedding and why is it so interesting? or, “You are what what you eat eats”.

David Crystal reads from his essay on the future of the English language (8 minutes 42 seconds).

Geoffrey K. Pullum on The Elements of Style: “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice”, and a follow-up on National Public Radio.

I saved the longest for last: W. Tecumseh Fitch, an evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist, revisits Charles Darwin’s ideas on the evolution of language.

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9 Responses to Link love: language (2)

  1. Fran says:

    Yay! So much interesting stuff to look up. My idea of a happy evening …

  2. Stan says:

    Happy looking-up, Fran! And welcome to Sentence first.

  3. There’s some interesting stuff in them links, Stan! Thanks for posting them. In response to the first link, can I say that I’m entirely unbothered by the use of “texted”? It has an immediacy lacking in “sent a text message to” and is evidence of language’s adaptability. “Funnest” is an abomination, though.
    On an entirely unrelated note, I was reading a story by EF Benson (‘Negotium Perambulans”) last night and came across the word “benignant”, which I’d never seen before. It stands to reason that, as you have “malign” and “malignant”, you’d have “benign” and “benignant”, but the latter seems to have fallen out of use.

  4. Stan says:

    Doubtful: texted doesn’t bother me either: I tend to use it or a long-winded alternative. Some people I know use text as the past tense, but I won’t be going with that flow.

    Benignant is the fringe member of the four-word party you listed. My books tell me it was formed from benign (on the basis of malign-malignant) in the late 18C., but it never attained common usage.

  5. I’m not surprised, especially if it’s pronounced to rhyme with malignant. It’s a bit clunky and inelegant for what it’s supposed to describe, whereas malignant is wonderfully suited to its meaning (and has been extremely useful to horror writers for centuries now!).

  6. Stan says:

    It’s a crowded niche to squeeze into, too, with benign, beneficial, beneficent and benevolent covering similar semantic ground.

    Do you remember the context in which it was used? (Don’t go hunting if it’s not immediately available to memory or fingers!) In Fowler’s third edition Robert Burchfield gives the meanings “‘gracious, kindly (esp. to inferiors)’ (a benignant monarch), or ‘salutary, beneficial’ (the benignant authority of the new regime).”

  7. It’s from EF Benson’s short story “Negotium Perambulans …”, about a noxious supernatural presence that assaults the inhabitants of a converted church in a small Cornish town. The exact line is: “The winter storms that batter the coast, the vernal spell of the spring, the hot, still summers, the season of rains and autumnal decay, have made a spell which, line by line, has been communicated to them, concerning the powers, evil and good, that rule the world, and manifest themselves in ways benignant or terrible . . .”
    The full story can be found here: http://www.gordon-fernandes.com/hp-lovecraft/other_authors/negotiam.htm

  8. Stan says:

    Thanks Doubtful. That website has a fine selection of stories and has been duly bookmarked. And the quoted sentence has a fine collection of commas – a good story to hear spoken, or to read aloud!

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