An interview at Grammarist

October 7, 2014

I’ve been interviewed by Grammarist, a website specialising in words and language use. Among the topics addressed are the origins of Sentence first, whether blogging has changed language use, common mistakes, and how I would change the way people use language.

Here’s one Q&A item:

What is so interesting about language/grammar to you?

I’ve always been drawn to nature and biology, and language is one of its more compelling phenomena – not least because we use it to think and communicate with. As the Modest Mouse song goes, it’s the liquid that we’re all dissolved in. Once you start looking closely at language it opens up worlds of wonder, be it the complex choreography of speech or syntax or the transporting effects of a novel or poem. Sometimes language gets in our way, but it’s hard to imagine human life without it.

You can read the rest here. Despite my tendency to ramble I kept things fairly short and light. Comments are welcome at either location.

Grammarist has a good series of these interviews, with some names that I’m sure will be familiar to you. Anyone in the mood for even more can read earlier interviews I did for Copyediting newsletter and the WM Freelance Writers Connection.


Top 100 language lovers 2014

May 25, 2014

Language portal bab.la is having its annual “Language Lovers” poll. I’ve placed well in recent years but I don’t read much into the results; nor should you. Twitter’s “Follow Friday” is used as a scoring metric, for example, despite being as spammy and arbitrary as it is edifying.

Still, it’s a bit of fun and a fine way to discover new language-related resources. You can vote for Sentence first – or a blog of your choice – in the Language Professionals poll, and if you’re feeling generous you can vote for @StanCarey in the Language Twitter Accounts poll.

Macmillan Dictionary Blog, to which I’m a contributor, appears in the Language Learning Blogs list. There’s good browsing material on all these pages. For more information about the competition, go here. Voting ends on 9 June.


Fleeting greetings

December 22, 2013
[click to enlarge]

 New Yorker cartoon 3 - William Steig - either cheer up or take off the hat

New Yorker cartoon 1 - George Price - Between the ho ho hos and the bah humbugs

Cartoons by William Steig and George Price, from The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925–1975. “Cheer up or take off the hat” is a good motto for the winter, wouldn’t you say?

In the meantime, thanks for your visits and comments to Sentence first this year – the blog wouldn’t happen without you. Have a peaceful Christmas and a happy new year, and see you on the other side.


Four blogs on language and linguistics

August 26, 2013

Today I want to briefly mention* four language/linguistics blogs that deserve your attention and might not have broached your radar.

Actually I linked to Glossologics lately, but there’s lots of new posts since. Its emphasis is on etymology – origins of words and phrases – but there’s plenty of other stuff too: on foreign grammar, writing systems, language learning and more. Writer Alex Tigers updates it regularly with tasty linguistic morsels – and apparently she makes the best chocolate cake, though regrettably I can’t confirm this.

Word Jazz is “a celebration of linguistic creativity” from Matt Davis, a linguistics postgrad in London who is fascinated by all things language. The blog debuted at the start of this year and so far has looked at several aspects of linguistic creativity, such as vowels in pop music, lexical combinations, and the colourful life of adverbs (“the garden glittered greenly in the sun”).

the mashed radish will also be of interest to etymology fans. It’s written by language hobbyist John Kelly, who by his own admission is obsessed with English etymologies and the “stories our words tell about us”. Over the last few weeks he has delved into the histories of bask, self and other, and various citrus fruits: all sorts of everything etymological.

Finally, …And Read All Over is the brainchild of linguistics major Joe McVeigh, champion of free-form grammar and Robert Burchfield, Original Gangster. Notwithstanding its satirical tendencies, the blog has a serious side; recent posts have discussed the language instinct debate, and academic and marketing applications of corpus linguistics. He reviews books too.

All four are well worth visiting, and perhaps bookmarking or subscribing if their subject matter and style appeal.

*

* Not I want briefly to mention, which would mean something quite different, split infinitive watchers.


Link love: language (55)

July 4, 2013

The number of subscribers to Sentence first has doubled in the last few months. If you’re new here, welcome, and if you’re a veteran reader, thanks for your endurance. The blog placed respectably in bab.la’s recent poll/competition of top language professionals’ blogs. Thank you to bab.la and all who took time to vote.

My Twitter page also placed well. Its focus is on language, mixed with books, chat, general and specialist links, and miscellany. If you tweet, feel free to follow or say hello. I pop in and out most days. Blog and Twitter both made bab.la’s overall list of top language lovers, which you might like to browse for a random assortment of linguaphiles.

And so to business, or rather fun: a roughly monthly set of language-related links I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks. There’s a lot here, but I try to be picky. Some I’d have blogged separately about were I not so busy editing, so hopefully they’ll make up for the relative scarcity of new posts here at the moment.

*

Does grammar matter? Stop asking silly questions.

English is no longer the language of the web.

What’s wrong with the passive voice?

How emo got political.

Suffix-ception.

A homonyms quiz.

The Ogham stones of Scotland.

Not all distinctions are equally valuable.

Unsent emails from a lexicographer.

Think similar; or, the nouning of adjectives.

The coupling of speech and gesture appears to be ancient.

Are you incentivized to avoid incent?

A bleisurely look at our fondness for blends.

The secret history of cracker.

Is the Voynich Manuscript structured like written language?

Female doctor or woman doctor? How about neither?

A brief history of swearing (podcast, 25 min.).

Çapuling: the swift rise of a new word.

Medieval pet names.

In polite defence of ‘No problem’.

Where does the phrase nest egg come from?

What is an accent?

Cyber’s new life as a standalone noun.

Standard English is a continuum, not an absolute.

The new language of social media photos.

The etymology of goblin.

Shitstorm in a (German) dictionary.

Since vs. because: on clarity and made-up rules.

Light Warlpiri, a (relatively) new language in northern Australia.

Samuel Johnson’s notes on the letters of the alphabet.

Teenage hyperpolyglot: an interview with Timothy Doner (9½ min.).

Dissecting the meaning of Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

*

[archive of language links]

Bab.la top language lovers

May 23, 2013

Language portal bab.la is holding its annual competition of top language lovers, and Sentence first is honoured to appear in the Language Professionals category.

Click the image below to see the 100 shortlisted (if that’s not an oxymoron) and vote for Sentence first or another blog of your choice:

Vote the Top 100 Language Professional Blogs 2013

My Twitter page (@StanCarey) was also selected, so if you’re feeling generous you can vote for me here:

Vote the Top 100 Language Twitterer 2013

Though I placed respectably last year (see the badges in the sidebar), my expectations in these contests are modest; tireless self-promotion is not my strong point. But they’re a good way to find new language writers, and they’re also an opportunity to welcome new visitors.

Finally, if you’re in a voting or browsing kind of mood, there are also polls for Facebook pages and language-learning blogs. The latter includes Macmillan Dictionary Blog, to which I contribute regular posts.


New language blog: Caxton

May 10, 2013

Caxton is a new blog about language from Barrie England, an Oxford graduate who has studied English literature, foreign languages, and older varieties of English. It is named after printing pioneer William Caxton, who, as Barrie writes, “by using technology to reach a wider public . . . can be seen as the progenitor of the digital age”.

Barrie wrote Real Grammar before its host pulled the plug; I’ve linked to it here in the past, most recently to his post on the rise of Swiss German dialect. Some of you may also know him from his insightful comments at Sentence first.

Since setting up Caxton and importing his old posts, Barrie has been blogging regularly, offering astute and balanced observations on such subjects as the value of linguistics, the early shapers of English, education, reflexive pronouns, dialects, grammar, and Jacques Brel. Rummage around and you’ll find all sorts of good material.

If you’re interested in the usage, history, politics, and beauty of English – or language generally – I recommend visiting and bookmarking Caxton. I’ve also added it to the links in the sidebar of this blog.

Updates: More thoughts on Caxton: Language Hat wishes it a “long and prosperous career”, while You Don’t Say celebrates “a new voice of sense and informed judgment”.


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