Link love: language (48)

It has been one month since my last confession confection of language links. Here, then, is a bumper assortment of linguistic treats for your weekend enjoyment:

Why English is like a wayward child.

Nouning: is accepting it a big ask?

The slang of Irvine Welsh.

Why do sign language interpreters look so animated?

Conlanging for hire.

Mumbling is macho.

When can right be an adverb?

Yolngu kinship terms and pronouns.

IPA vs. respelling.

‘Tis the season to shun holiday clichés.

A pinny for your thoughts.

Dummy prepositions.

The irrelephants of style.

Formality and the T-V distinction.

How to write with a baby.

A giant wall of colourful books.

Communal toilet ambiguity.


English words from Indian languages.

The etymology of bully.

7 ancient writing systems yet to be deciphered.

A dictionary of Ghanaian English.

Academic writing advice from Steven Pinker.

The new semiotics of punctuation.

No such thing as Scotch-Irish?

Analysing gender and speech variation on Twitter.

Is there a case for publically or economicly?

Deciphering proto-Elamite.

A new (internal) corpus of NYT usage.

The biological origin of linguistic diversity.


[language links archive]

11 Responses to Link love: language (48)

  1. Shaun Downey says:

    Another most interesting selection Stan

  2. alexmccrae1546 says:

    I found the article on the Scotch-Irish debate quite illuminating, from a personal perspective.

    As a born-and-bred Canadian of Scottish ancestry on both maternal (Fraser) and paternal (McCrae) sides of the family tree, I’ve been curious as to whether back in the mists of time my earliest forbearers may have been of Northern Irish, or Ulster stock, since most folk regard surnames beginning with “McC” (son of) as Irish in origin.

    I’ve heard some Macrae clan purists make the claim that the “Mac”s are the only legitimate Scottish-rooted branch of the tribe, and that us “McC”s are mere pretenders to the appellation.

    Interestingly, my grandad, Nicol McCrae, on my father’s side of the family, was born-and-raised in Glasgow, Scotland, where my father was born, as well. Nicol and family emigrated to Southern Ontario, Canada in the early 1900. Collingwood, Ont., up on Lake Huron was his first port-of-call and settlement—a town noted for its ship-building prowess, not unlike Glasgow-on-Clyde. (My granddad had worked as a youth in the shipyards of Glasgow for a time.)

    After reading the “Scotch-Irish” piece, I’ve kind of come to the realization that it doesn’t really matter to me if my surname is viewed as officially Scottish, or Irish, considering that the name “Scots” (from the Latin “Scotti”) originally referenced those folk currently living in what is now a goodly chunk of Ulster/ North-East Ireland, who in the early centuries of the the Common Era (6th & 7th c.) emigrated and settled in what is today southwest, coastal sector of Scotland—Argyll, Bute, and Lochaber. This Gaelic over-kingdom (spanning Ireland and today’s coastal Scotland, as it were) was known as Dal Riata, w/ the major seat of power centered at the fortress of Dun Add* situated in today’s rural Argyllshire, Scotland. It is here where scholars speculate that over centuries, many a Dal Riatic king had been officially crowned. With the invasion of the Viking hordes from the 8th century, onward, the once formidable Dal Riatic dynasty faded into history.

    *I had the great fortune to actually visit the meager remains of the hill fort of Dun Add back in the summer of 1996. It was a tremendously moving experience, knowing the once significant import of this 300-foot-high granite outcropping rising above the winding River Add, in the historical development of the region. Originally a Pictish fort, I vividly recall this beautifully etched-in-rock, fairly large, stylized running boar motif, that archaeologists at the site ascribed to the earlier Pict inhabitants of the monolith. There was also a carved impression of a crude foot outline, which scholars have speculated was likely used in some ritualistic manner in Dal Riatic kingly coronation rites.

  3. Incidentally, if you’ve wondered how to pronounce the Yolŋu kinship terms, I have a book with a 4-page appendix on that. Herewith some tips.

    Underlined consonants are retroflex. Consonant digraphs ending in ‘h’ are pronounced with the tongue between the teeth (so ‘nh’ is not an unvoiced ‘n’ as you might have guessed). The distinction between ‘r’ and ‘rr’ is that the former is an approximant and the latter is tapped. As for the vowels, ‘e’ is the long counterpart to ‘i’, ‘o’ is the long counterpart to ‘u’, and ‘ä’ is the long counterpart to ‘a’.

  4. Stan says:

    Shaun: Glad you enjoyed them – and thanks, as always, for your visit.

    Alex: Good to know that the Grammarphobia article was of interest.

    Adrian: That’s a very helpful set of tips. Thank you.

  5. alexmccrae1546 says:


    Reading between the lines, and knowing you are based Down Under, I surmised that Yolŋu was a particular Australian Aboriginal tribal dialect, although nothing in your explication specified the Aussie association.

    You nevertheless piqued my curiosity, and I proceeded to check out Stan’s link to young, energetic Phd anthropology candidate, Bree Blakeman’s engaging blog, Fieldnotes & Footnotes, which I found most intriguing, and a most delightful read.

    It was quite shocking to read Bree’s most recent post, recounting her having to undergo emergency ovarian cyst surgery, earlier this week. (Thankfully she seems well on the mend.)

    This young gal appears to exude pure optimism and moxy, displaying a real passion for her field of study. Her continuing activism for the Aboriginal cause is so very commendable, as well.

    Bree’s journal account of accidently running into a young wallaby w/ her car at the Top End, and her vain, but valiant attempt to put the poor gravely wounded creature out of its misery, was so moving, and written w/ such feeling and stark honesty. The Norah Jones tape tie-in definitely added a nice gallows humor touch to the whole sad affair.

    Her writing brings back fond memories of my one-and-only trip to Australia in our late summer of 1993 with my girlfriend of just a few weeks. The most enjoyable segment of our three-week Aussie adventure was definitely our excursions into Arnhem Land, particularly the amazing Kakadu National Park, and observing some of the most sacred ancient Aboriginal pictographic sites.

    Being a visual artist, with a interest in tribal art, naively, I thought we would be able to visit some of the Aboriginal settlements at the Top End, and perhaps commune with some of the more prominent dot-painting native aboriginal artists.

    Well, we soon discovered that a non-aboriginal, or visiting tourist, would need a government-issued permit, obtained well in advance, to set foot in settled Aboriginal territory. So much for that thought.

    I did buy an exquisite, fairly large dot-painting by an older female aboriginal artist, Minjy May, who was from the Kimberley Mts. area, southwest of Darwin. I see it each and every day, hanging prominently in my living room, and never tire of it.

  6. Alex:

    Technically Yolŋu denotes the people; the language is Yolŋu Matha (the language of the Yolŋu).

    The book I alluded to is Why Warriors Lie Down and Die by Richard Trudgen, which is available from the Aboriginal Resources and Development Services website. It has a lot to say about the importance of the peoples’ language and culture to their dignity and survival. I’ve heard rumours that not every Aboriginal activist endorses every detail of the book’s POV, but I couldn’t tell you where the differences are.

    I have never been to Arnhem Land. I’ve set foot inside every Australian state and territory, but haven’t been anywhere north of the Tropic of Capricorn.

    I have been to Scotland, though. In fact, I spent four years in Scotland as a child, and started school there. Our address was 93 Balmuildy Road, Bishopbriggs.

    There’s some Scottish ancestry on my mother’s side, but it is well diluted. They came from the settlement of Lothbeg — way up in the north — and were among the many expelled from the land to make room for the sheep. There’s a connection to the Gunn clan (not sure if that makes us mortal enemies). I don’t recall ever visiting Lothbeg, but my grandparents named their house after it, so obviously still felt some connection.

    • alexmccrae1546 says:

      I’m kind of blown away that you’ve never ventured beyond (north of) the the Tropic of Capricorn. Have you at least visited Uluru, or as most casual tourists would know it, Ayres Rock, southeast of Alice Springs? I believe it almost straddles the Tropic of Capricorn’s latitudinal demarcation.

      Surprised you haven’t ventured up to the very top-end, to the almost tropical Darwin, official capital of the Northern Territory. I’ve heard it has the rather ignominious reputation as the beer drinking (total consumption thereof) capital of Australia.

      All I know is that in Darwin my girlfriend and I had the good fortune to experience our first taste of that delightful native fish, the barramundi, translated from the local aboriginal Australian as “large-scale river fish”. We experienced this amazingly mild, flaky, yet most tasty fish in a Thai-style stir-fry, w/ a hint of ginger, and fresh green onions. Best fish I’ve ever tasted, bar none.

      Interestingly, images of the barramundi appear with some frequency in Aboriginal pictographic art going back thousands of years, and in the works of contemporary artists.

      I trust you may have visited Kangaroo Island, off Adelaide? For us, this was a most memorable, and exciting aspect of our ’93 Australia excursion. The almost otherworldly geology of the island, with its incredibly massive, monolithic free-standing odd-shaped boulders just leaves one in total awe. I was taken by the bright orange lichen that covered most of these huge, wind-sculpted forms.

      Witnessing Aussie sheepdogs doing their thing, corralling some thirty sheep into a compact herd, and then seeing them leap up on the sheeps’ backs was a real treat. Also got to observe a few sheep being sheered.

      It was hard to say what was more impressive in the nature realm— seeing a procession of adorable miniature fairy penguins that nested on the island; the gorgeous, yet very raucous pink galahs, or the mini-wallabies that kept pretty inconspicuous in the tight tangle of shoreline scrub vegetation.

      What fond memories.

      • Yes, I’ve visited Ayres Rock (when I was 15) and Kangaroo Island (when I was 10). I live in Adelaide and was raised on Yorke Peninsula, so Kangaroo Island is really quite local.

        My parents help out each year with the annual sheepdog trials in their country town. It’s hard for me to imagine that, or sheep shearing, or galahs, as a novelty: to me they belong to the realm of the relatively mundane and familiar.

        What makes climbing Ayres Rock as an energetic 15-year-old a particularly awesome memory is that for a few moments I had a full-sized wedge-tailed eagle hovering just a metre above my head! It was residing in one of a few patches of shrubbery that grow on top of the Rock itself, and which I had decided to walk over to and inspect. We believe the eagle was waiting for me to disturb a mouse or other prey item for its lunch.

        OK, I think this is as much as is appropriate to say here. If you want to continue the conversation my email address is dragon at netyp dot com dot au.

  7. alexmccrae1546 says:

    As the twinkle of the sparkly lights of the annual Indian Festival of Dawali begin to fade, and appetites for assorted traditional sweet delights are finally sated, I couldn’t resist some musing upon Stan’s link to “English words from Indian Languages”, a most informative, and fun read.

    The following is a sentence I concocted with no less than seven Indian-derived (mostly Hindi), now-fairly-common English words, only one of which (“bungalow”) appeared in the aforementioned article.

    “At jungle’s edge, rising from his simple, low-slung cot, the pajama-ed, slightly grizzled shaib Laidlaw stood erect (don’t go there. HA!), scanning the open Pacific from the veranda of his cozy beachfront bungalow, spotting a mere speck of what appeared to be a lone dinghy floating on the far horizon.”

    OK. I know the suspense is killing…. NOT!

    The seven Indian language-rooted words are “jungle”, “cot”, “pajamas”, “sahib”, “veranda”, “bungalow”, and “dinghy”.

    For me, the etymology of the word “veranda” (or “verandah”) was particularly interesting. It’s apparently a portmanteau of two Hindi words, i.e., ‘bahar’, which means outside, and ‘andar’ which means inside, combined to form the word ‘baharanda’ (Makes perfect sense, no?)…. which was eventually Anglicized to “veranda” with a suggested nominal assist from the Portuguese ‘vananda’.

    The word “pajamas” was co-opted from the Persian “peyjama”– meaning “leg garment”, which during the colonial British Raj occupation of India was incorporated into English via the Hindustani, yet Persian-influenced ‘paijaamaa’. Fascinating stuff.

    “Jungle” came from the Hindi word ‘jangal’, meaning wilderness, or dense forest.

    “Cot” comes from the Hindi word for a portable bed, namely ‘khāt’.

    “Dinghy” from the Hindi ‘dinghi’, meaning boat.*

    On a personal note, my late grandmum, (affectionately called Nan when she was still with us), was born in Bangalore, India, in 1886, the daughter of a Major Barrows, serving with, I believe, the 12th Lancers British regiment then-stationed in the south-central sector of the Sub-Continent. Of course today, Bangalore is the IT capital of the nation, and a major center for U.S. commercial outsourcing.

    “My name is Alfred… how may I help you?” OK Alfred, just for you I’ll suspend my disbelief.

    *In the nautical vein w/ a decidedly Indian twist, that just-released Ang Lee-directed film “Life of Pi” sounds like a major must-see.

  8. wisewebwoman says:

    I see your blog is no longer quite yours, Stan, you are a very gracious and generous host.

    Loved the links. Communal toilets put me in mind of 2, one in Italy, one in Havana.

    Suffice to say, the one in Italy still boggles my mind, and deserves a post unto itself, The one in Havana was at the airport around 1978, and had waist high walls around each unit. Brought communal to a whole new level when people around me chatted as if they were in the finest of cafes.


  9. Stan says:

    WWW: The Havana toilet sounds like the ultimate leveller. I suppose one could get used to it readily enough if it was the done thing locally!

    I am losing patience with persistently long, off-topic comments. It’s not that they’re uninteresting, but this is not the place for them. I would write a commenting policy to address this (and other matters), but I don’t think it would be heeded.

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