Link love: language (51)

A more-or-less-monthly roundup of links on language, grammar, usage, writing, linguistics and such things. Browse at will and click your fill.

Do animals have accents?

Irish language used in space.

Why tongue twisters are hard to say.

Digital Dütsch: the rise of Swiss German writing.

From corpus to dictionary: how lexicographers use databases.

A history of ise vs. –ize.

If and when you say if and when.

Grammar rules and the persistence of ignorance.

Morality, dictionaries, and the Voice of Authority.

Men and women use uptalk differently.

The cyberpragmatics of bounding asterisks (*happy dance*).

Wet your whistle and whet your appetite.

How to write an academic introduction.

Laughter among deaf signers.

Why pick on adverbs?

The grammar of newspaper headlines.

When physicists do linguistics.

Is decimate the peeve to beat all peeves?

How not to test English language competence.

The Alphabet Man and his twig letters.

How did X and O come to represent affection?

Kick ass: a once-vulgar phrase goes mainstream.

Prepositions are not what they’re claimed to be.

Mother languages and identity in Zimbabwe.

Mapping languages in England and Wales.

Documenting Aramaic before it disappears.

On coherence in speech and its lack in academic writing.

Grammar badness makes cracking harder the long password.

The man who couldn’t speak – and how he revolutionized psychology.

Take A Minute To Watch The New Way We Make Web Headlines Now.


[language links archive]

5 Responses to Link love: language (51)

  1. gill francis says:

    Hi Stan, I followed your link to ‘Being a preposition’ and was quite surprised to find the writer saying that ‘before’ is basically a preposition, but one that acts in a versatile way – e.g it is used before a clause, as in ‘before that happened’. Normally we call ‘before’ a conjunction here, like ‘because’ and the rest. He also says that ‘before’ can’t be an adverb because ‘it doesn’t behave anything like an adverb syntactically’. Adverbs are such a mixed bag that they behave in a variety of ways, and anyway, hasn’t he just said that syntactic behaviour doesn’t affect the classification?

    The assumption of learner’s dictionaries, which I completely agree with, is that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck. Macmillan has no problem calling ‘before’ a preposition, conjunction, and adverb, according to what it is doing in a clause. If you say no, it is a preposition, it just acts a little peculiar at times, officer, then the implications of this must get you into a terrible tangle. Surely word-class is assigned because of behaviour,not in spite of it?

    I’m wondering what your view is on this, since you probably follow the blogs more than I do. Though I do read yours – I’ve just been lazy about commenting, even when I do want to!

  2. Hi Stan, After reading The Persistence of Ignorance, I have to admit I am puzzled by the degree of venom in the backlash against “two-spacers.”

    I myself am a two-spacer, and I remain so for two reasons: first, it provides a visual pause between sentences, allowing the mind a virtual breath.

    My second, more pragmatic reason is that when I type an email in Microsoft Outlook, the spellchecker yells at me if I only use one space. Can the largest supplier of commercial word processing software be wrong on such a point?

    It leaves me wondering… was the change to a single space a matter of newsprint economy; and if so, does the imminent demise of hard-copy news media invalidate the change?


    • The two space rule has to do with the transition from typewriters to computer word processing. With a typewriter every letter and space takes up the same amount of space. Once we shifted to word processors, letters could be spaced depending on their size and the two space rule was generally done away with. However, I still continue to use two spaces because I learned to type on a typewriter not a computer.

  3. Stan says:

    Gill: All good points, thank you. I found Pullum’s case persuasive when I read it (and my line containing the link perhaps reflects this), but I didn’t dwell on the analysis – and I know how much variation there is between grammarians and other authorities on how best to categorise word classes. I may follow more blogs than you, but I think you have much more training and experience in this area! So I’d be very interested in reading a post about it, if the idea appeals to you at all.

    Fern: Sometimes it seems the more minor the disagreement, the more passionate are people’s feelings about it. I see no need for venom to be directed towards two-spacers (and there’s none in the article I link to), but one space is by far the usual preference nowadays. I summarised my thoughts on it on Twitter a couple of days ago.

    Outlook’s yelling is no indication of correctness or incorrectness, and as far as I know this can be adjusted in the program’s Grammar Settings. (Commercial word-processing software, incidentally, can and often is wrong on matters of basic grammar and style.) Wikipedia has a detailed page on the history of sentence spacing which might interest you.

  4. […] 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 […]

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