If Finnish is Godzilla, what creature is English?

February 2, 2016

This image has been floating around the internet for a while, but I don’t think I’ve seen it on a language blog. I don’t know who created it, but a search on TinEye suggests it originated on 9gag in 2014 as a two-part visual joke comparing Swedish and German grammar, before being variously (and anonymously) modified and extended.

[click to enlarge]

Scandinavian grammar - Swedish Danish Norwegian Icelandic Finnish kitten cat tiger alien godzilla

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LOLcat linguistics: I can has language play?

December 8, 2011

Oh hai. Few internet memes have enjoyed the cultural penetration and staying power of LOLcats (examples; home; Wikipedia). Whether they annoy you, amuse you, or please you to the point of purring, there’s no avoiding them online, and they’ve even infiltrated the physical world.

LOLspeak (the language of LOLcats) is too new to have attracted much scholarly research to date. But there is some, and it features in “I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak”, a presentation by Jill Vaughan and Lauren Gawne at the Australian Linguistic Society’s annual conference in 2011.

Vaughan and Gawne identify LOLspeak as a form of language play that serves in-group cohesion: if you’re in on the joke, you’re part of the community. They show how a LOLcat simultaneously builds two identities: the ubiquitous cat and the internet-savvy human that gives it its idiosyncratic voice.

This slide, for example, quoting the LOLcat Bible, demonstrates LOLspeak’s eccentric form:

The presentation is at once funny and informative. After briefly explaining the origins and context of LOLspeak, it briskly addresses its phonetics, orthography, lexicon, syntax, and morphology. We see how the surreal and deliberately mangled “cat-world discourses” reveal a playful sophistication and a “high level of metalinguistic awareness”.

See enough LOLcats and you’ll notice themes and sub-memes recur and become recursive. It’s creative but far from anarchic: linguistic norms have emerged but further subversion is always possible, even relished. Apparently some people have argued that LOLspeak is a creole, but “that’s just cos they want to use the phrase kitty pidgin”…

Here’s the video:

[via Superlinguo]


Lauren Gawne and Jill Vaughan’s paper ‘I can haz language play: The construction of language and identity in LOLspeak’, published by the Australian Linguistic Society, is now available in PDF form.

Old books in an old wheelbarrow

March 16, 2009

Stan Carey - books in a wheelbarrow

These are props that my friends used in a short film they shot over the weekend. They took the wheelbarrow to a bookshop, filled it with books, and took it for a walk. I can’t tell you where, why, or what happens to the books, because it would spoil the surprise when you watch the film on its international premiere.

Stan Carey - light reflector

Here is a pair of crew members standing over a light reflector. If we had been making a cheap fantasy film it could have served as a Golden Mirror of Mystery. You may be relieved to learn that we weren’t and it didn’t.

Stan Carey - shed interior


My involvement in the film was peripheral, mostly as book lender and set photographer. Depending on what happens in post-production editing, I may have an inadvertent cameo as “tourist who quickly gets out of the way of the wheelbarrow”.

There might also be a cameo by this cat:

Stan Carey - funny cat

The cat made a series of funny faces as it scratched itself against the stub of a shrub. I suggested a career in silent films, and it purred in apparent approval.