260 posts tagged with linguistics.
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What is the meaning of the -core suffix?

In words like normcore, krishnacore, and all the words on this list, what do you think the meaning of the suffix -core is? What do you think people are trying to signify by adding -core to the end of words? Also, can you think of other examples of words that end in -core? [more inside]
posted by sam_harms on Jul 8, 2015 - 23 answers

Anyone see a 27-Tau-3832-Beta-Rho-44 come through here?

Is there a system that describes and measures appearances of humans precisely? [more inside]
posted by michaelh on Feb 23, 2015 - 7 answers

I do not sound like this

What's it called when people write like they talk, or don't? What's it called when people hear the voice of the writer when they read the words?
posted by michaelh on Feb 11, 2015 - 17 answers

Endangered U.S. culture: what remains underdocumented?

Tell me about what cultures, cultural practices, arts, religions, languages, lifestyles, hobbies, habits, fashion, unconventional individuals/families, or any other aspects of human life in the U.S. still remain severely underdocumented; or are at risk of fading away before they can be properly or meaningfully documented. [more inside]
posted by nightrecordings on Feb 10, 2015 - 41 answers

Is Japanese the only language this perverse?

In Japanese there is only a tenuous relationship between the way something is written, and the way it's pronounced. This is particularly true of names. I'm wondering if Japanese is the only language like this. For example, the simple name 一 can be read something like 7 ways, each of which sounds nothing like the others (Ichi, Kazu, Hajime, etc.). [more inside]
posted by zachawry on Feb 2, 2015 - 19 answers

Recommended reading about gender and language, gender generally

I was reading this comment by KathrynT about men's perceptions of women in groups being equal in number when the no. of women is 17%, women having to comprise over 80% of group members to get equal speaking time with men. I'd really like to know where this came from, about gender and language more widely, gender and misperceptions generally. I'm looking for book recommendations but am also interested in anything else you think is a good resource - blogs, articles etc. [more inside]
posted by everydayanewday on Jan 28, 2015 - 7 answers

What is the largest one-syllable number?

Twelve is the largest number whose English name has one syllable. I'm wondering what the largest number is whose name in some spoken language has one syllable.
posted by sen on Jan 21, 2015 - 20 answers

RussianFilter: Help me read better.

Are there resources or just tried-and-true methods to improve my Russian reading ability? Difficulty: I know zero Russian. [more inside]
posted by chainsofreedom on Jan 21, 2015 - 10 answers

Hearing glottal stops at beginning of an utterance

Is it possible to hear a glottal stop at the beginning of an utterance? [more inside]
posted by grouse on Jan 19, 2015 - 12 answers

The "visual onomatopoeia" for words like sizzling, hot, chilly, etc.

Sometimes, on restaurant menus or in other media that I'm not recalling at the moment, the text styling will reflect the meaning of the word. Examples off the top of my head: sizzling, hot, chilly. Here's an example in an advertisement. What would you call this phenomenon? The most apt description I can come up with is visual onomatopoeia, but is there a better word for this?
posted by arsgratia on Jan 7, 2015 - 5 answers

Can an animal understand a rhyme

Can any animal understand a rhyme? Different animals can process different things that we consider part of normal cognition. What about rhymes? Have there been studies done to see which species agree with humans that certain human words rhyme? Can my cats appreciate that I rap for them
posted by Greg Nog on Jan 6, 2015 - 21 answers

Where can I find a good list of "feeling" adjectives?

In other words, I'm looking for a list of adjectives that could complete the sentence "I am feeling __." This is actually a fairly extensive group of adjectives, and I'm wondering whether this type of adjective is identified formally as a certain type of adjective (which would make it easier to find the set) or whether anyone has assembled such a list.
posted by arsgratia on Nov 12, 2014 - 7 answers

Why Does My English Suck?

I have been speaking English for 2/3 of my life, yet I still think my English sucks. Care to enlighten me why? [more inside]
posted by pixxie on Sep 23, 2014 - 37 answers

In Japanese, why is the demonstrative "あそこ" instead of just "あこ"?

Japanese demonstratives follow the こそあど pattern, such as with これ/それ/あれ/どれ and この/その/あの/どの, so why does the pattern change with ここ/そこ/あそこ/どこ? Logically, shouldn't あそこ be あこ? Why isn't this the case? [more inside]
posted by reductiondesign on Aug 13, 2014 - 3 answers

Looking for a term: mispronouncing a word you've only ever read

Mr. sixswitch and I both have a common experience of precocious kids: trying out words that we've learned from reading in conversation, with tragic results. I pronounced disheveled as dis-heveled (because obviously you could also be heveled), he said 'doicksiem' instead of 'deuxième', and so on right up til yesterday (chassiss for chassis). Is there a linguistics term or nickname for this type of thing? [more inside]
posted by sixswitch on Aug 12, 2014 - 44 answers

Zuehl dëhn wortz Kobaian?

Has there ever been any real linguistic exmamination of Christian Vander and Magma's constructed Kobaian language? It seems odd that the Zeuhl style would prove influential enough to have other bands adopt the style and language and yet never have any sort of official lexicon.
posted by mediocre on Jun 18, 2014 - 5 answers

Zound changes at the beginning of sentences

Linguistics: Can the beginning of a sentence or phrase be a conditioning environment for sound variation? [more inside]
posted by Thing on May 30, 2014 - 6 answers

How did colonial Americans speak?

I am trying to write a story that takes place in 1660s Massachusetts. I have a great plot and characters, but the action stops when they open their mouths. I simply don't know how they spoke. How can I find examples of 17th century English as spoken by ordinary people? [more inside]
posted by Biblio on May 26, 2014 - 12 answers

Folks = parents?

Where you live, or where you grew up, do people commonly refer to their parents as "my folks"? Would that phrasing sound odd to you, or stand out in any way, if, say, a coworker used it? [more inside]
posted by mudpuppie on Apr 21, 2014 - 89 answers

What languages have more than one word for the English 'we'?

Are there any languages that have words that disambiguate the various possible meanings of the English 'we'? In English the 1st person plural pronoun 'we' (and its object counterpart 'us') can refer to groups 1) including only the speaker and the addressed person or persons, 2) including only the speaker and some further person(s) neither speaking nor being addressed but with whom the speaker claims a sort of representative power, and *not* including the addressee(s), or 3) including the speaker, the addresse(s) and some other people too. Are there any languages that have separate words for these distinct referential uses? [more inside]
posted by bertran on Mar 26, 2014 - 15 answers

"Guys! Check it out! The English term for it is..."

There's no shortage of articles online that take the basic form "here are awesome non-English words and phrases that are hilarious and/or that English doesn't have a direct translation for". Examples: A German slang term for low-back tattoos is "Aarsgewei", which translates to "ass antlers". Also in German, the term for eating because you are sad is "Kummerspeck", which is literally "grief bacon". The Finnish word for pedant, pilkunnussija, translates as "comma fucker". I'm curious about the flip-side, like a non-English-speaker being amused that low back tribal tattoos are called "tramp stamps" in the US. What English words or slang terms are amusing to speakers of foreign languages in the same way that I find some of their terms amusing and/or awesome?
posted by rmd1023 on Mar 25, 2014 - 54 answers

African languages among enslaved people in the USA.

When did enslaved Africans in the US stop speaking African languages? [more inside]
posted by jason's_planet on Mar 2, 2014 - 19 answers

What's up with this odd usage of the word "steal"?

In the early 1990s, the boys in my middle school used to threaten to "steal" each other, meaning hit/punch/sock/pop/smack. It was most commonly heard as, "I'mma steal you in your eye!" or "I'm gonna steal him upside the head!" I found it strange even then, and I haven't heard or seen reference to it since. Have you heard "steal" used like this before? Where could it have come from? Relevant details: This was in Nash County, North Carolina. I recall hearing it exclusively from white boys. The couple times I asked someone who was self-aware enough to discuss it, they were adamant that it was "steal" and not "steel."
posted by rhiannonstone on Feb 6, 2014 - 17 answers

What's going on with the comma placement ,here?

I'm on a dating site and I've noticed that in the profiles and messages of some non-native English speakers there's a pattern of irregular spacing around commas. I don't believe that it is a random typographical error, as I have seen it repeatedly by different writers. Here's an example: "I like to go to the party ,park,movies ,I like to go hike ,swimming ,travel " The above example is from a native Arabic speaker. Is this related to the grammatical construction of a particular language, differences in keyboards, or something else?
posted by aspen1984 on Aug 29, 2013 - 13 answers

Is there a language where I use less brackets?

Linguistics filter: Are there languages with an inflection of whatever type that denotes indeterminacy in its category? [more inside]
posted by PMdixon on Aug 27, 2013 - 5 answers

How is the jargon in Shadowrun translated in other languages?

Kind of curious about this. I know Shadowrun does/did well in Germany, and has/had at least a nominal presence in Japan. One of the (for good or ill) characteristics of the setting is the jargon and street slang. How are these translated into other languages? What are some examples?
posted by curious nu on Jul 26, 2013 - 4 answers

Looking for dialogue with a certain form

I'm looking for lines of dialogue from movies, novels, or elsewhere, in which someone says that something is not an X, even though it is an X, just not a mere X or typical X. An example of the type of exchange I'm looking for: "Wow, you spent a year's salary on a car?" "A car? This is isn't a car. It's a Lamborghini!" The second person knows that their Lamborghini is a car, but means to express that it isn't just a car. (It's important for my purposes that the person doesn't say 'just'.) There must be some recognizable instances of this type of speech, but I'm drawing a blank. Any ideas?
posted by painquale on Jul 7, 2013 - 16 answers

How did we get from "tax haven" to "tax heaven" to "tax hell"?

Has anyone come across good sources on the history and evolution of the term "tax haven"? I am looking for sources detailing at least its first appearance in written or spoken English, and if possible the date in which it was (wrongly) translated into French as "tax heaven" (paradis fiscal). [more inside]
posted by ipsative on Jun 23, 2013 - 6 answers

List of simple word roots

I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
posted by Monkey0nCrack on May 16, 2013 - 6 answers

How do you say "statistically significant" in your native language?

In English, scientists customarily use the word "significant" or "statistically significant" to refer to an effect that is distinguished from zero at a p < .05 confidence level. On the other hand, the word "significant" in non-technical English carries a connotation of being meaningful, important, or substantial; this creates confusion when researchers write about "a significant effect," since the effect might be significant in the statistical sense while being so small as to be insignificant in the common-English sense. In your native language, what word is used for "signficance" in the statistical context? Is the same word used outside the technical context, and if so, is it a word whose common meaning is something more like "detectable," more like "important," or something else entirely? In particular, does the confusion that arises in English also take place in your language?
posted by escabeche on Apr 24, 2013 - 5 answers

Cocktail party linguistics

How come that various forms of the verb "to be" have different degrees of similarity across German/English/Romance languages? The third person singular ist/is/est seems to have an obvious common root, whereas I don't see it jump out on me for bin/am/suis at all, and in other forms it seems like German and French are close with English the odd one out (sind/sommes/are), which I found puzzling given that I usually think of English as the bastard child of these two.
posted by themel on Mar 31, 2013 - 6 answers

Does this pronunciation have a linguistic name? Is it an accent thing?

Actor Clark Gregg (our beloved Agent Coulson) has a voice that I really enjoy. One feature I like a lot is the way he says R sounds, especially in the middle or ends of words. For an example, at around 0:35 in the trailer for Much Ado About Nothing (http://www.muchadothemovie.com/), it is especially apparent in the way he says "merry war" and "skirmish." (Also notable in the interrogation scene in "Thor" when he says "That's hurtful.") It's not a burred or rolled or flipped R, it's just sort of... liquid-sounding? I think it sounds really neat. In the past, I have noticed this in other actors and I always really like the way it sounds. My question: is this a feature of a certain kind of regional accent? Is there an official/proper term for the sound I mean? Or is it just an individual thing that certain people have that isn't tied to anything in particular? Linguists of MeFi, help me out!
posted by oblique red on Mar 18, 2013 - 8 answers

Think Thank Thought Leader

'Think tank' and 'thought leader' not 'thought tank' and 'think leader'. Can you help me construct a good argument for why we have settled on the first two and not the second? [more inside]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on Mar 17, 2013 - 7 answers

What ancient Anatolian alphabet is this?

I found some stone tablets written in a strange alphabet amongst a bunch of graves from different eras at the city museum of Tire, Turkey. The guy working the desk at the museum didn't know what they were. Pictures in extended. [more inside]
posted by Theiform on Mar 15, 2013 - 12 answers

Learning a neutral accent and DIY speech therapy

I teach for a living but have a lot of linguistic baggage that I'd like to get rid of. Specifically, I have some weird pronunciation/accent issues and would like to speak "General American" or newscaster English. Is this something I can do on my own? What resources should I use? [more inside]
posted by mecran01 on Feb 27, 2013 - 7 answers

Automata simulators?

What are the best automata (formal language theory) simulators? This is mainly for teaching purposes. I have used JFLAP in past iterations of the class in question, and my google searches suggest this is still the best option, but I was wondering if there is anything newer and better that I'm not finding. Details below. [more inside]
posted by advil on Jan 28, 2013 - 4 answers

OMG, storytelling in journalism is changing. What to read abot this?

Here's an European writing a book/thesis about storytelling in journalism. What texts (linguistics, literary theory etc – preferably *not* mass communication theory) might help in analysing contemporary changes in that field? [more inside]
posted by earthwormsleg on Jan 24, 2013 - 2 answers

Would Chalky White really have sounded like that?

Does anyone have any resources to find historical forms of Ebonics? [more inside]
posted by patricking on Dec 15, 2012 - 11 answers

Grammatical gender consistency across languages

Are grammatical genders, as a rule, consistent across the Indo-European languages which use them? [more inside]
posted by obloquy on Dec 4, 2012 - 30 answers

Passion for learning languages

How can I find a passion for language learning? [more inside]
posted by querty on Nov 27, 2012 - 21 answers


How do you pronounce "Long Island"? Think for a second and then join me inside. [more inside]
posted by Admiral Haddock on Nov 9, 2012 - 63 answers

Everything about (first/bilingual) language acquisition

Tell me everything about teaching kids how to speak and read and write. [more inside]
posted by pracowity on Oct 16, 2012 - 19 answers

Which languages is claimed to have switched families?

Which language is claimed to have shifted between language families? [more inside]
posted by Jehan on Oct 14, 2012 - 6 answers


Can the adjective "agape" be used only to modify "mouth" or can it be used to modify other things? Like ... "The jewelry box was now agape." That's maybe not the best example as perhaps you could think of a jewelry box as having a mouth. I'm aware that it's almost unheard of in common usage for anything but a mouth to be agape, but would it be incorrect to use this adjective on something else?
posted by january on Oct 1, 2012 - 21 answers

Help me get this linguistics joke?

Linguistics! Can you guys explain the joke in this image, which represents how different languages get from point A to point B? [more inside]
posted by Pwoink on Sep 30, 2012 - 13 answers

Which dictionaries are prescriptivist/descriptivist?

Is there some super-secret linguistics resource that sorts dictionaries by prescriptivism/descriptivism? Either in a binary chart or along a spectrum? Which dictionaries are known to fit these categories, and which are known to straddle them?
posted by aswego on Aug 23, 2012 - 11 answers

Research/studies on language recognition

Is there a word or term for not being able to understand a word of a language, but still being able to correctly recognize it if you hear it? For example, if I hear someone speaking German, Italian, Portuguese, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, or Mongolian, I can probably correctly identify that they’re speaking said language they’re speaking EVEN THOUGH I can’t understand a thing they’re saying. Has this been studied before? [more inside]
posted by huxham on Jul 19, 2012 - 12 answers

how to describe the "hw" sound

How could I describe in a non-technical way how certain English-speakers maintain a distinction between the "w" and "wh" sound? A certain amount of technical description could help. Its for a character in a story. For example: "The beginning of his 'what' still comes from deep within his throat." I don't know if that's technically true and it sounds awesomely terrible but something like that. [more inside]
posted by pynchonesque on Jul 13, 2012 - 19 answers

Pronounce "The One Sun Shone Down on the Brown Ground," Please

Linguistics-filter: What sort of English accent makes "brown," "sun," and "shone" all be pronounced with a similar vowel sound? [more inside]
posted by erst on Jul 13, 2012 - 17 answers

one 二 three 四 five 六 seven 八 nine 十...

Why is it so hard to quickly count from 1 to 100 alternating between 2 different languages on each digit? Any cognitive scientists want to explain this? [more inside]
posted by querty on Jun 25, 2012 - 13 answers

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