English Language Laboratory


Fun fact: The words dang (1781), darn, (1781)  tarnation (1784), and deucedly (1779), are all late 18th century words, first appearing in print between 1779 and 1784. 

Source: English Lexicogenesis by Gary Miller



I just found out that snazzily is a word.

English language, you are a majestic creature.


Reverse Outline:

  • David Crystal starts off the article by quoting John Humphrys. He says that texting is ruining our language.
  • John Sutherland refers to texting as penmanship for illiterates.
  • People argued that new technology would harm the language.
  • Texting became popular in the 90s. The…

excellent for the essay I set my students this week


ok, so, David Crystal came to my uni today for a symposium about whether Standard English is on its way out. He was hillarious and educating. And it was AWESOME. And I got an autograph (because I can fangirl over reknown linguists as much as I want, thank you very much.) 

Correcting children's language isn't terribly effective
Child: Want other one spoon, Daddy.
Father: You mean, you want the other spoon.
Child: Yes, I want other one spoon, please Daddy.
Father: Can you say "the other spoon"?
Child: Other . . . one . . . spoon.
Father: Say "other".
Child: Other.
Father: "spoon".
Child: Spoon.
Father: "Other spoon".
Child: Other . . . spoon. Now give me other one spoon?
A real example from Braine (1971).



As Peterson says in his talk, a big part of the process of naturalizing conlangs is attempting to imitate the quirks and idiosyncrasies of a natural language as it evolves over time. In developing Dothraki, Peterson started by imagining how the Dothraki people would have spoken 1,000 years in the past. Creating a protolanguage allowed Peterson to evolve Dothraki “organically,” changing its sounds, grammar and semantics. But how do you create linguistic regression?

The first challenge in imagining a lost culture is to unlearn what you know about modern technology in order to grasp a linguistic view of the world before, say, books and medicine. Says Peterson, “You become part historian, part archaeologist, part detective. You say, ‘Here were my resources, how did I know all this stuff?’”

Happy (slightly belated) Game of Thrones season premiere, everyone!

This article goes into the process and intentions behind the creation of Dothraki and the way Peterson (dedalvs) attempts to mimic organic development of the language. What’s really incredible about this process is how our understanding of linguistics, sociolinguistics, and anthropology all inform the development of a conlang. Although Peterson doesn’t need to create the world behind the Dothraki language (since GRRM’s canon world is already fleshed out), he still must consider small details and historical mindsets that aren’t discussed in the books or show. Just like languages exist as nebulous and ever-changing entities within and between humans, an organic-like constructed language must mimic the variation and irregularity of naturally occurring human languages. The more we learn about how our human language faculties work, like what their limitations are and why they work the way they do, the more “accurate” our creative endeavors to mimic human language can be.

(Maybe it should be — at least, it should be as hard as speaking any other language!)

There’s an interesting contrast between conlangers who are more interested in language as an abstract system, and who tend to create languages that either aim for a kind of “perfection” or have unnatural but fascinating constraints, such as having no verbs, just to see how it could work, versus conlangers who are more interested in language as a cultural system, and who tend to create elaborate worlds and histories and cultural contexts around their languages that constrain how they’re formed. Peterson is clearly on the cultural side, at least for these languages. 


International Horn Sounds [chapmangamo]

Previously: International Phone Sounds

Quantifier Scope Jokes


From a recent tweet by James Martin: 

A woman gives birth in the UK every 48 seconds. She must be exhausted.

Which reminded me of a recent conversation I had about the surprisingly dangerous skills of deer: 

Every year, somebody’s dog gets killed by a deer. It’s always the same person. They never learn. You just shouldn’t have a Chihuahua in Churchill, Manitoba

Obviously, the original intention is for neither the same woman nor the same dog owner, and the humour comes from violating this expectation, but why are both readings available in the first place? 

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This post has been sitting in my draft pile for a while. It was initially just based on personal introspection. I had come to realise that one easy give away when I’m annoyed is that I’ll preface a request or suggestion with ‘dude’:

dude, can you please turn that music down

dude, we’re going…

Bother is such a British word. It sounds so funny when you say it over and over again.

Bother is such a British word. It sounds so funny when you say it over and over again.


Have you ever wondered how male bovine excrement became synonymous with boldfaced nonsense?

Most would say, “Well, because it smells,” but why bulls in particular? Perhaps bull pies are a particularly smelly brand of animal waste.

As it happens, bull, as a synonym for deceitful foolishness,…


oh verbs, ur so silly


oh verbs, ur so silly