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Published: 2008-04-05T07:38:23-05:00


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Trent Reznor Prize, RNR Divsion


The Trent Reznor Prize for Tricky Embedding (Right-Node Raising division) goes to Andrew Ilachinsky, author of "Exploring self-organized emergence in an agent-based synthetic warfare lab", Kybernetes, 32(1/2): 38-76, 2003: 4.84 Universal grammar of combat. Finally, what lies at the heart...

Mailbag: comparative communication efficiency


In yesterday's post on "Comparing communication efficiency across languages", I compared the sizes of the English and Chinese sides of parallel (i.e. translated) text corpora, and observed that English seems to require 20-40% more bits to express the same information,...

Yet another "yeah no" note


Following up on "Yeah no" and "'Yeah no' mailbag" (4/3/2008), Russell Lee-Goldman writes: I was actually about to send a long email to you about yeah-no, but decided just to put it on my blog. That's "Yeah-no and no-yeah again",...

Textbook ambiguities


Many -- indeed, most -- linguistic expressions have more than one meaning.  An apparently trivial observation, but one that leads to all sorts of puzzles in linguistic analysis and theorizing.  The central question is how meanings are associated with...

An infuriating Cupertino


Audrey Devine-Eller writes in with the latest entry for the Cupertino files. This spellchecker-induced gem is from the Student Personnel Services page on South Brunswick (NJ) High School's website: In early August, all rising sophomore, junior and senior students will...

Comparing communication efficiency across languages


In response to last week's post on comparative vocabulary size ("Ask Language Log: Comparing the vocabularies of different languages", 3/31/2008), a number of readers sent observations about a related but different topic, namely the comparative efficiency of communication. At least...

"Yeah no" mailbag


I've gotten a number of interesting messages about this morning's "Yeah no" post, and I also found the time to transcribe and discuss one typically complex example that turned up among the 5,000-odd hits in the search I did on...

Saying it wrong on porpoise


Grant Barrett is now doing a weekly language column for the Malaysia Star, and this week he talks about saying things the wrong way on purpose — intentional errors like the Internets and coinkydink. The column got picked up by...

Yeah no


Matt Hutson writes: There's a phenomenon that has interested me for a while, and I noticed a extreme example last weekend. When people mean "yes" they sometimes say "no, yeah" or "yeah, no" and when they mean "no" they say...

"Ampersand asterisk star lightning bolt, you percent sign spiral thingy ministers!"


That would be the comic strip version, anyhow, of the scene evoked by the headline of Augustine Anthony's Reuters story, "Musharraf swears in Pakistan cabinet full of foes", 3/31/2008. [Hat tip to Andy Hollandbeck]...

Comprehensibility and standardness


Step 1: A language maven M contrasts two (roughly) equivalent variants X and Y, labeling them standard and non-standard respectively (or, more starkly, "correct" and "incorrect") and proscribing Y.  This is the labeling phase. Step 2: M attempts to...

Ernie Banks gets apostrophized


When the Chicago Cubs unveiled a statue of beloved player Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field earlier this week, there were murmurs of horror among the enemies of apostrophe abuse. The granite pedestal of the statue was inscribed with Banks' famous...

Pennsylvania blather?


With the Democratic presidential primary in Pennsylvania still three weeks away, political reporters have a lot of column inches to fill and are no doubt looking for creative ways to combat the campaign trail's proverbial fear and loathing. Take...

Important safety information


If you have strong concerns about English usage, science reporting, language analysis, lexicography, or linguistic atrocities of any kind, you should use Language Log. It is well known for its delayed release. For best results daily use is recommended. Although...

Speculative semiotics of Northern European product names


Richard Morrison's 3/12/2008 column for The Times (London) ran under the title "The very Ikea: Denmark takes the floor in an entertaining feud", and began like this: Not since Shakespeare declared that something was rotten in the state of Denmark...