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Last Build Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 00:34:36 +0000


The Primordial Gound.

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 00:34:36 +0000

Yes, you read it right, that’s “gound.” Justin E. H. Smith’s unsettling… essay? … for The Public Domain Review will explain it. Eventually. It begins (after a brief bit of throat-clearing): Benno Guerrier von Klopp (1816–1903) was a Baltic German philologist, of French Huguenot origin, who studied at the University of Saint Petersburg and made […]

India’s “Mother Tongues.”

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 00:31:05 +0000

There’s all sorts of interesting stuff in Parvathy Raveendran’s report for on a recent translation-centred literary festival in Bangalore, from what is meant by “mother tongue” to invented scripts (“as in the case of Santali in eastern India: the Ol Chiki script was invented in 1925 by Pandit Raghunath Murmu to approximate an alphabet […]

Luwian Hieroglyphic Inscription Deciphered?

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 23:54:12 +0000

Another of those intriguing-if-true reports, this one by Natasha Frost for Atlas Obscura: A limestone slab, 31 yards long, may have related the story of the end of the Bronze Age. An interdisciplinary team of Swiss and Dutch archaeologists have now deciphered the symbols thought to have adorned the frieze, almost 150 years after it […]

Richard Wilbur, RIP.

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 13:02:04 +0000

The man whom I called “perhaps my favorite living poet” is, alas, no longer living. Richard Wilbur is dead at 96. I refer you to that fine NY Times obituary by Daniel Lewis for details of his life and career (as well as some poetry); I’ll quote a couple of poems here (for more, see […]

On Hindustani.

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 22:05:59 +0000

Karthik Venkatesh writes about languages and dialects; most of it is standard stuff that’s old hat at the Hattery (the Weinreich quote; the history of standard English, French, and Turkish), but I thought this section was interesting enough to bring to LH: In similar fashion, in the subcontinent, a Sanskritized Hindi and a Persianized Urdu […]

From Boiling Lead and Black Art.

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 00:15:56 +0000

Even if you have no particular interest in the history of mathematical typography (I don’t, even though I once wanted to be a mathematician), if you have any interest at all in typography, especially the old-fashioned hot-type kind, you will enjoy Eddie Smith’s From boiling lead and black art: An essay on the history of […]

English Usage Myths.

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 00:13:33 +0000

Since we’re on the topic of myths, here’s Stan Carey’s delightful A to Z of English usage myths: English usage lore is full of myths and hobgoblins. […] Huge effort is wasted on such trivialities. So, as a quick exercise in myth-busting (and amusing myself), I posted an A to Z of English usage myths […]

The ‘Myth’ of Language History.

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 00:17:10 +0000

This story reports on a finding that’s surprising if true: The ‘myth’ of language history: languages do not share a single history but different components evolve along different trajectories and at different rates. A large-scale study of Pacific languages reveals that forces driving grammatical change are different to those driving lexical change. Grammar changes […]


Wed, 11 Oct 2017 22:16:46 +0000

Back in 1985, Kazuo Ishiguro wrote a review for the LRB (which sent me the link in celebration of Ishiguro’s Nobel) of Pictures from the Water Trade: An Englishman in Japan by John David Morley (a book I have owned for many years but have not gotten around to reading), and since the central portion […]

The Japanese Bridge.

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 14:13:27 +0000

Back in the early days of LH we had a long thread based on the local pronunciation of New York’s Kosciuszko Bridge; I now present a delightful followup (by John Moy) from the Metropolitan Diary section of the NY Times: Dear Diary: The construction of a new Kosciuszko Bridge, the demolition of the old one […]

Columbus’s Catalan.

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 00:00:54 +0000

Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera of the University of Puerto Rico has a brief but interesting Lingua Franca piece on the national origins of Christopher Columbus: While conventionally regarded as Genovese, his language had resonances of Catalan. Columbus signed documents (and was referred to in state records) as “Colom” — a Catalan last name meaning “dove.” There is […]

Preserving Laz.

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 00:15:35 +0000

I don’t normally link to videos, but Saving Turkey’s endangered Laz language is only a bit over three minutes long, and you can not only hear a little of that Caucasian language but see a brief clip of a Laz dictionary. (Laz previously on LH.) Thanks, Trevor!

Veltman’s Sara.

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 19:36:21 +0000

I’ve finished Veltman’s Воспитанница Сара [The ward Sara] (see this post), and I regret to say that I’m grievously disappointed; it’s the first of his novels that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone except a Veltman completist (like myself). I was hoping for good things because Sara is a classic Veltman heroine: self-willed, impatient, eager to […]

Irish Calligraphy.

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 12:44:55 +0000

Occasional commenter speedwell writes: I have done a bit of calligraphy over the decades and I live in the rural West of [Ireland]. So I notice that the street signs and a lot of the art and all of the old Irish writing is in what my teachers in the Donegal course simply called “the […]

Faroe Islands Translate.

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 00:06:00 +0000

This is a really clever and delightful site, described in this PR Newswire story: The tiny Faroe Islands – 18 islands in the North Atlantic, located between the Shetlands, Iceland and Norway – are once again taking on giant Google in a bid to have their unique language included on Google Translate. They have created […]

Linguistics Movies and TV Show Episodes.

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 20:18:27 +0000

Gretchen McCulloch (a linguist previously seen at LH here and here) has posted A very long list of linguistics movies, documentaries, and TV show episodes which is exactly as advertised. It starts with “Arrival, 2016” (discussed at LH here) and ends with Whistles in the Mist (“Interesting questions about origin of lg. typology”); lots of […]

Sooth, Forsooth.

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 23:58:24 +0000

Another quote from Ford Madox Ford’s Memories and Impressions (see this post). He’s been talking about how the English avoid saying anything that anyone might take offense at, whereas the Germans are constantly saying provocative things in loud voices; he goes on: Take German philologists. These are formidable people. To set out upon the history […]

The Future of EU English.

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 00:19:12 +0000

Cathleen O’Grady writes about a possible result of Brexit that hadn’t occurred to me; after describing a guide called “Misused English words and expressions in EU publications” that details “many of the ways in which European English has gone a bit wibbly” from the point of view of UKanians, she says: Following Brexit, the UK […]

Draft of New Latin-based Kazakh Alphabet.

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 17:26:20 +0000

I realize it’s just a draft, and may never become a reality (a point made by cliff arroyo in this recent Log thread: “The switch from cyrillic to latin seems to be one of these issues that shows up every few years and gets some press and then disappears”), but this Kazinform report includes a […]

Learning Minority Languages.

Sun, 01 Oct 2017 00:06:39 +0000

Alice Bonasio writes for Quartz about an apparent paradox: Yet at the same time as teens in the UK are turning their back on traditionally valued European languages such as German, French, and Spanish, Britain is experiencing a strong surge of interest in local idioms. There has been an uptake of kids learning languages such […]