A peculiar feature of some adjectives ending in -y is their ability to take on a semantic life of their own, separate from the meaning of their root. A handful of food-based adjectives fit this pattern, in which an English learner would be at a great disadvantage in thinking that the adjective's meaning might be composable from its parts. Think of corny, meaty, fishy, and cheesy. Continue reading...
How speakers introduce additions to the language that then gain circulation is difficult to document: even today in the Internet age, tracing the origins of linguistic innovation is a sleuth's game and it's a subject that intrigues linguists. Now researchers are trying to bring more light to the process by which people create, learn and use new words. Continue reading...
Two US states celebrate their centenaries in 2012: Arizona and New Mexico. We join them this month with a look at their unique contributions to English, and the characteristic ways in which language contact gives rise to borrowing, hybridization, and neologisms. Continue reading...

Jes Lurn 2 Spel

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A recent article in Wired by Anne Trubek argues that the advent of the fully digital age will — and should — have as great an influence on English spelling as the age of print did, more than half a millennium ago. The author, a professor at Oberlin College, argues that our current obsession with correct spelling is out of keeping with the digital age: "Consistent spelling was a great way to ensure clarity in the print era. But with new technologies, the way that we write and read (and search and data-mine) is changing, and so must spelling." Must it? Continue reading...
A recent New York Times article reports that the Philippines has now overtaken India as the hub of the outsourced call center. The article contains a telling characterization of the Philippines as "a former United States colony that has a large population of young people who speak lightly accented English and, unlike many Indians, are steeped in American culture." Continue reading...
Topics: Language Words Usage
The Internet makes it possible to publish dictionaries containing entries of any length, in any format, that are not necessarily subject to traditional rules or conventions. So it's fair to ask: is abandoning the traditional short-form definition, along with the paper it was once printed on, a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Or is it a good opportunity to reinvent lexicography? Continue reading...
Words step outside of their borders all the time; and once they are in new territory, they rarely follow the rules that bound them in their original context. As time passes, they can become complete strangers to their original users, and may even be seen as betraying them. Continue reading...
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