Intensive purposes? Slight of hand? Linguist Adam Cooper contemplates phrases whose meanings are in transition as we replace unfamiliar words fossilized with language that sounds more reasonable to our modern ears. Continue reading...
Many verbs that entail some advanced cognitive capacity are commonly used in predicates for subjects that are not human. All speakers are comfortable with sentences like "Verizon revamps mobile plans and ends 2-year contracts & subsidies." Most speakers, however, reject sentences like "Microsoft is vividly imagining a purple square." Continue reading...

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Ben Zimmer Wins LSA's Linguistics Journalism Award

The Linguistic Society of America today named Vocabulary.com-Visual Thesaurus Executive Producer Ben Zimmer as the first recipient of the Linguistics Journalism Award. The award honors "the journalist whose work best represents linguistics" during the past 12 months. In addition to his stellar work on Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus, the LSA singled out Zimmer's language column in the Wall Street Journal, as well as "articles on linguistic topics for the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Slate's 'Lexicon Valley' blog, and Language Log."
Days of Future Past: It's not just the subtitle of the new X-Men movie that recently opened; it's an invitation to explore some of the lesser-traveled corridors in the English verb tense system. 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...
"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling was recently revealed to have written a crime novel, "The Cuckoo's Calling," using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. How she was found out involved a couple of linguistic experts analyzing the "little words" that are used in the novel's text. Continue reading...

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About Those Dialect Maps...

You might have seen a set of American English dialect maps making the rounds online after a Business Insider piece about the maps went viral. But where does all of that survey data come from? Our own Ben Zimmer has the story on Language Log — read his post here.
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