Archive for the ‘Sociolinguistics’ Category

On the fierce femininity of drag queens

June 12, 2017

Linguistics news from Stanford: the public portion of a PhD oral exam, next Monday, 6/19/17, 3-4:15: Jeremy Calder, Handsome Women: A semiotics of non-normative gender in SoMa, San Francisco.

Drag queens in the 2015 SoMa “Oasis Follies” drag night


Non-standard sex talk

May 26, 2017

I’ll start with the steamy gay sex talk from an on-line messaging site — sensitive readers are hereby warned about this content — and then go on to focus on a non-standard syntactic construction in this exchange, what the YGDP (the Yale University Grammatical Diversity Project: English in North America) calls the Needs Washed construction (using as a label an instance of the instruction), involving a PSP complement of a head V.


Books from Stanford

February 13, 2017

Recent books from Stanford-connected authors, some my colleagues, some my former students (so I have warm feelings). Two in sociolinguistics / educational linguistics, one on the (gasp) morphosyntax-phonology interface.


More on sounding gay

July 10, 2015

Back on June 11th, I posted about the documentary “Do I Sound Gay?”, as I was about to be interviewed by a journalist about it. I had a number of critical things to say about parts of the film, though I didn’t post them here. Now NPR’s Terry Gross has interviewed two of the principals in it, the filmmaker David Thorpe and a speech pathologist, Susan Sankin, with whom Thorpe worked in an attempt to sound “less gay”.

Enraged by this interview, Sameer ud Dowla Khan (a phonetician at Reed College) wrote an open letter to Gross, which Mark Liberman has now posted on Language Log (with a link to Fresh Air and one to a transcript of the interview). Khan has many of the same criticisms of the interview that I had of the trailer for the film (I haven’t been able to view the whole film), both of which exhibit deep ignorance about simple (and well-known) facts about language in social life. Some excerpts from Khan’s letter follow.


NPR team and the perils of transcription

April 16, 2013

Yesterday on NPR’s Morning Edition, a piece announcing a new NPR feature:

NPR Team Covers Race, Ethnicity And Culture (by David Greene and Gene Demby)

NPR this week is introducing a new team that will cover race, ethnicity and culture. Code Switch is the name of the new blog. Code-switching is the practice of shifting between different languages or different ways of expressing yourself in conversations.

Greene and Demby chat for a while about code-switching, with examples, bringing in linguist Tyler Schnoebelen as a consultant at one point. But if you read the transcript rather than listening to the segment, you might be puzzled.


Pronouncing names

October 15, 2012

In the NYT on Saturday, a front-page piece (“Missouree? Missouruh? To Be Politic, Say Both”, by Sarah Wheaton) about the pronunciation of names, with a political connection.


Emotions are relational

June 18, 2012

Receiving a Ph.D. in Linguistics yesterday from Stanford: Tyler Schnoebelen, on the linguistics of affect.

Emotions are relational: Positioning and the use of affective linguistic resources


The geek voice?

January 25, 2012

Arne Adolfsen recently reported on Facebook that he’d been hearing the hit television show The Big Bang Theory. (Yes, hearing, not listening to, and certainly not watching. The show goes on in a room next to the one he’s in. He avoids it, because he hates the very obtrusive laugh track, an antipathy I sympathize with.) He’s formed the opinion that all of the male characters are gay, because of the way they talk [because of the phonetics of their talk. which is all he has to go on — see comments]. (Possibly relevant fact: Arne is gay.) Yet they’re all presented as straight — and awkwardly pursuing women — and the actors playing them all seem to be straight in real life [which is to say: there’s an apparent disjunction between orientation as perceived from phonetics and orientation as presented in the story — again, see comments]. Where does Arne’s impression come from?



January 20, 2012

On television, an ad for begins “Single Christian? Good news!” and promises to “Find God’s match for you”. What does the noun Christian mean in this context? Not, I am sure, what NOAD2 says:

a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.

and certainly not the very broad sense in this quote from Anita Loos’s A Girl Like I (NY: Viking, 1966), pp. 195-6:

This small bouquet of words is quite insufficient to express the fondness and gratitude I shall always feel for Joe [Schenk]; it often strikes me that one of the best Christians I’ve ever known was a Jew.

Loos’s noun sense is the one related to a use of the adjective Christian that NOAD2 characterizes as informal:

having or showing qualities associated with Christians, esp. those of decency, kindness, and fairness.

Instead, Christian dating and matchmaking sites are using a much narrower sense of Christian, roughly ‘evangelical Christian’, with a specific sense of evangelical that excludes much of mainstream Christianity.


The Queen’s Christmas Message

December 20, 2011

Damien Hall on the Variationist List today noted that the Queen’s Christmas Message will soon be upon us, and pointed to research on changes in the Queen’s variety of English over the years, using these broadcast messages as data.

The way the press reported this research is a story in its own right.