Word crimes

Dear Weird Al,

I enjoyed your “word crimes” song. I was raised to be a descriptivist linguist, but an inextricable part of my heart is prescriptivist, and you are clearly sided with the prescriptivist part of me. The descriptivist was dismayed at what you thought was wrong, but the prescriptivist rejoiced at some of the advice given.

That said, you yourself committed two word crimes during your song. They both occurred near the end, so perhaps you had become weary of words by the time you reached the end. This is understandable.

First, you misplaced the word “only” so that it modified the whole verb phrase instead of the determiner phrase. (“think you should only write in emojis” — in prescriptivist land, this means you should only write to the exclusion of all other verbs. You wanted to say “think you should write only in emojis”)

Second, you split an infinitive. “Try your best to not drool”. In this phrase, “to drool” is an infinitive, and the prescriptivist would say that English speakers should not split the parts of an infinitive by adding in a word like “not”.

So, good effort, Weird Al. I appreciate it. But you should have someone check over your grammar before you publish a song about how bad grammar bothers you.


The most cunning linguist

First week of clinic…and birthdays

So my clinic buddy told me that I just have to show up and be prepared, and that’s most of the battle won. I showed up, and I was prepared, and I still believe that I lost the battle, but I’m going to keep showing up until I win the battle. My clients probably aren’t going to see any progress this semester, and I don’t know why they are coming to speech therapy, but that’s not my worry. It’s my supervisor’s. 

In other news, today is my 25th birthday. I suddenly feel the need to act like a grown adult now that I’m 25. Clinic makes me feel a bit older as well. It’s crazy to think that in one year, when I turn 26, I’ll have (mostly) finished my degree — just a few weeks of internship after that. 

Goals for the year?

Beyond the obvious “finish school and clinic”…

– READ books that aren’t textbooks — we encourage kids to read all the time, but all I read are emails and textbooks. Perelandra is first on my list. I hate that I keep rereading the same books, but it’s because I know they’re good, and I don’t want to waste my reading time on books that might be terrible.

– Finish my thesis project!

– Learn how to make Korean ddeok.

– Learn some more…Russian, Spanish, French, and German…at least to reading proficiency in all of these.

– Get on track to be published. (research: to do list)


How languages evolve

Really interesting happenings in English historical linguistics:

The Great Vowel Shift, or the beginning of “Modern English”.


Changes to the long front vowels Changes to the long back vowels
[aː] –> [æː] –> [ɛː] / [eː] / [eɪ]. [ɑː] –> [ɔː] –> [oː] –> [oʊ] / [əʊ].
 [ɛː] –> [eː] –> [iː]. [oː] –> [uː].
 [eː] –> [iː].
 [iː] –> [ɪi] –> [əɪ] –>[aɪ]. [uː] –> [ʊu] –> [əʊ] –> [aʊ].Before labial consonants, this shift did not occur, and [uː] remains.

The Great Vowel Shift? One of the many reasons that English spelling is so difficult to master. The printing press in the 1400s preserved the spellings of Middle English, while the Great Vowel Shift happened after these spellings were already printed. Nobody wanted to re-print the books, so we kept a nonsensical spelling system for Modern English.

H-loss, which occurred sometime between 1400-1600. the “gh” in many English words, pronounced /x/, became unpronounced such that “taught” and “taut” are homophones. This is an example of cheshirization, named after the cat in Alice’s Wonderland, since it disappears (the sound) but leaves a trace (the spelling / “gh”).

Initial cluster reductions: 1400-1600. The words “know” and “no” now sound alike. Cluster reductions do not just belong to kids with phonological disorders. The whole of the English language cluster reduced.

Grimm’s Law: How all of the Germanic consonants differ from the other IE consonants in an organized fashion. So the Latin “pes, pedis” is cognate with English “foot” because p>f, d>t.

  •  > b > p > ɸ
  •  > d > t > θ
  •  > g > k > x
  • gʷʰ >  >  > 

So clinic begins…

…and my first client called me her “bitch girl“. Apparently “speech girl” is a bit difficult to pronounce.

Also, people seem to be deterred from going into research because of the great amount of writing and research required to do so. I’m pretty sure, though, that lesson plans and SOAP notes and other such reports are much more writing than the occasional article and that researching on Pinterest for speech therapy ideas is much more time-consuming than saying “Hey, I wonder what would happen if we did this…”