Tag Archives: linguistics

Reading: So


Making semiotic sense of an annoying stylistic tic: So says more than you might want it to.

This is apparently is an example of semantic bleaching, similar to the process that turned very and really (and more recently literally) into intensifiers. The OED lists so as an “adv. and conj.” glossed as “In the way or manner described, indicated, or suggested; in that style or fashion”, with examples going back to the 9th century. Over the centuries, if the bleaching theory is correct, a sense emerged that’s something more like “in relation to the issue described, suggested, or presupposed”.

“So” also seems to indicate a connection between the interviewer and interviewed, a suggestion that the answer really is going to address the question. But often, the interviewed answers a different question, snd the particle becomes a rhetorical backhander. Compare it to using “Well …” in the same context. “So” indicates that the response is canned, being delivered by rote – which also appears in the general tone of voice and cadence. “Well” can suggest the response is more thoughtful and tailored for the context.

Reading: Language Log » They triumphs?


Because language is always political. Pronouns reawaken. Remember tis/ter/tem? A statement from Manjoo, a commentary from Language Log, and an index to earlier columns.

Manjoo is apparently suggesting that everyone should choose the opt-out option, at least with respect to pronoun choices, so that they replaces he and she just as you replaced thou. This will certainly get pushback from traditionalists like Mary Norris. Will there also be objections from people on the other side, who want to see explicit non-gendered pronoun choice retained as an expression of personal identity?

Reading: Language Log » Corpora and the Second Amendment: “bear arms” (part 3)


From part 1

My focus in this post will be on the Supreme Court’s conclusion that at the time the Second Amendment was proposed and ratified, bear arms unambiguously meant ‘carry weapons, for purposes of being prepared for a confrontation,’ without regard to whether the carrying was in connection with military service. What I conclude is that even without taking account of how bear arms was actually used, the court’s arguments don’t hold up. Assuming for the sake of argument that bear arms could reasonably have been understood to mean what the court said it meant, the court didn’t show that it unambiguously meant that.

If you doubt the conclusions, you can run your own analysis on the data he provides.

the pool of data that is inconsistent with Heller (not including lines that are ambiguous) is increased by about two-thirds, from 505 to 847.

What I’m reading 28 May 2018

  • [toread] Trump’s bizarre understanding of Capitalization is surprisingly Strategic – The Washington Post – Set aside the idea that it had to do with monetary capitalization.

    > Initial capitals make words and ideas seem Really Important. They are to meaning-making what flag pins are to patriotism and gold-plating is to value — cheap signals of depth and quality that are somehow taken seriously by enormous numbers of people. (How seriously? There’s not one but two PolitiFact articles dedicated to discussions of Obama’s pin philosophy.) This capitalization technique is common in get-rich-quick and quack medicine books desperate to sell readers on the Truth of their claims. – (rhetoric linguistics trump capitalization )

What I’m reading 11 Mar 2018 – 21 Apr 2018

What I’m reading 29 Oct 2017 – 6 Feb 2018

What I’m reading 3 Aug 2017 through 10 Aug 2017