You are here

Karl Hagen's blog


If you're a high school teacher looking to foster an interest in how languages work, consider getting your students involved in the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. The puzzles are really interesting, and the top performers go on to International Linguistics Olympiad.

Pronoun-antecedent and subject-verb agreement are not the same thing!

Hasty generalizations about grammar quickly get you into trouble. As a case in point, consider the difference between subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement. Both require, in the core cases, attention to the number (singular or plural) of a particular noun phrase. At the same time, there are important differences, and treating the two as identical can lead to significant problems.

Stephen Fry recants

Last year, I lit into Stephen Fry for his pedantry over none. I am delighted to see that he has apparently recanted:

Too true

But I thought The Onion was supposed to be satire:
In a surprising refutation of the conventional wisdom on opinion entitlement, a study conducted by the University of Chicago's School for Behavioral Science concluded that more than one-third of the U.S. population is neither entitled nor qualified to have opinions.

What's wrong with etymology?

Personally, I find etymology very interesting. I am, after all, a quondam medievalist whose interests lay particularly in historical linguistics. As I intimated in my previous post, though, I also find the way it is generally served up for public consumption to be a bit irritating.

Hot for Chronological Accuracy

I have mixed feelings about Hotforwords. On the plus side, she's talking about language, she generally does some research, and she seems to have a clue about linguistic matters. (Oh, yeah, and she really is hot.) On the other hand, she confines herself to a fairly trivial form of etymology: stories about word origins shorn of historical linguistics. It also appears that her research is confined to looking things up in a few of the standard references (like the OED), and, more questionably, Wikipedia.

Sesame Street Linguistics

This morning my son was watching Sesame Street and I heard Grover ask rhetorically, "Anyone know what 'agglutination' means?" I immediately had Aran practice saying the word, but he's a little young to lecture on morphological structure, so I left it at that.

Diagramming Word Salad

Friday, I wrote about Kittey Burns Florey's attempts to diagram a few of Sarah Palin's utterances. Today, I'm going to continue with the second of her attempts, which is decidedly more challenging because the utterance has serious grammatical issues no matter how you slice up the sentence.

Palin's Diagram

Slate has a piece by Kitty Burns Florey, the author of Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog, in which she attempts to diagram a few of the more egregiously strange comments that Sarah Palin has made during her interviews.

As she notes, diagramming a sentence tells you nothing about the sentence's meaning:



Subscribe to RSS - Karl Hagen's blog