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Language Log


Language Log is a collaborative language blog maintained by University of Pennsylvania phonetician Mark Liberman.

The site is updated daily at the whims of the contributors, and most of the posts are on language use in the media and popular culture. Google search results are frequently used as a corpus to test hypotheses about language. Other popular topics are the descriptivism/prescriptivism debate and linguistics-related news items. The site has also occasionally held contests in which visitors attempt to identify an obscure language.

Language Log is now one of the most popular linguistics blogs.[1] As of June 2011, it receives an average of almost 21,000 visits per day.[2] In May 2006, a compilation of posts by Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum was published in book form under the title Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log.



Language Log was started on July 28, 2003 by Liberman and Pullum, a linguist then at the University of California, Santa Cruz (Pullum has since moved to the University of Edinburgh). One early post about a woman who wrote egg corns instead of acorns led to the coinage of the word eggcorn to refer to a type of sporadic or idiosyncratic re-analysis. Another post about commonly recycled phrases in newspaper articles, e.g. "If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z", resulted in the coinage of the word snowclone. Both phenomena are common topics at the blog, as is linguification, or the use of metaphors that turn factual observations into claims about language (many of which are blatantly false).

The blog has a number of recurring themes, including the difficulty of transcribing spoken utterances accurately, misuse or misunderstanding of linguistic science in the media, criticism of the popular style guide The Elements of Style by E. B. White and William Strunk Jr., and complaints about what the contributors see as the pedantry of ill-informed prescriptivists, including that of some copyeditors (one of the blog's tags is "prescriptivist poppycock").[3] In addition, the site has critically addressed opinions and theories related to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis concerning the relationship between culture, thought and language. Another common topic on the blog is the handling of taboo language in the media. Regular contributor Arnold Zwicky wrote a series of posts describing which words are considered obscene in various publications, paying particularly close attention to the way these words are "asterisked" in the different media forms.

  Becky Award

The Becky Award is a tongue-in-cheek award given out by the site. It is named after the sixteenth-century humanist Johannes Goropius Becanus, who claimed to have proved that the language of Eden was Dutch (incidentally, his mother tongue).

The award for 2006 went to Louann Brizendine for her bestselling book, The Female Brain, which makes two principal claims: that women use language very differently from men, and that the causes of these differences are hormonal. Language Log's contributors quoted Nature ("riddled with scientific errors"), tracked down references in little-known journals, and presented counterarguments using the same referenced sources that Brizendine's claims drew from to demonstrate lacking scientific relability.[4][5][6]


In addition to Liberman and Pullum, a number of other linguists contribute to Language Log:



  1. ^ Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Cengage Learning. 2009. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4130-1589-8. 
  2. ^ Language Log's Sitemeter stats
  3. ^ Zwicky, Arnold (2008-06-20). "Today's little amuse-bouche". Language Log. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=257. Retrieved 2009-07-06. "I am certainly not down on copy editors in general. I've had several bad experiences of my own, and I've heard much worse from others. But I've also been well served by excellent copy editors, and I've even spent some time being one." 
  4. ^ Language Log: The envelope, please
  5. ^ 2006 "Becky Award". Language Hat. 3 January 2007. http://www.languagehat.com/archives/002602.php 2006. 
  6. ^ Nunberg, Geoffrey (3 January 2007). "The Language of Eve". Fresh Air. National Public Radio. http://www.ischool.berkeley.edu/~nunberg/beckies.html. 
  7. ^ http://www.stanford.edu/~cgpotts/

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