Mark Liberman
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Mark Liberman

Overturning the Myth of Valley Girl Speak

“The first person I even noticed as an unusually frequent uptalker was one of my oldest son’s male friends, in 1987,” noted Mark Liberman, a linguistics expert at the University of Pennsylvania. He said this latest research offers “a careful study of usage patterns among young ...

Selfies: There are groupies, ussies, shelfies and even sealfies

But a recently recounted anecdote from Mark Liberman, a phonetician at the University of Pennsylvania, on his Language Log blog, suggests some people are extending it more figuratively. He wrote: “In front of the window of a sweet shop in Peebles, a small town about an hour's drive south ...

Bridgegate Apology: Don't Read Too Much Into Chris Christie's Pronouns

In the wake of Christie’s so-called Bridgegate scandal, University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman conducted a similar test. He took a selection of apologies excerpted by the New York Times the day after Christie’s news conference and analyzed the frequency of ...

Politics and Pronouns

The politician who has them in balance goes a long way… In his news conference on Thursday he found a way to spell apology with a thousand I’s.” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, took exception to Mr. Bruni with a statistical analysis of the ...

The Period Is Pissed: Texting Made Our Plainest Punctuation Aggressive

“Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told me by email. How and why did the period get so ...

Politics and linguistics: The president's words of choice

Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent years combing through the president's speeches to find out if this allegation holds water. Again and again he found that, far from being a pronomial egomaniac, Mr Obama is actually a bit I-shy relative to other ...

Keith Chen: language that forecasts weather

Their concerns are concisely explained in two well-thought out posts ( here and here ) by the linguists Mark Liberman and Goeffrey Pullum on the blog they founded, Language Log. Mark and Geoffrey also invited me to write a guest post explaining the work. In that post, I discuss ...

The 25 Most Powerful TV Shows of the Last 25 Years

As University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman wrote in 2005, “The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture’s greatest source of idioms, catchphrases, and sundry other textual allusions.” Liberman’s assertion sounds ...

Bestie and Other New OED Words That Teach Us About Gender

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people,” Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times for an article about the vocal fry, or creaky voice. “And women tend to ...

State of the Union: The Words Obama Loves—And Avoids

Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, fed transcripts of all the State of the Union speeches from Harry Truman onward through algorithms that spit out scores for words based on how much Obama has used them in his big annual addresses. The academic ...

Obama didn't use improper grammar, cut him and other public figures a break

Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania notes: You can make any public figure sound like a boob, if you record everything he says and set hundreds of hostile observers to combing the transcripts. A good point, but one we are unlikely to take to heart when it comes to ...

The best writing of the week, December 1

“Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told me by email. How and why did the period get so ...

Translation: Johnson: Is fairness untranslatably English?

For example, here’s Bart Wilson in the Atlantic in 2009, as quoted by Mark Liberman of the University of Pennsylvania: Did you know that fair is one-to-one untranslatable into any other language–that it is distinctly Anglo in origin? But even if there is no exact one-to-one word foreign ...

Some words just make you sick – Telegraph Blogs

Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, guessed in an interview with Slate magazine last week that perhaps 15 per cent of the population suffer from an aversion to one word or another. The one they lead with is “moist”; “crevice” and, oddly, “slacks” (as ...

The 25 most powerful TV shows of the past 25 years

As University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Liberman wrote in 2005, "The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture's greatest source of idioms, catchphrases, and sundry other textual allusions. " Liberman's assertion sounds crazy ...

Poetry Pairing

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people,” said Mark Liberman, a linguist at the University of Pennsylvania, “and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average.” Less clear is why. ...

George Orwell on writing: Johnson: Those six little rules

Yet Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and a blogger at Language Log, has taken us to task. Orwell says “never” use metaphors you are used to seeing in print. But, as Mr Liberman documents in many examples, The Economist has repeatedly ...

Flying to center field with the boys of autumn

So in proper baseballspeak, Jeter “flied.” Yes, but: Mark Liberman, the University of Pennsylvania phonetician who runs Language Log, points out that “flied out,” rather than “flew out,” is followed widely, but not universally. His quick Google News check of the previous month found the ...

Teasing out the numbers in obesity study

Still, she found it hard to disagree with University of Pennsylvania professor Mark Liberman, who noted on his "Language Log" blog that, with enough comparisons, some statistically significant findings will appear at random. "A pretty good rule of thumb," he said, when reading about ...

Lori Borgman: Small dot accused of big attitude

Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, reports that his teenage son told him his text messages were aggressive because he used a period at the end. The young man found his father's texts not only aggressive, but downright harsh. Let me tell you about ...

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