word of the month
Next in a series of short articles looking at web resources useful for teachers and learners of English. As a rough guide, each site is marked out of 25 in terms of content, design and ease-of-use.
Language Log is a blog devoted to linguistics started three years ago by two linguists, Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum. Other linguists regularly contribute to the site. Language Log is also available as a blook, Far from the Madding Gerund.
Based on observations of language use by public figures or the media, the blog is entertaining and informative. Although the contributors are academics, the site is instantly accessible and relevant to anyone interested in language. What seems at first glance to be idle musings on language develop into quite detailed linguistic analysis.
Language Log has a dynamic feel, and is regularly updated. The site is American but frequently refers to UK topics and other languages. Recent topics cow dialectology and Arabic T-shirt grammar give a flavour of the breadth of subject matter.
Each topic has an introductory paragraph which usually links to a bigger article. The text links back to previous postings on the subject or relevant links to other sites. As such the site contains a huge amount of reading. Often Google is used as a corpus to back up evidence. The blog is topical as you'd expect from a blog but also scathing, creative and funny.
Recent hits and old favourites is a good starting point for exploring the site (follow the links on the right of the page). One recurring theme is the writing style of Dan Brown (author of the Da Vinci Code). Another favourite is the discussion of eggcorns and snowclones, words that have emerged from the pages of Language Log to become linguistic terms in their own right. An egg corn is a misspelling that makes some sort of sense in the context it is used in e.g. egg corn for acorn, pre-Maddona for Prima Donna. For a detailed explanation of egg corn, see this page. Try searching the blog for egg corn or even Google for more examples. As for snowclones, see this page.
For students Language Log is an opportunity to see linguistics in action. It has an observational approach to language that makes you think about language and how English is used. Try printing off an article for class discussion. Encourage students to roam the blog or even go looking for egg corns.