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Sound symbolism: the bouba/kiki effect

  Look at the shapes depicted on the left. In a 2001 study, VS Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard report that 95% of people pick the right image as kiki and the left as bouba. (Subjects are told… Read More

January 18, 2022 by Alison Tunley

Sound symbolism: the bouba/kiki effect

  Look at the shapes depicted on the left. In a 2001 study, VS Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard report that 95% of people pick the right image as kiki and the left as bouba. (Subjects are told the words are from a Martian language and are asked to guess what they…

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January 11, 2022 by Alison Tunley

Statutory interpretation: understanding the letter and spirit of the law

‘Small men command the letter of the law. Great men serve its spirit.’ J.C. Marino The idea that someone might adhere to the letter of the law while violating its spirit is an acknowledgement that there is room for manoeuvre when it comes to interpreting legislation. Indeed, this principle is…

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January 4, 2022 by Alison Tunley

Covid-19: Naming mutations

It is only a short while since this blog examined the fraught history of virus naming, but Covid seems determined to keep this topic in the news, so here we are again. Having recognised the potential harm of naming viruses after the geographical locations in which they were discovered, in…

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December 29, 2021 by Alison Tunley

Word of the year 2021 captures the mood again

If you were hoping for some distraction from pandemic news in the annual announcements of word of the year from dictionary publishers and other linguistic organisations, you are going to be disappointed. Perhaps not surprisingly, the shortlisted words and eventual winners are united by their links with the ongoing Covid-19…

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December 21, 2021 by Alison Tunley

Last-minute Christmas gifts for language lovers

If you are anything like me, you spend October and November planning to be super organised about Christmas shopping then some kind of time warp occurs, and suddenly there are only days to go. With last-minute purchasing in mind, here is a round up of new books about language that…

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December 7, 2021 by Alison Tunley

Codeword – the ‘sudoku’ for language lovers

A codeword puzzle is a crossword grid in which each letter of the alphabet has been substituted by a number from 1-26. Usually, you are given 2-3 letters to help you on your way. For example, the codeword puzzle might reveal that ‘S’ is represented by number 10, and ‘O’…

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November 30, 2021 by Alison Tunley

Pseudo-anglicisms

This week’s blog explores pseudo-anglicisms, words that take lexical elements from English to create a neologism that is unknown in English or used with a different meaning. These could be described as a special subcategory of false friends. They appear to be English, but their meaning may not be at…

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November 23, 2021 by Alison Tunley

U.S. Supreme Court: Getting a word in edgeways

Turn-taking is an essential part of any successful conversation, and interruptions can infringe the ability to exchange information on an equal basis. Many studies over the years have noted a gender bias both in the tendency to interrupt, the likelihood of being interrupted, and the way an interruption is perceived.…

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November 16, 2021 by Alison Tunley

Having fun with hyperforeignisms

Language borrowing involves a fascinating process as words transition from having an unmistakably foreign status when they are initially imported to eventually being very much part of the target language. Sometimes this involves adapting the pronunciation or spelling of the loan word to bring it in line with the native…

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