words make tongues make words

I’m a linguistics major now! Well, more or less. I got my form signed and turned in today.  So once the university bureaucrats are done with it, I will be.  It was a completely odd experience, declaring that major. For one, it’s a little late in the game, so I feel a bit like an outsider pushing my way in.  But the department comes with warm fuzzy feelings exactly opposite.  When I declared my first major (economics), I was asked to present my grades, and if I hadn’t taken so many classes out of a list and done so well, no major for me.  It was me convincing the department that I deserved to be a major. Honestly, both were kind of awkward, in their own special ways.  But I really do enjoy the linguistics department.  On average, they’re a lot more approachable and friendly.  And as you all know, I fit in with approachable folk.
Along the linguistic lines, today was the first meeting of the reading group.  It’s really exciting and today I learned a lot about signed language linguistics.  That’s not really the purpose of the group, but looking at who is leading it, it honestly seems more like it’s going to be miscellaneous linguistics chat time.  We are reading a book–Basic Linguistic Theory Volume 1: Methodology. I haven’t yet purchased the book, but the first chapter is available as a free Kindle book (in case you were thinking of buying me a Kindle, but then changed your mind thinking I’ve got one already–I don’t. I used the PC app, and would therefore gladly accept your gift) so I’ve looked through a bit.  I hope we do actually end up addressing it–I hear there are strong opinions about the book and the author so it should be interesting.  I think I’ll be expected to present on something, but I’m not sure what.  I’d very much like to impress these folks.  Scott suggested something conlang-y, but I would want to try to fit that into the supposed theme.  I also need to figure out what field I like best.

Speaking of books, I finally got a Polish/English English/Polish dictionary.  The best part? The English pronunciation guides.  My favorite word? [‘paːslɪ]*


Poll: Do you use the subjunctive in English? Which are you more likely to say: “If I was _____” “If I were_____?” The former sounds atrocious to me isolated, but I notice I go between them somewhat, I think.


*’parsley,’ in case that accent is too much for you. or in case you don’t want to read foreign looking English


  1. I’m with you on the subjunctive.

    I’ve always been a stickler with “there is” vs. “there are,” but I’ve come to tolerate “there’s” for informal dialogue. The “where is”-“where are” merger, however, is still unacceptable to me. Whenever I hear “where’s my shoes,” I respond, “they’s by the door.”

  2. hahaha! I just went through a few samples in my head, and it seems that I say “where’re” when speaking quickly, but not “where’s [plural noun].” Phew. I’ve caught myself say “there’s,” but I think since I caught it and it felt wrong, I probably don’t say it much either.

  3. 1. What’s the theme of your seminar? I could try and suggest things that are potentially cool. 😀

    2. I pity the IPA-literate person who comes here from Poland and uses that dictionary to learn English pronunciation..

    3. I do use the subjunctive in English, although not as often as it gets used in some other languages. I have noticed, though, that I am more likely to say: “If I was _____” when speaking with far more familiar people in very informal settings, whereas I am more likely to say “If I were_____” when speaking to Important People.

    4. What is this “t/where is” vs. “t/where are” issue? In speech (and sometimes in writing bit only really on blogs) I personally contract all four of them pretty regularly (e.g. “Be careful, there’re shoes by the door”) but NEVER EVER merge away the singular/plural distinction. That just sounds…….. irritating.

    • 1. I guess generally the theme is the book… which has a theme of theory neutral field linguistics.

      2. I hope the Polish pronunciation they’ve given me has a cool accent too!

      3. For me, I’m more likely to use “was” if I’m negating it, I think. Hopefully less so around those Important People. But it’s hard to observe in yourself. A friend in the class insisted that she doesn’t say “if I was…” and opened her argument with “If I was saying…”

      4. The biggest issue for sure is the singular/plural distinction (or lack thereof >.<). But "where's" is a lot more accepted than "where're," or it was when I had prescriptivist English grammar shoved down my throat. Perhaps that's why when some people want to contract, they go for the singular rather than the correct plural? Or maybe I can rationalize it as an elided sentence. "Where's my shoes?" = 'Where is the location of my shoes?'

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