I finished teaching my first class about two weeks ago, and have had some time to reflect. Overall, I think things went pretty well, although I haven’t seen my course evaluations yet. More »

Language has a pretty interesting property known as Zipf’s Law. That is, language data (and even subsets of language data) have a Zipfian distribution. There are a small number of highly frequent words, and a large number of highly infrequent words. Moreover, the frequent words tend to be short, grammatical (words that are grammatically required but don’t really mean anything) and the infrequent words tend to be longer, lexical (words like nouns and verbs which have some sort of referent or meaning).

What does this mean? Well, to show you I downloaded all of the English wikipedia (and you can too here). More »

Teaching Intro to Linguistics is probably one of the most challenging but fun things I’ve done in a long time. Usually I can answer any question my students come up with, but once in a while they stump me.

Case in point: the other day, one of my students asked if we new phonemes ever get discovered and the IPA chart gets updated. More »

The other day, I was teaching my Intro to Linguistics students about vowelless words. Words like word and bird and church in English don’t actually have any vowels. The R in those words acts like a vowel. And syllables at the ends of words like baker, author, little, bottle and apple are just an L or an R: there’s no vowels in those syllables. These Ls and Rs that act like vowels are called syllabic consonants. This means that some words, like turtle don’t have any vowels at all! The first part of turtle (turt) is kinda like bird or church: just a R instead of a vowel. And the second part is like the second syllable in bottle or apple: just an L. By extension, this means that Squirtle has no vowels!

Given my last three posts, apparently all I blog about is linguistics and video games…

As I prepared to teach Intro to Linguistics this summer, my friend was poring over the Dothraki-English Dictionary, trying to find some morphologically interesting words for me to use in a homework assignment, when he discovered something interesting:

pika: [tʃoo] DP na. choo

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The Turing Test is a measure of artificial intelligence or, perhaps more accurately, linguistic mimicry. The nature of the test is simple: a judge sits at a computer, and chats (as you would on any instant messenger app) for five minutes. At the end of the five minutes, the judge decides whether their conversational partner was a human or a computer. The bar to achieve a “passing” grade was set by the creator of the test, Alan Turing: a machine fooling 30% of human judges into thinking it was human would pass. In 1950, Turing predicted that the feat would be achieved by the year 2000.

Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

Also, Turing committed suicide in 1954. #depressing

However, a few weeks ago, for the first time in history, it was announced that the Turing Test had been passedMore »


The study of wugs. From wug, a small bird-like animal first described by Berko (1958), and -ology, an academic discipline or field of knowledge.

But what is a wug?!

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