From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • The dictionary that keeps on growing

    Posted by on July 28, 2015

    The latest update of the Macmillan Dictionary went live last week, and it includes 146 new words. On top of that, 25 existing words have gained new meanings, and we’ve made over 130 other changes – updating or improving definitions, adding “new” alternative pronunciations, and so on. The dictionary keeps on growing. We’ve talked before […]

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  • Tracking the emergence of new words across time and space

    Posted by on July 21, 2015

    A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to receive a visit from Jack Grieve, a researcher and lecturer from Aston University, England, who delivered a fascinating presentation: Tracking the emergence of new words across time and space, examining the emergence of new words on Twitter. Intrigued by what he had to say, Henry decided […]

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  • Finding fault in the right places

    Posted by on July 20, 2015

    A common way to discuss what is correct or appropriate or not in English is by pointing out shortcomings in other people’s usage. This practice has a long tradition in language commentary and pedagogy, and while it can be helpful and enlightening, it’s not always constructive. Not only in the sense that people frequently misidentify […]

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  • Real Grammar: a few concluding thoughts

    Posted by on June 23, 2015

    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow. As we said in the introduction to this new series from Macmillan Dictionary, Real Grammar is based on the evidence of language in use. In our series of Real Grammar blog posts and videos, we have discussed frequently asked questions about grammar, and provided evidence-based answers. […]

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  • The double passive is suggested to be avoided (sometimes)

    Posted by on June 22, 2015

    In the annals of writing advice the passive voice is subject to much unfair criticism. In non-specialist contexts, such as news journalism and public discussion, the situation is still worse, with misidentification often added to the mix – many people who peremptorily condemn the passive are ignorant of what it is, let alone when it […]

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  • Real Grammar Quiz, Question 10: can I use “however” at the beginning of a sentence?

    Posted by on June 16, 2015

    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow. As we said in the introduction to this new series from Macmillan Dictionary, Real Grammar is based on the evidence of language in use. In this series, we have brought you blog posts and videos that give evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about grammar and usage. There’s also […]

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  • Ludic language and the game of grammar

    Posted by on June 08, 2015

    If asked to name the purpose of language, we might be inclined to say communication, or the imparting of information. But language has many purposes, some of which have nothing to do with sharing ideas or facts. If language were meant to serve solely as a means of exchanging information, why would we talk to […]

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  • The double superlative

    Posted by on May 26, 2015

    Round about this time of year, I eagerly await the nominations for the Idler magazine’s Bad Grammar Awards. Not because I necessarily agree that their nominations are actually examples of bad grammar (indeed sometimes they’re examples of bad spelling or punctuation), but because they tend to show up the gulf between the preoccupations of professional […]

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  • ‘Mx’ – a new gender-neutral title

    Posted by on May 25, 2015

    Most people find that they fit readily into one of the common titles Mr, Ms, Mrs or Miss, even if they consider them unnecessary. Ms as a female equivalent of Mr – a title that does not mark marital status – is little more than a century old but is now thoroughly established in standard […]

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  • Being an archaeodialectologist

    Posted by on May 21, 2015

    We are pleased to welcome back to the blog David Crystal, the renowned linguist, writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster. Professor Crystal’s new book The Disappearing Dictionary is published on 21st May by Pan Macmillan. ___________ In the days when I edited The Cambridge Encylopedia, this is how my archaeology contributor defined his subject: ‘the study of […]

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