From the category archives:

linguistics and lexicography

  • Real Grammar Twitter chat

    Posted by on June 24, 2015

    To bring down the curtain on our Real Grammar series, we held our first-ever live Twitter chat with regular blog contributor Stan Carey this week. In case you missed it, you’ll find some of the highlights below courtesy of Stan’s specially-created Storify which he put together after the event. Just click through the slides to […]

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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    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow.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    Real Grammar isn’t about the made-up or outdated “rules” which some people try to make us follow.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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  • This ever-changing language in which we live in

    Posted by on May 11, 2015

    In a recent post on double negatives I said we make allowances for non-standard grammar in song lyrics – or most of us do, most of the time. But some lines still give us pause. One source of frequent dispute is the Paul and Linda McCartney song ‘Live and Let Die’, famously used in a […]

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  • Don’t shoot the messenger

    Posted by on May 04, 2015

    In a previous post, I tried to show that it is perfectly natural and acceptable to say he shot dead his girlfriend as well as he shot his girlfriend dead, in spite of the fictional Professor Pedanticus’s claim that the use of the first pattern by the BBC is not only very annoying, but has […]

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