Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Complete list of irregular English plurals

Continuing our irregular series of lists, you can find here all the irregular English plurals that occur in the COCA more than 5 times. It's just shy of 1,650 words, but about 20% of them are different kinds of men, women, and children (e.g., madmen, charwomen, foster-children).

Note 1: The list is unedited, but I believe I've set it so that you can edit it if you sign in with a Google account. Please feel free to remove any obvious problems.

Note 2: The list ignores any irregulars such as bass that end with s. Feel free to add.

The top 50 are listed below:
  1. children
  2. women
  3. men
  4. police
  5. feet
  6. teeth
  7. personnel
  8. criteria
  9. gentlemen
  10. cattle
  11. bacteria
  12. sox
  13. grandchildren
  14. fishermen
  15. phenomena
  16. mice
  17. clergy
  18. businessmen
  19. curricula
  20. alumni
  21. policemen
  22. freshmen
  23. stimuli
  24. geese
  25. larvae
  26. algae
  27. tsunami
  28. congressmen
  29. fungi
  30. memorabilia
  31. gunmen
  32. coli
  33. schoolchildren
  34. nuclei
  35. brethren
  36. servicemen
  37. spectra
  38. firemen
  39. sushi
  40. craftsmen
  41. countrymen
  42. linemen
  43. strata
  44. salesmen
  45. nebulae
  46. spokesmen
  47. salespeople
  48. paparazzi
  49. horsemen
  50. sportsmen

Sunday, November 09, 2008

OUP Canadian dictionary loses its entire staff

"Earlier this fall, Oxford University Press laid off the Canadian dictionary's entire staff of four, including 'Canada's Word Lady,' editor-in-chief Katherine Barber, citing decreased demand for print dictionaries by 10 to 15 per cent North America-wide. Canadian branch president David Stover says the availability of free online resources like Dictionary.com was the biggest factor in the layoffs, and that 'the economic assumptions the industry has been built on that have endured really for decades now have changed, and we have to change with them.'" - From the Toronto Star's Nicole Baute.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Presenting at TESL Ontario

If you're in the Toronto area next weekend, come and see me at the TESL Ontario conference. I'll be presenting Friday and again on Saturday. I'd be happy to get together for lunch or a drink. You can e-mail me at brett.reynolds@humber.ca

Monday, November 03, 2008

NACLO & a puzzle

The third annual North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad is currently registering high school students for the 2009 competition.
"This olympiad is a contest in which high-school students solve linguistic puzzles. In solving the problems, students learn about the diversity and consistency of language, while exercising logic skills. No prior knowledge of linguistics or second languages is necessary. Professionals in linguistics, computational linguistics and language technologies use dozens of the world's languages to create engaging problems that represent cutting edge issues in their fields. The competition has attracted top students to study and work in those same fields. This is truly an opportunity for young people to experience a taste of natural-language processing in the 21st century.

The first round is on February 4, 2009. Top performers will be invited to the second round on March 11, 2009."
Here's one of the questions from last year, which I found particularly fun. At first I had no idea where to start, but eventually a few words started to become clear. There was something in the back of my mind, but I couldn't access it. And then, suddenly, it all just fell into place.
An excerpt from a well known text is shown below. It is in two languages (X and Y) that are closely linguistically related to each other and also to English. However the two versions are not perfect translations of one another.

Text in language X
X1. Rödluvan: Men mormor, varför har du så stora ögon?
X2. "Mormor": Det är bara för attjag skall se dig bättre, mitt bam.
X3. Rödluvan: Men mormor, varför har du så stora öron?
X4. "Mormor": Det är bara för attjag skall höra dig bättre, mitt bam.
X5. Rödluvan: Men mormor, varför har du så stora tänder?
X6. "Mormor": Det är bara för attjag skall kunna äta upp dig!

(almost) the same text in language Y
Y1. - Så store ører du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y2. - Det er fordi jeg skal kunne høre deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Y3. - Så store øyne du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y 4. - Det er fordi j eg skal kunne se deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Y5. - Så store hender du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y6. - Det er fordi jeg skal kunne klemme deg bedre, svarte ulven.
Y7. - Så stor munn du har, bestemor, sa Rødhette.
Y8. - Det er fordi jeg skal kunne ete deg bedre, svarte ulven.

Dl (practical). Translate sentences X1 and X2 into grammatical English using your own words and word order.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Spelling Bee

For those wishing to test their spelling chops, The Visual Thesaurus has developed a spelling bee. Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, writes,
"The reason why it’s so addictive is that it’s been designed to be adaptive, so the more words that are spelled correctly, the more difficult the words become. And conversely, if you’re not a great speller, the words will get easier and easier. That way a player will always be quizzed at the appropriate skill level — from the orthographically challenged to the most expert spellers. As more and more players try the Bee, the game has steadily improved based on data collected on how words are spelled. Words are being continuously reanalyzed for difficulty based on how spellers fare. Every five minutes, words are rescored for difficulty taking into account the latest data from the Bee spellers. That means there’s an increasingly better fit to different skill levels. "
I ran into a number of problems: First of all, the sound wouldn't play when I used Firefox 3.0.3 on my Mac, but Safari was fine. Once I had overcome the sound problems, I occasionally found a consonant was unclear; no matter how hard I try, I still hear a /p/ at the beginning of bloviate. Other similar problems were /f/ and /s/ sounding the same. Sometimes I knew a word, but the pronunication threw me. Other times, two words were homophonous (e.g., buckle & buccal) and I went for the wrong one.

My score seemed to plateau at 620.