December 16, 2020

Year Round-Up

We did it - we got through 2020! 🎉

This pandemic-filled year has been challenging for everyone, including me. You can see that this year, I didn't get to write as many articles as I did previous years - but that doesn't mean there weren't good articles. If you've missed them up until now, here are some choice selections from this year:

The PIN-PEN merger: an article on the history of those who make 'pin' and 'pen' rhyme. If you're wondering why that's a big deal, you definitely need to read the post. I'm most proud of the example I was able to find of an actual Irish English speaker with the PIN-PEN merger, which lends credence to the idea that the merger may have spread from Ireland to the US!

It's Gonna Be May: A Historay: an article about why pop stars sing words ending in 'ee' as 'ay'. This is the first rewrite of an older article I've done, and I think it's much improved. It also marks my first foray into making an accompanying video, which you should watch. (You should also subscribe to the channel on YouTube, because I plan to make more companion videos and host them there.)

Hank Williams's Old Timey Southern Accent: a look at a country music star and his particular dialect. Hank has a more conservative accent than modern country stars, and studying him puts language change in the American South into context!

Kim Petras: L2 English, California Dreamin': a look at how this rising pop star from Germany makes the decision to base her English accent on California - and why it matters.

Black Linguist Recommendations: Familiarize yourself with the work of some awesome Black Linguists! This is a list of Black Linguists and some samples of their work. If you like using Twitter, I also listed their Twitter handles so you can see what they tweet - linguist twitter is a great way to familiarize yourself with cutting edge linguistic work and discussions, especially if you're not a grad student. Let's remember to read and engage with the works of Black Linguists!

I Dream(p)t of Euphonic Insertion - or Phonetic Intrusion: why is there a 'p' in 'empty' that nobody really says? Why does Shakespeare put a 'p' in 'dreampt'? A look at the history of these inserted p's, and other consonants like them. This one ended up getting a surprising amount of attention from Twitter - thanks, y'all!

Dialect Dissection: The Diverse Dialects of Xenoblade: Why do most video games only use American or English accents? And why did this one decide to branch beyond and include Scottish, Welsh, and Manchester accents? A lesson in recognizing different accents, the cascading effects from one business decision, and why seeing your accent on screen matters.

ABBA's Special Swedish Sibilants: I don't just look at accents in English - I can also look at them in Swedish. One of the singers from ABBA seems to have an unusual Swedish accent, which she later tried to change.

One of the advantages of not having the time to write bigger articles is that I got to practice writing smaller articles that I was still satisfied with. And it turns out there may be an audience for smaller linguistic bites - I was surprised by how well-received "I Dreampt of Euphonic Insertion" and "ABBA's Special Swedish Sibilants" were, with the bare minimum promotion on my part.

I finally improved my laptop situation, which means that using the laptop I used for audio recording is no longer a battle against entropy and the decay of all things mortal. On the contrary, I will be busier than ever in 2021, so... we'll see how it goes. :)

I have one article that I almost published in December but for the fact that anything you write in December will immediately appear as outdated by a year in a month. And the article deserves better than a single month of 2020, so I hope to get it out quickly in 2021. I've spent far too much time on this topic because people are just very interested in it.

Here's to the 5th year of Ace Linguist! I hope 2021 will be a better year for you all than 2020 was. I will, at the very least, do my part to bring you fun and interesting linguistics content to brighten your day. If you have ever read, commented on, or shared one of my articles, you have also brightened my day, and I thank you very much! See you all next year ;)

- Karen


  1. this rising pop star from Germany makes the decision to base her English accent on California -

    Oh, that's nothing. A colleague from Poland studied in Manchester and is now based in Edinburgh; recently I heard her give a talk in an amazing accent. Mostly non-rhotic, no FOOT-STRUT split, [x] for /h/, and fast.

    1. Now that is impressive. She must have a really keen ear or a strong impulse towards linguistic accommodation.