August 31, 2022

Blog Update: Quick Book Reviews

This month (and likely the next) has been very busy, but I did find the time to finish reading up some language-related books, and I will provide some quick reviews for you here.

Millennials Talking Media: Creating Intertextual Identities in Everyday Conversation by Sylvia Sierra. This book works from the perspective of discourse analysis, looking at how millenials use references to pop culture for different purposes - to smooth other difficult conversations; to create an in-group identity; to allow people who don't know about an event to participate anyway by reminding everyone of a shared pop-cultural heritage; to have fun; to reference stereotypes. The book is academically-focused, so it may be a difficult read if you're not familiar with discourse analysis.

One concept I found interesting was the idea of 'play frames' - that is, 'framing' a conversation in a playful way to focus on fun. Sierra references how the subjects of the study, her roommates, have different levels of willingness to engage in 'play frames.' The book also tackles the meaning of 'intertextuality', including a very funny conversation where Sierra discusses with her roommates, in a very casual matter, how intertextuality is different from mere 'references'. Overall, I found the book informative - I was not familiar with discourse analysis beforehand, so many of the concepts were new to me. If you're interested in how conversation works between millenials, and the ways in which pop culture can reinforce group identities, this book may be of interest to you.

Women, Men and Language: A Sociolinguistic Account of Gender Differences in Language by Jennifer Coates. This book focuses on gendered differences in conversation, and specifically on examining certain well-known claims in sociolinguistics about how men and women differ in language. If you've ever heard that women are more likely to use hedges, that women are more likely to use standard forms than men, and that female conversational style is more 'collaborative' than male conversational style, which is 'competitive', then this book will be relevant to you - and likely challenge many of these preconceptions.

The book is a collection of studies. The one I found most interesting was one on the difference between teenage girls' social networks and teenage boys'. Coates is critical of the Labovian notion that women speak a more standard version of languages due to seeking 'upward prestige', and instead she suggests that a social network-based explanation does a better job of accounting for these differences. The social network study found that teenage girls had more diffuse social networks than teenage boys, who had dense social networks, and that denser social networks were correlated with having more 'regional' features. This means that women speaking a more standard version is not because they want to be seen as more middle class, but because they have less exposure to people who speak these variants, and less identification with them.

July 29, 2022

Ace Linguist Interview on BBC Oxfordshire

I got the chance to be interviewed by Tom of BBC Oxford a week ago, and I wanted to share the conversation with you all! The topic at hand is mondegreens, or misheard lyrics. We share some of our favorite misheard lyrics and discuss why this happens.

Part one and part two available here.

Interview originally hosted at BBC radio Oxford


June 30, 2022

"Thees is love" and short 'i' lengthening

This is such a micro music linguistic trend that I have a hard time justifying writing about it, but I've now heard it from several different artists and feel compelled to include it here.

It's simple: take a word with a short i [I] sound, like 'bit'. Now replace that vowel with a long 'ee' sound [i], so it sounds like 'beat'. You don't have to go all the way to the [i] sound - you can be somewhere in between - but the end result sounds more like the long 'ee' than the short 'ih'.

The scant handful of examples:

  • Florence and the Machine. What kind of man loves like th[i]s?
  • Adele. Chasing Tables. "Th[i]s is love."
  • Natalia Kills. Television. "We'll never go to heaven but who needs to when you l[i]ve this good."

I had originally included these in my article on Indie Voice, but after some feedback, I decided to remove them since my examples leaned more towards pop and pop-indie, and I couldn't really say I'd heard them enough to justify calling it part of the Indie Voice cluster. But if it's not indie voice, what is it?

I have so few examples that coming up with any serious explanation isn't likely, but we can speculate. My immediate thought is that lengthening and raising the vowel in 'BIT' is something that many speakers of foreign languages do, because they don't have a short 'ih' vowel and the closest available one to them is 'ee'. It's common for Spanish speakers to confuse 'ship' and 'sheep'.

Singers can be influenced by singers with other accents, including singers who speak English as a second language. Marina Diamandis is one such example who sounds like she's imitating Greek or Spanish speakers. I also hypothesized that influence from jazz and bossa nova was part of the Indie Voice sound. If you want to use the fancy terms, these pronunciations are "linguistic resources" that singers can draw from when singing. Imagine listening to someone who speaks differently from you, hearing a pronunciation you find cool, and going "I'm gonna save that for later..." and putting it in a sort of phonetic palette. (hat tip to Lisa Jansen for introducing me to the "linguistic resource" concept in her book on pop and rock pronunciation.)

Now, here's the thing that's bugging me... the ship-sheep confusion isn't considered cool by most people. It's one of the most obvious signs that you have a foreign accent, and it's one of the thing second-language speakers of English focus on when trying to reduce their accent. On the flipside, it's one of the features that comedians like to exaggerate when mimicking a foreign accent. A quick example comes from the song "Illegal Alien" by Genesis, where Phil Collins attempts to imitate a Mexican accent:

  • "With a bottle of Tequila, and a new pack of c[i]garettes." - Illegal Alien, Genesis

One day, I'll do a little mini-dissection on "Illegal Alien," because wow does this song have some interesting ideas on what Spanish English sound like that. But I hope this gets the point across that this feature is ripe for mimicry and caricature.

Listening to Florence and Adele and Natalia, I don't really think they sound or want to sound foreign. In the words with the 'ih'-lengthening, the actual musical duration is also longer than the surrounding word. "What kind of man loves like thiiiiis?" "Thiiiiiis is love." "We'll never go to heaven but who needs to when you liiiive this good." Could it be easier to sing it by raising the vowel? This would be in contrast to the pop pronunciations of HAPPY with a short 'ih' at the end and HAPPY with an 'ey' sound at the end - singers claim that 'ih' and 'ey', which are lower in the mouth, are easier to sing than the 'ee' they replace.

Could be a slip of the tongue, but Florence repeats this pronunciation in every instance of her chorus, so that's a whole lot of slips of the tongue that made it to the final cut.

If imitation is out, and there's no clear phonetic or musical motivation, then we're left with the fuzziest reason of all - aesthetics. Is there some kind of aesthetic linked to pronouncing 'this' as 'thees' that has nothing to do with foreign speakers of English? The fact that these pronunciations only show up at certain parts of the song, instead of replacing every 'ih' throughout, suggests that they're sort of special. It could be a type of marking, bringing attention to these syllables by breaking our expectations of which vowel 'belongs' there.

This is still all speculation, but sometimes that's the fun stuff. Do you have any other examples like this, from other genres? What do you think is motivating this pronunciation?

May 31, 2022

"I Love An Anchovy" - The Millenial Generic

If you hear someone say "I love an anchovy," no context, do you assume they have have one particular anchovy that they love, or that they just love anchovies in general? And does this phrase sound normal to you, or unbearably young?

I'm not sure if it's the Baader-Meinhof effect, but lately the "I love a _" construction has been popping up everywhere in my life. I've even found it unbidden in my own speech, slipping from my lips to say "I love a weather report." My intuition tells me it's trendy, but it's always worth double-checking.

First, the construction itself - almost always in first person, more commonly the singular. A common example, "I love a red lip", means "I love red lips [for makeup]" or "I love a red lip [when I'm wearing makeup]." The difference between "I love red lips" and "I love a red lip" is subtle, but the latter one sounds more situational, like you like to use red lipstick often, while the former sounds like you're just a fan of red lips. I don't know if everyone feels this difference, but "I love red lips" feels like a stronger statement than "I love a red lip."

More broadly, the "I love a _" looks like a form of generic. Specifically, it's a construction about a kind of "general property" ("The Generic Book", Carlson, 1995). Compare:

  • John smokes a cigar after dinner.

This isn't about any one cigar, but about John's habit of smoking cigars. 'a cigar' is a stand-in for all the cigars John does smoke after dinner. It makes no further claims about cigars. It's common for generics in English to be singular nouns ("a cigar") or plural nouns ("John smokes cigars after dinner"). We can see a parallel in "I love a red lip" and "I love red lips."

Second, who's saying it? Anecdotally, mostly women, millenial-age or younger, and especially in the fashion and cooking worlds. I don't hear a lot of men using it, and if a man said something like "I love a mechanical keyboard," it would sound slightly feminine to me.

How old is it? It seems to date to around the mid-2000s. I've found it in 2007, in the book 'People':

"I love a red lip," says Heroes star Ali Larter, who often puckers up in the shade.

In 2009, a man who is definitely not a millenial assures a reader that anchovies are a great way to punch up a meal:

I love an anchovy. They lend a fabulous, penetrating richness to all sorts of dishes, from salads and pizzas to stews and roasts.

Twitter also has a fair amount of results for "I love a red lip" in 2009 and 2010, suggesting the construction was already common at the time. There are far more results now, but it's hard to know whether this is because the construction is more popular or more people are using Twitter: Twitter had 30 million monthly active users in the first quarter of 2010, 68 million in the first quarter of 2011, and 330 million by the first quarter of 2019 (via Statista).

The celebrity cook Alison Roman is a fan of this construction, using it frequently. She was born in 1985, making her the prototypical millenial woman who would use this construction.

You can't start with like, a dried soaked chickpea or bean. I love a canned chickpea, and I'm not afraid to say it.

Now why would a phrase like this appear if we already have a perfectly good generic in 'I love red lips' or 'I love anchovies'? I mentioned above that 'I love an anchovy' seems less intense and absolute than 'I love anchovies', so this gradation may have been a motivation for this innovation. There are other constructions that seem semantically similar to me, such as:

  • I love a (good) anchovy.
  • I love an anchovy (situation).

And as mentioned above, plural nouns and indefinite singular nouns are also used to represent a general property:

  • John smokes a cigar after dinner.
  • John smokes cigars after dinner.

It's not a big step to complete the parallel:

  • I love red lips.
  • I love a red lip.

There could also be an analogy with the following phrase, which is popular among millenial women and gay men.

  • We stan a [adj] queen.

So far, the construction seems pretty limited. As mentioned above, I almost always find it in the present tense first person. You could imagine forms like:

  • She loves a bold lip.
  • You know [that] he loves an anchovy.
  • I'm loving a kitten heel.

But it starts getting weird the more you deviate from it. These made-up sentences sound weird:

  • He loved an anchovy. (speaking of someone who's dead?)
  • Once I show you the proper technique, you will love a red lip.
  • I have loved an anchovy, but I'm over it/them now.

What's your experience with the millenial generic? Do you use this construction?

Works Cited

April 29, 2022

Blog Update

It's been another busy spring for my personal life, which means barely any time for my obligations, let alone the blog. I've made some progress on the Jekyll migration, but it won't be ready any time soon. I'll keep you all posted on the status of that.

In the meantime, I want to share a book I recently found out about: English Rock and Pop Performances: A Sociolinguistic Investigation of British and American Language Perceptions and Attitudes, by Lisa Jansen. Those of you who frequent the linguist blogosphere may know her from her blog, Lisa Loves Linguistics, where she writes about the sociolinguistic aspects of song. Her article on Rihanna's use of Jamaican Creole in the song "Work" was one of the inspirations for this blog. The book is about perceptions of British and American English in pop music, which I imagine would be of interest to readers of thiis blog. (I also happen to get a citation in the book! One of my very old articles on what I call 'HAPPY-breaking'. The newer version can be found here. I've seen my blog cited before, but it's very exciting to see 'Ace Linguist' in an actual physical book!)

I also read "The Japanese Language" by Haruhiko Kindaichi. It was originally published in the 50s, so I take the linguistic analyses with a grain of salt. But the interesting aspect of the book is that it was written by a Japanese linguist in Japanese for a Japanese audience. I read the book in translation, of course, but the intended audience is Japanese, not foreign. It is therefore an informative read about how Japanese authors, speech-givers, and everyday people view the Japanese language. One funny example was his comment on Japanese's Subject-Object-Verb form. In very long and complex sentences, such as in the Japanese constitution, someone reading a Japanese sentence must wait until the very end to find out if the verb is affirmative or negative. Most descriptions of Japanese I've read are from people learning it as a second language, so it is interesting to read about native speakers' attitudes towards their own language.

One of my time-consuming obligations will let up soon, and I hope to get back to finishing the migration and writing more articles! Maybe we can have 'Hot Linguistics Summer.' :)

- Karen

March 22, 2022

Happy 6th birthday, Ace Linguist!

Yes, Ace Linguist has been around for 6 years! I've never properly celebrated the website's birthday before, mostly because I'd never settled on a proper date, but I figured the anniversary of the first ever post was a good place to focus.

6 years ago, I was on the verge of graduating university and entirely unsure of I was going to do with my life. I still vaguely dreamt of going to grad school to study dialectology, but that wasn't guaranteed. Feeling the need to shore up my resume a little, I embarked on a project that I was sure wouldn't amount to much - a personal blog to write about linguistics.

When I first got into linguistics, I was inspired by the wide variety of blogs out there - places like Language Log, Language Hat, John Wells's phonetic blog, and All Things Linguistic, to name a few. Running a website was a dream I'd had since I was a little kid (and I'd tried to make it come true multiple times before), and combining it with language felt natural. Even though I was certain that blogs were on their way out in 2016, I started one anyway.

The blog had a rough start, with some unfocused articles about morphology in Zootopia and the semantics of 'beating a game.' But I realized pretty soon that I wanted to do something relating to an interest of mine - collecting the phonetic details of pop music.

Dialect Dissections were born at least partially out of a sense of frustration at how people talked about accents. We have the tools to talk about phonetic changes and hear examples easily: audio samples and the International Phonetic Alphabet. When people say things like "I think Taylor Swift used to have a Southern accent," why not try to figure out which Southern features she had? I took on the task, not sure if anyone else would be interested. I was pleasantly surprised at the possitive reception!

And so here we are today. My pace has slowed down since 2018 as my life has gotten much busier. My ambitions may outscale my schedule, but luckily I have time on my side. Here's to more years of Ace Linguist, and to more linguistics on the web!

- Karen

March 1, 2022

Hotel California's Mexican-Jamaican Accent

Album Cover for Hotel California

I was listening to "Hotel California" a while back and was suddenly struck by the impression that the singer, Don Henley, sounds vaguely Jamaican or Spanish. A search shows that I'm not the only one who got this impression (emphasis mine):

I'd also be curious to know what Mexican-Americans think of the title tune's Spanish accent. Robert Christgau
Just to acknowledge where this thread came from, there is a definitely reggae influence though I think it’s mixed with a generic south of the border vibe. Chickenfrank mentioned calypso, and I think there’s some Latino in there as well. Henley occasionally slips in a little pseudo Jamaican accent, doesn’t he? [...] Ugh, I think you’re right about that. Almost never a good practice. Take heed, tomorrow’s recording artists who are checking in on this thread! Rock Town Hall
Wtf is that accent that clown singing "Hotel California" has? The guy in the Police has it too. Sounds like they're making fun of Jamaicans. Twitter
Does Don Henley sound Jamaican in "Hotel California"? In the song "Hotel California" by The Eagles, Don Henley the lead singer, sings in some sort of accent. My family thinks he is singing perfectly normal. Does anyone agree he sings in some sort of accent? My parents think I'm crazy. Here's the song. Yahoo Answers

Okay, so I'm not the only one who got this impression, and the scale is tilted towards 'Jamaican' as opposed to 'Spanish.' Let's listen to the song and see if we can figure out what's causing this.


The use of [ɪ] (short 'i') and [i] (long 'ee') instead of [ə] ('uh') for 'the' is unusual in General American. Because 'the' is usually unstressed, it is pronounced with an 'uh' [ə] vowel. When 'the' is stressed, it is pronounced with an 'ee' vowel - but 'the' is rarely stressed. Henley goes for a pronunciation of 'the' that is higher and fronter in the mouth. How might this relate to a Jamaican impression? Jamaican patois has a wider variety of vowels available on non-stressed syllables (see also 'Accents of English 3' by Wells, 1982, pg 570-571). And Spanish has no vowel reduction, so an English L2 speaker may well use a full 'ee' [i] in words like 'the'.

  • "I had to stop for th[ɪ] night"
  • "So I call up th[ɪ] captain"
  • "Wake you in the middle of th[ɪ] night"
  • "I heard th[ɪ] mission bell"
  • "They livin' it up at th[i] hotel california"

The 'tance' in 'distance' is realized as a full [a], where normally it would be pronounced as [ə]. This is also a characteristic of Caribbean English (Wells 1982 pg 570), as well as a characteristic of Spanish ESOL.

  • "Up ahead in the dist[a]nce"

When he says the 'c' sound, he doesn't produce a strong puff of air - that is to say, it is weakly aspirated, or not aspirated at all. Spanish has no aspiration on these consonants.

  • "Then she lit up a c'andle

He breaks the vowel in 'ahead'. The [ea] sound in associated with Jamaican English, though it isn't used in words with the 'head' vowel, but with FACE words (Wells 1982 pg 576).

  • "Up ah[ea]d in the distance"

Impressionistically, the heavy use of triplets in the melody's rhythm makes it sound less 'General American'. This is total speculation, but perhaps it recalls the syllable-timed nature of Spanish.

  • "Then she lit up a candle"

American English has a tendency to make the 't's in words like "pretty" and "better" soft, a process called "t-flapping." Pronouncing these words with a harder "t" sounds unusual for General American. Twice, Henley avoids using T-flapping in this song, pronouncing 't's with an unaspirated [t] sound instead of a flap. This goes some way towards making the song sound more 'foreign', because flapping these words is almost a necessity for General American English.

  • "She got a lot of pre[t]y pre[t]y boys"
  • "Then she li[t] up a candle"
  • "Warm smell of coli[t]as"

His pronounciation of "show" is long on the [o] and not on the [w], which makes it sound closer to a monophthong, and therefore more Jamaican (Wells 1982 pg 571).

  • "And she sh[o]d me the way"

He pronounces the 'r' in 'corridor' as a flap, which is typical of Spanish ESOL speakers.

  • "There were voices down the co[ɾ]idor"

Is there any smoking gun for this accent sounding Spanish or Jamaican? I would say not. There are some features that could have been plucked from either Jamaican English or English as spoken by Spanish speakers. Moreover, these are instances of features: not every 'oh' is turned into a monophthong, and some 't's are flapped. Henley's "Hotel California" performance is a mosaic of pronunciation features, each one ringing differently to different listeners.

I would venture that whether you interpret his accent as being more 'Spanish' or 'Jamaican' has to do with the extent to which the music influences you. The song's working title was 'Mexican Reggae' and both influences are present: the reggae influence is more rhythmic (the 'chka-chka' guitar scratch in the background), the Mexican-Spanish influence in the instrumentation and chord progression. Speaker familiarity with either variety and the influence from the genre of the song may affect whether he sounds 'Jamaican' or 'Mexican' or, as some listeners said, neither!

This sort of mosaic of features is more common than you would think in pop music. Previous Dialect Dissections show that singers run the gamut from copying simple phonetic features to imitating entire accents. It's not always clear that a phonetic feature is inspired from one particular accent - when Don Henley sings "she got a lot of preTTy preTTy boys," was he subconsciously influenced by Spanish or Jamaican? Was it a conscious attempt to imitate either (or even both) accents? Or a stylistic choice based on maing the word 'pretty' sound a little harder than it would with a flap? We will probably never know what intentions singers had, but we can document where they choose to diverge from the accent they use when speaking, and we can document how people interpret those sounds.

Related Reading:

Now Here You Go Again: Stevie Nicks' Incomprehensible Singing: Another look at a classic rock song with unusual pronunciation.

Dialect Dissection: The Beatles and Regional Identity: The ur-rock group with the Liverpool accents - or wait, is that American? A look on why these two accents sound similar, and why it matters that the Beatles sound Scouse.

February 8, 2022

Pre-L Back Vowel Madness

Some American English sound changes are very well documented, such as the PIN-PEN merger or the COT-CAUGHT merger. Others, not so much. One example is back vowels before an /l/ sound. Back in 2006, Labov noticed four potential mergers happening in some North American English varieties:

  • /ʊl/ and /oʊl/ (BULL vs BOWL)
  • /ʌl/ and /ɔːl/ (HULL vs HALL)
  • /ʊl/ and /ʌl/ (BULL vs HULL)
  • /ʌl/ and /oʊl/ (HULL vs BOWL)

I have a small collection of examples for these, as well as other potential mergers and vowel shifts involving back vowels before /l/. Let's take a look!

HULL and DOLL (new) ✔️

This one was not mentioned by Labov, probably due to overlap with HULL vs HALL with the COT-CAUGHT merger applied. The /ʌl/ sequence is pronounced as [al].

  • "You're not getting any added b[ɑ]lk from your finish, in fact it's taking away balk" - Love To Sew at 15:10
  • "Blossom's behavior [ɑ]ltimately pushed them" - Sarah Z, Johnlock, 53:00

BULL and BOWL ✔️

Short u /ʊl/ is pronounced as [ol], so theoretically 'bowl' and 'pull' ended up rhyming.

HULL and BOWL ✔️

'Uh' /ʌl/ is pronounced as [ol], so 'hull' and 'bowl' rhyme. In my experience, this one is quite common among Americans and isn't restricted to a particular region.

  • "[O]ltron has been a long-time adversary of the Avengers" - Comic Drake

See also this previous post on the Colt-Cult Merger.

BULL and HULL ✔️

Short 'u' /ʊl/ is pronounced as [ʌl], so 'bull' and 'hull' rhyme.


Not mentioned by Labov. I've noticed a trend towards words with 'ol' in them being pronounced as [ol] instead of [ɑl]. Most examples I've found are of words with 'olve' in them (resolve, revolve) so it's possible this is just a reanalysis of 'olve'. I've also heard the variant 'psych[o]logy' and 'alcoh[o]l' (no audio clip). I haven't found anyone that turns all /al/ into [ol]. This means [o] may exist as an allophone of /ɑ/ before /l/ for some speakers with the COT-CAUGHT merger. This allophone may restore the CAUGHT vowel in some words (e.g. 'all' with [ol] is very common) while also innovating [ol] in places where it isn't found historically, like [olv].

  • "Try to focus on s[o]lving the problem" - Natalie Wynn
  • "Many of the criticisms rev[o]lved around..." - Sarah Z
  • "So central to the American psych[o]logy" - Not Just Bikes


Unsure in which direction these are merged: does /ʌl/ become [ol] or does [ol] become [ʌl]? It's also complicated because the COT-CAUGHT merger affects HALL words, and it's unclear if this merger is meant to apply to accents with a separate 'aw' /ɔ/ vowel or also ones with a COT-CAUGHT merger (in which case, see HULL-DOLL above).


Many of these speakers are Canadians (Love To Sew, Sarah Z, Linus from Tech Tips) which makes me wonder if these pronunciations are affected by the Canadian Vowel Shift. Sarah Z, for example, has HULL-DOLL and DOLL-BOWL - and I would not be surprisd if she also has HULL-BOWL and BULL-BOWL. I am also curious how many of these changes result in proper mergers - I did not look for comparative examples of 'BOWL' to see if there was a merger, for example.

If trends continue, then there may be a phonological movement towards simplifying the back vowel space before /l/. Many of these are moving towards [ol]. I'd love to know if there's a speaker out there who has a PULL, HULL, and DOLL all with the BOWL vowel.

Off-the-cuff speculation: I suspect some of this instability with /ol/ is caused by an incomplete COT-CAUGHT merger leaving some words with lexicalized pronunciations. In my area (South Florida), most people do not have the COT-CAUGHT merger but some people continue to use the [o] vowel in 'all', 'mall', and other high-frequency -all words (yes, mall is a high-frequency word here). These are reanalyzed as having the same vowel as BOWL (no surprise, as American /ɔ/ is usually realized as [o] with an offglide by people who distinguish it). There may be some reanalysis involved - the DOLL words that are being pronounced with [ol] are words that are also spelled with 'o'. I would be curious to see if COT-CAUGHT merged North Americans with the DOLL-BOWL merger actually extend it to words spelled with 'al', like 'halter'.

February 1, 2022

Cross-language wordplay and code-switching

I like listening to songs in languages other than English, and on occasion these songs will borrow words or even entire phrases from other languages. This type of code-switching can happen for many reasons, but usually it doesn't involve any sense of lyricality to it: you were in one language, and now you are in another. This isn't always the case, though. Some songwriters try to make a rhyme or a pun between two languages. Here are a couple of examples of cross-language wordplay.

"Baddest Girl In Town - Pitbull" (Spanish/English)

Baila, dejame ver como tu mueves la salla
Ella es candela, fuego, fire
Dance, let me see how you move your skirt, she's a flame, fire, "fire"

The reggaeton genre features a fair amount of code-switching between English and Spanish, since it's not uncommon for singers to be bilingual. Here Pitbull shows a rhyme between "salla" (skirt) and "fire", pronounced with a non-rhotic accent. [aja] is a common sound sequence in Spanish, and English words ending in -ire can be pronounced non-rhotically to sound close enough to rhyme. Another example of a song using this rhyme is "Summer's Not Hot" by Selena Gomez, which goes:

The temperature is 99 and it can't get much higher, so come on over Romeo, and vamos a la playa (let's go to the beach)

"Shape of You - Ndlovu Youth Choir" (Zulu/English)

Ngamshaya ngo 'hi' yena wangshaya nge 'smile'
(I said hi, and she hit me with a smile)

Translation via Lyrics

This song features a fair amount of borrowing from English, some of it being lyrics from the original English version and some being original. This line has a lot of assonance, and like the Pitbull example, relies on the [aja] sequence. I especially like the combo of 'hi yena', which seamlessly puts an English word into a Zulu construction to continue the assonance. 'Smile' is pronounced with the diphthong broken into two syllables, as in 'smi-yul'.

"I am the Best - 2NE1" (Korean/English)

Geondeurimyeon gamdang mothae I'm hot-hot-hot, hot fire
Dwijibeojigi jeone jebal nuga nal jom mallyeo
(If you touch me you won't be able to handle it, I'm hot, hot, hot, hot fire)
(Before I flip something over, Please, can someone stop me?)

Here we have another 'fire' example (no English word has contributed as much to songwriting as 'fire'), but the rhyme is more slant than straight. 'fire' is still pronounced nonrhotically as [faja] but it's being rhymed with 'mallyeo' [maljʌ]. It's not unusual for k-pop songs to prefer inexact rhymes over direct rhymes. We can see another example of this Korean-English loose rhyme in the following lyric, where 'yaegi' [jɛgi] is rhymed with 'baby' [beibi]:

Eotteon bigyodo nan geobuhae igeon gyeomsonhan yaegi
Gachireul nonhajamyeon naneun Billion dollar, baby
(I refuse to be compared, I'm telling you the truth)
(If we're talking about my value, I'm a billion dollar baby)

Translation via Genius

Moj kalashnikov - FACE (Russian/English)

Я не говорю про юмор, bitch, но мы shoot'им
Ya nye govoryu pro yumor bitch no my shutim
I'm not talking about humor, bitch, but we're joking/shooting

This one isn't a rhyme, but a pun. The Russian word for 'we're joking' is 'shutim', which sounds as if it had the English word 'shoot' in it. This leads to a pun on both the immediate theme of humor and the song title, 'my kalashnikov'.

"KAWAII - Tatarka" (Tatar/English)

Яңгыр ява, тама тамчы, Чылана минем Versace, She is cutie, she's almighty, You will never ever catcha
yaņgyr yava tama tamchy, chylana minem Versace, she is cutie, she's almighty, you will never ever catcha
It's raining cats and dogs, soaked my Versace, she is cutie, she's almighty, you will never ever catcha

Finally, a Tatar selection. Though 'Versace' is an Italian name, it's pronounced 'Versachy' as it usually is in English. The rhyme is for 'tamchy' [tamtʃɤ], Versace [versatʃi], and catcha (catch her) [katʃa].

Common themes in the English words being pronounced is a relatively simple consonant structure: 'fire' CVCV, 'baby' CVCV, 'shoot' CVC, 'catcha' CVCV. The most complicated words were 'smile', CCVCVC and and 'Versace', CVCCVCV. Not all languages allow for the types of consonants clusters English allows (e.g. 'strengths', 'strum', 'fixed'), so words with fewer consonant clusters are more likely to rhyme across languages.

Similarly, vowels were kept simple: [ai], [ei], [u]. Tatarka pronounced the /æ/ in 'Versace' and 'catcha' as [a], which made vowel repetition easier. English also has a high number of possible vowels, so it's not a surprise that words with the 5 cardinal vowels should be easier to rhyme and pun on cross-linguistically. I'd like to find examples of cross-language rhymes with rarer English words.

January 27, 2022

Ace Linguist Blog Migration

Due to some brouhaha with Google, I have decided to stop relying on Blogger as a platform. I've enjoyed using it so far, but using Google products will now become more complicated - not to mention that I'm much less interested in using Google products now, due to the aforementioned brouhaha.

I don't know how or when, but I will be migrating the blog to some different service. Whatever option I choose will continue to allow for anonymous comments. I will also attempt to migrate currently existing comments to the new site, preserving time, date, and author.

I still have the domain, so you'll still be able to visit at :)

I'll make sure to keep you all updated. New post coming next week!