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Chi Luu

Chi Luu is a computational linguist and NLP researcher who tinkers with tiny models and machines to uncover curious mysteries in human language. She has degrees in Theoretical Linguistics and Literature, with a morbid focus on dead and dying languages. She has worked on dictionaries, multi-language search engines, and question answering applications.

Violette Personified NYPL Collections

Personification Is Your Friend: The Language of Inanimate Objects

So it entirely slipped my mind that Lingua Obscura recently turned one (yay!) and is now a veritable ...

Do You Even Language, Bro? Understanding Why Nouns Become Verbs

Understanding the phenomenon known as "verbing"--where nouns are turned into verbs. 

The Linguistics of Mass Persuasion Part 2: Choose Your Own Adventure

How politicians use language to manipulate the public and sway them toward particular world-views. 
Stop trying to make fetch happen

The Linguistics of Mass Persuasion: How Politicians Make “Fetch” Happen (Part I)

Inspired by the Gretchen famous line in the film Mean Girls, Chi Luu explores how politicians mobilize language to sway public opinion.
Flag of the Klingon Empire

Why We Love to Learn Klingon: The Art of Constructed Languages

Constructed languages like Klingon excite us because they enable us to actively participate in foreign or "alien" cultures. 
The word of the year, face with tears of joy emoji.

Can an Emoji Ever Be a Word?

You might be forgiven for thinking that the merry band of lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries were trolling us ...
People enjoying their evening on a beach on Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mele Kalikimaka! How To Say “Merry Christmas” In Hawaiian

Translating "Merry Christmas" into Hawaiian offers insight into the language's modest inventory of consonants.
Time is money.

It Turns Out Ordinary Life is Full of Poetry (Metaphorically Speaking)

The metaphor isn't just a literary device; it informs our conceptual understanding of language and the world.
Speech Bubbles

When Actions Are Words

How certain speech acts perform actions and alter our social reality.
Portrait of William Shakespeare

Linguistic Anarchy! It’s all Pun and Games Until Somebody Loses a Sign

The pun is in an interesting bind: it is both ubiquitous and reviled. We try to understand why.

More Hipster Than Thou: Is Vintage Language Back in Vogue?

A look at the recent boon in archaic terms and its relationship to "hipster" culture.
Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1526/1530–1569) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Syllables Without Vowels? Pfft, Inconceivable!

Is the syllable universal? Maybe. We look at how languages use (and don't use) syllables, and what this says about language itself.

Migrants, Refugees, and Expats: How Humanity Comes in Waves

The language we use for people fleeing their home nations may define them as less than human.

Yas Queen! It’s the Spelling Reform School for Wayward Words

Debates over English spelling reform have existed for centuries.

Dear Pedants: Your Fave Grammar Rule is Probably Fake

What constitutes ‘correct’ grammar in English seems to have a cyclical life, aided and abetted by new generations of enthusiastic grammarians.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Speaker: Linguistic Isolation in the Modern World

Ayapaneco, an endangered Mexican language, sparked linguistic interest when the last two speakers of the language were not speaking to each other

Ex Machinations in the Turing Test

Artificial Intelligence and the Turing Test.

Gone (Cat)Fishing: How Language Detectives Tackle Online Anonymity

Linguistic clues might be the solution to identifying anonymous online users.

All About That Taboo: When Good Words Go Bad

The phenomenon of sacres, or taboo words that start from fairly innocuous beginnings.

How to Disappear Completely: Linguistic Anonymity on the Internet

Is anonymity on the Internet linguistically possible?

The Super Secret World of Ludlings – You Know, For Kids!

secret language games or ludlings, have been serious business for young people across the ages.

Fanf–kingtastic and Edumacational: The Case of English Infixation

From shiznit to wel-diddly-elcome, the evolution of infixation in English language.
A group of friends laughing happily as they spend time outdoors in the sun

All the Young Dudes: Generic Gender Terms Among Young Women

The linguistics behind gender neutral terms among young women.