Monthly Lectures 2019-2020

Date Title Speaker (Affiliation)
Oct 5, 2019 Cordless or cordfree? What's the difference? Mark Aronoff (Stony Brook University)
Nov 2, 2019 White Settler Colonialism, Integration and Language Eve Haque (York University (Toronto) / CUNY Graduate Center)
Dec 7, 2019 Integrating the History of Spanish and the History of New York: On the Political Nature of Linguistic Research José Delvalle (CUNY Graduate Center)
Feb 1, 2020 Foreign Loanwords and Pronunciation Choices in American English: Place Names and Other Proper Nouns Mary Sepp (CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College)
Mar 7, 2020 TBA Angela Reyes (CUNY Hunter College)
Apr 4, 2020 TBA Tammy Gales (Hofstra University)
May 2, 2020 TBA TBA

Oct 5, 2019

Cordless or cordfree? What's the difference?

Mark Aronoff (Stony Brook University)

Time: 11am - 12noon
Venue: Room S135, Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007

What difference is there between the new word cordfree and its established rival cordless? A group of my students and I show that the new suffix -free is used to contrast a value that has a positive connotation with its (sometimes unspoken) connotatively negative opposite, whereas -less carries no such connotation. It is better to be cordfree than to be corded, while being cordless carries no connotations of being superior in this way. The suffix -less carries no accompanying positive baggage. To be childfree or carefree is necessarily good; to be childless or careless is not.

Our conclusions are based on an exhaustive comparison of sample internet citations for all words ending in -less listed in the Ocford English Dictionary with those for the corresponding words in -free, of which only a small fraction are listed in the dictionary. Our online search reveals that many more of these -free words are found online and that their meanings correspond to our predictions.

Overall, we show how modern methods reveal the detailed workings of a living language as it changes in real time.

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