Lisa Lim

Lisa Lim has worked in Singapore, Britain, Amsterdam and Sri Lanka, and until June 2018 was Associate Professor and Head of the School of English at the University of Hong Kong, where she still holds an Honorary position. She now is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney. She is co-editor of the journal Language Ecology, founder of the website linguisticminorities.hk, and co-author of Languages in Contact (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
Lisa Lim
Lisa Lim has worked in Singapore, Britain, Amsterdam and Sri Lanka, and until June 2018 was Associate Professor and Head of the School of English at the University of Hong Kong, where she still holds an Honorary position. She now is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Sydney. She is co-editor of the journal Language Ecology, founder of the website linguisticminorities.hk, and co-author of Languages in Contact (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Latest from Lisa Lim

Language Matters | Tracing ‘terrorism’, the loaded word being applied to the Hong Kong protests

The word entered English as a very specific term and while it lacks a universal definition today, most agree that it is highly charged and best avoided.

13 Sep 2019 - 2:15AM

The word entered English as a very specific term and while it lacks a universal definition today, most agree that it is highly charged and best avoided.

Tracing ‘terrorism’, the loaded word being applied to the Hong Kong protests
Language Matters | Do you speak Kongish? Hong Kong protesters harness unique language code to empower and communicate

The mixed code of romanised Cantonese and English has helped popularise phrases such as ‘add oil’, from Cantonese ‘ga yau’ .

30 Aug 2019 - 9:21AM

The mixed code of romanised Cantonese and English has helped popularise phrases such as ‘add oil’, from Cantonese ‘ga yau’ .

Do you speak Kongish? Hong Kong protesters harness unique language code to empower and communicate
Language Matters | With lasers in the spotlight in Hong Kong protests, a look at the origin of the word

The word ‘laser’ is in fact an acronym, for ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’.

17 Aug 2019 - 11:33AM

The word ‘laser’ is in fact an acronym, for ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’.

With lasers in the spotlight in Hong Kong protests, a look at the origin of the word
Language Matters | Triads and thugs: where the words come from and why ‘thug life’ philosophy isn’t what you think

After a mob of men dressed in white T-shirts brutally assaulted protesters and commuters in Hong Kong, the word “thug” has gained currency

2 Aug 2019 - 11:21AM

After a mob of men dressed in white T-shirts brutally assaulted protesters and commuters in Hong Kong, the word “thug” has gained currency

Triads and thugs: where the words come from and why ‘thug life’ philosophy isn’t what you think
Language Matters | ‘Jade’: behind the European name of China’s favourite stone

The word’s origin stories include Portuguese traders in Asia and Spanish conquistadores in Mesoamerica, while it’s English form comes from an erroneous spelling.

22 Jul 2019 - 12:31PM

The word’s origin stories include Portuguese traders in Asia and Spanish conquistadores in Mesoamerica, while it’s English form comes from an erroneous spelling.

‘Jade’: behind the European name of China’s favourite stone
Language Matters | ‘Extradition’: amid protests in Hong Kong, a look at where the word came from

The word that drew millions of Hongkongers onto the streets this month entered the English language in 1833. A closely related word, rendition, was first used around 1600.

21 Jun 2019 - 11:20AM

The word that drew millions of Hongkongers onto the streets this month entered the English language in 1833. A closely related word, rendition, was first used around 1600.

‘Extradition’: amid protests in Hong Kong, a look at where the word came from
Language Matters | On World Oceans Day, a look at the origins of the word ‘sea’, the body of water that connects us all

Since ancient times, diverse cultures have used the phrase ‘the Seven Seas’ to refer to bodies of water, while many English ocean-related words borrow from the Romance languages.

8 Jun 2019 - 10:15AM

Since ancient times, diverse cultures have used the phrase ‘the Seven Seas’ to refer to bodies of water, while many English ocean-related words borrow from the Romance languages.

On World Oceans Day, a look at the origins of the word ‘sea’, the body of water that connects us all
Language Matters | Is it Ramadan or Ramzan? The debate that has divided South Asia

The use of Ramadan is being decried by some as an Arabisation of language and religious practices while others point to the word becoming popular because it is what the observance is called in English.

24 May 2019 - 6:21PM

The use of Ramadan is being decried by some as an Arabisation of language and religious practices while others point to the word becoming popular because it is what the observance is called in English.

Is it Ramadan or Ramzan? The debate that has divided South Asia
Language Matters | On Mother’s Day, the many meanings of the word and where they came from

From Mother Nature to the “mother of all battles”, as Saddam Hussein described the 1991 Gulf war, the significance is not always maternal.

12 May 2019 - 10:46AM

From Mother Nature to the “mother of all battles”, as Saddam Hussein described the 1991 Gulf war, the significance is not always maternal.

On Mother’s Day, the many meanings of the word and where they came from
Language Matters | From Game of Thrones’ Dothraki to Star Trek’s Klingon and more: the fantastical world of conlangs

People have been creating languages for all sorts of reasons, from the artistic Elvish languages invented by J.R.R. Tolkien to Esperanto, which was created by a Polish Jew for ’international understanding and peaceful coexistence’.

29 Apr 2019 - 9:39AM

People have been creating languages for all sorts of reasons, from the artistic Elvish languages invented by J.R.R. Tolkien to Esperanto, which was created by a Polish Jew for ’international understanding and peaceful coexistence’.

From Game of Thrones’ Dothraki to Star Trek’s Klingon and more: the fantastical world of conlangs
Language Matters | How on Earth did our planet get its name? Not from a Greek or Roman deity, that’s for sure

Earth is an anomaly in our solar system in that it is not named after a Greco-Roman god or goddess.

12 Apr 2019 - 1:23PM

Earth is an anomaly in our solar system in that it is not named after a Greco-Roman god or goddess.

How on Earth did our planet get its name? Not from a Greek or Roman deity, that’s for sure
Language Matters | On World Autism Awareness Day, a look at how the disorder was named

Rooted in Greek, the term was coined in 1912, while its modern use was adopted in the 1940s by Austrian psychologist Hans Asperger.

2 Apr 2019 - 10:36AM

Rooted in Greek, the term was coined in 1912, while its modern use was adopted in the 1940s by Austrian psychologist Hans Asperger.

On World Autism Awareness Day, a look at how the disorder was named
Language Matters | On the origin of the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ for International Colour Day

Most languages recognise multiple colours, and many acknowledge a hierarchy and name them in the same order

20 Mar 2019 - 9:59AM

Most languages recognise multiple colours, and many acknowledge a hierarchy and name them in the same order

On the origin of the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ for International Colour Day
Language Matters | Pancake Day: what ‘carnival’ once meant and the origins of ‘shrove’

Pancake Day, another name for Shrove Tuesday, reflects the tradition of consuming rich, fatty foods before Lent

28 Feb 2019 - 4:43PM

Pancake Day, another name for Shrove Tuesday, reflects the tradition of consuming rich, fatty foods before Lent

Pancake Day: what ‘carnival’ once meant and the origins of ‘shrove’
Language Matters | From Queen’s Radio Ga Ga to ‘Roger that’ – how the wireless influenced language

A look at how the medium can broadcast messages of understanding, tolerance and peace

17 Feb 2019 - 11:57AM

A look at how the medium can broadcast messages of understanding, tolerance and peace

From Queen’s Radio Ga Ga to ‘Roger that’ – how the wireless influenced language
Language Matters | Australia Day debate: what the country can learn from Singapore’s approach to bicentennial celebration

As a campaign to change the date of Australia Day heats up, the Lion City is commemorating its founding by the British by celebrating its achievements while also acknowledging history’s darker side.

26 Jan 2019 - 10:01AM

As a campaign to change the date of Australia Day heats up, the Lion City is commemorating its founding by the British by celebrating its achievements while also acknowledging history’s darker side.

Australia Day debate: what the country can learn from Singapore’s approach to bicentennial celebration
Language Matters | Why ‘indigenous’ should be word of the year – from Canada to Hong Kong, it is time aboriginal peoples are heard

Besides 2019 being UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, it is high time the voices of indigenous peoples are heard

22 Feb 2019 - 10:25AM

Besides 2019 being UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, it is high time the voices of indigenous peoples are heard

Why ‘indigenous’ should be word of the year – from Canada to Hong Kong, it is time aboriginal peoples are heard
Language Matters | Where the x we use in algebra came from, and the X in Xmas

The English word ‘algebra’ has its roots in Arabic, and some say the mathematical system’s unknown quantity, x, also came from Arabic; the X in Xmas has a quite different origin: Greek.

21 Dec 2018 - 11:54AM

The English word ‘algebra’ has its roots in Arabic, and some say the mathematical system’s unknown quantity, x, also came from Arabic; the X in Xmas has a quite different origin: Greek.

Where the x we use in algebra came from, and the X in Xmas
Language Matters | Persimmons: where they come from and how to eat them – squishy, crunchy or cooked

A look at the origins of a fruit that is cultivated across the world, but is most revered in Japan, where there are even haikus dedicated to it

8 Dec 2018 - 10:50AM

A look at the origins of a fruit that is cultivated across the world, but is most revered in Japan, where there are even haikus dedicated to it

Persimmons: where they come from and how to eat them – squishy, crunchy or cooked
Language Matters | As Trump calls US-bound migrant ‘caravan’ a national emergency, a look at the word’s humble origins

How the word ‘caravan’, which originated from the Persian word for trader, eventually entering English in the 1590s, became a political flashpoint

24 Nov 2018 - 8:20AM

How the word ‘caravan’, which originated from the Persian word for trader, eventually entering English in the 1590s, became a political flashpoint

As Trump calls US-bound migrant ‘caravan’ a national emergency, a look at the word’s humble origins
Language Matters | What the swastika has to do with diwali, and how India’s festival of light is celebrated around the world

From clay oil lamps, rangoli to cleaning of the house, the Festival of Lights – celebrated by millions of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs across the globe – started off as a harvest festival

8 Nov 2018 - 6:11PM

From clay oil lamps, rangoli to cleaning of the house, the Festival of Lights – celebrated by millions of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs across the globe – started off as a harvest festival

What the swastika has to do with diwali, and how India’s festival of light is celebrated around the world
Language Matters | New Philippine English words in Oxford English dictionary give us food for thought

From bagoong to carinderia, many of the new Philippine English words that entered the Oxford English Dictionary are related to food, and recall the country’s diverse cultural heritage

28 Oct 2018 - 9:21AM

From bagoong to carinderia, many of the new Philippine English words that entered the Oxford English Dictionary are related to food, and recall the country’s diverse cultural heritage

New Philippine English words in Oxford English dictionary give us food for thought
Language Matters | How the Spice Girls redefined girl power in the 1990s, reclaiming the word ‘girl’ for female strength

On the International Day of the Girl Child, marked by the United Nations since 2012, we look at how the word ‘girl’, which can have derogatory connotations, is being redefined

18 Oct 2018 - 12:51PM

On the International Day of the Girl Child, marked by the United Nations since 2012, we look at how the word ‘girl’, which can have derogatory connotations, is being redefined

How the Spice Girls redefined girl power in the 1990s, reclaiming the word ‘girl’ for female strength
Language Matters | How the Chinese word for ‘comrade’ came to refer to the LGBT community, despite communist association

Strongly associated with communism, the meaning of the word ‘comrade’ has evolved over the centuries

28 Sep 2018 - 3:29PM

Strongly associated with communism, the meaning of the word ‘comrade’ has evolved over the centuries

How the Chinese word for ‘comrade’ came to refer to the LGBT community, despite communist association
Language Matters | Why there is no universal sign language, and how the embrace of non-verbal communication is a welcome sign of the times

Sign languages are different around the world, and even exhibit regional variants, but they are increasingly being accepted as official means of communication

14 Sep 2018 - 12:34PM

Sign languages are different around the world, and even exhibit regional variants, but they are increasingly being accepted as official means of communication

Why there is no universal sign language, and how the embrace of non-verbal communication is a welcome sign of the times
Language Matters | From chia to quinoa, how to pronounce the names of some nutrient-rich foods

From acai and chia seeds to quinoa, nutrient-rich superfoods are everywhere, but how many of us can say them correctly. A look at the origin of the words should help

31 Aug 2018 - 10:26AM

From acai and chia seeds to quinoa, nutrient-rich superfoods are everywhere, but how many of us can say them correctly. A look at the origin of the words should help

From chia to quinoa, how to pronounce the names of some nutrient-rich foods
Language Matters | What robots and slaves have in common – tracing the words’ origins reveals a curious connection

Ahead of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, find out where the word ‘slave’ came from

18 Aug 2018 - 10:00AM

Ahead of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, find out where the word ‘slave’ came from

What robots and slaves have in common – tracing the words’ origins reveals a curious connection
Language Matters | Myth busting: where the word ‘kangaroo’ really came from – spoiler, it doesn’t mean ‘I don’t know’

Little did the European settlers know, but Australia’s indigenous peoples spoke more than 250 languages

3 Aug 2018 - 6:17AM

Little did the European settlers know, but Australia’s indigenous peoples spoke more than 250 languages

Myth busting: where the word ‘kangaroo’ really came from – spoiler, it doesn’t mean ‘I don’t know’
Language Matters | Hooyah! How Thai cave rescue divers found a common language

How technical terms, battle cries and a multicultural 14-year-old came to the rescue of the international Tham Luang cave effort

20 Jul 2018 - 10:55AM

How technical terms, battle cries and a multicultural 14-year-old came to the rescue of the international Tham Luang cave effort

Hooyah! How Thai cave rescue divers found a common language
Language Matters | Jay-Z is the one who made ‘swag’ cool but guess which famous writer used it first

The 2011 Hip Hop Word of the Year has just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary but the word was first used by none other than Shakespeare

7 Jul 2018 - 9:24AM

The 2011 Hip Hop Word of the Year has just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary but the word was first used by none other than Shakespeare

Jay-Z is the one who made ‘swag’ cool but guess which famous writer used it first