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 | 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

29 Sep 2018 - 2:36PM

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

29 Sep 2018 - 2:36PM

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

29 Sep 2018 - 2:36PM

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

29 Sep 2018 - 2:36PM

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
Language Matters | The global language of soccer: how English gave the world football, and it gave back rabona and joga bonito

Soccer in its modern form spread from England, and with it a lexicon derived from English. But as the game spread globally, so did new terms, such as rabona and joga bonito, that English has in turn absorbed

21 Jun 2018 - 8:30PM

Soccer in its modern form spread from England, and with it a lexicon derived from English. But as the game spread globally, so did new terms, such as rabona and joga bonito, that English has in turn absorbed

The global language of soccer: how English gave the world football, and it gave back rabona and joga bonito
Language Matters | Why the word ‘daddy’ is similar the world over

Infant speech acquisition patterns have formed similar parental names for millennia but ‘sugar daddies’ came along only in the early 1900s

29 Sep 2018 - 2:36PM

Infant speech acquisition patterns have formed similar parental names for millennia but ‘sugar daddies’ came along only in the early 1900s

Why the word ‘daddy’ is similar the world over
Language Matters | When AI catches up to fiction – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Babel fish may soon exist

While a translator on par with Douglas Adams’ fictitious fish doesn’t exist yet, auto-translation systems have made great strides, even coming to the rescue of endangered languages

25 May 2018 - 2:05PM

While a translator on par with Douglas Adams’ fictitious fish doesn’t exist yet, auto-translation systems have made great strides, even coming to the rescue of endangered languages

When AI catches up to fiction – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s Babel fish may soon exist
Language Matters | From Canton’s Thirteen Factories to Hong Kong cotton mills: where the word ‘factory’ comes from

Despite Latin origins, the English word ‘factory’ can be traced to a 1582 translation of a Portuguese historian’s account of India

14 May 2018 - 12:51PM

Despite Latin origins, the English word ‘factory’ can be traced to a 1582 translation of a Portuguese historian’s account of India

From Canton’s Thirteen Factories to Hong Kong cotton mills: where the word ‘factory’ comes from
Language Matters | On Star Wars Day, decoding the films’ exotic alien languages

Is Yoda actually Hawaiian and are the Ewoks from Tibet? Intergalactic forms of communication owe more to existing languages than you might think

20 Jul 2018 - 8:47PM

Is Yoda actually Hawaiian and are the Ewoks from Tibet? Intergalactic forms of communication owe more to existing languages than you might think

On Star Wars Day, decoding the films’ exotic alien languages
Language Matters | How the English language came to terms with Japanese food, from sake to tempura

The popular Asian cuisine lends a number of dish-inspired words to the international lexicon

20 Jul 2018 - 8:47PM

The popular Asian cuisine lends a number of dish-inspired words to the international lexicon

How the English language came to terms with Japanese food, from sake to tempura
Language Matters | Easter’s pagan origins set course for Christian and later egg-centric appropriation

Originally a celebration of spring, the holiday’s significance has evolved over time, as has its East Asian cousin, Ching Ming

20 Jul 2018 - 8:47PM

Originally a celebration of spring, the holiday’s significance has evolved over time, as has its East Asian cousin, Ching Ming

Easter’s pagan origins set course for Christian and later egg-centric appropriation
Language Matters | It’s a knockout: how the English language is rife with boxing metaphors

Everyday speech abounds with pugilistic expressions, and their significance continues to evolve in light of recent political events

16 Mar 2018 - 8:57PM

Everyday speech abounds with pugilistic expressions, and their significance continues to evolve in light of recent political events

It’s a knockout: how the English language is rife with boxing metaphors
Language Matters | China’s #MeToo censorship bypassed through netizens’ creative use of language

Social-media users circumvent state’s online filters to join global anti-abuse movement

25 Apr 2018 - 11:44AM

Social-media users circumvent state’s online filters to join global anti-abuse movement

China’s #MeToo censorship bypassed through netizens’ creative use of language
Language Matters | Ensure an auspicious start to Chinese New Year with a traditional prosperity toss

Learn 12 homophonous phrases to accompany the festive practice of flinging ingredients into the air for good fortunes in the Year of the Dog

20 Jul 2018 - 8:47PM

Learn 12 homophonous phrases to accompany the festive practice of flinging ingredients into the air for good fortunes in the Year of the Dog

Ensure an auspicious start to Chinese New Year with a traditional prosperity toss
Language Matters | Where did the word ‘outstation’ come from?

Still used in Singapore, Malaysia and India, the term means “being out of town”, but in Australia and New Zealand, it has a very different implication

20 Jul 2018 - 8:47PM

Still used in Singapore, Malaysia and India, the term means “being out of town”, but in Australia and New Zealand, it has a very different implication

Where did the word ‘outstation’ come from?
Language Matters | How catty and tael entered the English language, along with picul, mace and candareen – Asian weight measurements

Measures of weight taken from Malay and Javanese and in wide use in East Asia were adopted by early European settlers and passed into English, giving the language caddy – a box for holding tea

20 Jul 2018 - 8:47PM

Measures of weight taken from Malay and Javanese and in wide use in East Asia were adopted by early European settlers and passed into English, giving the language caddy – a box for holding tea

How catty and tael entered the English language, along with picul, mace and candareen – Asian weight measurements