Martin Haspelmath’s book Indefinite Pronouns (1997) is a detailed examination of the structure and use of indefinite pronouns in many languages. The book looks at 40 languages in detail and gives an overview for 100 more languages. Among many other interesting things in this book, one detail caught my eye. The book identifies a structural…… Continue reading A tell-tale sign of a constructed language?
Swedish uses a morpheme -s to form genitive noun phrases and, surprisingly, uses it in much the same as English. This post looks at how this works. Much of the discussion here comes from Börjars (1998). Genitive form of unmodified nouns Like English, Swedish creates a genitive form of nouns by adding -s to the…… Continue reading Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish
A spoonerism is an error in speech. In a spoonerism, the speaker swaps the initial consonant of one word with the initial consonant of another word. Spoonerisms take their name from an Oxford academic, Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930). Perhaps the best known spoonerism is one often attributed to Spooner himself, though possibly apocryphally.…… Continue reading Lopping sweaters
On the tail end of a radio interview a couple of days ago, I heard someone say ‘agriculture are playing an important part’. ‘Agriculture are’ combines a singular noun with a plural verb and sounded very odd to me. Not a slip of the tongue All of us sometimes get distracted in the middle of…… Continue reading Even I wouldn’t use a plural verb here
Today (13 October 2023) is International Plain Language Day International Plain Language Day – Plain Language Association International (PLAIN) (plainlanguagenetwork.org) In June 2023, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 24495-1 Plain language — Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines. ISO on Plain Language – Language Miscellany
Can intonation constrain how syntax determines word order? Jackendoff (2002) suggests that it can. As examples, he cites sentences (1), (1a), (2) and (2a). Normally, English syntax insists that the direct object precedes a time adverb, as in (1). The reverse order, as in (1a) is unacceptable. (1) John bought a computer yesterday.(1a) *John bought…… Continue reading When intonation affects word order
An excavation in Turkey has brought to light an unknown Indo-European language. The new language was discovered in north-central Turkey at Boğazköy-Hattusha. That site was the capital of the Hittite Empire, a great power in Western Asia inthe Late Bronze Age (1650 to 1200 BCE). Excavations in Boğazköy-Hattusha over more than 100 years have so far…… Continue reading Ancient Indo-European language comes to light in Turkey
Many typos are just mechanical errors. Examples are mis-hitting a key next to the right one, or missing a key altogether. But sometimes, a typo reveals something about the connection between sound systems (phonology / phonetics) and writing systems. Here’s an example I saw the other day. Someone wrote ‘point of you’ clearly meaning ‘point…… Continue reading When a typo says something about sound structure