Cabinet of grammatical rarities

A Raritätenkabinett (cabinet of rarities) is a collection of things, living or dead, which are considered worth collecting (and perhaps exhibiting) because they are rare. An online collection of grammatical rarities is available at https://typo.uni-konstanz.de/rara/ The site classifies the items it contains into the following categories: rarum (plural rara): ‘a trait (of any conceivable sort:…… Continue reading Cabinet of grammatical rarities

The Pope is allergic to adjectives

It was widely reported a couple of years ago that Pope Francis told the Vatican communications team not to use adjectives, saying: “I am allergic to those words.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/24/pope-francis-criticises-overuse-of-adjectives Ironically, the Pope’s own words include an adjective: ‘allergic’. Such jarring clashes between advice and practice are common when people dispense gratuitous advice on writing. I…… Continue reading The Pope is allergic to adjectives

What is a preposition?

Traditional grammars define prepositions as always being followed by a noun phrase (a phrase headed by a noun).  However, Huddlestone and Pullum (2005) argue for a broader definition of prepositions. Their wider definition also captures some items traditionally viewed as subordinating conjunctions or adverbs. Table 1 illustrates some problems caused by the traditional classification. It…… Continue reading What is a preposition?

‘Similar to’ in starting a sentence

Over the last 10 years or so, I have seen more and more sentences starting with the phrase Similar to. These sentences often say something like: Similar to A, B does X. Here is a slightly abbreviated version of a recent example I saw in The Times [of London]. Similar to much of myalgic encephalomyelitis…… Continue reading ‘Similar to’ in starting a sentence

German and English Academic Usage and academic translation

I have just started reading German and English Academic Usage and Academic Translation (2021), by Dirk Siepmann. This starts with an exercise of translating a short passage of German academic text. It is only one paragraph, though quite a long one: Seit Mitte der 1980er Jahre hat Michel Espagne sukzessive das Themenfeld des interkulturellen Transfers…… Continue reading German and English Academic Usage and academic translation

Fronted adverbials

Periodically, a debate breaks out in the British press about whether schools in England teach too much English grammar or too little English grammar. The trigger for the latest outpouring was an academic study suggesting that teaching grammar does not improve children’s writing. For some commentators, the phrase ‘fronted adverbials’ now exemplifies excessive focus on…… Continue reading Fronted adverbials

Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian

I have just read a paper describing 16 differences between Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. The description was in a paper that looked for the border between language varieties separated by each difference. The paper also looked at whether those borders match national borders and how close the varieties are to each other. The authors…… Continue reading Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian

Half baked

If an idea isn’t really thought through and doesn’t make sense, we call it half-baked. So if an idea is completely half-baked, how baked is it? More than 50%? Less than 50%? Exactly 50%?

Scandinavian language challenge day 34

Today I worked through chapter 11 of Danish in three months, covering: numbers: fractions and collectivesadverbs of place and motionuses of adverbsconjunctions and adverbs used in pairsconfusable nounsother words Numbers: fractions and collectives The adjective halv means half and is inflected in the normal way: På en halVv dag spiste de et halvt får.(in half a…… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 34

Scandinavian language challenge day 29

Today I worked through chapter 9 of Swedish in three months, covering: indefinite and negative pronouns and adjectivesformation of adverbscomparative and superlativeinfinitive with and without attother words Indefinite and negative pronouns and adjectives The following are both pronouns and adjectives: någon (neuter: något, plural: några): something, someone, some, anything, anyone, anyingen (inget, inga): nothing, no-one, no…… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 29