Languages differ in what they MUST say

There is a popular belief that some things can only be expressed in some languages and not in other languages. The linguist and literary theorist Roman Jakobson (1896-1982) took issue with that belief in his well-known statement: ‘Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey’. That statement appears in his short essay…… Continue reading Languages differ in what they MUST say

Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages

Many western European languages have a perfect tense, formed by combining an auxiliary verb (meaning ‘have’ or ‘be’) with a past participle. Different languages use this verb form in different ways. A recent paper used translations of a well-known French novel to explore those differences. The aim was to see which tense the translators used…… Continue reading Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages

Is Russian difficult for English speakers?

I’ve sometimes heard people describe Russian as a difficult language for native English speakers. It is, indeed, a little more difficult for such learners than languages related more closely to English, such as other Germanic languages or the Romance languages. On the other hand, it is probably less difficult for them than completely unrelated languages.…… Continue reading Is Russian difficult for English speakers?