The werewolf or who-wolf

I’ve discovered an interesting translation of the well-known poem Der Werwolf (‘The Werewolf’), by the German poet Christian Morgenstern (1871-1914). What led me to this translation was a blogpost on Language Hat about ontogeny. Someone commenting on that post mentioned a translation of this poem. The translation is by Jerome Lettvin (1920– 2011). I hadn’t…… Continue reading The werewolf or who-wolf

How to need and how to have

The way languages express needing something is linked in a surprising way to how they express having something. In their paper Having “need” and needing “have” Stephanie Harves and Richard Kayne (Linguistic Inquiry, 2012) summarise the facts and suggest an explanation. How to have: H-languages English and some other languages use a transitive verb like…… Continue reading How to need and how to have

The Uralic Languages

According to Kiefer and Laakso (2014), there is a general consensus that there are 6 main branches of Uralic: Ugric: Hungarian (13 million speakers) and, in Western Siberia, the Ob-Ugric languages Khanty (almost 10,000 speakers) and Mansi (probably less than 10,000 speakers) Finnic: Finnish (5 million speakers); Estonian (1 million). Other Finnic languages have many…… Continue reading The Uralic Languages

Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish

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

Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages

The Scandinavian languages are similar to each other, but also differ from each other. Here is an example that illustrates nicely some of the similarities and differences. I came across it in The Syntax of Icelandic, Höskuldur Thráinson (2007). Although Höskuldur Thráinson uses the example to make one specific point about word order, I use…… Continue reading Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages

Language sketch: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian

Here is a summary of some things I learnt about the Mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Swedish and Norwegian) a couple of years ago, when I was carrying out a self-imposed language challenge. http://languagemiscellany.com/2021/09/scandinavian-challenge-how-did-it-go/   I am commenting here only on those 3 languages, not their relatives, the insular Scandinavian Languages (Icelandic and Faroese). For an…… Continue reading Language sketch: Danish, Swedish and Norwegian

Some odd possessive adjectives in Slavonic

For someone who knows some Russian, the 3rd person possessive adjectives in Croatian look odd.  But looking at it more closely, I’ve realised that their Russian counterparts are just as odd, though in a different way. Russian Table 1 shows some of the possessive adjectives in Russian. The adjective’s stem depends on the person (1st,…… Continue reading Some odd possessive adjectives in Slavonic

How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish (3)?

I have written before about: the major cases in Finnish and Hungarian. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/03/how-many-cases-are-there-in-hungarian-and-finnishthe local / spatial cases in those languages https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/05/how-many-cases-are-there-in-hungarian-and-finnish-2 In this post, I cover the minor cases in those languages. Overview Both Finnish and Hungarian have minor cases expressing: accompaniment (comitative)—though in Hungarian, the case expressing accompaniment is more often the instrumental case…… Continue reading How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish (3)?

How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish? (2)

I have written before about the major cases in Finnish and Hungarian. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/03/how-many-cases-are-there-in-hungarian-and-finnishIn this post, I cover the local / spatial cases in those languages. These cases express such concepts as location, movement to or from a place. Finnish Finish has 6 of these cases, made up of 2 series, each containing 3 cases. Cases…… Continue reading How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish? (2)

How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish?

The Uralic languages are well known for having a large number of grammatical cases. The two Uralic languages with the most speakers are Hungarian and Finnish. Finnish has 15 cases and Hungarian has between 17 and 27 grammatical cases, depending on how some items are analysed. In contrast, looking only at some examples in languages…… Continue reading How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish?