Still using unhelpful headlines … and still talking about batsmen

I’ve complained before about the unhelpful and misleading headlines The Times uses when an inside page continues an article that started on the back page. Their style seems to be to invent a new headline for the rest of the article, rather than keep the original headline. Please keep the same headline throughout – Language…… Continue reading Still using unhelpful headlines … and still talking about batsmen

When the machines started hallucinating

The Cambridge Dictionary—an online dictionary for learners of English—has added a new meaning to its definition of ‘hallucinate’ and has picked ‘hallucinate’ as its Word of the Year for 2023. Cambridge Dictionary names ‘Hallucinate’ Word of the Year 2023 | University of Cambridge Hallucinating ‘false information’ This year has seen a surge in interest in…… Continue reading When the machines started hallucinating

Structure of numbers in Indo-European

How are numerals formed in Indo-European languages today, and how were they formed in the ancestral language Proto-Indo-European (PIE)? And do ordering patterns of components within numerals align with other word order patterns in the same languages? Andreea S. Calude and Annemarie Verkerk considered those questions in a paper looking at how 81 present and past…… Continue reading Structure of numbers in Indo-European

Unusual adjectives from French place names

I’ve always been fascinated by the adjectives French creates from place names. Many of them are formed in fairly predictable ways by just adding a suffix to the place name. Examples are parisien (from Paris) and lyonnais (from Lyon). Others are less obvious, and I list some of them in this post. Well-known places Table…… Continue reading Unusual adjectives from French place names

Where dialects of American English came from

A recent post by Rosemarie Ostler on the OUP blog summarises the historical roots of today’s American dialects. Four main groups of colonists arrived in British North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. They came from different regions, bringing their own dialects: Puritans arrived in Massachusetts from 1629, coming mainly from East Anglia in…… Continue reading Where dialects of American English came from

English Grammar Day

I went along yesterday to an event at University College London (UCL) called English Grammar Day. This was the first time I have been, though it has been held for the last 10 years. The event seems to be aimed mainly at school teachers and academics. I give below summaries of the 6 talks, which…… Continue reading English Grammar Day

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

Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’

I want to use the following sentence: ‘each of the UK’s last 5 Prime Ministers was worse than their predecessor’.  That sentence could have 2 readings: A distributive reading: each Prime Minster was worse than that Prime Minister’s predecessor. A collective reading:  each Prime Minster was worse than the predecessor of the 1st in that…… Continue reading Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’

Words to watch in 2023

Which words and phrases will enter wider circulation in 2023? This year’s edition of The Economist magazine’s annual publication The World in 2023 discusses, among many other interesting topics, the magazine’s ‘best 23 guesses’ for the terms that will become part of public discourse this year. I list the 23 terms below, with brief definitions,…… Continue reading Words to watch in 2023

On the weekend

Learning which preposition to use in a language, and in which context, often involves learning some general rules of thumb (which often differ greatly from language to language) and many detailed rules that typically seem arbitrary. For a small example of this, consider how you talk in English about what you did, will do, or…… Continue reading On the weekend