It is easy to be confused by the opposing spelling conventions used in Polish and Hungarian for the sounds /s/ and /ʃ/: Polish uses the symbol <s> for the sound /s/ and the digraph (letter sequence) <sz> for the sound /ʃ/. conversely, Hungarian uses the digraph <sz> for the sound /s/ and the symbol <s>…… Continue reading S and sz in Polish and Hungarian
Swedish has a sound /s/, broadly similar to English /s/ in, for example, English seep. I’ve known for a long time that Swedish also has 2 other sibilant consonants, which I’d thought corresponded roughly to English /ʃ/, as in English sheep. Common transcriptions for those 2 sibilants in the International Phonetic Alphabet are /ɕ/ and…… Continue reading Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?
There are some differences between the brains of German speakers and Arabic speakers. Why do those differences arise? It seems to be because these 2 languages place different processing demands on some parts of the brain. Those conclusions emerge from a recent paper Native language differences in the structural connectome of the human brain, by…… Continue reading Does your first language affect the structure of your brain?
On a recent visit to Cornwall, we went into the Bodmin Town Museum. The centrepiece of the first room was a display about the Joint Services School for Linguists. This was located in Bodmin from 1951-1956. The Museum produces a small booklet (8 pages) The Joint Services School for Linguists, Bodmin, 1951-1956, notes compiied by…… Continue reading Learning Russian in Bodmin in the Cold War
An attempt will be made on 4 June to break the world record for the world’s largest dictation event. It will be held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris for 1,700 participants. The existing record-holder is an event for 1,473 participants at the French national stadium (Stade de France) in 2018. https://www.20minutes.fr/paris/4035705-20230510-inscriptions-plus-grande-dictee-monde-champs-elysees-ouvertes As I’ve said before,…… Continue reading Aux Champs-Élysées
Someone’s first language tends to cause consistent errors when they speak a second language. I’ve always found it interesting see what types of error people make in speaking (or writing) English they have learnt as a foreign language. Those errors can be useful pointers to the features of the speaker’s first language. Spotting those errors…… Continue reading How German speakers pronounce English
Recent press reports have talked about new research, claiming to show that people retain knowledge of foreign languages learnt many years ago, even if they do not use the language actively. Those reports were triggered by announcements by the researchers, for example at: york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2022/research/knowledge-of-foreign-languages-lasts-a-lifetime https://theconversation.com/modern-language-gcses-continue-to-fall-in-popularity-but-new-research-shows-language-knowledge-will-last-you-a-lifetime-187820 In this post, I give a bit more detail on…… Continue reading How long does knowledge of foreign languages last?
Some Danes often make errors in inflecting English verbs, even though the same people speak English very fluently and, in almost every other respect, very accurately. Their error is that they don’t add the suffix -s in the 3rd person singular of the present tense. For example, they might say she give instead of she…… Continue reading A difficulty for Danes learning English
In an earlier post, I discussed possible reasons for how my 4-year-old granddaughter pronounces the name of a TV cartoon character called Cat Noir. Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds – Language Miscellany Having recently watched a few episodes with my grandsons (her cousins), I now realise where she gets the pronunciation from. The…… Continue reading More on cat noir
My granddaughter has just turned 4 and has recently become very keen on a cartoon character called cat noir. She pronounces noir as a two-syllable word, with a vowel [ə] inserted after the [n]: [nə.waː]. In contrast, many speakers of British English—including her 6-year-old sister—pronounce this word as a single syllable: either [nwa] or with…… Continue reading Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds