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
The UK used to have an Office for Tax Simplification (OTS), created in 2010 to give the UK government the independent advice on simplifying the tax system. In 2022, the OTS issued a report Review of simplification: Approach and interpretation OTS Simplification Review – web copy (publishing.service.gov.uk) A few months later, the UK government abolished…… Continue reading Simpler definitions for tax
Martin Haspelmath’s book Indefinite Pronouns (1997) is a detailed examination of the structure and use of indefinite pronouns in many languages. The book looks at 40 languages in detail and gives an overview for 100 more languages. Among many other interesting things in this book, one detail caught my eye. The book identifies a structural…… Continue reading A tell-tale sign of a constructed language?
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
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson allegedly told a staff meeting in 10 Downing Street that they were at ‘probably the most unsocially distanced gathering in the UK right now’. That comment not only raises political questions but also illustrates an interesting linguistic point. What does the prefix [un-] negate in that phrase? The spelling…… Continue reading Unsocially distanced: a bracketing paradox?
I wrote in April about the progress our youngest 2 grandchildren were making in learning to talk, when they were 20 months and 13 months. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/early-words I wrote an update in September about how the older one was getting on, just after her 2nd birthday. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/09/into-the-2-word-stage Here is a further update. They are now 26…… Continue reading More on early talking
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
I recently came across a word that was new to me: contronym. A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. An often-given example is sanction. Sanctioning an action can mean either penalising it or permitting it. Some other examples are: WordOne meaningAnother meaningcleave clingsplitclipattachcut offdustremove dustadd a layer of dustapologystatement of regret for an…… Continue reading Contronyms
In this post, I look at a construction that I often saw in drafts of documents I was reviewing. Although the construction is grammatical and concise, readers find it difficult to process. I explain what this construction is and why it is difficult. I also summarise a published review of some of the vast linguistics…… Continue reading Addicted to ‘right node raising’
The past tense of verbs in Russian looks very odd. It marks the gender and number of the verb’s subject, but does not mark whether the subject is 1st person (I / we), 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (she / he / it / they). In this respect, the Russian past tense differs from…… Continue reading Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?