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

German ‘ohne’ and English ‘without’ as not-with

Does the German word ohne (‘without’) correspond to a single mental concept? A recent paper argues that it does not. Instead, it has 2 components. One component corresponds to what the paper calls the cum concept (English with). The other corresponds to a negation or antonymity concept, which the paper calls anti. The paper also…… Continue reading German ‘ohne’ and English ‘without’ as not-with

ULEZ, uljez, izlaz

London has just extended the boundary of its Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Drivers of motor vehicles causing heavy emissions must pay to drive in the ULEZ. The word ULEZ has the shape and feel of some Croatian words. The common prefix u- means ‘in’ or ‘into’ and is derived from the preposition u. (In other…… Continue reading ULEZ, uljez, izlaz

A pause can change syntax and meaning

Trying to write something concisely, I came across a quirk of English. I ran into an example where inserting a pause changes both the syntax of a sentence and its meaning. Here’s the context. Sarah Wells married Joseph Randall, but Joseph died within a few years. After that, Sarah remarried. Her second husband was Louis…… Continue reading A pause can change syntax and meaning

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

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

When house style gives a silly answer

An organisation’s house editorial conventions are useful because: they make documents from that organisation look like documents from a single place; andallow writers to concentrate on what is important without worrying about trivial editorial details. It is important, though, not to let house editorial conventions get in the way. I once worked on an accounting…… Continue reading When house style gives a silly answer

Prefix or preposition?

Some English native prefixes expressing location in time or space are of native origin. This post discusses whether those items are indeed prefixes or whether they are a separate base added in front of another base in forming a compound word. This post does not discuss prefixes of non-native origin. Native prefixes in English Bauer,…… Continue reading Prefix or preposition?

What is a preposition?

Traditional grammars define prepositions as always being followed by a noun phrase (a phrase headed by a noun).  However, Huddlestone and Pullum (2005) argue for a broader definition of prepositions. Their wider definition also captures some items traditionally viewed as subordinating conjunctions or adverbs. Table 1 illustrates some problems caused by the traditional classification. It…… Continue reading What is a preposition?