Cabinet of grammatical rarities

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

Into the 2-word stage

When I last reported on my youngest granddaughter’s progress in learning language, she was still clearly at the 1-word stage (at 20 months). She was still there a couple of months later, though maybe just starting to produce 2-word phrases or statements. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/early-words She recently had her 2nd birthday and is now very definitely in…… Continue reading Into the 2-word stage

Addicted to ‘right node raising’

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’

Doing work and playing roles in Italian

Several constructions in Italian use the verb fare (‘do’, ‘make’). Two of these constructions look very similar on the surface but syntactically they behave in very different ways. A short book Fare: Elementi di sintassi, by Nunzio La Fauci and Ignazio M Mirto (2003) analyses them. Here are 2 examples: (1) Adamo fa il medicoAdam…… Continue reading Doing work and playing roles in Italian

Writing English to help second-language readers

I’ve spent much of the last 28 years writing or editing documents for a readership that includes many readers who didn’t learn English from birth. In this post, I give some tips on writing more clearly to help readers with English as a second language.  General advice on writing plain English is not enough to…… Continue reading Writing English to help second-language readers

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?

Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian

I have just read a paper describing 16 differences between Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. The description was in a paper that looked for the border between language varieties separated by each difference. The paper also looked at whether those borders match national borders and how close the varieties are to each other. The authors…… Continue reading Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian

Does English really have case?

Old English had a complex inflection system, distinguishing various morphological cases in nouns, pronouns and adjectives. Complex cases systems also existed in Latin and still exist in, for example, German and Russian. Over time, most case distinctions have vanished from English. In a 1995 paper Does English Really Have Case? in the Journal of Linguistics,…… Continue reading Does English really have case?

So-Called “Pronouns” in English

Pronouns include forms such as I, we, you, he, she, it, they, as well as their inflected forms such as me, him, her, them and reflexives, such as myself, yourself. It is traditional to think of pronouns as replacing phrases containing a noun (noun phrases). For example, consider sentence (1) I ate the red apple.…… Continue reading So-Called “Pronouns” in English

Scandinavian language challenge day 38

Today I worked through the last chapter (chapter 12) of Swedish in three months, covering: ‘either .. or’, ‘neither … nor’, ‘both … and”all and ‘whole’ the impersonal pronoun ‘man’ adjectives without a nounhow to translate some common English verbsspellingother words ‘either .. or’, ‘neither … nor’, ‘both … and’ Antingen … eller = either ……… Continue reading Scandinavian language challenge day 38