A is for Bee

A is for BEE: An Alphabet Book in Translation, by Ellen Heck, is a delightful alphabet book for children. Each page lists one or more words starting with the same letter and has bright pictures illustrating each word. The pages are in alphabetical order. This is an alphabet book with a twist: each page lists…… Continue reading A is for Bee

Future tense and psychological distance

When a verb refers to the future, some languages require explicit marking of that fact. A recent paper presents evidence that companies in countries using those languages are slow in reporting that their goodwill has lost value. The paper suggests that this is because speakers of those languages perceive the future as psychologically more distant…… Continue reading Future tense and psychological distance

Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?

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?

Solvenian, Croatian and Serbian words in context

I came across an on-line tool that generates lists of similar words (or phrases) and synonyms for 3 languages: Slovenian (SL), Croatian (HR) and Serbian (SR). Here’s how to use it: go to https://www.kontekst.io select the language you want. enter a word in the search box and hit enter (or select one of the small…… Continue reading Solvenian, Croatian and Serbian words in context

How many languages exist?

SIL International Publications has published the 25th edition of Ethnologue®. This tries to list all known living languages in the world. It comes in 3 self-contained volumes, each covering a region and including: language descriptions organized by continent and country lists of primary names, alternate names, and dialect names country overviews with graphical language vitality…… Continue reading How many languages exist?

Measuring how much languages differ

Is it possible to quantity how one language differs from another language? In 2015, two academic researchers tried to do that by creating what they called a ‘Language Friction Index’ (LFI). They describe the index in their paper Language friction and partner selection in cross-border R&D alliance formation, Amol M Joshi and Nandini Lahiri, Journal…… Continue reading Measuring how much languages differ

Russian: an official language at the ISO

Did you know that the 3 working languages of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) include Russian? The others are English and French. I didn’t know that. Those 3 languages are the ones available on the ISO website. I haven’t found a clear statement on the ISO web site about its official languages, but here…… Continue reading Russian: an official language at the ISO

What is the perfect and where does it occur?

The World Atlas of Linguistic Structures (WALS) is a useful resource for looking at similarities and differences between languages. I’ve recently looked at WALS to get more information on the verb form known as the perfect. This post is based on Chapter 68 of WALS The Perfect. Meaning of ‘perfect’ in WALS Chapter 68 of…… Continue reading What is the perfect and where does it occur?

Do you want help with palindromes?

A palindrome is a sequence of letters that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. Palindromes can be a single word or a sequence of words. Well known English examples are ‘civic’ (a single word) and ‘Madam, I’m Adam’ (a whole sentence—albeit with internal punctuation disregarded). If you want some help in composing palindromes,…… Continue reading Do you want help with palindromes?

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