Schock prize for linguists

The 2024 Rolf Schock Prize in Logic and Philosophy has been awarded jointly to Hans Kamp (University of Stuttgart, Germany) and Irene Heim (MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). It as awarded ‘for (mutually independent) conception and early development of dynamic semantics for natural language.’ The laureates are selected by collaboration between three Swedish royal academies: the Royal…… Continue reading Schock prize for linguists

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

ISOs on translation

In February 2024, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 5060 Translation services, Evaluation of translation output—General guidance. It gives guidance on evaluating human translation output, post-edited machine translation output, and unedited machine translation output. I searched the ISOs online store for other ISOs dealing with translation. I have prepared summaries below from the…… Continue reading ISOs on translation

4 types of adjective

One way to classify adjectives is into 2 categories: intersective and non-intersective, with 3 subcategories of non-intersective adjective (subsective, plain and privative). Intersective adjectives An example of an intersective adjective is carnivorous in ‘carnivorous mammal’. This describes something that is both a mammal and carnivorous. The set of carnivorous mammals is the intersection of 2…… Continue reading 4 types of adjective

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

Not-the best place for-a hyphen

I was reading yesterday about a football club that has 2 ‘co-sporting directors’. That is an odd place to put the hyphen. People do often put a hyphen after the prefix co. Indeed, I often do that myself, to make it easier for readers to see the structure of the word. But in this case,…… Continue reading Not-the best place for-a hyphen

Unsocially distanced: a bracketing paradox?

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?

Do swear words contain some sounds more often?

A recent study suggests that approximants—sounds such as /l/; /r/; /w/; and /y/—appear less often in swear words than they do in other words. The paper is The sound of swearing: Are there universal patterns in profanity?, by Shiri Lev-Ari and Ryan McKay (2022) published online in December 2022 by the experimental psychology journal Psychonomic…… Continue reading Do swear words contain some sounds more often?

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 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