New law in Lithuania lets people use foreign letters

The Lithuanian alphabet is based on the Roman alphabet but does not include the letters ‘q’, ‘x’ and ‘w’. As a result, using those letters in the official spelling of people’s names in Lithuania has not been possible. However, that has now changed. On 26 January 2020, the President of Lithuania signed a new law…… Continue reading New law in Lithuania lets people use foreign letters

Great English Vowel Shift

Major changes occurred in the English vowel system between about 1400 and about 1750. English spelling began to stabilise before most of those changes took place. As a result, English spelling does not match well with current pronunciation, as many native and non-native learners have discovered to their cost. This post summarises one group of…… Continue reading Great English Vowel Shift

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

Only eadsets

Italian phonetic spelling of headset. The ‘eadset in question was in the City Train sightseeing train bus, Sorrento (2012)

Can English words start with th?

I am delighted that my grandchildren have learnt the word digraph in the reception class in their primary schools. A digraph is a sequence of two letters that together represent a single sound. One English digraph is <th>. This digraph is, in fact, used to spell two different consonants: a voiceless consonant, as in the…… Continue reading Can English words start with th?

Ginkgo Biloba

I entered my translation of this poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the 2021 Stephen Spender prize. Like all entries for this prize, it includes my commentary on the translation. The word Ginkgo seems to be spelt variously, in both German and English, sometimes as Gingko and sometimes as Ginkgo. Printed copies of Goethe’s…… Continue reading Ginkgo Biloba

Bulgarian through Russian

Reading Bulgarian through Russian, by Charles E Gribble (1987) is a concise textbook that aims to teach people with a good knowledge of Russian to read normal contemporary literary Bulgarian. (I haven’t seen the 2nd edition, published in 2013.) An early section of Gribble’s book lists some systematic correspondences of sounds and spellings between the…… Continue reading Bulgarian through Russian

The chaos of English spelling

English spelling is notoriously inconsistent. A Dutch writer, Gerard Nolst Trenité (1870-1946) wrote a poem The Chaos highlighting some of the irregularities and inconsistencies. The first version appeared in 1920 in his textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. The author also wrote a linguistic column for an Amsterdam weekly paper from 1909 to 1946…… Continue reading The chaos of English spelling

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

When people say goodbye in German, they don’t usually say Auf Widersehen, they mostly say tschüß. I always used to wonder where this odd word comes from. Now I know. “In rapid speech, its possibly Wallonian variant adjuus (sounding close to Spanish adiós) yielded the almost unrecognizable word tschüs.” Monthly gleanings for October 2019 |…… Continue reading So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye

Droppin’ g’s = bad speech?

At the end of July, Digby Jones, former Director-General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), tweeted about the pronunciation of Alex Scott, one of the BBC’s main studio presenters during the Tokyo Olympics. He complained about her “very noticeable inability to pronounce her ‘g’s at the end of a word”, such as “fencin, rowin,…… Continue reading Droppin’ g’s = bad speech?