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

Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages

The Scandinavian languages are similar to each other, but also differ from each other. Here is an example that illustrates nicely some of the similarities and differences. I came across it in The Syntax of Icelandic, Höskuldur Thráinson (2007). Although Höskuldur Thráinson uses the example to make one specific point about word order, I use…… Continue reading Similarities and differences within Scandinavian languages

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

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

Passive in Japanese

This post looks at the passive in Japanese. In earlier posts, I: explained 3 features of the passive construction, focusing on English https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/03/what-is-the-passivelooked at how 2 Bantu languages (Swahili and Chichewa) implement those 3 features. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/the-passive-in-2-bantu-languages Background: passive In my earlier post, I explained that the passive construction: deletes or demotes the subject of the…… Continue reading Passive in Japanese

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

The passive in 2 Bantu languages

In an earlier post, I explained 3 features of the passive construction, focusing on English. This post summarises how 2 Bantu languages (Swahili and Chichewa) implement those 3 features. It also mentions the stative, a construction that is somewhat similar. Background: Bantu languages The Bantu group of languages has many members, spoken in the southern…… Continue reading The passive in 2 Bantu languages

What is the passive?

In English and many other languages, many verbs may be in either an active form or a passive form. Most descriptions of the passive treat the active as a more basic form, with the passive derived from it. The easiest way—perhaps the only way—to describe active or passive is by the relationship between them: the…… Continue reading What is the passive?

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?