What is this, like, based on?

In the last couple of years I’ve started hearing the phrase “based off of” instead of the seemingly more logical “based on”. Perhaps this upstart conveys greater dynamism, like some kind of springboard. (I’ve only heard it from Americans.) I tried searching Google Ngram to see how long it has been around but Ngram didn’t…… Continue reading What is this, like, based on?

A language with only 3 verbs?

Recent press reports talked about a language that has only 3 verbs. Researchers claim that this language (Jingulu) may form a basis for creating a language that leads to better communication between humans and artificial intelligence systems. The basis for these reports is a paper in the journal Frontiers in Physics: JSwarm: A Jingulu-Inspired Human-AI-Teaming…… Continue reading A language with only 3 verbs?

It’s just semantics …

When two people are arguing, it’s quite common to hear one of them say ‘that’s just semantics’. I find that expression slightly curious. Speakers tend to mean ‘you’re arguing about words, not about substance’. It seems the word semantics has acquired a folk meaning ‘sterile, pointless and pedantic, relating to words, not to the real…… Continue reading It’s just semantics …

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’

Milkshake’s and apostrophes

Here’s another example of a sign that inserts an apostrophe in the plural of a word that doesn’t contain an apostrophe in standard English spelling. The word is milkshake’s, standardly written as milkshakes. I’ve written before about an intrusive (and normatively ‘incorrect’) apostrophe in the word milkshake. Panini’s apostrophes – Language Miscellany There, milkshake’s followed…… Continue reading Milkshake’s and apostrophes

Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?

The past tense of verbs in Russian looks very odd. It marks the gender and number of the verb’s subject, but does not mark whether the subject is 1st person (I / we), 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (she / he / it / they). In this respect, the Russian past tense differs from…… Continue reading Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?

Don’t put one relative clause inside another

Readers and listeners can find it very difficult to process sentences that embed one clause in the middle of a 2nd clause and then embed that 2nd clause in the middle of a 3rd clause. In this post, I review an example that embeds one relative clause inside another. Sentence with no embedding Let’s start…… Continue reading Don’t put one relative clause inside another

A difficulty for Danes learning English

Some Danes often make errors in inflecting English verbs, even though the same people speak English very fluently and, in almost every other respect, very accurately. Their error is that they don’t add the suffix -s in the 3rd person singular of the present tense. For example, they might say she give instead of she…… Continue reading A difficulty for Danes learning English

More on cat noir

In an earlier post, I discussed possible reasons for how my 4-year-old granddaughter pronounces the name of a TV cartoon character called Cat Noir. Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds – Language Miscellany Having recently watched a few episodes with my grandsons (her cousins), I now realise where she gets the pronunciation from. The…… Continue reading More on cat noir