The English verbal ending -s

It is often said that English verbs inflect in the present tense for the person (1st / 2nd / 3rd) and number (singular / plural) of their grammatical subject. In Notes on English Agreement, Richard Kayne provides a different analysis. He suggests that English verbs inflect only for number, not for person. Background Almost all…… Continue reading The English verbal ending -s

More about Ginkgo

I’ve previously posted my translation of Goethe’s poem Ginkgo Biloba. I’ve recently found more about the history, spelling and pronunciation of the word Ginkgo. I found this in section 8.3 of Sounds Fascinating: Further Investigations on English Phonetics and Phonology (2016), by JC Wells. Wells notes that the Oxford English Dictionary describes the word as…… Continue reading More about Ginkgo

Translation and food packaging

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that UK retailer Tesco mis-translated chocolate powder into Czech. Tesco had translated it as čokoládový prašek (‘chocolate powder’) but the official Czech version of the EU Cocoa and Chocolate Products Directive uses čokoláda v prašku (‘chocolate in powder‘). The Czech authorities prosecuted Tesco and after…… Continue reading Translation and food packaging

Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds

My granddaughter has just turned 4 and has recently become very keen on a cartoon character called cat noir. She pronounces noir as a two-syllable word, with a vowel [ə] inserted after the [n]: [nə.waː]. In contrast, many speakers of British English—including her 6-year-old sister—pronounce this word as a single syllable: either [nwa] or with…… Continue reading Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds

Wordle

A new online craze called Wordle is in the news because of differences between American and British spelling. Players have to guess a 5 letter word. On each go, the player must enter a valid 5 letter word as a guess. The system then tells them how many: correct letters are in the right place.correct…… Continue reading Wordle

‘must not’ in English and German

The English modal verb must and its German counterpart muss are cognates—they share the same origin and similar meanings. But when they are negated, they behave in different ways. English Barbara must not go means that it is required that Barbara does not go.On the other hand, German Barbara muss nicht gehen means that Barbara…… Continue reading ‘must not’ in English and German

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

Mandarin sibilants

Mandarin has many more sibilant sounds than English does.  I have always found it hard to keep them apart, both in listening and in speaking. The following table shows for each sibilant sound first the official romanised (pinyin) spelling and then, in [square brackets], a transcription in the alphabet of the International Phonetic Association.  FricativeAffricateAspiratedaffricateDentals…… Continue reading Mandarin sibilants