I’ve always been fascinated by the adjectives French creates from place names. Many of them are formed in fairly predictable ways by just adding a suffix to the place name. Examples are parisien (from Paris) and lyonnais (from Lyon). Others are less obvious, and I list some of them in this post. Well-known places Table…… Continue reading Unusual adjectives from French place names
Which conjunction do English speakers use with the comparative form of adjectives to describe a test applied to 2 nouns in order to select one of those nouns? I have the impression that American English uses, for example, ‘the lower of A or B’ where British English uses ‘the lower of A and B’. I…… Continue reading The lower of one thing or the lower of 2 things?
I’ve written before about press reports that the Australian language Jingulu has only 3 verbs. A language with only 3 verbs? – Language Miscellany I’ve now found some discussion of that idea in Mark C Baker’s book Lexical categories: verbs, nouns, and adjectives. In section 2.10 of his book, Baker discusses whether there exist any…… Continue reading More on the language with ‘only 3 verbs’
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
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?
I was listening to a language learning CD the other day. After every passage, there were some exercises, preceded by the instruction ‘please answer the questions based on the text’. The intended meaning is: ‘please answer the question and base your answers on the text’. But read literally, it seems to be saying: please answer…… Continue reading Answer the questions based on the text
If you are comparing only 2 things, should you use the comparative (eg bigger) or the superlative (eg biggest)? Style guides tend to advise us to use the comparative. But I came across a case where the comparative could be ambiguous. Suppose you are writing about 3 brothers from the perspective of the youngest. You…… Continue reading An ambiguous older brother
Collins Dictionary has selected permacrisis as Collins Word of the Year 2022 (for English). Collins defines it as ‘an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events’. This is one of 10 words Collins highlights. They all relate to continuing crises faced by the UK and the world.…… Continue reading Collins words of 2022
The Italian publisher Treccani will change how it lists nouns and adjectives in the next edition of its Dizionario della Lingua Italiana (Dictionary of the Italian Language), due to come out in October. Previous editions have followed the traditional practice of listing nouns and adjectives under only the masculine form of the head word. The…… Continue reading Italian dictionary will now include feminine forms
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 https://typo.uni-konstanz.de/rara/ 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