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

English Grammar Day

I went along yesterday to an event at University College London (UCL) called English Grammar Day. This was the first time I have been, though it has been held for the last 10 years. The event seems to be aimed mainly at school teachers and academics. I give below summaries of the 6 talks, which…… Continue reading English Grammar Day

More on the language with ‘only 3 verbs’

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’

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?

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?

What is a preposition?

Traditional grammars define prepositions as always being followed by a noun phrase (a phrase headed by a noun).  However, Huddlestone and Pullum (2005) argue for a broader definition of prepositions. Their wider definition also captures some items traditionally viewed as subordinating conjunctions or adverbs. Table 1 illustrates some problems caused by the traditional classification. It…… Continue reading What is a preposition?

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

Are Mandarin adjectives just a type of verb?

In Mandarin, adjectives behave like verbs in some respects. As a result, some analysts suggest that adjectives are just a subset of verbs in Mandarin. This post summarises evidence that adjectives are in fact separate from verbs. The evidence comes from Chinese Syntax, by C-T James Huang, Y-H Audrey Li and Yafei Li (2009). The…… Continue reading Are Mandarin adjectives just a type of verb?