Not-gormless again

As I have posted before, gormless is one of those strange inherently negative words with no positive counterpart. In that post, I included a picture of a restaurant at Copenhagen airport called Gorm’s. https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/08/can-you-negate-the-word-gormless/ I’ve recently found out a possible reason for using that name in Denmark. Denmark was ruled from about 936 to 1042…… Continue reading Not-gormless again

Sail in on a shrimp sandwich

It’s always fun to hear odd-sounding idioms and proverbs in other languages.  Anita Shenoi’s nicely illustrated book Sail in on a shrimp sandwich … and other curious Swedish sayings (2017) lists 63 Swedish sayings. Here are 5 of them, with a literal translation, followed by a description of the meaning. Segla in på en täkmacka…… Continue reading Sail in on a shrimp sandwich

A is for Bee

A is for BEE: An Alphabet Book in Translation, by Ellen Heck, is a delightful alphabet book for children. Each page lists one or more words starting with the same letter and has bright pictures illustrating each word. The pages are in alphabetical order. This is an alphabet book with a twist: each page lists…… Continue reading A is for Bee

Structure of numbers in Indo-European

How are numerals formed in Indo-European languages today, and how were they formed in the ancestral language Proto-Indo-European (PIE)? And do ordering patterns of components within numerals align with other word order patterns in the same languages? Andreea S. Calude and Annemarie Verkerk considered those questions in a paper looking at how 81 present and past…… Continue reading Structure of numbers in Indo-European

Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

The winner of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Literature was someone who writes in Norwegian, Jon Fosse. That award is notable not just because Fosse is the first winner known best for his plays since Harold Pinter (2005). And not just because he is the first winner who writes in Norwegian since Sigrid Undset (1928).…… Continue reading Nynorsk writer wins Nobel literature prize

Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish

Swedish uses a morpheme -s to form genitive noun phrases and, surprisingly, uses it in much the same as English. This post looks at how this works. Much of the discussion here comes from Börjars (1998). Genitive form of unmodified nouns Like English, Swedish creates a genitive form of nouns by adding -s to the…… Continue reading Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish

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

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

Test your languages online

The University of Westminster runs language courses in about 20 languages. In fact I did 3 of their evening courses in the mid 90s. For some languages they have a brief online diagnostic quiz. This tests how much you know so you can enrol at the right level. The quiz contains 50 questions, in a…… Continue reading Test your languages online