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
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
An excavation in Turkey has brought to light an unknown Indo-European language. The new language was discovered in north-central Turkey at Boğazköy-Hattusha. That site was the capital of the Hittite Empire, a great power in Western Asia inthe Late Bronze Age (1650 to 1200 BCE). Excavations in Boğazköy-Hattusha over more than 100 years have so far…… Continue reading Ancient Indo-European language comes to light in Turkey
A recent post by Rosemarie Ostler on the OUP blog summarises the historical roots of today’s American dialects. Four main groups of colonists arrived in British North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. They came from different regions, bringing their own dialects: Puritans arrived in Massachusetts from 1629, coming mainly from East Anglia in…… Continue reading Where dialects of American English came from
The World Atlas of Linguistic Structures (WALS) is a useful resource for looking at similarities and differences between languages. I’ve recently looked at WALS to get more information on the verb form known as the perfect. This post is based on Chapter 68 of WALS The Perfect. Meaning of ‘perfect’ in WALS Chapter 68 of…… Continue reading What is the perfect and where does it occur?
An exhibition at the British Museum recounts how Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was first deciphered in the first 2 decades of the 19th century, using the Rosetta Stone and other inscriptions and texts. Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt is on until 19 February. https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/hieroglyphs-unlocking-ancient-egypt The rest of this post covers: ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and…… Continue reading Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt
For someone who knows some Russian, the 3rd person possessive adjectives in Croatian look odd. But looking at it more closely, I’ve realised that their Russian counterparts are just as odd, though in a different way. Russian Table 1 shows some of the possessive adjectives in Russian. The adjective’s stem depends on the person (1st,…… Continue reading Some odd possessive adjectives in Slavonic
A recently discovered inscription on an ivory comb is the earliest known example of alphabetic writing. The comb was found in Lachish (Israel) and bears an inscription in an early Canaanite script. The 17 letters, in early pictographic style, form seven words expressing a plea against lice. A report on this find is in A…… Continue reading Earliest known alphabetic script
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?
I have picked up another interesting snippet from David Crystal’s book By Hook or by Crook: a journey in search of English (2007). English spelling does not match well with current pronunciation. As is well known, some such mismatches arose because English spelling began to stabilise before some major changes in the English sound system.…… Continue reading French scribes with good intentions