Unsocially distanced: a bracketing paradox?

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?

2,000 year old Sanskrit puzzle solved?

A PhD student may have found a way to simplify the analysis of Sanskrit grammar, overturning a time-honoured way of reading a classic grammatical description. In his PhD thesis, Dr Rishi Rajpopat (of St John’s College, Cambridge) analysed the oldest surviving descriptive grammar of any language. This is Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, a comprehensive grammar of Sanskrit,…… Continue reading 2,000 year old Sanskrit puzzle solved?

Some odd possessive adjectives in Slavonic

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

Cross-language blues’

I found this week an odd blend of English pronunciation and spelling with French pronunciation and spelling. Writing about last Saturday’s Football World Cup match between England and France, a journalist wrote the following:   Philippe Auclair, the French writer, calls him Les Bleus’ “beat-giver”. The Times, 12 December 2022(‘him’ refers to the French footballer…… Continue reading Cross-language blues’

How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish (3)?

I have written before about: the major cases in Finnish and Hungarian. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/03/how-many-cases-are-there-in-hungarian-and-finnishthe local / spatial cases in those languages https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/05/how-many-cases-are-there-in-hungarian-and-finnish-2 In this post, I cover the minor cases in those languages. Overview Both Finnish and Hungarian have minor cases expressing: accompaniment (comitative)—though in Hungarian, the case expressing accompaniment is more often the instrumental case…… Continue reading How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish (3)?

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?

Passive in Japanese

This post looks at the passive in Japanese. In earlier posts, I: explained 3 features of the passive construction, focusing on English https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/03/what-is-the-passivelooked at how 2 Bantu languages (Swahili and Chichewa) implement those 3 features. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/the-passive-in-2-bantu-languages Background: passive In my earlier post, I explained that the passive construction: deletes or demotes the subject of the…… Continue reading Passive in Japanese

Learning to eat in the past (2)

I’ve mentioned before that my grandson (then 6 years, 9 months, but now 6 years 11 months) regularly uses ‘ated’ as the past tense of the verb eat. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/05/learning-to-eat-in-the-past I forgot to say that he also regularly uses ‘aten’ as the past participle of that verb. And over the last couple of weeks I’ve also heard…… Continue reading Learning to eat in the past (2)

Prefix or preposition?

Some English native prefixes expressing location in time or space are of native origin. This post discusses whether those items are indeed prefixes or whether they are a separate base added in front of another base in forming a compound word. This post does not discuss prefixes of non-native origin. Native prefixes in English Bauer,…… Continue reading Prefix or preposition?