The hadted to do it

My grandson (8 years, 11 months) and his brother (6 years, 6 months) both form the past tense of had to in an unusual and interesting way. They have both been doing this consistently and reasonably often for several months, perhaps as long as a year. I don’t know which one started doing this first,…… Continue reading The hadted to do it

Non-meant or intended

On some tickets we bought the other day, the terms and conditions say: ‘Tickets are non-refundable or transferable’. Now, I know what they meant to say, but they didn’t achieve it. They intended to say (1). (1) Tickets are not refundable and not transferable. They could also have expressed that meaning with (2). (2) Tickets…… Continue reading Non-meant or intended

German ‘ohne’ and English ‘without’ as not-with

Does the German word ohne (‘without’) correspond to a single mental concept? A recent paper argues that it does not. Instead, it has 2 components. One component corresponds to what the paper calls the cum concept (English with). The other corresponds to a negation or antonymity concept, which the paper calls anti. The paper also…… Continue reading German ‘ohne’ and English ‘without’ as not-with

Future tense and psychological distance

When a verb refers to the future, some languages require explicit marking of that fact. A recent paper presents evidence that companies in countries using those languages are slow in reporting that their goodwill has lost value. The paper suggests that this is because speakers of those languages perceive the future as psychologically more distant…… Continue reading Future tense and psychological distance

What is the plural of Whalebelly?

I was recently writing for my family history blog Birds of Cressingham a piece about a family with the unusual name Whalebelly. Jonas Whalebelly – Birds of Cressingham (wordpress.com) I started wondering what I would write if I were talking about 2 (or more) people with that name. Should I write Whalebellies or Whalebellys? English…… Continue reading What is the plural of Whalebelly?

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

How many nouns are there in Finnish?

How many nouns are there in Finnish? A paper by Fred Karlsson investigates that question. The paper also considers their sound structure. Karlsson used a machine-readable version of the Reverse Dictionary of Modern Standard Finnish (RDF, Suomen kielen käänteissanakirja). This lists 72,785 entries. Of those, 34,673 (47.6 %) have the code ‘S’, short for noun…… Continue reading How many nouns are there in Finnish?

Does your first language affect the structure of your brain?

There are some differences between the brains of German speakers and Arabic speakers. Why do those differences arise? It seems to be because these 2 languages place different processing demands on some parts of the brain. Those conclusions emerge from a recent paper Native language differences in the structural connectome of the human brain, by…… Continue reading Does your first language affect the structure of your brain?

Not-the best place for-a hyphen

I was reading yesterday about a football club that has 2 ‘co-sporting directors’. That is an odd place to put the hyphen. People do often put a hyphen after the prefix co. Indeed, I often do that myself, to make it easier for readers to see the structure of the word. But in this case,…… Continue reading Not-the best place for-a hyphen

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