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

The Uralic Languages

According to Kiefer and Laakso (2014), there is a general consensus that there are 6 main branches of Uralic: Ugric: Hungarian (13 million speakers) and, in Western Siberia, the Ob-Ugric languages Khanty (almost 10,000 speakers) and Mansi (probably less than 10,000 speakers) Finnic: Finnish (5 million speakers); Estonian (1 million). Other Finnic languages have many…… Continue reading The Uralic Languages

Simpler definitions for tax

The UK used to have an Office for Tax Simplification (OTS), created in 2010 to give the UK government the independent advice on simplifying the tax system. In 2022, the OTS issued a report Review of simplification: Approach and interpretation OTS Simplification Review – web copy (publishing.service.gov.uk) A few months later, the UK government abolished…… Continue reading Simpler definitions for tax

A tell-tale sign of a constructed language?

Martin Haspelmath’s book Indefinite Pronouns (1997) is a detailed examination of the structure and use of indefinite pronouns in many languages. The book looks at 40 languages in detail and gives an overview for 100 more languages. Among many other interesting things in this book, one detail caught my eye. The book identifies a structural…… Continue reading A tell-tale sign of a constructed language?

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

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?

More on early talking

I wrote in April about the progress our youngest 2 grandchildren were making in learning to talk, when they were 20 months and 13 months. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/early-words I wrote an update in September about how the older one was getting on, just after her 2nd birthday. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/09/into-the-2-word-stage Here is a further update. They are now 26…… Continue reading More on early talking

Cabinet of grammatical rarities

A Raritätenkabinett (cabinet of rarities) is a collection of things, living or dead, which are considered worth collecting (and perhaps exhibiting) because they are rare. An online collection of grammatical rarities is available at https://typo.uni-konstanz.de/rara/ The site classifies the items it contains into the following categories: rarum (plural rara): ‘a trait (of any conceivable sort:…… Continue reading Cabinet of grammatical rarities

Contronyms

I recently came across a word that was new to me: contronym. A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. An often-given example is sanction. Sanctioning an action can mean either penalising it or permitting it. Some other examples are: WordOne meaningAnother meaningcleave clingsplitclipattachcut offdustremove dustadd a layer of dustapologystatement of regret for an…… Continue reading Contronyms