Addicted to ‘right node raising’

In this post, I look at a construction that I often saw in drafts of documents I was reviewing. Although the construction is grammatical and concise, readers find it difficult to process. I explain what this construction is and why it is difficult. I also summarise a published review of some of the vast linguistics…… Continue reading Addicted to ‘right node raising’

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?

How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish?

The Uralic languages are well known for having a large number of grammatical cases. The two Uralic languages with the most speakers are Hungarian and Finnish. Finnish has 15 cases and Hungarian has between 17 and 27 grammatical cases, depending on how some items are analysed. In contrast, looking only at some examples in languages…… Continue reading How many cases are there in Hungarian and Finnish?

‘must not’ in English and German

The English modal verb must and its German counterpart muss are cognates—they share the same origin and similar meanings. But when they are negated, they behave in different ways. English Barbara must not go means that it is required that Barbara does not go.On the other hand, German Barbara muss nicht gehen means that Barbara…… Continue reading ‘must not’ in English and German

Negating a verb using an auxiliary verb

English, like many other verbs, uses an invariable particle or adverb (not) to turn a positive verb into a negative verb. But Finnish does this differently, using an auxiliary verb for this task. Present tense In the present tense: a positive verb ends in a suffix showing the number (singular / plural) and person (1st…… Continue reading Negating a verb using an auxiliary verb

Half baked

If an idea isn’t really thought through and doesn’t make sense, we call it half-baked. So if an idea is completely half-baked, how baked is it? More than 50%? Less than 50%? Exactly 50%?

He will not say anything to keep his job

Heard on the radio this morning. A British politician has just resigned from the shadow cabinet over a disagreement with his party leader. An interview asked another member of the party why the person had resigned. The interviewee responded that “He will not say anything to keep his job”. That comment was interesting, if only…… Continue reading He will not say anything to keep his job

Can you negate the word ‘gormless’?

Gormless is one of those strange words that seems inherently negative and has no positive counterpart.This picture I took in 2015 proves that Copenhagen airport isn’t gormless: it has a restaurant called Gorm’s.

You need not understand

In English, auxiliary verbs (have and be) and modal verbs behave differently from all other verbs. For example, they combine differently with negatives, as shown in the following table for auxiliaries (have and be), a modal verb (can) and another verb (go). TypePositiveNegativeAux (have)You have goneYou have not goneAux (be)You are goingYou are not goingModalYou…… Continue reading You need not understand