London has just extended the boundary of its Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Drivers of motor vehicles causing heavy emissions must pay to drive in the ULEZ. The word ULEZ has the shape and feel of some Croatian words. The common prefix u- means ‘in’ or ‘into’ and is derived from the preposition u. (In other…… Continue reading ULEZ, uljez, izlaz
Trying to write something concisely, I came across a quirk of English. I ran into an example where inserting a pause changes both the syntax of a sentence and its meaning. Here’s the context. Sarah Wells married Joseph Randall, but Joseph died within a few years. After that, Sarah remarried. Her second husband was Louis…… Continue reading A pause can change syntax and meaning
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
Learning which preposition to use in a language, and in which context, often involves learning some general rules of thumb (which often differ greatly from language to language) and many detailed rules that typically seem arbitrary. For a small example of this, consider how you talk in English about what you did, will do, or…… Continue reading On the weekend
An organisation’s house editorial conventions are useful because: they make documents from that organisation look like documents from a single place; andallow writers to concentrate on what is important without worrying about trivial editorial details. It is important, though, not to let house editorial conventions get in the way. I once worked on an accounting…… Continue reading When house style gives a silly answer
I recently saw an invitation to enter a competition until 15 July. This reminded me of an error that many German speakers make when they speak English. They often use use until when they mean by. German speakers make this error because German has one single preposition bis covering 2 different meanings that English expresses…… Continue reading Enter until 15 July
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?
Traditional grammars define prepositions as always being followed by a noun phrase (a phrase headed by a noun). However, Huddlestone and Pullum (2005) argue for a broader definition of prepositions. Their wider definition also captures some items traditionally viewed as subordinating conjunctions or adverbs. Table 1 illustrates some problems caused by the traditional classification. It…… Continue reading What is a preposition?
In Mandarin, adjectives behave like verbs in some respects. As a result, some analysts suggest that adjectives are just a subset of verbs in Mandarin. This post summarises evidence that adjectives are in fact separate from verbs. The evidence comes from Chinese Syntax, by C-T James Huang, Y-H Audrey Li and Yafei Li (2009). The…… Continue reading Are Mandarin adjectives just a type of verb?
In English and many other languages, many verbs may be in either an active form or a passive form. Most descriptions of the passive treat the active as a more basic form, with the passive derived from it. The easiest way—perhaps the only way—to describe active or passive is by the relationship between them: the…… Continue reading What is the passive?