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?

Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish

Swedish uses a morpheme -s to form genitive noun phrases and, surprisingly, uses it in much the same as English. This post looks at how this works. Much of the discussion here comes from Börjars (1998). Genitive form of unmodified nouns Like English, Swedish creates a genitive form of nouns by adding -s to the…… Continue reading Surprised by genitive -s in Swedish

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

Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’

I want to use the following sentence: ‘each of the UK’s last 5 Prime Ministers was worse than their predecessor’.  That sentence could have 2 readings: A distributive reading: each Prime Minster was worse than that Prime Minister’s predecessor. A collective reading:  each Prime Minster was worse than the predecessor of the 1st in that…… Continue reading Collective and distributive readings of ‘their’

Odd gap in the English genitive

I recently saw a statement about ‘feedback on Jane and my visit to London’. The phrase ‘Jane and my visit’ seems ungrammatical to me. This post considers why. It looks at how to form genitives of nouns, co-ordinated noun phrases and personal pronouns. It then goes on to consider whether it is possible to form…… Continue reading Odd gap in the English genitive

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

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

Into the 2-word stage

When I last reported on my youngest granddaughter’s progress in learning language, she was still clearly at the 1-word stage (at 20 months). She was still there a couple of months later, though maybe just starting to produce 2-word phrases or statements. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/early-words She recently had her 2nd birthday and is now very definitely in…… Continue reading Into the 2-word stage

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’