How to need and how to have

The way languages express needing something is linked in a surprising way to how they express having something. In their paper Having “need” and needing “have” Stephanie Harves and Richard Kayne (Linguistic Inquiry, 2012) summarise the facts and suggest an explanation. How to have: H-languages English and some other languages use a transitive verb like…… Continue reading How to need and how to have

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

Database of Indo-European cognates

This is a follow up to my post From the Steppes or from Anatolia? – Language Miscellany That post explored a recent paper looking again at some old questions: when did Indo-European languages separate from the rest of that language family, and in which order? where did speakers of the ancestral language Proto Indo-European live?…… Continue reading Database of Indo-European cognates

ISOs on translation

In February 2024, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published ISO 5060 Translation services, Evaluation of translation output—General guidance. It gives guidance on evaluating human translation output, post-edited machine translation output, and unedited machine translation output. I searched the ISOs online store for other ISOs dealing with translation. I have prepared summaries below from the…… Continue reading ISOs on translation

A is for Bee

A is for BEE: An Alphabet Book in Translation, by Ellen Heck, is a delightful alphabet book for children. Each page lists one or more words starting with the same letter and has bright pictures illustrating each word. The pages are in alphabetical order. This is an alphabet book with a twist: each page lists…… Continue reading A is for Bee

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

Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?

Swedish has a sound /s/, broadly similar to English /s/ in, for example, English seep. I’ve known for a long time that Swedish also has 2 other sibilant consonants, which I’d thought corresponded roughly to English /ʃ/, as in English sheep. Common transcriptions for those 2 sibilants in the International Phonetic Alphabet are /ɕ/ and…… Continue reading Is that Swedish ‘sj-sound’ really a sibilant?

Solvenian, Croatian and Serbian words in context

I came across an on-line tool that generates lists of similar words (or phrases) and synonyms for 3 languages: Slovenian (SL), Croatian (HR) and Serbian (SR). Here’s how to use it: go to https://www.kontekst.io select the language you want. enter a word in the search box and hit enter (or select one of the small…… Continue reading Solvenian, Croatian and Serbian words in context

How many languages exist?

SIL International Publications has published the 25th edition of Ethnologue®. This tries to list all known living languages in the world. It comes in 3 self-contained volumes, each covering a region and including: language descriptions organized by continent and country lists of primary names, alternate names, and dialect names country overviews with graphical language vitality…… Continue reading How many languages exist?

Measuring how much languages differ

Is it possible to quantity how one language differs from another language? In 2015, two academic researchers tried to do that by creating what they called a ‘Language Friction Index’ (LFI). They describe the index in their paper Language friction and partner selection in cross-border R&D alliance formation, Amol M Joshi and Nandini Lahiri, Journal…… Continue reading Measuring how much languages differ