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’
Do swear words contain some sounds more often?
A recent study suggests that approximants—sounds such as /l/; /r/; /w/; and /y/—appear less often in swear words than they do in other words. The paper is The sound of swearing: Are there universal patterns in profanity?, by Shiri Lev-Ari and Ryan McKay (2022) published online in December 2022 by the experimental psychology journal Psychonomic…… Continue reading Do swear words contain some sounds more often?
Status of British Sign Language in Britain
A recent announcement by rail company led me to a bigger piece of news that I’d missed. Small news The UK train operator TransPennine Express announced in December 2022 that it would start providing departure boards in British Sign Language (BSL). TransPennine Express launches British Sign Language departure boards – Rail UK In that announcement…… Continue reading Status of British Sign Language in Britain
Since the Brazilian footballer Pelé died last month, we have been treated to many TV clips of this uniquely brilliant player. One thing that struck me is how British football commentators have changed the way they pronounce his name over the last 60 years. Change in stress pattern In commentary from the 1958, 1962 or…… Continue reading Stressing Pelé
Accents and Social Mobility in Britain
A recent report shows that accent bias still exists in the UK and is a barrier to social mobility. The report is Speaking Up: Accents and Social Mobility, issued by the Sutton Trust in November 2022. https://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Accents-and-social-mobility.pdf Accent bias is rating people less favourably just because they speak with an accent that is not ‘standard’…… Continue reading Accents and Social Mobility in Britain
Has Cambridge University’s German department driven off in a Wokeswagon?
Reports in today’s media give the impression that Cambridge University’s German department has just issued a diktat that students must, from now on, eliminate all gendered terms when they are speaking or writing German. The rather sensationalists reports accuse the department of jumping onto a woke bandwagon. As far as I can tell after some…… Continue reading Has Cambridge University’s German department driven off in a Wokeswagon?
Italian dictionary will now include feminine forms
The Italian publisher Treccani will change how it lists nouns and adjectives in the next edition of its Dizionario della Lingua Italiana (Dictionary of the Italian Language), due to come out in October. Previous editions have followed the traditional practice of listing nouns and adjectives under only the masculine form of the head word. The…… Continue reading Italian dictionary will now include feminine forms
Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian
I have just read a paper describing 16 differences between Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian. The description was in a paper that looked for the border between language varieties separated by each difference. The paper also looked at whether those borders match national borders and how close the varieties are to each other. The authors…… Continue reading Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian
Different accent or bad diction?
I’ve written before about confusion about the term dropping your g’s. The Time columnist Claire Foges waded into this debate on 20 September. Her article argues that people can improve their life chances by learning to speak and write what she calls Standard English. I agree with her on that. But her comments show some…… Continue reading Different accent or bad diction?
Droppin’ g’s = bad speech?
At the end of July, Digby Jones, former Director-General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), tweeted about the pronunciation of Alex Scott, one of the BBC’s main studio presenters during the Tokyo Olympics. He complained about her “very noticeable inability to pronounce her ‘g’s at the end of a word”, such as “fencin, rowin,…… Continue reading Droppin’ g’s = bad speech?