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

Structure of numbers in Indo-European

How are numerals formed in Indo-European languages today, and how were they formed in the ancestral language Proto-Indo-European (PIE)? And do ordering patterns of components within numerals align with other word order patterns in the same languages? Andreea S. Calude and Annemarie Verkerk considered those questions in a paper looking at how 81 present and past…… Continue reading Structure of numbers in Indo-European

Do you have to be French to get into the Académie Française?

Surprisingly, the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa is a member of the Académie Française. He was elected in 2021, but he didn’t take up his seat in person until 9 February 2023, presumably because of travel disruption caused by covid. Réception de M. Mario Vargas Llosa (F18) | Académie française (academie-francaise.fr) It seems odd for…… Continue reading Do you have to be French to get into the Académie Française?

Translation gaffe at Gatwick

I was shocked to see this beginners’ translation blunder at Gatwick airport. This picture shows a box inviting passengers to donate their spare currency. The largest word on the box says Change. Presumably, this is the original English word. No doubt, the intended message is that passengers should give over their remaining small change. The…… Continue reading Translation gaffe at Gatwick

Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages

Many western European languages have a perfect tense, formed by combining an auxiliary verb (meaning ‘have’ or ‘be’) with a past participle. Different languages use this verb form in different ways. A recent paper used translations of a well-known French novel to explore those differences. The aim was to see which tense the translators used…… Continue reading Using translation to show how the perfect differs across languages

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?

Romance languages: pronouncing C and G

Here is a tip to help you learn to pronounce the main national Romance languages more correctly. These Romance languages all pronounce the letters <c> and <g> in two different ways, depending on the vowel that follows them. In these languages, these letters are pronounced as [c] and [g] if they are followed by a…… Continue reading Romance languages: pronouncing C and G

Test your languages online (2)

I’ve written before about the University of Westminster’s online diagnostic quiz for Norwegian, Swedish and Hungarian. Test your languages online – Language Miscellany I’ve now tried their quiz for some of the other languages. Here are my results for all the ones I took. The results are marked out of 50. German and French For…… Continue reading Test your languages online (2)

What is that aioi?

An unusual translation error. This English translation contains the mysterious word “aioi”. Context, some guesswork and a quick google of the Spanish original (coartada) indicate that this is a misprint for “alibi”. Picture taken in 2017 at Centro de Interpretación Judería de Sevilla