The hadted to do it

My grandson (8 years, 11 months) and his brother (6 years, 6 months) both form the past tense of had to in an unusual and interesting way. They have both been doing this consistently and reasonably often for several months, perhaps as long as a year. I don’t know which one started doing this first,…… Continue reading The hadted to do it

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

A language with only 3 verbs?

Recent press reports talked about a language that has only 3 verbs. Researchers claim that this language (Jingulu) may form a basis for creating a language that leads to better communication between humans and artificial intelligence systems. The basis for these reports is a paper in the journal Frontiers in Physics: JSwarm: A Jingulu-Inspired Human-AI-Teaming…… Continue reading A language with only 3 verbs?

Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?

The past tense of verbs in Russian looks very odd. It marks the gender and number of the verb’s subject, but does not mark whether the subject is 1st person (I / we), 2nd person (you) or 3rd person (she / he / it / they). In this respect, the Russian past tense differs from…… Continue reading Why is the past tense in Russian so odd?

Passive in Japanese

This post looks at the passive in Japanese. In earlier posts, I: explained 3 features of the passive construction, focusing on English https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/03/what-is-the-passivelooked at how 2 Bantu languages (Swahili and Chichewa) implement those 3 features. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/04/the-passive-in-2-bantu-languages Background: passive In my earlier post, I explained that the passive construction: deletes or demotes the subject of the…… Continue reading Passive in Japanese

Learning to eat in the past (2)

I’ve mentioned before that my grandson (then 6 years, 9 months, but now 6 years 11 months) regularly uses ‘ated’ as the past tense of the verb eat. https://languagemiscellany.com/2022/05/learning-to-eat-in-the-past I forgot to say that he also regularly uses ‘aten’ as the past participle of that verb. And over the last couple of weeks I’ve also heard…… Continue reading Learning to eat in the past (2)

Learning to eat in the past

How do young children learn to create inflected forms of words? For example, how do they learn that: most English verbs form the past tense with the suffix -ed (eg walked from walk);some English verbs undergo other types of change in the past tense (eg sat from sit);a few have complexly unrelated past tense forms…… Continue reading Learning to eat in the past

The English verbal ending -s

It is often said that English verbs inflect in the present tense for the person (1st / 2nd / 3rd) and number (singular / plural) of their grammatical subject. In Notes on English Agreement, Richard Kayne provides a different analysis. He suggests that English verbs inflect only for number, not for person. Background Almost all…… Continue reading The English verbal ending -s

Negating a verb using an auxiliary verb

English, like many other verbs, uses an invariable particle or adverb (not) to turn a positive verb into a negative verb. But Finnish does this differently, using an auxiliary verb for this task. Present tense In the present tense: a positive verb ends in a suffix showing the number (singular / plural) and person (1st…… Continue reading Negating a verb using an auxiliary verb

Acquiring English past tense

My grandson (aged 3 years 9 months) has recently started producing the past tense in a surprising way. I first noticed it with the form liked. He is now pronouncing this as likèd [laɪkɛd] , rather than [laɪkt]. I soon discovered he was using this form consistently not only in all weak verbs but even…… Continue reading Acquiring English past tense